Akanksha Sharma does not believe in discrimination of any kind. With her work and writings, she is making the idea of a better world possible. Her poise, grace and wit are reflected not just in her personality but also in her new book For the Greater Common Good, released as the most promising nonfiction of the year. “I look at the narratives of development, not as a victim but a futurist. Our fascinations with exclusivity have led us to discriminatory settings. I aim to tell the stories of an inclusive world,” she says
Sharma has summed up her several years of work at the intersection of the public-private-social sector into this fact-filled, vivid read. She has brought into perspective our collective notions of development and all that looks like it. “The book is about all of us and those things that impact us in many ways. Everyone talks about a better world, but how would it translate into reality? I have explored those possibilities in this book,” she says.
Profound and clear, she speaks as concerned about Climate Change as about inequalities and existential crisis. “How do we draw lines. There are no borders between them. They are so deeply interconnected. We need to develop our panoramic understandings,” says Sharma, who is recognized for her path-breaking work on Sustainability, International Development, Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) and Sustainable Finance.
“For most of my life, I have been eluded with many voices, stories and struggles of people. For how long would we avoid the truth? The narratives on development go along with all that’s happening in the economy, society, politics, environment and everything else. We do not have the luxury of procrastinating the intertwined questions on inequalities of all kinds, along with the great enchantment of doing good and their counter-intuitive co-existence?”
Sharma feels we are at the cliff beyond which we can only fall if we’ll not reinvent more on things that matter, including Finance, Climate Change, Inequalities that have risen more than ever after the pandemic. “We need to look at things differently now. We cannot afford to let the whole narrative of changing the world be driven just as a matter of philanthropy or public welfare policies. We must explore the possibilities of our imaginations to reinvent newer models of socio-economic development.”
Her humility and conviction speak volumes about her belief in the idea of a better world. She strongly advocates for collaboration between individuals, institutions and sectors, backing it up with her many years of elaborate work focused on creating impact. Preparing us for a post-pandemic world, she says, “We need to blend impact with everything with profits, policies, people and politics. Let it not be seen in silos. To solve the pressing global development problems, we need resources, more investments with better returns. A better world is possible when the impact will become the undercurrent.”
In the last few years, we have seen interesting developments on the economic models of sustainable development, including mainstreaming of the Sustainability narrative, financial models like impact investing, ESG Bonds, etc., but the opportunities are immense. The business sector, which is considered the backbone of a thriving economy, need to make similar drastic augmentations, starting from their ideation to investment to execution. From reshaping economies to fighting climate disruptions, the solutions should be crafted for the greater common good.
Besides her work and writings, this young author loves travelling and went to Antarctica on an International Climate Change Expedition, “Climate is changing much faster than our response to it. This is pushing us into a dangerous future. It is high time to act with global cooperation.”
Born in Jaipur, she doesn’t reveal more about her personal life, except that she enjoys spending time in nature with her dog. In her readings, she says, “There is a very interesting lens with which I view literature that’s mainly to see how the world is divided and how do we build our metaphors for a better tomorrow. I’d say, literature has greatly helped me in understanding and articulating the challenges of our times that not just describes the discourse but also shapes our perspectives for the future. I grew up reading quite a diverse global literature from Shakespeare to Dostoevsky to Virginia Woolf. My youth revolved more around existential inevitability from Albert Camus to Kabir that has been instrumental in shaping my world view on the struggles of masses, politics and of course what we call development.”
It is rare to see an acclaimed practitioner who is also a prolific writer; she says, “In the business of my work, one constantly struggles in finding ways to explore hope. Hope to end people’s miseries, and that makes it difficult to be regimented. My work and writings interact with each other all the time. Like many other things, I can’t see these two also separately. I feel discriminations make us small, and the world is a huge beautiful canvas.”
Sharma has brought interesting new ideas in her book that has the potential to change our perspective to policies and practices for a better world. More than ever, we need such leaders and their literature to change the world.