Have your say in public policy

Last Updated 18 July 2019, 02:30 IST

With changing times, the rights and responsibilities of citizens have seen paradigm shifts. These parameters have served as a litmus test for governments. Does an individual like you and I need more power than we already have? Well, what if we could influence those who determine our present and future? Would that mean that we would have to be supremely qualified, vastly experienced, and indefinitely powerful?

Seen as an emerging career option, Public Policy has helped the common people to train in a specialised domain, with the objective of enabling change and empowering the change makers or implementers.

Expand horizons

A career in Public Policy is not just a springboard to a world where ‘you hold the key to change’, but it also ensures the expansion of horizons, networks and capabilities. Today, the Indian government has been hiring individuals from outside bureaucratic ranks to help with the complex challenges India is facing. Recently, the government hired nine private professionals at joint secretary levels through lateral recruitment. Private consultancies and corporations are increasingly hiring public policy professionals to take up roles in traditional corporations. Political parties too seek professional assistance in policy matters. A career in public policy also sees opportunities with research centres and think tanks, in addition to teaching and entrepreneurship.

Various institutes, in India and abroad, offer courses in Public Policy. A career in Public Policy requires certain skill sets. The domain of public policy needs those who are not only intellectually curious and socially committed, but also inherit the drive to see change through. Public Policy professionals have to bring with them a gamut of skills, among them one of the most important is communication skill.

The biggest challenge lies in filtering diverse sets of information and making it admissible for crucial decision-making processes. Another pre-requisite is interdisciplinary thinking as public policy issues and their solutions have no fixed boundaries. The other vital training aspect is that of ethics and leadership.

Diverse backgrounds

According to Chetan Krishnaswamy, a public policy expert, Public policy as a profession, has undergone a rapid evolution in the country over the past few years, especially in the corporate sector. Unlike many other professions, public policy often welcomes individuals from incredibly diverse educational backgrounds and work experiences. Strong analytical and interpersonal skills, along with the ability to distil complicated developments in a manner that they are easy to grasp for non-experts, are arguably the two most vital requirements from a public policy professional.

“One of the most important prerequisite for a career in public policy is the possession of values. One should be committed to the public good and should have the domain knowledge. How can a policy-maker make a policy, on say climate change, when he or she is not well-versed with the nuances of the field? This applies to policy making in any field. However, this does not mean a stand-alone focus on one field. It also fosters the strength to navigate between fields, quickly and effectively. A policy maker should also have a willingness to adapt,” says Vijay Kelkar, former finance secretary.

A career in public policy will enable one to connect with the real world, real people, and real problems. It is a career that offers a unique amalgamation of theory and practice, of deep understanding and analysis, of courage and determination, and of people skills. In this field, it is vital to be grounded, yet rich with an enlightened, futuristic and pragmatic vision for a better world.

(The writer is with Indian School of Public Policy, New Delhi)

(Published 18 July 2019, 02:30 IST)

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