Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy
We are India’s first academic centre focused on enabling strategic and robust philanthropy for social impact. We strive to provide funders and civil society organisations evidence-based insights and knowledge products to grow their scale and impact, convene platforms for norm-setting and collaborative learning, and offer programmes that strengthen civil society capability and sustainability.
Established in 2016, the Centre is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Citibank, along with philanthropists Amit Chandra, Archana Chandra, and Ashish Dhawan.
Philanthropy in India
Over the last decade, philanthropy in India has grown rapidly. There has been healthy growth across corporate, ‘retail’, and HNI-led philanthropy. The Giving Pledge, changes to the Companies Act (CSR), and crowd-funding opportunities have all provided impetus to the sector. At the same time, there is a sharper focus on innovation, scale, sustainability, and accountability in the social impact sector. New areas of thematic interest, such as governance, scientific research, and independent media are emerging.
These developments in the philanthropy and social impact sectors have been accompanied by a growing ecosystem of support. Even at its relatively nascent stage, the ecosystem encompasses a range of service providers across domains such as legal, compliance, strategy, talent, fundraising, communication and incubation.
However, it is a fragmented and inadequate ecosystem, with four critical gaps:
There is a dearth of organisations studying the philanthropic and social impact sectors. As a result, decision-making and debate is inhibited by the lack of credible, quality data and knowledge.
There are no neutral, independent platforms for inter-sectoral dialogue, nor for developing coherent sector vision and voice. The few networking opportunities that do exist are mostly oriented to matchmaking between interested funders and social impact organisations.
There are several capacity-building programs being offered for the sectors, mainly focused on building technical and functional skills, in addition to thematic expertise. However, there is clear gap when it comes to developing capacity on leadership, governance, and institution building.
Lastly, as the sectors expand and diversify, it becomes ever more critical to start looking at norms and practices that govern them. These norms would range from the relatively obvious ones of transparency and accountability to the deeper ones that speak to values of collaboration, equity, and inclusion.
Thus, beyond these services, the support required would also include broader, sector - enabling inputs such as data and insights on funding flows, platforms for norm-setting, cross-learning and sector benchmarking, advocacy for an enabling policy environment, etc.
We envision robust and resilient philanthropic and social impact sectors, recognised for their contribution to India’s economic, social, political and cultural vitality. In order to realise this vision, we focus on four goals:
a. Inform sector strategy and debate through credible, accessible data and knowledge products;
b. Facilitate development of coherence, norms, vision, voice and collaboration by convening platforms and networks;
c. Raise sector ambition, sustainability, and talent availability through capacity inputs;
d. Enhance sector credibility by driving evidence-based discourse, legitimacy, transparency, and accountability standards.
We work across three verticals: research, convening and leadership.
Research & Knowledge
The Centre’s research is focused on critical topics in strategic philanthropy and civil society, with emphasis on applied research. In addition to providing credible and reliable data-driven insights, we also strive to build a culture of evidence-led discourse and decision-making through our projects.
Philanthropic Flows in India: Map size, trends in funding in partnership with ‘big data’ analyst entities;
Foreign Funding Impact: Analyse impact of changes in foreign funding on various thematic areas. Inform grant-making strategy of Indian philanthropists;
Mapping Ecosystem of Support in India
Civil Society Perception Study *
Social Sector Confidence Index *
Policy Briefs: Tax Incentives for Giving*
Case Studies: GivingTuesday 2017 (India)*
India Development Review (IDR): We have a strong partnership with IDR, India’s first online knowledge platform on social impact. Their content includes opinions, insights from real-world practice, as well as analysis on various thematic areas. It is contributed by a roster of sector experts and leaders, curated by the IDR team. The Centre supports IDR through a seed grant, with periodic exchange of ideas, insights, and networks. However, IDR and the Centre exercise complete independence with respect to their editorial and research policies, mandates, and practice.
* in the pipeline
Being an academic centre housed at Ashoka University, itself a stellar example of collective philanthropy, we are uniquely positioned to convene stakeholders across thematics, ideologies, and perspectives. Our initiatives serve to provide nonpartisan and enabling spaces where stakeholders can:
Share information, ideas, and practices;
Learn from and with each other;
Explore synergies that catalyse collaboration and innovation;
Develop collective benchmarks, standards, and practices for sector governance;
Build sector voice and vision, amplifying influence on policy, regulation and public discourse.
Some of our convenings include:
Research Roundtable - 2017
Nonprofit Leaders Network*
Social Innovation Summit**
** planned initiatives
Our work in this vertical addresses the capacity gap across both ends of the leadership spectrum i.e. existing leadership as well as emerging leadership. We offer programmes for senior nonprofit leaders on institution building, governance, and sustainability, in partnership with other academic institutions and sector experts. To nurture new leadership in the social impact sector, we offer a range of initiatives for Ashoka students, including an 18-month social sector fellowship program.
Strategic Nonprofit Management - India: Executive education programme for Indian non-profit leaders aimed at building sustainable institutions at scale, delivered in partnership with Harvard Business School and Dasra;
Non-profit Board Governance*: Curate/ develop capacity-building initiative that addresses gaps in awareness, implementation of best practices for Board members, CEOs
Mother Teresa Fellowship: The Mother Teresa Fellowship (MTF) is an 18-month program that works with selected graduates from Ashoka University Young India Fellowship programme who are embarking on careers in the social impact sector. The programme provides mentorship, community building and networking support, as well as financial assistance to Fellows earning below a certain threshold.
Student Engagement: The student engagement activities at the Centre are geared towards raising awareness about the social impact sector and exposing students to a range of people, organizations, and approaches working in the sector. This is done through events, speaker series, workshops etc.
Measuring Our Impact
The outcomes CSIP seeks are best articulated in the 4 Cs framework developed by WINGS and DAFNE.
Capacity: is about resources. This refers to how ecosystem organisations impact the volume of resources deployed for social impact, their sustainability, and strategic application.
Capability: is about building knowledge, skills, and professionalism in the sector that enables effective use of resources. This would include developing and sharing good practices, setting benchmarks and standards, as well as developing norms for sector governance.
Connections: is about collaboration, communication, and influence. Often ecosystem organisations can convene independent, nonpartisan spaces for cross-sectoral dialogue, learning, exchange and collaboration. More importantly, such spaces contribute to developing a coherent sector vision and voice, enabling the sector to influence policy and regulatory environments. Through strong communication, ecosystem organisations set a positive narrative for the sector as well as enrich public discourse and debate on critical issues.
Credibility: is about legitimacy, trust, and transparency. Ecosystem organisations are often best positioned to champion greater transparency and openness among both philanthropies and social impact organisations as they are placed outside these groups and have the collective sectoral mandate as opposed to thematic mandates (such as livelihoods, health etc.). They add to the public discourse on social impact and support advocacy for enabling fiscal and regulatory environments.
Our work, as a part of the ecosystem, is aligned to these 4 Cs. For example, our research priorities on philanthropic flows and funding are designed to enable more strategic philanthropic action, thereby influencing sector capacity. The networks and platforms we have conceptualised, as part of our convening vertical, will contribute directly to greater connections both within and across the sectors, seeding a neutral, collective space for peer-learning, collaboration and norm-setting. Some of these initiatives will also contribute to increased transparency and accountability across the sector, thereby enhancing credibility. Our executive education and fellowship programs directly impact sector capability by enhancing expertise on institution building, scale, governance and sustainability.
We work in close collaboration with an array of partners that include:
Harvard Business School (HBS), Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), Dasra, Bridgespan India, Worldwide Initiative for Grantmaker Support (WINGS Global), Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives, India Development Review, Guidestar India, Voluntary Action Network of India (VANI) and Participatory Research In Asia (PRIA).
The Centre is governed by an Advisory Council that defines and anchors its vision and purpose. The Council also provides oversight to its strategic planning, budget approval and performance evaluation processes, including appointment and evaluation of the Centre Director.
Council members, who meet once every three months, serve as ambassadors for CSIP contributing their skills, experience, knowledge and networks to serve its goals. They ensure that the Centre’s research, convening and capacity building activities are designed and executed to exacting standards of excellence. The Council carries no fiduciary responsibilities and membership is pro bono.
Advisory Council (2016 - 2018)