Yes Foundation is the ‘social development’ or the do-good arm of Yes Bank. One of the more well-known banks in the country, Yes Bank is the fifth largest private sector bank in India. Yes Foundation is the bank’s dedicated CSR and sustainability arm and was established in December 2012. Its primary focus areas are stimulating innovative entrepreneurship and using the power of media for social transformation. In their own words, the programmes are meant to ‘infuse innovation in the development sector and promote media for social change, youth social leadership, SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) communication and social entrepreneurship towards an empowered and equitable India.’

The Foundation has four guiding principles that provide a good understanding of its goals and programme objectives, these being social innovation, engagement (with other organisations and the government), inclusion, and empowerment (of the entrepreneurial type). Their programmes are directed at the youth of the country, with NGOs as the medium to facilitate social change. The flagship programmes of the Foundation are discussed here.

  1. The ‘Yes! I am the Change’ (YIAC) initiative, launched in 2013, is aimed at educating the youth on responsible citizenship through the medium of films. The YIAC 101-Hour Social Filmmaking Challenge enables participants to make 3-minute short films on social causes which are then used by NGOs in their social projects. In 2016, the YIAC challenge had participation from 13 lakh young people which resulted in over 29,000 films on a variety of social topics such as innovation for social change, health, women empowerment, sustainability, education, and child rights. The idea is that through the experience of producing content and engaging with social topics, participants will become aware of the gravity of these issues and in the process, future employees and volunteers for the social sector will be created. The goal is to transform them into advocates of social change. Until 2017, the Foundation claims to have sensitised over 2 million youth across the country and created resources of over 34,000 films for the pro bono use of NGOs.
  2. The ‘Media for Social Change’ fellowship is a two-month leadership programme to train and develop socially conscious youth in association with ISDI-WPP School of Communication. Industry leaders are involved in the training and experts from NGOs provide mentorship. Participants are given a stipend of Rs 10,000 during this period. The objectives of this programme are to help develop youth leaders through exposure to social issues and NGOs, post which they help these NGOs to strengthen their communication efforts to maximise their social impact. This is done by designing websites, mobile apps and logos, raising funds, and developing high-quality video content. The 2017 programme saw 213 participants placed with 101 NGOs spanning fields such as education, health, skill development, and elderly care, in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru.
  3. YES Innovate promotes communications and DICE (Design and Innovation-led Creative Entrepreneurship) to help non-profits and social enterprises in their quest for high social impact. Indian School of Design and Innovation (ISDI) is the knowledge partner. The goal is to create a strategic national platform to bring together major stakeholders in the development sector (including corporates, foundations, non-profits and government agencies) to facilitate knowledge-sharing and effective partnerships in the domain of CSR initiatives and funding in India. As part of this, workshops are conducted by filmmakers and include tips on making zero-budget social-impact films.

In 2015, the Foundation launched The Yes Foundation Awards comprising of two categories: the Everyday Hero award for individuals whose work has benefited the community (they are nominated by filmmakers) and the Changemaker award for filmmakers who have either worked on social causes or helped spread awareness. As part of the latter award, the Foundation took up its first initiative to mentor a social project – in 2015 this was MISSING, an international awareness campaign on human trafficking by the award recipient Leena Kejriwal. It provided support to her project by developing a unique smartphone game (which received the ‘Indie Game of the Year’ at the NASSCOM Gaming Forum Awards 2016) to promote mass engagement for this cause. Through the augmented reality app, they hope to reach out to 400 million smartphone users in India and sensitise them on the human toll of trafficking.

In 2016, the Foundation partnered with UNDP India on the Social Film Grant, which is a competitive film production fund for new, talented filmmakers to make one-minute public service films on the United Nations’ SDGs. These films will be used on digital platforms by UN affiliates and the Foundation to spread awareness on SDGs among policymakers and young people.

All its programmes are assured by KPMG and the firm is slated to conduct impact assessment for the same. Till 2016, the Foundation supported the capacity-building of more than 1,000 NGO leaders and professionals in terms of their communication capabilities and efforts. Future plans include supporting the social impact of selected, high-potential NGOs and social enterprises. As part of this, non-profits and social enterprises with sustainable and scalable social projects shortlisted from YIAC film entries are eligible to win a grant worth Rs 30 lakh (3 million) each and receive mentoring/capacity-building support for 3 years.

CB view

Yes Foundation’s initiatives are quite different from the type usually favoured by corporate-driven foundations and NGOs. While innovations are to be welcomed (the CSR space is crying out for them), it remains to be seen if Yes Foundation’s approach is necessarily the right one. One eagerly awaits the impact assessment report that will hopefully come out sooner than later. In line with best-in-class companies, the report should be detailed and comprehensive. Citing numbers of participants is fine but quantifying the impact – for instance, how many of the YIAC participants have gone on to work for the social sector and for how long, or the extent to which these films helped NGOs in their work and fundraising efforts – will be critical towards making necessary adjustments. The Media for Social Change Fellowship is commendable for its approach and intentions. One would like to see it expand in terms of reach as well as duration (2 months may not work for everyone) and the graduates tracked over 5 to 10 years to assess the programme’s effectiveness. The YES Innovate and Changemaker projects are initiatives that have a lot of potential but need to be developed further, with impact assessment done regularly. Considering that the Foundation’s key expertise is in media and communication, measuring its effect will require more investment as the correlation between input and results may not be obvious, unlike, say, in the case of funding a primary school.

Strategic partnerships and leveraging digital media are key tenets of its programmes and it will be interesting how the Foundation uses them to disrupt the India CSR space for the better. Since it is relatively young in its philanthropic journey, it will be some time before one can make a definitive assessment of where it stands in this space. For now, there’s much learning and development that is needed for it to become a leading name in this ever-growing field.

Case studies

Kuljeet Chaudhary, an IT professional and YIAC participant, made a film on rehabilitation of animals in distress. Inspired to take up this cause, he mobilised over 1,600 people within 9 months through his online platform, Samarpan, to actively work towards animal welfare and rehabilitation. Their work has helped reduce animal rescue time in the NCR region.

New Delhi-based filmmaker Meghatithi Kabeer made a film on the extraordinary story of Sanjay Kumar and his team of gotakhors (divers) who are working tirelessly to clean the Yamuna. His YIAC film not only created awareness about this issue but has given the gotakhors nationwide recognition and support from the government and other corporates. Today, Meghatithi continues to mobilise people and work on various social causes.