Kumar works for Swaniti Initiative, a nonpartisan social enterprise strengthening public service delivery at the state and local level in India.
Headshot of Vivek Kumar
Vivek Kumar

Vivek Kumar earned his bachelor of engineering degree from Sant Gadge Baba Amravati University and began working as a Java Developer. “It was a good job, but I wasn’t sure it was the right fit,” he said. “Growing up, I kept noticing that women and those from lower castes were socially marginalized, earned lower wages, and had significantly less representation in the tech industry. I had always been interested in issues that revolve around the underprivileged and underrepresented, so I started looking for courses that would allow me to look more into these disparities.”

Kumar went on to pursue his master’s in women’s studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. While a graduate student, he interned for Mahila Rajsatta Andolan [Women’s Political Movement]. “I was responsible for creating training literature in English, Hindi, and Marathi, and for conducting interviews with women elected into political offices. The experience led me to focus on policies related to women—especially in rural areas.”

After completing his degree, Kumar joined Professional Assistance for Development Action (PRADAN), a grassroots organization that tackles problems related to poverty in rural Indian villages. “Our work was about livelihood promotion for rural women. We supported rural women who were organizing and shared resources about the technical and business aspects of farming and crop production through groups called farmer producer companies (FPCs).”

PRADAN also partnered with the United Nations (UN) Women project on technical capacity training for elected women representatives. “The Indian government has reserved certain seats for women on village councils, and for many of those women, it was their first opportunity to participate on those councils. PRADAN supported and collaborated with these women so that they were prepared once they stepped into office.”

While working at PRADAN, Kumar realized how much his organization relied on the government. “The government determines wages and funds available for programs that we relied on for funding. It became important for me to understand the different processes between the development work and the administrative work, and that’s when I recognized a policy degree would be invaluable.”

Kumar said The Pearson Institute for the Study of Resolution and Global Conflicts at Harris clinched his decision to apply to Harris. “As someone interested in working in rural areas—which sometimes go through non-peaceful periods—the Center’s focus drew me in. I was able to take classes on peacebuilding, women’s development and politics, and conflict and humanitarian intervention.”

After completing his MPP, Kumar returned to India and now works for Swaniti Initiative, a social enterprise strengthening public service delivery at the state and local level in India. “I am working in Jharkhand, a mineral-rich rural state. The Indian government has enacted a law which requires that 30% of all revenue generated from mineral extraction in the country must be invested in development projects. In my region of work, more than $100 million ‘district mineral’ funds (DMFs) have accumulated over the course of five years. I partner with the government in designing innovative solutions in the domains of livelihood, physical infrastructure, energy, and healthcare to better utilize DMFs.”

“Harris has been instrumental in putting me on my path,” Kumar says. “The courses I took on conflict and humanitarian intervention taught me to put evidence at the forefront of policy and program design. You have to be able to show what impact your proposals can make. And I can’t say enough about the Writing for Public Policy course. I felt like I could write with my eyes closed by the end of the quarter. One key learning from the course I carry with me is to always keep the specific audience in mind while conveying an idea. My policy briefs or proposals are tailored differently for a donor, a government official, or an NGO. One size does not fit all.”