Posted by ramblinginthecity
I had the interesting experience today of traveling two hours in a car with people I had met at a workshop, who I did not know too well. Since we were all more or less strangers, only the two of us being from the same organisation, someone came up with the idea of each one sharing their life story with the others.
It was fascinating to learn what factors motivate people, what inspires them and how sensibilities are shaped. We were all here to work on a ratings project for affordable housing. Four out of the five of us were intelligent professionals who had experience in many areas, but had recognised in ourselves a clear social leaning. And yet we had arrived there via different paths.
I do not really remember when I recognised in myself a bent towards social causes. Perhaps the first seeds were sown by my parents. As doctors, they had a tremendous drive to benefit the common man and work for the larger good. I remember snatches of conversations that my dad had when we lived in Mumbai in the early and mid 80s. Friends used to try hard to convince him to make more money by entering private practice, but he never wavered. I grew up living on campuses of government hospitals across India. Service to people and service to my country were values I imbibed by my parents’ example.
It was perhaps no accident that I drifted into a profession like urban planning. Once in this field though, the challenge of working with the government in any form and the damage to the urban sector created by a host of poorly visioned schemes and policies are enough to make me feel terribly pessimistic at times. Professionals and organisations in this space are desperately trying to evolve mechanisms to create workable win-win partnerships that can impact the quality of our cities. Community engagement is key here, but we currently do not know how to efficiently tap the community as a resource. In social housing, we struggle with how to adapt best practices to diverse situations and how to scale up solutions to benefit larger numbers and offer economies of scale to attract private enterprise into the sector. More questions than answers, but at least lots of people are asking lots of questions!