The International Innovation Corps (IIC) selects and trains top graduates from the University of Chicago and host country universities. The programme embeds teams of fellows in government organizations around the world. Teams spend one year developing an innovative, scalable solution to a development challenge. Fellows gain invaluable experience tackling global problems with social impact. For more details visit the website: http://iic.uchicago.edu/.
Here we are having a conversation with Parushya who was IIC fellow last year.
Can you give me a brief introduction of you ?
Hello, I am Parushya. I hail from Allahabad. I am trained as a civil engineer. Then I did post graduation from Young India Fellowship. I was interested in development sector. Since I am engineer I was trying to understand how I can combine both technology and humanities together. I am also interested in Public Policy, management policy. That is when I came across International Innovation Corporation (IIC).
Tell me about IIC.
IIC is one year development sector fellowship offered by University of Chicago, basically the law school and public policy school. It is going to the third cohort now. The basic mode on it works is that young professionals are positioned literally in the shoes of bureaucrats , civil servants and other agencies and solving development problems. It works in many fields ranging from economics, sanitation, health, environment etc. The government is the stake holders in all the projects. We have our own projects every year. Certain number of teams is stationed in these projects. Each team consisted of 50% University of Chicago and 50% Indian graduates. It is not only for India but other developing countries with which University of Chicago has a tie-up. If you are applying from India you will be in IIC India only.
Who all can apply for this fellowship? What according to you is the skills that they would look for in you ?
In my opinion, you need to have a good understanding about one particular subject should be there. And as long as you are motivated to learn about things like what are the challenges faced by development sector problems, since you are dealing with people the socio-economic dimensions of development problems, and also the overall aspect of economy you will do good. You need to have a basic idea about how the public sector works, how the economy of your country works
Can you explain me the selection process of IIC?
Well, the selection process gets revamped every year. So one must check the website for it. For me there was three process:
Well, I think there are no tips for this. Because, they mainly look at your problems solving capability. For that assessing carefully is very important before you start to think of solving it. And also you have to be dynamic with the group you are put with. You need to communicate properly with the group. Share your ideas with clarity.
How long is this fellowship? Is it a fully funded one ?
The fellowship is for one year. And yeah it is a fully funded one. They pay you a stipend or $25000 every two months.
How was the fellowship like? What all did you do so far?
After getting selected there is five-week training. Three-weeks in University of Chicago and two-weeks in Delhi. My team has four members two from Chicago and two from India. Initially it’s scoping. We identify the problem, phases of problem that we can solve given our combined capacity as a team, is our solution going to bring about an impact?. We don’t have the time to bring about a big social impact. We try to understand if our proposed solution can translate into an impact more deeply and broadly. For that field work is required. You have to know the priorities of government, funding agencies and other stake holders. We have to come up with more recommendations. We have to find a solution that is more practical, feasible and sustainable.
Can you talk about your project ?
My project was Mission Dharma. It was carried out in Mumbai. It was under Tata Trust and Bombay Municipal Corporation. It was basically about how we can improve the work-life of sanitation work. We did our field-work very proactively. We interacted with around 300 workers. Identified that waste separation and their nutrition are the main problem that we can solve. It will improve their health and their well- being. The project was funded by Tata Trust.
How was it like working with your team ?
My team consisted of people from diverse background. We were from Political Science, Public Health, Architecture, Management professional, Engineering. We do compliment in many things. One advantage of this is that we do compliment on a lot of levels and you get to see perspectives from many fields. Apart from that we are all from different age groups. Youngest member is 25 and oldest member is 40. That also teaches you lot things.
Your session will get over this year. So who will carry your project forward and make it sustainable?
We have given our project to the government. Government is the biggest development body. They will implement it and make sure it is sustainable.
What are the skills you acquire?
On the part of hard-skills you will earn a lot things like designing a project, interpret data etc which you learn while doing. But on the soft skills part you will get to learn skills like, impact evaluation something the world bank does and which is almost non-existent in lot of government bodies and which is very important to know how well a policy has been implemented, designing of public policy etc
Can you talk about an incident that really struck a chord in you ?
We had a session with a professor from MIT, Asst .Commissioner Of Police, an administrator from Bombay Municipal Corporation and also the municipal workers, one thing that they all said, irrespective of people belonging to diverse background and diverse experiences, was that whatever change you are trying bring unless it is sustainable or sustain in the long run, it is bad. It is not just useless but bad. Because it raises the hope of a lot in the people and it will really disappoint them if it fails. Lot of times it has happened in the past and it puts a lot of pressure on people. That is something which is really bad. This is something that I will never forget in my professional life ahead.
Did you change as a person?
One thing I have learned is whenever you are working in a developmental sector you can’t do it in a cylindrical approach or as if you are doing a charity. You have to put your heart and mind in what you are doing. Ultimately you have to solve the problem as creatively and feasibly as possible. And you are solving the problems for fellowhuman beings
What do you think is the most unique feature of this fellowship?
I think it has three things: