The year 2021 was a significant one for the Young India Fellowship as it marked the completion of 10 years of the programme, making it the first to reach this landmark at Ashoka.
However, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic the previous year, and its ongoing effects, meant that all plans to commemorate the occasion had to be put on hold.
With Fellows and faculty scattered all over the country and abroad, the programme had only a few weeks last year to transition to online teaching. We were successfully able to do so despite the challenges of a curriculum comprising of short-term courses and the Experiential Learning Module (ELM), even improving upon benchmarks in both spaces.
The Class of 2021 were the first to have a virtual Convocation Ceremony, which took place on July 17, 2021. The keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Rukmini Banerji, CEO of Pratham Education Foundation and winner of the 2021 Yidan Prize for Education Development.
In addition to online teaching, the programme team were able to transition various facets of the programme online, from the Orientation week for incoming Fellows to student engagement. Faculty and TAs rethought the pedagogy to deliver impact and engage meaningfully with students in a virtual classroom, and the Critical Writing faculty continued to provide steady guidance to Fellows through the year.
The third volume of Final Draft, the Journal of YIF Critical Writing, was also launched, showcasing student writing from the YIF Classes of 2019 and 2020.
With field work no longer possible, the programme team carefully curated and selected ELM projects from external organizations based on their viability in these changed circumstances. In addition, to make it easier for Fellows to connect with peers and create ELM teams, a team formation algorithm was introduced, which grouped Fellows together based on their project preferences, preferred domains, and skill-sets.
This proved to be a novel and very helpful innovation when everyone was operating at a distance. Changes were also made in the facilitation of the Mentorship programme as it was moved to an online platform called Mentornity. This brought all mentors and mentees together on one platform, and enabled them to engage with each other directly.
Support also continued to be provided to Fellows who were unable to attend any online sessions or had other challenges with access. They were provided with class recordings, their data packs were topped up, policies were amended and even course materials were shipped to them individually. Members of the programme team now also served as points of contact for smaller groups of Fellows, to facilitate communication and contact.
In addition, multiple ‘Meet Your Faculty’ sessions were organized online in order to enable informal interaction between Fellows and various YIF Faculty outside the virtual classroom. Fellows also took the initiative to aid and foster a sense of ‘fellowship’ within the batch. They created a repository of interests and experience-specific information to aid in peer learning, as well as another to collate academic resources. They organised online ice-breakers and conducted peer learning classes on a range of topics.
All these efforts have culminated in the Fellowship maintaining its high standards and looking forward to an even brighter future.