Leadership Labs

Written by Rajiv Tikoo | Updated: Oct 30 2011, 07:06am hrs
Two banks and a business house think out-of-the-box to enable aspiring youth leaders from India and abroad to gain knowledge and hone skills in the field and on the shopfloor to become change agents, reports Rajiv Tikoo

Building better Bharat

ICICI Fellows programme grooms todays young talent to become tomorrows socially responsible leadersbe it in government, private sector or civil societyto guide society with their knowledge and skills to build a better India. This is one of our beyond banking initiatives, says S Mukherji, president, ICICI Foundation.

The 15-month leadership programme is divided into three complementary partsinduction training of three weeks, followed by placement with an NGO for six months; mid-point training of four weeks, followed by placement with another NGO for six months; and end-point training of three weeks. The idea is to enable fellows to work with NGOs at the grassroots level and supplement their on-ground experience with lessons in management training and leadership development.

Committed to work with two different NGOs in different parts of the country, the fellows have to undertake two projects in the areas of health, education, sustainable livelihoods, access to finance, water or energy with marked deliverables and timelines. The on-site experience is expected to enable fellows to get an insight into the life of villagers and the challenges they face and devise solutions. The emphasis of training is on inclusive growth, adds Mukherji.

Rigorous joint training sessions focus on knowledge building and honing of skill sets. While knowledge building focuses on development perspectives and sensitisation about the rural scenario, honing of skill sets comprises management training and personality development. The sessions include workshops on issues ranging from leadership and personality development to management and development discourses. An insight is also given into project and financial management, communication strategies, and monitoring and evaluation. Training sessions are also occasions for fellows to share their learning and to deepen their understanding by interacting with technical experts.

Personality development is conducted by a coach assigned to each fellow for the full duration of the fellowship. The coach guides the fellow to lay out a personal development plan and pursue it. Besides the senior leadership of the host NGO also provides mentoring, particularly in project implementation and understanding of the local context. Technical expertise for project implementation is also on call.

When the programme is over, the fellows are expected to be ready to take up leadership positions in NGOs, corporate sector or set up social enterprises. If needed, fellows are offered career advice and networking opportunities by the career/alumni cell, emphasises Mukherji.

Run by by ICICI Foundation, which undertakes CSR initiatives of the group, the fellowship is implemented by iVolunteer, a platform for volunteers and organisations to share time and skills in the areas of womens empowerment, sustainable livelihoods, health, education and financial security. The fellowship is open to graduates of 21-28 years. The selection procedure is strenuous since the applicants range from IT engineers to b-school graduates. Up to 20 fellows are selected every year. The process for selecting the third batch for 2012 has started. The fellowship comes with a monthly stipend of R12,000 to take care of living expenses and health insurance of R1 lakh. Other expenses incurred on account of travel, accommodation and food are also covered under the programme.

Bridging rural-urban divide

SBI Youth for India, which is a one-year fellowship programme run by the State Bank of India, aims to train young graduates and professionals of 21-35 to speed up rural development and help the country pursue equitable and sustainable growth. We started the programme because we felt that youth in metros are reaping the benefits of globalisation, but their counterparts in villages are falling behind. To bridge this urban-rural divide, the programme is our attempt to enable future leaders to have a better understanding of grassroot problems that hamper rural development and to enable them to come up with solutions that will help in the cause of nation building, says Geeta Verghese, coordinator, SBI Youth for India.

The programme begins with an orientation about rural life and an insight into the socio-economic realities and development challenges of rural life for fellows so that they can come up with practical solutions to their challenges.

Beginning with one months pre-placement training, the fellows take up placement with reputed shortlisted NGOs. A mid-term workshop facilitates learning by sharing amongst fellows. It also serves as a team building exercise.

Finally, the programme requires fellows to work on actual projects to make a positive impact on the community. It begins by planning a project, defining the expected outcomes and laying the road map to achieve it. They are guided by mentors provided by partner NGOs during this exercise.

The programme aims to help fellows to think innovatively, manage projects and acquire team building and problem solving skills. They also get an insight into rural and bottom of the pyramid markets. Exposure to how rural communities generate wealth and pursue sustainable livelihoods can be helpful later on for fellows if they join the corporate sector. At the end of the programme, fellows conduct impact assessment of their projects, record successes and filter learnings. Findings can be published in the media or academic journals.

Once the programme is over, support services are offered to enable fellows to settle back in the mainstream. Placement consultants like ABC Consultants and Gilbert Tweed help fellows find suitable work opportunities. A growing SBI Youth for India Alumni Group is expected to catalyse the movement.

Though a maximum of 50 fellows can be selected, only 34 met the stringent criteria the first time. This years applicants included alumni of IITs and IIMs apart from young professionals from corporate sector.

Fellows are assigned to NGOs, depending upon their interests, skills and the requirement of the partner NGOs. They can work on issues related to agriculture, education, health, tribal development and climate change, adds Verghese.

Currently, the fellows are seconded to projects in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Orissa and Rajasthan. Each fellow is expected to stay on or near the location, which has mobile and internet connectivity. Two or more fellows work on each project. New fellows have the option of continuing the projects of former fellows. Fellows get a monthly allowance of R12,000 plus medical cover.

Partners include NGOs like MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, BAIF Development Research Foundation and Seva Mandir. Besides, SBI is supported by the Confederation of Indian Industry, Young Indians and Nasscom Foundation in this initiative.

Nurturing social entrepreneurs