The story behind launching SAMARTH- India’s most flexible Fellowship Program

“It always seems impossible, until it is done”        

– (Nelson Mandela)

The last four months have been a roller-coaster ride with taking the initiative to support youth in their social leadership process. I along with my team members Shashi, Avnish, Gulshan, Nitish, and Aishwarya launched SAMARTH Fellowship Program. Hearing about this from Shashi the very first time when he pitched among our team, I was clueless with little imagination of the initiative. With a firm determination in mind, we all started towards a goal of Democratising Fellowships in India.

In our initial days, we started off by building resources for the three phases: Application process, Onboarding, and Orientation. This included designing the Application Essentials, Brochure, Posters, Content, Curriculum, Booklets, Learning Resources, and many more. Thereafter we launched our SAMARTH Fellowship Program 2022-23 applications through our website. 

Launching the Application for India’s first virtual fellowship– SAMARTH Fellowship Program 2022-23.

Going live and accepting applications was such a beautiful and satisfying accomplishment, that brought a greater feeling of responsibility and self-passion. Throughout the application process, we reached out to many university placement teams, professors, and our networks. This brought in hundreds of applications, tons of queries, and a few volunteering requests.

A nicely descriptive Shortlisting Guideline for Fellowship Applications was designed by Shashi for our team. This was followed by our team reviewing the applications, and conducting check-in calls & personal interviews. All this happened in a well-structured and was properly documented for a smooth process, sharing the roles, and recording for future reference. Over a span of a month, we were ready with our first list of shortlisted Fellows. It was great pride and a happy moment to send offer letters to the selected Fellows. And this was the beginning of a greater sense of responsibility coming up the next way.  

In parallel, we were busy strategizing the Orientation Program. Making a list of sessions, required resources, and finalizing the guests from across the academics, social sector, & governance was baking with our team participation. Bit by bit the plans, resources, and partnerships were getting in place with our greater goal. 

Pre-Orientation planning with Sarva SANDHI Foundation family.

Then comes the week, of us, meeting our SAMARTH Fellows for an engaging learning journey. I was equally nervous and excited to bring in the ways to meet the possible expectations of Fellows, make them comfortable, open up to express themselves, and ensure maximum participation. I was thoughtful about accommodating everyone’s learning, active participation, and mutual growth during the five days of the Orientation, from June 24-28.

Day 1 of the SAMARTH Orientation Pogram with the inaugural cohort of SAMARTH Fellows.

I started my days as early as 7 am and balancing work, Orientation, and personal engagements late till 11 pm. Our group made time in the morning to plan the roles to host the guests and other sessions. During the session break, we used the lunch hour to discuss the changes, reflections, and some light moments with our food (if cooked/ ordered).

Mid-lunch gossip and planning among the SSF team.

Every evening saw us debriefing, giving feedback to each other, planning, and working on the needful activities. Shared roles, ready for quick adaptations, and being thoughtful every other moment was some live saviours for the week.

Sharing the 5-day experience on the last day of orientation.

During the course of orientation, we have managed to release our in-house resources to our prominent Guests. On the second day of the Orientation, The SAMARTH curriculum was released by Dr. Dev Vrat (Professor, Department of Mass Communication, Central University of Jharkhand). This will help our SAMARTH Fellows for finding the possibilities that how they can develop soft skills, value-based skills, knowledge, and building career requisite resources. 

SAMARTH Curriculum released by Dr. Dev Vrat (Professor, Department of Mass Communication, Central University of Jharkhand).

Secondly, the Fellowships in India booklet was released by Abhishek Ranjan (Policy Analyst) on the third day of the Orientation. This will help us in driving our mission of Democratizing Fellowships in India by creating awareness. Through this booklet, our SAMARTH Fellows will get to know all about 50+ social-impact-based Fellowships and prepare according to their interests.

Fellowships in India Booklet released by Abhishek Ranjan (Policy Analyst).

We have fellows from across Indian states with diverse belongingness. A few of us are comfortable with Hindi but for the maximum time, we have to be bilingual for our fellow’s needs. It was sometimes tricky switching languages and explaining everything in two languages. For me, I have never seen some of my team members speak in English and this was a great chance to do so. Seeing them speaking in English during orientation, was equally satisfying and growing as a team. 

A creative Recap Activity through a spin game.

Ensuring that each one participate in the orientation was a bit challenging for us. Some fellows have to attend their exams, other college engagements, performing job roles and some have emergencies in their families. But this didn’t stop many of them from joining continuously from Day 1 to Day 5 with active participation. This gave me a deeper sense of responsibility and made me accountable throughout the process.

Knowing the emotions and feelings of the SAMARTH Fellows after the session.

During these days I have seen my team become more responsible and mature, while they are leading the whole process and trying their best at all levels. At last, I would end up with:

  “अभी तो तौली है मुट्ठी भर ज़मीन, अभी आसमाँ तौलना बाकी है “

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