In 2015, when I got introduced to the field of social work or the development sector, I thought I would be the best fit in the sector and hence I did chose to volunteer at various places through NSS etc. But I was oblivious to the fact that volunteering although an essential aspect of the sector (as it shows the person’s commitment and grit to do good for the society) remains very isolated from other vital elements of the system within the sector.
I got to know that when I joined my first organisation in Madhya Pradesh called Samarthan. After working and getting hands-on with the various phenomenon that takes places in the organisation, I decided to learn more and came to ISDM in 2018.
I spent a year in understanding the systems and concepts of project designing, concepts like M&E, knowledge management systems, etc. Later I got the opportunity to practice some of my best learnings during my residency (7 weeks internship) which might help our host organization and us in using some of the management tools by incorporating values and humility. And this is how I also got the second chance to work closely with the teams and understand the organisation from different perspectives. I thought of sharing the crucial shifts which I observed in myself since the first one month that I spent in Samarthan to the first one month that I have spent here in the new organisation VimoSEWA, Ahmedabad. I am trying to share some of the significant shifts I went through within four years.
Coming straight from the other side of the world to the world of rights, equality and participation, small things like “I will not talk to boys first” was the upbringing I have had without realising that it was because of the patriarchal system that I grew up in. I was conditioned to imbibe a lot of things which ended up making me insecure; because that’s the way a ‘Good Girl’ is supposed to be right? Everything in my life starting from the choice of my attire to the way I spoke was to a very large extent dictated by this patriarchal bias ingrained in mind.
I never observed that a lot of things I do and the way I function is primarily from the space of values I stand for. But when I explored and reflected on the values which matter the most to me, I realised my inner strength. I got to know why I do what I do and also understood the certain choices that I have made in my life because of my compassion for myself and others. Even about the way of working, I used to push others to be on their feet all the time as I am a believer of doing a lot of hard work; it used to be my way of engagement. Slowly and steadily, I understood that even if I will push myself things will happen the way they are supposed to happen. I cannot control the external circumstances, and sometimes such situations are bound to affect my work. I am still struggling with it, but now I am aware and conscious of my need to be always in control, and I am trying to balance things in my life.
It was one of the significant shifts in my life. I started finding my own company enjoyable, and I suddenly started having a lot of time for self-reflection, writing, listening to music, travelling, and it just kept getting better. I remember when I used to live alone in the village calledUljhawan in Sehore, MP, I used to spend most of my time outside my room because in my room I didn’t use to enjoy as much as I did outside. Meeting up with people and chatting with the women used to be my favourite pastime. But I feel if I have to do it once again, I might be able to find a balance in both worlds. Maybe, I will write more about the conversations, reflect more on my stay in the village and engage myself in designing more programs of engaging with the community meaningfully, which I had missed before.
This shift is also an indicator of what I have learnt through my experience of working in the NGOs. As a new person four years back, I did not know anything about the sector. I was clueless about the internal work structure and mechanism- how the NGOs get funded, how they recruit people, and how the projects are designed from the abstract ideas. But now I can talk like a professional working in the development sector. I understand the jargons, I can understand the intersections between the multiple theories, or the way numerous approaches are combined to solve an issue.
I do not hesitate to understand and learn more, and the exposure I got in ISDM helped me in getting the sources of the information. If I am not aware of something, I know from where I can find it. I can always fall back on the networks to tap into the collective knowledge, that I have gained from working at ISDM and being an India Fellow.
In my college assessment, once I was asked if I will be able to explain the inter-relationships between the various knowledge pieces, I was learning at that time. Although I had an idea in mind, I was not able to articulate my thoughts properly. When I came to VimoSEWA where I was assigned a task to work on a Branding Process and Performance Management System. I was able to see the correlation between the Knowledge Management System, Communication &, Engagement System and the overarching business plan the organisation has developed and how we need to incorporate each method while working on one as these systems cannot be developed in isolation from another system.
Initially, I used to think that I should follow someone by whom I feel inspired, and do everything it takes to learn and grow in my life. I think it’s also ok to feel so as it is also one of the approaches one can have. But with time I started believing that I will never be able to learn everything from one person, instead, I observed that meeting every new person adds value to my learning process, and that thought gets strengthened with time. Now I can say that from the people I met in communities, the people I work with, my family, my friends and my seniors, all have been my mentors in one way or the other.
Every single person has taught me lifelong lessons and those observations are what I love writing about in my reflection journals, which by now have turned into a thick diary which is full of experiences that I have learnt from people around me. Whenever I go through these notes, I sense the real strength in the people around me and me. Here also from the first day, I am trying to learn as much as I can from all the didis working in the organisation, which gives me the motivation to go back to work daily and learn some new and exciting stories from them about their journeys in VimoSEWA.
Even though the entire batch is located throughout the country in different cities, I can still feel the power of ‘collective’. Any time of the day, I can reach out to my friends, and they will teach me something which will energise me again to take up the next challenge and do my best. They are the ones who keep me motivated to do well and stand against all the odds. What else can one expect from their mentors?
I honestly believe in the saying, which is “We destroy our peace, no one else do it.” I remember how I used to complicate the situation for myself just because of thinking a lot of things and not having the conversation with anyone around me. Because I used to believe that ‘no one can understand me and if I say something, it will backfire. With time this evolved, and after getting engaged with the college curriculum and later entering into the Problem Based Learning spaces, I often used to find myself overthinking on an issue with no relevance at all and unnecessarily complicating the situation. But I share a great rapport with my co-fellows, and gradually my overthinking came under control.
Now, after having spent one month in the new organisation, it comes to me as a surprise when I look at myself in the mirror and say “You did a great job”. I can decide calmly what I want to do next and how I can keep myself busy. Also, I am engaging with everyone in the organisation without thinking about what they will think about me.
I always push myself to not to latch on to any negative thought and continue making the Appreciative Inquiry because that helps me in getting the constant motivation to engage in the process. I know once I will fall in the trap, I will waste all my time in thinking about something which will not add any value in my learning process and my life.
These are the major shifts that I have observed in my life so far. There are certainly more changes that I have experienced as a person, but I am at a loss of words right now. To sum it up I would like to share that “The Journey Within” is a lifelong journey and the more I will immerse myself into it, the more it will give me the pleasure of getting close to myself. I will continue my journey by adding more enriching chapters in it, and I hope whoever will read it, will also feel connected with me through the power of words.
By Sanjana Kaushik, a student of the PGP in Development Leadership (2018-19) at ISDM.