April 2022 | 890 words | 3-minute read
The numbers tell the story. A total of 800 people at the Tata Steel Foundation are working in more than 4,800 gram panchayats (basic village-governing institutes in rural India) to positively impact the lives of 3 million people this year. The quantum of work is enormous and impactful.
Sourav Roy, chief, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), Tata Steel, says, “The Tata Steel Foundation prioritises impact for those who are left behind and emphasises strong social capital in implementation. It is one of the largest implementing foundations in the country and is building on the legacy of the Tata Steel Rural Development Society and the Tribal Culture Society. The foundation, over the years, has consciously expanded its footprint to co-create transformative, efficient, and lasting solutions to the core development challenges of communities.” Mr Roy adds, “The effort stems from a clear mandate for the foundation to continue thinking like a leading development impact organisation, and structure the narrative accordingly.”
MANSI, a programme for maternal and neonatal health, has significantly brought down the vital mortality rate in a set of blocks in Jharkhand to below the 2030 stipulated target, which has been outlined by the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. Recently, the programme widened its purview to cover the life of a girl child from birth till motherhood.
The programme combines elements of nutrition, reproductive and sexual health, engagement with community institutions and a one-of-its-kind digital platform that tracks each and every high-risk pregnancy. Co-funded by the National Health Mission and working with over 3,000 ASHA (accredited social health activist) workers, MANSI reaches about 40,00,000 people across 4 districts of Jharkhand and Odisha today.
Samvaad, the pan-India tribal conclave, has come a long way from the first 5-day event in 2014 to the current avatar of an ecosystem of 13 components including languages, tribal healing, art, music, sports, handicraft, tribal leadership, intangible heritage conservation, and the Samvaad action research collective which tries to bridge the gap between practice and policy for indigenous developmental issues. Dialogue is germane to identity, and the core of Samvaad remains the various platforms for conversations it convenes.
Mr Roy says, “The greatest achievement of Samvaad is that it has meaningfully brought together people from myriad tribes of the world. For most in Samvaad, the first ‘aha’ moment is either that they are not alone in their convictions and aspirations, or that there is just so much for all of us to learn from the tribal way of life.”
That the programme has taken on a life of its own is seen in the fact that there are 14 versions of Samvaad, replicated in various regions by communities who have attended the conclave. The foundation itself conducts about 8-9 regional Samvaads across India each year.
Tata Steel has always been committed to investing resources towards societal well-being, without being constrained by thresholds set by CSR regulations in India. The foundation takes this commitment forward and leverages it through resources raised with the help of myriad private and public development partners. This also feeds into an aspiration to build impact models which are transformational for Eastern India and replicated globally, a trend manifested in the signature programmes of the foundation. Mr Roy says, “The eastern part of the country represents an imbalance with a disproportionately large share of development challenges, and less than 10% of the private development capital coming in.” The foundation hopes to correct this and solve social problems on a larger scale.
The themes of the interventions emerge out of the needs of the region. The foundation does its groundwork, based on the profiles of districts in Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand. This information is strengthened, following conversations with panchayats and communities, and then a programme is chalked out. The impact of the programme is assessed against the findings of government statistics and independent benchmarks.
Conversations with the community, often directional not transactional, are at the core which helps build trust and capital for jointly embarking on programmes that are multi-year change models. These also build a narrative of empowered changemakers within communities who take forward the impact agenda and form a fundamental part of the foundation’s strategy.
The foundation, ultimately, derives from its people, their purpose and talent. Mr Roy says, “Our people feel strongly for the cause of societal impact and are experts in domains like water, education, public health, tribal identity, infrastructure and agriculture.” Localised recruitment has helped find many intelligent youngsters looking for an opportunity to shine. The foundation is now building a cadre of data scientists to complement the work being done by the communications team.
Starting next year, the foundation plans to initiate deep immersion programmes for the senior leadership in Tata Steel. The aim is not only to give them an idea of the scope of work being done under CSR and create a sense of empathy among business leaders, but also to embed a societal perspective in business decisions and processes.