Addressing Leadership Crisis in the Social Sector


Aboli Abkari


A need for leaders who see the big picture

It is estimated that India has nearly 31 lakh NGOs, 1200 Section eight companies1 and 5000 CSR operations. While most of them are doing extensive work for various causes, the majority fall short in making a large scale social impact because of the absence of strong leadership.

While there are many leaders in the social sector with domain expertise and skills to hold the fort, there is a paucity of visionary leaders – People who can steer forward partnerships that are sustainable and scalable; who have, apart from domain expertise the analytical skills, a clear macro-understanding of the problem and a holistic approach.

To address this gap, the Aritra Leadership Accelerator Program – incubated and designed by Dr. Reddy’s Foundation, Phicus Social Solutions and the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore – was launched early in 2017.

At the launch of Aritra Program with all three incubators
– Phicus, DRF and IIM Bangalore

Accessing the Leadership Gap in the Social Sector

The Aritra team conducted a series of research to understand the leadership landscape in the social sector and to grasp the gaps in the leadership development and pipeline. Participants from organizations like Oxfam, Care India, Help Age India, Population Foundation of India, Room to Read, Sight Savers and Orbis International along with several other NGOs participated in this exercise.

The results confirmed that ‘organization leadership’ and its related competencies are areas in need of improvement in the social sector.

Harnessing the Leadership Mindset: Multipronged Approach of Learning

The Aritra Leadership Accelerator program aims to build senior leaders who are organization builders and drivers of sustainable impact in the social sector. Using a multi-pronged approach, the intensive 15-month program aims to develop leaders in the social sector who will play a defining role to drive impactful policies, build strong organizations, and create a strong collaborative network of influence.

Dr. Vandana Nadig Nair, Founder Director Phicus Social Solutions emphasized “Aritra will help create a leadership pipeline in social sector by creating 100 leaders over the next 5 years who will act as microcosms of change.”

A point elaborated by Prof Vasanthi Srinivasan, faculty at IIM Bangalore and one of the directors of Aritra, “ the program aims to train a cadre of reflective practitioners in the social sector who can scale up social impact to reach out to the wider community.”

Aritra has facilitated to develop a global mindset “to build relationships and trust with a network of key individuals across regions and functions, which will be critical to moving ahead quickly and effectively.” adds Manmeet Singh from Orbis International.

In short, Aritra aims to build a team of visionaries who will be the next-gen value-driven leaders. As Shamik Trehan, CEO Dr Reddy’s Foundation succinctly sums up, “In a rapidly changing ecosystem, there is imminent need for dynamic senior leaders to take over the reins to ensure sustainability of the social sector organizations and we hope Aritra will address this gap.”

[1] Section 8 Company is a company registered under the Companies Act, 2013 for charitable or not-for-profit purposes such as promoting commerce, art, science, sports, education, research, social welfare, religion, charity, protection of environment or any such other object.


A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training


Aboli Abkari

Experienced in Partnerships with a demonstrated history of working for non-profit organizations in different portfolios. Over all experience of 20+ yrs in different sectors, Skilled in Strategic Planning, operation Management, Event Management, Resource Mobilization and Airport services Management. A post graduate in commerce and IATA qualified.

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