A serial entrepreneur, Dhruv Khaitan has helped conceptualise, create and scale high-technology ventures in India and has strategically mentored...
Investment opportunity #6: Providing talent support to build strong and scalable public systems
Case study: Lend a Hand India’s (LAHI) Project Catalyst supported by a diverse cohort of fundersxiv
About the model: Lend-A-Hand India (LAHI) is a nonprofit focused on integrating skill education as part of mainstream school education, by deepening partnerships with state governments through Project Catalyst. This programme supports state governments by providing quality talent support for technical and programme management that is required to offer vocational education as part of mainstream education in the state. Qualified staff members identified, trained and employed by LAHI are embedded within the state department of education to support the state on policy execution. These team members are co-located and work alongside government officials at state, division and district levels to prepare a long-term strategic roadmap, draft funding proposals and execute a policy. This is a prime example of nonprofits filling a critical gap in public service and building strong partnerships for systems strengthening. To retain independence and avoid conflict of interest, the support is provided at no financial cost to the government. LAHI also sets up a demonstration model in government schools located in close proximity to the government secretariat to showcase best practices and influence policy. Project Catalyst operates as a three-way, public- private partnership, where the nonprofit delivers technical and domain expertise, funded by private capital, and backed by central and state governments.
Impact and scaling potential: Since its inception, LAHI has partnered with close to 25 states, including union territories, supporting the state governments to offer vocational education in 10,000-plus schools covering more than one million high school students. One of the landmark policy-level achievements has been the recognition of vocational education as a 100-mark subject within the mainstream government schooling system in 2014. By placing staff members within the government department, LAHI has been able to introduce and scale innovative initiatives such as internships for high school students, a multi-skill approach to vocational education and an online dashboard to monitor statewide implementation.
Philanthropic spotlight: LAHI has received core funding support for Project Catalyst from JPMorgan Chase Foundation, along with Bajaj Auto and the MacArthur Foundation. The Harish and Bina Shah Foundation (HBS Foundation) supports LAHI for its own capacity building to provide quality talent and support to state governments, and thereby strengthen vocational education in public schools. Providing talent support represents a critical yet underfunded area of investment. Immense potential exists for philanthropists across various stages of their giving journeys to support nonprofit models that plug in to essential components of a systems solution, such as access to quality talent.