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Call it the collaboration conundrum: Conceptually, social sector actors who are working to tackle chronic social challenges know they benefit by drawing on others’ resources, skills, and experiences. At the same time, comparatively few philanthropies and stakeholders act collectively, not least because it can be challenging to build consensus across multiple partners, negotiate the risk that some partners might fail to deliver, or share credit. This is particularly true in India, where the relative dearth of collaborations involving multiple funders and stakeholders is arguably reflective of these tradeoffs.
Nevertheless, some Indian funders, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and intermediaries are overcoming the perceived pitfalls and beginning to realize collaboration’s potential to positively impact many more lives. “If we want to do scale-related work, the only way forward is through collaboratives,” says Vidya Shah, CEO of EdelGive Foundation. “There is no other option to tackle these big social problems.”
Building on The Bridgespan Group’s 2018 investigation of eight bold philanthropic initiatives in India—which found that collaboration is a key catalyst for driving social impact—this report takes a deeper look at how funders and other actors are joining forces to amplify and sustain their efforts over time.
Specifically, this six month research effort looked at “philanthropic collaboratives” in India, which we define as follows: Co-created by three or more independent actors—including at least one philanthropist or philanthropy—a philanthropic collaborative is an entity that pursues a shared vision and strategy for achieving social impact, using common resources and prearranged governance mechanisms. There are other forms of social sector collaboratives in India that are worthy of study but are not covered in our definition. To that end, the philanthropic collaboratives researched in this report do not seek to be exhaustive of all types of collaborations.
Most of India’s philanthropic collaboratives are less than five years old. There is much to learn about why Indian philanthropists and other actors collaborate, what conditions give rise to impactful collaboratives, and how they work to overcome obstacles and reach many more people. This report seeks to answer those questions. While this might well be the first, sector-wide study of philanthropic collaboratives in India, it also builds on the work of other investigators, including Bain & Company, Dasra, and EdelGive Foundation, as well as previous Bridgespan research on funder collaboration in the United States and also on how some philanthropic collaboratives succeed and why others fail.
Download the full report on philanthropic collaboratives in India at The Bridgespan Group.