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.
Even as the development sector has grown exponentially over the last two decades, there is a tremendous amount of learning to be gleaned from other sectors, according to Amitabh Behar, CEO, Oxfam India. He believes that the humility and willingness to learn and adapt is non-negotiable for leaders, and cites the corporate sector as an apt example of how to leverage technology and create optimal systems and processes. For a sustainable future, the corporate arena needs to adopt human centeredness as one of their central principles. “We cannot be guided by competition… we need a collaborative framework to save the world,” he said.
Evolution of Leadership in the Development Sector
India has evolved dramatically in the last 15 years, and this reflects on the development sector as a whole. There is a phenomenal explosion of all kinds, from social impact groups and niche cooperatives on one hand, to citizen movements on the other. Parts of the leadership have not been able to cope with the changed reality and we need to get our act together at this inflection point. There is a need for stronger passion and the ability to walk the talk. Leaders need to understand that the primary power comes from working with people on the grass-root level, advocacy and communication are add-ons on this journey. We must also recognise that social change is not an assembly line; it can’t be designed for immediate change.
Advice to Young Professionals
The development sector can support the individual’s journey by identifying and investing in the right people. This investment needs to be both financial and ideal. Accessing mentorship and building networks are essential as leadership is about walking together and then letting people learn through their own experience. In the post COVID era, there is a surge in citizen leadership and we are seeing the emergence of a new cadre of leaders who believe that anything below 100% justice is non-negotiable.
Bridging the Digital Divide
Technology is changing the way we function and maybe even our DNA but there is a lack of access and we need to constantly underscore the fact that there is a digital divide. We must ensure that tech is delivered to the last person – the poorest of the poor. While being cognizant of the immense possibilities, we must also remember that technology can further accentuate the inequality.
Fostering Better Governance
The development sector needs its own set of approaches, built around our own values as good governance means keeping the organisations rooted to their core vision and mission. As we move forward, we need to unlearn biases and learn from societies and communities. They know the solution they need so we must use our skills to become a part of the solution while working as comrades. Remember to approach with complete respect, build a common vision and work together for a sustainable future.
Read our previous conversation with Neeraj Jain, Country Director India & Director South Asia, PATH here.