Balance for Better: Neelam Chhiber, social entrepeneur
As part of our International Women’s Day blog series, we have interviewed some of the brilliant people that make our work at Womanity possible. Industree Foundation was selected as a WomenChangeMaker (WCM) in 2013. In this interview, we hear from their founder Neelam Chhiber on what she has learnt from the WCM programme, and on what Balance for Better means to her.
How WCM helped Industree Foundation?
Womanity and WomenChangeMakers have been instrumental in helping us build a stronger organisation. We got a detailed needs assessment to identify our strengths and opportunity areas. We realised we needed to build a stronger non-profit with a model that allowed for blended finance. This led to an expansion strategy with support from external partners including PWC Strategy&, Mercuri Urval and Accenture. What was most useful though, was the opportunity to step back and reflect. It can be hard to find the time to do that.
In your opinion, what’s the most valuable aspect of the WCM programme?
It’s the high-level technical help that WomenChangeMakers provides – very few donors do that. The investment in core organisational development has been so valuable to us. WCM is flexible and bespoke and we get support tailored to our needs. We’ve built a long- term relationship with Womanity, and some strong connections with corporate partners. For example Mercure have helped us a lot with coaching and HR.
What advice would you give to new WCM Fellows?
I recommend finding 1 or 2 WomenChangeMakers Alumni and building strong bonds with them. Speak to them. Take the time to do this and treat them like your mentors. They will be hugely supportive.
Industree has achieved so much, so quickly. What has been at the heart of your success?
Great clarity of vision. And perseverance. That is what keeps your team with you. In this sector you have to shift strategies to survive. You can’t have a rigid approach, or you will fail. You have you adapt constantly. But through it all the team should be clear that there is a specific vision that you are working towards.
What’s Industree’s biggest challenge at the moment? And how can funders respond to it?
Scale is the holy grail. But this comes with its challenges. How do you extend your reach, but not spread too thin? Very simply, donors could provide more flexible, unrestricted funding and support for core costs.
What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt?
It’s all about investing in people. None of us can do anything without strong organisations. You can’t do it alone. It’s crucial to take hiring seriously, develop the senior leadership team, and build skills across the organisation.
What advice would give to a social entrepreneur who is just starting out?
To succeed you need people that believe as much as you do in the cause. This comes with time and by going through ups and downs together. It’s important to have a resilient team. Social enterprises will go through lots of highs and lows and you need people who will stick with you. Funds will come and go, but good people do not.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Balance for Better”. What does “Balance for Better” mean to you?
When I think about the campaign “Balance for Better”, I immediately think about economic equality for women around the world. It is proven that when women work, the health, nutrition, and education outcomes of their families increase. This means that a balanced household income will not only lead to the empowerment of women, but also positively affect the next generation. Let’s work toward a world with gender balance in household earnings.
Find out more about how WomemChangeMakers is helping to support female social entrepreneurs.