Creating partnerships with change makers and innovators

The following interview with Thousand Currents’ Trishala Deb, Regional Director for Asia, was written by Meher Gandevia of the Center for Advancement of Philanthropy and was included in their most recent newsletter.

IDEX* is a US-based nonprofit grantmaking organization that works through long-term flexible funding partnerships with local leaders and organizations focusing on food sovereignty, climate justice, and alternative economies in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

For the past 30 years, IDEX has grown and evolved into a grantmaking model in which they see themselves not as drivers, but as enablers of sustainable social change. Trishala Deb is the Regional Director of the Asia Program at IDEX. Originally from Mumbai, she is humbled to work with partners from Nepal and India in this position.

What is philanthropy’s role in the current century?

In order too address the very complex and intractable problems of food insecurity, climate change, and economic inequality in the 21st century, foundations need to focus on social change rather than transactional funding.

So much funding goes to searching for new solutions when, in reality, those of us making grants are often not in the best position to understand local problems. This is why we fund the kind of local, grassroots work that can create long-lasting outcomes. And this is why one of IDEX’s goals is to shift the cultural paradigm of top-down international aid efforts, which historically ignore local wisdom.

Women working with IDEX’s partner ASHA Nepal, find that seed banks provide numerous benefits. Here women share how to line jars with ash to preserve seeds and protect them from insects.
Do you think grant-making is as effective as working with directly with the people?

Our partners are organizations that are made up of small-scale farmers, indigenous peoples, ethnic and sexual minorities, women and children. Everything that we do builds on the expertise of our partners.

Changing the power balance in philanthropy has a lot to do with building connections and alliances and adding value to them, rather than fragmenting existing efforts or starting interventions from scratch.

Are there areas that you would like to collaborate with other grantmakers on?

We, as funders, can serve as a way to translate, share and bridge the divides that can prevent a free flow of knowledge. We do alliance building work between our partners in the Global South and the United States, connecting folks working in similar areas within their communities and providing them a space to learn from each other’s strategies, struggles, and successes.

This is why I am personally excited about The IDEX Academy, which is an opportunity for philanthropy’s leaders to learn from those leading grassroots movements and organizations in the Global South. We invite every reader of this article to consider joining us for a future academy!

How does your organization define success?

Today, IDEX has supported over 500 grassroots, community-led projects in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, serving approximately 1.2 million people annually.

We use these metrics to understand our impact:

  • 82% find IDEX’s partnership model to be very or mostly effective.
  • 75% met all or almost half of their goals to address local needs with IDEX’s support.
  • 88% report they have been able to develop local, community-based solutions, either totally or to a great extent since receiving a grant from IDEX.
  • 75% identify a significant and substantive positive change in community members’ leadership.

An important definition of success for IDEX internally is the extent to which we have lived our values as a learning organization. When we engage deeply with our partners and continually experiment, then we become an organization that adapts.


*Thousand Currents changed its name from IDEX in 2016

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