The Humanity Fund Solutions

Sarthak Foundation

Education to end extreme poverty

🛡 HighTrust Rating

🧐 LowRisk Rating

Flying Pig Logo86%

Integrated Impact Score6 Vetters

Expert Consensus

Sarthak's "Yellow Rooms" transform the lives of children living in extreme poverty, healing a multi-generational cycle of suffering and childhood marriage.

Snapshot

The Problem

84 million children in India don’t receive an education, perpetuating a multi-generational cycle of poverty and hunger. (Read more here.)

The Solution

Yellow Rooms are classrooms that serve as a safe space for kids in the heart of impoverished communities.

Impact to Date

  • Serving 2,700 children in 19 Yellow Rooms and a rural school.

  • A dropout rate less than 3%, and this didn’t change during COVID-19!

  • 95% success rate at transitioning children to formal schooling (in urban areas).

  • Raised school attendance rates from about 20% to 70%.

Location of Impact

Impact Per Dollar

$1 = 2 days of education for a child living in poverty

Proof of Impact

Photos, videos, and spotlight stories; reports of children enrolled, attendance rates, and skills improvement. 

Time to Realize Impact

3 months (funds education over the next 3 years)

Fund Usage

See a full sample budget here.

Big Goal

To serve 10,600 happy, empowered children by 2024.

Mission

Provide children from disadvantaged backgrounds equitable platforms of education, socio-emotional connections and physical and mental well-being.

Will it actually make a difference?

Sarthak is very effective at keeping kids in school, with a dropout rate less than 3%. Education and life skills from the Yellow Rooms help children break the cycle of extreme poverty.

How is the donation used?

$1 provides 2 days of support for a child living in a slum or remote rural area, giving them access to a "Yellow Room" – a classroom that serves as a safe space for physical, emotional and intellectual development.

DDC's Favorites

  • Focuses on empowering girls, to help them break the cycle of child marriage and take control of their lives.

  • “Yellow Rooms” become community hubs: safe havens in the heart of impoverished communities that provide cascading benefits for the people living there. 

  • Sarthak uses a ‘whole child’ model to nurture safe, joyful, hopeful kids and families.

  • Restores dignity and hope for families trapped in poverty, many of whom are struggling with health problems, abuse, addiction, and mental health issues. 

Key Drawbacks

  • Sarthak is still relatively small compared to the scale of the problem.  

  • Opportunity to build more partnerships - e.g. with specialized organizations that provide vocational training for low-income children.

  • Opportunity to develop innovative impact monitoring that helps measure what really matters to the organization (e.g. long-term impact on children’s emotional well-being).

Integrated Impact Score

Total86%

Effectiveness

68%

Per dollar, how effective is this organization at creating measurable impact?

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5
Extremely ineffective
Ineffective
Average effectiveness
Effective
Extremely effective

$1 provides 2 days of access to a Yellow Room for a child, to set them up for success and enhance what they learn in school. (Children typically spend 4 hours per day in Yellow Rooms, on top of their regular school schedule.) 


More details about how your donation will be used are here.

Is the organization's team credible and effective?

4
1
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3
4
5
Extremely ineffective
Ineffective
Average effectiveness
Effective
Extremely effective

Sarthak’s founder, Kshama Hastak, is a former professor who started the organization as a passion project before leaving her job to pursue the work full-time.  She brings 18 years of experience in corporate and academic environments, combined with a deep passion for improving the lives of children.  


You can see more details on the rest of the team here; their deep commitment is clear from the fact that almost all of the full-time staff started out as volunteers.  Sarthak’s advisory board are deeply experienced senior leaders with corporate, academic, technical and operational experience.

Does the organization have a clearly defined mission, vision and values?

5
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4
5
Undefined
Unclearly defined
Relatively clearly defined
Clearly defined
Extremely clearly defined

Yes, they are clearly documented in Sarthak’s activity reports

Mission: Provide children from disadvantaged backgrounds equitable platforms of education, socio-emotional connections and physical-psychological well-being.

Vision: Happy Empowered Children in socio-economic disadvantaged groups

Values: Integrity, Relationships

How simple/elegant is the solution?

4
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4
5
Extremely complex
Complex
Simple
Very simple
Extremely simple

Sarthak’s model is a fresh twist on the classic approach to kids’ education. Rather than just trying to get kids to go to school, Sarthak brings schooling to them, building micro-community centers that reinvigorate life in their communities. 

There are many components to Sarthak’s solution, but we believe they’re all essential and we haven’t found any unnecessary complexity. We love how Sarthak leverages external resources (like Khan Academy) to deliver impact as efficiently as possible.

How scalable is the solution-set beyond its use-case geography?

4
1
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4
5
Extremely unscalable
Very unscalable
Relatively scalable
Very scalable
Extremely scalable

Yellow Rooms are highly scalable in theory, but the organization hasn’t yet proven its ability to scale beyond Uttar Pradesh.  That said, the scale of the problem in India (8 million children under the age of 6 living in informal settlements), and the size of Uttar Pradesh’s population (more than 230 million), leaves plenty of room to scale.

When expanding to new locations, Sarthak takes a nimble prototyping approach, testing out the relationship and building rapport with the community before investing fully in setting up a facility (more detail is on their website).

How well does the solution create self-generating capabilities rather than rely on ongoing investment?

1
1
2
3
4
5
Extremely reliant on ongoing investment
Very reliant on ongoing investment
Somewhat self-generating
Very self-generating
Extremely self-generating

The project cannot generate self-sustaining revenue and will require ongoing donations. Sarthak is committed to providing education free of charge for those who can afford it least, so establishing self-generating capabilities isn’t currently possible.

How efficient is the process of achieving a self-sustaining solution?

1
1
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5
Extremely dependent
Very dependent
Fairly independent
Very independent
Extremely independent

There isn’t currently a plan to develop self-sustaining capabilities. 

Sarthak did explore the possibility of having parents pay a small amount for their children to attend, and this model is used in another project that Sarthak runs. However, when they tried charging fees in Yellow Rooms (even as little as $1 per month), it disproportionately hurt girls, whose families didn’t want to pay for their education, and so they set this idea aside.

How much risk is there that the impact will be reversed for any reason?

4
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5
Extremely risky
Very risky
Relatively risky
Very low risk
Extremely low risk

In this case, reversal could be defined as children dropping out of school, or children receiving education that does not help improve their lives in the long run (e.g. it doesn’t help them gain employment, lift themselves and their families out of poverty, or break addiction cycles).

Sarthak has proven that they have a powerful and lasting solution, with a drop out rate of less than 3%. It’s especially impressive that during the COVID lockdowns, this rate did not change, and no girls dropped out! (Click here to learn more about their creative COVID interventions.)  

We do not yet have substantial long-term information on how children fare after graduating out of Sarthak’s programs.  Only 9 children have reached graduation age so far, because they were about 6-7 years old when Sarthak started. Some of those young adults are now doing internships, and some have enrolled in higher education.

Transparency

80%

How transparent is the organization financially?

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5
Extremely non-transparent
Very non-transparent
Somewhat transparent
Very transparent
Extremely transparent

Sarthak makes their financial statements readily available on their website, including detailed audited balance statements, to comply with Indian regulations for NGO’s. A sample budget for a Yellow Room can be found here.

How transparent is the organization operationally?

3
1
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4
5
Extremely non-transparent
Very non-transparent
Somewhat transparent
Very transparent
Extremely transparent

Sarthak releases monthly activity reports, which recap key metrics such as the number of children served, and highlights impact stories.  Sarthak has also started conducting impact assessments, which help monitor the impact they’re having and more carefully calibrate their activities to optimize outcomes for the children and their communities.

Are regular updates on progress made readily available to donors?

4
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Not at all
Very infrequently
Occasionally
Very frequently
Extremely frequently

Sarthak will share images and updates weekly during an active campaign, and monthly after the campaign until the funds we raised are used up. In addition, Sarthak’s monthly activity reports capture highlights across all of their projects.  

Track record

80%

How many years has the organization been in operation?

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0-1
1-3
3-5
5-10
10+

Founded in 2013, Sarthak is 9 years old. 

How much positive impact has the organization created in the past in it's category?

3
1
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No past impact
Very little impact
Some positive impact
Significant impact
Extremely impactful

Since 2013, Sarthak has reached 2,700 children through their Yellow Rooms and rural school; 55% of these children are girls. 

Across all of their programs they have served 5100 children (with a total of 20,400 indirect beneficiaries, e.g. family members).


The organization is very effective at getting kids back into school: when a Yellow Room is established in an urban community, 95% of the children will enroll in formal schooling if they haven’t already (read more here). While Sarthak has a deep and lasting impact, Sarthak’s size is still relatively small compared to the scale of the problem.

(Updated December 2022)

How long has the solution-set been demonstrated to be effective?

4
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5
< 1 year
1-3 years
3-7 years
7-10 years
> 10 years

Sarthak’s Yellow Rooms have been operational for 9 years, since 2013.


Much of Sarthak’s curriculum leverages well-established teaching methodologies that have been proven internationally, including the British Council Curriculum, Khan Academy, and CASEL.

How clearly does the organization embody the values it purports to have?

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5
Extremely unclear
Very unclear
Somewhat clear
Very clearly
Extremely clearly

Sarthak’s core values are integrity (which they define as making a deep and lasting impact) and relationships. We’ve seen this deeply ingrained throughout the organization’s operations and decisions; all the employees clearly live these values. You can read more about how these values show up in Yellow Rooms here.

Measurability

80%

Does the organization have a clearly defined "big goal" that is measurable?

4
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5
Undefined
Unclearly defined
Relatively clearly defined
Clearly defined
Extremely clearly defined

Sarthak’s long-term dream is to have a Yellow Room in every slum in India, but at this stage it's not clear how much it would cost or when it would be possible to cover India’s 49,000 slums.

In the near term, they aim to have their Yellow Room programs reach 5,000 children by 2025.  Across all their programs, they are aiming to serve 10,600 children by 2024.


Sarthak sees their “big goal” not just as how many lives they’ve touched, but the depth of the impact for each child. This means helping them live happy and dignified lives, get jobs, and ultimately break the cycle of poverty. 

Does the organization have a clear understanding of the total projected cost to achieve the "big goal"?

5
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5
Undefined
Unclearly defined
Relatively clearly defined
Clearly defined
Extremely clearly defined

Supporting 5,000 children through Yellow Rooms will cost 50 million rupees (about $600,000) per year.

Does the organization have a clear understanding of what $1 can accomplish?

5
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5
Undefined
Unclearly defined
Relatively clearly defined
Clearly defined
Extremely clearly defined

$1 provides 2 days of education for a child. It also ensures that the child has access to physical materials (stationery, bag, uniform, shoes, socks, clothes) and nutrition that they need to stay happy, healthy and focused.

Is the positive outcome quantifiable?

3
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Extremely unquantifiable
Very unquantifiable
Somewhat quantifiable
Very quantifiable
Extremely quantifiable

Amongst other metrics, Sarthak measures and reports childrens’ improvements in: communication, scientific and mathematical skills; awareness of gender; enrollment in school; attendance rates; physical and mental health; and leadership in the community.

While it’s easy to quantify the short-term effects on children’s learning and health, some of the longer-term effects (e.g. reduced poverty, increased employability) are harder to measure and Sarthak is working to build this capability.

How well does the organization monitor and verify their ongoing progress?

3
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5
Extremely unquantifiable
Very unquantifiable
Somewhat quantifiable
Very quantifiable
Extremely quantifiable

Sarthak has recently formalized a monitoring and evaluation team that releases impact assessment reports. These reports capture quantitative metrics (e.g. children’s academic performance overall and in specific subjects, gender-disaggregated), as well as qualitative metrics (like results of focus group discussions with parents that capture the quality of the impact that Sarthak is having). They conduct baseline tests of all incoming students to make sure they can place them in appropriate learning groups and assess their academic progress.

Wisdom

88%

Does the solution address a root cause, or a symptom?

5
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5
Extremely symptom focused
Very symptom focused
Relatively root focused
Very root focused
Extremely root focused

Lack of education is a key factor that keeps families trapped in poverty for generations. By providing education and helping kids become employable, Sarthak addresses a root cause of poverty. They help children lift themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty. 

Sarthak’s focus on preventing child marriage is especially important for tackling poverty.  Educated girls tend to wait longer to have children, and have less kids overall. This makes it easier to support their families with education and better opportunities.

Does the solution have an economic model that is self-sustaining?

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Absolutely no self-sustaining model
Very little self-sustaining model
A relatively self-sustaining model
A very self-sustaining model
An extremely self-sustaining model

The project cannot generate self-sustaining revenue and will require ongoing donations.

To what degree does the solution prevent other potentially beneficial solutions from emerging?

5
1
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5
To an extremely high degree
To a very high degree
To some degree
To a relatively low degree
To an extremely low degree

One concern with solutions such as Sarthak’s, is that they risk removing pressure on the government to improve the quality of public education.  We don’t see this as a serious risk; Sarthak works with government schools in a couple of ways, including a new pilot that they’re running together. Most children go to private or government schools for their formal education (with the exception of remote rural areas where there are no nearby schools). Sarthak employees attend parent-teacher meetings, so they’re able to continue advocating for change within the existing government school system.

Does the solution integrate into local populations as part of the solution?

4
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5
Not at all
Very little
Somewhat
Very much
Highly integrated

Integrating into the local populations is a critical part of Sarthak’s approach.  Yellow Rooms undertake community outreach and parent counseling activities to establish long-lasting roots in the communities. Sarthak focuses especially on forming strong relationships with the children’s parents. By taking education and emotional wellness to families’ doorsteps, Sarthak actually becomes part of the community. 

We think that in the future Sarthak could explore ways for the community to take even more ownership of these spaces and put more “skin in the game”, e.g. by having community members volunteer to help with operations or sit on governing boards.

Does this solution produce any negative impact on indigenous populations?

5
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4
5
Extremely
Very much
Somewhat
Very little
Not at all

Our vetting has uncovered no negative influences on indigenous populations.

Does the solution consider its impact at least 7-generations into the future (>100 years)?

5
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5
Not at all
Very little
Somewhat
Very much
Highly integrated

Education has a long-lasting positive impact that typically cascades across multiple generations.  According to UNESCO, “education lights every stage of the journey to a better life, especially for the poor and most vulnerable. Education empowers girls and young women, in particular… and it boosts their children’s chances of leading healthy lives.”  Educated girls tend to be healthier, get married later, have fewer children, and provide better health care and education for their children, with lasting benefits across future generations.

What is the risk of unintended negative consequences?

5
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5
Extremely likely
Very likely
Somewhat likely
Very unlikely
Extremely unlikely

One potential negative consequence is the risk of teaching children mindsets – like gender equality – that aren’t yet widely accepted in their context and can make communities feel threatened. These ideas can be difficult for others in their families or communities to accept - especially issues related to gender equality (e.g. that girls and boys require the same nutrition).

In Sarthak’s words, “we understand that many of these children come from very conservative backgrounds. So whatever shift happens (in their thinking around gender awareness, etc.) has to happen very mildly.  If it is too strong, parents will not want to send their children to Yellow Rooms or to school.”  Sarthak teaches children not to be aggressive when they have these types of conversations, and to engage in a very collaborative way. Children practice discussing these issues with a non-confrontational approach, using de-escalation tactics.

How significant are the known negative consequences (or trade-offs) of this solution?

5
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5
Extremely significant
Very significant
Somewhat significant
Not very significant
Not at all significant

Families that have small businesses often want to have their children around to help out (e.g. in the family’s shop) whenever they can. Sarthak has heard from some of these families that it causes strain to have their children in school.  On balance, we believe that the long-term benefits of having their children educated (e.g. the increased future earning and employment potential) outweigh the short-term losses from not having the kids around to help.  

Impact Innovation

85%

How audacious is the "big goal"?

4
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Not at all
Very little
Somewhat
Very much
Extremely

Sarthak’s goal, to offer 5,000 children quality education and a path out of poverty, is particularly audacious because of the depth of the impact.  Sarthak cares deeply about helping kids become emotionally-intelligent and resilient leaders in their communities.  They are fiercely commited to making sure every child stays in the program, graduates high school, and finds a well-suited job. This includes help choosing a career path, technical training, internships, or support to get into (and pay for) college. Sarthak’s goal goes beyond just education, to making sure they do everything within their power to ensure these young people thrive in work and life. 

How difficult is this challenge to solve (weighing this against how many other organizations have found effective solutions)?

4
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5
Not difficult at all
Not very difficult
Difficult
Very difficult
Extremely difficult

This is a massive and complex challenge.  We recognize that there are many organizations doing great work in poverty alleviation in India, and that many are struggling to find scalable, affordable, and long-lasting interventions that can really move the needle on the problem. Sarthak’s approach of getting education to those who need it most, and thereby providing a path out of poverty for them and their families, is succeeding where many others have struggled. 

How much has the organization demonstrated an ability to innovate around novel problems?

4
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4
5
Extremely non-innovative
Very non-innovative
Somewhat innovative
Very innovative
Extremely innovative

We’ve been impressed with Sarthak’s sensitive and agile approach to responding to needs as they emerge, e.g. bringing new materials into the curriculum when gaps or opportunities are identified. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sarthak demonstrated exceptional agility and creativity, designing interventions to ensure that children, and especially girls, didn’t drop out of school (read more here).

How urgent is this challenge to solve?

5
1
2
3
4
5
Extremely distant
Relatively distant
Relatively urgent
Very urgent
Immediate threat

The global quest to end poverty has suffered major setbacks in recent years, and the situation is getting increasingly desperate for India’s poorest communities, who are disproportionately impacted by climate change.  Once impoverished, communities can get trapped in the cycle of poverty for generations, and interventions to break the cycle are urgently needed. 

In Sarthak’s words, “We need to start now because education is not the kind of thing that happens in a year. It takes years for a child to become educated, and our work deeply changes their personality. The earlier we start, the better it is – so that we can shape them into young people who are contributing to their families and the economy, and so that they can move out of poverty and break the cycle.” 

Impact Stack

5.8

SDG01

Sarthak focuses on children living in extreme poverty, and offers them (and, to some extent, their families) a pathway out of poverty.  Yellow Rooms are designed to help children overcome the challenges they face at home that trap families in the cycle of poverty – substance abuse, hygiene and health issues, sexual and physical abuse and emotional and mental health issues. This, combined with high-quality holistic education and professional skills training, helps them mature into more resilient young adults that can find employment, support their families, and become leaders in their communities.  

At the same time, education interventions are deep and the impact happens over a longer period of time – so it will likely take a decade or more to measure Sarthak’s direct impact on poverty in the communities where they work.

SDG02

Yellow Rooms provide some food to children regularly (e.g. milk and a banana) as well as lessons about nutrition, but eliminating hunger is not a primary focus of Sarthak Foundation’s work. 

SDG03

Yellow Rooms provide the physical necessities that children need to stay healthy – clean water, basic hygiene, education about nutrition, and physical exercise like yoga and outdoor sports.  Especially important is the mental health support that Sarthak Foundation offers through counseling as well as social and emotional learning. This helps children overcome trauma they might have faced in the past, and helps them become more mentally resilient. 

SDG04

Sarthak’s focus is on providing holistic, rigorous education that transforms children’s lives. Their work directly addresses SDG 4.  Some of the most important facets of their work are making sure that children do not drop out of school, that they are being taught at the right level (which keeps them engaged), and that attendance rates are high (this is especially important in a region where on any given day, almost half of secondary school children will be absent).

SDG05

Sarthak’s results in advancing gender equality include a gender ratio of 55% girls; a massive decrease in dropout rates for girls (in a context where only 50% of girls stay in school after grade 10); and raised awareness of issues like gender inequality and violence.  These changes help break the cycle of child marriage, and many girls become the first in their families to get into skilled professional jobs. 

In the words of India Today, “better educated women tend to be healthier, participate more in the formal labor market, (and) earn higher incomes… educated mothers lift households, communities, and nations out of poverty.”


Girls outperform boys in many of their classes, which is especially important in a context where the effect of poverty on educational attainment is stronger for girls.

SDG06

Although it is not a core focus of their work, Sarthak provides children with clean water, which is often difficult to access or prohibitively expensive in their communities. As this solution scales and people uplift out of hunger and poverty, we expect that slums will dissipate and sanitation will improve.

SDG08

Sarthak provides quality education and life skills to children that would otherwise have limited prospects.  Through their focus on social-emotional development, professional training (such as computer skills), and industry exposure, Sarthak works to ensure that the children’s education is applicable and relevant when they go out into the working world.  This is especially critical in a context where less than half of students graduating from college in India are considered employable.

Sarthak also provides coaching for students to select their path after primary school and set them up for success – whether that’s helping them land internships; getting the skills and connections needed to run a small business; or applying for and funding college or university.

SDG10

Sarthak provides education and support to some of the world’s most economically disadvantaged children. It helps them overcome barriers of class, socio-economic status, and gender, giving them the opportunity to build a better future for themselves.  Sarthak’s work directly addresses target 10.2, “empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all”. 

SDG12

As communities and countries uplift out of poverty, they’re often able to implement more environmentally sustainable practices – e.g. improvements in sanitation, recycling, circular design, or reduction of food waste via improved technology. At the same time, we know that consumption often increases with wealth, which can have a negative impact on this SDG’s targets.

SDG13

Education – and specifically educating girls – is an essential component of climate action. Project Drawdown ranks improving health and education, and in particular educating girls, as one of the top 5 most effective tools we have on hand for climate action (the potential emissions reductions are 85.42 gigatonnes by 2050).  According to Drawdown, “Education lays a foundation for vibrant lives for girls and women, their families, and their communities. It also is one of the most powerful levers available for avoiding emissions by slowing population growth. Women with more years of education have fewer and healthier children, and actively manage their reproductive health.”

SDG17

Sarthak is thoughtful about bringing others into their work, and builds partnerships in line with target 17.6 of “multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources.”  

Expert Vetters

Chad Frischmann 's photo

Chad Frischmann 

Founder, Regenerative Intelligence; former Director, Project Drawdown

"One of the most effective ways to impact change is to educate every child, everywhere, with quality education … to become change agents in their own lives."

Mridhula Sridharan's photo

Mridhula Sridharan

Project Manager, Asian Venture Philanthropy Network; former Associate, Dasra

“Sarthak is a scrappy organization working with a vulnerable population. $1 will go a long way in helping young children realize their dreams."

Priti Rao 's photo

Priti Rao 

Senior Advisor, Dalberg

“This is one of the most sustainable approaches to poverty alleviation.  A small donation has a ripple effect beyond just one child, into a family and into a community.” 

Tom Chi 's photo

Tom Chi 

Co-founder, Google X

"I am impressed with Sarthak’s commitment to long-term outcomes and care for everyone who has been a part of their program."

Molly McMahon's photo

Molly McMahon

Senior Director, IDEO

“A catalytic opportunity to change lives by providing a safe space to learn, grow, and fully be yourself.” 

Nicholas Haan's photo

Nicholas Haan

Chair, Singularity University; Founder, Kizo Africa

"I see tremendous value in this concept; it needs to be scaled up by orders of magnitude." 

Individual Questions

What does the name “Sarthak” mean?

Sarthak means to do something meaningful or purposeful. 

In 3 sentences or less, please describe your vision of the future when the challenges you seek to solve are solved.

“Our vision is happy, empowered children. Empowered means that they are independent – physically, financially, and mentally. Most importantly, they are happy: they are emotionally intelligent, confident, and undamaged, and happiness is at the crux of all of this.”

What makes you different from other organizations working in this area of social impact?

“There are two aspects that make Sarthak Foundation unique, and these are reflected in our core values.   

First of all, we bring education right to families’ doorsteps. By being based within the communities we serve, we can remove many of the barriers that would prevent children from sticking with our programs. It also helps us stay connected with those we serve, so that we keep a constant pulse on the community, the impact we are having, and how we might do better.  


Our second major differentiator is our integrity and commitment to lasting impact: for Sarthak, this means focusing on creating deep impact rather than just focusing on the numbers of children we reach.  We are hyper-focused on ensuring that we really create a long-term sustainable change: truly transforming the lives of children, not just teaching them the ABC’s.  This depth of impact makes us very different from other projects in the space.”

How did this project begin?  

Kshama Hastak, a former professor, started this work after a moment of connection with children that were living in poverty, when she felt the weight of her privilege and felt called to help. She started out by gathering two friends and teaching a handful of children under the shade of a tree.

 

“When we started this work in 2013, the team assumed that education was the only thing that was needed to solve hunger and poverty. Soon, we realized that the issues they faced were much more complex, and just teaching children from school books wasn’t enough. We evolved the programme into one that not only educates children towards a financially independent life, but also changes their mindset and widens their perspectives so that they develop into confident, strong, undamaged, and emotionally intelligent young people.”

What kind of relationship-building is needed to do your work?

“Relationships are one of Sarthak’s two core values. Across all levels – donors, children, parents, and our team members – we bond and work together. We feel more like a family, not just an organization, and we’re all working towards a clear common cause.

Sarthak has found that it’s crucial to engage parents, so that they understand why it’s so important to keep their daughters in school. Because we have built trust with families, we can convince them to prioritize their children’s education and well-being – for instance, to delay daughters’ marriages for a few years so that they can finish up their education.   

One of the most important aspects of our work is to have strong relationships with the schools that the children are enrolled in. Sarthak coordinators attend all the parent teacher meetings; in this way we are able to build relationships with the teachers, principals, and other staff in the schools to better coordinate support for our children. 

On the other hand, our “Aspire to Inspire” sessions bring guest speakers into Yellow Rooms to help children get a glimpse of the professional world, and imagine potential career paths. This work doesn’t just help the children;  it’s really important for the guest speakers as well. It bridges economic barriers, driving inclusion by bringing people into these communities – for many of them it’s their first experience in the slums, and the first time they personally connect to what the other side of society goes through.”

How is the curriculum developed?

Sarthak has a team dedicated to developing a unique, gender-neutral, integrated curriculum.  They draw inspiration from internationally-proven models and curriculums, customizing materials and developing content as needed to meet the children’s context and needs. The educational components draw from Khan Academy, British Council plans, NCERT (the Indian government’s state curriculum), and Vikram Sarabhai’s science learning DIY’s. For social and emotional learning, Sarthak uses Pratham Books, and the programming has been inspired by the US-based collaborative CASEL. Much of Sarthak’s gender awareness programming has been developed in-house, drawing on some resources from Kamla Bhasin.

What are the main opportunities for Sarthak to improve/grow that were identified through the vetting process?

  • Sarthak is still relatively small compared to the scale of the problem.  While increasing the number of slums they serve is a priority and they have ambitious plans for growth over the next year,  the path to reaching 1,000 Yellow Rooms is still unclear.

  • Sarthak could explore more partnerships - e.g. with specialized organizations that provide vocational training or digital skills training for underprivileged children.

  • There is an opportunity for Sarthak to develop innovative impact monitoring that helps them more effectively measure what really matters to the organization and make adjustments to their programs in real time. This is difficult for some intangibles (e.g. long-term impact on children’s emotional well-being), but is an area that Sarthak is starting to explore more.

Please share links to any negative press we should know about.

DDC was unable to find any negative press or complaints about Sarthak Foundation.

The Context

India has made tremendous gains over the past 40 years, with the extreme poverty rate falling from 53% in 1983 to 10% in 2019, and improvements in education have been a key driver of this change. ('Extreme poverty' is defined as living on less than $2.15 per person per day.) At the same time, India is still the country in the world with the most people living in extreme poverty.

Education offers children a path to a better life.  In the words of Concern Worldwide, “access to high-quality primary education and supporting child well-being is a globally-recognized solution to the cycle of poverty. This is, in part, because it also addresses many of the other issues that can keep communities vulnerable.” 

It would be easy to assume that the solution is just to get children into school. But the problem is not as simple as enrolling in school or paying for uniforms and fees. Over the past 20 years, India has made great strides in improving access to education, bringing 20 million children into primary school. According to the World Bank, the two major issues faced are retention of children until they complete their elementary education and ensuring high-quality education that actually improves learning levels and cognitive skills. Although 95% of India’s children are enrolled in primary school, many drop out of secondary school; only 44% of 16-year-olds complete tenth grade.  While children have access to free education in government schools, the quality of these schools can be very low. It is very common for children to fall years behind the educational attainment levels they’re meant to have achieved for their age.

For the most marginalized kids, a lot more is needed to get them into school and keep them going consistently. It’s hard to focus on learning if you’re hungry, haven’t been able to wash yourself, or are overwhelmed with emotional trauma or stress from what’s going on at home. That's where Sarthak comes in!

Read more here.

About

We’re levelin’ up philanthropy!


The Dollar Donation Club Integrated Impact Score was designed to ensure that the world’s most powerful and holistic solutions are presented to our members. The goal is to identify acupuncture points of change – solutions that create maximum positive benefit using minimal resources, while triggering a large cascade of additional benefits.


More importantly, the Integrated Impact Score embodies our approach of smart-philanthropy.


It’s not enough for us to give with only our heart. We must also give intelligently – identifying solutions that address root causes, generate outsized measurable outcomes, integrate holistically into existing communities, consider long-term impacts, reduce the risk of unintended consequences and lead to self-reliant capabilities rather than co-dependencies.


It’s time for us to focus less on things like “overhead ratios” and more on the total, holistic positive result per dollar. Oh yeah, and it should be fun!


We believe that the best solutions...


  • Solve root-causes rather than symptoms.
  • Consider their impact 100 years into the future.
  • Produce massive impact efficiently.
  • Care for people and planet holistically.
  • Leverage nature’s and humanity’s best technologies.
  • Are radically transparent – financially and operationally.
  • Are resilient against threats of reversal.
  • Result in self-reliance, rather than dependence.
  • Clearly understand total costs to achieve outcomes.

This vetting methodology was designed with careful care to identify these solutions.



How we calculate the Integrated Impact Score:


Individual Dimension Score


The scores for each individual dimension (e.g. Transparency, Measurability) are calculated by adding up the total points (1-5) per section and dividing by the total possible points for that section.


Impact Stack


The amount of points awarded for the Impact Stack section is based on an assessment of how directly or indirectly and effectively or ineffectively the solution addresses a particular Sustainable Development Goal, using the SDG indicators as a guide. Impact Stack is treated like a bonus of points by adding up the total Impact Stack score and dividing by 10 (i.e. every 10 points gives a bonus of +1 to the final IIS score).


Overall Integrated Impact Score


The overall Integrated Impact Score is calculated by averaging the total scores received in each of the Individual Dimensions (e.g. Transparency, Measurability, etc.). We then add the bonus points awarded by the Impact Stack. Overall scores are rounded up to the nearest integer at 0.5 (e.g. if a score of 94.5 is calculated, the final score will be 95, if a score of 94.4 is calculated, the final score will be 94).

Vetting methodology 02.01 | Published 12.23.2022 | This report's change log is here.