- Be a U.S. or Indian citizen, or a U.S. permanent resident
- Be between the ages of 21 and 35 on September 1, 2023
- Have completed a Bachelor’s degree (or higher) before the start of the program on September 1, 2023
Note: Candidates can apply for either the India OR the US based AIF Banyan Impact Fellowship Program, but not both together in a year.
While the program is highly competitive, development work is by nature interdisciplinary and requires teams with diverse skill sets. We encourage candidates from all fields, disciplines and sectors to apply. We welcome applicants from a variety of backgrounds and levels of experience.
Whatever one’s field may be, a candidate should demonstrate a deep interest, passion, and commitment to social and economic development in India. Candidates must show humility and an eagerness to learn within a cross-cultural context. Ideal candidates possess strong professional skills, relevant volunteer or other practical experience, and applicable academic credentials or training. They show a potential for leadership and are entrepreneurial, innovative, and creative in finding solutions and navigating unknown organizational and cultural environments.
Candidates must be flexible and adaptable, and possess exceptional ability to build meaningful relationships across cultures in the social development space. A sensitivity and ability to work with vulnerable communities, as well as humility and passion to acquire new skills informally and “learn by doing” while on the project, are essential for a successful Fellowship.
Although proficiency in an Indian language other than English is not required to apply, it is encouraged. Language skills may be considered for suitable on-site placements.
Fluency in English is required. It is not a requirement for Fellows to speak other local languages, however it is considered a valuable skill in the selection process and taken into consideration when placing Fellows with AIF partner organizations. If accepted into the program, Fellows may be eligible to receive some language training in a local language related to their project.
Regardless of existing language fluency, the ability to work across language barriers is important during the Fellowship. With over 19,500 languages or dialects spoken across India, even locals often must rely on informal translators from the community, or have to find other ways to communicate!
The application is a highly competitive, multi-stage process consisting of an online application, an in-person interview, and a competitive matching process for short-listed candidates. Please review this video for a step-by-step guide from the previous cycle.
The initial online application consists of information about a candidate’s educational and professional background and a series of short essay questions. The essay questions are designed to help us understand the knowledge, skills, and qualifications that a candidate would bring to the Fellowship. We also want to get to know candidates better and find out what motivates them. In addition to these, we also ask applicants to provide two professional recommendations. Rather than requiring recommendation letters, we will ask each recommender to complete an online survey about the applicant they are recommending. Candidates should inform their recommenders about the deadline in advance.
When planning answers for the essay questions, candidates should emphasize any experience and qualifications that they feel might be relevant to the Fellowship. Candidates who are currently working full-time may wish to highlight any relevant professional experience. Soon-to-be or recent graduates may wish to focus on relevant academic and volunteer experience. Candidates should use examples and avoid generalizations, drawing from their experiences and being as specific as possible when answering the essay questions.
We generally recommend that the recommender is a person who has known the candidate for a longer period of time, and who has been in a supervisory role of sorts, whether that’s in a professional, a volunteer, or an academic setting. Depending on where candidates are in their education or career at this moment in time, they may choose two professional references or two academic references, or a mix of both. If a candidate does not have a professional reference, they may also wish to consider a reference from a volunteer, internship, civic engagement, or sports setting who can speak to their skills outside of the classroom.
Recommenders do not need to submit a letter, but will be asked to complete a recommendation form on the application portal. The form is specific to the program and seeks their observations about a candidate’s work style, community involvement, skills, and other relevant information as it pertains to the AIF Fellowship. The form offers context for the recommenders to help them complete their recommendation. The form will not be shared with the candidate.
Candidates may find it helpful to share their motivation for applying for the program with their recommender, and offer any other materials that the recommender may find useful, such as the candidate’s CV or resume.
After AIF reviews online applications, long-listed candidates will be invited to a virtual or in-person interview (to be confirmed closer to the date by AIF) in Spring 2023, with a mixed panel of staff, Alumni, and other AIF stakeholders. Successful candidates will be notified of their qualification to the shortlist, enabling them to apply for individual Fellowship projects in the Project Portal in Summer 2023. AIF and its partner organizations will then interview candidates for each Fellowship project. Based on these interviews and an assessment of which candidates have the strongest alignment of skills required for the projects, the final Fellowship cohort will be selected. Fellows will officially be admitted and offered a place into the program in Summer 2023 by AIF. The exact dates will be shared with finalists during the selection.
Please alert the Fellowship team via email immediately after your selection for the interview round.
AIF requires two references to complete an online recommendation. Due to the growing volume of applications each year, AIF in 2023 requires candidates to submit their references as part of the initial application. Candidates do not need to submit letters of recommendation – instead, their references will be asked to complete an online recommendation survey that evaluates a candidate’s skills. References should be able to address a candidate’s work ethic, cultural adaptability, communication skills, work style, and career goals. AIF recommends that candidates select references who are familiar with them in a professional or volunteer setting and who were in a supervisory role to the candidate. Current students may also submit references from academic advisors or professors, if they cannot provide professional references, or provide one academic and one professional reference. References can not be family, relatives or friends.
No, we do not require recommendation letters. Instead, we ask candidates to provide two references to complete an online recommendation form evaluating a candidate’s skills and preparedness for the Fellowship. These are required as part of the initial application package and must be completed by the two recommenders before the application deadline.
During the selection process, AIF takes note of the skill sets and interests of potential Fellows to match them with appropriate AIF partner organizations. Once selected, we ask finalists to apply for specific Fellowship projects in the project application portal (“Project Portal”) opening in Spring 2023. The Project Portal will outline each project, describe the nature of the host organization, and provide details about required skills, roles, and responsibilities. Each finalist is able to apply for up to three projects. AIF and its partner organizations will interview candidates for each project, and make a decision about the final match. Fellows are officially being admitted into the program in Summer 2023 at the conclusion of the matching process.
No, you can only apply for projects offered by pre-vetted AIF partner organizations. This is to ensure that the organization aligns with AIF’s values, mission, and policies, can demonstrate the need of hosting a Fellow for a suitable Fellowship project, and will be able to provide the level of support expected by AIF in hosting a Fellow.
Fellows are expected to complete the following during their service in India:
- Meeting or exceeding expectations of the Fellowship, including upholding their commitment to AIF and their host organization
- Participation at Orientation, Midpoint, and Endpoint, and other program related events
- Adherence to the policies and agreements between Fellow, AIF and partner organizations
- Full completion of the Fellowship program
- Timely submission of monthly and quarterly reports and other program deliverables
- Contribution of regular posts on the AIF Blog
- Prompt settlement of finances and logistical items throughout the Fellowship
- Completion of end of service documents and presentations
All Fellows are expected to complete the full program, while upholding basic values and principles of trust, honesty, and integrity. Fellows are expected to embrace and engage with multiple challenges, and take a lot of initiative in the structuring and completion of their projects. Fellows must abide by host organization work calendars and work complete workweeks in accordance with organizational policy and procedure, which in India commonly involves working on Saturdays.
For U.S. Fellows, AIF provides a roundtrip ticket from their point of origin to India, along with insurance coverage, emergency support, and a monthly living stipend. For Indian Fellows, AIF provides domestic travel from their hometowns in India, insurance coverage, emergency support, and a monthly living stipend. Please note that the stipend is not a salary, but a living allowance designed to enable Fellows to volunteer in India. The stipend covers basic living expenses such as rent, meals and incidentals, and local transportation related to a Fellow’s project.
In the spirit of service, the stipend is designed to afford Fellows a local lifestyle comparable to that of local staff at their host organizations. Fellows should expect to live safely but modestly, and may need to adjust to a different style of living and spending habits than what they are accustomed to.
The stipend does not cover for personal entertainment, non-program related travel, luxury items, or alcoholic beverages. Candidates should plan on bringing additional funds to allow for personal travel and other non-essential items. The amount will depend entirely on a Fellow’s personal spending habits.
Travel depends entirely on the project and the AIF partner organization. Some placements require travel to villages in surrounding areas or remote regions for fieldwork, while others are more administrative, requiring little to no travel within a regular office setting. Again others may require occasional travel to various partner offices and field sites. When selecting preferences for projects, Fellows should carefully consider whether they have any restrictions to frequent travel and might need to be based in one place.
The Fellowship is a commitment to serve with AIF’s partner organizations in a full-time capacity for the Fellowship duration. Many organizations in India follow a 6-day work week, or work on alternate weekends. The length of the work day may also differ depending on the host organization or current ongoing work. Fellows are expected to abide fully by their host organization’s work schedule and workplace policies.
Fellows are entitled to a certain amount of personal leave throughout the program, which is pro-rated according to whether they follow a 5-day, 6-day, or 6.5-day work week. We strongly discourage Fellows from taking leave during the first six and the last six weeks of the program. Taking leave during these critical phases may jeopardize cross-cultural and workplace immersion at the beginning of the project, and disrupt the hand-over of the project at the end. Upon obtaining approval from their host organization and AIF, Fellows are able to travel within India as far and as long it does not interfere with their projects and AIF programmatic conferences or events. AIF may restrict certain areas for travel due to current political or other events.
Participants are expected to remain in India for the entire duration of the program. Out of country travel is not permitted during the course of the Fellowship.
AIF Fellows are enrolled in a (travel) health insurance policy and emergency support program for the duration of the program. As health and safety issues vary by region, AIF hosts a two-week Orientation that includes extensive health and safety training for Fellows at the beginning of the program. Fellows will also be given training in how to utilize their insurance and emergency benefits in variety of medical situations and emergencies. These benefits include 24-hour access to a medical professional over the phone, and obtaining recommendations and contact details of quality healthcare providers and hospitals in a Fellow’s region or areas of travel. In addition to physical health, AIF provides resources for mental health and well-being throughout the program, including support through a certified counselor. The AIF host organization also supports Fellows to arrange for proper care in case of illness.
Fellows are expected to participate at three core programmatic conferences during the course of the Fellowship: Orientation, Midpoint, and Endpoint. These conferences are an integral part of the Fellowship program and offer a space for meaningful connection, engaged reflection, as well as personal and professional development.
Orientation marks the official beginning of the Fellowship and is generally hosted by AIF in Delhi. Spending nearly two weeks together before Fellows depart to their host sites, Fellows are prepared for their ten months of service. Orientation covers everything from team building to setting expectations, explaining policies, preparing for your project, navigating cultural adaptation in your host site and workplace, and guidance on how to immerse in your host community to succeed in your project. You will meet AIF staff and your host organization supervisors for the first time, and attend workshops and panels on social and economic development in India. You will also have the opportunity to hear from Fellowship Alumni and other guest speakers.
Midpoint is an integral part of the Fellowship, which intends to offer a space for reflection, professional development, and an opportunity to step back and assess personal and professional development towards the middle of the Fellowship program. During Midpoint, Fellows will share each other’s experiences and observations through formal presentations, attend workshops, explore solutions to challenges they experience, and clarify both personal intentions and professional goals for the remainder of the Fellowship in order to prepare for their journey after.
Endpoint is the culmination conference that marks the end of the Fellowship and consists of an internal and an external component. During the internal workshop, Fellows share the conclusion of their projects, celebrate achievements and impact, reflect on their overall personal and professional growth, learn to articulate their experience to an external audience, discuss next steps as Alumni, and prepare for the public seminar hosted in Delhi. During the Endpoint public seminar, select Fellows will share presentations, big idea talks, TED style talks, video and spoken word performances, and an exhibit about their ten months of service in India’s development sector, sharing innovations and sparking discussion on the importance of cross-cultural partnerships. The public seminar will be attended by AIF staff, programmatic partners, host organizations, guest speakers, and members of the larger development community in India. Upon the conclusion of the public seminar, the Fellowship class will be honored by an official celebration and completion ceremony.
The Fellowship is a full-time commitment. Due to time constraints and conflict of interest, Fellows are not allowed to conduct or work on their own research projects for the duration of their service.
Because the Fellowship is a full-time professional commitment for ten months, Fellows cannot be pursuing academic coursework during the Fellowship. The Fellowship is not eligible for course credit unless previously approved by the applicant’s university/college. However, candidates who are considering taking a sabbatical or gap year during their degree course to pursue the Fellowship, are eligible to apply.
Since AIF partners with a number of development organizations across India who differ greatly in size, thematic focus, the individual projects and the impact that they have, will vary greatly. The success of a project also depends on the skill-set of the Fellow, and how they choose to navigate the work environment of their host organization. Examples of previous projects that Fellows have completed, include:
- Develop and implement a monitoring and evaluation system to assess the social impact of education and employability programs.
- Design an interactive and experiential bilingual curriculum for students to document and interpret their local history, culture, and geography.
- Conduct a needs assessment of non-communicable diseases to understand health needs of a specific community in designing a new public health intervention.
- Design, develop, and disseminate a health and hygiene curriculum, including the promotion of awareness around menstrual health and hygiene.
- Conducting participatory rural appraisal processes to address and design interventions around a variety of issues including education, health, sanitation, and livelihood opportunity.
- Conduct academic and first-hand research to design and develop an interactive website.
- Design and facilitate a business and entrepreneurship program for rural women, foster the immersion of several small-scale business designed and run entirely by rural women.
Take a look at project examples from recent Fellows here: https://aif.org/fellowship/publications
Fellows support AIF partner organizations at a crucial moment of scalability through project based collaboration, skills-sharing, training, and capacity-building. Responsibilities vary based on a Fellow’s skill-set, experience, and interests. Skills needed in projects may include but are not limited to: program design and implementation, monitoring and evaluation, graphic design, videography, data collection and visualization, digital content development, event planning, qualitative and quantitative research, creative writing, curriculum design, fundraising, teaching, training teachers, community organizing, managing information systems, and marketing and communications. Since development work is by nature interdisciplinary, we encourage applicants from all fields to apply.
The challenges that Fellows may face include, but are not limited to: under-resourced work environments and organizations; linguistic and cultural barriers; remote, isolated or modest living conditions; and living independently in India.
Many Alumni have expressed that the Fellowship was one of the most challenging and transformative experiences that they have had, but also one of the most rewarding both in terms of their personal and professional growth and impact in a field that they are passionate about. Many organizations in the Indian development space are under-resourced and operating in difficult organizational and geographical constraints that Fellows must learn to navigate. Both Indian and U.S. Fellows experience this as a challenge alike. AIF intentionally cultivates a diverse cohort of young Indian and American professionals to become a strong system of support, mutual learning, exchange, and growth for one another during the Fellowship journey. AIF also provides resources to Fellows to navigate challenges they face, such as mentorship and counseling.
Depending on the language required to complete a project, AIF may provide some introductory language training in a local language for Fellows at the beginning of their project if they do not have any existing skills. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with AIF’s partner organizations. The aim of language training is to allow a Fellow to gain basic language skills to immerse themselves in the project and in their host community. Training is offered at the beginner’s level, not at the intermediate or advanced level. Candidates may choose to use some of their stipend or their own funds to work with a local language tutor if they desire to expand their proficiency in the local language, or to learn an additional language.
Between 2001 and 2022, 512 individuals have served as AIF Fellows in India. Due to the diversity of backgrounds and interests, our Alumni have followed a plethora of career and life paths after the Fellowship. Some have started their own social ventures or chosen to join the development sector in India and the United States, including several Alumni who have founded organizations that now host incoming Fellows as AIF host organization partners. Others have used the experience of working in the Indian development sector to go into public service or refocus and shift their careers. Again others have chosen to pursue graduate or doctoral studies in areas such as urban planning, public health, and international development, or they have gone on to professional schools including diplomacy, law, education and medicine. Then again others have returned to the jobs that they held before the Fellowship period, including corporate positions, or embarked on work in the public or private sector domestically or abroad.
No matter where they decide to go after, Alumni express the unique value of the experience they’ve gained from their time as a Fellow, which enabled them to have a greater impact in their field of choice. Many say it gave them the confidence to take their careers to the next level or make a switch to something that they truly care about. Many Alumni are still in touch with AIF, their former host organizations, and their cohort, even decades after the program, and that they have found many opportunities to make a difference through this unique binational platform.
AIF and its host partners have high expectations of Fellows. Being in this role carries a lot of responsibility and requires diligence. During the course of the Fellowship, Fellows are expected to prioritize their work at the host organization above all else. In addition, there are a variety of deliverables to be completed during the Fellowship including blogs, proposals, monthly reports, presentations, and a culmination document.
As a Fellow, you are considered an official ambassador for AIF and the Fellowship program at all times. You are expected to act as such with dignity, responsibility, and respect. You are expected to upload our values and honor our mission. Anything you say and do while a Fellow will not only reflect on you individually, but also on the Fellowship and AIF as a whole.
If you seek challenge, thrive in unstructured environments, and enjoy independent problem-solving, this is the program for you. If you’re a person looking to gain hands-on experience and a unique glimpse of what working in the Indian development sector looks like, then this is the program for you. If you’re looking to learn about a very different aspect of development work and India, and you’re willing to let this guide you beyond your time of service, then you should consider applying. If you are eager to stretch beyond your current professional skills, apply them in different projects and fields, and acquire new skills along the way, then this is the program for you. If you are committed to service and believe in the value of supporting others to achieve their goals, and if you’re willing to be challenged beyond what you can conceive of, you are in the right place.
Take a look at our recent Fellow profiles in our annual Yearbook here: https://aif.org/fellowship/publications
If you’re looking to travel and experience India, then you should consider pursuing other opportunities. If you are looking for a structured, guided, and tailor-made professional development or mentoring program, this is not the program for you. If you are looking to only work in your area of expertise, and are looking to refine your skills in a very specific field, this program is not the right fit. If you’re looking to pursue your own research agenda, conduct academic research, advance your own projects, seek seed funding or venture capital for your own venture, have an existing offer with an organization ready to host you, or harness your own connections to find employment, this is not the right program for you.
Fellows are expected to stay in India for the duration of the Fellowship and are not generally not allowed to leave India. This includes any travel for graduate school or job interviews, family reunions, holidays etc.
We are happy to provide you with assistance during the application process. If you would like to speak with a staff member in the U.S. or India, please contact us and specify your questions and areas on which you need clarification or support. Due to the volume of application, we ask that you email us your specific questions first and provide your phone number for follow-up. We aim to respond to your query within 48 hours. Please note that our business hours in the U.S. and India offices are Monday through Friday from 9am-6pm. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.