Friday
January 28
2011

Kishor Nagula

A Fellowship In Social Enterprise for Undergrads? It’s Called IDEX

A fellowship in social enterprise geared for recent undergraduates? Yep, it exists! I recently had the privilege to speak with Sreeratna Kancherla, director of IDEX and its Fellowship in Social Enterprise. Geared specifically towards servicing the low-income education field currently in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, the fellows program provides recent undergrads an opportunity to support social enterprises in this growing new space. Below is my interview with Sree, where she outlines her thoughts about the program and its future.

NextBillion.net: Sree, could you provide some background to the fellowship: How the idea came about, who were the initial players involved and what was the intended goal for the fellowship?

Kancherla: The IDEX fellowship came as a partnership between Grey Ghost Ventures, an impact investing firm and Oglethorpe University. With impact investing currently in its nascent stages, the thought and hope is to capitalize on the ingenuity of recent undergraduates and apply it to the ever evolving impact investing industry. That said, both entities came together to forge a fellowship specifically for this community to provide needed assistance to social entrepreneurs in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, focusing specifically on low-income education. The goal of this fellowship is to not only offer a unique learning experience for recent undergrads, but to have them use their skills cultivated in undergrad to lend needed assistance into this budding field of low-income education.

NextBillion.net: So why low-income education and not other more defined industries, like in water or electricity?

Kancherla: Part of our belief is that education is the bedrock of transformation, that if school systems are improved and attendance is increased, many of the other problems that affect these communities – impure water, lack of electricity – will eventually be solved. And Hyderabad was particularly chosen because the region offers Affordable Private Schools (APS), a field of schools that function as a healthy alternative to public government schools, which historically offer minimal education and often in the native language. APS (institutions) are English-medium that are affordable to the BoP (yearly tuition hovering $30-$130 a year), but currently lack a system of metrics to standardize the quality of the education. Each fellow is paired up to one APS where, among many different tasks, they are charged with development metrics in an attempt to evaluate the quality of education at these schools.

NextBillion.net: Can you briefly discuss the results of this year’s inaugural fellowship class – how many fellows were chosen, what were their backgrounds, and what have they accomplished thus far?

Kancherla: Eleven undergraduate fellows were chosen, all with an array of different majors and concentrations, who through their extracurricular activities, exhibited leadership. Though the initial fellowship is about half complete, some of the contributions the fellows have added are: streamlining finances for schools, placing necessary processes that were absent before, and identifying programs that were not successful.

NextBillion.net: What parts of the program have changed since the inaugural batch of fellows?

Kancherla: Our applicant pool will extend beyond Georgia and include master’s students with less than two years of experience. The number of fellows will expand to 40, with assistance expanding behind AFPs and to other service providers related to the low-income education community. Fellows will take an even more pronounced look at school curriculums and lend their assistance towards necessary modifications. The APS system is in the process of developing evaluative metrics that gauge school performance. Our fellows will work within their individual APS to develop their set of metrics and cross collaborate with other fellows and their respective APS’s. Lastly, each fellow will have the opportunity to visit and work with other social enterprises with the potential have having a mentor within the social enterprise space.

NextBillion.net: Lastly, where do you see the program five to ten years down the road?

Kancherla: Our hope is to scale the program up to 500 fellows, still focusing on undergrads and recent grads, working in social enterprises primarily focused on lower education, throughout the world. After next year, our plan is to expand the program into Ghana and Kenya, and in the next couple years, expand further.

Note: The deadline for applications is Feb. 15 and may be submitted to info.idex@Oglethorpe.edu

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