'Namaste' - we're celebrating 24 years! 2018 marked the end of our longest running programme, and one of which we're immensely proud – the India programme.
Our partnership journey in southern India began way back in 1994 to provide an overseas funding option for Zurich Community Trust (ZCT) as well as meaningful volunteering options for Zurich employees.
We chose India because it was a relatively secure environment where Zurich employees (women as well as men) could work and where English was widely spoken. It was also, above all, where there was a huge evidence of need - with over a third of its population living on less than a $1 a day - the World Bank's definition of poverty.
Over 24 years we have supported 12 NGOs with grants totalling £1,720,400 and 105 Zurich employees have shared their skills.
About the programme
The India Programme worked through partner organisations on the ground in southern India - supporting people with disabilities, mental health, livelihood, education, health care and poverty issues – and helping them to improve their organisational efficiency.
What set this programme apart from others, then as now, was the truly ‘holistic’ nature of our partnerships. ZCT not only provided core funding to develop the NGOs‘ organisational capacity but we also encouraged Zurich employees to share their management skills on month long assignments to help develop practical systems and processes. These proved to be truly unique development opportunities and often 'life-changers' both professionally and personally for the assignees!
Download the brochures
Find out more about our partners and experience just some of our pioneering Indian journey in these brochures, the first created by ZCT and the second by our NGO partners themselves.
The India Programme's approach of providing long-term funding for core costs was, and to a lesser extent, still is, innovative and pioneering.
Most funders in India prefer to fund specific projects or purchases such as school books or lunches. Sadly this often means that when the funding ends, so does the programme.Our approach was different - instead of funding key projects, our focus was on developing systems and processes.
It meant we supported a proportion of an organisation’s running costs allowing them to really concentrate on sustainability. The decision regarding 'where' our NGO partner focused these resources was reached through an annual Capacity Audit conducted with the NGO's staff and management team.
It meant our NGO partners were able to use our funding wherever it was most needed to keep their organisation running efficiently, whether that was for salaries or general running costs.
The India Programme provided a unique opportunity for small and large partner NGO organisations to network. Partners may have come from a diverse range of voluntary organisations but they shared common problems. This forum allowed them to discuss and try to reach a solution together.
Over the 24 years, the grand total of 105 Zurich assignees undertook a four week project sharing their professional skills to help the NGOs develop their processes and systems to make them function more effectively.
To help our NGO partners to identify areas of focus for funding and see where the skills of one of our assignees could be most useful, we introduced capacity audits. These involved ZCT's India Programme Manager and staff focus groups from our NGO partners looking into various aspects of the organisation including management and governance, HR and training, finance, advocacy and communications and PR.
From the perspective of our assignees, we know how much their professional and personal lives were touched by the experience.
As a development programme, this delivers a million times more than any other development programme I've ever been on - both to the individual and the organisation.
It touched me at the very core of myself. Dr V (with whom I worked) asked me the question "Tell me... what does it mean to be a human being?" and after that my whole life changed.
While the economy has continued to grow, we are very conscious that the human need in India is still great.
Even if our funding has now drawn to a close, it was important for us to leave a legacy in the form of the concept that our four remaining NGOs valued most from our partnership - flexible capacity building. The NGOs were keen for this approach to funding to be shared with other funders - corporates and Trusts and Foundations - so that they would appreciate the value and impact of it, and to help them with their own long-term sustainability.
In 2014 the Indian CSR Bill was introduced - this bill requires all larger companies to commit 2% of their profits to corporate responsibility projects. We felt the timing was just right to capitalise on the increased awareness of CSR to promote capacity building.
So to help our partners access more funding from Indian enterprise we partnered with the Alliance to Promote Abilities and Rehabilitation (ATPAR). ATPAR worked to encourage local corporates and trusts to provide long term core funding.
The good news is that this relationship has already yielded results and some of our NGO partners have secured funding for multiple years from Indian corporates, trusts and foundations.
As a development programme, this delivers a million times more than any other development
programme I’ve ever been on – both to the individual and the organisation.
Zurich's input has been crucial in helping us build the dream.
K N Gopinath, Former Executive Director of Operations, Association of People with Disability (APD, Bengaluru)
We have learnt a great deal from this programme over the 24 years and have met many truly inspiring people. Together we have travelled an incredible journey.
Pam Webb, Head of Zurich Community Trust (ZCT)
Our yesterday, their tomorrow...
Beautiful, bewildering, yet always unforgettable, working in southern India certainly brought its own set of unique challenges and opportunities over the years! Assignees bid farewell to their 'comfort zones' in the departure lounge at London Heathrow but always returned home with their eyes opened to new possibilities in their personal and professional lives.
From a funder's perspective, we hope the legacy of the programme's success will be to encourage others to adopt our funding model and use of skilled corporate volunteers to help build a sustainable future for our NGO partners and those they support.