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.
The Indian social impact sector is full of passionate leaders with innovate outlooks and unique insights into the innate workings of the developmental landscape and Puja Marwaha, with her 27-odd years of social sector experience, stands out for her hands-on leadership and visionary endeavours. The CEO of Child Rights and You (CRY) believes that children are the very foundation of every nation’s hope and development and her leadership is, aptly, focused on justice and equity. GoBarefoot, in conversation with Puja Marwaha, answers some of the burning questions on the evolution of the social sector, inherent challenges, and organizational accountability.
Evolution of social sector leadership
Over the years, traditional development-focused organisations have changed the way they lead the charge, while also creating a cadre of new age leaders. There is now an abundance of young people with social entrepreneurship ideas, along with greater diversity and layers of work requirements. Traditional leaders have had to adapt and acknowledge this huge and energetic innovation while encouraging the youth to create agency. The opening up of funding and developmental work has changed what can be done and there has been tremendous evolution in how we approach and accept change. The willingness to step into the unknown, and say “let’s see where these young people can take us” is the gist of this evolution. The focus should now be on creating space for contributors to come in, offer something and, sometimes, move on.
Challenges in the sector
One of the biggest challenges is learning to be humble and understanding that people at the grass-root level may have a better solution to social problems than oneself. People in the social sector work with very dis-empowered people and this may create a very unreal idea of self-importance so keeping our feet on the ground is a challenge. Another major challenge is building sustainable institutions and both, the leadership pipeline and mentorship team, must find ways to keep the organisation sustainable.
Advice to rising stars
We always advise people to listen and understand that there are two types of leadership – intellectual leadership and the leadership wisdom which emerges from doing things. Listen to both, your own heart and what others are saying. Be authentic and fearless. It is okay to express ignorance and ask for help. Also, when working with an organisation, look at growth as horizontal and vertical. Be self-driven, accountable, and humble. At CRY, the focus is on leadership at field level and leadership within the organisation and we promote self-assessment and a willingness to undergo painful transformation. Remember to find mentors who influence, inspire and motivate you to do your best.
In conclusion, Puja believes that the social sector needs to build a culture that celebrates collaboration. Change should be sustainable and the focus should remain on building bridges and not ferry boats for that, ultimately, is the real journey.
Know more about the sector here.