REVIVE and Societal Thinking – Exploring economic resilience for 10 million, together
It was the height of the COVID pandemic. Many communities, especially the socio-economically vulnerable, had been pushed further to the margins. REVIVE Alliance took shape as a blended finance facility and livelihood accelerator to help informal workers and micro-entrepreneurs recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. To do so, REVIVE brought together actors across Samaaj and Bazaar – philanthropic partners such as USAID, MSDF and Omidyar Network, and over 40 corporate and implementation partners.
We tried to address all dimensions of the ‘problem with the problems’ – from returnable grants to individuals and small businesses, skilling opportunities and market linkages to digital literacy and access to social security schemes. We had three big quests: responding to urgent needs, innovating in times of crisis and facilitating collaboration between diverse stakeholders. During this period of REVIVE Alliance, all our energy went into unlocking economic recovery and sustenance.
As India emerged from the throes of the pandemic, we found ourselves at a critical juncture. REVIVE Alliance was conceptualised as a one-to-many co-creative effort. However, we weren’t fully geared to catalyse interactions (i.e., facilitating participation, value exchange and co-creation between State, civil society, and markets) in such an ecosystem. We realised to ensure sustainable and resilient livelihoods, creating change at societal scale is necessary. We knew it was going to be a difficult journey, but would it be lonely?
Finding kindred spirits at Societal Thinking
About 4 years ago, we had spoken to Sanjay Purohit at Societal Thinking. Then, we weren’t ready to move away from delivering a programme for a partner to co-creating with them, i.e., restoring the agency to solve instead of distributing tested solutions. Last year, however, was a turning point. We met the Societal Thinking team again and recognised in them a kindred spirit. It was an AHA! Moment. The team suggested exactly what we were looking for – a multiple-intervention approach powered by technology and ecosystem play.
This mindset shift not only changed us within the organisation but also how we wanted to go forward.
In no time we flew down to meet the team. We discussed Societal Thinking Core Values. We found resonance in the way they offered clarity at crossroads and showed us the way forward. Soon after, we formally signed up to be a ‘Societal Scaler’.
The next 5 years
For the last few months, the Societal Thinking team has been walking with us on our journey. Together, we are figuring out how to reimagine solving at scale. Within our organisation, we are slowly witnessing how an idea turns into action, action into belief and belief into a regenerative cycle of change.
We are now geared to create irreversible economic mobility and resilience for 10 million participants and partners in REVIVE.
Here’s a peek into the next 5 years for us:
- We envision blended finance as a game changer in opening a pathway from pure philanthropy to a market-based debt financing mechanism. We believe this will allow people perceived as high-risk access to formal credit and graduate to the formal economy. The bundle will also prioritise a ‘pre-credit score’ which will empower users with easier access to credit.
- Digital literacy forms an integral part of building the core capabilities of our participants, especially in terms of supporting the switch to digitally enabled payments and financial services.
- We are co-creating a blended finance skilling facility which aims to bring together all stakeholders within the ecosystem to support placement and retention-focused skilling programs, provide access to finance to leverage these programmes and create a pipeline of employment and progression opportunities for the participants.
- REVIVE will have special focus on women, informal sector workers, unregistered MSMEs and young people. It will use customised interventions to cater to the unique needs of the new-to-credit segment.
- REVIVE will enable access to and enrollment in government welfare programmes/schemes and promote social security.
- We will leverage exponential technology to enable multiple interventions, Empower with Data and co-create public goods with the ecosystem.
- We wish to demonstrate that we can execute our goal for 10 million participants using the Societal Thinking approach.
- We are looking at 4 measures to show improvement – Income, Resilience, Skills Progression and Women’s Empowerment to be delivered along with other sector participants.
After 5 years, we hope our partners, NGOs and government actors decide to up the ante from 10 million to 100 million, with or without us. This, to us, will be a clear sign of success. It will ensure users that aren’t normally reached, reap the benefits of multiple stakeholders driving multiple interventions, together. Now that’s a country where everyone thrives!