Mar 15, 2016

What Makes Pratham a Successful Nonprofit?


On February 26, 2016, Dana Schmidt, program officer in the Global Development and Population Program and the Education Program of the Hewlett Foundation, spoke to supporters at a Pratham USA event in NYC about the reasons Hewlett has continued to support us.

Established in 1966, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation funds organizations and programs that address social and environmental problems worldwide. With limited funds and many areas of interest, it’s important for Hewlett to invest in programs with sound strategies for success.

Dana, who has been tracking Pratham’s work for nine years and has first-hand experience with our programs across 15 Indian states, commends our effective strategies in quantifying and improving the learning outcomes of India’s underserved children. She references Pratham’s Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) as an effectual tool that has helped shift the global education emphasis from school enrollment and completion to quality of learning.

Citing four elements that make a successful nonprofit, Dana gave examples of how Pratham meets each one:

Clarity of mission:  Pratham’s mission of “every child in school and learning well” permeates the entire organization, from the leadership down to the village trainer.

Focus on continuous learning and improvement: Pratham not only opens itself to external evaluation in the form of Randomized Control Tests (RCTs) but also has a separate unit to monitor and measure progress, leading to data-based decision making.

Flexible funding: Pratham through its supporters in the US and elsewhere has unrestricted funds available to it that allow it to experiment, innovate and scale.

Openness to sharing with others: It looks beyond itself to freely share its networks and knowledge, thereby influencing the larger primary education ecosystem, a prime example being ASER, which has inspired countries to implement similar learning assessments.

“Pratham has been incredibly open with all of these organizations, sharing everything they have learned, all of the bumps along the way to help folks skip some of the same mistakes and to make much faster progress than they would without that support.”

For more on what makes Pratham successful, as well as what challenges we face, watch the video of Dana’s speech.