New Delhi, Mar 20: The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is working in 30 countries. In India, AKDN activities span the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh. In a conversation with Zee News, on the sidelines of the Zee Literature Festival, Matt Reed, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Aga Khan Foundation (UK) and of AKDN, said his organisation hopes to create pathways of adaptability and development through education.

Highlighting AKDN’s activities across the world, Matt Reed said, “As a philosophy, for us development at its base is about making countries and societies more adaptable, to the modern world and modern economies and so, if you think about what it is fundamentally that will make societies more adaptable, education has to be at the base of it. The Aga Khan Development Network is in 30 countries – Central and South Asia, East and West Africa, Egypt and Syria. We work at every level from early childhood education, primary, secondary and universities. We think of it as a ladder of learning, to create pathways of development and advancement for people.”

The AKDN runs schools and educational centres, a 162-bed multi-speciality acute care hospital in Mumbai, a rural support programme that has benefited over 1.5 million people in six Indian states and the restoration of a World Heritage site in the nation’s capital. Reed said the organisation mainly focuses on those who are marginalised in the society.

“Wherever we work, we are working in the parts of the country try that are most marginalised, so often the most remote, communities that are most deprived. By working on all the levels, we want to help reform systems but also create role models for advancement. If you are from a village in remote Bihar or Gilgit-Baltistan…. Sometimes what is most important for you is seeing those people who have made it somehow and what does that pathway do for them. We have a long-term commitment to these places, for example in some parts of India, our education institutions started 100 years ago,” Reed said.

The CEO said the AKDN not only focuses on primary education but also works on the university level. “Universities can also themselves be engines of economic development for today from the point of view of making an economic impact. Look at the example of Aga Khan University that is there in five countries for over 30 years. The university itself employs about 700 faculties and has 2000 students, but that footprint then supports 42,000 jobs and a billion dollars in economic impact. Too many times countries don’t look at universities as industries — there is a self-interest in doing that and at the same time, it is making an investment in your future,” Reed pointed out.

Shedding light on AKDN activities in India, Reed said, “India is unlike anywhere else we work. It is the largest country we work in, our programme in India is about $30 Million a year so it is quite substantial but for such a large country, we can be at $100 million and still not be at the scale that matters. We’re in 6 states in India and we’re working towards creating a collaborative environment and make the country’s strategy on education more effective by involving communities and parents.”