Torque’s engagement with the impact sector is longstanding and across varied domains – energy, education, livelihood, vocational training, mobility, financial inclusion.
Our engagement with Shell Foundation has spanned over a decade and across a matrix of issues and geographies. Multiple partners, government and third parties have been involved in making campaigns work.
The approach has always been to go beyond just the story and find ways to partner in advocacy, finding effective channels and engaging stakeholders.
The stories have been complex, often straddling the bottom of the pyramid at one end and large global platforms on the other, with concepts that have evolved over time. Cotton has moved the spectrum from organic to sustainable and GMO.
Mobilizing at the Grassroot
Torque campaigned against Indoor Air Pollution in state of Karnataka and worked in close collaboration with Government of Karnataka on behalf of Shell Foundation.
As part of the campaign, Torque convinced the Karnataka government to officially adopt “Indoor Air Pollution Free Karnataka” as its stated policy objective.
The process of driving this on ground involved training anganwadi workers, bringing district and zilla officials on board and creating village level activists.
Anganwadi partnerships on IAP
An important ally that Torque drafted in for IAP were the Anganwadi workers who learnt about the dangers of improved cook stoves and then held demonstrations in their communities to create awareness and drive adoption of improved cook stoves.
The support of anganwadi workers was obtained through discussions with the district authorities and supported by the Karnataka Chief Minister’s office.
Tackling Killer Kitchen Smoke in Bihar
With over 90 per cent sustained adoption of improved cook stoves, the Mahadalit Tola in Madhubani district of Bihar is a good example of how collaborations with the Government can create change.
Along the way, we enable social impact enterprises share their compelling stories, be it of women driving e-rickshaws or of the entrepreneurs who have to help families make the leap of faith in getting used to an idea that was fairly alien to them.
The challenge often in the social impact space is about restoring confidence in technologies that probably didn’t work well in their earlier avataars – be it solar or biogas. Enterprises such as Sistema are not just seeking disruption in the energy space but also negation of earlier experiences with biogas.
Some stories have scaled over a period of time.
At each step, they have had to communicate with a complex group of stakeholders.
The story of Husk Power and Inficold stand in that league.
Backed by the Bill & Melinda gates Foundation, AgriCord and Government of Netherlands, the Access to Seeds Index measures and compares the efforts of the world’s leading seed companies to enhance the productivity of smallholder farmers.
The Index seeks primarily to identify leadership and good practices, providing an evidence base for the discussion on where and how the seed industry can step up its efforts.
From smoke-less chullahs to induction cookers, the challenge has been less about better products and more about breaking comfort with existing methods and the aspiration for a gas stove. The stories we tell are about how Envirofit and Dharma Life are finding ways to break through.
The Shell Foundation story has been as much about its tactics as about the models it follows.
The Foundation moved from pure philanthropy to a mix of patient capital and philanthropic grant. In time, it further transitioned to enterprise solutions to poverty, broadening its portfolio and looking at driving scale with sustainability.
The lessons from Shell Foundation’s engagement in the sector has made for interesting stories over a period of time.
Building authority positions is not enough, particularly when the model itself is relatively new. As Shell Foundation evolved in its appreciation of what works, and what does not, the lessons were shared. In time, these are proving to the key enablers for involving an India based investing community that today sees investment in rural solutions both good for the community and for the business.
As new enterprises have come up that are seeking to provide appropriate solutions along an enterprise model, they are seeking understanding of a narrative that often involves traditional industries re-evaluating their understanding of reliable energy for critical needs.
Energy has been an interesting space, particularly off-grid energy even though the government has pushed for mega projects. Yet, off grid solutions continue to provide the most meaningful and immediate solutions. Interestingly, the key learnings have come from dealing with rural populations as customers who are willing to pay for their needs, understanding the cost benefits.
Building awareness on issues at various levels have been at the core of many campaigns, be on education or menstrual hygiene or indoor air pollution.
Torque has involved state governments, anganwadi workers, local village communities and a host of other stakeholders in building conversations and understanding about behaviour change.
Building a base of investors in social impact programmes and enterprises has always been a key mandate. Talking up success stories and presenting the case for such investments helps in creating a network of partners.
When it comes to advocacy, policy change involving multiple ministries is easier said and done. Over a period of half a dozen years, we have moved the needle for spouses of expatriates working in the country on behalf of Permits Foundation. In effect, Torque Communications is the operating arm of Permits Foundation in India engaged with MHA, MEA and other ministries.