Making a meaningful difference to society
Every profession offers ample scope for exercising the social conscience... Doing socially meaningful work is not the preserve of social workers alone. Every specialisation has some social value, and it is up to the specialist to find a way to put his/her education and expertise to work in an area where it can make a difference.
MANY OF us grow up with the desire to change the world, to do something to banish all the injustices we see, to help the disadvantaged, and to make a difference to society in some meaningful way. And then, when we are at the stage of deciding what course to take and which career path to pursue, we find that other considerations, more "practical" come in the way of our decision.
Somewhere the fervour to "do good" gets sidelined by such factors as size of pay packet, perks, comfort of work space, professional growth path and so on. These are important considerations too, but if you are one of those who have the passion and the will to tackle the tough problems of society, then perhaps you should look further.
Doing socially meaningful work is not the preserve of social workers alone. Every specialisation has some social value, and it is up to the specialist to find a way to put his/her education and expertise to work in an area where it can make a difference.
All kinds of training, from technical to humanistic to social science to pure science, can contribute to developing society in some way. And at the same time, contribute to personal and professional development and fulfilment.
The thing to do is to first figure out what it is you are good at and what it is that interests you. The second step is to go out and get the training that equips you to put your talents and interests to use in a job. The third is to find a context within which you can apply this training in a way that is satisfying to you personally, and allows you to make a living.
While every organisation and institution in the country contributes to the economy, there are some organisations that also contribute directly to human and social development. These organisations represent employment opportunities for those with strong social commitment or more correctly, for those whose social commitment is a passion that cannot be relegated to the sideline. There are some professions, which by their very nature are essential to community building and social health. Education and medicine, for instance. But even here, one can make a conscious choice to work directly or indirectly in "development".
If you are trained to become a teacher, for instance, you could choose to join government service and work in the network of municipal and district schools in the state or country. Or you could join a private school. Or again, you could choose to work outside the mainstream, with a non-governmental organisation that caters for underprivileged groups.
If you are a doctor, you have the choice of working for the private sector (a plush corporate hospital) or the public sector (less plush, perhaps a little less paying) or again the NGO sector, taking health care in new and different ways to rural and underserved populations.
Other professions too offer ample scope for exercising the social conscience. I know a veterinarian who is working with tribal communities on livestock management practices, and an educationist who runs an education centre for first generation literates who otherwise would not have access to school, and also a lawyer who runs a legal aid cell for disadvantaged women.
Add to that an architect who involves groups of unskilled labourers in eco-friendly housing projects, and a journalist whose life revolves around documenting and advocating women's human rights. And of course the statistician who makes clear the relationships between health, gender and access to education.
What about the engineer whose ingenuity has resulted in a range of alternative technologies that have allowed hill communities to take charge of their own development? Or the chartered accountant who keeps tabs and ensures statutory compliance of a group of small organisations working on sustainable development models. The examples are many.
Development oriented organisations too have their own infrastructural and process needs, and a range of skills and knowledge is needed to fulfil these needs. If you believe in the mission of the organisation, then supporting that mission in any way can be fulfilling, as a manager, a secretary, an accountant, a librarian, or a technician.
Expertise is of many kinds, and development work calls for all kinds of expertise. The point is, being an engineer or a doctor or a teacher or one of a million other things does not mean you cannot also be a social worker or a development activist.
The NGO sector offers a variety of opportunities for those willing to take the challenges represented by the huge social and environmental problems that abound in our country.
The government sector too is engaged in many development projects in a wide range of areas. Work in this area, both in private and public sector, can be often frustrating in its detail and the lack of obvious progress in the short term.
But if you have the will and the mind to stick with it long enough, you can be pretty sure that your social commitment will come to good use.
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