(Image credit: Sankalp)
The development sector has undergone tremendous changes over the last decade. However, this is noticeable in India now more than ever. The annual Sankalp Summit, initiated in 2009, is a collaborative platform bringing together social enterprises, impact investors, policy makers, and other market makers. Atma had the opportunity to attend this summit last week organised over two days at the Taj Lands End Hotel in Mumbai. Discussions ranging from the importance of impact investment, the role of social entrepreneurs in the development sector, capitalism and the need to “reimagine it” exemplified changes in India’s perceptions about the role of development.
Social development is no longer charity. Donors today invest in social enterprises and expect outcomes, social and/or financial. According to a report by Bain & Company, Inc. (Indian Philanthropy Report 2012) there has been a significant rise in “new generation donors who show greater interest in making donations through formal channels to established NGOs, rather than giving money to a local religious institution or setting up their own informal projects as their parents might have done. Many next-gen donors have been educated overseas and want to adopt Western practices that favour more structured ways of giving, with a focus on outcomes.”
This change in attitude has paved the way for forums such as the Sankalp Summit to come about with their “corporate” styled networking platforms. The summit is, in all fairness, a fantastic meeting point for thinkers, investors and investees from the development sector. April 12th and 13th saw debates and sessions focused over five sectors: Agriculture, food & rural businesses; Clean energy/technology; Education & vocational training; Health, water & sanitation and Technology for development.
Experts from across these sectors participated in the discussions making them educational, inspirational and meaningful.150 impact investors and 400 social entrepreneurs came together to focus and debate over these five high impact sectors. Participants made the most of this networking opportunity with the more fruitful conversations taking place during lunch and tea breaks. Claiming to be the largest collaborative platform in India, this forum has started a trend of sorts.
Some critics fear that the non-English speaking social entrepreneurs will not find a place amongst these “professional” groups. The term was often used to mean a Harvard or Ivy League graduate working in the development space. This sentiment was vocalized by Harish Hande, Founder and Managing Director, SELCO, when he remarked that these forums largely catered to the English speaking population. Reservations about the new crop of Ivy League graduates who may not have sufficient knowledge about conditions at ground zero were a subtle undercurrent observed at this summit. However, it may be pertinent at this point to acknowledge the rise in volunteering and fellowship initiatives. Many organisations today, provide volunteers with the kind of hands on experience required to gain a deep understanding of “how things work”. Atma has a similar volunteering program that allows graduates or mid-career professionals of varied backgrounds to work with NGOs involved in education. This exchange of expertise and experience is crucial to the growth of people and organisations involved.
This new diverse group of individuals comes with new perspectives and solutions to tackle developmental issues. Forums that bring them together into one room are tremendous learning opportunities. How we use these opportunities will determine the success of forums like Sankalp 2012.