Alex Counts

Today marks the end of my first week as the President and CEO of the American India Foundation. I have been overwhelmed by the graciousness and welcoming spirit of the AIF family – from the professional staff and Board of Directors to the donors and volunteers.

I am both thrilled and daunted by the prospect of leading this organization to deliver on its mission to disrupt poverty and catalyze social and economic change in India. This is clearly a caring and daring community of change-makers, entrepreneurs, and innovators, and I am proud to be a part of it.

Despite the impressive progress India has experienced over the last two decades, massive numbers of people remain in absolute poverty. For a country with the talent, entrepreneurial spark, and economic dynamism of India, this is unacceptable and unnecessary. (The same could be said of the poverty that stubbornly remains a fixture in pockets of the United States.)

For the last 15 years, AIF has been pioneering high impact programs focused on enabling poor families to increase their incomes, enhance their skills, better educate their children, and enjoy robust health. Special emphasis has been given to benefitting the most marginalized populations, such as the disabled and the children of migrant laborers. The strength of these programs and our talented team in India, led by a remarkable man named Nishant Pandey, are two of the many things that attracted me to this terrific organization.

If we can further refine and scale our programs, we can have a massive impact on poverty as part of a larger, country-wide effort that will involve thousands of civil society organizations, federal and local government agencies, the private sector (and its growing corporate social responsibility initiatives), and the media. I intend to work with our team and our partners in India to ensure that this happens, and I invite everyone who has been, is or can be involved with AIF to join me.

Like everyone in AIF, I love both Indian and American culture. Both are energetic, colorful, optimistic, diverse, and proud, though occasionally a bit chaotic. (OK, perhaps more than a bit!) We have a pair of programs to advance mutual understanding and friendship among these two great societies, and to promote visionary and practical philanthropy, volunteerism, and activism among our peoples. These are the Clinton Fellowship Program and the Youth Ambassadors Program. I have always believed that igniting idealism through firsthand experience among the young can pay dividends that multiply over time, and we have seen this already through these two initiatives.

I look forward to working with everyone in this growing community to reach new heights in the months and years ahead.  If you have suggestions about how AIF can more effectively and efficiently realize its mission, please email me at alex.counts@aif.org and I will respond.  Input on our programs, fund-raising, donor stewardship, communications, and events would be particularly welcome.  I would especially value suggestions from past board members, staff, Fellows, and donors.

My predecessor Ravi Kumar, to whom I am indebted for his selfless service to this organization, kept a blog about his experiences and insights at CEO and those have been preserved. I learned a lot from reading it and I encourage others to take a look. You can view them here.

A new chapter in the history of AIF has begun. Come join me as one of the authors, and together we will contribute to an India free of poverty as we know it.

 

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