July 2023


Helping grassroots social initiatives become “Atmanirbhar”

India has a large number of local social entrepreneurs and grassroots initiatives working on various social issues in rural and urban areas. They play a significant role in shaping the social fabric of the nation, tackling grassroots challenges and bringing government schemes and programmes to the underserved communities. This role was duly acknowledged and appreciated by Governments and Development Actors across the globe during the Covid-19 pandemic, when the grassroots initiatives and social enterprises effectively provided last mile delivery of services.

However, these social entrepreneurs and enterprises face several challenges that hinder their ability to bring sustainable change on the ground including lack of structured approach in their work and in presenting their work, dearth of resources, and inability to identify and utilise locally available in-country resources.

On the other hand, there are many rising opportunities. The Government of India is proactively leading the transformation of the social landscape by reaching marginalized communities through social development schemes, programmes and enabling legal mechanisms. India’s middle-class segment is also growing, along with a rise in charitable giving. Additionally, being the first nation to legalize corporate social responsibility, India is providing a structured boost to development endeavours at the grassroots.

Channelising these positives, Smile Foundation, through its programme Empowering Grassroots has been working for over two decades to empower social grassroots initiatives as well as social entrepreneurs. Well aligned with Government of India’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’, Empowering Grassroots is rooted in the belief that it is important to develop capacities and harness the capabilities of social change makers and grassroots initiatives, in turn enabling them to address the needs of the civil society by complementing the efforts of the government and in line with the global development strategies, for gaining resilience, future readiness, credibility and local support.

Partnerships for Shared Goals

A shared concern for marginalised sections of society is a strong intent for the fruits of development to reach them. This has led to a collaborative understanding between Smile Foundation and Bharat Rural Livelihood Foundation (BRLF), Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India. Under the Empowering Grassroots, training was provided to eight CSO partners of BRLF from Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, selected from sixty organisations associated with BRLF. It was followed by five days of face-to-face training, one-on-one mentoring and a coaching process with each of these participant organisations.

Smile Foundation also held capacity building sessions for a selected cohort of Social Venture Philanthropy (SVP) partners of Mission Education (ME) Programme of Smile. These participant organisations were from five states of India including Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Haryana, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh. With a mix of face-to-face experiential training and 6 months of mentoring and coaching sessions, the fundraising skills of the participants are in a direction
well-aligned with their overall goals.

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