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Time in the Government and Sticking Around
I started working in the government in 2016. If I look back, my early years were unlearning my technocratic instincts and learning to ground myself in institutions which have stood the test of time and people that make it work everyday behind the scenes. The work I did was simple and patchwork. Simple data analysis for allocations, M&E with more precise KPIs, better reports and an app maybe. These projects were not yet implemented by people before me, not because of lack of idea, skills or initiative, but rather the lack of certain privileges afforded to me as a young person with an undefined role in the government, unhinged time and a seat on a table unwarranted by my then expertise. I was just an enthusiastic warm body, free from hierarchy and the daily routine, routine that makes the government actually work. These privileges, especially free time/mind, allowed made me do the work I did, nothing inherently special about the person here.
As, I complete my 6th year in the same Ministry, my solution space has expanded drastically. On one hand, I am now more entrenched in the routine but at the same time, I now have the necessary relationships, context and experience to work on fixing systemic causes and not just patch up the symptoms. The solution space I have now was unimaginable to the younger version of me in the government.
There lies the problem with 1-2 year fellowships, tours of duties etc. By the time you’ll figure the system, you’ll be planning to get out of it. Young, unhinged talent is necessary, but you can only do patchwork. Stick around and the actual work begins. At the same time, we need to do more work in allowing young people who’ve tried working in the government, actually stay back.