Society & Culture

The middle Road is a platform enabling social change and impact in the social and development sector, along with art and wellbeing. The platform features leading social change enablers, business and social leaders, policymakers within the social ecosystem. The website of the platform


Nishant Malhotra has an MBA from China Europe International Business School, Shanghai, China and from Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, (SIBM) Pune, India. nishant has a MPA from Ford School, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.  A slight correction. Nishant mentions about impact measurement, the framework is SROI. 

SIBM is a leading business school in India. This the audio version of the video interview series - Illumo. 

SIBM Team: "SIBM Pune is delighted to have hosted Mr. Nishant Malhotra, Founder and CEO, The Middle Road OPC Pvt Ltd. and our dear alumnus from the Batch of 2002 as a part of the video interview series - Illumo. 'Sustainable Finance' has emerged as the new buzz word but it has also unfurled new career paths for future corporate leaders.

While the interview did revolve around the scope and trends related to Sustainable Finance, by leveraging his experience and knowledge, Mr. Malhotra also explained other topics such as Impact Investing, Green Bond Market Development, Partnership for Action on Green Economy and more. This was a wonderful opportunity to have learnt lessons from an industry leader in the field of finance. We are grateful to Mr. Nishant Malhotra for his time and guidance and will continue to have more such knowledgeable conversations as a part of the Illumo series." Highlighted section is message from the SIBM team. 


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Muhiddin Tojiev is from the Devashtich district of Tajikistan. He earned his BA in Translation in 2004 and Higher Education Diploma (equivalent to MA) of English Teacher in 2005 from Khujand State University. Muhiddin wore many hats and his work experience includes position as an Independent Contractor for the BBC World Monitoring Service, Central Asia Unit (2003-2005), Press and Public Affairs Officer at the British Embassy in Dushanbe (2005-2007), and Public Education Specialist at the International Finance Corporation Tajikistan (2007-2009).

Mr. Tojiev joined the NGO Sadoqat as a Fundraising and Partnerships Volunteer in 2019 and has successfully raised funds for the construction of two additional classrooms in Secondary School No 51 in Ghazantarak Village. Furthermore, the list of his accomplishments includes the refurbishment of surgery and intensive care units of Devashtich District Central Hospital, as well as the Project on Support of Hospitals in Istaravshan, Shahriston, and Devashtich districts with COVID-19 response through crowdfunding. Muhiddin is full of desire to continue this work to improve the rural population's access to quality education and healthcare services in Tajikistan.

NGO Sadoqat, is a nonprofit and non-commercial organization established in 2000 and officially registered with the Ministry of Justice of Tajikistan. Sadoqat is committed to improving rural lives through thoughtful partnerships and sustainable practice. The organization implemented about 25 projects in various fields, including but not limited to women and youth empowerment, reproductive health, healthy lifestyle among the youth, prevention of STDs, support of persons with disabilities, English skills improvement, and education and healthcare infrastructure with the support of various donor institutions during 20 years of its operation. Currently, the NGO has been raising funds through the Global Giving Crowdfunding Platform to implement projects on the improvement of the rural population's access to quality healthcare and education services.

Hello Muhiddin Tojiev great to have you for another riveting conversation about your work at NGO Sadoqat based in Tajikistan. NGO Sadoqat, is a nonprofit and non-commercial organization established in 2000 and officially registered with the Ministry of Justice of Tajikistan. This is the first podcast with an entity/actor from Tajikistan, a fascinating country in Central Asia. First, a bit about NGO Sadoqat.


Sadoqat is committed to improving rural lives through thoughtful partnerships and sustainable practice. The organization implemented about 25 projects in various fields, including but not limited to women and youth empowerment, reproductive health, healthy lifestyle among the youth, prevention of STDs, support of persons with disabilities, English skills improvement, and education and healthcare infrastructure with the support of various donor institutions during 20 years of its operation. Currently, the NGO has been raising funds through the Global Giving Crowdfunding Platform to implement projects on the improvement of the rural population's access to quality healthcare and education services.

Q). Tajikistan joined the World Bank in 1993, the International Development Association (IDA) in 199 and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) in 2002. (MIGA has not, so far, provided any political risk guarantees for investment projects in Tajikistan). During this time, the World Bank invested over $1.4 billion to support Tajikistan’s efforts to reduce poverty and improve people’s lives. Between 2000 and 2018, the poverty rate fell from 83 percent of the population to 27.4 percent, while the economy grew at an average rate of 7 percent per year.

For a detailed overview refer to the read on The middle Road here

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  “Human Nature Needs Nature” Alfredo Quarto  

In this episode, Nishant Malhotra, Sole Founder of The middle Road platform has an animated chat with Alfredo Quarto, Program & Policy Director/ Co-founder of Mangrove Action Project (MAP), a thought leader US-based nonprofit enabling social change and impact by conserving, and restoring our world’s mangrove forests. Mangrove Action Project is educating coastal communities on many aspects of Mangroves trees significantly one of the positive externalities of attracting bees leading to beehives for processing honey and honey-based products.

How did this idea about preserving and nurturing Mangroves and coastal habitats originate? ✓Mangrove Action Project is educating coastal communities on many aspects of Mangroves trees significantly one of the positive externalities of attracting bees leading to beehives for processing honey and honey-based products. Do talk about your splendid work in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and other countries using the Community-Based Ecological Mangrove Restoration (CBEMR) technique.

How does the community-building model work through the CBEMR model? What is hydrology technology and why is it important in preserving the coastal ecosystem. Do talk about the resistance and acceptance you find from the local communities when you speak about how preserving Mangroves rather than cutting them for shrimp farming will help in increasing their incomes through such alternative, sustainable livelihoods as beekeeping in the mangroves, the sale of honey and honey-based products?

With climate change as a central global agenda among all actors within the sustainable development sector, how do you think the future of Mangroves will work out within this climate change tenet? Please share your vision going forward?

Describe why MAP’s CBEMR program is so important in ensuring a more effective approach to mangrove restoration, avoiding the serious failures of past tree plantation methods.  

You have an academic degree in Aero and Astro engineering. How has been your journey and transition been within the social impact sector? What message would you share with people who want to venture into this sector?  

Do share any Ah Ah moment with the audience. Any experience you cherish?  Alfredo, I thank you for sharing time and chatting about your work at Mangrove Action Project (MAP). 

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       Naghma Mulla “ Women’s right movement one of the strongest in India”


In this episode, Nishant Malhotra has a candid chat with Naghma Mulla, a thought leader and CEO of EdelGive Foundation, a leading grant-making organization in India. EdelGive mission is to build and expand the philanthropic ecosystem by funding small and medium-sized grassroots nonprofits (NGOs) committed to empowering vulnerable children, women, and communities. EdelGive Foundation is enabling social change and impact within the social sector in India through many initiatives including UdyamStree campaign accelerating women entrepreneurship for more nuanced socio-economic equity among the marginalized section of the society for a better tomorrow. 

Inspite of thoughtful policies for the upliftment of women, a lot needs to be done in this sector. Indian women's contribution towards GDP is only 18 percent versus the global average of 37 percent sadly due to the asymmetries within the system India has 48 percent women population but only 14 percent of women are entrepreneurs. 2 To share a perspective, Vidya Shah Executive Director of EdelGive Foundation, pointed out the importance of equal opportunity for women in India - out of 432 million working-age women in India, ~ 80 percent work in the informal sector with limited financial and social support. According to McKinsey Global Institute, equal opportunity for women would add $770 billion to the GDP by 2025. a Questions 1.

 For a more detailed version visit the podcast section on The middle Road here



1. Naghma good to have a candid chat with you. You have worked for some time with the EdelGive foundation. Do share your experiences at the EdelGive foundation with the audience that has had a transforming effect on you?

✓ What changes have you seen in the Indian social sector landscape especially concerning women empowerment in the last decade?

✓ How has the experience changed you for the better both as a person and as a social change leader?

2. According to World Economic Forum, India ranks at a woeful 140 out of 156 countries covered in the Global Gender Gap Report in 2021. In a country that has had a systemic problem of gender inequality for generations, how do you think the class divide is impeding women entrepreneurship in India. 3

3. According to WEF, in 2018 globally 40.6% of women and 35.6% of men in the world were enrolled in tertiary education but only 88.2% of girls enrolled for primary education in comparison to 90.5% for boys. In India, the situation is far worse for women with a lack of inclusive quality education despite the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. 3

4. What steps is EdelGive taking to drive equitable education among the underserved section of girls in our country?

            ✓ EdelGive conducted an in-depth study on women's entrepreneurship. Do share key  insights from the report A Landscape Study on Women Entrepreneurship: Its challenges and impact on health, socio-economic security, and family wellbeing outcomes of Women Entrepreneurs that you find helpful in driving UdyamStree initiative.

            ✓ One aspect highlighted in the report is about serotyping women within society. How do you think we can overcome this misgiving perception change in the long term? If so how?

5. Do speak how the UdyamStree is making a sustainable change within the women startup ecosystem in India? o What policies at the federal level do you feel can help bridge the gap in women entrepreneurship? Enunciate a couple of these policies.

6. The philosophy of EdelGive Foundation is based on collaboration as you along with other foundations are correcting a market failure within the system. Do articulate how through UdyamStree, you plan to collaborate with other foundations example Milaan for a better tomorrow.

7. Anu Prasad discussed Pay What It Takes Philanthropy, a welcome initiative during my conversation with her for The middle Road platform. Pay What It Takes Philanthropy, is an impact-driven giving framework that EdelGive along with other leading foundations and The Bridgespan Group are promoting in India. How does EdelGive plan to use this value-focused Grantmaking approach for uplifting underprivileged women for entrepreneurship? Example more streamlined microlending methodology.

8. For the final question, do share the Aha moment with the audience that brings a smile to your lips. Feel free to share any message with the youth out there.




  3. World Economic Report Global Gender Gap Report 2021                                                       a    Vidya Shah Times of India blog
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In this episode, I will have an in-depth conversation with Dr. Chandrakant Lahariya, one of the foremost healthcare experts and thought leaders in Asia. Our conversation covers various aspects of the pandemic and a must for anyone interested in understanding the efforts of global actors within the healthcare ecosystem in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about mRNA vaccines, difference between Mucormycosis and Black Fungus, Remdesivir divergent results, overview of the  randomized double-blind controlled trial, steroids as a COVID-19 response, Delta variant and much more.  

Dr. Chandrakant is a leading epidemiologist, public policy and health systems expert based in India. He is also the co-author of the book Till We Win, an extremely insightful, informative, and fluid book on COVID-19 and India’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Gagandeep Kang and Dr. Randeep Guleria are the other co-authors of the book. Dr. Chandrakant Lahariya is the youngest fellow ever to be elected to the Indian Public Health Association (IPHA), that works with leading healthcare experts to design healthcare policies and programs at the state and national level in India. He is presently focusing on universal and primary healthcare in India.


Viruses stand at 1031 compared to the human population at 8 billion i.e.  8*109, a telling figure of how dangerous our ecosystem can become. 


Hello, Dr. Chandrakant delighted to have you for a thought-provoking conversation. 

First, I highly recommend people to read Till We Win for getting an excellent perspective about viruses, drugs and therapies, and the evolving COVID-19 response significantly in India during the pandemic. Let’s go top-down and understand a bit about viruses. Edward Jenner developed the first vaccine using the cowpox virus against smallpox. From Black Plague to the Spanish Flu to the COVID-19, humans have been ravaged by pandemics for a long time. Till We Win shares a vivid history about viruses so we being our discussion with the coronavirus. Till We Win begins with stunning reality. How viruses dwarf the count of humans on our planet. 

Read the full question list.  


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Nishant Malhotra Chats with Anu Prasad, a thought leader in the international development sector about her work at India Leaders for Social Sector (ILSS). Anu Prasad is the Founder & CEO of India Leaders for Social Sector (ILSS), a leading non-profit in India that builds and nurtures capacity and talent in India’s social sector. Before setting up ILSS in 2017, Anu was the founding Deputy Dean of the prestigious Young India Fellowship (YIF) and a founding member of Ashoka University, India’s first liberal arts university.


The video version can viewed here.



List of questions below. 

Q1. Anu, you have a very diverse and rich experience as a leader both in the business and  India’s social sector. Your work experience includes stints at multinational companies in leadership positions and as a Deputy Dean, Young India Fellowship at Ashoka University. You also set up India Leaders for Social Sector. So please do share with the audience your transformative journey as you channelled across various facets of life and work. 

            Also, do share your experience as a woman entrepreneur in the development sector.

 Q2. The ILSS Leadership Program is the flagship world-class initiative of your non-profit. In one of the ILSS videos, you briefly mentioned, “ILSS has been designed as a bridge between senior corporate talent to repurpose their work and to attract talent to the dynamic and expanding social sector.” As a thought leader within India’s social sector, and with your background within the higher education space, please discuss how the ILSS Leadership Program positioned your cohort/ alumni to tackle challenges as potential leaders in the everchanging social sector ecosystem? 

  1. ILSS Leadership Program attracts actors from various sectors within the business and development arena.  How does your leadership program coalesce your participants’ different experiences and thinking processes for a common purpose and social impact? 

 ⮚      What gaps do you see among the leadership talent in India’s social sector viz a viz the global space significantly in advanced and high-end emerging economies?

  1. How much of this gap can be attributed to soft skills or lack of investment in Leadership development

 ⮚      Impact evaluation plays a pivotal role in driving the social impact sector today.  Going forward, how much importance would you assign to quantitative skills to succeed as a leader. 

 Q3. Fundraising is the most crucial aspect for social purpose organisation, especially during the early days. Therefore, speak about your much-needed fundraising program in a country lacking a sound ecosystem that nudges actors within the development sector.

 ⮚      Do touch upon the tools within this learning program that enables multiple entities to succeed in their holistic endeavours.


Finally, we come to one of my favourite topics, quality education and learning for all. For full version please visit The middle Road podcast section here



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This is the first podcast episode from Africa, a continent of unmatched pristine beauty, wildlife and origins of modern human race. In this episode Nishant Malhotra chats with Dr. Robert co-founder of Villgro, Africa. Robert has a Ph.D. and Masters in Medical Parasitology & Entomology, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Bachelors in Biology. Before setting up Villgro Africa, Dr. Robert wore multiple hats as a professional within the development sector in Africa.   

Villgro Africa is inspiring a new wave of innovative thinking to address deep rooted global health challenges in Africa through market-led solutions. We provide seed funding, technical assistance and business development support to global health innovators to take their innovations to the market. Working at the interface of science and industry.

Dr Robert chats about his experience in starting Villgro Africa, his game changing and defining experience in a one-month training program on innovation in Sweden. One of the major partners of the program is Sweden’s government agency for development cooperation, that works through a multifaceted collaborative partnership model enabling social change and impact within the sustainable development sector in emerging markets. His experience at the training session changed the perspective on the innovation sector with a feel-good understanding on drivers guiding a knowledge focussed economy.

The discussion delves into how technological innovation can transform Africa from an extractive driven model of natural resources to an innovation focussed mobile platform enabled economy. Example Microfinance, Fintech, Telemedicine etc. Villgro Africa has made a deep impact on the lives of the underprivileged in Africa, impacting more than 1 million lives, with investment of over $800K across 24 startup’s. One very interesting startup is Rescue, the largest network of first Kenya’s best first responders. Wheels for Life enables expectant mothers to reach the hospital during curfew hours. The inventiveness is a significant success during the pandemic as all mothers who have used this service have survived.

The major part of the discussion is on healthcare sector. According to Alt Network, in Africa, fewer than 50% have access to modern healthcare facilities but 25% of the global disease burden. With health coverage ~ 4% in Africa and government expenditure less than 10% of their GDP, the region faces major acute healthcare crisis. According to the Africa Business Community, 11% of Africans experience catastrophic spending for health care every year, 38% delay or forgo healthcare because of high costs. Dr Robert shares an excellent perspective on this aspect. Africa has only a 3 to 4 percent share of global pharmaceutical industry and 2 to 3 percent share of global medical devices. Yet many countries with Africa are ahead of the curve in fighting the pandemic. Another troublesome statistic is African DNA is only 2.3 percent of the global genome database.  

Robert proposes a universal healthcare plan for the citizens in Kenya and a universal tax to sponsor the initiative. Listen to the in-depth interview to understand the African development ecosystem especially Kenya. The podcast is available on Podbean director, Spotify, iTunes, iHeart directory etc.




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In this episode, Nishant Malhotra chats with Brooke Burton, Founder of The People's Club.

Brooke is enabling social change and impact by focusing on building communities. Based in Chicago, Illinois, US, Brooke completed her MBA from ROSS Business School, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and BA from Vanderbilt University. This is the first podcast from The middle Road wherein a free flow strategy is deployed. In this mode of the podcast, no set of questions are decided beforehand rather than a brief outline of the fireside conversation is discussed. The informal talk begins with the theme question with follow-up questions based on the flow of conversation that is directly related to the subject at hand or can be tangential.

In this episode, Brooke will discuss her journey through time articulating her thoughts as an entrepreneur, facilitating social impact through community events. In this exciting, insightful, and refreshing podcast, Brooke shares stellar insights example only 3% of the venture capital goes to women entrepreneurs in America or 30% of the millennials feel lonely always or often. Why only 4% of the non-profits led by Black/Latinx leaders receive only 4% of the philanthropic money? 

A top-gun podcast, listen to Brooke as she shares a game-changing perspective of her motivation in launching her start-up, enablers, and key performance indicators for her business going forward, key statistics concerning the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the US and much more. A must listen for everyone esp. Millennials and Gen Z, the podcast is also the recorded as a video chat and free available on The middle Road YouTube channel. Brooke shines out as a brand ambassador of her generation, eloquent, charismatic in this thought provoking and riveting episode from The middle Road.    

The podcast is also available on Spotify, iTunes, iHeart directory.  

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In this podcast episode, Nishant Malhotra chats with Erica Mills Barnhart, founder of Claxon Marketing and Claxon University. Erica Mills is an internationally recognized expert on how to use words to make the world a better place. The discussion entails the finer points of marketing, messaging, and mission statement for enabling social change and impact within the sustainable development sector.


Snapshot of questions with a brief note of introduction of Erica Mills. Erica wears many hats that of a Consultant, Professor, Speaker, and Researcher. She works with purpose-driven organizations significantly nonprofits in amplifying their work through marketing, messaging, and fine tuning their mission statement. A pioneer in understanding the impact of language used within the social sector, Erica Mills is a podcast host and inventor of The Wordier, an online tool to accelerate better usage of words for articulating communication for the greater good. Her 1,2,3 Marketing tree and Claxon Method have been used effectively by numerous mission-driven organizations with measurable impact.     


Nishant: Let's begin with your academic journey. You are a Professor at Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, the University of Washington at Seattle. You have worked at multiple universities in the US and with the University of British Columbia. How would you explain the transformation within the development sector focusing on nonprofits, philanthropy, and social innovation in your more than two decades of experience?   

Nishant: Keen to understand how policy-making can accelerate social innovation and philanthropy through better messaging of mission and vision of nonprofits. I ask this question since I have a master’s in public administration degree from the Gerald R Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan and keen to focus on qualitative aspects of policies aiding nonprofits.

Based on Giving USA report, the philanthropy in the US hovers around 2% of the GDP spread over decades. (Refer Eight Myths of US Philanthropy | SSIR). How can messaging increase the giving pie in America as a percentage of GDP? 

How do you think the pandemic will change philanthropy in the US?    

Nishant: In your article published in SSIR, you emphasized the importance of linguistic repertoire as part of official communication for nonprofits. As per your article, research has shown that words that are used less often make a more measurable impact on the audience. Example Betters or using verbs.  Please elaborate on your thoughts here. 

Nishant: Take an example of the tagline of The middle Road- Enabling social change and impact. Taking this as an example, based on your book “PitchFalls why bad pitches happen to good people” do share an example of how a tagline can be better represented as a pitch to investors. 

Nishant: You have mentioned five steps for a good pitch in your above-mentioned book. Would you like to share in detail examples from the industry on how to implement them in real life? 

Nishant: You are a podcast host. As a fellow podcast host, I am keen to understand from your perspective what you feel are key attributes for an excellent podcast host? What excites you about the experience.   


Finally, share any ah ah moment and message with nonprofits/social entrepreneurs out there. 



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Nishant Malhotra, welcomes Larry C Johnson, a thought leader in relational fundraising and philanthropy. A graduate of Yale University, Larry is the author of the award-winning book “The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising” and based on The Wall Street Business Network ranked among the top 15 Fundraising consultants in the United States. Larry specializes in nonprofit development, fundraising, and philanthropy and serves on multiple nonprofit and corporate boards significantly The Philanthropy Council of The Carter Center, the philanthropic arm of Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of United States. This podcast focusses on the importance of relational fundraising and philanthropy within the social ecosystem and shares tips for everyone.

Music by DreamHeaven from Pixabay

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Nishant Malhotra, interviews Ronald Abraham, Founding Partner, and India Director IDinsight. IDinsight is a global advisory, data analytics, and research organization that uses data and evidence to help leaders maximize their social impact. Its collaborations deploy a large analytical toolkit, including machine learning and randomized evaluations, to help clients design better policies, rigorously test what works, and use evidence to implement effectively at scale. IDinsight works with multiple sets of actors from the social and business sector and works in all major sectors significantly in health, education, agriculture, governance, digital ID, financial access, and sanitation. They have offices in Dakar, Lusaka, Manila, Nairobi, New Delhi, and San Francisco.

Ronald has led several projects at IDinsight’s unit at NITI Aayog supporting the Aspirational Districts Programme, the State of Aadhar Initiative, learning partnerships with Governments of Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, and education projects with STiR, Akanksha, and Going to School. He holds a BA (Honors) from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, and a Master of Public Administration in International Development from Harvard Kennedy School.

The podcast is a deep dive into the International Development Sector to understand the best business and sustainable practices governing the sector. The chat revolves around Ronald's work experience in research and as an entrepreneur with a discussion on emerging various impact and data driven methodologies and tools for impact evaluation including use of machine learning and randomized control trials, new social innovation instruments example impact bonds, work during the pandemic, etc. The discussion shares a well-rounded view on how innovation is driving the development sector with a message on key enablers driving the global development arena.


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