The AVPN India summit 2019 is one of the larger conferences in the Indian development sector. Over the past three years it has attracted a variety of social organizations, funders, investors, researchers and intermediaries. This year’s conference succeeded in bringing together over four hundred people during one day – November 28, 2019 – in Bengaluru.
The conference featured speakers and panel discussions on several different topics. Among the ones that were relevant to Tech4Dev were the panel discussions on Indian philanthropy which featured Smarinita Shetty from IDR speaking with Radhika Bharat Ram and Amira Shah on “Investing in shared purpose and values through family offices”. The latter’s foundation is a funder to the Tech4Dev initiative. The panelists were refreshingly honest about how they had learnt about the Indian social sector (a lot of experimentation rather than pre-planned design), how they picked the sectors in which to work (a focus on education, or a spread across a range of sectors), and about the kinds of initiatives that they would like Indian funders to support in future (riskier bets versus stable, proven programs). Conversations such as these are particularly relevant for Tech4Dev as we engage, and the NGOs whom we support, work with more Indian funders.
Another discussion that was important for Tech4Dev was the one on “Leveraging data and technology for social inclusion” which featured Swapnil Shekhar from Sambodhi speaking with Deepali Khanna (Rockefeller Foundation), Parag Mehta (Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth) and Prashant Mehra (Mindtree). Some of the points that stood out were the assertions that we faced a generational challenge in terms of data inequality, and that it was pointless to talk about social inclusion without addressing this challenge. This is a view that fits squarely with Tech4Dev’s drive to make code and data as open as is possible. The topics that the speakers covered included the Data Science for Social Impact Collaborative which Rockefeller Foundation and Mastercard had set up together, and which would include a USD 50 million fund, and the platforms which Mindtree has been building for the use of farmers.
Other panel discussions covered interesting topics such as regulations in the Indian development sector and how to build leadership within organizations. A number of good conversations were had with representatives of NGOs who were interested in learning about Tech4Dev and about how they could apply, as well as those from intermediaries that worked with NGOs and funding agencies.
Tech4Dev is a topic that sparks conversation quickly. What we as a group will need to continue to reflect upon is how best to participate in such conferences. Should we, for example, always try to present our work and what we have learned, by hosting sessions, giving talks or organising training sessions? What are the circumstances under which we should just attend and look for networking opportunities? As we continue to engage with others in the development sector, we will refine our model of engagement so as to provide and derive the most value for the initiative and the partner software firms and NGOs.