For 20 years the American India Foundation (AIF) has been sending a cohort of dedicated young people on the journey of a lifetime. A journey that makes as profound an impact on the people they work with and learn from, as it does on themselves. In these decades, an exchange has been happening between the people of the world’s largest democracies in order to foster civic engagement and forward positive change on all who take part in it.
What started in 2001 as the AIF Service Corps for young Americans to work in India on disaster relief and long-term rehabilitation grew in its impact and footprint. In 2009 the program was renamed the AIF William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India in recognition of the former president’s role in creating AIF. As the program grew, it also took another large step in 2011 to include cohorts from both the US and India working in tandem to create a binational force for good. The tenets that helped form AIF, the deep ties between these nations, are what underpin the fellowship: US-India civic diplomacy to create a “living bridge” and a lasting partnership for positive change.
At the cusp of the program’s third decade, AIF is seizing the moment to rebrand the program to reflect the organizational mission, vision, and values moving into the next decade of action. Over the last 10 years, the world has changed dramatically, and the importance of strong US-India civil ties has grown ever more important. Additionally, the world is facing global challenges at an unprecedented level that require further investment in this work. With the largest gift in AIF’s history to help sustain this program, this program will build upon the past 20 years and lead for the next 20 as a true catalyst for change.
Today we introduce the AIF Banyan Impact Fellowship. The Banyan Tree is a symbol of strength, resilience, and interconnectedness. We believe that it serves as a powerful metaphor for mobilizing a collective, cross-generational force towards sustainable impact. The process of the Banyan Tree spreading its roots, which over the course of time become trees of their own, is a strong representation of how we want to see this program growing. Each step, each effort, and each individual becoming an agent of positive change, coming together as an ecosystem to support and amplify each other’s impact.
The new logo brings these elements together in a simple, compelling way. The “Banyan” for its biological, cultural, and historical connection to the Indian subcontinent as well as the deep roots and large protective canopy the tree is a powerful metaphor for a resilient ecosystem that grows stronger across generations. “Impact” because our mission is to solve our most pressing social, environmental, and economic challenges of the coming decades.
As AIF welcomes its first applicants to the Banyan Impact Fellowship, we invite you to follow this journey into our third decade and witness this life affirming work.