NGOs, social sector companies bank on innovation

The Economic Times published an article online titled, “NGOs, social sector companies bank on innovation.” The article reads in part as follows;

“Innovation -perhaps the most-discussed C-suite topic for global businesses -has till now largely been associated with IT, finance, manufacturing and various consumer-led businesses. But as scale takes a vantage seat, even non-profits and companies in the social sectors are driving change and impact through innovation. The primary touch points of social sector like health, education and livelihood are slowly but surely incorporating measures to drive results that can be transformative.

Disruption has spread across several levels to address challenges of cost, hiring, scale of operations and the issue being addressed. Strategic cost management can help NGOs access new sources of revenue, expand their service footprint dramatically, and reduce resource hurdles to growth.

For example, one of world’s largest eye care provider -non-profit Madurai-based Aravind Eye Care -has reduced the cost of cataract surgery by applying a host of strategies including better utilisation of surgeons’ time, cost reduction of consumables, and setting up amanufacturing facility for intra-ocular lens and drugs at Aurolabs. Aravind’s cost of intra-ocular lens is $2, as against a global price of $80-100. “ Around 60 per cent of the 4.5 lakh cataract surgeries done yearly are free, of which 1,00,000 are done through 3,000-odd camps across Tamil Nadu through the hospital’s innovative outreach programme,“ Dr P Namperumalsamy , chairman emeritus, Aravind Eyecare System, told TOI.

A surgeon in Aravind performs over 2,000 cataract surgeries a year, which is five times the number performed by an average Indian ophthalmologist. Again, this is an indicator of optimum utilisation with trained paramedical staff carrying out routine tasks, leaving doctors to handle surgeries. The cost of cataract surgeries ranges from Rs 6,000 to Rs 25,000, depending on the length and nature of hospital stay , for those who are willing to pay and cross-subsidises others who cannot pay .

Innovative hiring aims to solve the challenges of scarce talent with strategies such as use of volunteering and developing own non-traditional talent supply. For example, Aravind Eye Care trains local women to act as mid-level ophthalmic personnel, while Educate Girls hires local youth, Team Balika, who form a key element of its community connections. Many large and ambitious Os stay focused on the size NGOs stay focused on the size of the need and emphasise population-level change. Denominator thinkers believe that untangling even one more part of a large, knotty problem creates a lot more value than perfecting a solution that serves relatively few, says Soumitra Pandey , partner India, The Bridgespan Group. Simply put, they focus on the size of the need to derive results. For example, Agastya uses both town-based experiential science centres and mobile science labs, including labs in vans and on motorcycles, to reach students in city and countryside to provide hands-on science learning.”

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