April 15, 2020

We Believe That Cross-Cultural Partnerships Give Rise To Innovation


We believe that cross-cultural partnerships give rise to innovation. Since 2017, the Rural India Supporting Trust (RIST) has supported the AIF William J. Clinton Fellowship (CFP) for Service in India to select, train, and place Fellows in service with development organizations and social enterprises in largely under-served regions of India, including the states of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha. The grant given by RIST supports the selection, deployment, and training of Fellows, as well as programmatic conferences, publications, capacity building, monitoring and research, and the dissemination of knowledge through publications and a post-program service component. RIST and AIF are partnering to enhance capacity and impact of India’s social sector through channelling specialized skills, knowledge, and innovations to areas of greatest need. Equally important, due to the U.S.-India cross-cultural exchange of the bi-national cohort of Fellows, we create an ecosystem of understanding and cooperation to forge strong ties between the global leaders of tomorrow. The RIST-AIF partnership innovated the existing program model by piloting an Eleventh Month of Service: an opportunity for recently returned Fellows to strengthen the Alumni network, enhance the impact of the Fellowship program, create innovative program practices and resources, help train the incoming cohort, and engage the broader public through inspiring stories of young change makers.

The American India Foundation’s (AIF’s) William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India is an interdisciplinary experiential learning program that selects, trains, and places young professionals in service with development organizations in India. Through collaboration and capacity-building, Fellows and local communities exchange knowledge and skills to steer projects that advance social and economic development.

Through the Clinton Fellowship, RIST and AIF aim to share innovative results of cross-cultural partnerships with global communities of practice, make available solutions, best practices, models, and ideas to the public, and conduct a higher level of advocacy to sustainably resource the program for the future. We aim to pilot a longitudinal impact study to measure the long-term program impact on Fellows, partners, and host communities. We also aim to expand our Alumni network in the U.S. and India in partnership with RIST, regularly featuring Alumni impact talks and leveraging video and technology to amplify reach.


In the 2017-18 program year, RIST funded two U.S. Fellows and three Indian Fellows. In the 2018-19 program year, RIST funded two U.S. Fellows and three Indian Fellows. These Fellows completed the following projects.

In the 2019-20 program year, RIST is funding four U.S. Fellows and four Indian Fellows. The fellows will be placed with local organizations all over India. Below are a few details of Fellows’ placements and their projects:
• Naomi Tsai (U.S.), Madras Crocodile Bank Trust in Mammalapuram (Tamil Nadu): designing educational material for youth to promote the conservation of endangered species in their natural habitats
• McKenna Parker (U.S.), Medha Learning Foundation in Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh): expanding partnerships with educational institutions to scale up an existing skill training center designed to improve employment outcomes for youth
• Pallavi Deshpande (India), Vision-Aid Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh): Piloting a scholarship program to provide residential, intensive training to visually impaired students from underprivileged segments of India
• Sahana Afreen (India), Voluntary Integration for Education&Welfare of Society in Gopalpur (Odisha): Supporting women self-help groups in launching social enterprises focused on organic farming practices to popularize the use of organic versus chemical fertilizers in the region.

RIST has made major contributions to grassroots work in India. Below are a few examples of how the graduates of the AIF Fellow have gone on to make major contributions to India socio-economic development.


Disability Sensitization Workshop in Nagaland: After completing the Fellowship program, 2018-19 AIF Clinton Fellow Rachel Aier conducted a disability awareness raising workshop in her native Nagaland as her Eleventh Month of Service project (a post-program service initiative funded by RIST). Rachel applied her learnings from her service with AIF partner Samerth Charitable Trust in Chattisgarh, to conduct the first of its kind awareness raising workshop for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in Nagaland. The event was very well received and saw participation from local government bodies, such as the District Social Welfare Department and the District Police Department, and many PwDs with their family members who came together to make the event a big success.

Initiative to Form an Alumni Regional Network in India: As part of his Eleventh Month of Service project, Prashant Anand, 2017-18 AIF Clinton Fellow, developed an approach to connect with AIF Alumni in India with the objective of establishing an Alumni Regional Network in the country. Prashant also represented AIF at the “National Conference of Indigenous Social Work: Challenges, Responses and Way Forward,” organized by the Department of Social Work, Jamia Millia Islamia, where he shared details of his Fellowship project work done in Assam as a part of the North East Affected Area Development Society.

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© 2022 RIST. All Rights reserved.

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