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Empowering the Global South: A Conversation With Naina Subberwal Batra

The Global Impact Leaders is a diverse and inclusive network of leading impact practitioners and thought leaders working to solve the world’s most pressing social and environmental problems. In this Q&A, Naina Subberwal Batra, an inaugural member of the group, discusses her work amplifying underrepresented voices and the need for cross-sector partnership to achieve the change we seek.

Naina Subberwal Batra is the CEO of AVPN, the world’s largest network of social investors in Asia. The company recently launched Global Leadership Academy (GLA), which focuses on amplifying underrepresented groups in the Global South. The inspiration for GLA was fueled by the results of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The pandemic made it clear that local knowledge is critical in making funding decisions and that traditional approaches to philanthropy and social investment need to be quicker and more responsive to local needs,” said Batra.

In this interview, Batra shares more about her work, discusses the importance of embracing cross-sector partnerships, and expresses the need to realize the intersectionality of the critical issues our world faces in order to effect real change.

What does being part of the inaugural Global Impact Leaders network mean to you?

It is such an honor to be among inspiring and impactful leaders from all corners of the world. I believe in the power of networking and learning from each other’s experiences, knowledge, and wisdom. As a part of the Global Impact Leaders, I hope to amplify unheard voices by recalibrating power dynamics.

To enable change from within the Global South, there is an urgent need for a platform where the voices of Global South leaders will have a rightful place. The great work and progress that has been done in the region can become a model for other parts of the world. There is still much work to be done, so I hope that being a part of this group results in more collaboration to create innovative solutions.

What do you hope this group will achieve?

In the impact sector, we cannot create change at scale by working in silos. Many, if not all, social and environmental issues require cross-sector partnerships in order to create actual change. Sometimes, this means partnering with unlikely allies toward a common goal. With other Global Impact Leaders, I hope to tackle problems that are complex and often overlooked.

The social issues we see globally are daunting, but through partnership and strategic vision, we can move mountains and coordinate between our trusted regional platforms. Ultimately, we hope to give a voice to the people who are best placed to determine where resources and funding should be deployed, forge alliances to share knowledge and best practices and encourage local capital providers to be bold and impactful in their social investments in order to create sustainable impact in line with the SDG goals.

Please tell us a bit about the work you’re doing within AVPN. What projects are you excited to be working on right now?

AVPN is the world’s largest network of social investors and philanthropists in Asia Pacific. With over 600 diverse members across 33 markets, we facilitate collaborations between policymakers, family foundations, government organizations, and the private sector to increase the impact and flow of capital to close SDG gaps in the region. We are excited to work on various projects and funds within our different platforms: gender, climate, health, and youth. One of the new grounds that we recently entered is around faith-based giving, and how we can include faith-based givers and organizations in our conversations. In addition, we are working towards expanding our work in the impact investing space to find more innovative ways to unlock capital for impact.

Alongside GLA, we are also excited about our new AVPN Philanthropy Fellowship, in partnership with the Cambridge Judge Business School Centre for Strategic Philanthropy. I look forward to hearing the engaging discussions between philanthropists, policymakers, academics, corporate professionals, and more to better understand how philanthropy can create sustainable, scalable, and measurable impact.

How can the impact community maximize its efforts to solve the world’s urgent problems at scale?

When we think about solving critical issues, we have to always consider the intersectionality between various problems. When we discuss gender, we are also discussing health, and when we are talking about health, we also need to discuss climate. How can we go deep in developing solutions that can target specific outcomes while also recognizing the intersectionality of issues and the interconnectedness of communities, both locally and globally? To maximize our efforts, we need to include all impacted stakeholders when working on an initiative or project.

What are your hopes for the future of impact?

Looking ahead, I hope we continue to be bold with our work and dive into various challenges and spaces we haven’t considered before. I want to see more trust between those providing capital and those working directly in the field. By doing these two things, I believe we can broaden and deepen our impact as an ecosystem.

With so many daunting challenges, what keeps you inspired in your work?

Whenever I feel like there is so much work to be done, I think to myself that there is not enough time to do all the work that I want to do, that I need to do. However, looking back on my organization’s last 10 years, I can see that we have done so much both as an individual company and as an ecosystem. We have grown exponentially from where we started to where we are now. Impact Investing has gone mainstream, philanthropy more strategic, and we are seeing more collaborations and innovation time after time, which makes me excited about what’s ahead. I am proud to be a part of the largest social investor network in Asia, bringing the voice from the South to the global community. These are the things that inspire me to keep going.

What advice or encouragement would you give to someone who is new to the impact field?

Firstly, there is enough space for everyone in the impact field. There is no need to fight for the same capital, grants, or organizations to support. Be bold and innovative with your thoughts and ideas, and find your place in this vibrant and ever-growing space.

My second piece of advice is to collaborate. Whatever it is that you want to do, you should not be doing it alone. Make those connections, ask questions, and learn from one another.

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