Press Release:Samhita and Government of Maharashtra Form Committee to implement the Swachh Maharashtra Grand Challenge

Grand Challenge collaborates with leading development sector stakeholders to pilot Sanitation Innovations in Maharashtra.

July, 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. This is a tripartite agreement with Sahabhag, the CMO’s Social Responsibility Cell and the Water Supply and Support Organisation (WSSO).

The Grand Challenge will identify, pilot and scale innovations across the sanitation value chain: behaviour change, sanitation entrepreneurship, school sanitation and faecal sludge management.  The first phase will pilot the innovations in the district of Chandrapur post which these will be scaled and replicated to other districts of Maharashtra.

A state-level committee will be formed with members from Samhita, Sahabhag and WSSO to identify the process by which innovations from the Grand Challenge could be replicated within and beyond Chandrapur as well as to resolve any operational issues. A direct Officer on Special Duty to the Chief Minister, Ms. Priya Khan will be a member of this committee on behalf of Sahabhag.

In the past few years, we have built more than a million toilets to be one of the few states to achieve ODF status. We must now focus on ensuring sustained usage, and proper fecal waste management, so that the health benefits of sanitation are accrued to all our citizens. Developing the sanitation innovation ecosystem will be critical to maximising the social return on investment of our existing efforts, said Ms. Priya Khan, OSD to Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

Addressing the Chief Minister at the signing, Ms. Priya Naik, Founder and CEO of Samhita said, “Our unique collaborative initiative will give several effective and scalable program models, and stories of change around safe and sustainable sanitation, not just to the district and state but also to the entire country.”

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 also partnered Grand Challenge to support the behaviour change theme.

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. UNICEF is a knowledge partner to the Grand Challenge. 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 call for applications is expected to begin in October 2018 and will be promoted through the Government’s social media handles.

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 Sahabhag

Sahabhag is the social responsibility cell of the Government of Maharashtra. It is a digital platform to facilitate and encourage the participation of Citizens, Corporates, NGOs and other stakeholders of the society in citizen centric projects. Sahabhag will serve as a gateway for peer to peer collaboration to encourage a positive impact on social wellbeing of the society. It attempts to develop an ecosystem to bring transparency and visibility in execution of projects under various government flagship programs.

About Water and Sanitation Support Organisation

Water and Sanitation Support Organisation, Department of Water Supply and Sanitation, Government of Maharashtra is an Organisation which aims to provide safe drinking water and sanitation facilities for all, at door step, at all times, in rural Maharashtra

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.