• November 24, 2023

Sustainable economic progress is vital to uplift Indians from poverty: IMA India session

Sustainable economic progress is vital to uplift Indians from poverty: IMA India session

Ashish Dhawan, Founder-CEO of The Convergence Foundation (TCF) spoke about how he used his experience from the private sector to help establish the educational institution Ashoka University, and more recently, TCF.

At a recent online session of the India CEO and CHRO Forums, conducted by business and economic research firm IMA India, TCF Founder-CEO Ashish Dhawan discussed how business, education and the not-for-profit sectors intersect in India.

Mr Dhawan, a philanthropist and former private equity investor, also spoke about how he used his experience from the private sector to help establish Ashoka University and TCF.

Here are a few important pointers from the session:

Shifting to institutionalised philanthropy

The discussion revolved around how transitioning from individual to institutionalised philanthropy marks a pivotal shift, and how, in this capacity, its role extends beyond merely aiding governmental effectiveness; it also champions inclusivity.

Mr Dhawan, highlighted how TCF, founded in 2021, prioritises both economic advancement and developmental initiatives while also focusing on institutional fortification. 

Bringing about transformation through growth

Discussing how sustainable economic progress is vital to uplift the 15% of Indians still in poverty, the session delved into how TCF focuses on economic growth as a cornerstone for addressing social justice, equality, and poverty.

Inspired by successful models like China, TCF aims to create pioneering institutions dedicated to nation-building and systematic economic reforms. ITs approach emphasises inclusivity, an entrepreneurial spirit and collaboration. Such ‘pioneering institutions’ are strategic, effective, collaborative and sustainable, and characterised by their ability to influence, demonstrate results, build influential networks and ensure long-term commitment for impactful stability.

Importance of convergence

Mr Dhawan noted that ‘convergence’ in economic growth means establishing institutions to tackle complex societal challenges. In India’s landscape of significant issues, prioritising areas for change is crucial. Employing randomised control trials, although challenging, offers valuable insights from similar programs elsewhere. TCF focuses on two ‘convergence’ pillars:

  • Streamlining business through trade liberalisation, FDI encouragement, MSME support and addressing market frictions.
  • Investing in human capital and long-term growth drivers like education, healthcare, sanitation, electricity, transport, nutrition and access to clean air.

Challenges in transitioning to the social sector

The forum shed light on the challenges that for-profit individualists face in transitioning to the development-oriented social sector. Transitioning into philanthropy, Mr Dhawan pointed out, requires acknowledging differences from the corporate world.

While 80% of corporate learning applies, addressing complex social issues demands some ‘unlearning’. Results take longer to manifest, often spanning 10-15 years, emphasizing longevity and collaborative, trust-based approaches. The social sector values mission orientation and purpose more than the corporate realm, but also demands a holistic, pragmatic approach to driving sustainable development.

The session also saw discussions around how sustaining motivation can be challenging due to the extended timelines and external scrutiny that comes with the job.

Shreya Biswas

Shreya Biswas

Shreya Biswas is an editor and multimedia journalist. Previously a financial reporter, she is currently Senior Editor at CFO Collective, where she leverages her expertise in business journalism and effective communication.

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