A better world tomorrow calls for countries today to come together through their stakeholders (universities, students, governments, corporates, NGOs, etc.) to build an ecosystem that fosters SDGs. A salient way to build such an ecosystem is through internships which work at both the conceptual and operationalization levels of leveraging cross-border synergies towards SDGs. The purpose of these internships would be to include sensitization of young minds for global issues.
SDGs are all about understanding, amplification, awareness, partnerships. Cross-border internships around SDGs make special sense when topics relevant to both countries are taken up. In that way, internships help cross-fertilize ideas and synergise.
Various stakeholders benefit from these cross-border internships. Industries that connect with internship programs also get to understand how SDGs are understood in other countries. For NGOs or the civil sector, when interns work with them, there is a mutual understanding and learning from each other. Internships facilitate contact and mutual learning. Cross-border internships also help develop an understanding of how country/context changes the underlying constituents of an SDG. Another noteworthy benefit of such internships is after interning on an SDG project, even if students do not choose a career on the social side, they will become conscious business people/professionals under their exposure to sustainability.
India’s new education policy emphasizes innovation and a start-up ecosystem. Also, the focus on SDG and corporate sustainability have never been higher. With this insight, corporates need to step up and look at interns and internship programs in a different light.
The perceived value that students gain from such internships has humungous importance for the future of internships. Also true is the fact that the perceived value for SDG-focussed internships is much higher than a normal internship because of the feeling of contributing. Central to making the idea of SDG-based internships successful is the role of government, corporates, institutes, and NGOs. SDG-focused internships could be made more lucrative for students in many ways. Endorsement by the government, conscious internship program design by the organization, diligent outlook of the NGOs is sure to make SDG-focused internships more attractive to opportunity-seizing young students.
Recently, the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Sustainable Businesses Council (WICCI SBC) entered into a collaboration with Deakin University, Australia and Australia India Council (AIC) to encourage and empower SDG focussed internships in sustainable businesses in India.
A webinar was conducted on September 4, 2021, where representatives from the business, academia and other stakeholder realms joined to voice their opinions regarding such internship processes, whereby universities and their students get the right opportunities to get SDG exposure in the field, thereby bridging the gap between field and potential.
Referring to conducting a similar internship last year, Dr. Nayan Mitra, President, WICCI SBC and Founder Director, Sustainable Advancements (OPC) Private Limited mentioned: “What started as an immensely successful pilot last year, where 5 students from Deakin University attended an internship process with WICCI SBC, now, has grown so much as to demand an entire platform of multi-stakeholders coming together to drive this change.”
The event was graced by Ms. Rowan Ainsworth, Consul-General Australian Consulate-General Kolkata. In a-bit-over-3-hour event, the central point of discussion was how could countries come together through their stakeholders (universities, students, governments, corporates, NGOs, etc.) to build an ecosystem that fosters SDGs. This was discussed with the lens of internships.
While the first panel discussed the idea of such internships at a conceptual level, the second panel discussed the operationalization perspective of cross-border internships to foster SDGs.
Participants on both the panels represented diverse backgrounds of professions and sectors and were eminent and accomplished personalities in their fields. Dr. Bhaskar Chatterjee (Former Director General and CEO, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs), Pritha Dutt (Board Director, Empower Pragati), Dr. Rajesh Chakrabarti (Director, MDI Gurgaon), Dr. Aparna Rao (Women in Entrepreneurship, IIT Bombay), Surekha Routray (Head, Social Incubation and CSR – KIIT Bhubaneswar), Neelesh Gupta (Director, Deloitte), Prem Yadav (Co-Founder and CEO, Pratham Infotech Foundation) and Meeta Sengupta, FRSA (Centre for Education Strategy) spoke on various aspects of cross—border internships.
Dr. Ameeta Jain (Program Lead- Deakin University) introduced the project and moderated the discussions along with her team- Ms. Harsh Suri and Dr. Alexander Newton from Deakin University, Australia. Speaking on the project objectives, Dr. Jain mentioned that “the project is expected to advance graduate employment outcomes post COVID 19 and catalyse partnerships for achieving Agenda 2030.”
Key lessons to be learned from this discourse of SDG-focused internships, especially in light of the current pandemic, were multifold. Virtual internships help interns to get familiar with technology, which is the common platform that is going to be used in the future for further international interactions. Government push is required for private institutions to provide a platform for internships, allowing students to gain more hands-on experience. This need becomes more pronounced with the knowledge that students are hungry for experience. It’s been proven that internships, as a form of experiential learning, are more effective than lectures in a classroom setting. Providing ample quality internships is a win-win for all stakeholders.
SDG-Focused Internships- in a nutshell:
- Providing quality SDG-focused internships is a win-win for all stakeholders
- Technology has a pivotal role to play in defining the course of international interactions and internships
- For interns, perceived value of SDG-focused internships is much higher than a normal internship because of the cause connected with it
- Students want hands-on experience. Corporates want fresh perspective. Governments want more conscious citizens. Internships weave through all the wants