The change makers
Sarah Berry writes about public policy as a potential career choice in today’s dynamic times
Career Focus: Policy Making
Think of change, think of change makers. India is one of the largest democracies in the world and boasts of a young demographic dividend that is consistently taking more active part in addressing the country’s challenges. However, for enabling effective change, potential change makers need to be empowered.
What does policy making involve?
The subject of policy making seeks to develop policy makers for meaningful and sustainable change.
The subject of public policy doesn’t just concern itself with the drafting of public policy, but, prior, a deeper understanding of the dynamic challenges faced, across segments and domains, in order to design solutions that are innovative and customised. Policy makers must have the ability to filter required information from large sources of data, objectively deduce and apply it relevantly in order to facilitate public policy drafting.
The career of a public policy maker has seen significant growth, specifically with the recent lateral hiring by the government of nine individuals in the capacity of joint secretary. The move shows serious intention to also include citizenry beyond bureaucratic ranks in addressing the country’s challenges. Fields such as research and development, teaching, consultancy, entrepreneurship and many others have seen a growing demand for public policy makers, as has the public sector. Besides career potential, this profession amalgamates satisfaction of being able to be the change one wishes to see with an ambitious career path.
Vineeta Hariharan, Senior Leadership – Public Policies and Programmes (GoI and Multilaterals), says: “Today is the right time for individuals to embark on a career in public policy. Private and public sectors need trained professionals in this domain. A course in public policy is vital to speed track one’s career in the public sphere, and for the youth to be educated and trained to contribute towards nation building.”
Adds Dr. Parth J. Shah, Director, the Indian School of Public Policy: “Training in public policy equips the youth of today to embark on a career that is both rewarding and meaningful. It empowers them to be the change they wish to see.”
Where to study?
Various institutes, in India and abroad, offer courses in public policy; some of the institutes located in India are as under:
- Indian School of Business, Hyderabad
- School of Policy & Governance, Azim Premji University, Bangalore
- Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi
- The Indian School of Public Policy, New Delhi
- Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad
- Indian Institute of Management Bangalore
- Indian Institute of Management Calcutta
- The Takshashila Institution, and others.
Public policy is a career that combines theoretical vigour with experiential learning serving as a platform for future decision makers to ensure betterment of communities and societies, and progress of the country.
Excerpt from an Interview with Dr Parth J. Shah, Founder – Centre for Civil Society & Director – Indian School of Public Policy
Last year, we witnessed the launch of the Indian School of Public Policy (ISPP), which is said to be the first school of public policy in India focused on policy, management and design. What’s the scope of such a course in India? And how has been the response so far?
The reason why we are doing it is because we feel that there’s a need for policy professionals in India. Right now, those who are interested in the subject go abroad to study. Most of them find it difficult to return to India because they have taken an education loan. It is very hard to pay back the loan by working in India, so they end up working abroad for international agencies.
So, to fill this gap, we started the institute. We need people who can not only work in Delhi, but also in other parts of the country, at the local level which is where life gets affected. But we don’t have people who can think systematically, can debate ideas with evidence, and be able to make recommendations. And thus, we need to build that cadre of public policy professionals.
Second, we also feel that the federal structure in the country is getting more and more entrenched. There’s more money flowing to the states now. So much of the action would be at the state and local levels. And that’s why we need policy people to help the local state governments design better systems, think more effectively and systematically. Therefore, we decided to have a programme which is not too demanding. It’s not a two-year programme, but one.
We are mainly focussing on skills. We are in talks with industry people who are likely to employ our students, both in the private sector as well as the government sector. We want to provide both theoretical as well as practical knowledge to our students, so as to ensure that right from day one of their job, they deliver value to their employers.
What are the skill-sets that a person needs to possess to build a career in policymaking?
One, commitment to work in this profession.You should be very clear that this is what you want to do in life. You should not treat this as a timepass. Also, you should be willing to work at a local level and not just aspire to be at the World Bank or the UN or Niti Aayog, etc.
Second, academic credentials are important as they help us judge you better, that is, whether you would be able to do well in the academic rigour that we are going to have, and be able to handle the pressure, since it is a tight programme, as we are clubbing 2-years into one.
Third. It’s about who you are, what values you have. Are you a good listener or someone who’s jumping the gun, always wanting things to be done your way? Are you thoughtful and recognise that, maybe, you don’t have an answer to every question?
One key thing that we want to do in our programme is that we don’t want to give answers to our students. We want to train them to think, understand the problem, talk to people concerned, understand all perspectives of why the problem exists, and then design its solution. Actually, solutions are very easy to design, everybody has a solution. What we don’t have is an understanding of the problem. We are hoping to develop that kind of ability. We are also bringing design thinking into the picture. How do you think systematically? One good thing about design thinking is that it puts the customer at the center, so you think from a customer’s point of view. For example, if I want to design a phone, how would I do it so that my customer is able to enjoy the experience? Similarly, how do I design a policy so that the customer (perhaps a parent or a widow in a small village), whoever he/she is, is benefitted?
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