Enabling Not Aiding: A Solution to the Non-Profit Brain Drain

PATHFINDER is a new social enterprise developed by co-founders, Shivani Singh and Jessica van Thiel of India and Canada, respectively. PATHFINDER intends to create sustainable, positive impact by enabling promising local social entrepreneurs with the critical resources and support they need to realize innovative solutions to some of the world's biggest problems.

Singh and van Thiel met on their travels a few years ago and are global citizens in every sense, having grown up, studied, worked and lived in many countries. They share a great rapport and passion for travel and international affairs, and above all, a commitment to making a difference and contributing to a better world.

PATHFINDER is different from most consultancies in the way that its model operates. Its intention is to enable social entrepreneurs by providing them with the resources and funding they need to be able to focus entirely on their organizations and causes; because the current model that most non-profit organizations use is just not sustainable.

Too often professionals with a great deal of expertise and education are expected to work for very little or on a voluntary bases (in many cases). This of course is not sustainable and the result is a high turnover of staff, the abandonment of projects and in many cases the closure of the organization.

PATHFINDER aims to prove that their innovative model of operations will address these greatest known industry shortcomings and will tackle them head on by enabling (not aiding) promising local social entrepreneurs and engaging only sustainable and scalable operations.

Their focus is vast, with connections and future collaboration planned with entrepreneurs who support the following international causes: Animal Welfare; Climate Change; Education; Environment; Gender Equality; Human Rights; LGBT Equality and Support; and Water and Sanitation (among others).

Singh and van Thiel recently launched a funding campaign on Indiegogo and are hoping to raise the funds and interest they need to begin their work.

They have decided to deploy their new model of engagement and all of its supporting theories to two excellent pilot projects which include supporting children’s education in Nepal and the production of eco-friendly soaps that will promote sanitation and create jobs for disadvantaged women in India.

One of the projects, Pathfinder Nepal, assists children with educational subsidies in the Nepalese villages around the Pokhara valley. At the operational level, they regularly visit schoolmasters and aid impoverished children forced to drop out of school; in addition to funding schooling for children, they provide support by visiting families.

The second pilot project, The Drunken Chemist (TDC), is run by two sisters who are scientists/chemists by trade. They make soap formulae with locally sourced, responsible ingredients and they are environmentally sound and ethically tested (i.e. not on animals).

They are collaborating with PATHFINDER because in addition to growing their business in the US, they want to expand and focus on creating social impact. PATHFINDER is seeking to expand their operations to India, starting in the Rajasthan region, where they aim to open locally run shops, thereby creating jobs for impoverished women and to promote proper sanitation.

PATHFINDER’s goal is to raise an initial $100,000 USD. This is the very least they must raise to be able to begin work on two pilot projects. If they are able to meet their fundraising goal for the year, they expect to be able to work entirely on PATHFINDER, which is ideal for all of the participants.

The pair envision that at the end of 2016, they will have made great strides. The direct impact will be seen at the ‘grass roots’ level through their pilot projects. Supporting the education of the school children in Nepal, and the creation of jobs for rural women in India will be the tangible results seen right from the start.  

However, raising funds is tough and raising funds where it is unlikely to make a massive return on investment right away, or where there isn't a cool new gadget to grab, is even tougher. PATHFINDER is a social enterprise and "social entrepreneurship" is a relatively new, developing trend.

And as explained by Sarita Douglas of Demand Media, “A social enterprise faces the same issues that any traditional business faces in its growth and operations. But social entrepreneurs also face unique challenges in delivering the social value, social returns or social impact of the enterprise in addition to commercial value”.

Much work is yet to be done to discover the amazing benefits of running socially responsible and economically sustainable organizations. But Singh and van Thiel are confident that over time, their model will prove to be successful and demonstrating of enormous potential!

On their innovative model and projections for the future Singh said, “Over time, impact will begin to be immeasurable as the potential for expansion and the scope of projects and partnerships is endless”.  

Media Inquiries

 Jessica van Thiel

Founding & Managing Partner

PATHFINDER | Consulting for Sustainable Development


Editor’s Note


Singh and van Thiel, cofounders of PATHFINDER, may be best described as highly specialized consultants. They engage financial organizations and impact investors, including venture capitalists, private equity firms and CSR departments who are committed to making a social impact via sustainable, scalable and profitable business models, and they connect them to local social entrepreneurs with demonstrably compelling ideas that need financing and direction.

Having identified their clients and partners, they provide lasting strategy and management consulting by way of relationship governance and business education among other facets of leadership and guidance.

They strive to ensure their experts in the field are fully enabled, consistently prepared and subsequently successful. Their efforts do not end at tangible results, however. The entire project is documented and every successful venture is presented to local government where, with the support of local experts and leadership, they can help deploy proven policies. Additionally, their work is entirely transparent, documented and available for auditing, study and analysis.

PATHFINDER’s Advantages

  • They have created an innovative new model that
    a. Is based on extensive research of the global development industry’s gaps and requirements, and
    b. Addresses known industry issues that currently hamper development efforts everywhere.
  • Their model is just the right balance of structure and flexibility. While the structure keeps them on track, flexibility is key to creating solutions that adapt to the needs and circumstances of each particular engagement, over time.
  • They are well educated, traveled and trained individuals who joined in their passion and commitment to help create a better world for all.

About World Pathfinder Children’s Fund Inc. and Pathfinder Nepal

World Pathfinder Children’s Fund Inc. is a Canadian corporation and the international support channel for their founding entity, Pathfinder Nepal. Both Pathfinder Nepal and the World Pathfinder Children’s Fund are not-for-profit organizations; Pathfinder Nepal assists children with educational subsidies in the Nepalese villages around the Pokhara valley.

At the operational level, they regularly visit the schoolmasters and review the recent list of impoverished children forced to drop out of school; they visit the families and speak with the children. If a family wishes for a child to continue attending school, they provide the tuition, monitor the child, and offer guidance. In addition, if a family cannot feed or clothe a child, they provide nourishment, clothing, and school supplies. Once they provide assistance to a child, they continue supporting the child until graduation or when the family no longer desires their assistance.

About The Drunken Chemist

The Drunken Chemist (TDC) is a business run by two sisters who are scientists/chemists by trade. They make soap formulae with locally sourced, responsible ingredients which are environmentally sound, ethically tested (i.e. not on animals). They contacted PATHFINDER because aside from growing their business in the US, they want to expand TDC that is dedicated to creating social impact.

They are currently working on a new formula that reduces the need of clean, drinking water and lye which is a material that can be dangerous to handle outside a lab – so that they can work around conditions in the field in India (as there is a lack of access to clean water and safety).


We intend to create sustainable, positive impact by enabling promising local social entrepreneurs with the critical resources they need, including funding, business education and training.


Toronto, Ontario

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