1. What is Gandhi Fellowship?

Gandhi Fellowship is an intensive 2-year residential program that helps talented young people develop the leadership skills essential to cause disproportionate positive change in society. The Fellowship challenges these young people to support and partner primary school headmasters to transform their schools to achieve the desired educational outcomes. In the process, Fellows discover their definite goals in life and how to go about converting their ideas and dreams into reality.

2. What exactly happens during the Fellowship?

During the 2 years of the Fellowship, the fellows are assigned 5 schools each. The fellows have to bring about a significant transformation in these schools. The 2 years are divided into four semesters. The program starts with an induction and immersion into the school and village context. And with each semester, the fellows get deeper into the challenges of the school and resolve them successfully. These 2 years have been interspersed with daily peer reviews, expert reviews, personal reflection workshops, field visits to social organizations, vipassana meditation retreats, reflective reading, community immersions etc., which help the fellows evolve and develop critical leadership skills.

3. What do fellows exactly do in schools?

Their major role is to strategically help the HMs build their capacity as a leader, overcome challenges and improve the quality of learning. They support the HM in everything relating to the school development plan - organizing an ideal morning assembly, increasing student enrolment, improving the mid-day meal system, organizing School Monitoring Committee (SMC), mobilizing community participation and collaboration with their fellow teachers.

4. How will the fellows benefit from the Fellowship program?

By working on a social change problem, the fellows understand change leadership at the generic level, a system design thinking process that they can apply to any social problem they want to solve. The Fellowship is designed to help the fellows develop the following seven competencies - Self Awareness, Collaborative Work, Excellence, Influence without Authority, Articulation of Values, Risk Taking and Articulation of Private Dream.

5. What do Fellows do after two years?

During the two years, Fellows are supported define their private dream and are equipped with the skills to pursue it after the 2 years. There is a placement cell in the Fellowship which helps in finding jobs if necessary (aligned to their Private Dreams), but fellows are expected to be independent and find their own way in pursuing their dream - which is the very idea of the Fellowship.

6. Why was this Fellowship program created?

India today faces a serious leadership crisis in every domain. The top minds of the top colleges in our country are busy running after personal success rather than even thinking about the society. The Fellowship feels the need to guide talented youth to actively engage with solving the myriad problems plaguing the country today. So, the Fellowship was created with the intent to get the best students in the country to run through a two year curriculum which we believe will help them become the next generation of nation builders.

7. When was the Fellowship started and how many have participated in it so far?

The Fellowship started in 2008 with 11 fellows in the Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan. In 2009, the Fellowship program expanded to Ahmedabad with a batch of 23 fellows and in 2010 it further expanded to Mumbai with the third batch of 36 fellows. The fourth batch had a strength of 123 fellows and in 2012, 163 students have joined the Fellowship. 104, 178 and 173 fellows joined from 2013 to 2015. It has been steadily growing in popularity and graduates from the top colleges in the country have participated in this.

8. What kind of support will the fellows get during the 2-year period?

A unique grant system encapsulates the philosophy of encouraging and supporting youth to take risks and build entrepreneurial skills. Gandhi fellowship provides: an all-inclusive monthly grant of Rs.14,000 (taxable), a fixed monthly phone allowance of Rs.600 (taxable) and rent-free accommodation, transport and other allowances as applicable based on the need to support the fruition of ideas of youth post fellowship, basic grant of Rs 14,000 is divided into:

  • basic monthly sustenance grant of Rs. 7000 (pre-tax) and
  • interest-free reserve amount of Rs 161000 cumulated from the remaining Rs. 7000

The cumulative reserve amount will be paid at the end of the Term and successful completion of the Fellowship after the period of 23 months. This cumulative grant supports Gandhi Fellowship graduates to kick start their choices of a social enterprise individually or collaboratively with other Fellows, International learning exposure or specialized higher studies in line with their aspirations.

Additionally, please read Question 15.

9. Who is behind this Fellowship program?

The Fellowship is an initiative of Kaivalya Education Foundation (KEF) & Piramal Foundation for Education Leadership (PFEL), the not-for-profit companies that designs and runs innovative leadership development programmes with respect to the social sector. KEF & PFEL are led by a professional and experienced management team and given strategic direction by an eminent management board, whose members are: Mr Ajay G. Piramal - Chairman of Piramal Healthcare, Mr Narayanan Vaghul - Chairman of ICICI Bank, Debashish Mitter - leads the Michael and Susan Dell foundation's strategy and Mr Aditya Natraj - Founder Director of KEF and previously a corporate finance consultant with KPMG.

The Fellowship is funded by Piramal Foundation, UNICEF, USAID and Michael and Susan Dell foundation. To honor the invaluable contribution made by Mr. Ajay Piramal the Fellowship is called Piramal Fellowship in Rajasthan.

10. What are the core principles of the Fellowship?

The Fellowship is inspired from the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi. Two core principles which are at the foundation of the Fellowship are - Firstly, "Be the change you wish to see in the world". Whereby Fellows are encouraged to cause any external change by changing themselves first. And secondly, he also believed in the process of action and reflection, and used reflection as a major tool for personal and then societal change. Similarly reflection is an integral part of the two year journey of the Fellowship. Fellows are supported and encouraged to reflect everyday and they go through the continual cycle of action and reflection as a part of everyday life in the Fellowship.

11. Why is the Fellowship Program run for 23 months and not one or three years?

The Fellowship is not designed for one year because we believe that developing effective leadership skills takes time and cannot be compressed in a twelve month schedule. The Fellowship believes that in the 23 months journey, a fellow has to gain 7 basic competencies which require a dedicated period of time.

12. Do Fellows get holidays?

Yes. Holidays for the entire Fellowship batch are scheduled to fit in with the school calendar. There is a break of approximately 1 week scheduled to coincide with Diwali and another 1 week break during the school summer holidays. Because almost all activities during the 2-year program are group activities, Fellows are discouraged from taking breaks apart from those which are scheduled for the group as a whole.

13. Can anyone leave the Fellowship after one year or be asked to leave mid-way?

There is no bond and one has the freedom to leave. However, Fellowship is a commitment and is meant for those who are serious about creating change. We want serious people who see value in the two years and not those who will drop out prematurely due to family pressures, marriage plans, and fancy pay package of their friends or a university education. Sometimes the organization also asks some fellows to leave who fail to show progress and meet up to the expectation of the Fellowship even after a warning and certain time frame to bounce back and show progress has been given to them. The Fellowship has its own assessment system and can ask people to leave who fail to show the rigour and excellence required to cause any social impact.

Additionally, refer to Answer 8 about stipend payment.

14. Can I stay at home and join the fellowship since I am already in Surat/Rajasthan/Mumbai?

No. GFP is a residential programme. Since the programme is all about developing competencies so staying in office accommodation and sharing knowledge with other fellows is necessary.

15. If I have social change idea and want to start social enterprise post fellowship then how will the organisation support me?

You will be supported via 'Social Incubation & Enterprises Program'. This program supports aspiring social entrepreneurs through special idea incubation, business mentor-ship and start-up funding support up to Rs 20 lakh after Fellowship graduation.

16. How safe is the Residential Fellowship Program for women?

You are in safe hands. The Program Leaders (Mentors in the block) and staff members are sensitized appropriately about Gender security issues. The administration team supports our women fellows in the locations with customized and suitable solutions as and when required.

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