The Rise of Philanthropic Collaboratives in India: New Bridgespan Research Reveals How Social Sector Actors Are Increasingly Coming Together to Tackle Complex Social Challenges

02/18/2020 |
Mumbai, 18 February 2020—In what might be the first sector-wide, field-based research of its kind into India’s philanthropic collaboratives, The Bridgespan Group, a global nonprofit that advises social sector, mission-driven organizations, today released an in-depth research report titled, “Philanthropic Collaboratives in India: The Power of Many.”

Drawing on a survey of 13 Indian philanthropic collaboratives (unions of funders and other partners pursuing shared goals and strategies for improving people’s lives) as well as more than 50 interviews, Bridgespan’s report spotlights why Indian philanthropists collaborate, what conditions give rise to impactful collaboratives, and how actors work together to overcome the barriers to amplifying social impact.

According to Arghyam Founder-Chairperson, Rohini Nilekani, whose philanthropic collaborative work is featured in the report, “The key benefits of a collaborative are to mitigate individual risk, be greater than the sum of its individual parts, and to enable ideas and missions to scale.”

Supported by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the report takes a deep look at how India’s funders and other actors are joining forces to help improve public schools, drive sustainable sanitation, combat climate change, improve nutrition, and take on other urgent social challenges. According to Hari Menon, India country director at the Gates Foundation, “Philanthropic collaboratives have the potential and ambition to solve large and complex problems. India is seeing the emergence of collaboratives, and early signals of collective progress are encouraging.”

“If we want to work at scale or be involved in systems change, we must look to collaborate with others,” adds Vidya Shah, CEO of Edelgive Foundation. “There is no other option to tackle these big social problems.”
Bridgespan’s research found that actors in philanthropic collaboratives tend to agree with Menon and Shah. “More than 70 percent of our survey respondents say that working collectively has enabled them to make more progress against India’s socio-economic challenges than working alone,” says Pritha Venkatachalam, Bridgespan partner and co-author of the study. “The majority of stakeholders believe that the benefits of collaborating have exceeded the investments required of each of them in working together.”

Most of India’s philanthropic collaboratives are uniquely comprised of multiple stakeholders—not just funders, but also other actors including implementing organizations, government, and research organizations. “With such a complicated structure, collaboratives often struggle to organize many stakeholders around a mission, agree on their respective roles, and align on a strategy,” says Kashyap Shah, Bridgespan principal and co-author of the study.

The report—which builds on the work of other investigators, including Bain & Company, Dasra, EdelGive Foundation, and previous Bridgespan research—profiles three philanthropic collaborative efforts in depth and draws on the experience of several others to discern lessons that others can use to overcome the barriers to collaborating.

Demand for field-tested insights like these is on the rise. “Interest in philanthropic collaboratives across social sector actors is accelerating,” concludes Pritha Venkatachalam. “During the course of this research, we learned that some global collaboratives, as well as domestic philanthropists, are actively considering setting up new collaboratives in India.”

About The Bridgespan Group
The Bridgespan Group ( is a global nonprofit organization that collaborates with mission-driven organizations and philanthropists to break cycles of poverty and dramatically improve the quality of life for those in need. Our services include philanthropy and nonprofit advisory and strategy consulting, leadership development, and developing and sharing knowledge and practical insights.
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