The platform is infusing entrepreneurial energy in the development sector by boosting non-profit start-ups and facilitating public-private ties
That was 2019. I had superannuated in 2018 but continued to be associated with several civil society organisations with a view to encourage them in the fabulous work they were doing. Hence, when an invitation came from one such organisation to address a few NGOs in Bangalore, I took the opportunity to travel to this 'city of gardens'. The entire day was spent with four such organisations and then I had the occasion to visit the headquarters of The/Nudge Foundation that was backing not only these NGOs but many more those who were partnering with the state governments to bring about a change in the true spirit of Nexus of Good. What I saw here was truly amazing. I interacted with its young and dynamic chairman, Atul Satija and his energetic team. They had enormous potential, and the good news is that they are living up to their potential.
One year of the pandemic has not only made visible the cracks in the global development systems but also highlighted suppressed needs across the world. It reinstated the emergency to address the needs of such people who are trapped in generations of injustice and poverty. However, it has also been a year where we witnessed unparalleled speed and scope of both global and local collaborations. Governments, civil societies, businesses, scientific communities and individuals the world over have come together to pool resources, expertise and capital to battle the virus and its fallout on livelihood. We have begun to forge strong partnerships, recognizing our shared humanity, interconnectedness, and our strength to solve complex and large-scale problems with a common purpose. With an expanding ecosystem of support, the non-profit start-ups and new social innovation models especially gained momentum to extend the benefits of economic stability to communities that are otherwise left behind.
The/Nudge Foundation has taken on poverty alleviation with a deep sense of urgency. It has grown to a 400-plus team across three centres and forged more than 45 partnerships across corporate. While solving the complex problem of poverty with a multi-pronged approach, one of the three impact streams — The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) — has taken on the mission to 'nudge and nurture top talents to solve India's biggest challenges, at scale.' This is being achieved through powerful initiatives like:
Incubator for non-profit start-ups (investment of up to 15 lakh plus funding and ecosystem support)
Accelerator for non-profit start-ups (investment of up to 2 crore plus capacity building and ecosystem support)
Project Pioneer (including research innovation grants for land and property inclusivity)
Saamuhika Shakti (collective impact to improve the lives of waste workers)
Cisco Agri Challenge (a two-crore grand challenge for farmer-centric innovations)
Indian Administrative Fellowship (public-private partnerships for nation-building)
By kickstarting more than 80 non-profit start-ups, The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation has infused entrepreneurial energy into the development sector's ecosystem and has built tremendous momentum to create impactful solutions for empowering the disadvantaged. The/Nudge incubator is shaping the perception around the non-profit sector by raising the bar for risk-taking and innovation in the development sector. The beneficiaries of various start-ups accelerated by The/Nudge extend over a wide range from specially-abled to farmers and from children to women entrepreneurs. For example, the Khushi Baby app focuses on maternal and neonatal healthcare by using simple mobile phone technology for rural women that can even function without full connectivity. Another programme called Shakti empowers women entrepreneurs with residential workshops and mentorship. Scaled non-profits like Peepul, Madhi and Leadership for Equity work with public school systems to deliver high-quality education. Across thematic areas, these start-ups seek to deliver an orbit-changing impact at scale.
Nudging private participation in public systems
An exciting new initiative of The/Nudge CSI, born during the pandemic, is the Indian Administrative Fellowship (IAF). IAF is nudging executive talent from the private sector to work with visionary civil servants on projects of state-wide strategic importance.
Evidence of public-private partnership has shown great results in the past few decades — from Nandan Nilekani building the India digital stack to Phanindra Sama delivering outsized results as the Chief Innovation Officer with the Govt of Telangana. Seeking inspiration from these examples, IAF takes a step ahead in enabling systems to change by matching spirited talents with motivated administrators.
The IAF conjoins the capabilities of professionals from the corporate sector in strategy, scale, technology and infrastructure with the vision of senior civil servants to steer high impact initiatives. The 18-month fellowship invites senior executives with a track record of outstanding achievement to lead transformational change, working with principal secretaries in state governments. Fellows will work to extend the reach of public systems to India's underserved populations in areas such as rural development, education, e-governance, agriculture, women and child, skill development etc. by executing projects with the potential to impact millions of lives. The/Nudge will invest deeply in the fellows to develop their skills and understanding of government systems through structured leadership development programmes.
Nudging top talents to solve India's most critical developmental challenges
In addition to enabling entrepreneurs to achieve a trajectory of meaningful impact at scale, and bringing top talent into large-scale state-led transformations, The/Nudge is also drawing talent, capital and public attention to critical areas of the development sector that have remained unaddressed. Its Prize platform, in partnership with the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor, Government of India, spotlights exceptional problem-solvers and enables them to achieve escape velocity for their venture through the course of an 18-month long grand challenge. The first challenge — the Cisco Agri Challenge for farmer-centric innovations impacting 10 million lives has already attracted 844 contestants and a large ringside of purpose-aligned investors, researchers, experts and institutions who will enable promising ideas to go to market and scale with high confidence.
The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation has consistently demonstrated the DNA for speed, scale and innovation that it seeks to nurture in India's development sector. This infusion of energy towards India's development and its ripple effects far and wide are truly exciting.
The/Nudge Foundation presents a wonderful example of identifying existing and potential performers in the social sector and assisting them in scaling these performances through public-private partnerships in the true spirit of Nexus of Good. To create a larger impact, the Foundation is now foraying into the development of such human resources that would assist in steering high impact initiatives of the government.
Views expressed are personal