By Souparno Chatterjee
Often one wonders while joining or contemplating joining the development sector, about the compensation and perks it offers. Well, if one compares the financial or any other form of quantifiable benefits not-for-profits offer at least in India, it can barely be compared with the corporate world. There are various kinds of opinions that flood the internet on this issue, commenting on how remunerative the sector could be despite being a poorer paymaster comparatively. Then what? Why is still there a chord that strikes a million hearts and compels a sizeable number of the best and brightest to choose the sector, not as a leisurely tryst, but as a full-fledged whole-time career opportunity? The story behind remains often shrouded than shared explicitly.
It remains so mostly because of a prevalent notion in many non-government organisations (NGOs), that all the good work will speak for itself – and the entire effort should go to accomplish that work, not for publicising it. Corporate or businesses, on the other hand, spend five to ten percent of their total revenue on publicity, and brand management. Basically, telling their story to make them more visible. After all, those products only sell what occupies the consumer’s mind the more. Just recall the 1990s, when upon hitting the streets, your eyes will be glued on the large hoarding boards depicting the refreshing spring under which a girl is taking a bath! The visuals and the copy would perhaps immediately convince the common mass about the freshness the soap brings in while bathing, during the long scorching Indian summer days! Their story is conveyed, people are convinced, the product is sold, and revenue is generated. Short, crisp, visually appealing and catering to one aspect of everyday life.
But, NGOs have the least mind space when it comes to the recall of their brands. Even if few names are known, the probability to recall their works and relate to them is negligible. Although there has been a strategic shift in this regard, spearheaded by several organisations of late, and the urge from the donor-partners to a great extent, especially over the past decade, but still the story is half-told.
Only Data, or, Real-life stories of Change?
The world of the development sector largely revolves around changing the lives of communities, be it in urban spaces or rural, in desert areas or in the mountains or forests, or in the seas. And in several cases, the work domains touch multiple aspects of the life and livelihoods of the community members. And the impact is profound and not anecdotal. Some organisations rely on third-party evaluation, if not robust in-house data analysis mechanisms, to reflect and analyse the output and outcome of their work to gauge the return on the investment made. But what helps this sector stand out from the other sectors is the real-life change stories that by virtue of its proximity and magnanimity of its work the organisations have.
Whereas, one attempts to change the entire life, by addressing the multi-dimensional needs of the communities in the development sector. And those stories of change are impactful enough to enable a larger section of India’s workforce and the development rupee to get channelized for the greater good.
People need to hear and see the change
If the development sector has to be seen in a better light, then the onus rests on the practitioners themselves. The pride, the immense ownership, that almost all of them possess in the kind of work they do, and, the impact that their work creates among communities, has to be shared with the world outside. The efforts put behind, the minds that are at it, the stakeholders striving to achieve the goal, the donors whose development rupee is making the shifts possible – each and every ambit of the work needs to be shared with people who are not rooted in this sector because life-changing work does not happen everywhere and profit comes in various forms and magnitude.
The author is the executive – resource mobilisation, communication and partnerships, at Pradan