Since its inception in 2001, the American India Foundation (AIF) has been shaping the next generation of leaders committed to positive social change while strengthening civil society in both the U.S. and India and identifying innovative solutions to tackle the most pressing challenges we face.
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.
In March 2021, AIF seized the moment to rebrand the program as ‘The Banyan Impact Fellowship’ to reflect the organizational mission, vision, and values moving into the third decade of action. Over the previous decade, 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, the Fellowship program will build upon its glorious past and lead for the decade to come as a true catalyst for change.
The program’s new identity captures the essence of the virtues we stand for in a simple, yet compelling way. 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.
Additionally, “Banyan” also speaks effectively to the program’s core for its biological and cultural significance in many cultures. With its 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 expands the scope of its Fellowship Program to accelerate impact in the coming times, we invite you to follow this journey into our third decade and witness our life affirming work.