Jobs with a social conscience

Jobs with a social conscience


Jobs with a social conscience

Every once in a while, when most of us hit that stumbling block in a dead-end job or are seeking direct results, the option of serving the deprived, helpless and those in distress, presents itself.

But there are many who are driven by the need to contribute to change from the very beginning too. It’s no longer the choice of the jaded, but a favoured, thought-out career destination for professionals from varying walks of life. The NGO sector welcomes us all.

Largely driven by internal funding, charity or grants, NGOs or non-governmental organisations are voluntary groups that work towards social/economic/cultural issues on a local, national or international level.

They typically have specialised causes and missions to execute their USP. Ongoing projects, with the government and the beneficiaries, typically last anywhere between 6-18 months.

Work involves campaigning, fundraising, conducting awareness programmes, and peace marches.

NGOs  work very closely with the government and private sector firms. Some of the common issues that NGOs deal with include women empowerment, gender issues, education, pollution, street children, poverty, health, urban development, human rights, concerns of the less privileged, etc. The main role is to act as the messenger between the commoners and the policy makers.

In India, the  sector is widely spread all over the country, particularly in remote and rural areas. There are different types of NGOs:

*Volunteer sector
*Grassroots organisations
*Civic society
*Private voluntary organisations
*Transitional social movement organisations
* Self-help groups (SSG).


Up until the late 90s, it was not necessary to be armed with a degree to serve the less privileged. All one needed was passion and commitment towards a cause. But with the increase in interest in this industry, colleges and institutes have begun to offer short-term courses in social service.

Says Vijay Anand, founder of 5th Pillar, a not-for-profit organisation that fights against corruption, “I am an engineer by qualification. When I started my first enterprise, it took me a long time to get a complete understanding of how the system worked. So courses that train professionals on how to run and manage an NGO can save you a lot of time.”

A basic degree in social science or economics is the norm today. However,  a Master’s in Social Welfare (MSW), any Master’s degree in Social Sciences or Rural Management is a definite advantage.

The courses offered in social work are:
*BSW or BA in Social Welfare
*MSW or MA in Social Welfare

Candidates may pursue an MPhil or PhD programme at the Masters level. Diploma and degree courses are offered by several institutes in India such as the Indian Institute of Social Welfare & Business Management in Kolkata, Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, University of Delhi, University of Rajasthan, Jamia Millia University, etc.

Some of the well-known, established names and organisations in India are:

*Child Relief and You (CRY)
*Red Cross Society
*National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD).

Some of the popular international NGOs are World Wildlife Fund, Unicef, WHO, Unesco, Amnesty.

Qualified social workers can seek fulfilling job opportunities with NGOs. They can join NGOs as a teacher, volunteer, mentor, executive or manager. Though most of NGOs pay comparatively less, some top NGOs offer high salaries to their employees.

Verticals in the sector

*Human Rights/Advocacy
*Arts & Culture
*Children & Youth
*Community Development
*Computers & Technology
*Disabled & Handicapped
*Disaster Management
*Employment & Income Generation
*Education & Literacy
* Emergency & Safety
* Environment
*Health & Medicine
*Justice & Law
*Media & Broadcasting
* Micro Finance & Enterprise
*Organisational Development
*Rural Development
*Sports & Recreation
*Women Empowerment
*Philanthropy & Giving

Transparency & funding

Funding and the channeling of finances has long remained dubious and obscure for the NGO sector. Having no real governing body to monitor and audit, transparency is one of the biggest challenges faced by the non-profit sector.

In 2008, the NGO Division of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment initiated a few steps to ensure there was more clarity in the movement of cash flow.  Applications for grants under most schemes were re-designed. Details regarding the working of VOs to  monitor and evaluate them effectively were also sought. Developing parameters for correlating output with input was the main focus.

There are over 2200 registered, voluntary organisations in India. The NGO Division in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment disburses grants under 11 schemes to these organisations.

With demand for funds high in almost all areas, the challenge before the Ministry, is to ensure that funding is streamlined and that services are delivered to the target groups.
Other challenges, Vijay says, are correlated.

“If an organisation faces difficulty sourcing financial backing, it then leads to a lack of commitment among fellow volunteers. Jobs in the NGO sector must now be able to sustain livelihoods. While I understand the logic behind it, it is becoming increasingly difficult to retain talent and faith.”

Working with a VO essentially means long hours, unfaltering dedication, being patient and staying committed to a cause regardless of what the obstacles are.  It can be gruelling and unfulfilling, at times, says Ritriki Toi, who runs a free primary school in Meghalaya. “Sowing the seed to dedicate your time serving the under privileged is easy.

Nurturing that seed is the hard part. I would recommend this only to those who are driven by a personal experience or someone with four to five years of expertise in a related field, as the rewards you expect to reap from your efforts can take a long time to attain.”


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