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“There was a much deeper level of engagement, emotion, understanding and evaluation during Grants 2015-16” – Sashi Rajamani, SVP Bangalore

Posted by shubha

This past year, the approach to grants was changed a bit – a tweak that Sashi Rajamani, SVP Partner and Advisor to Grants Committee, believes led to 100% ownership of lead partners towards their projects. What did they do differently? What were the results? Find out.

Q. You were the Grants Chair in the first year. How has the grant process evolved over the past few years?

Let me begin by reflecting, for just a moment, on the first grants cycle because it serves as a baseline for us to celebrate where we’ve reached in our journey so far. In the first year there were a few things that we had to keep in mind, that we were new in India and SVP was not a known name. People who had come to gather as philanthropists were ready to explore and learn, so we decided to invest some time in learning the ropes, building a database of potential investee organisations, and also coming up with a robust framework which would help us with evaluation and good practices. Once the selection was done by the grants committee, we brought in elite partners who got engaged during the creation of the contract. They then took over and walked the whole length with the investee organisations, through the execution and tracking of the program. The process supported co-ownership there, with part ownership with the grants committee which was responsible for the selection and part ownership with the lead partner who decided to inherit and take it forward.

Q. How was it different in grants cycle 2015-16?

This year round, based on all the learning from the last year and keeping it in line with the audacious goal that we set ourselves to create or enable one million jobs by 2020, we decided to change our approach a little bit.
A – We went after organisations that shared similar hunger for large numbers and larger impacts. We also handpicked and shortlisted a few that can benefit from our kind of interventions.
B – We engaged our lead partners right from the beginning, from when we started building the pipeline, through the dating process to coming back to us and co-presenting the project along with the potential investees. There was a 100% ownership from start, and that was a big change for us in terms of approach this year.
The new approach resulted in a small list of investee organisations to pick from, but ensured a deep level of engagement from the lead partners and offered a very stringent evaluation for them to carry through for the rest of the partnership.
The new approach resulted in a small portfolio of investee organisations for us to pick from, but ensured a much deeper level of engagement, emotion, understanding and evaluation. Therefore we saw a whole lot of different commitments coming in from the lead partners from get go.

Q. What are the kind of investees SVP Bangalore has invested in this year?

In our mission to fund and strengthen non profits in addition to what we achieved in the first year we added two more investees to our list in the livelihood space and two other in the waste management space in Bangalore. In addition to these, we also work with four other organisations where our partners give their time, without grant, in helping them realise their larger hopes in building capacity.

Q. How was your experience as Chair of the Grants Review Committee this year?

The Grants Review Committee offers continuous learning, and poses a great challenge to strike a balance when people with a lot of emotional and rational play get on the same table during the review sessions. Bringing together donor expectations on one end and project constraints on the other, and wanting both the teams to walk away with a win win is a definite call for out-of-box thinking and a lot of risk taking – that is what I enjoy most in the grants review committee.
We as a team managed to navigate some tough situations while staying true to the process. The process has always been very well meaning but also very intense and enjoyable, at the end of the day. Last year we had to, with a heavy heart, drop one of the investee organisations because
we didn’t see alignment in the process that was followed to achieve the objectives that were stated. However, all of us walk away every time after the reviews with a lot of learnings.

Watch Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1ofZKQBD_s

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