This is a guest post by David Schafran where he shares his experience at Villgro Fellowship Program.
David has completed BA in Spanish from the University of Michigan, and have worked internationally in various verticals in the NGO, for-profit, and government sectors in a push to understand social enterprise as a means towards sustainable development and make a meaningful difference in the world.
"Nine months prior to coming to India on a fellowship with Villgro, I was looking for a work opportunity that would give me the independence and responsibility to test my skills and make a meaningful impact in the social enterprise field -- a full immersion experience in the space.
I had just come back to the US from helping set-up an eco-tourism business in Brazil, was passionate about social enterprise, and was confident in my abilities to make a big difference in this field. But as a relatively recent graduate of the University of Michigan in 2007, I found the US to be quite limited in social enterprise work opportunities.
It seemed that all that was available was marginal entry-level positions and internships that never saw operational work on the ground, or compelling roles that required several years of industry experience and post-graduate degrees just to be considered. Needless to say this was quite frustrating – but this difficulty in finding the right role galvanized me and made me all the more determined to work hard and pave my own path.
After a brief stint helping manage a local New Jersey farm, I worked a full-time sales job off of Wall Street while working a part-time sales/marketing job on the weekend and a small research/marketing internship in my free time for two New York based social enterprises.
With one foot in and one foot out of the social enterprise space, I was hungry for a full-time opportunity that would allow me to jump completely into the space, into the belly of passionate social enterprise doing ground-level work.
Anyone from the West interested in social enterprise is quite aware of the amazing work being done in India, so when I first learned of the fellowship opportunity with Villgro (then Rural Innovations Network), I was quite intrigued. “Our Space, Your Talent,” was the slogan; a ten-month fellowship which included a six-month assignment working one-on-one with the CEO of a start-up social enterprise to help establish and scale the model.
It sounded perfect. It was further validated for me as a unique opportunity through local sources in Chennai as well as the Rockefeller Foundation's support of the program. I applied, was accepted, and left for Chennai in February 2009.
Through Villgro's Fellowship Program, I worked on a strategic level with the CEO of an early growth rural business process outsourcing (BPO) company called DesiCrew Solutions to scale the model and impact more lives in the most effective and appropriate manner.
I had three specific projects with which I worked: 1. Develop and implement a social impact measurement system 2. Business development, both client acquisition and account management/transitioning 3. Manage the creation of a new website and web-based training program. Additionally, I worked on strategic planning and various ad-hoc projects on an as needed basis. After my assignment with DesiCrew, I worked internally for Villgro on the organization's growth strategy.
The fellowship experience was empowering, allowing me the exact type of freedom and responsibility to make a direct, meaningful impact in the social enterprise field I was looking for. The types of connections, exposure, and action-learning I got I my ten-month fellowship with Villgro was quite valuable, an important step towards achieving my greater goals in the social enterprise field. Overall it was a great experience. “