ISDM has quickly built an excellent reputation for educating and training graduates for employment in India’s fast-growing voluntary services sector – Autar Nehru
Promoted in 2016 with the objective to “professionalise the leading and managing of social purpose organisations”, the Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), Noida has quickly built an excellent reputation for educating and training graduates for employment in India’s fast-growing voluntary services sector. India hosts one of the world’s largest number of social impact, aka voluntary services, organisations — 3.17 million including schools, colleges, faith-based institutions and NGOs.
“ISDM is committed to strengthening the domain of development management with study programmes that transcend the silos of ‘development perspectives’ and ‘management principles’. General business management practices cannot be retrofitted to execute development projects effectively. The social sector requires managers and leaders trained in development management. Over the past few decades in particular, India’s development sector has experienced huge changes in the character and role of social impact organisations, which need people with specialised knowledge and skills to realise their goals.
ur mission is to develop a cadre of reflective, committed professionals capable of leading and managing organisations that can stimulate sustained social change and impact at scale,” says Gaurav Shah, an alumnus of BITS, Pilani and IIM-Calcutta and former management consultant with Procter & Gamble, American Express, Azim Premji Foundation, and Lok Capital, prior to his appointment as founder-director of ISDM four years ago.
ISDM is the brainchild of a group of highly-respected social entrepreneurs and industry leaders including Ashish Dhawan, former venture capitalist and founder of the Central Square Foundation; Dr. Pramath Raj Sinha, co-founder of Ashoka University and senior partner at 9.9 Media; Rohit Kapoor, vice-chairperson and CEO of EXL; Ravi Sreedharan, formerly at HSBC and Azim Premji Foundation; and Sharad Agarwal, board member at IIMPACT (a Gurgaon-based NGO working for education of girl children). In 2016, the founder group crowd-funded ISDM which launched its flagship one-year postgraduate programme in development leadership (PGP-DL) “to develop a cadre of management professionals that can manage and lead social purpose organisations for sustainable social impact at scale”.
Thus far, 200 graduates have been certified by ISDM and campus-recruited by well-known NGOs and development organisations including Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiative, Hindustan Unilever Foundation, Quest Alliance, Dasra, Barefoot College, Dr. Reddy’s Foundation, SRF Foundation and Udhyam.
According to Shah, the unique feature of the institute’s specially designed PGP-DL curriculum is that it combines immersive classroom learning experience, collaborative group learning, and field studies under its Realising India programme. “Our PGP-DL programme has been specially designed to include courses, workshops and guest lectures specific to the social sector. Moreover our context-based collaborative group learning pedagogy adapts business management concepts and practices to voluntary service organisations. It involves students collaborating with peers in groups facilitated by a bricoleur i.e, mentor,” says Shah.
Sited within a modern, thoroughly-equipped four-storey building in Noida’s Sector 62, ISDM also hosts a Knowledge and Research Centre which collaborates with development and academic institutions around the world to create a knowledge pool for development management education. Within four years since it admitted its first batch, ISDM has acquired a reputation for documenting case studies, publishing reports on NGO leadership and application of business management nostrums in the social impact sector. Moreover, apart from the one-year PGP-DL programme, ISDM offers several short-term, strategically curated education programmes for voluntary sector practitioners, leaders and social entrepreneurs.
Following the national trend since the closure of education institutions countrywide in March to check the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, ISDM has moved all study programmes online. “The 2020-21 batch of 37 learners started its online programme on schedule in July. We hope that by early next year, we will be able to resume our on-campus teaching-learning and field studies. Meanwhile, our academic team and development managers have started publication of an essays series providing insights into the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on Indian society,” says Shah.
With challenges in the voluntary sector constantly evolving and transforming, Shah is committed to continuous improvement of the PGP-DL course structure to address new and old societal problems and new challenges. “After our first three batches of 197 students graduated, we have used their feedback to revisit and improve the curriculum and pedagogy. We are confident of producing well-trained and dedicated young leaders to head and manage social impact and voluntary organisations in India,” says Shah.
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