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Santosh Charan: Kickstarting Early-Stage Nonprofits and Social Entrepreneurs

Santosh Charan: Kickstarting Early-Stage Nonprofits and Social Entrepreneurs

Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only Interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Santosh Charan, Associate Director of The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation. Let’s head over to Bangalore, India, and see what Santosh is doing to make a positive impact in the world. 

Spiffy: Welcome, Santosh, it’s great to meet you. I’ve been trying to track you down for this interview! Can you start by telling me what challenges you are addressing? 

Santosh: Well, I’m glad you finally caught me, Spiffy! At The/Nudge Centre for Social Innovation, we believe that top talent is the key to unlocking innovation, new philanthropy, and public policy to deliver disproportionate social impact for the economically disadvantaged. Therefore, we support top talent to work on India’s most critical social challenges. We provide flexible capital, mentoring and advice, and the right connections to enable nonprofit social entrepreneurs to create meaningful impact at scale.

Spiffy: It sounds like you cover it all! What motivated you to invest your time and energy to support top talent for social change?

Santosh: I stumbled upon the problem of educational inequity in my neighborhood while I was in college. The early exposure made me realize that there's something called birth lottery and usually your zip code and the family you're born into can determine your future. I found this extremely unfair and ever since, social problems such as educational inequity, access to healthcare and housing, and climate change seemed like the most purposeful issues for me to work on.

Spiffy: The birth lottery is a new concept to me—thanks for teaching me something new! Can you talk a bit about how you are working to create a more equitable world? 

Santosh: While markets and the economy will create jobs and solve some problems, solving the toughest problems for the poorest population has generally remained out of reach of market-based models. We believe that nonprofits—with their singular focus on impact—are uniquely positioned to alleviate extreme poverty. Our support of early-stage nonprofits has already kickstarted many exceptional entrepreneurs on their journey towards meaningful impact at scale across key sectors including education, livelihood, and housing.

Spiffy: Are there any initiatives that you’re particularly excited about? What impact do you anticipate it will make? 

Santosh: We recently launched the "Meri Mitti Challenge" ("My soil"/"Her soil"). A majority of rural and tribal women contribute to India’s economy through land-based livelihoods including agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and pastoralism, yet, they constitute only 14% of the country’s landowners, and rarely have control over the land they work on. The pandemic has worsened an already uneven field for women. The Challenge will support rural organizations to develop innovative solutions and strengthen existing interventions designed to improve land access and ownership for women in rural communities. Women, when they are landowners, are more economically independent, physically safe, and their families have improved nutrition and health outcomes.

Spiffy: I hope that’s a game-changer for women! What start-up or project exemplifies the impact you’re striving to make?

Santosh: Wow, there are so many stellar nonprofits that I've been lucky to work with. It’s so, tough to pick just one! Intelehealth, for example, is delivering quality healthcare where there are no doctors, by supporting frontline health workers such as community health workers, nurses, and doctors. They've built a telemedicine app that connects FHWs with remote doctors over low bandwidth video/audio connections, thereby ensuring that the right medical expertise is made available in remote areas. Anahad Foundation is another nonprofit that empowers folk musicians with technology through their "backpack studio"—improving income for the musicians and preserving folk music in India.

Spiffy: I’m going to check those out! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me, Santosh. It’s been an honor!


Santosh Charan leads the land and housing initiative at The/Nudge Foundation. Over the past three years, he has supported more than 50 social entrepreneurs in scaling their impact. At The/Nudge, Santosh also built and led poverty alleviation programs for at-risk youth. Prior to this, he worked in the education sector at Teach for India, where he taught children from disadvantaged backgrounds and later set up the region's corporate relations and led Fellowship Recruitment for two years. (Nominated by Bridges of Sports Foundation. First published on the Ladderworks website on September 15, 2021.)


© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.