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New Frontiers in CSR

India has been at the forefront of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) paradigm, much before the introduction of Section 135 of Companies Act, 2013, which made CSR a regulatory requirement.

As per data filed by companies on the Ministry of Corporate Affairs portal, around 20,000 companies had reported spending on CSR, with total spend amounting to INR 13,465 Cr in 16-17. Total public expenditure in 16-17 on agriculture and farmers’ welfare, rural sector and social sector (including education, healthcare, skills) was estimated at Rs 9,84,000 crores. The CSR spend that year was Rs.13,465 Cr. – 1.36% of the public spending.

If CSR’s monetary contribution is less than a fraction of what the government is earmarking for the nation’s growth, then, in what capacity can CSR optimize its contributions towards sustainable development? How can companies catalyze innovation and creativity to maximize scalable impact, stretch CSR budgets further and move the needle?

To deliver on the promise of reinvigorating the development sector, the very nature of how companies implement CSR needs to evolve: from inputs to outcomes, from individual to ecosystem, and from delivering services to building capacity and enabling the market.

In other words, companies need to evolve from Compliance-driven CSR 🡪 Strategic CSR 🡪 Catalytic CSR.  This report explains different models under catalytic and takes a case study approach to demonstrate its execution, effectiveness and ability to amplify impact.

Click here to download the report.

CII Foundation Women Exemplar Program 2016

Deadline: October 10, 2015

The CII Foundation Women Exemplar Program promotes women’s empowerment at the community level by discovering, recognizing and supporting those who have, against all odds, excelled and contributed significantly to the development process in India.

The program comprises of:

  1. Identification – Receiving nominations, Due diligence & Selection
  2. Recognition – The CII Foundation Women Exemplar Awards
  3. Evaluation – Mid Term review
  4. Expansion – The way forward (market linkages, product designing, management skills, access to finance, etc.)

As part of the program the Award is conferred on Women working at the grass roots level who have contributed significantly in the fields of:

  • Education & Literacy
  • Health
  • Micro Enterprise

The Award is called EXEMPLAR because the talented awardees set an example for others, igniting the spirit and the belief that they too can be empowered. The exemplars are self-motivated individuals, exhibiting strong leadership skills. The awardees are selected from nominations received from grass roots NGOs based all across the country.

For details on the eligibility criteria and application procedure, please visit the website here.

PaperSeed Foundation Grants: Improving Educational Opportunities for Children & Youth from Underserved Communities


The PaperSeed Foundation is currently accepting applications from emerging community-based organization for its educations grants. The grants will strengthen educational opportunities for children and young people in underserved and resource-lacking communities around the world.

The foundation believes every child, regardless of race, creed, or country, deserves quality education and the possibility of a strong future.

Eligible Countries

China, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Nicaragua, Philippines, United States.

Thematic Areas

Foundation provides funds for capacity building, training, management support and projects that fall under the following categories:

  • Deeper Learning for All:providing computers and books for libraries, creating school tutoring centers, funding for essential teacher training, life skills education, and specifically developed programs to keep girls in school, such as scholarships, reproductive health education and/or providing sanitary napkins.
  • Creative Learning:starting or expanding programs in music, arts and sports.
  • Cultural Awareness: ensuring the young people are aware of their own cultural heritage, and that of others.
  • Environmental Education: starting or expanding programs that inform the next generation of the importance of the environment.
  • Sound Structures: construction of classrooms, computer labs, libraries, school sanitary facilities, hand-washing stations and kitchens; solidifying existing structures with reinforced windows, ceilings and cement floors.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Emerging community-based organization that have not previously received substantial international support and generally fund organizations with an annual budget below $150,000 USD.
  • Applicants must be
    • Local leaders who were born and raised in the communities they are seeking to transform.
    • Involved in directly providing services to children and young people that strengthen education.
    • Sustainable, long-lasting initiatives or projects that will create lasting impact after foundation ceases to be directly involved.
    • Management Structure with established systems and processes that ensure responsible management of accounting and reporting.
  • Grantees must have a holistic approach to children’s education and development that empowers children and young people to reach their full potential.
  • Grantees must have innovation and creativity in solution-driven approaches that are effective in strengthening educational opportunities and achievement.
  • The foundation does not fund, individuals; government entities; organizations or programs designed to influence legislation or elect public officials; organizations or programs solely intended to generate income or provide charity to individuals; academic or medical research; fundraising drives; or endowments

For more information, please visit here. 

Mobile for Good Awards 2015

Deadline: August 15, 2015

The Mobile for Good Awards aim to recognize, promote and support mobile innovations for driving social change in India.

The Awards will recognize 11 life changing mobile solutions in 3 Awards categories across 4 critical areas of health, education, agriculture & environment, government women and inclusive development.

Award Categories

The 2015 Awards consist of two Awards categories, namely ‘Leading Change Maker – NPO Category’ and ‘Leading Change Maker – For profit category’. Each category will recognise five best-practice mobile technology related innovations across four defined sub-categories of education, women empowerment & inclusive development, health and agriculture & environment.

The M4G 2015 Award winners will be selected based on their eligibility and demonstration of success, scalability and sustainability of their initiatives in the following areas of Education, Health, Women Empowerment & Inclusive Development, Agriculture and Environment and Government Solutions.

 Steps to apply

The Mobile for Good Awards 2015 is a two-stage application process, as follows:

Stage I

  • The applicants are required to fill in an online entry form
  • The entry forms will be evaluated by the screening committee based on the eligibility criteria and pre-defined parameters to shortlist applicants

Stage II

  • Only shortlisted applicants will receive a copy of the detailed application form via e-mail; which they will be required to fill and submit via e-mail

Please fill the form here to apply for the awards.

Mobile for Good 2015

Date: June 25, 2015

Venue: Mumbai

NASSCOM Foundation, through its program the NASSCOM Social Innovation Forum, has joined hands with the Vodafone Foundation for its ‘Mobile for Good’ (M4G) Awards, to recognize and support innovative mobile solutions that are addressing social development issues and helping transform lives in India.

The platform awards and provides seed grants to six best projects that are using mobiles for outreach and impact.

This one day conference on ‘Mobile for Good’, aims to create awareness about the relevance and impact of mobile technology in critical areas such as health, education, agriculture and environment, women empowerment and inclusive development and governance by engaging all stakeholders in the respective region.

To register for the event, please write to: [email protected]

RSVP:  [email protected]

Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana by the Ministry of Rural Development

Deadline: Closed

The Ministry of Rural Development is inviting applications from individuals and organizations on ‘Good Practices’ under under Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana in various rural development sectors with an aim to bring substantial improvement in the quality and standard of life among all sections of population.

The SAGY aims to-

  • Bring forth collective intellect of the sector that will help assimilating innovative solutions, breakthroughs and good practices.
  • Documentation and sharing of good practices in rural development planning and implementation which will suggest ways and systems for replication of the models at a larger level in SAGY villages in a time bound manner.

Thematic Areas

  • Education
  • Drinking water
  • Health
  • Banks and other financial services
  • Nutrition
  • Common Service Centres
  • Sanitation
  • Transport
  • Agriculture\Allied sectors
  • Roads and communication infrastructure
  • Manufacturing, including rural industries Energy/Renewable Energy
  • Irrigation & Water Harvesting (Natural
  • Resource Management)
  • Employment /livelihood opportunities
  • Bio-Diversity
  • Food security
  • Housing
  • Development of
  • Elderly/Youth/Children/Persons with Special needs
  • ICT for Rural Development

Eligibility Criteria

Applicants –

  • The nominations are open to legal residents or organisational entities of India only
  • Individuals, Organisations (both Government / Private), Collectors, Charge Officers, PRIs, non-profit or community based organisations

Workshop –

  • The initiative should have positively impacted a reasonably larger area at the minimum one Gram Panchayat or equivalent
  • The initiative should be in operation for more than two years in the rural area
  • The initiative should be replicable and sustainable

For more information, please visit the link here.

Reed Elsevier Environmental Challenge 2015

Deadline: 26 April 2015

The Reed Elsevier Environmental Challenge awards $75,000 prize money to two innovative projects that best demonstrate how they can provide sustainable access to safe water or sanitation. Projects must have clear practical applicability, address identified needs and advance related issues such as health, education or human rights.

This is the fifth year that Reed Elsevier has held this challenge.

For more information on how to apply visit this link.

Invitation for third International Conference on Creativity and Innovation at Grassroots

Dates: January 19-22, 2014

Increasing concern for sustainability has focused attention of academics, practitioners, corporate, social and public policy leaders towards extremely affordable frugal products and services.

The third ICCIG aims at pooling insights from research, policy and practices in education, technology, institutions, culture, conservation and governance. The conference welcomes the presentation in different formats including performances, exhibitions, posters and research papers.  Community representatives are specially invited to connect with each other and help the formal sector to understand and appreciate their knowledge systems.

The policy makers and corporate leaders will find conference as a unique platform for engaging with open innovation community promoting dialogue and partnership between formal and informal sector of science, technology, services and society.

Please submit your abstracts and proposals for special workshops, panel discussions, exhibitions and performances to [email protected].

TATA Social Enterprise Challenge 2014

Deadline: November 15, 2014

TATA social enterprise challenge is a joint initiative by the TATA group and the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM Calcutta) to create an ecosystem for social entrepreneurship and encourage sustainable, scalable and measurable social impact.

The challenge invites social entrepreneurs from across India, who either have an early stage venture or an idea with a proof of concept. The proposed venture needs to have a sustainable business model that creates social impact. There is no restriction on the business model and it can be for-profit, not for profit or even a hybrid model.

The challenge has three stages:

  1. Impact Proposal Round – In this round, teams will need to submit an ‘Impact Proposal’ through the website. The proposal is a detailed business plan format that has been developed to capture the needs and the impact created by any social venture.
  2. Semi-Finals – On clearing the Impact Proposal Round, a maximum of twenty teams will be invited to pitch to a panel of esteemed judges consisting of Social VCs, Social Entrepreneurs and faculty from IIM Calcutta.
  3. The Grand Finale – A maximum of ten teams will be selected for the Grand Finale and will pitch to a panel of esteemed judges, consisting of TATA Business Leaders, CEOs/Founders of Social VCs, Social Entrepreneurs and faculty from IIM Calcutta.

Business plans for the competition will be invited for all sectors including the following focus areas:

  • Agriculture, Food and Dairy
  • Healthcare, Water and Sanitation
  • Technology and Development
  • Education
  • Housing
  • Handicrafts
  • Energy
  • Microfinance/Financial Inclusion

For more information on the application procedure, visit the website here.

Budget allocations for school assessment – the first signs of an evidenced based process

By Anushree Parekh and Poorvaja Prakash, Research team, Samhita


The buzz about the budget so far has been whether Arun Jaitley has delivered a big-bang or a low key budget, about the increases in tax exemption, the type of goods that will be more or less expensive and the possibility of the goods and services tax. Hidden in these details is a small glimmer of hope for the education sector and signs that the government may be prepared to adopt a more nuanced and refined outlook as far as schooling is concerned. Budgetary allocations for education this year delineated approximately INR 27 crore for a new activity labeled ‘school assessments’, though the document does not provide clarity on what these assessments could entail. We draw upon our experience of conducting these exercises and highlight two types of assessments – a need assessment for schools and a performance assessment of the school. For either of the two, the aim should be moving beyond the input driven RTE norms to focus on outcomes.

Assessing the needs of the school to steer away from one size fits all approach

Schools do not operate in isolation – each school is a microcosm of different circumstances, culture, attitudes etc. Our experience of assessing schools indicates that many schools have needs that the government is unable to provide for because they have not identified the gaps and even more importantly the root causes behind the same. Conducting a needs assessment therefore helps to understand the requirements of different schools across the country. Many might argue that through the National Achievement Survey conducted by the SSA, the government does measure the learning outcomes of students. However, a need assessment ideally is different from a mere ‘student’ assessment. Any assessment that does not take into account the community, circumstances and conditions of the schools is likely to be incomplete. A comprehensive need assessment will take into account all the stakeholders within the education system including the school principals, teachers, students, parents, influential community members, School management Committee and the government. In many cases, the assessment might identify that there are conflicting views between these different stakeholders and conducting assessment that incorporates these varies views is an acknowledgement that the school does not exist in isolation from the community. For example, the student learning outcomes might be low and the teachers might highlight lack of parental participation and support as a reason. However, parents might feel that they cannot participate either because of their livelihood situation or in many cases simply do not know how to get involved. Through an assessment, these stakeholders can be meaningfully engaged in a dialogue to unearth root causes and secure buy-in from everyone.

Assessing school’s performance in a standardized and comprehensive way

There is substantial evidence from both government and non-government sources to suggest that while India has made tremendous progress in ensuring that more children enroll in school, performance across output based indicators such as reading skills, numeracy skills has generally been low. One of the reasons suggested for this perceived lack of progress in improving the quality of education is that we currently do not have any standardized way of defining and measuring the performance of schools (not just students) across the country and doing so at a disaggregated level. Very little or no information is avilable that can help us understand the performance of different schools and obtain nuanced information in terms of geographies (urban, rural, hilly terrains etc.), different systems of management (government, private, government aided etc.), different types of governments’ involvement (local government, ashram shalas, special centre run schools etc) among others. Having this kind of information can be extremely useful in identifying trends and common features of schools that perform well and schools that are not performing as well. It also affords the opportunity to take targeted interventions that address specific needs groups that are weak.

Assessments are not just an academic research exercise

The education sector seems to abound in different types of assessments and there is wariness around introducing more such exercises. It is important to realize that while we may not need ‘more’ of these, we definitely need ‘standardized and consistent’ ones. School assessments are not just a platform to understand the missing portions but also emphasize positive experiences and best practices. It then becomes even more imperative to share these success stories and positive actions. Some examples include assessing cluster wise performance of schools and having high performing schools mentor their counter parts from low performing schools (as done in Shanghai). Perhaps the biggest benefit that could stem from this initiative is the possibility of greater levels of transparency and accountability among not just the government but all school administrators, principals and any organizations providing support schools in India.

School assessments can be a part of CSR programs

For companies, assessments offer a great opportunity for more effective public private partnership and bring about stronger, data driven CSR initiatives. Education is one of the most sought after and popular causes among those listed under Section 135. Many companies have expressed interest in working with schools around their plants, corporate offices and other branch offices. Having these schools assessed readily provides companies with an understanding of how best they can contribute to the school both in financial and in non-financial terms. For example, if the school assessment brings up concerns about ineffectively pedagogy, the company can support different measures such as experiential learning, ICT in classrooms, theatre in classrooms or other proven interventions based on their strengths. If the assessment reflects the lack of parental involvement, awareness and information campaigns can be run for the parents and the SMC.

Let us consider one of the case studies of our client:

Sandvik Asia Pvt Ltd – A case study Sandvik Asia Pvt Ltd, the global engineering giant, presents a textbook example of how some companies are taking the lead in implementing informed CSR programs in schools around their plant areas. Through its School Education Initiative Sandvik wanted to address retention and quality of learning in schools and enrich the environment with involvement of community and school. Instead of implementing programs with ‘one-glove-fits-all’ approach that paid little heed to the specific circumstances of each school, Sandvik took the path less travelled and commissioned us to undertake school assessments across five schools in four different states. After painstakingly visiting the schools and engaging with all relevant stakeholders, Sandvik was presented with a list of needs and programs for each school. Sandvik is now in the process of identifying partners who can help the company to address these needs.

In the words of Saharsh David,Head- CSR at Sandvik, ‘the school assessments enabled us to design holistic programs, create interventions and their prioritization.….it has created a sense of ownership and goodwill on the schools’ part, ensuring their commitment and support in creating a long lasting impact’

Way forward

Going forward it is extremely important for the Ministry of HRD and other concerned government machineries to work with external agencies such as consultants, experts, social organizations and all other stakeholders to come up with a holistic measurement standard that incorporates both quantitative (input measures such as infrastructure, availability of teaching aid etc) and qualitative (pedagogy, school leadership, aspiration levels among students, extent of extracurricular activities etc.) aspects. There has been a lot of research on these issues and therefore leveraging the existing knowledge and creating a collaborative set up to initiate the school assessments is absolutely crucial. This small step offers an exciting opportunity but the usefulness of it all will depend on how it is executed. We hope that the idea does get translated into action well and ultimately helps to accelerate the reform process that the education system in India truly needs.