opinion

The together effect

Partnerships with a variety of entities, most importantly the government, underpin the success of a plethora of social development programmes

Prabhat Pani

Prabhat Pani
is senior advisor, partnerships, at the Tata Trusts

C ovid-19 has demonstrated in no uncertain terms that the success or failure of any endeavour to tackle a calamity — or even bridge substantive socioeconomic gaps — depends largely on the will and ability of multiple stakeholders to come together. No government in any country could have countered the pandemic on its own. Citizens and civil society organisations, along with others, have played an invaluable role here by leveraging their engagement with communities.

According to the Indian government’s Economic Survey 2019-20, the country’s social sector expenditure is 7.7% of its GDP, and this encompasses education, public health, sanitation, labour welfare and a lot more. This may not be enough.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific reckons that India needs to spend greater than 10% of its GDP to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 (the figure was arrived at prior to the pandemic). Given that the government’s resources and capacities are inadequate to cover the needs of social development in the country, and with the situation being exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak, there is no questioning the necessity of garnering funds and capabilities from other avenues.

That’s where resources generated through the corporate social responsibility (CSR) framework and through public-private partnership models can help plug the gap. In the context, there is no understating the importance of goal 17 in the SDGs — partnerships. Covid-19 has, if further evidence was needed, validated how crucial this aspect is in realising India’s social development objectives.

SDG 17 does not stand alone. Inherent to its nature is the ability to bind together the other 16 SDGs with five critical components: finance, capacity building, systemic issues, technology and trade. It’s a collaboration equation that delivers substantial dividends.

The partnership agenda has over time been embedded in the Tata Trusts’ efforts in the social development sphere. The Trusts have focused, particularly in the last couple of years, on forging partnerships with entities who bring in monetary or non-monetary resources — technology, subject-matter knowledge, research skills, etc — to efficiently deploy sustainable and high-impact solutions through the combined, and often complementary, expertise of multiple partners.

The Trusts have been increasingly adopting a systems approach to amplify the impact of initiatives in the communities they serve. They do this by layering multiple programmes in a specific geography. That has resulted in projects in livelihoods, nutrition, healthcare, education and more being implemented in a holistic manner to better serve underprivileged communities.

Partnerships enable the augmentation of systemic solutions by facilitating the convening of several stakeholders to utilise the strengths of the different partners. For instance, Bharat Petroleum and the NSE Foundation have collaborated with the Trusts to support multi-thematic interventions in Gadchiroli and Nandurbar districts of Maharashtra.

A Tata Trusts supported education initiative in Karnataka has led to improved learning outcomes; partnerships have enabled the Tata Trusts to augment systemic solutions by utilising the strengths of different partners

Collaboration for impact

Similarly, the Trusts have partnered the Axis Bank Foundation to help marginalised tribal communities in Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Gujarat and Rajasthan, and IndusInd Bank to support various social uplift programmes in Odisha and Assam. These partnerships exemplify a collaborative approach to making an impact in regions that have been neglected for decades.

Corporate entities have traditionally had a mandate to support development initiatives in the vicinity of their areas of operation, be it offices, manufacturing facilities, mines or raw material sources. The bold and progressive among such entities have begun to look beyond this limited approach, and they have found a solid partner in the Tata Trusts.

The track record and pedigree of the Tata Trusts in the development sector have prompted some companies to come forward and direct their resources to under-invested regions like Northeast India. For example, Trent has tied up with the Trusts to back development programmes in Mizoram, while Titan has joined hands with the Trusts on multiple interventions in Uttarakhand and elsewhere.

The Tata Trusts have always been pioneers in taking up innovative and large-scale initiatives. Partnerships play a vital role in such endeavours. Alongside monetary collaborations with funding organisations, the Trusts have emphasised the building of capabilities in beneficiary communities as well as their own teams. That’s how five women beneficiaries from the livelihoods initiative in the Northeast have made it to the Her & Now programme (funded by Germany’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development to enable the professional development of budding women micro-entrepreneurs from backward areas of India).

In search of synergy 

The Trusts have been exploring synergies with various entities, including research centres, startups and venture capital firms, to join well-structured programmes and thus create a win-win scenario. The myriad engagements of the partnerships team at the Trusts have resulted in project collaborations in agriculture and allied projects, water and sanitation, healthcare, and the like.

A key facet of the Trusts’ programmes is their alignment with national priorities. The Trusts have collaborated with government institutions and agencies in the implementation of many initiatives, among them the Swachh Bharat Mission, Poshan Abhiyaan, the Smart Cities Mission and the Aspirational Districts programme.

At a global level, the Trusts have been exploring collaborations that can supplement and further strengthen the scope and scale of their social uplift efforts. From this perspective, the recognition that standout programmes of the Trusts have won worldwide is a help. 

Corporate entities are increasingly preferring effective and experienced implementing agencies to execute their CSR projects. The Covid-19 pandemic has added to this trend, with these entities seeking ever-better social return on their investments. That means the Trusts have to be well-prepared to take on greater responsibility to deliver sustainable and large-scale impact.

Coming together with like-minded organisations and institutions in India and abroad to realise the vision of positively impacting, at scale, the lives of underprivileged people and communities in the country — that has been the strategy and thinking of the Tata Trusts. Proof of the value to be derived from this approach lies in the positive and widespread impact of such collaborations.

tata trusts social development initiative
The Tata Trusts’ partnerships with multiple organisations have enabled them to take up large-scale initiatives in social development