Tech for transparency: this startup helps you monitor CSR spends and impactVishal Krishna
Bridge Impact aggregates companies' CSR spends on its platform and allows them to understand where and how their contributions are making a difference.
Everyone wants to make a difference, and while increasing CSR budgets are often channelled through NGOs to action these thoughts, the honest truth is that most people look at them sceptically. We wonder how NGOs work, what do they do with the money they get, and more importantly, whether they are actually creating an impact?
Sonal Chopra founded Bridge Impact to help people with these exact concerns. The startup helps NGOs become transparent using technology so that donors have full visibility of where their money is being used.
Bridge Impact’s own research reveals that a large number of companies and NGOs still use traditional and less effective ways such as physically collecting, compiling and reporting data when implementing CSR programmes. This, in turn, leads to poor findings, inaccurate results and faulty impact assessment. In the digital age, this is a huge waste of effort, time and money.
Bridge Impact addresses these issues with a technology-driven approach to CSR management, monitoring and reporting. Specifically, it has developed a web and mobile interface that lets corporates monitor any CSR project they have contributed to, in real time.
Wanting to make a difference
Sonal started down this road as a 16-year-old when she attended the Harvard University Leadership Summit and the Presidential Classroom in Washington DC. She returned with ideas about how she could make a difference to society. Sonal wanted to create better opportunities for the less-privileged and the obvious idea was to start an NGO. However, when she visited NGOs, she saw that the development sector lacked the operational efficiency of the private sector. She also realised technology could play a pivotal role in truly uplifting communities.
“Our approach is very simple - donating a blanket will save the destitute from cold, providing them momentarily relief. However, it won’t bring about a lasting change in their lives. To truly make a difference, we must empower them to be self-sustainable,” says Sonal.
Armed with a degree in Business-Economics Strategy from King’s College London, Sonal founded Bridge Impact in March 2017.
The nitty gritty of giving back to society
Bridge Impact was founded on the premise that while working towards achieving common social goals, companies and non-profits constantly face issues such as lack of transparency, understanding of the impact, and inefficient coordination. Without the right tools, stakeholders are often ill-equipped to monitor and measure social returns on their investments.
“While financial performance can be easily assessed using different financial metrics, measurement of social impact in quantified values often becomes a challenging and daunting task for organisations,” says Sonal.
With Bridge Impact, they are able to smoothly manage and monitor CSR projects, employee volunteering and payroll giving - not just planning, but also implementation and performance monitoring. Not just that, the solution also reduces overhead costs in a big way and makes more funds available for the programmes themselves.
How the solution works
Technology-driven end-to-end CSR management is also helping bolster transparency and effectively monitor the funding and evaluation of such programmes.
“Our platform provides an easy-to-use web and mobile interface for effective implementation and real-time monitoring, evaluation and management to achieve maximum impact. Our technology enables mobile data collection, project monitoring and tracking, analysis and insights and auto-generated customised reports that ensure multi-stakeholder involvement in the entire process,” says Sonal.
Bridge Impact works in three phases:
- Pre-implementation: This includes selecting implementation partners for high social return projects. It maps all the indicators and metrics to be monitored throughout the project life cycle.
- Monitoring and evaluation: Here, the platform is integrated during the project implementation phase, where the implementation team can capture, access and manage real-time last mile data from remote locations.
- Reporting and impact analysis: After the project is completed, they can use impact frameworks to analyse the changes brought in by the social interventions.
Industry ecosystem and Bridge Impact
CSR programmes are implemented through a strong Corporate-NGO partnership. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs reports that companies spent Rs 28,111.63 crore on CSR activities in FY17. In their first two years of the CSR mandate implementation, companies were mostly focussed on the compliance part. With CSR mandates now moving into the fourth year, a company's outlook has shifted from just compliance towards the actual impact of a CSR programme.
Now, companies are increasingly conducting assessment studies to ensure long-lasting impact and making sure that the money they’re investing is being used optimally. However, they still lack the skills and expertise to calculate SROI (social return on investment).
Currently, India has around 3 million NGOs, many of which have partnered with corporates to implement CSR programmes. An Epic Outlook Research of 2018 that surveyed 4,000 NGOs revealed that 31 percent lack a basic framework and the technical know-how of monitoring and evaluation techniques.
The way forward
In less than a year, Bridge Impact has developed and implemented several employee engagement programmes to help different organisations meet their social goals. It is working for a few companies, but did not divulge details. Its business model is to charge the companies an annual subscription for using the platform.
Sonal claims Bridge Impact has collaborated with the Government of Rajasthan to transform Girl Schools into “Hubs of Educational Excellence” for enhancing girl child education. This programme includes regular remedial classes, career counselling, college admissions along with the holistic development of girls and their community. It also framed a ‘Disability Skilling Project’ for an F&B client in Noida and a ‘Livelihood Skill Training Project’ for a consumer electronics brand.
Bridge Impact faces three major challenges - lack of clarity in maintaining proof of work, NGOs seeking pro-bono services and corporates that are unaware of problems faced by NGOs. Sonal adds that it is extremely challenging to convince a large or small organisation to buy technology for their programmes.
“The initial phase to convince an enterprise client is tough but once they are onboard and witness the difference created by a digital solution, it is worth all the efforts and struggle. Once a portfolio is created and NGOs start getting donors, it creates a win-win situation for all the key partners involved in a particular programme,” she explains.
Bridge Impact competes with companies like LetsNurture, which builds technology for NGOs.