“We hope this information will spur more NGO leaders and funders to lean into community-driven change and adopt the mindsets and pathways the report surfaces as critical to doing this work well,” said Soumitra Pandey, a partner in Bridgespan’s Mumbai office and co-author of the report.
While Dalits are officially recognised as Scheduled Castes; Adivasis, India’s Indigenous population, are officially designated as Scheduled Tribes. Both groups have experienced material poverty throughout their lives due to entrenched inequities and systemic discrimination.
Bridgespan’s report describes how philanthropy can partner with NGOs in creating effective ladders of mobility for these communities. “The answer we heard repeatedly in interviews with more than nearly 40 Dalit and Adivasi leaders, funders, academics, and intermediaries: centre equity to maximise the conditions for social mobility;” says co-author Riti Mohapatra, partner at Bridgespan. “An equity-centred approach starts by taking the unique histories, aspirations, and needs of Dalit and Adivasi members into account when funding, designing, and implementing programmes. And it also means co-creating solutions with these communities.”
The authors showcase ways to centre equity that stand in contrast to the more traditional approaches that involve subject-matter experts pushing solutions down to communities. They say that an equity-centred approach acknowledges that the lived experiences and specific needs of the Dalit and Adivasi communities differ by state and within states and emphasise the importance of recognising the capacity of individuals and groups to identify their own solutions.
Co-author Rishabh Tomar, manager at Bridgespan explains, “Their collective ambition is not just for economic benefit, but also for dignity and agency—the ability to take action, be effective, and influence their own lives. Reaching these goals calls for changes in the societal mindsets and values that perpetuate these groups’ marginalisation.”
Among the practical steps they surface to guide funders:
- Developing leaders and role models at the community level, and strengthening their identity and agency through collective action and celebration of their culture
- Delivering contextual, quality education and vocational training initiatives relevant to the aspirations and context of different communities
- Promoting equity in programme design by co-creating solutions and enabling community ownership
- Supporting Dalit and Adivasi-led NGOs with access to funders, and building their organisational capacity
- Supporting evidence building and filling social mobility research gaps, and changing mindsets of privileged communities through targeted interventions
Download the full report here: https://www.bridgespan.org/insights/library/philanthropy/pathways-to-greater-social-mobility-india
The Bridgespan Group (www.bridgespan.org) is a global nonprofit that collaborates with social change organisations, philanthropists, and impact investors to make the world more equitable and just. Bridgespan’s services include strategy consulting and advising, sourcing and diligence, and leadership team support. We take what we learn from this work and build on it with original research, identifying best practices and innovative ideas to share with the social sector. We work from locations in Boston, Johannesburg, Mumbai, New York, and San Francisco.