Pioneering Work in Development Management – an institutional approach


Ravi Sreedharan


5 min read
  • ISDM reveals false assumptions and skills gap within the Development Management field within the social sector
  • With a strong ecosystem lens, ISDM is pioneering pedagogies around development management.
  • ISDM is inviting students wanting to pursue careers in Development Management to join their 2018-2019 post-graduate programme here.

Diverging Paths between Business and Social Management

In the last 2 decades, the “Third Sector” or “Development Sector” has grown in terms of the number and size of organizations, available funding, the number of people involved, and influence in government decisions and processes.

While the intentions are noble, management in this newly burgeoning sector has hewed to the same principles that have governed capitalistic establishments. There has been a profound lack of understanding of the differences in the business and development sector and a serious under-estimation of the complexity and effort required to drive social change.

Today, a growing number of youngsters have made a choice to have a career in social sector. Sadly, the only option for these students to become technically qualified is by studying for an MSW, MA Development, or Management Courses like MBA or an MPA (Public Administration). None of these really prepare them for a career in Development Management to build strong, scalable, sustainable organizations.

Bridging Gaps by Driving ‘Development Management’

Indian School of Development Management (ISDM) is a pioneering institution built on the back of collective wisdom and collective philanthropy to address this critical gap. Having analyzed the landscape of work being done in Development Management – it became evident that the dominant narrative suggests that the Development Sector needs to learn and adopt Business Management Practices, and manage organizations in this sector the way Corporate Sector is run.

This idea is problematic as it assumes that the fundamental axioms that Business Management was built i.e. Industrial Revolution and Capitalism are equally relevant for the social sector. If any, to quote Jacinda Ardern, the recently elected Prime Minister of New Zealand, capitalism is a blatant failure for leaving millions homeless and in deep poverty.

ISDM has set itself an objective to study and define what Development Management really is. The study of management practices that are relevant for organisations in the development sector will explore what it takes to make the right decisions, manage resources, develop institutionalized and widely available knowledge, and more.

Today, ISDM has developed a first of its kind curriculum and pedagogy that is best suited for students wanting to prepare for careers in Development Management.

The first full cohort of 60 passionate students from across the country, representing 19 states, are part of the flagship 1-year Post Graduate Program in Development Leadership. With students on 100% scholarship, they can choose careers in Domestic and International NGOs, Foundations and Funding Organizations, CSR and Corporate Philanthropy Teams, Think Tanks, Social Enterprises and also start their own ‘for-impact’ organizations.

This batch graduates in June 2018 and the early admissions for the next batch of this increasingly coveted program commencing in July 2018 has begun recently.

However, ISDM has recognized that developing a PG Program and having a batch of passionate and capable students graduating are not enough.

Adopting a Systemic Approach to Development Management

There is a need to work on the whole ecosystem to influence how the sector adopts Development Management ideas and professionals. Towards this, ISDM is working on various parts of the ecosystem:

Building leadership and management talent for the sector is very critical and has been recognized and commented extensively in recent reports by and more.

What is required is investment in building, articulating and demonstrating an understanding of what it takes to lead and manage organizations in the sector. The billions of dollars being spent in the sector will have a far bigger and sustainable impact if we can collectively achieve the objectives ISDM has set for itself.

AVPN is proud to have ISDM as one of its members and id delighted with the collaborative efforts of ISDM towards developing a catalytic environment for Development Management. ISDM has been working with numerous individuals and organizations working in the sector notably several of whom are AVPN Members like CSF, Edelgive Foundation, STiR Education, Magic Bus, Dasra, J-PAL, and Villgro.  Anyone interested in the work of ISDM and would like to engage in their drive for collective wisdom and collective philanthropy should reach out to Gaurav Shah, one of the Founders of ISDM at [email protected]


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


Ravi Sreedharan

Ravi Sreedharan is the Founder and Director of Indian school of Development Management. He worked in the corporate sector across the globe for 24 years before switching to the Social Sector in 2011. He is an Engineer from IIT-BHU (1985) and an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad (1988). Most of his professional engagement has been with the MNC Bank ? HSBC covering various geographies including the Middle East, North Africa and Asia Pacific. At HSBC, Ravi held numerous senior positions including Regional Marketing Manager ? Middle East and Africa; Consumer Banking Product Head for Asia Pacific, Retail Banking Director, Indonesia and CEO & President Director of Bank Ekonomi (member of HSBC Group), Indonesia. In 2011, at the age of 49, he quit a successful corporate career, to return to India and pursue a career in Social Work. He was part of the leadership team at Azim Premji Foundation 2011 to 2015. Azim Premji Foundation works in 50 districts across the country to improve the quality of government schools and learning levels of children in the least privileged sections of the society. This involved working at the grass-root level with teachers, school leaders, school management committees, communities, panchayat raj Institutions and with the administration from the Cluster and Block levels all the way to Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD). Ravi has done a lot of work - specifically in the School Leadership space across the country. His work ranged from researching and defining qualities required in good school leaders to designing interventions to develop these qualities. This work was at the level of village schools at one end; and advising National Level Programs of the Government in developing curriculum and programs for strengthening school leadership across the country, at the other end. While working in the social sector across numerous villages in the country, Ravi saw an acute shortage of good, relevant leadership not only in the education sector but also in the entire development sector. To address this critical issue, he left Azim Premji Foundation with an idea to build a pioneering, world class, iconic, not-for-profit institute in the country dedicated to Development Management. An institute that will catalyse a big change in the way organisations in the development sector are managed and become far more impactful, sustainable and achieve significant scale. Ravi is the Founder and Director at the Indian School of Development Management (ISDM). In a short period of less than three years, he and the team at ISDM have established a pioneering institution to nurture the discipline of Development Management which aims to facilitate the creation of a cadre of professional leaders and managers for the development sector who will make a significant difference to the impact, scale and sustainability of organisations working for the betterment of society and especially improving the quality of life of the underserved.

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