Shadhika Shadhika

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In a moment when change feels particularly needed yet thorny, what can we do as grant-makers to make a difference?

How can grant-makers make a difference?

By My Lo Cook, Executive Director

June 10, 2020

Change is hard.

Whether it is a change in our personal relationships or in a job situation. In a moment when change feels particularly needed yet thorny, what can we do as grant-makers to make a difference?

I assumed my new position as the world was shaken by the deadly spread of COVID-19 through our neighborhoods and families. As I settle into my role, the realities that the young women of Shadhika and our grantee partners in India face during a strict national lockdown are coming into focus. At the end of March, UNESCO reported that over 743 million girls have been forced out of school in 185 countries since the onset of the COVID-19 global outbreak. Through regular communications with our partners and program participants, we know that the slum and rural communities where resources and information are scarce have been disproportionately affected by the virus and the forced confinement. 

While Shadhika is actively monitoring the dynamic situation on the ground, there are valuable lessons to learn from previous disease outbreaks. Studies about the impact of the ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone demonstrate that tactical interventions that maintain contact with girls under lockdown to sustain a supportive human connection and minimize idle time can abate spiking rates of domestic violence and teenage pregnancy during confinement. Accordingly, Shadhika’s response to this public health crisis has been focused on addressing the isolation of our young program participants during school and in-person program closures.

To effectively mitigate the short- and long-term losses to COVID-19, nonprofit organizations have to be nimble, agile, and innovative to continue meeting the evolving needs of the communities they serve. While businesses are closing and unemployment rates are soaring worldwide, nonprofits must simultaneously prepare to survive the precipitous economic downturn still ahead. By all measures, we are living through unprecedented times. As a grantmaker, Shadhika is stretching our flexibility to help our partners operate more autonomously and effectively. We are creating expedited processes and making fast decisions to facilitate funding re-allocation so our partners can adapt swiftly to the fluid conditions on the ground. We are shifting our attention from outputs to outcomes to ensure that the cornerstone of our work continues to be the wellbeing of the young women; focusing more on the number of scholars who will resume classes to complete their schooling when college admission reopens and what they will need to succeed; not the number of online English lessons they attended during lockdown. 

Change is hard. But the work remains, and our commitment to the young women and partners is unchanged.

Shadhika believes that solutions do not come from us but from our partners and the young women they serve. We will continue making grants that elevate the grassroots ingenuity and innovation we see in our partners and our program participants through their efforts to mitigate the effects of COVID-19. Over the next couple of months, we will be highlighting resilience under lockdown in India. We invite you to join us for these upcoming opportunities to stay connected. Hear from the young women of Shadhika through a 4-part series titled “When She Leads Under Lockdown” and learn directly from our partner sites about the dynamic circumstances in their communities. More details are forthcoming.

After four weeks in my role as new executive director of Shadhika, two things have become evident to me. First, Shadhika is navigating the double burden of adjusting to a leadership change and a once-in-a-generation shift because of COVID-19, requiring a gentle yet steady hand. Second, the Shadhika community–including staff, board, donors, partners, and program participants–has the steadfast focus required to conquer whatever uncertainty lies ahead. 


If you wish to support our continued response and relief efforts, give to our COVID-19 Fund.

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