When service can be a career


Life in social sector allows one to make a difference.

With colleges offering multiple options under each discipline, picking the right course that gives careers a push often becomes a challenge. While some are spoilt for choice, most are confused and end up making uninformed decisions.

TOI’s ‘Mission Admission’ seeks to guide students through this season. Today we focus on the Social Sector.

Enmeshed in the web of competition, the urban collegegoer often opts for courses designed to cater to the market. However, standing apart, many others want to walk that extra mile trying to make `Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas’ a reality . They work in the social or development sector.

Run by highly skilled professionals, the social sector in India has metamorphosed from one dependent on charity to a well-oiled machinery . “There has been a surge of activity in this sector over the last three decades,” said Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) researcher Anup Tripathi who is now working in Jharkhand’s tribal areas for Coal India. “India’s development has been lopsided.The social sector seeks to rectify this,” he said. PSUs and corporates today want a fresh perspective on the problem of development and hence are on the lookout for trained individuals who can work closely with the community , says Tripathi.

And what has given a boost to the sector is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – according to which firms whose turnover is more than `100 crore annually are mandated to set aside 2% of their profits for social work. “Corporates need graduates who can act as liaison officers. For this they prefer those with a bachelor’s degree in social work,” said former principal of the Madras School of Social Science Dr Fatima Vasanth, adding that courses in social work are becoming popular and colleges are applying for affiliations. A long-term association with the sector allows one to have a say in policy matters when cast in the role of academicians, counsellors, community development workers and entrepreneurs, said Dr Vasanth.

Often government policies and schemes do not go beyond local offices and hence the need for individuals to ensure last-mile delivery arises, Tripathi said. The Prime Minister Rural Development Fellows Scheme, for example, hired qualified candidates from TISS who were then sent to Naxal-affected areas to bridge the policy gap. They acted as a link between the bureaucracy and the tribal population, advising the former to change its style of functioning to suit local needs.

But while someone like Tripathi is in the field, research forms the backbone of this sector. That’s where social sciences gather import. “Social sciences help us identify the community better,” said deputy director of TISS, Hyderabad Dr Lakshmi Lingam. “To understand the problems we need to first study society . Social sciences gives us that perspective. Our researchers collect data from the field based on which we ask broader questions on policies,” she said. Most of these researchers who work among people are undergraduate or postgraduate students, Dr Lingam said.

While data collection and analyses form the academic part of the exercise, there are courses which let fresh graduates work directly for the masses. Bachelor and master degrees in social work, for example, train an individual on an array of issues ranging from community development to counselling, financial management to fund gathering.

But a career in the development sector will not make one super-rich. “The individual may not make it to the affluent class, but he or she would command respect and eventually make a difference in the society ,” says Dr Vasanth.