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Leadership And Pathways For A Career In Public Policy: Challenges And Opportunities – IMPRI Impact And Policy Research Institute

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Leadership and Pathways for a Career in Public Policy: Challenges and Opportunities

Aishiki Chowdhury

On Day 2 of the Careers in Public Policy Workshop, an online monsoon workshop program organized by Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi on 22nd, 23rd and 24th August, 2023 as part of the #WebPolicyLearning series, several distinguished guests including Prof. Mukul Asher, Ms Urvashi Prasad, Mr Sandeep Chachra, Mr Amit Dubey, Mr Yash Agarwal, Dr Devender Singh, Prof Vibhuti Patel, Dr Simi Mehta and Dr Arjun Kumar joined us to offer their valuable insights.

The second day of the Three-Day Immersive Online Introductory Career Counseling & Awareness Certificate Training Workshop involved detailed and illuminating sessions on the emerging dimensions of Public Policy and the role of emerging technologies and innovations

 in public service. 

In a dynamic session titled “Leadership and Pathways for a Career in Public Policy,” Ms. Urvashi Prasad explored the diverse avenues and burgeoning opportunities within the field of public policy. Ms. Prasad highlighted the nuances, challenges, and transformative potential of this domain, offering valuable insights for aspiring policy professionals.

Broad Career Opportunities in Public Policy

Ms. Prasad commenced the session by elucidating the extensive range of career prospects within the realm of public policy. Beyond traditional roles within government, she emphasized the significance of roles in think tanks and research organizations. Ms. Prasad underscored the importance of comprehending that public policy can be a demanding field, often marked by slow progress. It necessitates the consideration of multiple stakeholders and the potential unintended consequences of policy decisions. To illustrate this point, she referenced an example wherein incentivizing institutional deliveries led to an unintended rise in cesarean sections.

Navigating Unintended Consequences

In this section, Ms. Prasad delved into the complex terrain of unintended consequences in public policy. Using the instance of cesarean sections, she expounded on how well-intentioned policies could inadvertently lead to undesirable outcomes, such as unnecessary surgeries. She stressed the importance of a holistic perspective when making policies, requiring careful deliberation of pros and cons while considering the diverse stakeholders involved.

Acknowledging the multifaceted nature of policy-making, Ms. Prasad emphasized the necessity of balancing dimensions such as equity, efficiency, and cultural and political factors. She also highlighted the wealth of opportunities for young professionals to engage with various levels of government and collaborate with diverse stakeholders in influencing public policy. She stressed the importance of staying connected to the ground-reality and acquiring on-the-ground knowledge to ensure policies benefit the maximum number of people while minimizing harm. Ms. Prasad concluded by encouraging the audience to pursue careers in public policy, both within and outside the government, emphasizing the immense impact that dedicated individuals can have.

Niti Aayog’s Focus and Initiatives

Ms. Prasad shifted the focus to Niti Aayog, shedding light on the organization’s areas of concentration and initiatives. Niti Ayog is deeply engaged in diverse sectors, encompassing health, education, communications, and infrastructure. The organization collaborates closely with state governments, striving to facilitate the development of customized strategies and plans for India’s growth by 2047. Central to Niti Aayog’s mission is the emphasis on data, analytics, innovation, and the implementation of sustainable development goals. The organization plays a pivotal role in overseeing and guiding policy implementation across India.

Building upon Ms. Urvashi Prasad’s insights, Dr. Nivedita P. Haran added valuable perspectives to the discussion. She emphasized the paramount importance of policy implementation, stressing the need to consider potential consequences and involve all relevant stakeholders. Dr. Haran underscored the need for a comprehensive approach that carefully weighs both the merits and drawbacks of any policy decision. Furthermore, she highlighted the challenge of designing policies that can effectively cater to the unique characteristics of each state or district, necessitating tailored approaches. While recognizing the progress made in this regard, Dr. Haran acknowledged that there is still ample room for improvement within the policy ecosystem.

The session also delved into the imperative of crafting inclusive and human-centric policies. Ms. Prasad emphasized that policies do not emerge in isolation but undergo a meticulous process that involves gathering suggestions and input from diverse stakeholders. These stakeholders include ground-level workers and experts from relevant departments. Dr. Haran emphasized the value of experience and insights gained from working at the grassroots level in shaping effective policies. Additionally, Ms. Prasad highlighted the unique perspectives contributed by officers who have risen through the ranks within the system. In essence, the importance of considering diverse perspectives and experiences in policy development was reiterated.

Regarding public participation in the policy-making process, Dr. Haran underscored its significance. She emphasized the collective responsibility of citizens to voice their objections and offer suggestions before policies are finalized. Regrettably, Dr. Haran acknowledged that apathy towards participation and input provision is a prevailing challenge, necessitating a paradigm shift. 

Furthermore, the session explored the channels through which the government invites critiques of its policies. Dr. Haran emphasized the pivotal role of criticism in the policy-making process and the system of impact assessment conducted for each policy. 

The session culminated in a discussion on the pressing issue of waste management in India, particularly in cities like Delhi and Mumbai. Dr. Haran passionately emphasized that the primary responsibility for waste management should squarely rest with local authorities, specifically municipal corporations and panchayats. She lamented the relative frailty of these administrative bodies and the lack of robust encouragement for their growth and empowerment. In stark contrast, she drew attention to Kerala, where local bodies thrive due to the allocation of increased power and resources.

Dr. Haran underscored the pivotal role of citizen involvement in waste management and expressed bewilderment at the resistance encountered in the implementation of measures such as waste segregation and plastic reduction. She passionately called for a paradigm shift in public mentality and heightened awareness, particularly regarding the severe health repercussions faced by children and senior citizens due to exposure to polluted air.

Acknowledgement: Aishiki Chowdhury is a research intern at IMPRI.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organisation.

Read more:

Skills for a Career in Public Policy – I

What Does Reimagined Public Policy Education in India Imply for Career Paths and Prospects?

Posted by Samprikta Banerjee, Research Intern at IMPRI.

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    IMPRI, a startup research think tank, is a platform for pro-active, independent, non-partisan and policy-based research. It contributes to debates and deliberations for action-based solutions to a host of strategic issues. IMPRI is committed to democracy, mobilization and community building.

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IMPRI, a startup research think tank, is a platform for pro-active, independent, non-partisan and policy-based research. It contributes to debates and deliberations for action-based solutions to a host of strategic issues. IMPRI is committed to democracy, mobilization and community building.

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