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Skillanthropy

With inequity and disparity growing manifolds, societies throughout the developing world are dealing with increased poverty, poor health services, poor education quality, homelessness and the fueling gap between the rich and the poor. The growing inequality has pushed a panic button for most countries, organisations and individuals prodding them to look into borrowing ways to innovate and practice innovation.

However, these efforts often fail to deliver. Social change is complex and can takes decade to deal with the multiple facets of societies. Change agents and stakeholders are continuously exploring ways to innovate in addressing the widening inequity and move beyond the conventional methods of change making from just grant and philanthropy to see if they can bring in their skills and expertise to the recipient organizations to contribute to reducing the growing inequity through Skillanthropy (Grameen Foundation).

A process of donating personal or professional skills, expertise, time, effort but not tons of money by individual or group of individuals/corporations to a cause/initiative or organisation for the betterment of the organisation, society and nation as a whole is referred as Skillanthropy.

With the growing number of people entering in the space of social change for the larger good, few understand that social change making is a very complex process requiring multifaceted thinking, expertise, exposure and the ability to wear multiple hats. If we dig deeper into the social change making space, we find a number of initiatives working towards reducing inequity and disparity through income generation activities like selling products and services. We discover that they are offering products and services such as agri products, handicrafts and apparels, market centered skills, development trainings and so on. This enables them to compete in the open market with private organizations who are equipped with more skills and adequate human resources, better expertise and the ability to quickly adapt and respond to the changing needs of the market.

However, a research carried out by King’s College brought forth eye opening findings. Most of these change makers are females, 40% with undergraduate degrees and 25% with graduate degrees in various fields. 24% of the respondents were in the service industry while 70% were involved in agriculture and agri products which are skill intensive. However, they had no formal trainings.

The study points to the fact that existing change makers are graduates or undergraduates, lack expertise and skills to operate in the targeted industry or verticals, lack complementary skills in the team, posses less envisioning power, lower understanding of market dynamics, etc. However, what tops the chart is the lack of mentorship/expertise which could guide them through difficult times or enhance their skills and expertise when in need.

These change makers and organisations have been and will be key to Nepal’s progress in reducing the widening inequity and disparity in democracy, education and development but operating at minimal resource and skills. However, if we turn our focus on understanding private sector organisations of similar nature, offering similar kinds of goods and services, the story is different. They are manned with people having higher skill sets, huge exposure in the sector at the same time the ability to think vertically and horizontally wearing multiple stakeholder perspectives. This not only keeps them agile and competitive but also efficient and effective in responding to the changing market dynamics of consumer (end user) and customer (paying for the end user).

For long, we as a country and the people in power, bureaucracy and politicians have repeatedly stressed that Nepal, a least developed country with difficult topography and prevailing socio economic structures, would need longer time and huge investment to create industries and infrastructure to create jobs for people at scale. This forces us to think of creating more micro, small and medium type enterprises or initiatives reducing the income and inequity gap if we are to create jobs for people at scale, but the contrary is true.

Limited growth, increased concerns over financial sustainability, lower profit, lack of access to finance, investments and market limits the micro, small and medium entrepreneurs.  This is where Skillanthropy can come into picture by meeting the organisational needs of the human/skills crunched organisations, offering them the lens of private corporations to achieve better results for larger good with more structured and market led approach.  However, skillanthropy is not a one-stop solution to all the problems of recipient organisations. It has to be equally supported by well identified needs and challenges faced by the organisation in regard to the specific products/services.

Skillanthropists meanwhile also must take ownership of the recipient organisation. Their input must not come as a favour but as a contribution to the impact it can achieve.

For example, Himalayan Rabbit Farms employs people to raise rabbits and sell them in the market as a meat product. The venture grew manifold after receiving structured and expert human resource to help them in all the verticals of business through different private corporations as their pro bono advisory support. The story is no different for Help to Shine which employs 500 plus females from marginalised background as housemaids in Kathmandu. It grew after receiving structured, guided expert human resource support from different private corporations as a strategic engagement.

Establishing and embracing Skillanthropy is a catalyst towards enhanced economic growth of the country.  This model might be what can help Nepal graduate from least developed country to developing country by 2022.


Nanda Kishor Mandal is Head of Yunus Social Business Center at King’s College, and the Founder/Director of Women Development Advocacy Center. He can be reached at [email protected]

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