Sustainable and lasting development has been a cornerstone of the work supported by the Trusts for over a century now. One of India's largest and oldest non-sectarian philanthropic organisations, the Tata Trusts, have been working to impact the quality of life of the communities in a holistic manner to create a country of more equal opportunity. We are spread across 17 states and 170 districts in areas of Health and Nutrition Water and Sanitation, Livelihoods and Education in some of the most deprived geographies.
Since its inception, the Tata Trusts have played a pioneering role in transforming traditional ideas of charity and introducing the concept of philanthropy to make a real difference to communities. Through grant-making, direct implementation and co-partnership strategies, the Trusts support and drive innovation in the areas of natural resources management; education; healthcare and nutrition; rural livelihoods; enhancing civil society and governance; media, arts, crafts and culture; and diversified employment. The Trusts perhaps are a unique example where the culture of philanthropy is embedded into the company mandate and is reflected in the Trusts having a significant role in determining the use of income towards development and philanthropy. Additionally, we see ourselves not just as a donor but aim to ensure that the learnings from our programming is adopted and influences policy. Thus, our raison d'etre to realize sustainable and lasting development for the nation.
September 2015 marked the end date for the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were agreed on by 193 countries globally, including India. A new set of 17 ambitious and transformative goals called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been adopted by countries globally with a commitment to achieve these goals by 2030. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. These 17 Goals are built on the successes of the MDGs, while including new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice. The goals are interconnected - often the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another.
From the Trusts' perspective, it becomes evident that the SDGs can be realized only if we work in a spirit of partnership and pragmatism to make the right choices to improve life, in a sustainable way, for future generations. There is an emergent need to reinforce commitments with correct action to be reflected across all levels. The role of the private sector is extremely important to ensure that policies they follow do not hinder sustainable development, rather, should contribute to sustainable growth and development, doing their part to contribute to people and the planet. Key aspects identified to make such a multi-stakeholder approach successful would include technical support, capacity building, data convergence, and working in tandem with state governments. We have translated this approach to work with state governments with specific agreed objectives to tackle the diverse developmental challenges plaguing the country today.
As forerunners in the field of philanthropy in the country, the Trusts understand that the concept of philanthropy itself has undergone a sea change. While putting some money in the hands of specific segments of the population through NGOs might have been the norm earlier, there is an increasing awareness that such initiatives would not provide sustainable solutions. Making a difference in the lives of the most marginalised in a lasting manner thus needs a paradigm shift.
Whilst the focus was previously on increasing incomes, we need to look at other areas in conjunction with this, such as health education and water and sanitation, so that the overall "quality of life "is improved. In addition, rather than working in small pockets, we are looking at different ways of working in order to ensure scale, impact and influence of what we do. We will also continue to support research institutions and innovative projects, so that we reflect on the main problems that require attention. Fundamentally, our effort would remain on the overarching challenge of ensuring lasting and sustainable development to the most marginalised to create a country of equal opportunities, which was the vision of Jamsetji Tata the founder of the Tata Trusts.
By Shireen Vakil