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How Social Sector Donors and Investors Can Leverage Data and Technology for Good?

22 December 2022

By

Swapnil Agarwal

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4 min read

Co-Author: Prapti Bhatia

Social sector donors (corporate and philanthropic) and investors have been moving from a passive to an active role in the management and monitoring of their grants and investment portfolios. Given this proactive nature of funding, reporting, compliances and real-time monitoring, tech and data adoption have been having their organic growth in the sector. In this article, we list how donors and investors in the social sector can leverage data and technology effectively to increase the efficiency and impact of their funding.

Given the various stakeholders involved in the social context, each stakeholder has the potential to benefit from a data-driven and tech-enabled approach.

The Following key use cases show the needs of various stakeholders

  • Tech for donors/investors – These technology solutions help the funders/investors in Monitoring the key portfolio performance parameters directly. For this, the investor/donor ideally should agree on a basic framework of monitoring with the grantee at the time of the MoU itself. The following lenses should be kept in mind when deciding upon monitoring a framework:
    • Operational Lens- Data can help in understanding whether a particular program design is efficient and effective and timely course correction can be made on time, saving a lot of money, time and effort in the long run. The organisations can add operational targets as well as do audit trails using Geo-tagging, photo capturing and real-time date and time stamps to monitor all the activities on-ground.
    • Financial Lens – Tracking where money has been allocated and what it has been spent on (where), measuring the achievement of goals, identifying potential misspending, financial ratios and planning the financials for the future ahead, these are some common scenarios supported by fund management software in the market.
    • Social Impact Lens- Data can be utilized to create a compelling case of the impact that has been achieved on the ground. Connections can be made on different programs across organizations and thematic areas. Using the LFA method, organizations can monitor inputs, outputs, and outcomes.
  • Tech for grantees – In this model, funders/investors facilitate the digitization of a grantee and its core operations, under the overarching support of the grantee organizations. For eg: During the COVID period, many funders and investors funded ed-tech solutions for better remote engagement with the school dropouts, ration distribution monitoring by the field organizations, government entitlement eligibility checking apps and much more. This approach requires the funders to appreciate the enabling role of technology for the grantees and their customers/beneficiaries. Hence funders and investors prefer to encourage the co-creation of proposals which have well-informed, pre-defined technology roadmaps, and budgets. In order to enhance reporting/monitoring at the project and at organization level functions, non-profits may need the following data and technology:
(Table description: Non-profit technology needs classified into four buckets based on the major functions) Many funders/investors focus on promoting domain-specific tech solutions when funding or investing in social enterprises. Some of the key domains having known use cases and a high potential for tech adoption are- Climate Action, Agriculture, Health & Nutrition and Livelihoods (Farm and non-farm based).
  • Tech for governments – When it comes to working with the government or building technology platforms with/for the government the scale and complexity have to be kept in mind. Due to large-scale functions and data, the tech architecture and choosing the right tech stack become crucial. Secondly, most of the government needs to host everything on their server and given the large-scale data, security is important to consider and monitor when developing a tech solution. Since govt involve the line department horizontally and vertically it is necessary during the design phase all the stakeholders are consulted they have a consensus. Often these partnerships are often facilitated by some key NGO partners already working with government officers as domain experts. Public health projects are seeing many such collaborations off late.
  • Tech for citizens – This approach supports tech solutions which can be used directly by the citizens to solve their day-to-day grievances. Funding of such solutions helps in the democratization of access to technology. There are only a few solutions funded by investors and developed in the citizen-first approach. When it comes to creating something for the masses the look and feel of the technology have to be kept in mind. People are habitual to feature-rich and smooth running applications and to ensure higher adaptability. Many organizations are moving to existing applications like creating chatbots on WhatsApp to avoid the initial inertia of tech adoption.

To leverage data and technology under either of the above use cases, it’s important to ensure some basics.

Key Foundations & Assumptions for successful technology adoption

  • Building capacities of grantees for technology adoption – Many times grantee organisations are not prepared for the data and tech-driven approach to execute or monitor their work. Hence building their capacity helps in breaking myths and increasing adoption smoothly.
  • Hiring tech and data experts in the middle to senior leadership teams of funders and investors help in approaching each discussion around data and tech adoption in an informed manner.
  • Proactive funding for need-based tech solutions goes a long way in promoting data and tech adoption in social sector investors and funders.

References

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

Author

Swapnil Agarwal

Co-Founder and Director at DHWANI RIS

Co-Founder and Director at DHWANI RIS. Experienced technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working with organizations in the social sector. Experienced in business planning, market research, process mapping, technology consulting, and public speaking. A well-versed information technology professional with a PGDRM focused on rural management from the Institute of Rural Management Anand. Throughout his career, he has deployed ICT solutions in the fields of WASH, dairy, Agri value chain, risk mitigation, crop insurance, microfinance, education, and skill development. His work has enabled funders and CSR organizations to access real-time KPIs & social impact dashboards.

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