Learning the three Ps of social change

Date : Jan 16 , 2019 | Alumni

A little over two years ago, Sanjay Mehta left a successful career in the financial services industry with the intention of using his knowledge to fill the huge gap he saw in the availability of basic financial education at the high school and college level. In January 2018, he attended the ILSS Leadership Program, where he found answers he had been seeking for a long time — as well as a cohort of like-minded, “crazy” people who were on similar journeys.

Sanjay recently designed and piloted two base-level modules for a Mumbai-based NGO to impart financial literacy skills to female students (aged 18-22 years) from low-income communities, pursuing professional degrees such as engineering and CA. He is now building further modules to deliver a full suite of financial literacy interventions so that more youth and women develop the confidence and skills to manage their finances and their futures. Sanjay writes about his journey from the corporate world to the social sector.

I am a finance professional who spent his entire career, spanning almost three decades, in the financial services industry. I left the corporate world a little over two years ago, with an intention to leverage my knowledge and experience to pursue alternate opportunities in the field of financial literacy and education.

It was whilst exploring this space that I chanced upon the inaugural ILSS Leadership Program and signed up for the nine-day course, a bit hesitantly I must confess. On a cold winter afternoon in January 2018 I arrived at Ashoka University, somewhat apprehensive of what the next nine days had in store for me, but at the same time very excited about my very first experience of hostel life—I guess it’s never too late for anything!

My apprehensions quickly vanished as each session and day unfolded, with an array of eminent speakers who transported our cohort of 20— all from the familiar world of “profit, output and GDP” —to completely unexplored dimensions of “philanthropy, outcomes and well-being”. Personally, I was quite overwhelmed with the flood of new paradigms and experiences I was being exposed to: understanding the subtle nuances of growth versus development, giving versus discarding; and observing powerful modes of connecting with people and causes, and many more.

Today, exactly a year on, when I look back at my experience at the program and its impact on my journey since, there are three big insights that I gained from ILSS:

Over the next decade and beyond, with increasing life expectancy and improvements in health, I can now clearly visualise this cross-over emerging as the natural evolution in one’s life cycle, with the work-life section being split into distinct phases of ‘take (earn) and give (back)’ and, the so-called retirement phase, a much misused term anyway, being phased out.   

In conclusion, I’d advise a simple remedy to those wondering if they should cross over to the social sector, or, having decided to cross over, are thinking how to go about it—attend the ILSS Leadership Program!

Sanjay is a Chartered Accountant with close to 28 years of experience with Grindlays/ Standard Chartered Bank. He was the Financial Controller (India) of the bank from 2009 to 2016, prior to which he served as Head, Finance & Strategy, Wholesale Banking, for India & South Asia. His current interest lies in the field of financial literacy and education, especially for youth and women.

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