Gaining deeper understanding of philanthropy in India through Research Fellowship

: By Divya Chopra


Giving is strongly embedded in Indian culture. Giving in India is not just structured like corporate philanthropy but includes everyday giving by the common man, be it giving to beggars, family and friends or charity on auspicious occasions and special days. Many religious scriptures in India also guide the different forms and acts of charity and giving by Indians. The same is reinforced by the recent report ‘How India Gives’, which indicated that 87 percent of surveyed households donated in the last one year, and for these households, ‘religious beliefs’ was the biggest motivator for giving. The other two important motivators were ‘desire to support those in financial distress’ and ‘family traditions’. While philanthropy and giving is an established field of study in other parts of the world, it remains an under-researched topic in India despite the deep-rootedness of the culture of giving in India.

The Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy (CSIP) at Ashoka University through its Research Fellowship program aims to support research on philanthropy and giving in India. Launched in 2020, the Research Fellowship program aims at building this field, strengthening research capacity and creating high quality, rigorous outputs. CSIP has mentored two cohorts of research fellows so far.  In addition to the funding support, CSIP provides mentorship and capacity building for the selected fellows to develop their research. The two cohorts have produced very interesting working papers and have helped in building the knowledge on different forms of indigenous giving. The working papers of Cohort 2021 are available on CSIP’s website. The working papers of the Cohort 2022 are on the finalisation stage and will be available on the website by the year end. Taranga Sriraman, one of the fellows of Cohort 2022 describes her experience as “(research fellowship) is an interesting experience, even if not easy. I learnt a lot about myself as a practitioner turned researcher. The Fellowship offers a good opportunity to study and write about something of specific interest to oneself with good financial support. (The Fellowship) Can be carried out alongside other work if you plan your time well.” 

Applications are invited for the third cohort of research fellows. The 9 month long fellowship will begin in February 2023 with a cohort of 10 fellows conducting research on a topic related to Indian philanthropy and giving trends. At the end of the fellowship, fellows are expected to produce an 8,000-word high-quality working paper to be published on CSIP’s website. The total fellowship amount is INR 9,00,000 per fellowship, which includes stipend and research expenses.

To be eligible for this fellowship a candidate must be based full-time in India, demonstrate an interest and relevant background in philanthropy, have the capacity to undertake rigorous research during the fellowship period, and be able to produce a working paper of publishable quality (with help from workshops and support).