Ben Morton-Wright 0:00
Welcome to Global 20 introducing Srishti Bakshi. Srishti, welcome to Global 20. We’ve had amazing speakers but I’m really excited about this discussion over the next 20 minutes to hear more about your journey. And we also have to declare a bit of an interest because you’ve actually joined Global Philanthropic over the last few months, much to everyone’s applause, and congratulations. And we’re really welcoming you as part of the Global family, but today is to talk about your work in women’s rights, and the work you’ve done over the last few years. So Srishti, tell us a bit more about your journey.

Srishti Bakshi 0:35
Thank you for the warm welcome, Ben. So I’m Srishti and people know me as a women’s rights activist, and very much so I have been for my entire life. So in 2017, basically, I left my corporate career from the likes of Red Bull, and ITC and Otterbox, where I was taking care of brand and marketing, to deep dive into the impact world. I have always been a champion of women’s rights but there was a question that was on my mind as to do I want to make a mark, a difference, in this field. So that was also triggered by an incident that I came across, which was from my home country. So I packed my bags, literally and I flew back from Hong Kong, to India, and I walked across the country from the very south, to the north, championing women and how to get women in the country’s agenda. So that was my journey in a very short way. A true journey, because it was on foot, it was long, it was 3800 kilometres and across 230 continuous days.

Ben Morton-Wright 1:59
It’s quite remarkable, quite remarkable. Srishti. And I believe you’ve also got a film that’s been produced around it, that’s coming out soon, which documents it, so it’s likely to be highly visible. But you’ve been promoting it in terms of the digital media for some time, tell me more about how that worked, and how the digital media and the mobilisation came about around the walk.

Srishti Bakshi 2:24
Ben, I plan this journey to the tee. We had a whole blueprint, I employed all my knowledge and skills of how to actually create conversations online/offline. And that’s where the planning actually is coming to fruition in the form of a film. Initially, we just wanted to document our journey to be able to remember it forever. Also produce a lot of material for the world to see as to how we have progressed in this particular field. But at some point, it was inevitable that the documentation that we had started working in the direction of a film. It was a very physically challenging journey. But I wanted it to mean something more than when I take my last step in Srinagar. So I wanted this journey to go global. I wanted people to have conversations around the conversations I had with the women on the ground. So the film is now it’s a documentary, it’s called Women Of My Billion, WOMB. And it is travelling, it has travelled for the last two years across various film festivals into 15 film festivals where we have won 11 Audience Choice Awards. So people resonate, they relate, they feel deeply connected, because after all, the subject that we are talking about is not isolated to a country. It is a global conversation, women’s equality, equity, girl, child rights are all very, very important, you know, conversations that are happening around the world. So we are being part of that journey, even today. And this is because of the fact that we planned for it to be at a scale that it is today.

Ben Morton-Wright 4:24
To me what is incredible about the whole story, Srishti and it is a remarkable story and when you start explaining it, it becomes even more remarkable thinking that the physical strain, let alone the emotional and psychological strain. And then, I think you mobilise something like 100,000 women and people along the way, along the walk and I remember seeing pictures of quite literally 1000s of people walking with you as well across India. Quite a remarkable story. But the really incredible piece, I think, is how you fundraised around digital, and you made, you kind of from nothing really I noticed a lot of planning but you built a global movement around this and you actually got investors. I think you raised about three or four million US dollars. Tell us more about how that worked because we’re all interested in philanthropy about how we can mobilise digital and how we can mobilise digital platforms. Tell us a bit more about the process that you went through to achieve that goal.

Srishti Bakshi 5:18
Absolutely. A dream like mine it sometimes sounds crazy. So sometimes it is audacious. So I knew that this is not a journey of one. So from the very getgo, I knew that I needed support, I knew I needed a team, I knew I had to get experts onto my journey, because it mattered to me so much. So from a planning perspective, and how I use digital, very deeply embedded in my plan was to first fundraise through digital media itself. I crowdfunded. I had networks across the world, who wanted to be part of my journey. Of course, not many could join me physically but they wanted to contribute. Because at the end of the day, whoever I spoke to they deeply related to this movement, they wanted to be on the ground. So this is one way they could contribute. So my first fundraise was through the crowdfunding platform and I activated my network. The word got out, I used again, digital and social media, to also communicate what my passion is all around, and how I’m going to execute it. So people from different fields like tech, from social media itself, friends who were at Meta at Google, they started connecting back. And slowly I started fundraising through corporates. I was in that particular sector for a very long time so I did know quite a lot in terms of how to create a platform where brands could participate willingly, and also could get a lot of it back in terms of their own promotions, or alignment that they needed from me. So that was my second stage of fundraising where corporates got motivated and we had the likes of Facebook, Apple, Google.

So I would like to talk about Google, for example, just as an example of how that’s part of my journey was about doing workshops. And I was speaking to women, not just about safety, around gender based violence, but also around what are the possible solutions there. And one of the solutions that I championed was digital literacy. It was something that I deeply believed in that if a woman could have access to the internet world, she would be one step closer to opening doors into a livelihood, into education, into knowing more about the world. And this opens up the mind. So Google came with their programme called Google Internet Saathi and I championed that, I promoted that on the ground. The whole team of Google India supported me in providing even handheld to have that experience of holding a phone. So this actually moved a lot of different philanthropists around the world to support because they could see the change. They could see the change happening live on social media videos that we produced, or conversations that we were having with the women, and we were relaying to the world. So digital empowerment is one of the big tools that even the UN Women really champion. So that bit then moved me to the philanthropy world, because it was also a lot of people getting in touch and wanting to support. And the film is completely funded by philanthropists, because they wanted the word to get out there. They wanted to champion the fact that if there is one person with a dream, they’re there to support. So, you know, my only kind of advice to a lot of people who get in touch with me is that if we are able to have that story, a strong storytelling tool alongside us, and we know what we want to say, then people will come and support.

Ben Morton-Wright 9:23
You also, Srishti, what I thought was amazing is, you also used, I think, the app, the walking app, so you got people to walk with you. And those steps were donated, I think is that right? Tell us a bit more about how you worked through that. Again, another digital innovation around the walk to get everyone to walk with you virtually. Tell us how you structured that.

Srishti Bakshi 9:45
Yeah. There are a lot of parts of the walk which came out of insights that we had when we started meeting new people and just asking them exactly how they want to support us. So there was a deep, you know, kind of desire in everybody that they wanted to walk with me on the ground. And a lot of people’s schedules did not align, or this could happen, because it was also expensive to fly down to India to do it. So, from this conversation came the fact that, what if we were able to allow people to contribute their steps, their daily steps to my journey. And what if these steps actually meant something. So not just donating steps, but the steps, meaning something for somebody on the ground. So that is when we created an app. This app platform recorded everybody’s daily steps. People opened up the app, they could align with a certain cause that they believed in, we had a lot of different nonprofits who were listed with us, around 25 of them. And every step that a person took actually converted into real time dollars. So as an example, somebody who walked 25,000 steps, and donated those steps to the cause, one of the corporate partners would actually unlock a school bag with all, you know, school supplies for a girl in a rural state in India. So around the world people walked in Canada, in Japan, and my own network, and this app got sort of viral in India for some time, because people really felt very, very, they felt a deep sense of achievement. At the end of the day, that today I walk 10,000 steps, and it means something much more than just my own health and just me. So that platform really did contribute to a whole lot of success that we had.

Ben Morton-Wright 11:47
Srishti, I mean, there’s so many angles of it, there’s a community, the sort of roots in the community again, in the film, as you walk into villages, and you talk with some remote villages, and you mobilise people that are in remote communities. And so the real community feel and then connecting that through the digital world I think it’s quite remarkable. But you also used art, which I thought was really interesting and very creative. Maybe we could talk through how you used some of the art imagery along the walk and talk a bit more about how you connected that digitally as well, because I think, again, that’s a very powerful theme that you developed.

Srishti Bakshi 12:25
So art was, for me, art is, it’s a pause. It’s an intentional pause for me. Like I said, the journey was hard. It was day in and day out meeting people who the reality is something that we can’t even fathom, in terms of what they’re going through. So there were artists who wanted to align and contribute. So I had this wonderful artist, Poornima Sukumar and Karna. Both female artists who have been painting wall murals across India and abroad. And so the initiative that we had was we would take stories from the ground of women that I was meeting. I was meeting women every day. And there were some heartfelt stories. These were extraordinary women leading very ordinary lives, but impacting society in a way that nobody could. So what we decided is that we would take their stories out in the world, and share them with other women so that they get inspired. So Karna and Pornima would join me at different points in my journey, he would select a huge wall, paint their portraits on these walls, and then tell their story. So the digital part came where we wanted to tell the story because it is a static asset. So we got this app called Amplifier, and Amplifier, basically, if you hold it up to an art piece, it becomes like a QR code, and it activates a video. So these portraits would speak their story live on your phone. So it was not just the art but also how these different art worlds spoke to the rest of the world. And this art community got activated and invested in again, amplifying these stories, telling these stories, in new ways across the whole world.

Ben Morton-Wright 14:30
Quite incredible Srishti, but what I also think, reflecting on it for philanthropy, it’s that all these are amazing movements, mobilisation, linked with link with people stepping, these are really creative ideas that are then translated into digital outlets for people to connect with you and the cause. So I think this is just remarkable in terms of this interface between the sort of the movement, the social justice issues that you’re talking about and then actually mobilising philanthropy and mobilising people around that, in a way that simply wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago, let alone 10 years ago, right? 15 years ago, you could have walked across India, and how long would it take 230 odd days, you could have done that and maybe no one would have noticed, you know. But now, you’ve got the ability to actually mobilise digitally in a way that’s truly remarkable. I suspect, it’s just the beginning of the story, Srishti, in terms of the impact of the work that you’ve done. Talk to me a bit about obviously, we as a firm, are really honoured and proud to have you as part of our executive team and the executive director for Europe and Asia and I’ve been lucky enough to work with you with some clients over the recent months, and you hit the ground running. Honestly, I think because your approach is so different, which is what we were hoping, in terms of your consultancy approach. Tell us a little bit more about your reflections now, working with wider issues as part of Global Philanthropic with a range of clients, I think we’ve worked with clients in environment, in Africa, we’ve worked with all sorts of, you know, really complex libraries and educational organisations, universities. What’s your reflection now in terms of applying some of your advice to these organisations and providing a different lens for their work?

Srishti Bakshi 16:22
So I come with my own experience first, which is that when I started my journey, how did I approach it? For me, you know, I came from a background where we were selling products, we were selling energy drinks, phone cases, durability. What my deep thought at the time was that if I can sell and create a story around products, why can’t I tell a story around education, around climate change, around how women’s rights is an important issue to invest in. So that has been my approach since since that time that I have invested deeply into the impact world. And after my journey was over, I found my strength in this field, that I could actually take a different point of view, a different perspective, and bring that to the room. That is what got me to Global’s doorstep, because, you know, the clients that we work with, they do have their own movements, they have their own, you know, tall dreams of scaling their journeys. And at the end of the tunnel, there is a huge audience that will be impacted through their work. So what I today do, in every project of ours, is to take that perspective, and bring the knowledge and the skills that I have picked up along the way to scale these movements, or to convert certain just stories into movements.

This can be done through different tools that I’m familiar with out there. This can happen through simple social media platforms that I’m familiar with, on how to be able to make something viral, how to be able to make a conversation, which deeply motivates an individual. So that has been my perspective, some of the some of the projects that I have worked in, I know that the impact for them to to scale to a level where we can start claiming impact numbers, it is a journey. But I’m happy to be part of the journey in a way where we can amplify certain stories.

Ben Morton-Wright 18:40
And it’s critical, in my view, in everything we do in philanthropy to understand the context of social media, how you mobilise around the calls for high net worths as well as more public and general campaigns. It’s also, for me Shrishti, too and we’re beginning to work together on the next Talking Philanthropy. And you know, I think because of the lockdown, we were forced to do that all online, and we found 5000 people actually registered on the day, 52 countries dialled in for the six hours of content, which is still on the Talking website. And that’s where we’ll be announcing the next one. And it showed to me just the scalability of philanthropy and sharing best practice around philanthropy and how really the future is about digital and philanthropy. And so I’m really excited about the work, I’ve already seen it in action, I think the clients are as well and how this different mindset can be bought into the centre of how we think around philanthropy, even if it’s at the top end, big gifts, but it seems to permeate everything in our consulting and how we advise and how we work with clients.

So it’s a very exciting journey for me, I feel like maybe at the beginning of the walk across India, with yourself, and all the Global team as well. All of us across the world are really thrilled to be working with you and having that expertise brought to our clients. So Srishti, I think we’re running out of time, we’ve done 20 minutes. So just to thank you again for sharing your story. And your journey does remind me a very influential fact, one of the founders of Global and the chairman of Europe, a chap called Sir Duncan Rice, who, sadly not with us anymore, but he was an amazing leader in the field. And he talked at our 10th anniversary and we’re now I think, over 21 years old, about storytelling. And he said, “If you can tell stories, you can raise money”, and he was a great fundraiser. So it seems like we’ve come almost full circle and certainly he would be very proud of what you’ve done and the storytelling that you’ve been doing. I think we need to continue in that mantra and get the stories out, digital or not. So Srishti thank you so much for sharing your story with me today.

Srishti Bakshi 20:48
Thank you, Ben, thank you.