Grassroots Social Development

Avenues for preparing social sector professionals crucial for planned social change and grassroots development need attention, writes Rajagopal C V.

Fancycrave 165872 unsplash

As a nation, Indians have heavily invested in preparing engineers, lawyers, and managers (by way of what is referred to commonly as professional programmes). However, the avenues for preparing social sector professionals, crucial for planned social change and grassroots development, have not received equal attention. 

Despite improvements in human development challenges like literacy, access to school, and the Right to Education (RTE) Act, we continue to face significant issues, including a high percentage of stunted and undernourished children (~35.5%), Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) at 35.2, as per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 21, learning gaps leading to dropouts, scarce suitable job opportunities, and water scarcity and pollution in many cities. 

Social sector organisations play a vital role in strengthening public systems by collaborating with the government.

What is the social development sector?

The social development sector in India is broadly classified into the following types of organisations:

Competencies required to work in the social development sector

Working in the social sector is not only about having the right skills and competencies or capability of using certain tools and methods, but also about the need to have critical perspectives on key domains, the ability to engage empathetically, communicate effectively with the stakeholders in context, and more. 

Addressing India’s challenges requires an understanding of the following along with technical and managerial skills: 

  • social stratification in the Indian society
  • people and culture
  • public institutions, structures that impact our lives
  • government policies at work 
  • global perspectives (how other countries have addressed these challenges)

The planned social change that we want to see is indeed complex and solutions to such complex problems must be interdisciplinary. 

For instance, meaningful contributions to the education sector necessitate skills in curriculum design, pedagogy, research methods, and also a strong foundation in educational theory and perspectives.

  • Competencies for the education sector

    Competencies for the education sector

Career pathways to join the social development sector

India’s youth can join the social sector using the following pathways:

  1. Join a fellowship programme: Join a reputed fellowship programme that will provide them with on-the-ground field experience and a fair lens of what it means to work in the area of their choice.
    An indicative list of fellowship programmes in India is listed at https://​idron​line​.org/​f​e​l​l​o​w​s​hips/
  2. Pursue a two-year Master’s programme: Consider enrolling in a Master’s programme in a domain of your interest. Options include:

These programmes are offered at institutions such as Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Azim Premji University, Ambedkar University Delhi, Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA) and other similar institutions focused on social work and related courses.

Career opportunities and roles in the development sector 

The social sector in India today faces a grossly inadequate talent pool. There is a clear shortage of development and education professionals such as teachers, teacher educators, policy implementers, researchers, administrators, programme managers/​associates in organisations working across domains of Education, Livelihoods, Health and nutrition, Sustainability, Policy, and Governance. There are dedicated portals such as NGOBOX, Devnet jobs, Devinfo exclusively featuring development sector opportunities.

The present challenges will improve only if young professionals join the social sector. Social sector organisations dedicated to solving these complex challenges require trained professionals, offering work satisfaction and an aspirational career path.

Key drivers

  • Large public investments and programmes in the social sector like NREGA, NRHM (Health Mission), NRLM (Livelihoods mission), etc.
  • A large number of Teachers and Education experts are needed to implement the National Education Policy (NEP2020.
  • Growing presence of civil society organisations working with the Government to strengthen our public systems

Key organisations in the social sector

Some of the organisations that are contributing to the social sector space in India are PRADAN, Tata Trusts, Azim Premji Foundation, Pratham, Kaivalya Education Foundation, Room to Read, Eklavya Foundation, Akanksha Foundation, Nudge Institute, Kotak Education Foundation, BAIF Development Research Foundation, Foundation for Ecological Security, Aajevika Bureau, Kudumbasree Livelihood Mission, Gram Vikas, SRIJAN, Janaagraha and many more.

While we have made progress on various fronts since independence in terms of human development, we still have a long way to go in addressing key concerns such as Poverty; Access to education, healthcare, nutrition; a safe environment; decent employment; and livelihood opportunities.

The present challenges will improve only if young professionals join the social sector. Social sector organisations dedicated to solving these complex challenges require trained professionals, offering work satisfaction and an aspirational career path.

However, the youth must be systematically trained to tackle these challenges. We should build perspectives, skills, and capacities through academic programmes for them to contribute meaningfully to the social sector.

And somewhere there are engineers

Helping others fly faster than sound.

But, where are the engineers,

Helping those who must live on the ground?


Image credit for the image used at the beginning of the article: Unsplash

About the Author

Rajagopal C V leads Admissions Outreach for the Degree and Diploma programmes at Azim Premji University.

He has a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering with a specialisation in Electrical and Electronics from Regional Engineering College, Surathkal, Karnataka (now NITK, Surathkal). He also holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Child Rights Law from the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bengaluru.

He may be contacted at rajagopal.​veetil@​apu.​edu.​in