New Delhi: The idea behind Make A Difference (MAD), a non-profit organization, took hold when Jithin Nedumala happened to visit a nearby orphanage in 2005 when he was still in college. He soon started visiting the orphanage on a weekly basis. Gradually, his friends heard about his visits and expressed their desire to join.

“We were more like a movement in the beginning where somebody had an idea and a lot of people joined and everybody was excited about it. But then we started realizing that a movement can only go so far, and if the objective is to ensure that one day every child in a shelter home is able to achieve equitable outcomes, then we needed to make the transition into a cohesive operating entity," said Nedumala.

MAD was set up by Nedumala with two of his friends, Kavin K.K. and Sujith Varkey, in 2006. The non-profit’s team size stands at about 4,000 and that includes 35 full-time directors and the remaining on a voluntary, part-time basis across 23 cities.

Its mission is to improve not just the learning outcomes for children at shelter homes but their quality of life too. To do this, it starts working with shelter home inmates from when they are around 10 years old until they are 28.

“You’re replicating a parenting model but you only have a limited time of interaction with children. So it has to be regular, and it has to be with somebody who cares and is invested for the long term," said Rizwan Tayabali, who became co-chief executive officer (CEO) in 2014.

Today, the Bengaluru-based non-profit works with roughly 3,500 children every year and provides them guidance and support in every aspect of their lives—from academic aid such as literacy and numeracy to emotional health, life skills and work readiness.

In order to do that, it has recognized that building a good work culture within is just as important. It encourages employees to enable one another in performing their tasks, and growing in their careers and personal lives.

Nobody reports to CEOs Nedumala and Tayabali, and there are no annual performance reviews. The firm’s directors and other employees, or strategists as they’re known internally, hold a meeting once a week and everyone reports for that open forum. Goals are tackled collectively rather being looked at, and evaluated, individually.

Employees are encouraged to walk up and talk to each other instead of communicating by email. That the office is located within a house furthers one of the three core values it was built around—a sense of family. There is even a dog adopted by the firm that wanders around the office, occasionally scratching at conference room doors to be let in when discussions are on.

But that does not mean people can lounge around and indulge in banter, Tayabali is quick to point out. A blend of personal and professional is what the firm strives for: creating a safe atmosphere where everyone can work towards a common goal without being judged or ridiculed, while also working on helping each other grow personally and professionally.

And yet never losing sight of what matters most, embedded in the firm’s first core value: cause above self.

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