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Finance and Investment Cell, SRCC interviewed Mr. Prosun Sen, Communication, Advocacy & Partnership Specialist at the UNICEF Office for Andhra Pradesh, Telangana & Karnataka. Mr. Sen is a communications specialist with over twenty years of experience.

  • How has the pandemic affected your work and lifestyle? The pandemic has changed the entire way we work and live our lives: this is true for all of us perhaps!

  • As a communication, advocacy and partnership specialist, what were the problems you faced and how did you overcome them? The very nature of my job entails meeting people, to partner and advocate for the cause of children. The restriction imposed by COVID-19 completely changed the way I work as meeting in person was no longer an option; and even now holding large physical meetings is limited. Hence, I resorted to digital meetings and telecons, using technology to bridge the physical gap.

  • Were any operations under your branch disrupted due to the pandemic? If so, how were they/ will will they be re-initiated? With the sudden lockdown we all initially found ourselves in a difficult situation as to how to continue our regular work and engagement with counterparts. However, this is where technology came to our rescue. It is surprising to see how quickly our partners, government as well as NGOs adapted to the use of technology to bridge the physical limitations imposed by the pandemic, if not 100%, atleast to a level that work effectively continues despite everything. Few challenges still remain: holding large physical meetings or workshops, even inviting partners to our office – but in due course, we are confident that these too will get back on track.

  • What policies within your organisation did you have to change with the pandemic? First and foremost, we had to switch to a “paperless” work culture. Even important financial or programmatic documents that hitherto needed the physical signature of authorized signatories underwent a change to a “digital” sign-off. All meetings, of course turned digital, and this practice continues till date. Travel and physical meetings continue to be restricted, and is cleared by senior leadership on case to case basis. On the HR side, our organization, in cognizance of the longer hours spent by staff attending digital meetings and work, instituted a monthly “regular day off” (in addition to the usual leave entitlement), for better work-life balance.

  • Do you think Work from Home will be the new normal once the pandemic is over? Which industries in your opinion cannot perform under restrictive WFH features and is UNICEF one of them? Good question! We anticipate the learnings in doing business digitally, as opposed to physically, will inform the future work strategies of many organizations, including ours. This implies greater flexibity and adoption of Work From Home as a standard, and perhaps this may be highly applicable for the IT/ITES industry. United Nations organizations, including UNICEF, already have a strong culture of work flexibility; and we foresee that to continue and strengthen. The ability of harnessing large number of participants for trainings and workshops (much more than in usual physical meetings), “paperless” (and green!) work culture and using technology to add an edge to our day-to-day work – will likely continue as a part and parcel of our daily work life in days to come, much beyond COVID-19.

  • How did UNICEF deal with the financial crunch faced by everyone? How was funding managed during the pandemic? UNICEF’s work is funded entirely through the voluntary support of millions of people around the world and our partners in government, civil society and the private sector. Despite the general financial challenges thrown in by the pandemic, our work continues unabated thanks to our supporters.

  • Which partnership in your opinion was most beneficial for UNICEF under the pandemic? Our long and strong partnership with civil society, including NGOs and media, paid rich dividends during the pandemic and enabled us to reach millions all over with the CAB (COVID Appropriate Behaviour) messages and provide support to people in crisis (example: migrants).

  • What are your thoughts on the budget? What were your expectations and what do you think it’s missing? UNICEF is primarily concerned with the proportion of budget that goes towards children. Any nation’s budget reflects the government’s policies and programmes, and, by extension, the child budget reflects the importance accorded by the nation to its most important citizen – the children. UNICEF works in the domain of Public Finance for Children (PF4C) that aims to improve the use of domestic resources for services of importance to children. In over 100 countries including India, UNICEF takes a hands-on approach in supporting governments make budget decisions that lead to adequate investment and continually improve budget equity, efficiency, effectiveness and transparency for greater child-centric impact.

The interview was conducted via email.

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