Lessons learnt in Government Relations

“Engaging with the movers and shakers of the sector varies depending on the geography and, more importantly, on the political hierarchy one is dealing with.”

It is unfortunate that the words ‘government’ and ‘relations’ taken in conjunction commonly inspire perceptions of inaccessibility and hopelessness. Navigating this diplomatic tightrope may be a skill perfected by a blend of tact and credibility, but real-time experience goes a long way too.

While ivory-towered optimism is always eclipsed by the realities on ground, I don’t think starting off with that attitude is necessarily a bad thing, as long as expectations driven by that passion is managed well. I speak from personal experience when I offer this caveat, because for all the policies that are in place to ensure good practises, the execution phase can be very challenging.

I moved to Bihar in 2015 – following years of spearheading a pilot program of Quest Alliance to deliver quality education to schools in India. Monikered Anandshala, the project has been aiming at bringing about large scale systematic reform at the district level, starting from a small hamlet called Samastipur.

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Coalition Building & Corporate Philanthropy

Funder and nonprofit perspectives come together to tackle an issue at the heart of the development sector. What needs to be done to amplify the impact of CSR funds?

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Over the past decade, I have watched the admirable, at times controversial, but ceaseless march of corporations and philanthropic foundations to ‘do good’ in India, and to do it well. It’s been accelerated by changes to the Indian Companies Act, which mandated that 2% of the average profits of a company be invested in CSR.

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The Innovation Revolution

Only through nurturing a culture of innovation at scale can our education systems change fast enough to meet the needs of 21st Century learners. IDEX Fellow Chloe Edmundson shares how this belief brought her to Bangalore, and to Quest Alliance.

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I am a devout believer in the power of innovation. Innovation has the power to completely shift existing realities both in incremental ways and on immense scales. I strongly believe that one of the most important areas to be harnessing the power of innovation is in our education systems. Our educational systems are simply not built to support the current state of our world. Lack of access to education or using antiquated models means that we are not preparing students to flourish in our rapidly changing world. We are individually and as a planet facing overwhelming issues threatening our very existence, and I believe that the foundation of addressing these issues is through education.

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Campfire, Community and Common Purpose

What does it mean to be a learner? For Divas Vats, participating in the School for Democracy fellowship has been a lesson in the value of struggle, the importance of hope, and the need to do justice to the opportunities for learning that come our way.

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I can’t recall a better start to the year than 2018.

On December 20, my mentor Bezwada Wilson walked into the room and asked me to book the tickets for the fortnightly long workshop of the Democracy Fellowship by the School For Democracy, an initiative of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS). Over the course of three years, it brings together 52 grassroots activists from 17 states. We fellows engage with the state and work to influence systemic change and struggle for rights and entitlements.

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Beyond the Bottom Line: Making CSR Sustainable

What should we be asking ourselves to enable Corporate Social Responsibility funds to tackle complex problems in 21st Century India?

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“In a free enterprise, the community is not just another stakeholder, but is, in fact, the very purpose of its existence” — Jamsetji Tata

August 2013 turned out to be harbinger of sorts. With the President’s assent, the Companies Act 2013 came into force, mandating voluntary spirit on part of Indian business, thus giving it a dedicated space in the development ecosystem, and accelerating the shift from foreign aid to corporate resources, as a direct result of India’s economic growth. Estimates say that close to INR 15,000 – 20,000 crore will be contributed towards CSR by Indian business in a given year. But is CSR only about channelizing financial resources towards a noble cause or is there something more to it?

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The Life Cycle of Online Communities

How do you make an online community thrive? It sounds simple in theory, but bringing people together around a particular topic or cause, and creating a space in which they can provide real and sustained support to one another, is not easy. As we at Quest strive to take Trainer Tribe, our online platform for 21st Century teachers, to the next level, we asked Danny Hutley, Impact & Learning Advisor at the Change.org Foundation, to share some of his experiences.

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On November 29 Danny spoke to our MasterCoach Digital Learning Circle, via videolink, sharing failures, breakthroughs and routes to success from five years of curating online communities for Change.org.

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Design Thinking to Stay Learner Centred

Design thinking and innovation studio Quicksand has worked with Quest Alliance since its inception. Here, Quicksand’s Kevin Shane & Babitha George explain why sustained engagement is at the heart of designing something with the ability to meaningfully improve the quality of life of the individuals being designed for.

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Design thinking has become a favoured methodology for innovation and user-centered design in recent years. While there is a lot of interest and excitement, the nature of this process requires sustained engagement and commitment, in order to allow for sustained change. At its core, design thinking is about empathy and a deep understanding of people’s needs — and designing for those needs.

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