Forging Value through Collaborations

Forging Value through Collaborations

– By Tripti Naswa

After spending the last decade in the social impact sector, I have come to realise that sustaining a sense of urgency is a necessity especially when societies are evolving (or becoming ‘Liquid’ as Farid Tabrki said at EVPA 2019) and the lines between social and corporate continue to blur. This sentiment strongly resonated in the European Venture Philanthropy Association’s (EVPA) annual conference in the Hague, which I recently had the pleasure of participating in. It left me with the lingering question, “how will social impact ecosystem evolve in the next decade and build the resilience of the society?’

A diverse community of over 300 members, EVPA has been at the forefront of driving radical discussions in the impact community and providing avenues for some fantastic partnerships for social impact. In the last year alone, the community of Corporates Social Investors (CSI) at EVPA has increased to more than 60 CSIs from 15 countries. It is heartening to see that the social impact community is growing in strength and thus so is the sense of urgency to continue to act and solve complex social problems through different models.

The conference triggered the exchange of ideas, experiences and knowledge, with around 100 workshops, labs and thematic sessions, across the two days. The conference was a refreshing experience with deep discussions, active listening, and a sense of togetherness. Personally, it felt great to be a part of this community of individuals and organisations passionate about solving problems. I realised that the direction that we as Sattva are thinking in, i.e. leapfrogging social innovations to accelerate progress, was also reiterated at the conference as THE mindset to adopt in this liquid world. A mindset at the core of which is the way of being for driving systemic change, i.e. taking risks, adapt, learn from others’ journeys, strong values and ethics, move fast, take everyone along – a philosophy also ingrained in our DNA as an organisation.

While I had many fascinating conversations, I would like to share a few which not only validated Sattva’s approach to working in social impact, but also rejuvenated in me the passion to do good for society and this world.

1. Opportunity for India: It was humbling to experience that, India with its own journey of creating an impact ecosystem – which is not only scaling innovations but is also enabling systemic change – is in a great place to add to the ecosystem and partner with other countries. India has a great opportunity to add to the how of the global impact space and other developing and emerging countries. I participated in four roundtables with a unique thematic focus, and it was interesting to learn that many models have been tried and are being leapfrogged to achieve scale. In WASH, for example, the safe water enterprises in India have played a critical role in reaching the last mile. Over a period of time, they have strengthened their partnerships across actors in the chain and with the ecosystem, to increase efficiency, enable scale and enhance access. A learning which could be relevant and adaptable especially in the context of the African continent, given the growing focus on sustainable and market-led models.

2. Aligned Strategies: The conference also provided an opportunity to learn first hand about the efforts of the European ecosystem in strengthening value chains and promoting entrepreneurship in the African continent. It was interesting to learn how well aligned the focus areas were at a country level and institutional level. Earlier this year, the EU earmarked EUR 50 mn for Kenya, to support enterprises working with smallholders and strengthen value-chains. At the institutional level, organisations such as IDH, Incofin and Ikea foundation are playing a strong role in enabling these schemes in Kenya.

3. Unapologetically Ethical: At Sattva, we hold integrity as a core value in our Sattva Way of being and as a tool to shape our collective vision. It was, therefore, encouraging to see that these values are beginning to echo across the ecosystem, with initiatives being launched such as the EVPA’s Charter of Investors for Impact consisting of ten driving principles distinguishing the DNA of investors for impact. The charter can be accessed here. As we move into deeper and more complex collaborations, honouring such values will be integral to ensure that issues such as maximising returns to shareholders will not be done at the expense of other stakeholders. I do believe that the adoption of such a charter will only deepen such conversations.

The social impact ecosystem is going through a radical shift again, the diversity of stakeholders is increasing, multilateral and bi-lateral agencies are changing their approach, and our collective abilities are enabling leapfrogging in social innovations. We will have to continue to innovate for solutions, strengthen partnerships to tackle the challenges: “the time to act is now”, as the conference encouraged. The question is where will we start now? Perhaps ‘Unlearning and Learning’ the last-mile communities we work for, and see how the liquid societies are impacting the nature of their needs, challenges and aspirations?’ A thought that I certainly intend to explore further!

In the past 3 years, Sattva has had the opportunity to experience the social ecosystem in countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Ghana through the eyes of our clients, partners and last-mile communities. Through our work we have been able to leverage learnings from the Indian impact space, especially the social business models for strengthening social innovations in Africa.

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