New Delhi, November 23, 2022, (Published as an article in the Financial Express): The emergence of COVID-19 caused havoc in both personal and professional life at a global level. With the life-threatening phase of COVID-19 receding, the American India Foundation (AIF) launched the ‘COVID Rehabilitation Fund’ and has successfully raised USD 10 million since its launch in August. These funds are being used to mitigate the social and economic impact of the pandemic and catalyze positive change in the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable communities by equipping their adaptive, and absorptive capacities to the post-COVID context.
Speaking about the vision of the Fund, Mr. Nishant Pandey, CEO, American India Foundation said, “Building on the experience of delivering tens of millions of dollars worth of life-saving relief operations during the peak of the second wave last year, the AIF launched the COVID Rehabilitation Fund on the momentous occasion of India’s 75th Independence Day, to support communities that continue to reel under the disproportionate medium-term impact of the crisis. Through the Fund, designing participatory goals, AIF is focused on the transition from crisis management to recovery, through a combination of protecting the poor; securing their access to quality healthcare and nutrition, addressing profound learning losses, and spearheading technological innovations to bolster access to remote and future workspace opportunities, while strengthening institutions to create a resilient job ecology. The deployment of funds would be made on need assessments of geographies and communities in distress, responding to the requests of the state and local administrations, in comprehensive alignment with supporters and donors.”
To maximize its reach, AIF has partnered with multiple public as well as private organizations. To begin with, they have partnered with the governments of Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Maharashtra to implement a promising approach to arrest and reverse childhood undernutrition and ensure holistic development of under 6 years children in the areas of health, nutrition, and early childhood learning. The program is intended to be a multisectoral intervention, strengthening coordination within various government departments. The private sector has also come forward to support the initiative with Adobe committing close to a million dollars for it. This partnership also proposes implementing a program in 300 schools to strengthen mental health and well-being amongst 36,000 adolescents to help mitigate the devastating effect of COVID-19.
Public and private partnerships have also enabled AIF’s flagship education Program – Digital Equalizer, to support 6500 schools, 150,000 teachers, and 850,000 students in bridging the learning gaps with remedial classes, building teacher capacity in digital pedagogy, and institutionalizing new-age STEM learning approaches in the schools. AIF in a tripartite agreement with Tata Steel Foundation and the Government of Jharkhand has also committed more than 100 crores towards reducing maternal and child mortality in focus districts of Jharkhand state. This is perhaps the single largest investment in recent years made possible through private-public and civil society organizations. AIF’s Livelihood intervention for Street Vendors – Entre-Prerana – leveraging loans worth $100 million under the PM SVanidhi Scheme under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, aims to rehabilitate the livelihoods of street vendors upended by the pandemic. It also leverages relationships with multiple municipal corporations across India for vendor registrations to ratify the status of approximately 500,000 street vendors as legal and authorized. The private sector has come forward to support the initiative with organizations like Bank of America, McArthur Foundation, and MSI, among others, committing over $ 1.5 million.
Mr. Pandey further added, “Through multi-stakeholder partnerships with the governments, the private sector, the civil society, and the communities, we strategically aim to help children bounce back from the loss of learning, nutrition, and emotional well-being; create a re-imagined job and entrepreneurship ecosystem in India that not only rebuilds but also uplifts the livelihoods; and build anticipatory capacities for disaster relief and management in public health, while strengthening public health delivery at the last mile in underserved rural/tribal communities.”
In terms of generating employment opportunities, AIF’s Livelihoods Program focuses on leveraging technology solutions to design unique market-relevant approaches, that provide knowledge, skills, and opportunities to disenfranchised communities in India, to help them secure dignified jobs, manage enterprises and make a respectable living. Nishant further added, “Our Rural Start-Ups Project aims to give multitudes of women a platform to build social identity, and financial capital, flip the gender indices, and boost the economy. Adding to that, AIF’s Future Workspace Skills Initiative will institutionalize digital skilling, upsurge work readiness, and provide locally accessible employment through remote work, while mainstreaming online skilling within colleges of Tier-II, Tier-III Cities, and rural areas. We have also designed, ‘Entre-Prerana’ – a project at the confluence of market and financial linkages, engineered to revive the livelihoods of 1 million street vendors and other nano entrepreneurs across 25 cities of India, by mainstreaming businesses through formal vendor registration, access to low-cost working loans through banks, linkages to the Government schemes like PM SVANIDDHI, and facilitating access to newer e-commerce markets and platforms. The Project will leverage catalytic capital to generate access to working capital for the street vendors, 25 times the investment, with an aggregate income enhancement of at least 200 times the investment. The intervention has benefitted over 130,000 street vendors since its launch in 2021.”
(This article was first published in the Financial Express: https://www.financialexpress.com/lifestyle/this-american-india-foundation-is-rebuilding-the-lives-of-many-indians-by-raising-10-million/2886427/ )