What does “social impact” really mean?

May 16, 2019


When you hear the words “social impact sector”, what comes to mind?

Perhaps, you think about Gandhi and his principles of nonviolence, or maybe you think about building toilets or schools in a rural place, or even microfinance in an urban setting.

While all of these are true, the social impact sector both in India and globally, now more than ever, has a wide range of opportunities from corporate social responsibility to impact investing to rural development. In order to dispel myths around social impact, as well as showcase this wide range of opportunities, we have created a conference series: Demystifying Social Impact, in collaboration with International Innovation Corps and Arthan Careers. Our first event took place on April 24th in Delhi, India.

Since the social impact sector is rapidly evolving, those who want to create change often have many questions, from “Can I make a living in this sector?” to “How can I transition from my corporate career to create social impact?”  Kartik Desai, Executive Director of Asha Impact mentioned “ The world is more complex, there are more career options, there is a lot happening and institutions are dynamic and diverse. It’s important to build your passion and commit yourself to an area of work where you can build your leadership. Be open from your heart, be passionate about what you do and in the end, all stakeholders are essential ingredients in tackling a problem.”

One of the panelists, Manas Rath, Senior Advisor to Borda and CCD Society switched from the corporate sector to the social impact sector and initially thought that changing lives would be easy. However, he quickly found that was far from the truth, that this was not a job for volunteers, but a job that required real, important skills.

Throughout the conference, many panelists mentioned the adaptive nature of finding one’s passion. For some, like Yamini Aiyar, President of the Centre for Policy Research, finding her passion came through her experience growing up and traveling to rural places, since her mother was a journalist. At the time she says, there were only two main career paths in the social sector, hardcore activism and stakeholder management. After flirting with both of them she decided she’d like to work at the intersection, which eventually led her to working in think tanks. For others like Srikanth Viswanathan, CEO of Janaagraha, it came after many years of working as a chartered accountant. He says that when he entered the social sector, he initially found things much different than the corporate sector, but he believes that the development sector has far more learnings to give to the corporate sector than vice versa.

Another common question was what the barriers to entering the social sector are and how to gain entry. Christopher Turillo, Founder of Medha, offered some poignant tips: “Get as much experience and exposure as you can before making a full-time commitment to the sector, talk to everyone you know who works in the sector, volunteer if it’s possible, apply to fellowships, do internships to learn what it’s really like to work in the social sector.”

But, what are the true skills needed to succeed in this sector once you do enter?  Vivek Sharma, Executive Director of Gandhi Fellowship Programme said: “How do you build transformational leadership products without empathy? Empathy is listening, listening to the communities from their perspective, rather than having the solution.”

At Amani Institute, empathy is one of our core values and we also believe it is one of the keys to success for creating social change. As you can see, the social sector is rapidly changing and there are more diverse opportunities than ever! It’s not just about volunteering, but can be an extremely fulfilling career! In order to create social impact, it is also necessary to equip yourself with the capabilities needed to create lasting, sustainable, change.

Are you ready to build the key skills you need to become a successful changemaker? Applications are open for our Social Innovation Management Program beginning in July 2019 in Bengaluru, Nairobi, and São Paulo.

We will also be holding subsequent events in Bengaluru (early September 2019) and Mumbai (late 2019, early 2020).

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