September 28, 2016

Ashish Dhawan rejects the status quo

These videos are part of our Remarkable Givers series. A full list of videos with Ashish Dhawan can be found below.

At the age of 43, Ashish Dhawan left his full-time position as co-founder and senior managing director of ChrysCapital, one of India’s leading private equity funds, to begin his second career—devoting his funds and focus to reimagining primary and secondary education in India.

Ashish is an alumnus of Yale and Harvard University. Throughout his higher education in the U.S. and a career in investment banking, Ashish maintained his childhood passion for teaching. While working for Goldman Sachs in New York, he spent his personal time teaching math and economics at schools for gifted but underprivileged kids.

In 2012, Ashish founded Central Square Foundation, a policy think tank and grant-making organization, based on a venture-capitalist model, which seeds initiatives that seek to build models of excellence within India’s vast education system. In an interview with Forbes India, he predicted that if India’s government schools fail to dramatically improve within the next decade, the country’s growth engine will begin to backfire. To that end, much of Central Square’s grant-making focuses on furthering the professional development of teachers, who are too often overlooked, and harnessing best practices from around the world to advance public policy. “The status quo is no longer an option,” Ashish wrote in his inaugural letter to Central Square’s network. “Our nation is at risk and we need to act now.”

Ashish sees a lot of white space for philanthropy in India to create meaningful impact in education, and his goal is for Central Square to fund 20 to 25 ventures by 2018. “Will all of them go to scale? Nope,” he told Livemint in 2013. “It’s a VC approach.” That is, instead of betting big on one or two “surefire” ideas, Central Square is building a diverse portfolio of compelling options—exciting alternatives to the status quo—that just might produce a few breakthroughs that will endure for years to come. 

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