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Innovation in India

Executive Director, Julie Saunders, talks about Pepal’s ambitious new programme, Innovation in India, which will bring support and development to some of India’s most marginalised communities whilst offering a unique learning experience to professionals.

Innovation in India is nothing if not ambitious. Launched in January 2010, the programme pairs private-sector professionals with individuals from non-profit organisations to work jointly on community-based development projects in India. The aim is to get the best out of the private and non-profit sectors, to achieve a cross-fertilization of different ideas and perspectives to produce projects that make a tangible difference to some of the poorest communities. The projects will focus on new income generating models  and innovative market-driven ways of achieving community goals. All of them will have one thing in common: they’ll make a concrete difference.

“I see it as a win-win-win situation”, explains Julie Saunders, Pepal’s Founder and Executive Director. “The participants from the private sector get to experience something totally different from the usual learning opportunities offered by the big corporates. In many cases I expect the journey that they take on this programme to be life-changing.  At the same time, their non-profit partners get to learn from the structured approach of the private sector. Most important of all, the projects the partners devise and deliver will bring tangible support to women, children and other marginalised groups in India.”

Julie knows first-hand the impact that working on the front-line can have on an individual’s
outlook, skills and commitment to change.  Her experiences in the post-communist Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Bulgaria and later, working for the International HIV/AIDS Alliance led her to found Pepal in 2009. “Pepal grew directly from my experiences”, she explains.  “Over several years I saw how much more powerful teams could be when they brought together different perspectives and skills. Add to that, the desire that is so often voiced by mid-career executives to find a more meaningful use for their skills and experiences.


Julie formed Pepal in 2009 with the mission of bringing all this together – the private sector’s expertise and desire to learn and make a difference; the passion and purpose of the non-profit sector, and the power of partnership to foster change.

Everyone who joins the Innovation in India programme will benefit from tailored training delivered by Professor Harry Barkema, a world leader in innovation and management. The training will take place in two modules spaced six months apart and will focus on innovation and partnership. In between the modules private-sector participants will visit their partner organisations, so that once the training is complete they can hit the ground running. 

“My success criteria are quite challenging”, admits Julie, “Innovation in India needs to deliver not just well-structured and effective development projects to local communities, but also new skills to our non-profit partners so that they can grow and sustain their innovations.  As for our private-sector participants, I expect them to have had exceptional experiences, to have been pushed outside of their comfort zone in a way that has led them to innovate, reflect and truly develop. It sounds ambitious, but a lot of thought has gone into Innovation in India and I’m confident that it’s going to deliver all of that and more”.
For more information on Innovation in India, click here



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