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Building the Indian philanthropic sector – what can we learn? | India Conference at Harvard 2021

Strategic Philanthropy | Feb 21, 2021

Rohini Nilekani’s interaction at the Harvard India Conference 2021


0:00:11.2 Burjis Godrej: Welcome to the philanthropy keynote of Harvard India Conference 2021. I’m Burjis Godrej, I’m a second year student at Harvard Business School. A few housekeeping items for today. During the session, please put your questions in the Q&A box at the bottom, and [0:00:28.4] ____ those that you like. The questions would be answered at the end of the session. Please tag us using #ich2021 to tweet and share your favorite quotes, insights, and moments from the session. And now let me introduce our wonderful speakers. Rohini Nilekani. Rohini Nilekani is an Indian writer, author and philanthropist. She is the founder chairperson of Arghyam Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on water and sanitation issues. She also chaired the Akshara Foundation, which focuses on elementary education. Nilekani serves as the co-founder and director of non-profit education platform EkStep. She also serves on the Eminent Persons Advisory Group of the Competition Commission of India since May 2012. In July 2011, she was appointed as a member of the Audit Advisory Board of the Controller and Auditor General of India. She and her husband, Nandan, are one of India’s few signatories to the Global Giving Pledge.

0:01:31.7 BG: Mona Sinha. Mona Sinha is co-founder of Raising Change, which develops strategies to close the critical funding gap in mission-driven organisations for social change. Today, she has catalyzed close to one billion dollars for social change and advised over 87 organisations. She founded the Asian Women’s Leadership university to bring Liberal Arts pedagogy to women leaders. She is the board chair of Women Moving Millions and ERA Fund for Women’s Equality. With a focus on governance, strategy, and sustainability, Mona serves on several non-profit boards including Breakthrough USA, the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at University of Pennsylvania, Apne Aap International, the Museum of Natural History, and three boards at Columbia University. Now over to you, Rohini and Mona.

0:02:23.4 Mona Sinha: Thank you Burjis so much, it’s a pleasure to be here today with all of you. Rohini, as we know, India has intractable problems, and it really calls for innovative philanthropists like yourself to make bold pledges and gifts and really rock the systems to make systemic change. You speak so beautifully about the interactions between society, markets and governments. Can you tell us a little bit about how those play in your philanthropy?

0:02:54.4 Rohini Nilekani: First of all, thank you so much for having me at this conference, Burjis, thank you very much. Thank you, Mona, for having this conversation with me. And Namaste and hello to all the people joining, I’m so sorry we are not all together physically. So, Mona, in my work over the last three decades, I’ve tried to put together sort of a theory of change, and what I have been saying quite often for the last more than a decade, is that in the continuum of society, state and markets, that my work is primarily interested in how do we build good societies, how do we build, what we call in India, ‘good Samaj’? So in this continuum of samaj, bazaar, and sarkar, much of my philanthropic work is focused on enabling good institutions of civil society, good ethical and moral leadership, and innovation of the grassroots, so that a strong society, a strong Samaj, can hold both bazaar and sarkar, the state and the markets, accountable to the larger public interest, and also innovate constantly. Does that answer your question, Mona?

0:04:11.9 MS: Absolutely, that’s the direction also in which the US philanthropy sector seems to be moving. We really believe in something called trust-based philanthropy, where you really undo systemic inequalities in society that help build a stronger civil society, but also allow government to participate in a way that’s much more effective. And of course, at the end of the day, the market recognizes that. So there are so many linkages between these three sectors, that it’s important to recognize that. But as philanthropists, we have great responsibility. We have great responsibility in reshaping systems. And the pieces of trust-based philanthropy that I love so much is that, first of all, we lead with trust, we center relationships, we communicate with humility and curiosity, and most importantly, we redistribute power as we work towards systemic equity. Now, most of, I’d say almost all of my work is in uplifting women as agents of change, and I know that’s an important focus for you as well. Tell us a little bit about this interesting work that you’re doing with men and boys as well, to accomplish this change.

0:05:29.4 RN: Yes. Thank you, Mona, for that question. So a few years ago, I started a new portfolio called Young Men and Boys, and the goal of that was, a lot of my work for 20 or 25 years had been to work with women, obviously, whether it was within the field of micro-finance, education or water. But as I went around India and started meeting a lot of young people, I found that perhaps in the very correct emphasis on empowering women, and we have a long way to go in that journey, perhaps we needed to understand much more clearly what was happening to young… Especially young males in their own right. Were we somehow looking away from them, were we somehow forgetting something about in our public policy and programmes to also allow them to flourish as human beings in their own right?

0:06:33.9 RN: Were we maybe not taking both young males and young females together and other genders as well as we see now. And so I started this portfolio, there were hardly any people working on with young men and boys before. We started with one organization. I’m happy to tell you in our second convening, there were 30 organizations represented, including funders who are beginning to turn their attention to this question of how do we re-think to make a better future for everybody, the situation of young males, about two billion of them, all over the world. So we are trying to do some innovative stuff with our partners, they’re finding new ways to create safe spaces for young males to talk to each other and also talk respectfully and with trust to young females as well. So it’s been a very sharp learning journey, and I hope more people will join us so that even for making sure that women who have… We have tried to help don’t slip back because the men in their lives, in their own right, need help as well.

0:07:49.2 MS: Exactly. We often say that we are suffering from patriarchy, but the problem is no one has really addressed that, right, and so how do you make that change without educating young men, but also listening to their concerns and having them be equal partners in this journey.

0:08:08.8 RN: Exactly.

0:08:09.4 MS: Yeah, so tell us a little bit more about some of your other philanthropy, I know you are very interested in conservation, and it’s such an important piece of our work with climate change. Share with us some of what you’re doing there.

0:08:24.4 RN: So I’m… For the last few years, I have a fairly wide portfolio in conservation and the preservation of the marvellous bio-diversity in our country. I think in spite of having one-third the land that the USA, for example, has, where some of our audience is sitting, and four times the population, somehow our people have managed to retain… We are one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. And that biodiversity is now at threat, the very biodiversity that provides us the ecosystem services that give us our water, that clean our air, that will be the future medicine just for the next generations, are a little bit at threat due to climate change, due to the need for economic development in our country.

0:09:15.4 RN: And so luckily, there are hundreds, literally hundreds of very good environmental NGOs in our country that are working with local people to restore our ecology. And I try to support as many of them as I can, and also some academic and research institutions that are doing long-term monitoring of our bio-diversity, our various geographical entities, our deserts, our grasslands, our mountains, and our oceans and coastlines. So I try to support the marvellous work being done all around the country to regenerate the ecological base, which I firmly believe is at the heart of the economy as well. If you do not do that, I don’t see how we can sustain a healthy economy, and so I try to work with dozens of organizations in India and hope to do much, continue to do much more work, and often work with government institutions as well.

0:10:19.2 MS: Yes, absolutely. I think you can’t do one without the other, right? And the focus on biodiversity is critical, as you point out, and a real threat at this time. Climate change is no longer a fallacy, it’s a reality, so we have to focus on that. You talk beautifully about the responsibility of having wealth, and using that responsibility in a collaborative fashion. Tell our listeners here how you came to that point and what you see as the path forward for the philanthropic sector in India today?

0:10:50.9 RN: Yeah, thank you. It’s an important question. You know, India has been doing… There’s been much more philanthropy in the last few years in India, because there have been more wealthy people in India since the liberalization in the early ’90s. And I think people have come to the conclusion that, yes, you can enjoy your wealth, but you really owe it to yourself and to society to give forward, because after all, why do societies allow the so much accumulation of private wealth, right? It’s because societies believe that that wealth in the hands of private individuals will do at least as much good, at least as much good as it would have done in the hands of government as taxation. Because otherwise why should societies, and you can see the unrest in the world about just very few people having too much of the world’s wealth? So I do believe that the wealthy have a very special responsibility to use that wealth for the good of society, and we have tried in our way, many of the Infosys founders to this unexpected and unprecedented wealth that we all came into, we try to do things, of course, based on our passion and interest to give forward, because I think that’s the responsibility of that wealth.

0:12:10.6 RN: I have no doubt in my mind on that. Having said that, everyone comes to the point in their philanthropic journey where they realize they simply cannot do it alone. I mean, everybody comes to that point. So then you start saying, “Oh my God, I want to have more impact. How do I do it with other philanthropists who have similar concerns, similar passions?” So in India, a lot of work has started on coming in together and working as a collaboratives, creating collaborative platforms to work together. And I’ll give you a couple of examples, just a couple. For example, the independent and public spirited Media Foundation was started a few years ago with about 12 donors. And the idea was, how can we support good journals, magazines, digital, all in the digital medium, because we thought that was the next phase of journalism, and how can we support a healthy media in this country, because the financial models for media have broken and that’s doing very well. There’s another very important collaborative called the India Climate Collaborative that has come together, several dozen individuals and organizations, and we hope to do some work together to be able to work on a little bit on mitigation, but a lot on adaptation.

0:13:33.1 MS: Right. And you know, we talked also when we were prepping for this session about the shift in power dynamics, and how philanthropy is no longer just top down, but we as philanthropists recognize that the real power works with people who are working in that solution space, and who are really impacted by the problems that they’re trying to solve. That’s a really big shift, even in the US, that’s a huge shift because it’s always been from the top, and big institutions being founded by philanthropists, big research institutions, but with sometimes little regard for the people who are actually experiencing the problems. So that’s really a huge place for India to start with, because I think, as you know very well, that is the root of the solution building. So tell us about how that is developing a little bit more, and how Indian philanthropists can be much more engaged in helping those who work with the solutions land that systemic change.

0:14:38.0 RN: Yeah. Well, I think any serious philanthropist, again, comes pretty quickly to the realization, and really doing serious philanthropy helps you to become… To acquire more and more humility really fast. You realize very quickly that no matter how many great ideas you thought you had, those simply don’t work unless you co-create solutions on the ground. Okay. So you quickly get sort of brought down to reality very quickly. And I think all the serious philanthropists I know, and to be honest, actually, we stand on the shoulders of giants in India. The Tatas have been doing this for more than 100 years, and they did create the culture of listening and not just doing top-down philanthropy. So this has been going on in India, but the newer philanthropists are also learning that how do you…

0:15:29.1 RN: In India, with all our diversity, with so many things changing every 100 kilometers, the dialect, the water resources, the crops that are grown and the livelihoods that are practiced, if… No cookie-cutter solutions work. Okay. So you can create unified solutions, but they cannot be uniform solutions, because problems have to be solved in context. So it’s no use me sitting here in Bangalore and thinking I know what to do in Bihar. So there is no choice but to listen, listen, listen, to co-create solutions, to trust your partners, your civil society or implementation partners, and then, you know, learn by doing, sometimes by failing, but always together, never by yourself. And I think that realization has come to us all, and hopefully we can do more of that listening and learning.

0:16:25.6 MS: Yes, that’s amazing. What final words would you have for our audience? Rohini, you are such a stellar example of both humility and visibility in this sector. And sitting in New York, I have really great faith that we’re gonna see wonderful things coming out of India in this sector, and that we can co-create even from the diaspora that lives outside of India that really wants to uplift and help India be the strongest it can be. Give us some thoughts and let’s open it up to questions from the audience.

0:17:01.1 RN: Thank you, Mona. I think… I mean, there may be many students with us here, so I would say… And students at Harvard, students at other universities, remember that you too are privileged, and you too can take the joyful responsibility of helping to co-create a better society, no matter what you do, you don’t have to spend all your money and all your time. But no matter that, don’t wait, think of something in the world that you’re interested in changing, and it could be anything at all, and try to find others, especially in the social sector, who might be thinking along those same lines and have the same passion, and just see how you can get engaged. It will give you immense rewards for yourself too, but then also we need bright young minds to tackle not just business problems but societal problems as well. So I urge you to look into something of your own interest.

0:17:58.8 RN: And in terms of the diaspora, yes, we very much… The diaspora has been doing a lot, and we are all very happy and thankful for your continued interest in India and its emerging new problems. I think today the diaspora has never been better placed to give more strategic support, to find more institutions to support here, find more areas, there are so many new areas coming out, where there are organizations, and to very seriously, maybe we and the diaspora, we need to create a better platform than we have now, so that you can discover the right organizations to support, and we can also learn so many things from the diaspora of India.

0:18:47.3 MS: I think that’s a great suggestion. I think that’s a follow-up for us to take on after this conversation, because yes, as people who are not so intimately connected with the daily problems that you see on the ground, we would love to learn more from you about how we can better be engaged and create real change. Thank you, Rohini, for that. This was such a wonderful conversation. Any last words that you have before we jump into Q&A?

0:19:19.0 RN: No, I’m happy to take questions. But Mona, just take two minutes to talk about your work.

0:19:25.8 MS: Sure. [chuckle] Happy to.

0:19:27.8 RN: Yeah, I’m a journalist at heart, okay, so I ought to at least ask, at least one question.

0:19:34.2 MS: [laughter] Absolutely, delighted to. So, I came to the United States as a college student. I grew up in Calcutta, and having had the fortune of volunteering with Mother Teresa, I saw how philanthropy and generosity of heart can make such a huge difference in the lives of people. I’ve been in these sectors for the last 20 years or so. I started out my career as a business person working on Wall Street, and pivoted to helping organisations that are involved in social change with frameworks and tools to make them sustainable. That’s what I do. Today I lead two organisations. One is called Women Moving Millions. It’s a group of about 300 women who are committed to gender equality and invest a minimum of a million dollars in uplifting women and girls, but also men and boys, to create that change. So, it’s very interesting that you’re doing that too. And I also chair the ERA Coalition Fund for Women’s Equality, because you might be surprised to know that the United States doesn’t have equal rights codified in its constitution.

0:20:47.2 RN: Yeah.

0:20:48.6 MS: This issue has been going on for a 100 years, and you’d be happy to know that this current administration has made it a priority, so we actually have two active bills in the House and the Senate right now.

0:20:58.5 RN: Marvelous!

0:20:58.9 MS: So, we’re working to codify equality and really bring about rights-based equality to everybody. And as we said, that really uplifts society, right, that really is the basis of creating a strong and powerful civil society.

0:21:16.5 RN: Surely, right. Nowadays I have been saying that more than empower, perhaps we should co-power, because we need to learn, all of us think about, instead of one system trying to replace another system by using the same tools of power, so should we change the paradigm from talking about power over to power with? So, if we can…

0:21:43.5 MS: Absolutely.

0:21:44.4 RN: Co-power movements, then perhaps we can create a more just and livable world.

0:21:51.4 MS: Exactly, and you bring up a good point because this is the very basis of sort of what I call feminist philanthropy, because this whole notion of collaboration and sharing power is rooted in women much more than men, you know. Some men are changing, of course, but it’s inherent to how we are…

[overlapping conversation]

0:22:10.0 RN: It’s still quite a macho world, yes, it’s still quite a macho world, and we all have both our solar and lunar energies, as we say in India, and perhaps we need a little more of the lunar energy to mingle with the solar energy in the world.

0:22:28.6 MS: Yes, absolutely. So, and even today, we see women holding so much more wealth than before. In 2020, women held $74 trillion of wealth, and they’re looking at innovative ways, not just of philanthropy, but also of investing their assets. So, the whole platform of ESG, for example, has become so powerful in the investment world, and we’re seeing a really powerful shift right now, which I am convinced will leave us… Leave our world in a better place for our children and grandchildren.

0:23:03.1 RN: Yes. Happy to turn to the questions now.

0:23:09.4 MS: Yeah.

0:23:12.1 RN: Thank you for that, Mona.

0:23:13.5 MS: Thank you Rohini, it was a pleasure. I really enjoyed talking to you about this.

0:23:23.6 BG: So, we have a question on conservation in India and local forest dwellers being involved in that. How do you see the role of local forest dwellers being involved in conservation in India, and what is the current situation regarding that?

0:23:38.4 RN: So, in India, my personal belief is that we need to carry people along with us, especially people who have had centuries, generations of experience and knowledge of the forest. And we have a Forest Rights Act that allows forest dwelling people, the tribal peoples of India to get pattas in forests, in order to be able to sustainably live there as they have lived for many centuries. Now, some of these are very fraught political issues, so I won’t go into too many details, except to say that I do believe that in India, as I told you, as I suggested before, we have kept our biodiversity and our forests and our water in the face of tremendous population and land pressure. And I think there is a reason for that. There is a culture of understanding the kind of sacred connect between humans and nature.

0:24:42.4 RN: And so I feel that in India, we cannot, unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury perhaps, to think of a pristine conservation like putting half of India away without people. And really the most sensible and strategic decision is to carry people with us, especially those who live, have lived in our forests. Many people now, I have seen, who have lived in the forests do want to come out, they do want to have other opportunities beyond living in forests. But we have to find a way to let their knowledge and their wisdom, traditional knowledge, also light the path for ecological restoration. And in some places we have been successful, and in some places we have not, obviously. I hope that answers that question.


0:25:45.0 MS: So, while we wait, Rohini, tell us about your quest with Blacky. This is a story that I think our audience will enjoy very much. I watched your podcast, I listened to your podcast, I loved it. Tell us a little bit about that.

0:26:00.6 RN: Thank you so much. Well, you know, I have been going to the forest near Bangalore called Kabini for several years now. And a few years ago I heard about this black panther. There’s only one black panther in the whole of Kabini, and I became very interested in him, and I started going to the forest more. And for five years, I saw hide nor hair of him, and I gave a talk at the Bangalore Literature Festival in December about romancing the black panther, you can find it on YouTube. But as I was involved in trying to find this one unique animal in a 60 square kilometer tourist zone in a forest of 640 square kilometers, I began to learn a lot more about the forest itself. I began to learn a lot more about the people who dwell in and around the forest and there, you know, how many challenges they face. I learnt about the Forest Department and what they have to do to keep the forests protected. So, I kept on learning more and more about the connections between people and the forest, and how can we strengthen the ties. And especially in the year of the pandemic, where we have learned so much about zoonotic diseases, and in fact are beginning to learn about not just zoonosis, but anthroponosis, which means that even animals can get diseases from humans, and you can create a really vicious cycle.

0:27:27.9 RN: And I think a lot more people need to understand the connections between the wild and the rest, because… Especially urban people can get pretty deracinated from the wild. And so I had really enjoyed that journey. In fact, I just came back from Kabini just now, and it is a well-protected beautiful forest. People come from around the world to Kabini, especially to find the black panther whom locals call Kariya, which simply means “the black one”, without any pretentious anything. And it’s a story that many people have told, many people have been searching for this panther. But really what we are searching for, I think, in our modern lives, is how do we restore the connection between nature and ourselves, so that we can also restore our own well-being.

0:28:23.1 MS: Exactly. And so many of us have seen, especially this year, how nature has been so restorative to many of us, and we’ve looked to the water and the sand and all of that to heal, and walks, long walks, which is something we’ve been able to take while being isolated in our own homes. So that connection is important. I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about technology and the role, I mean… We’ve all… We’re such techno junkies now, right, and specially being separated, I think if we didn’t have this technology, we would all have serious mental health issues. But how do you see technology as a great unifier in this whole philanthropy, society, market journey?

0:29:08.4 RN: So we… I’m not a techie, but my husband, some of you might know Nandan Nilekani, is certainly a techie, and certainly believes that technology has to be used to solve a lot of societal and business problem and government issues as well. And so, I have learnt a lot from him and his team, especially over the last few years. So, we have built what we call… We have imagined what we call Societal Platform Thinking. And those of you who are interested can look it up at And the idea is that all complex societal problems, right, if you want to solve them with impact, at scale, and with speed, then we are going to have to deploy technology to create more impact, to create more discoverability, to get people to share, to learn together globally.

0:30:07.9 RN: And so, you do need technology. And technology amplifies the power of intent. So, if you are very careful to not be technology-led because just technology won’t do it, but technology-enabled, you can use technology to further societal goals. And that’s what we try to get societal organisations and government organisations to do, our tech teams try to help them to use the technology… Power of technology for good. And we know there are lots of issues with technology when not used for good, and society is just beginning to grapple with how do you look at issues like artificial intelligence and the algorithms that drive some of our platforms. How will we together as a global society create new norms, how can we shift some norms, how can we create new regulation, new laws, so that we have AI tools, algorithms work for the broader public interest and not just very narrowly for a few? So, this is some of the things and questions and challenges that we are involved in asking and putting some more questions on the table, and trying to develop technology backbones that help create open public digital goods.

0:31:35.6 MS: Yeah, that’s so important, exactly. But we see, especially in India, with the cellphone, how life has changed even at the very, very village level.

0:31:45.8 RN: Yes.

0:31:47.7 MS: And that’s a total example of technology for good, so I think there’s just… With more investment in that, I think you will see much more of that power shift happening to people who are living life everyday.

0:32:01.8 RN: Sure, we already have more than 700 million…

0:32:03.8 MS: Exactly.

0:32:04.0 RN: People with mobile phones and it’s only growing. Our public technology infrastructure is only growing. All our governments have been committed to that, so fingers crossed.

0:32:17.6 MS: Yes, exactly.

0:32:18.1 RN: All our citizens will be better connected.

0:32:21.2 MS: Yeah.

0:32:21.7 BG: We also have a question echoing the author Anand Giridharadas, he has been critical of philanthropy.

0:32:28.2 RN: Yes.

0:32:28.4 BG: And this question is, “Critics often blame wealthy philanthropists, they claim to be solving societal problems by donating to charitable causes, but that they are really upholding the social and economic structures that are the root of these problems. Any views on that? How do we distinguish between good and bad philanthropy?”

0:32:47.5 RN: So, I think Anand Giridharadas raises very critical questions that must always remain on the table. First of all, society knows. You can’t expect the super… The super-rich are not going to sit around solving society’s problems, okay? There’s going to be no great, including myself, I make no bones about this. We cannot wait for the super-rich to solve society’s problems, they won’t. But, like everybody else, they can participate in this quest. They can participate. They can’t be de-legitimized when they want to participate in the quest for a good society, right? However, it is absolutely true that with wealth and with philanthropy comes a lot of power. So, I think philanthropists need to look in the mirror every day. By mistake too, we can distort power structures, and so we must be very clear what we are doing the philanthropy for. Is it to keep status quos of power, or if we are so super-rich and we are just a few of us, we wanna make sure we keep all that wealth, or are we trying to do something else, which is really much more exciting than trying to keep wealth for a few?

0:33:54.6 RN: But there’s only one thing I would say. We can perhaps challenge, and we should challenge, why so few people have so much wealth. I’m all for that. But we cannot demonize individuals in that process. You can’t say all billionaires are bad, or… We must separate the person from the, sort of societal distribution of wealth. We can talk about things like more taxation, we can talk about more transparency and accountability in philanthropy, we can ask whether power structures are being kept the same or changing because of philanthropy, those questions are welcome. All I would say is we must be careful not to sit too much in judgment about individual billionaires, but rather talk about changing the system. How do we together change the systems? We can’t depend just on the super-wealthy. How do we together change the very, sort of skewed economic system in the world, perhaps fueled by the over-financialization of the economy, and a kind of winner-takes-all business models? How can we change that together? I think that’s what we must keep on the table. Sorry for that rather…

[overlapping conversation]

0:35:17.6 MS: No, absolutely Rohini, you’re completely right. And I think these are important questions to be asked and important questions to keep on the table, but I agree, you can’t paint everybody with the same brush. And furthermore, if people don’t have an opportunity to be economically successful, we will never have innovation. And that’s a really important piece to remember in this argument, because innovation comes with the opportunity to create something new, to break systems that don’t work, to find solutions that are different. And when those succeed, people do become wealthy, and they should become wealthy because that’s how markets work best. But what we’ve in this discussion, which I hope will land well with people who are listening, is this whole shift towards trust-based philanthropy, which is what we started the conversation with, that you learn to centre relationships, what Rohini is talking about, redistributing power and collaborating with humility and curiosity to learn about the solutions from people who are really at the root of finding those solutions. So, important questions to have, I agree, but I think we should also recognize the shift that’s happening in this sector, and that it’s not really all about control. And it is about redistribution and recognizing the dignity of those who are suffering from the things we want to change.

0:36:47.5 BG: Excellent answers. We also have a question on the infrastructure supporting philanthropic initiatives. How has fundraising changed over time? Is it becoming easier? Is it becoming more difficult? And what will the role of intermediaries be in fundraising?

0:37:02.2 RN: Yeah, thank you. Actually, India is a very exciting place right now for intermediary organizations and for retail fundraising. So, very excitingly, small donors, and I think that’s very important, rather than rely on a few big, super-rich individuals to do philanthropy, a more broad-based philanthropy, where active citizens are participating by giving as little as 100 Rupees and as much as whatever the limit may be, to causes they care about, by doing kindness to strangers, by putting passion into things they care about, and the platforms that have emerged as intermediary platform that aggregate this small funding are really very exciting to see. And they’ve been raising hundreds of crores, some of that from rich individuals, but a lot of that from ordinary citizens who care. And for me, that is the best thing I’ve been hearing about the Indian philanthropy sector. And we must thank all the aggregators who have made this much easy, much easier than it used to be to do that.

0:38:15.6 RN: In addition to that, of course, philanthropists have also… Many philanthropists, again, serial philanthropists have come to the understanding that some of our philanthropy must be directed towards increasing philanthropy, to the ecosystems around philanthropy. And some of us are committing capital to that, to capacity building, to training, to discovering talent, to create more platforms for giving. So, that’s where we are headed, and I hope more innovation will keep happening.

0:38:45.5 MS: Yeah, I think crowd-sourcing has been a great way. We say in the philanthropic sector here that there’re… We look at time, treasure, talent and ties. So, it’s not just treasure, which is money, it’s also the time you put into coaching, mentoring, helping people solve some problems, it’s the talents you bring that… I took my business training into the social sector, there are many people who take so much of their inherent talents into helping organizations thrive. And certainly ties. When we raise money for something, we look at who we know, who can help, who is interested. And regards fundraising, it’s such a funny question, because I get asked that all the time, and I call myself an accidental fundraiser because I started out saying, “Oh, I don’t want to raise money,” and that seems to be what I do. But it’s about connecting passion with purpose. If you are passionate about something and you have purpose and you find an organization that’s doing just that, because none of us can do everything ourselves, right? So, you find an organization or you find leaders that are able to do what you’re passionate about, it’s a connection of head and heart. So, it’s really not about fundraising, its really about what I love to call mission-making. So, you’re making mission together and putting your passion where your money is.

0:40:07.8 BG: Terrific. We’ll do one final question, and then we’ll do a wrap-up. So, the question is, how does one as an independent business person tie in their desire to do social impact with their own personal financial goals? Any advice on how to strike a balance between both?

0:40:23.4 RN: Mona, do you want to go first?

0:40:24.1 MS: Sure, I don’t see them being mutually exclusive, Burjis. I think business is there to help society. As you know, in 2019, the CEO Roundtable in the United States came out and said that businesses are responsible not just to shareholders, but also to stakeholders. And your stakeholders are wide, they’re not just people who own shares in your company, they’re people and communities that you live in and serve, they’re your customers, they’re your consumers, they are your suppliers, all of that. So, I don’t find those two mutually exclusive at all.

0:41:05.0 RN: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more with Mona. But if the question is also about, when is the right time to start giving forward, not just through making your own businesses more accountable to society and not just to your shareholders, I think the right time is always now. And because it doesn’t matter how much you do, but how you do. And I think the time is always right to start. And then as you, as any businessman, doesn’t matter how little the money or how little the attention, once you start giving forward, it helps you to align everything that you do behind that intent. So, it will align your business behind that intent, if you’re at a career or a job, it aligns that behind that intent, because suddenly things start to come together. So, the time to start thinking about philanthropy is usually now or yesterday. And when I say philanthropy, I don’t mean giving away billions.

0:42:15.0 BG: Thank you so much. Those were terrific answers. This has really been a wonderful session, very inspiring for all our attendees. A few key takeaways that I got from this were the importance of trust-based philanthropy, the need to really re-shape systems and not just solve individual problems, really educating people and listening to the distinct needs of both women and men, regenerating our ecology, which is very much at the heart of our economy, the importance of bottom-up philanthropy, where you listen and you co-create and learn by doing, sometimes you learn by failing, but always work together with other people. And both of you have really urged bright young minds to tackle problems of society that match with their personal interests, so thank you so much.

0:42:58.5 BG: We have events later on today, please do access them on our website. After this, we have a variety of different events, we have Representing India on Screen, politics, economics and pop culture, a conversation with Zoya Akhtar, the future of youth in Indian politics with Chandrashekhar Azad, two very interesting panels happening at the same time, what happened to India’s growth story, and a panel on climate change and climate migration. And then do join us for another key note with an Indian-American CEO, Ajay Banga. Thank you so much to all of you for your time. Thank you Mona, thank you Rohini.

0:43:35.1 RN: Thank you Burjis. Thank you everyone, thank you, Mona, thank you very much. Namaskar.


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