PRADAN owes its genesis to a strong belief in a simple idea: Caring and capable people – rather than material resources – are crucial in accelerating the process of social development in our country. PRADAN’s Human Resource Development Unit was set up with the core agenda of ensuring that young and educated people with empathy and the desire to effect positive changes in the lives of others are recruited, nurtured, and placed in grassroots projects.
PRADAN’s internal HRD processes and programmes were developed gradually and systematically. The initial focus was on recruitment, induction, and early training of new entrants. Eventually it also focused on the task of developing mechanisms to systematically build competencies among professional staff.
PRADAN has a Development Apprenticeship Programme that recruits fresh university graduates from over 60 campuses across India. Apprenticeship covers a period of 12 months. An apprentice is assigned to a PRADAN project under the guidance of a trained Field Guide as a “learner member.” During the first seven days, the apprentice conducts a reality check, while getting oriented in the team. If she is then interested in carrying on, the apprentice goes through a systematic learning process that includes two fieldwork segments, two foundation courses, and a visit home, to another team and another NGO. All these put together helps the apprentice to explore her preparedness – intellectual, physical, emotional, and social – in taking up a career in grassroots development. She learns the nitty-gritty required for being a development professional.
Apprentices who graduate to become Executives spend the first three to five years as task performers in specific projects. Executives with five to seven years of experience and significant achievements on the ground are later called upon to play project management roles. From about the tenth year, a professional would be expected to lead either a function, theme or operational region.
PRADAN’s structure, internal systems, and processes have been designed to provide space for self-expression to each professional staff’s desire to work for a super-ordinate goal. Self-regulation and autonomy are, thus, consciously fostered. At all levels, strong integration is ensured with processes of mentorship, peer review, and collective leadership. While these are facilitating factors, continued effectiveness of the development professional also depends on the ability of the human resources strategy to equip individuals to respond to changing field problems and role demands. This requires a combination of structured training inputs and systems.
In the last few years the central HRD unit has developed a broad framework to provide development professionals with necessary inputs to gear up for life and role transitions. The in–career programme focuses on enhancing human, technical and conceptual capabilities required by each role in the four broad arenas of work, viz. personal application and growth, grassroots transformation, organisation roles, and building strategic alliances. Programmes are designed to help professional staff acquire the necessary capabilities to play their roles more effectively as well as to create systematic opportunities, exposure, and training for executives to make the transition to become Team Leaders, or for a Team Leader to make the transition to being a Programme Director.
With a combination of structured training inputs and mechanisms, PRADAN would continually develop effective on-going professional and structured Human Resources Development programmes.