A few months ago, a group of 20-somethings released a documentary on the internet. In the documentary, people spoke of the India-Pakistan partition and their idea about it. From poets and authors to retired professionals, ‘Project Narratives’, was an initiative of the Melton Foundation, capturing history that dates back over 70 years.
The makers of the documentary were senior fellows with the foundation and hail from four different countries. With India as one of its focus areas, the Melton Foundation is working to help individuals and organisations solve challenges in an interconnected world.
Entrepreneur William Melton and peace activist Patricia Smith founded the Melton Foundation in 1991 inspired by global events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Pinochet regime in Chile, and the economic and social transformations taking place in China and India, and worked to bring together talented youth from culturally disparate environments.
In a conversation with YourStory, Winthrop Carty, Executive Director of the Melton Foundation says,
William and his ability to look around the corner and pay attention of what is going around the world has led to bringing 500 enterprising individuals together. Today as an investor, he is a systems thinker and takes his entrepreneurial experience to envision every product.
William is also the founder of Verifone, an electronic payment transactions service. He was also an early investor in America Online and served on its board of directors for several years.
The Melton Foundation functions in six countries - China, Chile, Ghana, India, Germany and the US. It started out from the United States University in Iowa and Friedrich Schiller Universität (FSU), Jena, Germany, and set up its India operations in 1992 at BMS College in Bengaluru.
The community subsequently expanded to the Zhejiang University in China, Universidad de la Frontera in Chile, Dillard University, New Orleans, USA and Ashesi University College in Ghana
The annual Melton Fellowship invites students in their first and second year of college. Placing importance on collaborations, the Foundation believes the problems currently facing humanity can only be solved by working together across industries, sectors, cultures, and geographical boundaries to find mutually beneficial solutions.
The initial focus is in bringing people together. In 2009-11, we came up with the global citizenship mission. We built some selection criteria, a curriculum, and started to build a learning programme.
Designed to develop global citizens and integrate them into a lifelong global network, students are judged on various categories like leadership qualities, enterprising approach, and emotional intelligence.
Fellows begin by participating in a learning programme, both online and offline, in which they are trained in various skills including project planning, cross-cultural communications, design thinking, and storytelling. Following successful completion of the programme, the Fellows are able to create or join projects within the network.
With sustainability, equity and diversity at its core, the chosen fellows eventually work with collaborating institutions in projects that address global challenges. Fellows attend events organised by the institutions, and the foundation invites collaborators to be presenters and workshop facilitators in global conferences, and workshops.
We aim to expand from existent geographies to newer parts of the world where we can have the biggest impact. We are talking to a lot of leaders, policymakers, business folk, people in the education sector, and leadership development space from all around the world, adds Winthrop.
The Melton Foundation has so far taken up projects on inclusive recycling, making solar energy accessible, tackling food waste, and stories of human displacement.
Projects like the ‘Rainwater Harvest’ by a student of the BMS College in Bengaluru, and ‘Project Narratives’ which revolved around the India-Pakistan and Syria-Palestine conflict, received grants between $500 and $5,000.
Nickhil Sharma, who started as a Melton fellow in 2014, and now pursuing a Masters at the University of Gothenberg (Sweden) , was one of the five people who put together the stories of survivors of partition. Speaking about his experience while documenting it, he says,
“It's the most valuable experience I've had so far in my life. I think meeting new people from other cultures not only teaches you about them, but also about yourself - your roots, values, beliefs and practices. The most beautiful experience in life is when you see the lines of culture blur and get a peep into the human.”
Sanchita Viswa, another fellow adds, “Initially, I was a little nervous as this was my first international experience. But the entire process was very structured, starting from the New Fellow Orientation. This helped ease me into the organisation and helped me realise my role in it.”