Since its inception, Ambuja Cement Foundation has managed to successfully scale its work - growing from just 15 villages and a â‚¹1.01 crores investment in 1993, to 2073 villages and â‚¹11.6 crores in 2018. This scale is largely attributed to its ability to foster meaningful partnerships - with communities, other corporates and non-profits. However in 1998-99, ACF kick-started its first partnership with the Government of Gujarat, and since then, has not looked back - forging long-term partnerships with the Governments of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal among others to exact impact on the ground in rural communities across the country
So how did these Government partnerships come about, and what can other organisations learn about forging partnerships with the Government to help support their work?
"Working with the Government happened very organically for us," said Pearl Tiwari, CEO Ambuja Cement Foundation. "Our first partnership came about due to the knowledge and network of a consultant we worked with in Gujarat, way back in the 90s. She had a good understanding of the Government Programs and Schemes, and knew that they were looking for an implementing partner for a watershed project in a neighbouring district to where we worked. She helped us connect the dots, and we were chosen to implement the program in Jaffarabad in Gujarat."
In fact, this is how many of the Government Partnerships with ACF have come about. "The key is to start small." Pearl said. "And as you see success and impact, you can grow the partnership and project - taking it to newer territories."
"In the mid 2000's we were working with Truckers on HIV awareness and prevention and we proactively approached NACO, UNDP and different State AIDS control agencies. We went door knocking and built up small projects at first, growing it to 8 larger projects. We had to gradually build things up as we delivered and built trust with our partners."
"In fact building a level of trust, transparency and effectiveness on the ground is critical. We found that even if something didn't work, if we openly discussed it with our government partners, we built a strong relationship and level of trust that served us well in the long term." Pearl said.
Another key factor in ACF's ability to develop diverse Government partnerships, has been their integrated approach and diverse programmes. "Over time, you see different thrust areas become the national agenda and usually we are able to capitalise on our strength and experience - tapping into the national agenda campaigns and schemes to help us scale our work." Ms Tiwari said. "For example during the nation-wide focus on Swachh Bharat we effectively expanded our sanitation work. With vast experience and success in agriculture and water resource management, we have been able to harness the government's focus on these agendas to multiply the reach of these programmes also. A recent push on Non Communicable Disease also saw us take advantage of this to build partnerships that enabled us to develop and expand this programme."
Relationships are key to success in Government, Pearl believes. "You need someone who knows Government Schemes, programmes and priorities - but you also need to find your way to the right people - otherwise it is an ocean." She said.
Government partnerships are critical for any non-profit to effectively scale their work in a country as diverse and vast as India, and should be a key strategic focus for any organisation with proven programmes who want to generate a wider reach and impact on their target communities.