India’s nonprofits face significant challenges to scaling, despite growing need from the country’s most vulnerable populations. Akshaya Patra, the India’s largest nonprofit, is a tenth of the size of Bangladesh’s largest nonprofit, BRAC — and one hundredth of the size of established nonprofits in the U.S. like United Way. For India’s nonprofits, resources are scarce, government subsidies are few, and the regulatory environment is complex. This environment makes it challenging for nonprofits to attract and retain quality talent and often deters young entrepreneurs from trying to solve some of the most pressing problems in India.
The challenges facing India’s nonprofits are especially striking when it comes to property rights. Although an estimated 300 million Indians currently lack secure property rights, there are few new players stepping in to develop innovative solutions to help individuals and communities map, manage, and protect their rights to land and property.
At Omidyar Network, we seek to understand how markets can be unlocked, how solution models — both for-profit and nonprofit — can make social impact, and which models we can best uptake. Our global research with the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) shows that when ventures participate in an accelerator program, they are more likely to succeed and scale. This effect is particularly pronounced for ventures in developing countries. We believe that this same thinking can help solve the challenges facing India’s nonprofits — ultimately helping produce more innovative solutions for citizens who desperately need and deserve secure property rights.
That’s why we invested in the Land & Property Rights cohort of N/Core, End Poverty’s incubation program that makes it easier for nonprofits to succeed. N/Core provides emerging, high-potential nonprofits with not only a complete set of tools and skills training but also access to the capital and mentorship they need to sustain and scale. N/Core aims to do for the nonprofit sector what for-profit accelerators have done for the startup economy over recent years. Our investment in N/Core is part of an ecosystem building strategy and will help us build an enabling environment to support impactful models.
N/Core’s approach to incubation aligns closely with Omidyar Network’s DNA. The organization has a strong focus on applying technology to innovative nonprofit solutions, as well as identifying, selecting, and mentoring organizations in a way that resembles our own approach to impact investing. N/Core’s group of mentors are strong, diverse, and are drawn from the private sector, including industry experts such as Maneesh Dhir, former MD of Apple India; K Lakshminarayana, Chief Endowment Officer, Azim Premji Foundation; Ujwal Thaker, ex-CEO of Pratham India; and Sanjay Purohit, ex Consulting Board Chairman, Infosys.
Additionally, N/Core employs a variety of creative outreach methods to inspire and attract the best and brightest innovators. Its Impact Journalism Grant received over 130 applications and is currently funding 23 journalists and four researchers to cover land and property rights issues and solutions. At the same time, N/Core’s pitch competition and Ideathon provide entrepreneurs with a platform to ideate.
N/Core launched in 2017 and despite being a young incubator, it has attracted over 1,000 applicants and has graduated 10 nonprofits in its inaugural cohort — a number that is quite remarkable for nonprofit incubation.
While there is much work to be done to serve India’s vulnerable populations, particularly those that lack secure property rights, we’re encouraged by N/Core’s results thus far. N/Core illustrates that India is flush with talent, ideas, and entrepreneurship, and we must continue to find ways to support and scale these budding innovations and solutions. We look forward to helping N/Core and its cohorts grow, so that we may see a day when all Indian nonprofits — and the citizens they serve — receive the support they need to thrive.
To learn more about N/Core’s incubation program and the current application cycle, please visit N/Core’s website here. Applications for the next cohort are due June 10, 2018.