It all began in the year 2009, in INDIA
Fifteen young people set upon a daunting task, that none before them had undertaken. No, they weren’t going after dragons or princesses. They had committed to go and work with grassroots organizations for two years. Selected as part of a fellowship program, designed by a visionary, Dr. Nachiket Mor, and two enthusiastic rural management persons, Shalabh Sahai and Rahul Nainwal, co-founders of iVolunteer, an organization that connects volunteers with non-profit organizations on short term assignments.
The new program created was called the ICICI Fellowship and it aimed at finding young people from diverse backgrounds, grooming them to be leaders to impact long term social change. After three years and three cohorts, while the name was changed, the structure was tweaked too. Learning from across the years were put together and thus, mistakes were bettered. Hence, India Fellow was born and Anupama Pain, from the founding cohort of the ICICI Fellows came forward to run it along with Rahul. These are the introductory characters of our story.
It has been over fourteen years now. But for the purpose of being concise, this is who we are.
India Fellow is an experiential social leadership program for young Indians that include working full-time for 18 months with a host organization on a social issue together with training, peer learning and mentoring. This experience will empower India Fellows to find their own leadership potential, shape their futures and make a difference.
In the current chapter of this mystery/action series, entered new characters. Soon, some more fellows decided to join the challenging battle of finding such valiant youth and putting them in trying circumstances. The characters that we would specifically like you to know of are Anvesh T, Nikita D’cruz, Adarsh Bhat, Richa Williams, Swati Saxena, Umang Jain, Pranoti Monde, and Dharmesh Chaubey. All alumni from across the years. The team finally decided to call this program what it was; a commune-run program. Where fellows had the ownership to design, experiment and take this tribe forward.
We made friends along the way. These are over fifty grassroots partners and grant support organisations like ICICI Foundation, Tata Trusts, WaterAid, InfoEdge Pvt Ltd, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Human Capability Foundation and DrishtiHRC. We have best friends who support and advise us along the way. Those who can sing about trees and mountains as well as help in organization development, visioning and reflective processes.
The journey embedded in this story is not easy to be part of. It spans cities and villages, plains and mountains. More importantly, it spans mindsets. Challenges appear and lots of hurdles are passed, but the heroes and heroines are not alone. They have each other. As a result, they ultimately emerge stronger, wiser, with open hearts and mind about the country’s realities and the community’s love. Where do we go from here? Well, we are just beginning with the dream of filling many more characters and chapters in this book. We hope to engage with a growing number of young people every year. In faith that the leaders of tomorrow have a social consciousness and their own understanding of the world so that together, we can bring about change.
Now the moral of this story is… well, that’s the beauty of it – each fellow has their own. We are here, trying to create ours. But we’ll let you decide yours.