Scaling for Impact: Pioneering Management for Lasting Social Change

Author By Trisha Varma and Ravi Sreedharan*

India's Development Dilemma
In the race towards global economic prominence, India grapples with the uneven distribution of prosperity. Despite being one of the world's fastest-growing economies, our global development standings paint a worrisome picture, threatening our aspirations for global leadership.

The Divided Path of Social Scaling
The social sector emerges as the beacon to navigate these challenges. However, the question of scaling within the sector remains divisive. While some argue that scaling is essential, others fear it compromises the agile, hyperlocal essence of Social Purpose Organizations (SPOs). Moreover, organizations focusing on singular issues or charity work, though scaling faster, may fall short of fostering sustained social change.

Current State: Undersized but Unyielding
Reflecting this conundrum, India's social sector lags in size compared to global counterparts. Take Akshaya Patra, one of India's largest SPOs, with a $73 million budget, dwarfed by United Way's staggering $5.2 billion income. This disparity mirrors the total contribution of the social sector, standing at 2% in India compared to the US's robust 5.6%.

A Unified Approach: Scaling the Mission, Not the Organization
Fortunately, the sector seems to be converging on a solution – scaling the mission, not the organization. SPOs, addressing critical issues from foundational literacy to healthcare, are focusing on amplifying successful interventions. A recent study found that 74% of SPOs believe scaling is crucial, fostering collaboration, advocacy, and sustainability.

The Management Conundrum
However, a major impediment to scaling the mission is the lack of organizational management expertise within SPOs. While acknowledging the transformative impact of management practices, these organizations grapple with challenges related to talent management, leadership development, funding, and technology.

Bridging the Gap: Development Management for Social Change
This managerial challenge arises from the absence of a definitive discipline for social sector management. Development Management, distinct from traditional practices, must align with societal values, emphasizing collaboration over competition, and inclusiveness, equity, justice, and dignity. It is imperative to bridge this gap through the creation of a new discipline in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).

The Role of Higher Education Institutions
Drawing inspiration from historical precedents set by institutions shaping professions, there is an urgent need for a high-quality HEI dedicated to developing the discipline of management for the social sector in India. This initiative promises to empower SPOs, foster sustainable impact, and propel India towards resolving its most pressing social challenges.

-Trisha Varma is the Director of the Global Knowledge Hub, ISDM, and Ravi Sreedharan is the Founder and President of the Indian School of Development Management. Views are personal.

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