“WE DON’T JUST WRITE CHEQUES, WE BRING EXPERTISE”
Ravi Venkatesan found many like-minded people in his city who wanted to make a difference but did not know how to. Ergo, his venture philanthropy initiative in 2013.
Concerned about how dysfunctional our society was becoming, I decided that we get the society we deserve. Influenced by Dipankar Gupta’s book, Democracy: The Revolution from Above, I realised the way forward is for an ‘enlightened elite’ to mobilise, put societal interest above self-interest and work towards creating institutions in partnership with government, business and civil society. The Social Venture Partners (SVP) model demanded a change in the way we Indians have approached philanthropy. It is not just about giving money to a charity or a temple but about deciding which causes to support, to make a difference. Our objective is to ‘scale excellence’—find good organisations in the livelihood sector and help them scale. We took a model of ‘venture philanthropy’ developed in Seattle and brought it to India. We select local NGOs or social enterprises creating jobs or improving incomes and then use the expertise, networks and our partners’ generosity to help these organisations scale their impact. Our Pune chapter started working with the Jagruti Sanstha which mobilises women from poor communities, trains them as nursing aides and places them in hospitals. Jagruti had been placing 25 nursing aides each year; in the first year, we helped them double the number. This year, they’ll place 500 and the next, 1,000. The process of engaging with such organisations changes us, we become more engaged citizens. It’s a win-win.”