In conversation with Mr. Anand Datla, Head-Impact, Tata Trusts

Mr. Datla is serving as the Head – Impacts, Tata Trusts and has been a management consultant for the last twenty years. According to him, the corporate houses are deeply focused on efficiency in bringing profits for the clients and Tata trusts has been doing meaningful work, transiting into the social sector, and working with the marginalized communities in some of the most challenging geographies in India on health, education, rural upliftment, urban poverty, energy, water & sanitation and arts & culture.

Please tell us about Tata Trusts focus on impact measurement and its initiatives.

It is necessary for the organization to understand the influence of their work on the stakeholders, considering the scale and depth of investment made during the process. It so happens that the solutions proposed by the organizations may not be in accordance to the need of the stakeholder communities, therefore, it becomes important to understand the importance of the impact on them in order to take concrete decisions, ensuring the organization's target to reach 100 million people by 2021, prioritizing quality over quantity.

How do you see the impact measurement playing a crucial role in current development ecosystem?

Impact measurement remains a big challenge as work happens in fragments in the sector irrespective of people and organizations with good intentions and a steady flow of resources. This has been primarily due to the sector's inability to use technology and processes needed to build a meaningful mechanism or model to assess the importance of the work done. Due to this reason, each investment made in the sector is new instead of a learned one. It is the utmost cry of the sector to make a transition from making a passionate investment in social change to informed passionate change in the sector therefore, it is required to work in a cyclical manner from start-to-end and identify indicators that help in understanding the nature of influence it has on the stakeholders and proceeds accordingly.

Your thoughts on ‘need of impact advocacy for better CSR planning’.

Impact advocacy is the crying need of the time as the CSR mandate is relatively young and it is necessary to focus on long-term thought process which has gained credence and importance in due course. The organization feels that the work on CSR front is done on patchwork in order to fulfil the obligatory criteria without getting the importance it requires. It is necessary to change the strategies and operational perspective in the execution in order to sustain long-term impact. In doing so, the organizations need to find a cause which may align with their business ensuring CSR as a commitment to the society rather than a component in the balance sheet making progressive long-term investments rather than piecemeal- philanthropy.

How do you see technology playing a vital role in impact measurement?

Technology is a late entrant in the social sector. It has not been used diligently by the sector, applying it only for documentation and communication purpose for the time and length. Technology, according to the organization is a true enabler for collecting and utilizing necessary information for the sector. Technology helps in giving a better understanding of the program to the implementers and therefore there is urgent requirement to develop an integrated model digital support system for facilitating investment and operationalize it for the social sector. The implementation of integrated solution can serve the necessary requirements and bring about the needed change in the scenario.

Your message to CSR Heads for planning outcome related projects.

The organization feels that the CSR heads must collaborate with each other to develop long-term goals for their programs to have the desired impact on the society. They must develop their leadership support system along with improving the scope of a long-term and medium-term investment in their causes as activated and outputs may not be equivalent to the outcomes. They must focus on strategizing and investing in causes which will have a massive impact on the society altogether.

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