The social net’worth’

Gone are the days when youngsters used to donate a part of their salaries and forget about it. Today, a section of the youth is consciously tuning to social work and social entrepreneurship, finds Reena Jhaveri.

Sector overview

The social net’worth’

When Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize awardee and founder of Grameen Bank, was contacted by the Nobel Foundation for the customary winner interview, he remarked, “…poverty is an artificial creation. It doesn’t belong to human civilisation, and we can change that, we can make people come out of poverty (sic). The only thing we have to do is to redesign our institutions and policies.”

Non Government Organisations (NGO) are non-profit voluntary groups established at local, national or international level, dealing with social issues. Currently, around 1.5 million NGO’s work in India, with most of them being small and dependent on volunteers. However, the sector is becoming more organised with various multi nationals and Indian business houses embracing the culture of giving.

There are different types of NGO in India – volunteer sector, grass root organisations, civic society, private voluntary organisations, transitional social movement organisations and self-help groups (SSG). The central government’s share of social expenditure is only about 20% of the total expenditure, the rest being the responsibility of the states. However, the sector is recently being given more importance by the centre as well.

The NGO sector is not an obvious choice for mid career professionals who do not have a background in terms of education or personal orientation in this sector. Primary reasons for private sector professionals looking at working in the private sector include an inherent

desire to contribute to the society. The sector is gradually becoming a more viable career option, fraught with new challenges and opportunities to make a real difference.

To get there

If you’re looking for a career with meaning, action, diversity, satisfaction, and an abundance of options, consider social work.  The field is always in need of people who care about others, who want to make things better, who want to relieve suffering, who want their work to make a difference.

“Social work is a profession devoted to helping people function the best they can in their environment,” says Dr Mary Alphonse, Principal, College of Social Work, Nirmala Niketan, Mumbai. This can mean providing direct services or therapy directly to people. It also can mean working for change to improve social conditions.

The phrase ‘in their environment’ points to a distinctive quality of this profession-one that sets it apart from other helping professions. Social workers help people deal not only with how they feel about a situation but also with what they can do about it. Many social workers work for social change as well.

The social work courses in India are designed to produce highly trained professionals for specialised fields of work. To get a qualification in social work, there are many options. There are certificate, diploma and degree courses. There is scope for work in health related, psychiatric or anthropological fields. With institutes like the TISS offering career oriented courses the scope of building a successful career in this field looks promising.

In addition, you have various organisations like UnLtd India, which provide a launchpad for those with a feasible idea looking for a break in the field. You need to be a dynamic communicator with a manifold role. You could be actively working on a variety of communication channels to raise awareness of your organisation apart from actually engaging in the activities of the organisation. This would involve online responsibilities, communication with funding agencies and sponsors and innovative promotion of activity to the media to name but a few.

The job market

The social net’worth’

Job opportunities in social work vary with the kind of specialisation that a person has opted for. The jobs available in the Indian market are:

  • Specialists in medical aid and psychiatric social work find jobs in hospitals, clinics, counselling centres, mental hospitals and old age homes
  • Specialists in criminology find jobs in prisons and correction cells
  • The labour welfare specialists work as labour welfare officials in multinational companies and in HR department of industries
  • The community welfare specialists generally find employment in NGOs working for the improvement of rural health, sanitation and lifestyle
  • After gaining some experience, those with a master’s degree can be appointed as consultants with various organisations
  • Teaching is another option for social workers

If you are looking at social entrepreneurship, you could look for an incubator to support you. Incubators work with early-stage social entrepreneurs to help them:

  • Accelerate their progress
  • Develop as leaders
  • Prepare organisations for scaling and further investment

Salaries offered

It is difficult to assign a definitive range to social work salaries; however, one thing is certain: demand for social workers is on the rise. Those just starting out with a bachelor’s can expect an annual salary ranging up to `12,000 depending on type of work, experience, and geographic factors. A social worker with a master’s degree can expect an income ranging to about  `25,000.

However, experts feel that feel that social-focus startups will continue to thrive in India. Bringing low-cost services such as banking, healthcare, finance, etc to underprivileged sections of society is definitely a big opportunity as well as a necessity. Rural, small-town and lower-income consumers constitute a large market waiting to be tapped, but it is necessary for social entrepreneurs to get past language, literacy and geographical barriers. The current environment has also complicated the mix, but with hi-tech social startups banking on ‘smart’ models to bring services to people at affordable costs, there is scope to earn a good living.

A student says

Monisha Dutta, Pursuing her bachelor’s

The profession has its own body of knowledge, code of ethics, practice standards, credentials, licensing (for those who want to start something), and a system of education programmes. These equip the professional social worker to combine the desire to help others with the knowledge, skill, and ethics needed to provide that help.

For sheer variety, few occupations can match social work, which offers the broadest range of opportunities and settings. Social workers are found in public agencies, hospitals, clinics, schools, nursing homes, private practices, police departments, courts, and countless other workplaces. Social workers serve individuals, families, and communities. In the modern times of social entrepreneurship, they can be managers, supervisors, and administrators.

In terms of social entrepreneurship, research findings suggests that most social entrepreneurs are using business as a tool for achieving social impact rather than viewing social impact as a positive outcome that will result naturally from their business.  However, the motives of younger enterprises indicate a growing preference toward prioritising profit over impact with a belief that this will lead to greater social impact over time. This is a great opportunity, not only for the country, but also the youth willing to work in this field.

In the field

Manisha Vora, Social worker, moving towards social entrepreneurship

There is no satisfaction as great as that of bringing positive changes to human lives, whether through education, finance, the environment. For this, there are certain qualities that a candidate must possess, otherwise you will not be able to do a good job, and neither will you derive any job satisfaction. These include:

  • A deep rooted desire to work in the sector, knowing full well how unglamorous it is
  • Understanding of the development sector in India, particularly relating to the underprivileged
  • Strong communication skills across the media eg websites, reports, proposals, press releases
  • Ability to grasp and communicate complex social issues effectively to various audiences
  • Ability to juggle many different tasks simultaneously
  • Enthusiasm and perseverance!
  • A desire to get involved in the work of the organisation

An aspirant asks

Roshini Dewar, FYJC student

I am deeply interested in helping others, as I derive most satisfaction out of doing a good deed. However, my parents are quite uncomfortable with the idea, since they feel that the scope for learning well is quite limited when you enter the field of social work. Is there a way I can bridge the gap? Also, is there a way where I can merge education and social work? Can I become a social entrepreneur straight after graduation?

Or counsellor answers – You need to determine that this interest in devoting yourself to the happiness of others is a lasting feeling, and will not evaporate once you reach a stage when your friends might earn higher salaries than you. You have to prepare yourself for that. I suggest that if you want to work in this field, join a bachelor’s course after class 12, and take it on from there. To become an entrepreneur, all you need is an idea and some seed money, which is not too difficult to raise. You can further your education with an MBA in entrepreneurship or social entrepreneurship. Your passion for combining this with education can become feasible if you give some thought to it. The education sector can do with more initiatives that can enable the youth to be more aware. If you are successful in generating a great idea,there are incubators which can help you tread the path.

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