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Connecting The Development Sector

Always Follow Your Passion – Alkesh Wadhwani, Director, Poverty Alleviation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation India

GoBarefoot, a professional networking platform exclusively catering to the Development sector, by facilitating connections and exchange of ideas and information, has collaborated with Katalyst India and Third Sector Partners to present “Leadership Conversations in the Development Sector”, a series of insightful interviews conducted by Shital Kakkar Mehra, India’s leading executive presence coach and Founder at GoBarefoot. Featuring seasoned and reputed leaders from various verticals of the social sector, the series offers a peek behind the scenes and helps viewers find answers to the most pressing questions facing the sector.

As one of the biggest organisations in the development sector, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is known for cutting-edge work in the social ecosystem and Alkesh Wadhwani, Director, Poverty Alleviation, has seen the sector grow and mature over the last two decades. According to him, the social sector is now much bigger, in terms of programmes, initiatives and experience and leadership has evolved in a symbiotic manner. The social sector is now able to partner with government agencies and deliver results, with political parties more focused on ground-level development. Wadhwani believes that this is also a reflection of society as people are now more educated and have high expectations from their political representatives. 

Challenges in leadership 

While the social sector has grown tremendously, it is still a very small sector, especially in relation to the corporate or government sector and this leads to a lack of diverse experience in its leaders. To overcome such challenges, leaders must accept and realise this aspect and focus on a niche which offers them optimal opportunities. They must also deal with diverse stakeholders and socio-economic issues while managing an organisation. Leadership can be developed through on-the-job trainings and collaborations with the government as such instances help build skills and problem-solving capabilities. At the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, leaders are prompted to develop qualities through training, mentorship, and acclimatisation with challenging issues. 

Advice to rising stars  

Passion exceeds anything that a job or training can teach you so it is important that you follow your passion. Secondly, don’t be stuck in a single role or sector as following more than one track or position helps you gain exposure and attain success. This also leads to a breadth of knowledge and experience, across sectors, which can then be used to solve complex problems. Indeed, many great ideas are put forward by people from other sectors and the importance of cross-exposure cannot be over-emphasised. 

Digital transformation in the social sector 

Post Covid, the digital model has become more acceptable across sectors and functions, offering organisations the ability to build scale and potential. While it is easy enough to create applications, the real challenge lies in integrating them with the sector and boosting meaningful assimilation. Phygital has become all the more important and social sector leaders should focus on digital solutions in tandem with human interface. 

Continuing to grow as a leader

After reaching a leadership position, it is important to attain broad thinking to bring new ideas and innovation to the table. Reading, beyond the scope of your work, helps you develop a creative mind-set. Further, while looking for solutions and growth, there is no substitute to being in the field and studying different aspects and sectors.

Read our previous conversation with Amit Kumar Singh, Country Representative, Tanager here.

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