Press Release: Samhita and Government of Maharashtra sign a MoU to implement the Swachh Maharashtra Grand Challenge

Grand Challenge collaborates with leading development sector stakeholders to Pilot Sanitation Innovations in Chandrapur.

July 03, 2018; Mumbai, India: Samhita Social Ventures, a leading CSR consultancy and the Maharashtra Government signed an MOU in the presence of Hon. Chief Minister Shri Devendra Fadnavis to implement the Swachh Maharashtra Grand Challenge in the district of Chandrapur.

The Grand Challenge will identify, pilot and scale innovations across the sanitation value chain: behaviour change, sanitation entrepreneurship, school sanitation and faecal sludge management; with UNICEF as its knowledge partner. The call for applications is expected to begin in September 2018.

“Helping social organisations implement innovations at scale, with partnerships between government, corporates and UN entities such as UNICEF will help Chandrapur and the state of Maharashtra in sustaining ODF. And achieve its ODF++ goal while inculcating innovations and sanitation entrepreneurship”, said Yusuf Kabir who leads UNICEF’s WASH practice in Maharashtra

Each corporate partner of the Grand Challenge will fund a particular theme within the sanitation value chain which is aligned closely to their core competency. The country’s youngest full-play media and entertainment organization, Viacom18, has partnered Grand Challenge to support the behaviour change theme. In addition to the grant, winning organisations will be provided mentoring, as well as implementation, administrative and scale-up support.

“We started our journey by making stories of social change the primetime content for viewers. Since then, over the last 10 years, social responsibility has been core to our business as we endeavour to open new worlds for our viewers through stories that raise awareness against societal taboos and evils.” Said Sonia Huria, Head – Communications, Sustainability and Corporate Marketing, Viacom18, before adding, “In the Swachh Maharashtra Grand Challenge, it is our endeavour to encourage innovative storytelling in social behavioural change communication. After all, great stories inspire us to great things!”

The Grand Challenge is being advised by a council including the likes of Luis Miranda, Piyush Pandey, Arun Maira and others with several years of experience in the government, private and social sector.

The Grand Challenge is the flagship initiative of the Corporate Engagement Platform for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) in Maharashtra, a joint initiative of Samhita Social Ventures and India Sanitation Coalition in partnership with CEPT University, and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Maharashtra Government. The platform will provide comprehensive support and services to companies and stakeholders, to enable better decision making in the WASH cause area by going beyond toilets and focusing on the entire value chain of sanitation.

The WASH Platform and the Swachh Maharashtra Grand Challenge are unique opportunities for key stakeholders including the government, corporates and development organizations to collaborate and work towards the collective goal of providing universal access to safe and sustainable sanitation in Maharashtra as embodied in the state’s ODF++ framework.” said Madhu Krishna, Country Lead – WASH, BMGF.

About Samhita Social Ventures:

Samhita is a CSR consulting firm that collaborates with companies to develop strategies, execute projects and evaluate impact. Since its establishment, Samhita has worked with companies like L&T, Viacom18, Godrej, DHFL and HUL and organisations like The Rockefeller Foundation, Tata Trusts and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to address critical social issues on a large scale. With its extensive grassroots network, Samhita has created impact in multiple causes including healthcare, water and sanitation, education, energy access, community empowerment, vocational training, rural livelihoods and financial literacy.

About Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also known as the Gates Foundation, is a private foundation founded by Bill and Melinda Gates. It was launched in 2000, and is said to be the largest private foundation. The organization’s efforts in India focus on key areas that will affect the future of India’s most vulnerable communities: reproductive, maternal, new-born, and child health and nutrition; sanitation; agricultural development; and financial inclusion.


UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to protect the rights of every child. UNICEF has spent 70 years working to improve the lives of children and their families. UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) team works in over 100 countries worldwide to improve water and sanitation services, as well as basic hygiene practices. Last year, UNICEF’s efforts provided nearly 14 million people with clean water and over 11 million with basic toilets.