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Importance of Youth Engagement in Social Sector

8 Mar 2023 1:49 PM | Sewa International (Administrator)

India currently stands at a crossroad, facing the duality of development. While we are registering almost 3 unicorns per month in 2022, we also saw almost 7 farmers committing suicide every day in the last two years. New generation start-ups are promising to solve ‘key’ problems of the society like 10-minute grocery delivery and faster shopping experience, while other ‘key’ problems like climate change and child trafficking remain unsolved. All in all, the world needs problem solvers more than ever. This is the work domain for organisations working in ‘social impact’ or ‘nation-building’. 

The last two decades have brought a paradigm shift in the social sector. There has been a confluence of opportunities in both organised and unorganised efforts for social impact, which has magnified the scope of the domain. From the image of someone working in this domain as: ‘women/men wearing khadi kurta-jeans and sandals with a canvas tote bag in their arms’, we are witnessing a shift to specialized skills, detailed job descriptions, and an organized workstream with innovations, ideas, and people skills. There are multitudes of streams in which we can work  and contribute in our own ways. 

However, entering the social impact space is a tough decision, primarily due to three reasons. First, the social sector is still to emerge as a conventional sector for careers. The stereotypical image of a social worker is still a volunteer and not a full-timer. Second, there is structurally a lack of awareness on how to enter and contribute meaningfully to social impact. The entire domain operates like a glacier with limited visibility to anyone new to the sector. Third, there is a lack of formal programs which train you to face the sector and make you ready to take up challenges. 

For all social impact enthusiasts, we have developed a framework to help you decide on a career dedicated to building our nation. The framework rests on two pillars: one: realization of who we internally are, and two: the needs of the sector. 

As a first step, one needs to reflect on their core beliefs and drives. This is important to harness our full potential and what role attracts the most in the social sector. To understand our nature, we need to ask ourselves, three basic questions: 

● Do I often find myself obsessed with seeking solutions to the problems that I encounter? If the answer is yes, your personality might be of a problem-solver. This personality does whatever it takes to complete/ solve an issue. Being path agnostic, this personality is overarchingly entrepreneurial in nature. 

● Do immediate results/satisfaction/benefits often are my energy boosters for my journey? If yes, then your personality might be of a satisfaction seeker. This personality would readily donate to a social cause, or gain satisfaction from doing something good for the community. From finding happiness and meaning through their contributions, this personality is highly driven by the heart.

● Do I have basic clarity on my career/life trajectory and are my decisions a way to reach the end goal? If yes, then your personality might be of a careerist. This personality understands life like a ladder or checklist with each step/item defined by them. Generally risk-averse, this personality takes a choice-based, pragmatic approach to life. 

The above questions are neither comprehensive nor elaborate. There will be many who will answer yes to more than one question. This is because human beings are complex and it is difficult to clearly demarcate into one defined category. However, one of these questions may resonate more than others. This can be a good lever to define a primary trait that would drive the decision-making and actions. 

Once you have identified a core personality, the next step is to identify the playing field of the social sector. This playing field is based on the sector's needs, and we can define the needs on three fronts of work: Community, Stakeholders, and Internal. 

On the community front, the work requires a service temperament and soft skills to ensure the full potential. The work involves working with the community members, and building a deep understanding of the challenges faced. On the stakeholder front, the work requires a complementing combination of hard and soft skills to coordinate with a multitude of players, including Donors, other NGOs, academic institutions, government bodies, etc. Also, the NGOs are also looking for domain experts to join the sector to share their expertise in specialized domains like finance, HR, communications, legal, or even as teachers, doctors, etc. 

But the elephant in the room remains, how does one decide on the career path? 

To enable this, we looked at 24 various possible careers in the social impact space and tried to cluster them based on the two parameters: nature of the individual and type of work. Sharing the table below.

Hope this helps. Two good final pieces of advice for anyone thinking about a long-term career in social impact. One, don’t get stressed on the steps. The sector is very porous amongst career choices, and it’s fine to jump between roles to identify what is right for you. Two, focus on building internal capabilities by

doing meaningful work. The sector is practitioner-based rather than theory-driven. Your skills would be more meaningful and handy if they are learnt hands-on while working on the ground, with mentorship. 

The matrix mentioned above might help you in understanding the ecosystem, but it is your gut which will guide you to experiment, explore and understand the ecosystem. Keep trusting it. 

- Kumar Subham is Director at Sewa International. He holds a BTech in computer science from IIT Delhi and was the co-founder of Rashtram School of Public Leadership, Rishihood University. - Priyanka Sharma is Coordinator, Youth Engagement at Sewa International. She was formerly a fellow with Teach for India and holds a graduation in commerce from Delhi University.

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