Governance Report

Quest’s Perspective on
the Future of Work and Learning,
Strategy, Leadership and Finances.

The Future of Work and Learning:
A Quest Alliance Perspective

We are living in a world that is changing at a pace never before seen in human history. New technologies transform every aspect of our lives—from the personal to the professional. While traditional workplaces value training and skill specialisations, 21st century workspaces favour those who are able to adapt, learn and reinvent themselves.

For India’s burgeoning young population, this presents a conundrum: how does one plan an education, skilling and career path when potential future jobs do not even exist today?

The Gender Divide and the Workforce

According to the Census 2011 and the NHFS-4, almost 53% of girls do not enrol in secondary schools, and 18% drop out before completion. This evident gender gap in access to quality education will manifest itself into a much larger problem in the future. Millions of girls with limited literacy and restricted digital access will find it much harder to cope with a fast-changing education and work landscape. Informal education and lifelong learning spaces will therefore become key avenues where women can access digital fluency skills. In addressing the larger issue of gender parity in the workforce, the skilling of young girls and women for 21st century workplaces becomes an essential step.

Workforce Transformations in the Age of Automation

Routine manual tasks have increasingly become automated, and the blurring of physical and virtual spaces has created new forms of working and collaboration. The ever-changing technological landscape demands new skill sets and individuals who are quick to adapt to enable seamless integrations into a 21st century workplace.

However, upskilling alone cannot prepare young people for the future of work and learning – a strong sense of ownership is also essential. This is because classrooms cannot always keep pace with developments in technology and industry, where future opportunities are constantly being redefined. This necessitates the need to grow into self-learners, enabling one to become lifelong learners. Building these core skills will allow for the development of meaningful and sustainable career pathways.

Anytime, Anywhere Learning

A strategy for the future of skilling should look beyond the technical skills required for specific job profiles. Instead, it should seek to cultivate a set of foundational skills that can help chart meaningful and sustainable careers. This is a belief that is at the heart of Quest Alliance’s work.

Critical thinking, creativity, digital literacy, collaboration and communication have become crucial for young people to build their agency and define their learning processes. Aptly labelled ‘21st century skills’, these are intended to help students stay relevant in a changing job market.

In order to reach large numbers of young people across the country, Quest has focussed on developing scalable models that can easily be replicated in various spaces. These models are structured around ‘blended learning’ technologies – a mix of digital content and personal interactions. Thus, a learner is empowered to learn at their own pace, in their own time and space, with guidance available when required.

At Quest Alliance, we believe that fostering a culture of self-learning is the best way to prepare for the future of work and learning.

Quest Alliance Strategy 2019–23
Transforming School-to-work Ecosystems
Through Self-learning

What began as a small collective committed to deepening research and innovation in the education technology sector has evolved into a thriving network that has begun to play the role of an ecosystem builder, uniting state governments, NGOs and funders.

Now in its 15th year, Quest Alliance aims to impact the lives of 4 million young people. With a special focus on adolescent girls, it wants to create a nation of self-learners enabled by 21st century skills.

Our Strategic Approach

The educations-skills divide is complex. It is comprised of learnings beyond school, and needs to be addressed at multiple levels within the existing ecosystem for change to be long-term and sustainable. This calls for creative thinking, strategic partnerships and balanced resource allocation funneled through a synergistic approach.

Empowering learners and educators to build 21st century skills and integrating them in their local environments by building awareness on self-learning.

Expanding partnerships with government, civil society and businesses to scale models of self-learning for 21st century skills.

Establishing advocacy alliances of thought leaders to mainstream self-learning for 21st century skills.

Excelling in building robust systems, culture and leadership to scale impact.

For the education and skill development ecosystem to thrive, it is well understood now that organisations need to work in congruence with other stakeholders—whether to widen existing perspectives, upscale ongoing initiatives or make targeted interventions to address gaps in this space. Another extension to this is the government, since this exercise is as much about advocacy as it is about achieving quality numbers.

In view of this, the framework of Quest’s five-year goal has been structured to maximise impact across stakeholders:

Learners: Empower 4 million learners with 21st century skills across 12 states through a network of 200 civil society partners, 750 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), 5450 schools and formal partnerships with 7 state governments.

Educators: Aim to equip 50,000 educators/facilitators to catalyse their learning ecosystems with 21st century skills.

Institutions: Focus on building the next level of innovation in anytime, anywhere learning and integrate these into mainstream systems by working with upper primary and secondary schools, ITIs, Vocational Training Institutes (VTIs), NGOs and appointed Cluster Resource Centres (CRCs) or District Resource Group (DRGs).

Government: Establish Quest Alliance as the first point of recall for 21st century skills with relevant state and central government departments.

Alliances: Establish a global community of organizations and institutions for innovation, collaboration and knowledge-sharing on self-learning for the 21st century. As an extension to this, we also want to launch an alliance of thought leaders from this community to build the discourse for self-learning for 21st century skills and drive policy change.

Programs for Impact at Scale

With half of India’s population under the age of 25 and actively participating in the workforce, there is a massive potential to leverage this demographic dividend to transform its economy. Thus, empowering young people with the skills and knowledge to drive social and economic change becomes the need of the hour.

While efforts to equip youth with future-ready skills necessitates focused activities with young people themselves, real change cannot be catalysed in isolation. The learning ecosystem itself needs to become a space where self-learning and 21st century skilling is incubated, cultivated and promoted. Educators, institutions and policy-makers play an essential role in catalysing this change.

Quest Alliance has therefore identified two approaches for impact and scale.

The Scale-up Node

Demonstrated by the Anandshala program, the Secondary School program and the MyQuest program, this approach develops, tests and scales replicable models for transforming learning ecosystems.

The scale-up node will employ a three-pronged approach:

Strengthen the capacities of schools to ensure students stay, engage and learn

Foster 21st century skills in adolescents to optimize their personal and career decision-making

Facilitate lean school-to-work transitions and career pathways for youth

The Scale-out Node

Evidenced by the Educator Development program, Quest Experience Lab and Knowledge Hub, this approach creates impactful models to develop talent and share knowledge to create self-learning environments in the ecosystem through research and advocacy, capacity building and education technology.

The Scale Out node will also utilise a three-layered approach to create 21st century educators to nurture effective teaching and learning:

Cultivate a community of leaders to drive and support change

Innovate blended learning experiences to offer learning anytime, anywhere and promote 21st century skills

Facilitate knowledge exchange and policy dialogue in the area of school-to-work transitions

Anchored around 21st century skills and career development, these programs have been designed to empower all stakeholders in a world that will demand constant learning, unlearning and relearning. Quest Alliance’s five-year strategy explores the key channels of intervention to establish a global community of organizations and institutions to build the discourse for self-learning for the 21st century and drive policy change.

Executive Leadership Team

The Executive Leadership team is responsible for developing Quest Alliance’s long-term strategy, annual operating plans and reports on progress to the Board. It is responsible for regular reviews of plans, the building of new partnerships, and operationalising governance within their teams. The Executive Leadership team strives to create a solid shared space to enable innovation and collaboration across various learning ecosystems.

Aakash Sethi

Abhijeet Mehta

Amitav Nath
Associate Director, Anandshala

Ashutosh Tosaria
Director, Youth Programs

Gauri Sanghi
Associate Director, Knowledge Management

Neha Parti
Associate Director, Secondary Schools

Nikita Bengani
Associate Director, Quest Experience Lab

Shalini Menon
Associate Director, Capacity Building

Sylvia Priyanthi
Associate Director, People and Operations

Thirumalpad Venugopal
Director, Finance, Admin and IT

Advisory Board

Our board plays an active role in overseeing the strategy and results that are mission-aligned. It holds the leadership team accountable, and provides critical advice and feedback on all aspects of governance.

Aakash Sethi / Male
Managing Trustee
CEO, Quest Alliance

Aashu Calappa / Male
Advisory Board Member

Arvind Lodaya / Male
Strategic Innovation & Branding Consultant at ALo Consulting

Dipta Bhog / Female
Advisory Board Member
Founder, Nirantar

Kapil Das / Male
Film Maker

Nagesh Alai / Male
Advisory Board Member
Founder, Independent Business and Financial Advisory

Sanjay Anandaram / Male
Advisory Board Member
Governing Board Member at TiE

Vikas Goswami / Female
Advisory Board Member
Head, Sustainability, Good & Green at Godrej Industries Ltd.

Board Meetings Held

April 13, 2018

August 6 and 7, 2018
(5-year strategy signed off)

September 26, 2018

Jan 9, 2019


Where our Money
Comes From

All numbers below in INR

ACCENTURE INDIA 67,176,734 25%
CISCO 52,825,790 20%
J.P. Morgan 28,242,000 11%
IBM 27,186,480 10%
BANK OF AMERICA 20,000,000 7%
Sanjeev Prasad 10,574,248 4%
HANS FOUNDATION 7,661,982 3%
HSBC 7,552,600 3%
GODREJ 2,364,471 1%
UNDP 2,327,816 1%
AMD 1,598,300 1%
APPI 1,490,000 1%
RPGF 493,900 0%
IDEA 60,024 0%
Individual Donations 499,532 0%
Bank Interest 5,363,485 2%
Other Income 6,974,161 3%
TOTAL 267,011,675 100%

Where our Money
Goes To

All numbers below in INR

Salaries & Benefits 80,618,881 27%
Program Expenses 64,328,596 22%
Sub Grant 72,941,251 25%
Travel 25,773,901 9%
International Travel 760,780 0%
Training & Workshops 17,407,762 6%
Operations and Equipment Costs 10,135,713 3%
Assets acquired 3,445,243 1%
Administrative Expenses 19,376,980 7%
Total 294,789,107

Balance Sheet
as on 31 March 2019

All numbers below in INR

Capital Fund 15,460,362
General Fund 13,835,170
Specified Fund 104,862,204
Corpus Fund 16,614
Current Liabilities 10,923,901
TOTAL 117,427,911
Fixed Assets 11,144,846
Investments 46,350,725
Current Assets 3,825,361
Cash & Bank Balances 56,106,979
TOTAL 117,427,911

Income and Expenditure Statement for the Year Ending 31 March 2019

All numbers below in INR

Donations and Contributions 499,532
Interest Income 4,033,683
Other Income 6,974,161
Transfer from Specified Grant Fund (Foreign Grant) 88,127,110
Transfer from Specified Grant Fund (Local Grant) 157,495,253
Excess of Expenditure Over Income 17,193,714
TOTAL 274,323,453
Programme Expense 47,085
Overhead & Administration Cost 18,703,290
Project Expenditure (Foreign Grant) 88,937,210
Project Expenditure (Local Grant) 164,296,897
Depreciation 2,338,971
TOTAL 274,323,453

International Travel

Kaos Pilot Campus and
Lego Ideas Conference 2018 (and business development meetings)
Billund and Zurich Aakash Sethi
Asian Venture Philanthropy Network Conference 2018 Singapore Aakash Sethi
UNESCO Mobile Learning Week Paris Nikita Bengani and Aakash Sethi
Change Leader Academy workshop Colombo Ashutosh Tosaria, Shalini Menon, Neha Parti and Sylvia Priyanthi
Global Youth Economic Opportunity Summit Washington DC Nikita Bengani
Quest2Learn (keynote speaker) Arizona (to Bengaluru) Punya Mishra

See: Annual Impact Report