Six fellowship programmes that teach grassroots and governance in India, for the changemaker in you

It goes without saying that bringing about social change in the society entails good leadership. And being a good leader – whether you’re an entrepreneur or a commoner – means supplementing passion with skills, knowledge, and a sound understanding of how the system and its people work.

Social work can be carried out at many levels, each having an impact of its own. One can work from the top and get their hands dirty with policy making and advocacy on a national scale, or one could work with local agencies or organisations, or one could work directly with individuals to improve their living conditions.

Whichever scale you work on, skills like planning budgets, organising workshops and events, co-ordinating with district and state administrations, and various communities are essential to influence change. Here are six fellowships that chisel these very skills to perfection, ensuring that there is never a dearth of potential changemakers.

Data for Impact Fellowship

The Data for Impact Fellowship is managed by Social corps, a data intelligence company which enables decision makers in collecting primary data, to analyse and visualise them in order to make data-driven decisions. This fellowship brings together individuals passionate about providing social solutions, and experienced government decision-makers who have the valuable data. Fellows will have unprecedented access working alongside government leaders, senior economists, civil servants, and experts to create high-impact, scalable, data-driven solutions to real problems.

The Gandhi Fellowship

The Gandhi Fellowship was initiated to fill in the gap left by competent leaders, especially in the field of education. It is an intensive two-year programme where the fellows partner with and assist primary school headmasters to build leadership capacities and improve the quality of education. Each fellow will be assigned five schools each and within each school, the fellow is expected to transform the school development plan such as increasing school enrolment and community participation, and improving mid-day meal systems. This fellowship is designed to help the fellows improve their own leadership capacities, and develop a critical thinking process needed to solve any social problem.

Prime Minister’s rural development Fellows scheme (PMRDFs)

This is a two-year fellowship programme initiated by the Ministry of Rural Development in collaboration with state governments. PMRD fellows will get to work closely with the District Collector of districts chosen for Additional Central Assistance (ACA) and Integrated Action Plan (IAP), as they exhibit higher levels of developmental deficits. The fellow will assist in bridging the gap between people’s needs and the government’s provisions, thereby acquiring the skills to assess ground reality. The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) imparts training, and mentors and monitors the work of the fellows.

AIF Clinton Fellowship

The American India Foundation (AIF) Clinton Fellowship is a 10-month volunteer programme that connects young professionals with development organisation. Mentored by a member from the host organisation and another member from AIF, the fellow’s responsibilities range from data collection and visualisation, teaching, fundraising, event planning, marketing and communications to graphic design, videography, and developing digital content.

The Legislative Assistants to Members of Parliament (LAMP) Fellowship

Creating social impact requires a sound understanding of policy making. The LAMP Fellowship allows youngsters to be mentored by a member of the parliament for a period of 10–11 months during which the fellow will assist the MP in research, raising questions of public importance, participating in debates, and drafting bills. They will also get to interact with policy makers in areas such as health, education, finance, etc. This fellowship is an ideal opportunity to understand the process involved in framing laws for the country.

Chief Minister’s Good Governance Associates (CMGGA)

The CMGGA programme is an initiative by the Government of Haryana to create young leaders who can spearhead government transparency and hence, a more effective citizen service. The associates are trained and posted in each of the 22 districts of Haryana for 12 months. During this period, they will represent the Chief Minister’s Office and work closely with the district officials. They will also regularly interact with the CM to provide their recommendations for impact across different government schemes and departments.

In a developing country such as India, where more people have access to television than to tap water, there is immense scope for social work. Inequalities and injustices flow like our rivers; minorities remain socially excluded, child labour and trafficking is still rampant, and women are still fighting for safety and equality. In a country of billions, millions live without fundamental rights, but there is also hope because there are millions more who can bring about a much-needed change in this system – will that be you?

The writer of this article is Varsha Roysam.


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