By Anchal Kakkar
‘We want to create systemic change’. Almost all social impact organisations today, relate to this phrase. To create an impact in the society, it is no longer sustainable to work in isolation. One needs to collaborate and learn from each other.
To create this systemic change, however, organisations need the right talent in place. There is a need for people who will create, implement, sustain and adapt systems that enable systemic transformation in society. But how does one find such talent? Moreover, how does one groom this talent to equip them to take on the reins of leadership? With the younger millennial population joining the workforce, how does one truly leverage their talent? How does one forecast the future of work in the impact sector and prepare for the same?
The answers to these and many other questions were addressed at Arthan’s first Human Capital Roundtable held on the 20th of December 2018 in New Delhi. The event brought together thought leaders, practitioners and erudite professionals from the impact sector to come together and discuss these, along with other pertinent issues, and give direction on the way forward on human capital in the social sector.
The day began with a welcome address by Satyam Vyas (Founder & CEO, Arthan Careers), which set the tone for the day, by giving a snapshot of the human capital challenges in the social sector that Arthan has been exposed to through its work over the past 2 years. He stressed on the sharp disconnect between the demand and supply of jobs in the social impact sector. As part of an example, he shared how in the past year, Arthan has engaged with 40,000+ job seekers who were interested in close to 800 jobs that were shared on Arthan’s social sector job portal. Sharing this challenge, he set the tone for the event, which was centered around the theme of ‘Challenges and Opportunities in the human capital landscape in the social sector’.
The welcome address was followed by the keynote given by Yamini Aiyar (President, Centre for Policy Research). Yamini outlined a multitude of challenges that the social sector faces including the predicaments of the leadership, while beautifully weaving in her personal experiences and learning. She touched upon the issue of sustaining passion to convert it to something productive in the long run while managing the demands of funders for ‘immediate impact’ and ‘no mistakes’. Some of the other challenges she spoke of included – scaling a project that two-three people begin with, based on their passion to make an impact and how does one convert it into a thriving community of passionate individuals, juggling new ideas of work culture with individuals who switch from the corporate to the social sector, the ever dynamic pool of funders etc and so on. Her over-arching advice was – ‘to get more advice’. In this context, for example, Yamini said that while she understood that the concept of ‘coaches’ might be an added headache for an already overworked NGO leader, the outsider approach a coach offers can be rather beneficial. She further implored leaders to have a clear, definite vision and added that ‘putting the organisation on the couch’ every once in a while is very helpful.
The keynote was followed by three panel discussions centered around human capital in the social sector.
The first panel ‘Hiring and Grooming Talent for the Future’ was moderated by Shriya Sethi (Associate Director, International Innovation Corps) and the panelists included Shaveta Sharma-Kukreja (MD, Central Square Foundation), Ingrid Srinath (Director, Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy, Ashoka University) and Srikanth Viswanathan (CEO, Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy).
Shriya kick-started the discourse by pointing out that retention of talent is key but difficult in the social sector due to factors, including but not limited, to the less lucrative financial incentives. The panel offered key insights given their vast and varied experiences in the corporate and the social sector. While Ingrid spoke about building a sense of shared purpose in the workplace and devolving authority systematically to promote inclusiveness, Srikanth stressed on empowerment, responsibility and flexibility being vital. He also added that there was a need to unlearn corporate sector values where they are not applicable. Shaveta introduced the discussion around the younger millennial employees who bring a vibrant, enthusiastic aura to the workplace but need a proper performance management system in place to best utilise their talent and constantly motivated demeanor.
On the subject of sustainable leadership and succession, Ingrid shared that organisations need to design for resilience, for succession to come naturally. An interesting insight was that founders too need to plan their future post transitioning out of an enterprise, and learn to let go, for the organisation to learn, grow and flourish on its own.
The second panel on the ‘Future of Jobs in the Impact Sector’ included Arjav Chakravarti (Founder & CEO, Lumen Consulting), Moutushi Sengupta ( Director, India MacArthur Foundation) and Kashyap Shah ( India Education Lead, The Bridgespan Group), and was moderated by Renu Shah (Founder, C3: Collaborate to Create Change). Questions that the panel deliberated upon ranged from how should the workforce be prepared with the skills and education that social organisations need to how will they hire with the changing nature of work while realising that the end-goal of an institution can change?
Kashyap described the changing nature of jobs in three trends – globalisation, demographic changes with respect to urbanisation and shifts in the working of the sector, and technological changes, mainly due to the rapid growth of the use of GIS (Geographic Information System) in the sector. When questioned specifically about the education sector, he said that while the education system has done great work in expanding its reach, there is a lot of catching up to do in terms of quality. He stressed the need for more institutions focusing on the development sector, with more fellowship models coming to play.
Arjav gave his opinion on the skills needed in the sector by stressing that social organisations need to realise ‘how’ they want to use new talent which will be familiar with not just the use of simple technology, but also the advanced aspects of it, and how it wants to create space for this talent to grow and in turn help the organisations to grow. Moutushi spoke about the evolution of the educational requirements in the social sector over the years and shared that while there have been positive changes with respect to a variety of roles emerging, the negative change is that people focus more on work being a ‘job’ than what someone is ‘trying to achieve’.
The concluding panel of the day ‘Building the 21st Century Organisation’ was moderated by Satyam Vyas, with Ronald Abraham (Partner, IDinsight ) , Vinod Karate ( CEO & Founder, TheTeacherApp) and Gaurav Goel (Founder & CEO, Samagra) as the panelists. The dialogue was steered towards the dynamics of having ‘new generation of millennials’ in the workplace in the social sector and how one could keep them constantly motivated while leveraging their abundant talent.
Gaurav pointed out that social organisations today are no longer run by people from the corporate sector and that the new generation is willing to take risks and start their careers in the social impact sector itself, building the organisation as they go as they are not afraid of failure. Ronald mentioned that social impact organisations now tend to be focussed from a scientific point of view rather than just a feel-good factor and have a clearer analysis of what the problem is, its solution and implementation which enables them to scale more effectively. Vinod pointed to the growing prominence of the idea of a shared economy and how that feeds into the collaborative nature of the social impact sector.
The concluding remarks were given by Mahamaya Navlakha, VP- Arthan Foundation who summarised the learning from the day and very eloquently stated that to find ways to overcome current challenges, we need to be cognizant of the speed with which the world of work is changing, the social impact space being no exception. She reiterated that it is for us to continue to create a path, innovate, build on opportunities and to walk the fine balance between passion and professionalism so that we can build sustainable organizations.
After hosting our first roundtable, we are looking forward to our next event this quarter. Arthan will be hosting an event on Demystifying Social Sector Careers in collaboration with Amani Institute and the International Innovation Corps on April 24th, 2019 in New Delhi. Follow this space for more updates.