Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Classroom in the Field

In a recent casual discussion, the CEO of a prominent CSR foundation shared her lament about how youngsters who join the social sector prefer to spend their time at the office, noses buried in their laptops. Going by my observations of some of these youngsters as well, this indeed appears to be a disturbing trend.

The social sector is all about causing a positive change to the lives of those who've been left behind. Much of this is to do with basic human requirements such as health & nutrition, education, livelihoods, clean water, and dignity. As in any other social discipline, the traditional classroom can only at best provide a theoretical perspective - the real learning can only be found in the field. To that, no alternative exists.

And this learning is seldom apparent in one or even a few visits. The field reveals itself gradually - layer upon layer - and that too, only to the discerning, non-judgmental eye. For a newcomer to the sector, it would take several visits to the same community before the real picture would emerge.

Further, akin to the domain of technology, one needs to keep updating oneself to the developments and transitions in the field. The Field is not static; rather it is one of the most dynamic environments you can expect to find. It is also diverse; as you spend more and more time in the Field, you would tend to generalize less and less.

If there was just one piece of advice that I were to give to youngsters joining the sector, it would be to spend as much time in the field as possible. The real classroom is out there!