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Connecting The Development Sector

There is a Difference in Working for Our Need and Working for Greed – Saurabh Taneja, CEO, The Akanksha Foundation

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.

There is a tremendous amount that corporates and governments can learn from the development sector, according to Saurabh Taneja, CEO, The Akanksha Foundation. While corporates can imbibe empathy and learn to balance relationships with results, governments need to open their ears to non-profits who are really connected to people. “Mahatma Gandhi said there is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed. Corporates must realise this can intersect relationships with result,” Saurabh said. The government should also emulate the development sector in ensuring last-mile delivery and incorporate NGO innovation models and scale them for more impact. Separately, Saurabh believes that the development sector can learn accountability and people practices from corporates. There should be a strong focus on leadership development and succession planning for critical roles across organisations in the development sector. 

Three Biggest Learnings 

The first learning is that kids have limitless potential and their biggest limiting factor is the burden of adult expectations. We need to open our eyes and see what the lotus holds, beyond the muck. We must learn to see children as our partners in schools and classrooms. Look at them as partners in building the society. Think with them instead of just thinking for them as educators and institutions have significant power when it comes to unlocking transformative experiences for children.

Impact of Technology in Education

Akanksha Foundation shifted towards virtual and blended learning models during the pandemic. The organisation invested heavily in procuring tablets and internet for children and offered them the wings to reimagine learning beyond classroom. Technology also opened up boundaries even as organisations were forced to undergo a tough transition. The biggest challenge involved investment in human development alongside investment in technology. Synergy had to be created in a thoughtful way. Time and training are necessary components to ensuring tech transition and long-term behavioural shifts.

Advice to Rising Stars

There is a focus on social entrepreneurship and this is a fantastic time to be in the development sector. The arena has become fairly stable, offering long term career options across verticals. There is no need to limit your horizons now. We must focus on developing a pipeline of leaders as they are the lynchpins to any initiative’s success. Programmes like the CM Fellowship, Teach for India, Gandhi Fellowship, and PM Rural Development Fellowship offer fantastic opportunities in developing grass-root exposure and developing leadership through first-hand experience. People should volunteer or consult with different organisations to understand their motivations.

Managing Crisis

Leaders have now learned how to deal with uncertainty. Planning is important but plans are not. Leaders must have the ability, flexibility and agility to evolve and accept new paths. Be open to finding innovative solutions for problems and remember to also prioritise your own well-being, be it spiritual, physical or mental. A big lesson here is that we also have to take care of the care giver to avoid burnout. 

Read our previous conversation with Mary McGovern, Director Emerita at Women First International Fund here.

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