So You Want to Switch from the Corporate to the Development Sector?

The Indian development sector is wide and diverse, filled with ideas, cultures, and people. It expanded from just NGOs to incorporate CSR initiatives, social foundations, social enterprises, etc. 

In India, the development sector also has advanced to match the frightening rise in inequity and the massive scale of social problems. Though it is facing some of its toughest and complex challenges, there is a lot to be excited about. Lots of funds are available. Numerous individuals and organizations are committed. Creativity and innovation are guiding these organizations. 

But, with the increase in funding from philanthropy, CSRs, and other sources, there is an increased expectation of professional competence, accountability, efficiency, and effectiveness. More importance is given to the results, the ability to scale operations/impact, and the proper usage of funds. All of these call for a skill set that many in the social sector do not possess. 

Instantly, this deficit can be fulfilled by senior corporate executives who are trained to visualize, implement, and manage complex project focusing on the results. This valuable set of skills and management experience can be used by organizations in the social sector to achieve their vision. Importantly, there are executives who do want to make the switch into the development sector. But as with anyone who is making a switch professionally, they need proper guidance, sensitization, and most importantly, on-ground field exposure. 

That means visiting the communities, not just for an hour only to return to the city. Spending time with members of the community and listening to them. For any development activity to be truly effective, it must be aligned with the needs of the stakeholders which can only be understood by talking to the stakeholders. 

Whenever one enters this type of work, they may fall into the trap of thinking, or assuming, that there is a lack or a problem within the community that needs to be solved or that the members of the community are problems that need to be solved. But things that may be considered as problems are considered a way of life for the local community. Experience in the field allows one to make efforts to truly understand the people they are working for. By providing a platform, members of the community can honestly communicate their opinions and views allowing those who work in the development sector to better understand the needs of the community. 

This doesn’t have to be in-depth research. It can be simply talking to people over chai or while walking through the fields together to hear the stories of the community from the community. Numbers can never have the same impact as a story with a name and face. We always forget facts, but we never forget a story. 

Born and raised in Berkeley, California, Nithya graduated from Santa Clara University (SCU) in 2018 with a double major in Public Health Science and Psychology. While at SCU, she was awarded the Global Social Benefit Fellowship from the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Nithya and her research partner conducted action research to assess the social impact of Awaaz.De, a Gujarat-based social enterprise that created a mobile communication platform for other organizations in the development sector. They travelled to three Indian states, visited over 20 communities, and conducted 55 interviews over the span of two months. With that research, they developed social impact case studies detailing how clients use Awaaz.De's services, prepared recommendations to Awaaz.De, and created a mobile social impact assessment framework. Thrilled to return back to India as an AIF Clinton Fellow, Nithya can’t wait to return to Hyderabad, hone her Telugu speaking skills, and reconnect with family. In her spare time, she loves watching the Golden State Warriors, petting baby goats, and mastering the art of making dosas.

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