The Midpoint Conference is an integral part of the AIF William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India experience, and as the Fellows convene from across India in one location, Midpoint intends to offer a space of meaningful connection, engaged reflection, exchange and capacity-building, as well as personal and professional development for the Fellowship class. This year’s Midpoint was held in Bandipur, Karnataka from January 13–17, 2017.
The conference marked the completion of half of the Fellowship, as well as the second time that the Fellowship class came together as a whole. As Fellows are now deep into the Fellowship experience, Midpoint is an opportunity to resurface and reconnect as a Fellowship class, and gain additional insight on strategies to move forward with the Fellowship experience.
The first full day (January 14) of Midpoint began with the Fellows revisiting their initial observations and impressions from Orientation, and also setting goals about how they wanted to present for themselves and each other during Midpoint. These include their “micro” and “macro” goals for the Fellowship period, as well as their conception of what service was at the onset of the Fellowship. Looking back at these impressions and commitments, Fellows started a discussion about their realizations so far in the Fellowship, as well as how their definition of service had been both broadened and challenged over the past 5 months. Program Director Katrina Dikkers facilitated a session on exchanging stories and experiences about the past five months, which ended in a collective story-telling session amongst the whole group. After lunch, Fellow Denise Fernandes led the group in an activity looking at development solutions in a National Park that was modeled after Bandipur Park. Thereafter, smaller groups shared feedback with the program staff about their experiences with their host organizations, mentors, ongoing projects, and additional feedback.
The second full day (January 15) of Midpoint consisted of Fellows giving presentations in thematic groups about their work so far, in seven different groups: Impact Assessment, Youth Engagement & Mentoring, Communication & Development, Research, Innovation, Community Initiatives, and Strategic Initiatives. This was an innovation from previous years as they were not grouped by their field (Education, Livelihoods, and Public Health) but by the methodology through which they were approaching their ongoing work. After the presentations, Madhu Shukla of Bangalore-based Playspace facilitated a workshop entitled, “The Yes and Way.” Utilizing improvisation exercises, Madhu facilitated conversations about how interruptions at work can be turned into resources, and also about how empowering it can be to say “yes and” as opposed to “yes, but”.
The third full day (January 16) of Midpoint began early morning with a jungle walk near the resort. After breakfast, Madhu continued her “Yes and” workshop, and delved into ideas of allowing participants to fail, and learn from their failure. This transitioned into a conversation about how the “inner critic” can become the “inner coach”. In the afternoon, 2011-12 Alumnus Michael Matergia shared his experience founding Broadleaf Health and Educational Alliance, and those as a fellow, mentor, and also Alumnus. He also shared practical advice on how to start an organization in India. Country Director Nishant Pandey also shared his professional journey and career advice to the Fellows. This included his realizations about how he preferred to work in management over consulting, as well his advice on working in the development sector.Afterwards, Michael Matergia, Nishant Pandey, and Varna Sri Raman (Director of Learning, Evaluation, and Impact) conducted a panel about balancing dependency with self-initiative, how to navigate taking on tasks you have never done before, and exploring what motivates an individual to work. Fellows asked questions about career opportunities in the development sector, as well as continuing to work internationally. The final session of the day was a workshop entitled, “Reflecting on your Journey Thus Far” led by Varna Sri Raman, where Fellows discussed the culture of their host organizations, as well as how their professional networks are changing and expanding through this experience. Fellows also created vision boards about what they want to achieve in the 5 years, and how that would affect their current plans and actions now.
The Midpoint Conference offered an opportunity to engage with professionals in the development field, as well as creative facilitators to gain new perspectives on how to approach the ongoing work at of the Fellowship.