Are Indian NGOs missing a trick?

Over the past few decades, technology has permeated our lives in every possible way. It has revolutionised the way we read, shop, watch movies, etc. It has also transformed several sectors in a variety of ways. This is especially true for a country like India which has the second largest internet user base in the world. But large sections of the country remain untouched by technology and the benefits that its usage brings. The social sector in India with close to 3.3 million registered NGOs remains one such frontier that still hasn’t undergone large scale digitisation. Technology can be harnessed in different ways by NGOs based on their size and functions, but there are some common advantages that not-for-profit’s can derive by utilising it correctly.

images-1Much of what an NGO does is based on data collection, analysis and dissemination. Dealing with large amounts of data can often be a grueling task. This is an area where technology can be extremely effective for NGOs. Electronic communication devices can make data collection easier while its organisation can be facilitated by services like big data analysis. Cloud computing has revolutionised data storage and can be effectually utilised by the social sector as well. Information stored on cloud based platforms can be accessed anywhere, at any given time. Audits and impact assessments can also be made easier and cheaper. Such services would, in turn, promote the streamlining of NGO operations, which will undoubtedly lead to efficiency and transparency.

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-15-44-27In this digital age, having an online presence has become somewhat of a prerequisite and certainly increases an organisation’s legitimacy. A website or something similar contributes towards an NGO’s image and will enable it to reach out to and attract donors and volunteers. It also gives potential donors easy access to an NGO’s past, ongoing and future projects through which they can gauge the impact of an NGO’s work. A digital presence is also a cheap option for grassroots NGOs to publicise themselves and acquire follow-on funds. It will also make it easier for companies looking to fulfil their CSR obligations to select NGOs that have websites/online profiles with relevant details regarding contacts, activities undertaken, addresses, partners, etc. An online presence also provides a strong means of communication which can be helpful in several ways. It enables NGOs to announce and endorse campaigns and thus attracts volunteers. These days when e-mailing thousands of people is as easy as e-mailing one, fundraising and marketing can be made quite simple.

Often NGOs find it difficult to train new employees and volunteers due to time and monetary constraints. Online training can be a viable option in these cases. This will allow NGOs to have both quality and quantity when it comes to volunteers. The appropriate usage of technology can also assist quick decision making with applications that support video chats. Digital collection platforms can be utilised to automate information collection and redistribution which in turn can drive efficiencies within the organisation.

img_3191Online portals can help in the easy collection of donations and volunteer registrations. It can reduce the distance between NGOs and their most important stakeholders, their supporters. A perfect example of the effective usage of technology by an NGO is South-Africa based Cell Life. Their programme utilises mobile technology to improve the lives of people infected with HIV. Health workers monitor a patient whom they visit at home, using data enabled mobile phones they record the patient’s medical status and other relevant factors. This data is transmitted to the central database where care managers use a web-based system to access and monitor patient information. There are several NGOs in India that would benefit immensely from process-digitisation, which is likely to introduce new efficiencies, simplify collection, storage and analysis of data and allow for a wider level of engagement across employees and beneficiary groups alike.

Both businesses and not-for-profits are similar in the sense that they operate under the same constraints of time and budgets. It is obvious that businesses that have been quick to adopt robust IT systems are more likely to succeed than those that have not. The same applies to non-profits. In the modern, digital world, there are several, relatively cheap technology solutions available in the market and it is in the interest of NGOs to invest in digitising their operations.

www.NGOimpact.com is a great starting point for NGOs looking to develop a strong, credible web presence and reach a much wider pool of donors, corporates, philanthropists, volunteers etc. The website facilitates digital connections and ease of funding access for NGOs – sign up now and create a solid profile to attract new funding!

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India’s new CSR law is a game-changer

India, the world’s largest democracy, is a land of many contradictions. Perhaps, the biggest one is that although over the years it has become a powerful economy and a prominent Asian power, it still houses a fairly large number of people living in poverty. The fact that it is the first country in the world to legally mandate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is perhaps isn’t surprising. CSR’s core ideology is that “companies should take responsibility for their impact on society”.

The practice of CSR is not entirely new to Indian Companies. Ever since their establishment, companies like the Tata Group, the Aditya Birla Group, and the Indian Oil Corporation have been active in doing their part to serve the community. However, with the passage of the new CSR law under the Companies Act 2013, a wider range of companies have been called to action to address India’s development agenda. Over 3,000 companies are now estimated to fall under the purview of this law.

The Act, which came into effect on April 1 2014, requires companies – private limited or public limited – which either have (a) a net worth of Rs. 500 crore or (b) a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore or (c) net profit of Rs. 5 crore, to spend at least 2% of its average net profit for the immediately preceding three financial years on corporate social responsibility activities.

All companies included within the ambit of the figures mentioned above are required to constitute a Corporate Social Responsibility Committee of the Board that would comprise three or more directors, of which at least one director shall be an independent director. Another point that the Act stresses on is that preference should be given to local areas and communities that the corporate functions in.

Additionally, the act also delineates the activities that the companies should fund. Some of the activities that can be undertaken by a company include:

  • eradicating extreme hunger and poverty,
  • promotion of education,
  • promoting gender equality and empowering women,
  • reducing child mortality and improving maternal health,
  • combating human immunodeficiency virus, acquired, immune deficiency syndrome, malaria and other diseases,
  • ensuring environmental sustainability,
  • employment enhancing vocational skills,
  • social business projects,
  • contribution to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund or any other fund set up by the Central Government or the State Governments for socio-economic development and relief and
  • funds for the welfare of the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, other backward classes, minorities and women and such other matters as may be prescribed.

With the passage of the Act, spending in the CSR sector is forecast to increase significantly year-on-year. The law also states that it is now important for companies to ensure that this increased spending achieves results on the ground through regular impact measurement. Contributing to this culture of accountable spending, there are supporting monitoring and reporting parameters that corporates are now required to adhere to. The law additionally emphasises the importance of NGOs and ‘implementing agencies’ in facilitating this corporate spending.

India is home to around 3.3 million registered NGOs with several others classified as trusts, societies etc. Choosing the right NGO partner from such a large pool is a herculean task. This is where the likes of http://www.ngoimpact.com come in. The website allows companies to curate a tailored list of NGOs that meets its funding criteria and corporate objective. It not only helps corporates make the right choices regarding their CSR partners but also provides much needed visibility to NGOs located in remote locations that have generated positive results but may have been overlooked in terms of funding. Moreover, the technology platform it offers is a simple but unique solution to bridge the gap between companies and NGOs. It allows corporates to monitor their partners through real time data whilst giving NGOs the ability to easily collect their field data, digitally, thereby addressing some key pain points.

Corporates to Open Purse Strings for Development

The new CSR law under Section 135 of the amended Companies Act, 2013 has changed the face of corporate-NGO partnerships in India. The new Law, which came into effect in April 2014, has imposed for the first time in history, social responsibility obligations on all Indian companies and foreign companies doing business in India. All parties directly or indirectly involved in this sector are still in the process of accommodating the changes that have accompanied this landmark decision by the Indian parliament. The mandatory ‘comply or explain’ guidelines are actively reshaping the relationship between corporates and Indian NGOs.

Companies that fall within the ambit of the new Law are required to spend at least 2% of their net profit (average of the previous 3 years) on any of the CSR activities recommended in the guidelines. The rules regarding the law further emphasises the role of ‘implementing agencies’, implying that companies are not required to undertake these activities by themselves but rather approach it as a shared civic responsibility. Apart from the large, well-established Indian corporates, a large portion of the companies that meet the requirements of the Law have minimal experience in finding and executing CSR activities. Therefore, most of them will not only require implementation support but also assistance with finding/identifying, verifying and monitoring their NGO partners and projects.

The vast number of NGOs operating within India will undoubtedly play a crucial role in the successful implementation of this Law. The exact number of NGOs based in India is currently unknown owing to the fact that many of them remain either unregistered or are alternatively registered as trusts or societies. Attempts at quantification put the number around 3.3 million. These NGOs have contributed significantly to the development of human rights, education, sanitation, sustainable development, child rights, etc. within the country.

The obligation introduced by the Act has encouraged many companies to actively establish ties with NGOs as their experience with and knowledge of the needs and demands of the Indian citizenry is unmatched, perhaps even by the government. This is slowly changing the nature of the relationship between companies and NGOs, which has historically been one of mutual wariness. The Law has already led to a gradual decrease in the trust deficit between these two key parties. Bhaskar Chatterjee, director general and chief executive officer of the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA) says, “The new legislation will lead to a synergistic partnership between corporations, NGOs and the government which would also allow for greater transparency in the operations of all three agencies”.

The examples of Corporate-NGO partnerships worldwide exhibit how fruitful this relationship can be. The collaboration between US-based Rainforest Alliance and the US-based corporation Chiquita Brands led the company to become more sustainable in its operations, particularly the production of bananas. The alliance between Bosch India and Akshara Foundation is another example of a successful NGO-Corporate relationship. Other corporates such as Godrej, Yes Bank, Colgate, Jubilant, Cairn etc. have been partnering with various NGOs on a variety of targeted projects to address social inequalities and contribute to development. This availability of funds in the Indian CSR sector is likely to result in an increased focus on quality, outcomes and improved performance. While companies look for alliances, NGOs are rolling up their sleeves. As both of these players have often been historically viewed as occupying opposite ends of the spectrum, they recognise the importance of adopting transparency in a situation that requires accountability.

The new CSR law urges companies to focus their CSR activities in local areas and places where their offices/manufacturing units operate. This is intended to inspire companies to seek NGOs that are located in remote areas and will thus help smaller players in acquiring funding. The CSR sector has also seen an emergence of intermediaries that assist companies in selecting the right partners. These independent bodies are often times more successful in identifying NGOs that despite having made a far-reaching impact, lack funds. No doubt, this will give relatively smaller NGOs the opportunity to partner with corporates to undertake impactful, sustainable and results-oriented projects and programmes at the grassroot level.

www.NGOimpact.com is one such innovative portal that is actively attempting to bridge the current gap between Corporates and Indian NGOs by featuring, connecting and matching relevant parties.

 

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Technology – Transforming the Social Sector

The digital age has eliminated boundaries and brought the world closer together through ease of access. Given the existing pace of innovation and investment, the promise of progressive technologies is limitless. However, the not-for-profit sector, along with its various stakeholder groups has only recently begun to realise that the forces of technology can be harnessed to bring about more widespread impact in the social sector.

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In a country where c.276 million people survive on less than $1.25 a day, many individuals and organisations have attempted to address the underlying issues and problems. Yet, these initiatives have often produced limited results in the larger scheme of things due to the sheer number of issues that need to be taken into account and the large demography that they affect. This can perhaps be attributed to both silo-ed efforts and the use of fundamentally non-scalable methods.

In such a situation, many are starting to understand and acknowledge that the effective use of technology can help magnify the outcomes of the efforts undertaken by government and social sector organisations alike.

Here are 5 ways in which technology can help the social sector:

Easy Access to Information                                                                                                                        

Far-reaching impact can be achieved simply by making data available to a wider audience. As technology increases access, content attracts a larger number of eyeballs as more people get used to consuming digital content. An example of this phenomenon is how websites like Khan Academy (https://www.khanacademy.org/) and Wikipedia (https://www.wikipedia.org/) have empowered people to self-educate themselves on a variety of topics. Or take ImmunizeIndia (http://immunizeindia.org/, which is a free SMS service that sends timely vaccination reminders to registered numbers. There are others that are establishing important connections – Govtify (http://govtify.weebly.com/) which is attempting to actively bridging the gap between non-profits and the Government. 

Collecting Information – Crowdsourcing and Smartsourcing

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In many cases, people see a situation from different perspectives which, like a mosaic, can be brought together to create a pattern that would otherwise go undetected. Technologies that support data collection and analysis can be very effective in pulling together scattered evidence that can help in a multitude of situations. For example, Janaagraha’s I Paid A Bribe (https://janaagraha.org/) initiative aims to tackle corruption by providing citizens with a platform where they can report the nature, number, pattern, types, location, frequency and values of actual corrupt acts. Crowdsourced inputs also help to validate, ascertain and add credibility to information.

With smartphones and tablets, gathering information at source has the ability to significantly improve data accuracy and eliminate cumbersome and lengthy processes. ‘Smartsourcing’ is likely to become the cornerstone of crucial processes such as monitoring and assessment in the near future. 

Improving Accessibility

rural-indiaTechnology can improve the reach of products and services which can improve the lives of the underserved. MicroEnsure (http://microensure.com/locations/asia/india/ ) uses mobile telecommunications to provide low-income customers across Asia and Africa with insurance products specifically tailored to their needs. Risks related to life, health, agriculture, assets, accidents and political violence are all taken into account.

Making Connections

Technology based solutions can also help create greater impact by helping parties quickly establish interconnectedness and look for compatible information matches. These partnerships can be mutually beneficial and can help in achieving results on the ground. Our website, www.ngoimpact.com provides NGOs with a credible digital presence and helps donor, corporates, philanthropists, individuals etc. identify and choose the right social sector partner.

Improved Access To Funding

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www.ngoimpact.comrevolutionising discovery and access for Indian social sector organisations

Technology is playing an important role in creating a market based on social good and in turn connecting beneficiaries with funding streams. IndieGogo (https://www.indiegogo.com/) is an international crowdfunding website which provides a platform for organisations and individuals to create fundraising campaigns for causes that they care about. https://www.ngoimpact.com serves a similar purpose where NGOs and social enterprises can discover and find connections, funding, CSR sponsors, volunteers, advisory support etc. 

 

Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering and a renowned expert on artificial intelligence, has observed, “Once any domain, discipline, technology, or industry becomes information-enabled and powered by information flows, its price/performance begins doubling approximately annually.”

Technology undoubtedly has the potential to offer solutions to some of the world’s most pressing and complicated issues. In India, the sectors the stand to gain the most are – Education, Financial Services and Healthcare. With the exponential increase in and penetration of new mobile technology, the way in which social sector organisations and new entrepreneurial ventures function are likely to be transformed for the better.

Corporates

  • Search our extensive database of NGOs and use our easy to use advanced search functions to discover and identify NGOs that match your CSR criteria
  • We additionally offer a full-suite tailored solution for corporates, helping you direct funds towards appropriate NGO partners
  • Our services include training, legal support, advisory and strategic alignment, pre and post funding impact audit, monitoring and reporting etc.

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