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Operating Principles

Azim Premji Foundation exists to make significant contributions to education in a manner consistent with social justice, equity, humane values and sustainability within the framework of a secular and democratic Indian polity. A number of key principles continue to guide the process of the Foundation’s evolution. These principles deeply inform our strategy and approach at many levels and are worth articulating here.

  • Operating Organization: We are an operating organization and not a funding organization. We recognize the importance of creating institutional “social infrastructure” to complement the government and as an operating or implementing organization we work in partnership with the government to improve the quality of education across the country.
  • Education and Allied Areas as the Domain of Work: Education is a powerful vehicle for social change and it is the primary focus of our work. We work primarily for India’s large underprivileged and marginalized population. Related domains like health, nutrition, livelihoods, governance and ecology also have a critical bearing on education. We work in these areas recognizing their complex inter-related manner. However we realize that it is not possible for a single organization to work with equal intensity and focus in all these areas and we therefore we calibrate our efforts based on the nature of the specific challenges, our own capabilities and our ability to work with partners and extended resources.
  • Scale of Work: We seek systemic change - all our work is aimed at creating large scale impact either directly or indirectly. Such system wide change which touches the large underprivileged population of India is possible only by working in close partnership with the government. However we are also open to working independently of the government and with private institutions where required.
  • Dimensions of Work: We focus our efforts on two critical elements of change viz. people and knowledge. People have a critical role in catalyzing social change and the value of developing a culture of evidence based decisions in policy and program formulation is immeasurable. Hence, the key strands of our strategy encompass:
  • Talent Development: Committed and competent people who can be change agents is a critical gap in India today. Therefore our focus is to develop new talent, transform existing talent and build capacity in education and allied areas.
  • Knowledge Creation: High quality research and domain knowledge is essential to driving change through policy and practice. Knowledge creation through a strong focus on research is thus critical.
  • Integration of Theory and Practice: In a country that lacks a culture of research, building knowledge through research is critical – but this must be deeply rooted in practical ground realities, for applicability. Our “academia” and “practice” teams work together continually and synergistically .
  • Institutionalized Impact: It takes significant and continuous effort over many decades for any deep rooted change to happen in a country like India which is so large, diverse and complex. Such longevity of effort can only be achieved through dynamic “institutions” – which strive for excellence, are responsive to their context and are purposeful. Institutions must be decentralized, autonomous entities which can implement programs that are locally relevant and build deep relationships with proximate communities and collaborate with local government structures. The sheer size of India implies that such institutions must necessarily be geographically dispersed.
  • Building Social Pressure and Extending Our Reach: Strong networking, advocacy and communications act as a force multiplier to facilitate change. We engage at multiple levels – with the state and central governments, with the community, NGOs and industry to build positive social pressure for change. We recognize that it is not possible to do everything ourselves and therefore we work closely with partners whose vision is aligned with ours and who complement our work.