Sattva Live – with CSR Leaders

Sattva Live – with CSR Leaders


CSR leaders are currently facing multiple difficult decisions and challenges. How do you act in favour of maximising immediate as well as sustained impact?

Srikrishna Murthy, CEO Sattva Consulting will host a virtual live session on 9th April (3-4.30 pm) to understand and address some of the CSR-specific concerns.

Do register if you are a CSR leader:

Let us know your top queries – we are listening.

Event Date : Thursday, 9th April 2020 (3 – 4.30 PM IST)

For questions or clarifications, write to us:

Five non-traditional themes CSR can invest in

Five non-traditional themes CSR can invest in to maximise social returns

– By the Sattva CSR Advisory team

Every year in February and March, we at Sattva are inundated with requests from corporates. Most corporates are looking for a two-pronged outcome simultaneously: ensure CSR compliance and invest in impactful projects. As an advisory firm, our recommendations to our clients are rooted in maximising impact and designing programmes that address critical problems, while ensuring compliance with the CSR law and alignment with their brand values.

Since the inception of the CSR law, education and healthcare have been the biggest beneficiaries of CSR funding – receiving around 65% of the pie. However, for corporates looking for important and some non-traditional issues to solve for through their CSR funding and strategy, here is a set of curated ideas along with some of the work Sattva is currently involved in.

1. Tackle various aspects of India’s looming environmental crisis
2. Unlock livelihoods for one of the most marginalized communities in India, the LGBTQ
3. Strengthen the base of India’s economy: Agricultural systems
4. Support entrepreneurship with a focus on women
5. Invest in holistic development of youth through sports

Read the full article here.

Sattva has been working with various corporate clients to help them define their social impact goals and maximise the return on social investment. Our focus is to solve critical problems and find scalable solutions. We assist companies in formulating their long-term CSR strategy by strategically aligning with business to provide meaningful solutions to social issues. We look at short-term, medium-term and long-term outcomes while designing programmes. It is our endeavour to unlock the maximum return on investment for our clients. If you would like to know more about our programmes, please do write to us at

For the Right Frame of Mind

The Sattva View – For the Right Frame of Mind

In this column, Shrutee Ganguly talks about how taking care of employees’ mental wellbeing must be a priority for the sector.

Earlier this year, the WHO recognised burnout as an occupational phenomenon, bringing into sharp focus the correlation between work and mental health. However, in the social development sector, several factors combine to magnify the problem.

Whether in social development or disaster scenarios, the emotional needs of the communities affected are addressed immediately, as they should be. What is often left out are the social workers who might struggle with their own mental wellbeing.

To better manage the mental health of the workers and respondents, it is crucial to regularly engage with them and assess their mental health. At Sattva, for instance, employees are frequently tested on these even during a regular workday. Interviewing commercial sex workers on their challenges in rehabilitation as part of programme evaluation, or analysing numbers showing abysmal figures on acute undernourishment of children can be extremely intense. Many times one feels helpless and hopeless. Being firmly grounded in solving problems and unwavering focus on the larger purpose help. But how do we ensure that we take care of it for everyone?

Read the full article here.

This article was originally published in Impact Magazine.

Sattva has been working with various nonprofits and social organisations as well as corporate clients to help them define their social impact goals. Our focus is to solve critical problems and find scalable solutions. We assist organisations in formulating their long-term social impact strategy by strategically aligning with business to provide meaningful solutions to social issues.

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ECCE CSR Landscape in India and it’s Potential for Impact

ECCE CSR Landscape in India and it’s Potential for Impact


Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), encompassing the inseparable elements of care, health, nutrition, play and early learning within a protective and enabling environment has long been underfunded by CSR programmes, owing to a lack of awareness on its importance in child development. The Draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019, which defines the early learning needs in the age group 0 to 3, and the age group 3 to 8 as a single learning continuum called the “foundational phase”, has added to this with a lack of clarity on the modality of achieving the infrastructural and institutional changes required by the policy.

‘ECCE CSR Landscape in India and Potential for Impact’ is a study by Sattva and DHFL Changing Lives Foundation aimed at raising awareness on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) in India and developing a guide to CSR funders to consider ECCE in their portfolio.

The study plots the current landscape of funding and solutions for ECCE enabled by CSR, explores trends and evolution of CSR in ECCE funding over the last three years and maps the solution landscape of ECCE interventions enabled by CSR funding to plot areas of interest, types of funding, gaps and challenges.

Key Findings

ECCE Needs and Trends in India:
1. Nutrition, health and early childhood education are deeply interlinked. A child’s development potential cannot be fully realised unless these interlinkages are incorporated in intervention design.
2. About one fourth of children in the age group 3 to 6 do not attend any form of pre-school in India. Amongst those who attend some form of preschool, almost 50% are not ready for formal schooling.

Policy Landscape:
1. The Draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2019 defines the early learning needs in the age group 0 to 3; and the age group 3 to 8 as a single learning continuum called the “foundational phase”. However, there is a lack of clarity on the modality of achieving the infrastructural and institutional changes required by the policy.
2. The Indian government spends about 0.3% of GDP on ECCE, which is much lesser than the OECD countries’ average of 0.8%.

Interventions by ECCE implementers:
1. ECCE implementers have been instrumental in executing innovative ECCE interventions through contextual approaches on the ground. However, these innovations remain largely localised, with very few translating to systemic change.
2. The implementer landscape has certain white spaces like early stimulation, responsive care, parental capacity building, children with disabilities. There is also a felt need by implementers to increase the focus on the 0 to 3 age group.

CSR funding for ECCE:
1. Despite education and health being top funded areas for CSR funders, only 17% of top education funders and 22% of top healthcare funders make some contribution to interventions related to ECCE.
2. There is little data available on CSR expenditure towards ECCE due to lack of standardised reporting practices. However, aligning schedule VII of the Companies Act to SDGs has the potential to change this
3. Interventions pertaining to health and nutrition are better represented than other components of ECCE in CSR funding.

Opportunities to unlock capital and promote collaboration:
1. Investing in ECCE has far reaching impacts ranging from improved economic growth, creating responsible citizenry, to low crime rates.
2. To enhance their ECCE impact, CSR funders can facilitate collaboration at three levels:

  • a. Collaborate with government authorities/institutions to complement the efforts
  • b. Collaborate with multiple non-profits towards comprehensive ECCE outcomes
  • c. Collaborate with other funders working on addressing ECCE or non-ECCE outcomes


The full report can be accessed below.

ECCE CSR Landscape in India and Potential for Impact – Full report

A factsheet for the report can be accessed below.

ECCE CSR Landscape in India and Potential for Impact – Factsheet

This is a first attempt at mapping the landscape of funding and solutions in ECCE in India. We deeply appreciate your feedback, comments, and suggestions. Write in to

The Hierarchy of Impact

The Hierarchy of Impact

Creating meaningful change requires valuing different levels of impact.

– by Rathish Balakrishnan

One of the questions I am often asked when I tell people that I work with companies on their CSR strategy and implementation is, “Do these companies really care about impact?”. At Sattva, the organisation I lead, our employees ask the same question about every customer we engage with, and every person we hire: “Are they truly committed to social impact?”. The answer is rarely black or white. Over the years, I have come to realise that it is not about whether you are committed or not but about your relationship with impact. And when it comes to impact, I have in my experience, seen three key anchors.

1. The self.
There are those of us who approach impact from an entirely personal lens. We are looking for meaning and gratification through experiences that allow us to directly engage with issues of, for instance, poverty and climate change. We engage with them in our own neighbourhood and social context, such as volunteering for social initiatives, advising organisations that are in our network, or even starting a small nonprofit on an issue of personal interest.

We are well-intentioned and find simple and effective ways to make a difference in someone’s life. We value these experiences and often translate them into stories that we tell ourselves and those around us. We don’t have a particular urgency around solving a problem for good, as long each of our actions make others’ lives better. Over time however, we might ask ourselves whether our efforts truly make any difference to those whose stories we tell.

To me, these are the people that are anchored to the self.

2. The poor
There are those of us that want to go beyond our comfort zone and work in the areas of greatest need. We feel strongly about the inequality around us and act with urgency to solve these problems. We have a strong bias for action and often want to find quick solutions that will address a specific problem and demonstrate immediate outcomes. Through a combination of data and stories from the ground, we measure whether our efforts are truly creating meaningful impact. And over time, we might become frustrated because the impact that we seek to achieve is either short-lived or distant.

Such people in my view are anchored to the poor.

3. The system
Then there are those among us who are anchored to the system. We recognise that poverty is a systemic issue and quick-fix solutions often have limited impact. We seek to shift the focus to the larger systemic challenges like improving the ability of the government to deliver better long-term outcomes, establishing ecosystem level initiatives that will move the needle across organisations, or creating a community-led model of change that is participative and sustainable.

We engage with government, aim to influence policy, and drive ecosystem level investments because we believe these efforts will create enduring change. We replace urgency for impact with indicators of progress. We are fine with the uncertainty and risk that is inherent to systems level work. However, we continue to be plagued with the question: how does it all add up in the long run?

Nowhere has this difference been more evident to me than at a strategy session I was once a part of. One of our nonprofit partners had received a mandate to work across 10 states on education, and we were discussing what its strategy should be. There were those in the room who used this opportunity to share their own personal aspirations on what they would like to work on and the districts where they would like to be. I strongly argued that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we should do everything in our power to improve student learning outcomes, even if some of our initiatives would be short-term. The CEO argued that he was fine not having any impact on learning outcomes for five years. He would rather go all out to demonstrate a strengthened government machinery to deliver education, which he believed would provide dramatic improvement on learning outcomes over a 10 year horizon.

Neither of us was less committed to impact than the other but we held very different positions on what we thought was the right thing to do. Since then, I have seen this play out in every discussion on a wide range of topics. I have seen it among funders trying to solve deep rooted problems with limited funding, and among nonprofit leaders on what they think is the right thing to do.

Is one anchor ‘better’ than the other?
I notice the judgements that those anchored on the poor or the system have towards those anchored on the self. I also observe the increasing shift among strategic funders towards anchoring impact conversations around the system (of course, there can be no absolutes here; just propensities that people might have when weighing choices around impact).

The most effective philanthropists and practitioners I have worked with, recognise these anchors in themselves and those they work with; and they switch between these anchors based on the problem at hand, rather than maintaining a constant disposition towards any one anchor.

I have always believed that social problems are complex and we need as many hands and resources on the deck as possible. Collaboration is hard, and I strongly believe it is because we come at the problem from such different places. So, I have been mindful to watch out for my own biases—imandari ka ghamand, to borrow from the film, Newton—when I engage with those that come with the intent to create impact. I also observe that the stakeholders with different anchors use different vocabularies to discuss social issues and solutions. I have now learnt to adapt my vocabulary when interacting with stakeholders with different anchors.

Our anchors and those of our stakeholders have a fundamental impact on whom we engage with and how we collaborate. Therefore, it might be useful to consider them when making decisions about, for instance, pursuing funding opportunities or hiring.

If you are a nonprofit, you might ask yourself: what type of funder am I looking for and do I have the right opportunities for donors who have different anchors?

If you are a funder, you might question whether your biases are clearly stated to your team and grantees. Are you looking to create a balanced portfolio or anchor yourself strongly on one?

If you are organisation looking to hire, what type of person are you looking for? Are you for instance open to hiring a person strongly anchored on self but with the relevant skills? And, as an organisations looking to collaborate, are you looking for partners that have the same anchors as you? Or are you looking to complement your focus with those that might have different anchors?

To end with the question we posed at the beginning: do companies really care about impact? In our experience, a large number of companies (and high net-worth individuals) are distributed between the anchor to the self and to the poor, with few being anchored to the system. But we are also excited to see companies consciously making early efforts to shift across these three anchors. For instance, one of our CSR customers is shifting from writing a cheque to relief funds to establishing a portfolio across water, livelihoods and disability, over the next two years. They recently signed an MoU with a reputed academic institution to setup an incubator focused on helping scale innovative solutions on women empowerment.

I would wager that in the next 10 years, some of the most strategic funders in our ecosystem will be companies’ CSR departments. To accelerate this shift, we need partners—not naysayers or cynics—who can keep their judgements aside and work with diverse stakeholders. The choice, as always, is ours.

Rathish Balakrishnan is the Co-founder and Managing Partner at Sattva. Rathish has extensive experience in conceptualising and implementing strategic large-scale solutions in social impact sector. He has contributed significantly at governmental policy level in education and skill development. Rathish has also spent a decade working at SAP across their engineering, product management and corporate strategy divisions. He is a graduate from BITS Pilani.

This article was originally published in IDR Online.

Sattva has been working with various nonprofits and social organisations as well as corporate clients to help them define their social impact goals. Our focus is to solve critical problems and find scalable solutions. We assist organisations in formulating their long-term social impact strategy by strategically aligning with business to provide meaningful solutions to social issues.

● Talk to us:

Innovation for Impact

In our everyday lives, we often come across products that seem to “get” our needs and work perfectly. While many such innovations are built by for-profit companies, that certainly does not need to be the norm. For example, in technology, while Google is the clear innovator in the internet search domain, Wikipedia, a non-profit, has created an entire ecosystem of community curated content on nearly every topic under the sun.

The social sector, which is looking to solve the gnarliest problems at a global scale, from clean water to education to financial inclusion, deserves our most transformative ideas and innovations. Our problems require a fresh approach from an innovation lens, rather than a scarcity mindset. As social sector innovators, we should thus feel enabled, even obligated, to create joyful, transformative products, interactions and experiences that build the same the feeling of “where have you been all my life” in our beneficiaries, partners, customers, clients. With our unbridled access to information, tools and resources today, this is very possible.

How do we go about creating these innovative solutions? How do we move diverse organisations and teams towards this common vision? How do we motivate our own selves to not settle for good enough? There are many, potentially interrelated frameworks (human centric design, lean startup approach and so on) which help us address these questions around excellence in innovation. One of the prominent ones is called the Design Thinking philosophy.

What is Design thinking, how does it look in action?:
The idea and adoption of Design Thinking initially came from the software industry, but over the last decade, has gained traction across other domains. Among other organisations, the Stanford University’s is a very prominent thought leader in this space.

There are multiple approaches to describe the Design Thinking process. Stanford’s framework has 5 stages – Empathy, Definition, Ideation, Prototype and Testing. At a cursory level, these phases sound fairly intuitive. What’s critical to understand in Design Thinking, however, is the non-sequential nature of these five stages – they are dynamic, potentially overlapping phases, NOT a linear process.


Let us now dive into a detailed exploration of the Design Thinking phases:

1. Empathy – This phase, when introduced, proved to be a key differentiator between the traditional, bounded design processes and the Design Thinking approach. In the past, Designers / creators would observe their end users to evaluate their needs around a problem area – despite best intentions, this could be reduced to a clinical, detached exercise that created functional products without transformative, joyful customer experiences. But empathising with their circumstances, ecosystems and workflows takes the caliber of designing and solutioning to a whole new level. There are beautiful examples of empathy dynamically impacting innovation in the social sector. Consider the Gandhi Fellowship program run by Kaivalya Education Foundation. Gandhi Fellows begin their journey with a community immersion phase – this is not about observation, it’s about walking in the shoes of children, whose school experiences the Fellows are looking to transform over the next 2 years. Starting with this level of empathy gives us an unparalleled lens into the domain. We grasp all aspects of the problem with clarity, from a space of positivity, rather than judgement, drastically elevating the quality of our solutions.

2. Definition is where we internalise everything we’ve learnt in Empathy about the problem space and probe and poke at the underlying questions to shine a light on the ones that truly matter. For example – how do we introduce online courses in a community without reliable electricity? This could be the core question in a traditional design approach and the resultant ideation phase may come up with ideas such as solar powered batteries for laptops. But with Design Thinking, we start to explore the dynamics of learning and teaching in such schools. How do they function? How do the students learn? What would online courses do for these learners? Thus, rather than purely looking at the problem from a technical standpoint, we’d be able to understand the entire ecosystem in such communities and explore deeper issues around learning, not just the surface question of technology delivery constraints.

3. Ideation – This phase is far more than someone “creative” putting down ideas on the back of a cafe napkin. Instead, it requires unbridled creativity and in order to be effective, should truly be about co-creation in a safe space, without judgement. Once the critical questions have been prioritised in Definition, what are ALL the ideas on the table from participants to solve them? Multiple approaches (such as worst solution, quick draw etc.) could be used to frame the process of collecting ideas from the entire team. The broader the viewpoints, the more innovative the ideas that come to the table. In the prior example, thinking through adaptations the community has made to compensate for lack of electricity would be a critical perspective to bring into ideation process.

4 & 5. Experimentation – Prototyping and Testing: In these two phases, all the creative ideas are converted to prototypes and tested with real users to capture feedback. Most of the ideas will fail – being aware of that, while keeping the momentum for the next round of prototyping requires intense grit and resilience. One also needs to develop the intuition to be able to see what aspect of the prototypes failed and what requires additional testing in future iterations. An example of a fearless experimenter is Arunachalam Muruganantham, who took on the challenge of inventing a low cost sanitary napkin for women in his family and community. Going out of his way to live in the shoes of menstruating family members for several years of his life and his intense experimentation with source materials took his product design to levels that a dispassionate team at a pharmaceutical company never could.

What are key success criteria for enabling Design Thinking in an organisation:
In order for the theory of Design Thinking to work, some very specific organizational routines need to be in place:

1. Enable the entire organisation to think as designers in the creative process: You, yes YOU are a designer. How often have you said – “this is so great, I wish I was creative enough to come up with this visual or story or work product” Or – “I’m not creative at all, my inputs to this discussion won’t add value”? In order for an organisation to produce game changing products, everyone involved in the problem ecosystem must be encouraged and enabled to think of themselves as an equal and valued designer and creator. This could be an organisational or personal barrier that team members may need to overcome, but it is a critical first step to enable an organization towards transformative innovation.

2. Leverage the power of the tribe: Design Thinking only works when diverse voices and perspectives are brought into core phases such as Ideation and (co) Creation. It is critical that each of these voices is brought in and truly heard. The more perspectives we bring in to examine the problem statement in the beginning, the deeper we are able to understand and co create solutions with high chance of adoption. For example, if we are looking at the problem of affordable urban play spaces in India – voices as varied as care givers, children, architects, urban planners, sports practitioners, teachers, school administrators, even waste recyclers all could have huge value and perspective in understanding the core questions and then, what potential solutions will actually gain traction with children while keeping costs, accessibility, maintenance and other diverse issues in mind.

3. Don’t settle for mediocrity, don’t wait for “perfection”: Design Thinking is a living, evolving philosophy that helps us gain a deep perspective into a complex problem space. With a more static, linear approach, we would try and understand all aspects and underlying questions before attempting to ideate and create comprehensive solutions. However, there is a high chance that the foundational circumstances could have shifted by the time we have a fully baked and functional solution. Design Thinking instead promotes deep exploration of the circumstances of our end users, with sincere empathy. This then lets us rapidly ideate, create, prototype and test different solutions – solutions that don’t resonate with users get discarded and we re-examine their problem statements again, having learnt from both the successes and failures of the previous iteration.

The road ahead:
Make no mistake – constantly staying focused on innovation is hard, changing organizational mindset and routines to drive innovation is even harder. And frameworks, including Design Thinking, can help pave our way of working towards this ambitious goal. There will be moments where we feel like our disruptive ideas are getting no traction in the ecosystem. But these are minor setbacks compared to our end game of solving the world’s most pressing problems. We must refuse to settle for anything less than transformative, joyful product / solution experiences for our end beneficiaries – only then can we co-create big, impactful social innovations.

Additional sources for reference re Design Thinking: Please explore the resources on Stanford’s websites (including their YouTube channels) for richer content including case studies related to Design Thinking.

Originally published here:

Read about Sattva’s work in partnering with Design:Impact Awards to promote visionary and transformative product design for social impact:

Parvathy Ramanathan is a Principal in the Transformative Advisory team, working in our Bangalore office. She has a background is in launching technology products, with a focus on data and analytics. She has worked in several sectors in startups (Poplicus, Appature) and larger companies (Amazon, IMS Health, McGraw Hill etc). She is an Engineer from RAIT, Mumbai University and has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management.

Making a case for Sector Disruptors

At Sattva, we have always believed that in order to end poverty, it is important to strengthen the ability of social organisations to create impact. And as part of our work today, we engage deeply with a wide range of organisations – from some of the largest non-profits in the country to portfolios of young and nascent organisations. To ensure that we double up on this commitment in the future, we have set up a separate team within Sattva this year that will exclusively work large scale non-profits to enable them to create transformational impact over a million people.


I say this to highlight my bias for scale and our commitment towards enabling non-profits towards achieving scale. All along I recognised that scale was an inadequate measure of success since it might not capture the overall impact an organisation has created. I always add depth of impact, institutional sustainability and impact on the ecosystem as being equally important as well. However, the north star to frame the conversation has always been scale. Over the past one year, having worked with some of the largest non-profits in the country and inspiring leaders, I seek to frame the north star differently. The north star metric is the number of sector disruptors that we have been able to enable.

I want to use this post to structure my thoughts on –

-Why sector disruptors are critical over scaled organisations, for the social impact ecosystem

-Why there is a strong case for working with large non-profits of today to transform them into sector disruptors and not only invest in the new pipeline.

Why Sector disruptors over Scale

I have been fortunate to work with large organisations of various “archetypes” (topic for another post) over the last few years. While it has been immensely inspiring and a great learning, following are painful trends that are all too common today –

-Most large non-profits have scaled in the country today by codifying their interventions into a “Least Common Denominator” (LCD) model which can be scaled everywhere but loses all its original nuance to create meaningful impact on the ground. Hence, scale is actually achieved at the cost of impact.

-Much like IBM, no one has ever been fired in a CSR team for having funded a large non-profit. Hence the LCD model gets easily replicated across the country creating a closed loop of promoting scalable, low impact models on the ground. This usually means that the entire organisation is structured for effective operations at scale than innovation.

-Large organisations suffer from lack of “oxygen” (quality leadership talent, funding for organisational growth, proven systems). While that is true, one realises that the larger problem are not the externalities but the diffusion of vision internally. Most large organisations are not inspiring places for people to create change and hence are unable to attract talent or bend the market. This usually results in the CEO of the organisation spending 80% of their time on internal issues (at the cost of their health and wellbeing, most times) and 20% on the next frontier of impact and innovation for the organisation.

-As this happens, most avant-garde funders looking for innovation lose faith in large organisations and look for young and upcoming organisations to break this mould. Once funded, the young game changers continue to look for scale (since that is the norm) and end up in the same place as the guard of the past. In other words, we are pouring more water in the same leaking bucket.

-Another side effect of the scale focus is that nascent sectors like Property Rights where there is lack of breakthroughs, not many organisations have achieved meaningful scale. Therefore, most organisations working in these sectors don’t find funding or the attention of the funders.

Which is not to say, scale and impact are mutually exclusive. I am working with a few of them on a daily basis and two defining traits of such leaders who are able to marry impact and scale stand out – The unrelenting commitment to disrupt the sector and the market acumen to making it happen. In other words, it is not their appetite for scale – but their commitment to disruption – that helps create impact.

Large organisations and leaders creating deep impact are defined by two leading traits – The unrelenting commitment to disrupt the sector and the market acumen to making it happen.

Hence, setting scale as the north star metric of success for non-profit organisations in the long term is not only inadequate, it is dangerous because it results in squandering social investments in large scale programs that are designed to create incremental impact, at best. While scale is an absolutely necessary pre-condition, we need to frame success as sector disruption than scale.

So, what are sector disruptors

Sector disruptors change the course of how problems are solved within a sector by fundamentally changing the goal post or the lens with which problems are being looked at. That shift reframes the problem and hence the entire solution space. For instance (and this is not an exhaustive list):

-ASER, Pratham’s Initiative, reframed the focus of Education towards learning outcomes in a manner that was more real than any other initiative.

-Enable India moved the conversation of livelihoods for People with Disability, from being charity to actual business value by mapping the investment in PWD to the GDP of the country.

-SEWA’s livelihood triad (MFS, IDS, LPS) defined the livelihood approach of countless organisations since then.

-Akshayapatra’s approach to Mid-day meals through large scale infrastructure solutions with strong focus on technology and logistics redefined how such a problem can be addressed at scale while ensuring quality.

-DRF set up LABS as a business school model for school dropouts. That template has since created a model for skill development for the entire ecosystem.

-Childline setup 1098 as a national level helpline making phone-based access available to every child in distress across the country.

-CRY pioneered domestic giving among NGOs both through sales of greeting cards and through its retail giving at a scale not seen before in India by an Indian NGO (so much so that many thought they were an international NGO)

There are others including Aravind Eye Care for low cost healthcare solutions, Kaivalya Education Foundation on Middle Management leadership, Goonj on Cloth. These organisations, while not perfect, have had a huge impact on the solution space in their respective sectors.

Another interesting observation is that sector disruption, unlike scale, is not a permanent status. Most organisations in the list above were disruptors in a certain frame in time but today are questioning their relevance within the current social landscape. It truly takes a great organisation to not only stay relevant but continue to disrupt the ecosystem. Also, sector disruption, as a metric, is constantly defined in conjunction with the external environment than in isolation as organisation metric (E.g. Budget of the NGO). Hence a sector disruptor in Property Rights would look very different given the nascency of the space to a sector disruptor in the Education today.

Sector disruption, as a metric, is constantly defined in conjunction with the external environment than in isolation in relation to the organisation. There are no eternal disruptors. Organisations have to earn that right every time with changing times

Making a case for working with existing organisations

There is, rightfully, a strong focus on building the next cadre of entrepreneurs in the social impact ecosystem who have the mindset and DNA for creating large scale, meaningful impact. And my conversations with organisations such as N Core convince me of their commitment to doing it. While we invest in it, there’s an equally strong case to be made to work with existing large non-profits that have the ability and the agency to disrupt the sector more predictably than a bunch of young entrepreneurs. And here’s why –

-Sector disruption requires an organisation to have a certain critical mass for the disruption to be felt by the ecosystem (and not be a tree falling in the forest). Large organisations bring the gravitas and scale to be able to demonstrate disruption with credibility.

-Disruption requires scale. We have a graveyard of disruptive pilots and few at scale because what worked in pilots often are not designed for scale. Large organisations enable the scale at which ideas can be tested and demonstrated.

-While Institutional learning is a double edged sword (and often laces all ideas with cynicism), they are immensely helpful in knowing what are essential success factors and what are sure shot blind alleys. An able leader and the right team will gain immensely from listening to this learning with discretion.

-Finally, disruption requires funding and large non-profits bring the network and the credibility to raise the initial funding. At a time when the idea is audacious, the organisation’s track record strengthens the ability of the funder to put some money.

Let me be clear – Not every large organisation can be a sector disruptor (well, most large organisations cannot). But scale, experience and size are strong enablers for sector disruptors to redefine the landscape – And hence there is a strong case for working with these organisations, with the right leader at the helm, to create sector disruption.

Sattva’s own experience of working with a large organisation in the skill development space demonstrated how, when the right leader and organisation are provided the right strategy, large organisations can demonstrate disruption at a scale where the ecosystem has to notice and acknowledge.

In my follow up post to this, I want to detail the traits that enable large organisations to be sector disruptors and share Sattva’s experiences in being part of this journey. As I mentioned earlier, this is just a conversation starter.

Note: All original insights are thanks to meaningful conversations with Aditya Natraj, Dipesh Sutariya, Shanti Raghavan, Puja Marwaha, Hari T.N, Gayathri Vasudevan, Warren Ang, Rajat Gupta and leadership team at Child Rights and You, Kaivalya Education Foundation, CHILDLINE India Foundation and N/Core. All flaws in translating it to a post are entirely mine.

(Originally published on LinkedIn)


Abhishek Modi

Abhishek works with the Products team and Corporate Planning team at Sattva.

Before Sattva he worked as a freelancer for web content, search engine optimisation and social media marketing, gaining valuable business experience. He then joined Piramal Foundation’s Gandhi Fellowship Program where he worked on government school principals on their leadership capabilities. He also worked closely with teachers of 21st century teaching pedagogy practices and taught classes in government schools. He was actively involved in evolving examination practices in 200 primary government schools, working actively with the block panchayats and headmaster councils. At Sattva he has worked in the Consulting Services team on designing and managing CSR programmes.

Abhishek has a Bachelors’ in Commerce (Hons) – Accounts and Finance.

Lakshmi Sethuraman

Lakshmi currently leads the sales function at Sattva. She has been with Sattva since 2010 and has led a diverse set of projects during this time working extensively with leaders of social organisations in building and scaling their operations sustainably. She has also worked with key CSR clients of Sattva in designing, implementing impactful programmes.

Prior to Sattva, Lakshmi has worked with the Manipal Group, Jubilant Retail and ITC Hotels across sales, business development and strategy functions. She holds a PGDM from T.A.Pai Management Institute.

Samant SP

Samant advises Sattva’s leadership hiring vertical, Careers In Impact. He has been focusing strongly on helping social organisations (Non – Profits and Corporate Foundations) identify and on-board leadership talent across India. He comes with an entrepreneurial background and was running a boutique search firm known as Angel Consulting, focused on hedge funds hiring across Asian and European countries.

He was one of the initial members of Longhouse Consulting – a leading retained search firm focused on technology startup ecosystem across Asia and has also worked with organisations like Oracle and Aditi Technologies leading the recruitment efforts for the India Office in the past.

Samant holds a Bachelors degree in Science (Major – Chemistry) from Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology and is a Cisco Certified (Licensed) Networking Engineer.