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India's Quest for Collective Change

It’s certainly been an exciting time in India! I’m working with fantastic FSGers and local clients, engaging in inspiring conversations about how India can maintain its strong growth while bringing more people in to share the spoils, and experiencing a new, vibrant and welcoming culture. Signs of growth are easy to see, with foreign investment on the rise, buildings going up en masse, and even restaurants like Le Cirque finding a ready clientele.

It’s also been a time touched by sadness, with the Mumbai bombings in July serving as a reminder that we are mortal after all, and that inequality, intolerance, and lack of opportunity can lead to tragic acts against fellow human beings. Mumbaikers are a resilient bunch – and/or becoming accustomed to the danger – and very quickly were back to their daily routines. Moments of respect were certainly paid, and security levels went up in many areas, but many citizens seem to feel that the best way to defeat terrorists’ aims is to keep up with life and not give in to fear.

Not giving in seems to be a strength of the Indian spirit. Despite locals telling me it happens every year, the Times of India continues reporting on the truly awful conditions of Mumbai’s roads to push authorities to make improvements. And across the country, a spotlight is increasingly shining on the topic of corruption. Citizens are rising up to protest against the incredible evidence of rampant graft. Anna Hazare is a prominent Ghandian who is leading protests to establish an independent anti-corruption body. Just last week he was arrested, in a move many believe was intended simply to prevent him from creating greater visibility on an already highly publicized issue. The police argue it was an effort to prevent violence, which is striking given he preaches non-violent disagreement. In cities around India, people have since been rallying to demonstrate their support for his stance.

And such is life in India – the country is growing rapidly, with many exciting opportunities taking place while at the same time social problems persist (and even worsen). The good news is that many of the nation’s leaders – including those in corporate India – are beginning a dialogue about holding themselves more accountable for social change. “Inclusive growth” and “strategic philanthropy” are ideas that are beginning to really develop shape here. It’s exciting to see that FSG’s thought leadership is at the forefront of many of the conversations.

The Economic Times, a leading Indian newspaper, recently published a terrific article describing the increasing focus locally on making philanthropy more strategic. FSG’s research on Collective Impact is cited as an opportunity to “foster much more cohesive, perhaps more institutionalized efforts.” This approach is a theme that resonates with many of the people we speak with, and we look forward to many more engaging conversations about the role it can play in driving toward more effective social change.

India has so much potential – people achieve and the economy is growing in spite of weak infrastructure, high bribery and threats to security. What could happen if Indians found a way to systematically work toward common goals for change, while leveraging the assets they’re best suited to use? What issues in India do you think might be most ripe for change using a collective impact approach?

Veronica Borgonovi

Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion