National, December 2020: The ‘Future of Work’, organised by Arthan in mid-December, brought together some of the world’s leading thinkers, doers, builders from diverse sectors to explore the key trends in the future of work and social impact. This forum was part of Arthan’s larger initiative, ‘Building Civil Society Organisations of the Future’. The three-day forum, brought together 65+ speakers, across 30+ sessions; 800+ participants; 200,000+ social media views during 35 hours of great discussions, on what the future of work looks like, especially as the world continues to grapple with the realities and repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Employment has taken one of the biggest hits globally, as a result of the pandemic. According to a survey by the Indian Society of Labour Economics (ISLE), job loss is the most severe immediate impact of the COVID-19 crisis with lower economic growth and rise in inequality as long-term effects. India, too, has already seen over four million young Indians losing their jobs due to COVID-19 (ILO-ADB).
Discussions during the three days emphasised on rebuilding the road ahead and identifying what needs to be done to solve the problem of not just unemployment but, possibly another much bigger problem that India faces – that of underemployment. Manish Sabharwal, Chairman of TeamLease Services Ltd., one of India’s leading human resource companies said, “I believe that for a country like India, underemployment is a larger problem than unemployment. There are three things that the government must do, which are: focus on the productivity of our regions, productivity of our firms and on the productivity of our individuals”, during a conversation on Rebuilding the World of Work in a Post Pandemic Economy.
The rapid, dynamic movement of the world towards digital technology for everything from work to consumer services, to education, was another key topic of discussion at the forum. This movement towards digital technology has significantly impacted the way of work and how programs are executed in the social impact sector.
Akanksha Sharma who leads Global Social Impact and Sustainability for Sterlite Technologies Ltd. (Vedanta Group) spoke about the tremendous potential of digital technology for change. “We need to really prioritise digital inclusion to fastrack the progress on SDGs as unfortunately, a massive digital divide exists even today. As we see, technology has materialised into a potent instrument of change and has been engaged to resolve some of the world’s most perplexing problems. Yet, it is not optimally harnessed in the social sector. With half of the world’s population lacking internet access today, connectivity is crucial to provide better access to education, healthcare, employment and other livelihood opportunities. At an ecosystem level also, we need to have more innovative models of Public-Private Partnerships to bridge this gap and demonstrate replicable solutions for sustainable development of communities. The adoption of tech and data-driven approaches for social good, in reality, are capable of metamorphosing small initiatives into scalable, innovative and sustainable community interventions. Not only do they bypass social and location barriers, but also ensure better access, better governance and monitoring and resource optimisation,” she said.
Many leaders spoke about the skills that employers and organisations are going to increasingly look for as the world emerges out of the COVID era. Anurag Behar, CEO of Azim Premji Foundation, spoke about how education needs to focus on these skills as apart from academic and technical skills. “There is a need to develop fundamental capacities like problem-solving skills and critical thinking in individuals. There is also a dire need to integrate ‘vocational education’ into the mainstream education which would ultimately help to transform our schools’ curriculum and pedagogical methods,” he said. The focus on the ‘human being’ also came up as a recurrent theme across conversations.
Smita Malipatil, CEO of Indivillage Tech Solutions elaborated on the mindset change required to navigate the present and the future during the session on ‘Future of Impact’. She spoke about how we have been given the opportunity to focus on the ‘human being’ and added that physical borders around us have been enhanced, while the virtual borders have been broken and reduced. She concluded with the thought that ‘it is no longer just about how much money we have, but about the human being and social impact one can create’.
21st-century skills as well as technical skills are important for building careers in the social impact space as well. Globally, we are seeing rapid changes in the nature of social impact careers as well as how institutions train individuals for professions and effectively foster ecosystem building, to generate greater economic opportunity during these times of uncertainty. At the same time, it is increasingly important to build organisations that are not only better to work for and are effective in accomplishing what they set out to do, but are also ones people believe in and where they can see their impact directly.
Arthan also organised CareerConnect, a space where job aspirants in the social sector could meet and interact with employers who are actively hiring for various middle and senior-level positions. across these three days, these sessions enabled employers to engage with potential candidates through interactive discussions. The Arthan Careers Platform 3.0, was also launched at the forum. The platform is designed as a first stop for all job seekers and employers in the social sector and will be a bridge between impact minded highly skilled talent and civil society organisations looking to create impact at scale.