What I’ve Learned in India So Far aka The IDEX Fellowship Highlights Reel aka The Last Post of the Fellowship
Today was the final workshop of our IDEX fellowship, and so now I am officially no longer an IDEX fellow, but an IDEX alumni! This is not the last post of the BLOG, but rather my last post and reflection as a social impact fellow. Though I am staying in India for 6 more months, I thought it was important to reflect on what six months in a social impact accelerator has taught me.
You are entrepreneurial – you can create something impactful.
A big component of my program was something called an IDEX Insight. It’s a piece of content produced that is supposed to add value and knowledge to the social impact space. Fellows are furthermore supposed to pursue projects that had a personal interest or tangible value to them (this wasn’t something you were supposed to produce with your IDEX placement). I have never really considered myself somebody who can “start stuff,” or have an idea that was worthy of starting. But fellows and IDEX alumni start their own initiatives all the time – a fellow placed with a gender equality organization in Pune organized a podcast of women change makers and leaders in India. Another fellow started a blog centered around “peace traveling” and conflict resolution, since these are initiatives he is passionate about. Even now, people ask me, “What initiatives do you want to start? What could you start?” I don’t know, is honestly the answer right now. I have never viewed myself as a starter of things, but now I have begun to re-evaluate that viewpoint.
Your ideas are valid and your voice has merit. Take the initiative and implement your ideas.
When I first started working at my placement (GMC/Wings Learning Centres), I had to be coached a couple of times to take more initiative in introducing new projects and in vocalizing my opinion. I had definitely still come from a corporate world where my voice was not recognized or even acknowledged as existed. But one of the directors of Wings told me that I could take initiative, that my opinion was critical because they valued an international perspective, and that I should be proactive in driving new innovations and in managing the directors in getting deliverables out the door. So now I know how to manage my manager (I give him to-do lists sometimes) and when I see something in our organization that needs to be improved, I suggest the change and then go for it. There’s no reason to sit around and suggest ideas, then wait for others to take them forward. If you do have great ideas and can get results out the door, then you are the most valuable type of team member.
You are more resilient and adaptable than you realize.
One of my goals in coming to India was to grow my resilience in the face of working in an international, developing country on social problems that were messy and complex. I really feel like I have achieved that goal, and many small steps have taken me to a greater level of personal flexibility.
You don’t have to be serious to be smart or successful.
As established by our signature group dance (the Puppytail), we played and goofed around as much as we did good work. This crew was always up for some new adventure – whether it be going out to a Bangalore club or traveling through South India together. Our cohort was also sympathetic to our India belly struggles (inside joke: Shauning). This makes work all the more fun.
Connections can happen in surprising places
One of the biggest joys of my fellowship was my roommate, Ann Grace. Maybe it was fate that brought us together – she goes by Ann Grace, my first and middle name is Mallory Grace. Another surprise, she is Ugandan and I had lived and worked in Uganda for a little while! Maybe IDEX put us together as roomies because they knew this in advance. Whatever the case, we have had great relationship – whether traveling to Hampi or doing a run for International Women’s Day, or burning rice in our apartment and dealing with a mouse problem. We owned Bangalore.
Surround yourself with successful, likeminded people who will lift you up and challenge you.
One of the biggest benefits of IDEX was the chance to learn and grow professionally with like-minded people who are innovative and have a lot of heart. My cohort – sorry to brag – is amazing. We had a fellow who worked for FairTrade India, and started a bootstrapped social media awareness campaign on cotton farmer rights in India, and reached over 7 million people in India on a budget of about 2500 rupees ($50). Another fellow has cofounded The Crowd Works, which is an online platform for citizens to engage with policy makers on critical issues. Another fellow put on a series of workshops and podcasts centered around creating positive spaces for female entrepreneurs to succeed in India. Another fellow from Nepal organized a massive research project exploring the value chain of mid-day meals in Karnataka schools. When you work with people like this, you are uplifted and inspired, because you see the next level of what you could become and you benefit from all the shared knowledge and experience of your cohort. As the saying goes, never be the smartest person in the room, and I was lucky enough to be with a room full of smart people.
Now that I am an IDEX alumni, the next phase of life happens – I will be mentoring the new IDEX fellows placed with Wings, and hope to be an active alum. We need to reinvigorate our alumni base and engage the 100+ alums in our network. Yesterday was definitely a sad moment…to see all my friends go and me staying back behind. The good news is, now I have more friends around the globe to go and visit.
Viva la cohort January 2015