Organizing the International Rural Development Immersion Camp 2018

I had never imagined that a small idea can turn into a concept and that concept a reality. I was working on my laptop on Sunday afternoon, 18th February 2018, when suddenly this idea came up in my mind to conduct a rural immersion camp for youth to help them understand grassroots issues and take initiatives to bring social change through volunteering, contributing or working in social sector. I knew how easy was it to blame the government for the status of development of our country which is mainly an agrarian economy with so many social issues. But I knew that if we were able to educate, expose and train youth towards solving these issues, then definitely all the social problems can be addressed.

So, I wrote down my ideas, referred to a few online resources and prepared a concept note. I shared it with my Fellowship host organization, Lok Sahbhagi Sansthan (LSS). The staff was very supportive to me but reluctant to proceed because LSS is a small grassroots organization and conducting a first of this kind of camp in India with participants from all across the globe, turned to be a challenging task for them in many ways. But after much deliberations and discussions, I was given the green signal and went ahead to design the whole program within a fortnight. Then, we discussed it and finalized it. Online application system was opened on March 1st and was scheduled to close on March 25th, but due to overwhelming response, we extended the deadline to March 31st. To our surprise, we received 130 applications from 33 countries and 18 different states of India, even though this was the first edition of camp and through a small organization and my startups initiative! This encouraged me even more to proceed, and I was very satisfied and convinced seeing the zeal and enthusiasm of youth towards development issues and their eagerness to help solve them! Together with Mr. Gopal Singh, Project coordinator for LSS and also my AIF host organization mentor, we toiled day and night to prepare all the logistics and tried to invite the best resource persons to the camp. Another issue was funding. This we tackled by taking monetary contributions from the camp participants itself and clubbing with LSS funds as well as some of my personal contributions. Also, since this was a new initiative and due to lack of time, it was difficult for us to find donors or external organizations for getting monetary support. However, with goodwill, hard work and a lot of hope, everything was sorted out and we were able to successfully conduct the first International Rural Development Immersion Camp (IRDIC)! We limited the number of participants to less than 20 to have more focus on each and every participant, and help them to benefit from the camp to the fullest extent possible. Keeping the camp gender neutral was on our priority list to enable equal opportunities for all. We did not receive any third gender applications.

IRDIC Vision of Changemakers Development (CMD) Expertise:

​For our inaugural camp, our vision was to “Engage youth from all over the world and India towards Rural development and train them to be leaders of tomorrow to bring social change at grassroots and help them achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.”

IRDIC Details:

  • India consists of more than 6 lakh villages and is an agrarian country with around 60% of its people depending directly or indirectly upon agriculture.
  • International Rural Development Immersion Camp (IRDIC 2018) was a first of its kind program being conducted in India to provide global youth with a robust grounding in development concepts and theories, and equip participants with the analytical and practical skills they need to engage critically in development activities and debates from an interdisciplinary perspective.
  • India being a young nation with half of its population below 25 is the world’s largest democracy and is likely to have the world’s largest workforce by 2027, with a billion people aged between 15 and 64. This also means that youth are the source of development with tremendous potential to bring social change.

​We believe that it’s high time to engage Global youth towards building a sustainable future and help achieve UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. For this we need to educate, expose and train youth towards achieving these objectives.

​First edition of IRDIC 2018 was a 5-day camp focused on rural development, youth leadership, and social change. It served as a launchpad for aspiring youth to contribute to development sector of their respective countries.

16 participants from all across the nation and the world came together to stay, learn and experience the rural India. The program hosted notable speakers including external guest lectures, faculties, bureaucrats, young achievers and policy makers.

The IRDIC 2018 had been carefully designed to deliver comprehensive learning, exposure and mentorship to the future global youth leaders.

Program Highlights:

  • 5-day camp in Jaipur District, Rajasthan.
  • ​​Engage with guest lectures, faculties, bureaucrats, young achievers and policy makers and many more.
  • Experience Rural India with practical work, community interactions, field immersion, group activities, site visits etc.
  • Learn from leading development sector professionals and not for profit leaders through interactive discussions, one-to-one interactions and engagements.
  • Connect with youth from across the country and world, grassroots workers, policy makers, and various stakeholders in development sector.
  • Enjoy & Explore Jaipur – Local excursion visit, Sariska Tiger Reserve, Bonfire, Cultural night and much more.

Overall, the 5-day camp was organized successfully with guest lectures, field visits, practical work, bonfire night, local excursion and ended with brainstorming session on Day 5.

A session on AIF’s William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India was conducted by Ms. Garima Gautam and Ms. Amanpreet Kaur from the AIF Clinton Fellowship program team on Day 4, from 3-4PM.

From left to right: AIF staff Garima Gautam and Amanpreet Kaur, myself, my mentor Gopal Singh, and Co-Fellow Vipin Shri.

This session was started by an energizing activity for the participants and briefing about the work that American India Foundation is doing in India since its inception, and the impact of its various programs till now. They specifically discussed about the AIF Clinton Fellowship and how these participants could be a part of it in the future and make a positive impact in the social sector. My Co-Fellow Vipin Shri, who served with Jaipur Rugs Foundation in Rajasthan, and myself joined the session to share our own testimonies as AIF Clinton Fellows. Participants showed much interest towards the Fellowship as well as our journeys.

The session gave an idea to all the participants of such various impact fellowships which they can pursue after their studies in development sector, which would prove to be a valuable entry point for them in this sector with people from any educational background who want to shift their career or start contributing full-time in development sector, or take a sabbatical for short-term contribution and learning.

Since our intention was to make a real impact through this camp, we all together prepared a policy memo at the end of the camp on the grassroots issues we came across in these villages and rural areas during the camp, and also possible solutions to address these issues.

The camp report, policy memo along with pictures and videos of the camp can be accessed at: https://www.cmdexpertise.com/rural-development-youth-leadership

IRDIC program team and participants.

This report along with the policy memo was forwarded to various government departments and stakeholders to review it and use it as a resource for their planning and policy making. This will also instill a sense of purpose for the camp and its participants, that their participation in the camp was as fruitful as they would personally do something to solve these social issues after the camp when they return to their routine life.

Posing with kids of the village we visited.

I wholeheartedly thank American India Foundation, Lok Sahbhagi Sansthan, academic and knowledge partners of this camp, and especially all the young participants from India and across the globe who made this camp a huge success. I look forward to conduct such camps and innovative events in future and help in the development of countries like India!

Naveen is a B.Tech Agricultural Engineering graduate from University of Agricultural Sciences Raichur, Karnataka, class of 2014. Naveen previously worked in the Corporation Bank (Govt. of India) as Assistant Manager. He worked in a remote rural village called Girisagar in Bagalkot District of Karnataka, handling agriculture finance and rural development. He was able to do agriculture credit appraisal amounting $43,00000 (INR 28 crore), and worked directly with farmer’s to process and approve loans. He has experience in funding self-help groups, joint liability groups, and rural development. After working for 22 months, Naveen discovered that being in the banking industry would deviate from his vision of full-time dedication towards agriculture and rural development. So he applied for the AIF Clinton Fellowship to start his personal journey committed towards development sector. He resigned from his banking career in May 2017 and pursued a Yes Foundation Media for Social Change fellowship in New Delhi from May 2017 to July 2017, where he was placed in an NGO working towards empowering disabled through skill development and education. He's looking forward to make a positive change through the AIF Clinton Fellowship.

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