CSIM's Workshop on “Innovation and Leadership in Social Sector” - An analysis

9th May 2010
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As promised in my earlier post, I attended CSIM’s Workshop on Innovation and Leadership in Social Sector. Organized by the students of CSIM, the workshop was held in Dr. Reddy’s Labs’ Conference Hall attended by approximately eighty people. Attendees comprised of a few students from Indian School of Business, young employees of corporate sector, well known institutions like NTR memorial Trust and MOHAN Foundation as well as small NGOs like JustChange.

The conference started off with the introductory talk by Prof. K.L. Srivastava, chief coordinator, about CSIM, the courses it offers, and the purpose of the workshop. Following this Brig. I.N. Bhatia, also associated with CSIM presented a case study on leadership based on a book called Leading at the edge and highlighted the ten key concepts of leadership that the book suggested.

Following this, the first lead speaker of the workshop Mr. Gregory Rake, India Program Director of Rural Development Institute took to the stage. In his talk, he emphasized that innovation is about training the mind to think differently and questioning the assumptions that nobody insisted. As an example, he displayed an “inverted” world map with North direction at the bottom and mentioned that it is only an assumption but not the rule that North has to be at the top. Further he pointed out that trying and failing are inherent to innovation. Especially in the social sector, failing may have a negative impact the beneficiary’s lives, but one should avoid guilt lessons from the failure must be learnt and used to innovate further.

On leadership, he strongly backed the servant leadership for the social sector. He mentioned that in the social sector, the beneficiary is the most important in the organization. In addition, he mentioned taking time to reflect on one’s strategies as an important aspect of leadership, since without reflection quite often one tends to lose sight of priorities.

Following his talk, Mr. Srivyal Viyyuri, Managing Trustee of Sphoorti Foundation presented his ideas. Right through his speech he emphasized on the change in attitude of various players in the social sectors. He strongly expressed his contention to the idea of calling social sector by what they are not, such as non-profit and non-government. Instead he offered “For impact” as a positive and better suited phrase. Similarly he opined that currently the players in the social sector believe that the universe of funders is constant and the various organizations have to compete for the money they have to offer. But in contrast he believed that the universe of funders is expanding that collaboration among the organizations, instead of competition, is the right approach.

Among the challenges of organization, what he called as a “founder’s syndrome” was interesting. He mentioned that the founder being the visionary and the driving force of the organization may miss to delegate resources and key ideas to others in the team. As a result the organization runs a risk of living and dying with the founder. So he pointed that succession planning is important for the growth of an organization. As he talked about leadership, he pointed out that it is all about appropriate application of simple human attributes such as humility, patience, resilience, introspection and empathy.

The other two speakers, Major Shiva Kiran of Sukuki Exnora and Mr. Vinaayak Kalletla of Abhyasa Residential Public School, offered a lot of insights about their respective organizations and their objectives. However they left the lessons on innovation and leadership to be inferred by the audience.

In general, I found the workshop has a lot to improve.

  • CSIM should ensure that the primary objectives of the workshop are clarified to the speakers. Though Mr. Rake and Mr. Viyyuri offered insights about innovation and leadership, the other speakers didn’t stick to the objectives of the workshop.
  • With innovation in social sector as a primary topic of discussion they could have invited at least a couple of social enterprises for the lead speakers’ slot. Hyderabad has a good share of social enterprises like Green Mango, MILLEE, PrajwalaYouSee, many of whom are reported earlier by ThinkChange-India.
  • The logistics for the workshop were substandard.The conference hall could have been bigger where the presenter could have more space to move about and the attendees could move in and out of the hall without affecting the speech.
  • Flash photography could have been avoided for the convenience of the speakers and the audience
  • The time management needed vast improvements as well.
  • The workshop is organized by the students of CSIM who get to arrange only one such workshop during their time with CSIM. However the CSIM management should ensure that feedback from each workshop is available to the next team of students so that they learn from their alumini’s experience.

Overall, I would describe the workshop as moderately successful at best in terms of lessons to be learnt as well as organization.

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