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Deccan Herald » Panorama » Detailed Story
Paving the way for volunteerism
By Sabu Joseph & Maitreyee Kumar
The Indian academia has started recognising corporate citizenship after the WTO and the emergence of a number of entrepreneurs from modest backgrounds in the limelight in all regions of India.

The context of this article refers to the number of people who approach us with a request for volunteer certificates and references from our NGO to add weight to their resume for admissions in premier business schools and academic institutes all across the developed countries. Community service being recognised even at the entry level of a professional career emphasises the need of creating a set of future technocrats and leaders who believe in social change and action. Such practices would be more relevant in our Indian situation and this should be an area where academia and policy-makers really put in a concerted effort.

The Indian academia has started recognising corporate citizenship after the WTO and the emergence of a number of entrepreneurs from modest backgrounds in the limelight in all regions of India. The proliferation of a large number of MNCs with massive development programmes has also made policy-makers and other corporates explore and initiate such business models.

It is encouraging to see community service positions being advertised widely and social development programmes designed with the help of NGOs for employee engagement and participation. But unfortunately, most of these initiatives are pure charity or welfare-oriented programmes like setting up orphanages, hospitals and other institutional care centres. While these welfare activities are a great need, it is also necessary to empower communities to bring about a lasting and sustainable social change. Empowerment is the ‘Rights’ approach where the disadvantaged and marginalised become aware of their rights, their capability and opportunities to improve their life in a holistic manner.

The bottom line should be to move away from the charity mode that is prevalent today as it creates dependence between provider and recipient. Any meaningful civil society intervention should facilitate long-term sustainable solutions where people take control of their own life. As society provides the means of business, corporate citizenship should involve an inclusive approach to care of the needs, aspirations and rights of all strata of society.

Our universities and institutes need to produce technocrats and managers with a human touch and interface. This could be achieved only if a sense of community feeling and ownership is inculcated at a young age. It is high time we give preference to a prospective student's social orientation and community involvement along with his/her academic credentials in the admission and selection processes. As a country that requires the citizens' concern and action to help solve its growing social problems, we need to inculcate corporate citizenship right from the school-going age. There is already a positive trend, a growing concern and awareness among youngsters to contribute to the social development of the nation. It would help if education institutes and corporate houses recognise and nurture these values. Such practices should be more of the norm than the exception in society today.

Policy-makers and decision-makers need to work on promoting volunteerism at the school level by encouraging internship with community organisations as part of technical and management education. They must also recognise community work and volunteering in admissions and recruitment to create a generation who would care for the holistic development of all sections of society and eventually the country.

It also makes business sense to corporates to have a socially oriented person on their payroll as such people may be willing to take up rural projects and assignments which can in turn boost rural industrialisation. This will create enlightened minds as managers and technocrats.

(The writers are with Dream School Foundation, an NGO.)

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