Nachiket Kulkarni | November 11, 2013

Musings of a Fellow

On a pleasant Thursday evening, at a nice restaurant by the Thiruvanmyur beach in Chennai, I got to meet all my other fellows or fellow-fellows as we call each other now. We were also lucky to witness the "graduation" of fellows from 2012. The next day, they shared their experiences of the year with us. Our "senior" batch of fellows, some of who are now co-workers definitely seemed happy, relieved and content with the year that had gone by. But, there was one more thing that I noticed- The fellowship had created a strong bond between them. I wondered if the same thing would happen to our 2013 cohort as well, and yes, I already have the answer.

All of us came from diverse professional and cultural backgrounds. We went through a long month of induction, with loads of travel and classroom discussions. After this month, we all split (sadly) to swim in our own oceans. In this process, we have been trying to understand the social enterprise space and our roles at Villgro or its incubatees. Someone from Villgro told us on the first day:" We want our fellows to hit the ground running from the start". I definitely felt it in the month of October, and from what I hear from my co-fellows, it holds true for all of us.

[caption id="attachment_902" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Fellows and EIRs at a field visit in Madurai, Tamil Nadu Fellows and EIRs at a field visit in Madurai, Tamil Nadu[/caption]


This brings me to where we are today- A little over 2 months into the fellowship, there are some questions that come to my mind. Since the first 2 months have been fast and different from each other, at this important juncture, I think every fellow should ask oneself these questions-

1) Am I enjoying this journey? Am I getting what I expected out of this fellowship?

2) Where am I with respect to my KRAs (Key Result Areas) for the year?

3) Not compromising on my KRAs, is there anything more that I would like to do / learn?

4) How do I use Villgro's network to expose myself to what I want from the Social Enterprise space?

5) How do the last 2 months and 1) to 4) fit into my long-term career goals?

The last question is probably the most difficult to find the answer for, and I already know why Villgro has assigned "mentors" for us fellows. I must admit that both mentors and senior folks at Villgro have been very helpful in finding answers for the above questions.

This TED talk could be relevant and useful (for anybody)-

These were some of the things past fellows and friends had told us, but nobody had told us that the fellow cohort would itself become so close that they would pitch in for each others' necessities, whenever needed. Our past professional and personal networks are being shared. Our movies, music and books have already been exchanged. As part of work, I am noticing so much knowledge transfer happening. One fellow helps me with her endless wisdom in healthcare and nutrition. Another inspires with her writing and passion for differently-abled people. Another sends us photos from the hills of Uttarakhand, to either make us feel good or jealous. One calls me to talk about "impact measurement" in the tribal lands of Gujarat (for UTMT). I myself have tried to be a local guide for the fellows at Chennai. I could go on about this, but these are just some of the things that have come to my notice.

These 2 months have already created a system for information flow and experience-sharing within the fellows, that the interpersonal relationships are beginning to act as invisible mentors / counselors. I must also mention that close interactions with the EIRs (Entrepreneur-in-Residence) through out the induction program and beyond, has led to a lot of 'enlightenment'. It will be interesting to see how all these interactions transform into a larger and stronger knowledge bank of professionals in the Social Enterprise or the development space by the end of the fellowship. May be, somebody should map how the fellowship cohorts of the past have fallen into various spaces within the Villgro ecosystem like Unconvention, SEED, Incubation etc.  I am sure there is a hidden anthropologist sitting in any of the fellow cohorts who would rise their hand for this study! Anybody? :)

Nachiket has previously worked at Intel Corporation in California as a Business Operations Analyst. He was also involved with volunteering initiatives at Association for India’s Development (AID) and International Rescue Committee (IRC), which made him decide to transition into the world of Economic Development and Public Policy. Nachiket will be working as a social impact fellow with Villgro’s Knowledge Management programme.