Naina Batra, Chairperson and CEO of AVPN (Asian Venture Philanthropy Network), joins Alberto Lidji to discuss donor collaboration in Asia and increasing the flow of capital into the social sector.
AVPN is a platform and network of investors and social funders who deploy capital for impact across Asia. Members deploy resources across a wide continuum of capital, from grant-making to impact investing, ESG and other variations. Members are both based in Asia and, also, some are global but have an interest in Asia. AVPN is based in Singapore.
We hear of the drive for scale and the importance of working with governments. AVPN started the Policy Forum, bringing private sector capital to work together with public sector money, collaborating around social issues. Much wealth in Asia comes from business and, traditionally, we hear how there is some trepidation about working with government. But, in the social space these unlikely collaborations are key.
Thematically speaking, Gender, COVID-19, Climate Action and Health have been very pronounced within AVPN. Also, about 60% of AVPN’s members fund Education and about 50% are interested in Health.
Naina mentions how in matters pertaining to Gender Equity and SDG 5 (UN Sustainable Development Goal 5) Asia has gone backwards in recent years. Therefore, gender has been of importance to AVPN. Last year, AVPN launched the Asia Gender Network, which is a collaboration between HNW (high-net-worth) Asian women who came together to foster a movement that aims for a more gender equal society that is also in tune with Asian values.
While they deeply care about gender equity, many Asian foundations are weary of terms like ‘feminism’ or approaches that embrace a more militant edge to the debate. There is much consideration to how one frames the debate and the discourse is more about soft power and getting the point across through more subtle ways — while there is a recognition that achieving SDG 5 is non-negotiable.
Knowledge sharing is a key aspect of AVPN’s work. AVPN has a Knowledge Centre that curates existing research for its members and aggregates practitioners’ insight. Their Academy aims to share this knowledge actively with a broad range of stakeholders. These initiatives are useful both for nascent philanthropists and experienced practitioners alike.
AVPN membership is at the organisation level — not individuals. Usually, it is the CEO of an organisation who represents that organisation at AVPN and, indeed, often many others from member organisations participate as well.
AVPN also has funds focused on specific thematic areas. For instance, they have a Healthcare Fund involving key organisations such as the Gates Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, Macquarie Bank and Sequoia — all coming together to pool their money to support healthcare organisations across south east Asia. In another fund, they’re collaborating with interesting organisations such as KKR, and Naina notes that many organisations are much more keen on taking on risk when they’re active in a pooled fund than when they’re doing grant-making individually.
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About Naina Batra
Naina joined AVPN as our CEO from September 2013, and was appointed Chairperson in May 2018. Naina’s leadership has nurtured the AVPN community, growing the membership base by more than 4x and elevating the organization into a truly regional force for good. Under her direction, the organization has grown from focusing only on Venture Philanthropy to supporting the entire ecosystem of social investors, from philanthropists to impact investors and corporate CSR professionals. She has also been instrumental in developing AVPN’s innovative services that connect, empower and educate the now 600+ members of AVPN. In 2019, Naina was awarded one of Asia’s Top Sustainability Superwomen by CSRWorks.
Prior to joining AVPN, Naina was a member of the senior leadership team of a purpose driven unit at The Monitor Group, a leading global strategy consulting firm, aimed at catalyzing markets for social change. Naina was also partner and Co-Founder of Group Fifty Private Ltd, curating contemporary Indian art with a view to provide a medium for upcoming and established Indian artists to showcase their work directly to a large and diverse audience.
Naina has a master’s degree in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University where she graduated at the top of her class. She also holds a bachelor degree in Economics and International Relations from Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, USA and a General Course Diploma in economics from The London School of Economics.