By Mohini Shrestha -December 11, 2021
Arthachyam Foundation is a recently established non-profit organisation that aims to create an inclusive economic system for marginalised communities through financial literacy, philanthropic consulting and policy research and advocacy. Despite the presence of various non-profits in Nepal, economic empowerment is seldom addressed in comparison to other social issues. However, it remains a pressing issue in a developing country such as Nepal where poverty is prevalent. Thus, the foundation aims to create a meaningful impact in this focus area through education, evaluation and empowerment.
We had a conversation with the founder Ms. Ashma Dhungana on the foundations approach to driving large-scale social innovation, the trials and tribulations of non-profits operating in Nepal and most importantly, the importance of youths to join the conversation and educate others to collectively create a more developed and inclusive economic system in the Nepalese society.
Tell me about your journey in starting your venture?
When I initially returned to Nepal from my masters abroad, I noticed a clear lack of initiative by the Nepali government and the people to shield themselves from a global pandemic. I recognised this as an opportunity that required promoting economic empowerment involving activities and preventing or protecting citizens from economic distress. Furthermore, I wanted to address the gap in agencies or individuals with the capacity to lead donor agencies towards capable people that can efficiently deliver support to the targeted beneficiaries. The motivation to achieve this and create an impact on a large scale, led to the establishment of Arthachyam as a non-profit that can enable multiple organisations to pool together their resources into a single impactful goal or mission.
What is the inspiration behind the name of the foundation?
I wanted a Nepali word that resonates with a lot of people, it’s an amalgamation of the phrase – ‘arthama sachyam’. The name also reflects the main motto of the organization for economic independence and empowerment.
As a non-profit organisation, what plans do you have to acquire funding for your projects?
We are currently in the incubation stage thus, are in the process of approaching and collaborating with a number of donor and grant agencies. Most notably, we have recently partnered up with King’s college’s MBA program for non-profit fundraising. There are numerous national and international donor agencies that are seeking to work with development projects in Nepal but every year, they are either not able to find appropriate projects or motivated social entrepreneurs therefore, the funds go to waste. This is a key issue I look forward to exploring through our organisation.
What are the core activities of your foundation?
The pandemic opened the door for various avenues of social issues we aim to resolve, this includes financial literacy, policy advocacy and ground level research. Firstly, we have categories of three different focus groups including students and young adults, working women and men and homemakers and rural women. We aim to educate these groups on the fundamentals of financial literacy according to their needs and by categorizing them, we can intervene in a more impactful manner. We also offer philanthropic consulting aimed at emerging entrepreneurs who seek financial empowerment and security to provide knowledge on gathering resources, audit and build useful networks. There are so many innovative Nepali people who can achieve and contribute to the development of the economy if given the right information and reach the correct beneficiaries for which we can act as an intermediary agent to help such groups. We also focus on research projects and advocacy, to approach national policies and attract people for debates to reach resourceful conclusions and create both ground level and upper level impacts.
As a recently established foundation, what is your current staff strength and structure?
At the moment, we have five members on the board of directors alongside myself as the chair, we have members at the digital front, a political liaison officer, an office manager and a procurement and fundraising personnel. We also have four advisory members; an economist, a political analyst, a lawyer and a banking expert, who are informally involved in our research as we are expanding to incorporate more diverse groups with different expertise. Additionally, we now have two research interns and one social media and communication intern.
Do you have any plans to collaborate with local government bodies?
I am currently working on subsidies that include creating digital identification for beneficiaries so they can directly repeal it and prevent channel leakage. Our organisation believes, implementation of new policies alongside careful monitoring and evaluation can deliver efficient results.
What key metrics will you use to monitor or measure the progress and impact of your foundation?
For all the projects that we will be carrying out, an impact analysis will be done in-house by our research team, our auditor and public accountant will execute the financial analysis alongside transparency measures in place. Our monitoring activities are also largely dependent on the project, for example we will use a public auditor in the case of projects carried out in collaboration with the government whereas, we may have to adjust to the standards of private donors accordingly.
For the readers, what activities can they get involved in through your foundation?
The best involvement is providing your own insight, joining relevant crowds, identifying groups that need help and also engaging with our social media. If more people join the discussion, we can create a bigger and better impact on both an individual and community level.
What are your future goals regarding the foundation?
In addition to our current goals, I would also like to focus on bridging the gap between gender equality in terms of financial independence and literacy. In Nepal, there is still a significant gender disparity between men and women in rural areas therefore, women are often left to carry out just household tasks which is what I term – “unpaid labour”. This is a major contributing factor to lack of economic progression and what really cripples us as a society therefore, this also lies into one of the main goals of Arthachyam.
Albeit noble, we are a new foundation and require a practical strategy to implement our goals and create a wider social impact. Therefore, I have been trying to bring together a diverse team and collaborate with different companies that can help and motivate us to reach our goal.
Follow the links below to learn more about Arthachyam’s upcoming projects and activities or to be a part of the conversation for a more economically inclusive and progressive Nepali society.