Designing for financial sustainability of social venture

Sharan has worked in education and volunteering for over 2 decades. Deeply committed to creating transformation at large scale, he has recently been chosen to lead one of the largest social funding organizations in India. He now wants to bring together his personal commitment, resources in his team and the financial backing of a large established institution to fundamentally reshape education in the country.

He has distilled his learnings and ideas into a framework to broaden access and inclusion that will create large scale impact. He now, wishes to enroll multiple actors in the system to realize his vision. These actors include representatives of government schemes, ministries, other funding organizations and civil society organizations.

Sharan feels there is a strong need to create a knowledge arm that can work closely with implementing organizations to realize his vision. This knowledge arm will bring together pedagogical expertise and experience, research and analytical prowess to both co-create in the current context and institutionalize knowledge for the long term. This knowledge arm, ideally, should be situated in a reputable university.

This is where CETE comes in. It has a strong potential to become a strong technical arm in education. Its aspirations also go beyond being a technical arm for one large institutional funder. CETE wants to establish itself as an independent entity that can influence several governments, institutions – nationally and internationally. This independence is key to transforming lives and work of teachers at a large scale, they feel.

This ambition of large-scale impact requires to enroll multiple funders and stakeholders. However, investing in Teacher Professional Development is not attractive for many funders as it does not produce quick, visible outcomes. It also does not directly translate to student learning outcomes immediately.

CETE feels working on teacher’s personhood, status and dignity of profession is fundamental to ensuring quality education for all children. How can it enroll a large number of funders and stakeholders to investing in such a vision of teacher development and education transformation? Like Sharan, different funders have their own priorities and frameworks that guide their funding decisions.

We felt it was useful to map the entire funding landscape, develop in-depth understanding of different funder groups – their motivations, aspirations, barriers and challenges; their current work and portfolios of funding; their future plans. This understanding would guide creation of a clear CETE proposition for different funder groups. This would then feed into all communication with funders as well inform CETE’s program design.

We started with in-depth internal conversations that helped consolidate and articulate CETE’s vision and objectives as well as the program architecture. We then mapped the funding ecosystem based on extensive secondary study and in-depth conversations – their focus areas, history of funding, budgetary allocations, their need for partnerships and perceptions about CETE. We used concepts (developed based on internal conversations) to stimulate conversations and understand a range of perspectives. This helped us understand the appeal and relevance of CETE’s vision and concepts among different funder groups.

We were then able to segment funders and prioritize the segments to seek partnerships for short term and long term engagements and different areas and regions of mutual interest.

This deep funder mapping and synthesis unfolded CETE’s story for different funder groups. That translated into a range of engagement (product) roadmaps, collaterals and pitches – all customized to the needs of the segment.

For instance, a funder group like Sharan, required a structured way to engage with their partners. We developed an engagement framework for large funders.

The needs of smaller funders, on the other hand, were more informal and tactical. They had specific focus and needed immediate tangible feedback on their investment. The roadmap for the smaller funders relied on modular and visible offerings by CETE.

This engagement with potential funders also clarified their needs for research collaborations, partnerships on evaluations and certifications, scaling and working closely with all levels of government. This underlined how critical it was to develop an overall collaborative approach and working with other organizations in the sector. This, in turn, informed them on how the CETE team needs to be organized to deliver on its promises.