Deal Share Live: India School Leadership Institute (ISLI) Optimizes Various Social Investment Capital for Scale


Gayatri Nair Lobo


School leadership is the backbone of the education system

Various research on the importance of school leadership suggest that it is a key lever in transforming the education system.

However, the potential of a school leaders’ ability to impact learning outcomes is not well understood in India. In majority of cases, the appointment of the School Leader is done solely on the basis of seniority, and the role is largely administrative.

In short, a school leader plays a key role in creating a conducive environment to spark the overall growth and development of the children. This ranges from improving teaching practices, to increasing learning outcomes, to ensuring the efficient management of school affairs.

How ISLI plugs the leadership gap in India

As a result, ISLI was founded in 2013, in partnership with the KIPP Foundation (USA), the Akanksha Foundation, Central Square Foundation, and Teach for India, to exclusively develop and upgrade the skills of current school leaders. Our current programme –  the City Fellowships for School Leaders –improves the quality of classroom teaching and learning  to support the development growth of children in underserved communities.

“To date, the City Fellowship serves about 430 School Leaders, impacting close to 250,000 children.”

Catalyzing scale by embracing various social investment capital:

Grants: We owe our success to the various organisations we have collborated with.

Being a strong believer in ISLI’s vision and model to bring about effective leadership, Central Square Foundation provided close to $0.5m. Similarly, MacArthur Foundation invested $200,000 worth of seed funds.

These grants were extremely useful at a time when we had not been able to prove ISLI’s impact, particularly when the conversation around the need for school leadership training in India barely existed. With their support, we were also able to connect with other donors to scale their impact.

Intellectual Assets: At present, we are partnering with AVPN member The Teacher App on the technology front, in which their expansive technological capital is enabling the digitisation of ISLI’s School Leadership content.

Finding Innovative, Cross-sector Partnerships to Expand Presence

Estimates put the total number of schools in India at 1.3million, which makes ISLI’s penetration seem insignifanct. However, having seen the impact of our programme on teaching practices in schools and consequently on better learning outcomes, we are keen to find new ways to expand its presence.

Over the next 3 years, we plan to scale to reach close to 75000 School Leaders using different models of engagement. As such, we are looking into:

  1. State Government partnerships, where we can work on whole school systems supporting the development of school leaders
  2. Technology to enable expansion to non-ISLI locations

“In order to drive growth, we are keen to engage with funders who can provide more than financial support.”

Resource providers are equally critical to us as they can provide provide domain knowledge, operation expertise and share their experiences and learnings.

Given the massive scale required to reach out to School Leaders across the country, we will engage with other organisations in the education ecosystem such as Createnet to learn from each other and provide insights. Join us at the AVPN India Summit 2017, where we will be speaking at the “Leadership Training in Schools” panel as a Deal Share Live participant to share our experiences.

Sources of quotes:


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


Gayatri Nair Lobo

Gayatri is the CEO of India School Leadership Institute and has a mix of strategy consulting and education experience, having worked most recently at Dalberg Global Development Advisors. Prior to Dalberg, Gayatri was the Chief Operating Officer at Teach For India, and was part of the scale up of operations during its first 6 years. Gayatri has also previously worked at OC&C Strategy Consultants as an engagement manager in Mumbai and London, working with clients in the media, telecom and retail sectors. Before OC&C, Gayatri worked at Avalon Consulting as an Associate Vice President, on projects across multiple sectors like engineering, chemicals and logistics. Gayatri has a Masters in Management Studies and a Bachelors in Commerce from Mumbai University. Gayatri is passionate about development issues especially Education and has written articles on them published in journals like The Foreign Policy and Huffington Post.

Did you enjoy reading this?

You might also be interested in


AVPN Co-Organises Landmark Social Investing Conference in China


Moving Towards Pay For Success (PFS) in Asia


Three Strategy Tools to Improve Gender Lens Investing (GLI) Practices