The growth of the non-profit sector in India in the last two decades has been phenomenal. India has possibly the largest number of active non-government, not-for-profit organizations in the world. Official estimates put the number at 3.3 million.
From relief services to educational initiatives, healthcare projects to housing organizations, grassroots NGOs work in numerous spheres which touch the daily lives of marginalized communities across the country. Engaging directly with the people, these NGOs are able to participate in the thought-making process of the communities they work with, and thus have the capacity to bring about long-term change. The sector has had a substantial contribution in the nation building process.
But accelerated development soon reaches a stagnant point if it is not sustainable. Ensuring sustainability of initiatives requires a reorientation of NGOs focusing on their capacity building to attain competitiveness. This is not an easy transition, requiring NGOs to rethink and reform their programme designs, planning, fund mobilization, fund management, and effective programme delivery.
There is also a need to guide these NGOs to be able to identify and adapt with the changing national and global socio-political and economic developments which affect them. To equip and facilitate grassroots NGOs in the country to address these issues and eventually aim at achieving sustainable development at the grassroots and community level, Smile Foundation initiated Empowering Grassroots in 2002.
A national capacity building programme, Empowering Grassroots is aimed at handholding, training and enabling social initiatives to maximize their impact on the ground. Under ‘Empowering Grassroots’ initiative, social initiatives are trained on vital issues relevant to the development sector in the country like scalability, sustainability, communication, resource mobilization and governance by industry experts from reputed Indian and international organizations.
Handholding meetings and face to face learning sessions are held round the year to help the social initiatives effectively resolve their day to day operational challenges, helping achieve the highest social return on investment (SROI).
Empowering Grassroots is not only an effort to strengthen the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid in India, but also an attempt to bring transparency and accountability in the workings of the development sector at the grassroots level. So far, Smile Foundation has built the capacities of 437 national and international social initiatives under the Empowering Grassroots initiative.