Annual Report 2021-22
Pallavi Yadav

Pallavi Yadav

May 09th, 2023

Trials to Triumphs: GBL’s Journey of Learnings and Growth

6 years seems to be a long time. But as they say, time flies when you’re having fun! It seems like only yesterday that we made our last birthday post. But at the same time, so much has happened that it feels like a lifetime. We keep sharing exciting updates with you on LinkedIn and Instagram, but there’s still a side of our journey that we have not shown you. Until now! 

Throughout the year, we focus on sharing our achievements and the things that worked well for us. But there’s so much that goes behind those achievements. Things that don’t pan out before we understand what actually does. Often, there is a sentiment of shame attached to setbacks. And yet, these experiences are just as important to our growth as the wins. ‘Failures’ are traces of effort. To reflect on them rather than deny them, is to grow stronger, better, and wiser.

So, this time, we’re changing the script and giving credit where it's due by sharing what we have learnt so far. 

The Balancing Act – Goals, Ambition, and Keeping it Real

An almost necessary characteristic of people working in the non-profit/social sector is that they’re really passionate about their cause and probably, at times, overly optimistic. We are no exception. When we set our goals for this financial year, we considered several factors like our past performance, innovative growth strategies, and skillsets we have developed. However, our enthusiasm led us to set really high goals which we soon learnt to be a bit impractical given their external dependencies. That meant going back to the board and rethinking our priorities. We learnt to pivot, prioritize, and place focus on what truly mattered. Even if that does mean paring down our aspirations to some extent. That helped us deliver quality outputs that matched our own standards. In the end, that’s what true commitment is!

Culture Fit vs. Shiny Resumes

No doubt resumes are powerful. After all, they’re a window into a candidate’s professional achievements. But they’re not a foolproof testament to a candidate’s fit in the organization. This year, we learnt that a candidate’s values and commitment to our vision, are just as important. The trick is to use interviews as a tool to understand not only how candidates fit within the organization, but also their willingness to improve and grow. That’s what has allowed us to nurture unconventional teams with diverse experiences. As Rodoshee, our former intern, said in her blog “a good organization invests in a candidate if they express potential over experience”.  

The Art of Teamwork

This year, GBL saw unprecedented growth. As we grew bigger, and took on more complex work, our old model of collaboration felt like it needed a version 2.0. As Dia Bangera, our Associate Director - Funding and Finance, said “we realized that while collaboration would still be the building blocks for all our endeavors, the roles needed to be clearer and more defined.” Extensive exercises to map out where vertical roles overlap and where they diverge really helped align our ensemble.

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

What we’ve been able to achieve so far is also credit to the partnerships we’ve been able to establish and nurture. But sometimes it’s possible that our efforts don’t yield the results we want. Sometimes we lose buy-in from our partners even after significant effort has been invested. This can bring down team morale. But we learnt that the value we create can still find a better use elsewhere. In the words of Arvind Patil, our Senior Manager- Design, “ You just have to pitch it well.” That’s exactly what happened to us and our erstwhile “wasted” effort is now a project with a different partner! The lesson is to never be afraid to pitch your ideas because you never know who's listening. 

Slow and Steady wins the race

Last year, we had set about transforming GBL to be able to meet the needs of today and to thrive tomorrow. However, we didn’t recognize that as we grow at an exponential rate, so does our business as usual. As we handled that, limited bandwidth was left to work on the goals of transformation without risking burnouts. But we learnt that all or nothing are not the only two options. Going slow is very much a choice and will still count as progress. Hence, we loosened our timelines and broke down the huge transformation process into smaller phases. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day!   

Reactive vs Proactive Force

Reactive strategies can work well to secure funding. But last year, we realized that there’s a lot more we can do to fulfill our planned growth and transformation. Hence, we added a chapter of proactivity to our funding approach. From just responding to proposal calls, we’re now venturing into building relationships with more platforms where we can actively share our work and pitch our ideas. This has opened doors to many untapped opportunities for us. All while maintaining a sustainable business path.     

The Answer Lies Within (and a Little Help from the Outside)

With growth comes complexity. Like every other organization, we also face internal challenges, some more elaborate than others. So we called in the cavalry (aka consultants and advisors) to help us tackle some of them. The wisdom they shared was, no doubt, invaluable. But we believed there was something missing. And that’s when we realized that we didn’t recognize our own potential. It was then that we turned inwards and in some instances that made all the difference. Our Co-founder Anant Ahuja said, “the solutions to our problems were already within us.” Simple but easy to forget! We learnt to utilize external guidance to supplement our efforts but still take ownership and that was a real game-changer!    

As we celebrate our journey, we can’t help but feel truly grateful for all the challenges we faced. They not only taught us to turn roadblocks into opportunities but also helped foster a culture that encourages learning from failures and being better prepared for the future. This journey is full of a plethora of perspectives that no one blog undertaken by a single member of a growing GBL family can contain. But we will strive to highlight as many of these perspectives as we can every now and then.       

Here’s to many more years of learning, adapting, and growing! 

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