23 May, 2011

The business of giving

Charity and doing good is the new cause that our denizens have taken a fancy to. Almost every second or third person we do a plan for, wants to keep aside a decent pile for charity. That itself is a heart warming trend considering the number of organisations and worthy causes that need financial assistance. There are again many of them who take it one step further… they want to take up some social causes and work in the villages. Again, this is an admirable trend which requires to be applauded. For most people, it means going and teaching in a village school.

That could be the problem. Imagine a technocrat in top management going and teaching in villages… there is nothing wrong there. But, it is wasted talent. For instance, in the IT industry itself, there is a dearth of top notch talent as the industry has been growing at a breakneck pace. Now, would it not be a great idea for this technocrat to be part of this ecosystem… train, mentor and coach other people? Will it not be more useful to the economy and the country if he is able to pass on the essence of his learnings and experience to others in the industry? That will certainly preserve the knowledge, skills & talent that he has gleaned from years of work experience in the industry. Also, a person like this can be a big enabler for any organization due to the range of contacts and relationships, he would have certainly developed, over time. Now, casting all that aside and going and teaching in a village school, will be a criminal waste of talent.

If the idea is to do good for the society and the country, a person need not move out of the industry. Almost in every industry, there is a crying need for talent. Rather, he should turn an enabler, a catalyst for the industry and a teacher, coach and mentor for people from the industry. Colleges have outdated curriculum, so much so that, many times they are significantly divorced from what the industry wants. The quality of the teaching faculty in colleges, for the most part, leaves much to be desired. The reasons for that, is all too well known. Given this fact, it would be a great idea to join our education system, not at the primary level, but at a much higher level, where the contributions would be relevant and meaningful.

Plus, it is not a piece of cake to teach young children too. It requires quite different skills and someone even with years of corporate experience, need not necessarily possess them. From a pure efficiency perspective, it may make more sense to use an undergraduate to teach the basics. With some training, they can do a competent job. If they are from the villages itself or from nearby areas, they will know the language, be able to gel well and would be effective. Since they are from the area, there is no question of getting used to the place. They can be hired for modest sums and can be expected to stick around for the long-term.

It makes sense to support these teachers, who would be happy to get the job. It can simply be achieved through donations given to NGOs, who are working in such areas. This is the way to ensure social transformation in the hinterland. In the meanwhile, these do-gooders can be useful part of their ecosystems and can contribute to the industry that nourished them. This is as much a worthy cause as the other, they are passionate about. They will also earn well, which can be used to support several such teachers and students. This is a win-win deal.

Though this sounds logical, people seem to be marching to a different drumbeat. Many seem to think that they will derive satisfaction, only if they are in ground zero. As we have seen, this may not be the most effective way to engineer social transformation. If their purpose is clear, then they would get this. Probably people need to clarify what they mean by working for social causes. Instead of being the lone lamp, one could ensure that there are several lamps to light other lamps. That would bring about a social transformation. As planners, we would be more than happy to allocate for this goal too, along with their other cherished goals. For us too it will give us a lot of satisfaction, to see this goal achieved.

Article by Suresh Sadagopan; Published in The Economic Times on 4/3/2011

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