1.] In what way will this Fellowship help me?
The Fellowship Program is designed to develop leadership abilities of the Fellows. Just as to be a good corporate manager a good MBA course is required, to be a good journalist a good training in Mass communication is required, to be a social worker a MSW work is required. To make an impact in any field requires the ability to influence others. Thus the Fellowship program is designed to develop the leadership abilities of the Fellow. The Fellowship in two years through its processes contributes to the development of leadership abilities of the fellows, which they can apply in any walk of life.
2.] What kind of leader will I become?
There are many definitions and approaches to leadership. The key leadership ability that the leadership focuses on is the ability to “influence without authority”. To be able to do this it is important for an individual to develop self-awareness, to know what drives him/her, what influences his/her behaviour patterns because only then can the person shift the gaze outward, begin to understand other people and their drives and thus begin to influence them. Self-awareness leads to self-transformation that is when we develop the ability to reach out to others and begin to influence them. The key attributes that the Fellowship is designed to develop are
2) Team work
4) Clarity about values
5) Private dream clarity
6) Influencing without authority
Our belief is that these are the leadership attributes that our society needs and will need over the next few decades to cause change on the ground.
3.] So what kind of training will I receive?
The Fellowship has specific processes that a Fellow needs to be part of in the period of 2 years. Through experiencing these processes Fellows’ develop their Leadership abilities and the primary tool to make sense of all this experience is the tool of self –reflection. The Fellowship does not follow the conventional ‘training’ model, where a trainer will impart skills and knowledge. The Fellowship creates an environment where Fellows undergo a set of experiences and are supported in the process of self-reflection so that they are able to make the most of their experience. Of course being part of a group Fellows also learn a lot from each other, therefore there is an emphasis on shared reflection. Opening yourself to the processes of the Fellowship, Self- Reflection and using the AER tool [refer Q for details] to relate to others is the ‘training’ that you will receive in this Fellowship.
4.] What are these processes?
Teaching in schools, what we call LQ, Village/ Slum Immersion, Working with Headmasters, what we call ASP, Personal Reflection Processes, and Learning Journey to other organizations, and Vipassana Meditation are the processes that every Fellow needs to undergo. Each of these processes contributes to the 6 leadership abilities stated above. Being part of these processes is mandatory. All of these processes combine together to create the soul of the Fellowship.
[Please Note: Policies and processes within KEF are regularly reviewed and changes are made in them when required. Those changes will be communicated to you. ]
5.] What if I do not want to do some of these processes?
These processes are the legs on which the Fellowship stands, remove one and the Fellowship crumbles, so Fellows need to open themselves to these experiences before they can pass a judgement on whether it works for them or not. It is better not to be part of the Fellowship if one does not want to do even one of these processes. Non-participation on these processes will mean that the Fellow will be asked to leave the Fellowship. At the same time support will be given to Fellows to smoothly go through these processes. There is room for discussion, debate, getting know why we’re doing what we are doing and even register disagreement about why a process does not work. But there is no room to not do a process.
6.] How will all this help me in my future career and life?
Most educational courses that are currently offered develop our cognitive abilities and impart technical skills. The Fellowship works within the area of Conation. These are fundamental human attributes that are a required in every walk of life. These are attributes of those who have made a positive impact on society. You have spent 90 percent of your life developing your cognitive and technical abilities these are two years for you to develop yourself into a leader.
7.] So, what is conation?
There are three aspects to the human mind: Cognitive, Affective, and Conative. The Cognitive refers to the intelligence of the brain, the affective to the emotional aspect the conative on the other hand deals with how we act upon our feelings and thoughts. The academic education we all receive in primarily in the cognitive realm where we understand and analyse things. “What drives me?”, “What truly matters to me?” “What is it that will make me keep working hard at some goal?” This is the realm of conation. To take a rather common example, what is it that makes Sachin Tendulkar one of the greatest batsmen? The aspect of his mind and personality that makes him work hard, keep at his practice day in and day out, the joy that he is still able to bring to his play even after so many years of doing the same thing. This is the area of conation.
8.] OK, but what will I do after 2 years, can I prepare for future courses, prepare for my IAS, MBA, etc. entrance exams?
The fellowship is demanding and jam packed it offers very little time and space for you to pursue anything else so Fellows will receive no support or co-operation from the organization to prepare for these entrance exams. These two years of the Fellowship are your two years to know the most important person in your life – yourself. This is the most powerful knowledge any individual can ever have. The habit of self- reflection will also help you discover where exactly your passions and interests and lie and that will help you to discover your private dream. Deciding what you want to do after the Fellowship based on this self- knowledge will ensure an informed choice and direction. You will know why you want to do an MBA, is it to impress other or is it the right first step towards my private dream. If you shift your perspective you will discover that this is the most empowered and useful ‘preparation’ for your future life.
If you think doing a correspondence course for something else is very important for you then it is better for you to leave the fellowship and give that other thing your best shot. We want those people who genuinely are interested in making an impact on the ground and are ready to walk the extra mile to do this because making an impact at the grass-root level is not easy. It requires total concentration and focus. Therefore taking up other academic courses during the Fellowship is unacceptable.
9.] How will I be supported to achieve all this?
Firstly, all aspects of the Fellowship experience combine to test and develop Fellows’ leadership abilities. Fellowship is not simply working with Headmaster and reporting on it at the end of the day. Fellowship is also the life one leads in the residential spaces. How Fellows live and support each other, accept diversity and develop the habit to resolve conflicts with each other. Manage their homes, their relationship with their neighbours and create peaceful shared experience for each other. In that sense the Fellow is always at ‘work’. These experiences, your peers, your program leaders all of them become mirrors to you to learn more and more about yourself. This is the main support system you have. Apart from that your program leaders are there to give inputs and facilitate processes. But the onus of learning from all these experiences lies on the Fellow.
10.] What do program leaders do?
Program Leaders are individuals with considerable grass-root experience and have developed expertise is their respective domains. They are there to create an environment for you to make the most of the Fellowship. They execute the design of the fellowship, facilitate the self-reflection sessions and are there to help you to deal with the challenges that arise while interacting with the Headmaster. They help the Fellows to self-reflect, and act as mirrors to show the Fellow what they are doing.
11.] What if I do not like the Fellow I am staying with, or, I do not like my Program Leader, can I ask for a change?
This is a situation that can arise with anyone, we may not like someone and someone may not like us. The option in such a situation is not to run away from the person one dislikes but to use it as an opportunity to learn more about oneself and work towards understanding the other person as well as our own responses to that person. A common wisdom states that people we do not like reflect back those parts of our personality that we do not like and so find difficult to face and accept. So, there is no room to ask for a change of partner or program leader but there is an opportunity for each person to change one’s perspective on the said person and find ways of liking and reaching out to that person. This is a situation where you can summon the Awareness, Equanimity, and Response (AER) Framework for you to learn to manage your responses to other people.
The Fellowship is an opportunity to rework how to interact with people and help you sharpen your ability to reach out, understand and accept people for who they are.
Yet, if in the rarest of rare cases there is an incident or behaviour that is abusive and exploitative, please bring it up with your Program Manager immediately. Accepting people for who they are does not mean opening yourself to any kind of abuse.
12.] So, now, what is the AER Framework?
As you settle into the Fellowship you will know more about this and you will learn to use this tool to shape and modulate your responses. But let us look at it briefly here. At every moment we experience emotions we like something, we don’t like something, we feel angry, irritated, delighted etc. We also tend to think that we are our emotions. So, if I do not like someone we conclude that something is wrong with that person but do not pause to consider what is shaping my response towards that person. We also tend to become unmindful of the impact of our behaviour on other people because our emotions can flood us. So, if I dislike a person we assume that I am well within my right to ignore this person. But if we learn to use the AER framework we can begin by first paying attention to the fact that “This is a feeling I am experiencing now.” Once we begin to be aware about our feeling we can teach ourselves to bring ourselves in state of equanimity, which is the ability to observe one’s own emotions and not simply giving in to them. One’s we are in calmer, equanimous state of mind we can then shape our response to the person. So, we may say to ourselves that yes I do not at this point like this person but I will not ignore this person and will respect this person’s feelings. Through this method I shape my responses to people around me without being enslaved by my immediate emotions for that person.
This is by no means easy process and is something that is evolved over a lifetime. The Fellowship is a good space for you to begin practicing this pattern of relating to others. Do not feel inadequate if you cannot do this immediately because this requires time and effort. You will have support and processes that will help you through this. But just knowing about this is first step towards practicing it is important.
13.] My room-mate is an avid smoker, not only is it irritating but I also dislike her for doing this. I find it difficult to accept a person who smokes.
Smoking and consuming alcohol are prohibited in KEF all premises whether office or residences of the Fellows and it is the responsibility of each Fellow to ensure that KEF spaces remain free of these. So, to that extent you are well within you right to ask the smoker to not smoke in office or in the house/ room that you share. If this proves inadequate you can inform the Program Leader, who will take up the issue with the said person.
But there is another aspect to this question as well, what is shaping your irritation towards this person who smokes? Here is also an everyday opportunity for you to practice AER and assess your response to smokers. So, a situation like this also becomes an opportunity for you to build upon your self-awareness. So, you are able work out for yourself is it the smoking I dislike or is the smoker I dislike?
14.] I have heard that boys and girls have to share residential spaces? I am nervous and I don’t know what to tell my parents, they do not like this.
By and large we arrange for separate living spaces for boys and girls. But in rural settings girls staying on their own increases the chances of unwanted attention, therefore, where the need is felt, boys and girls share accommodation or have residences that are close by. Within these spaces girls and boys are allocated separate rooms. If at all it does happen that boys and girls end up sharing residential space, the best thing to tell parents is to explain to them why shared spaces are a safer option. If you present the situation clearly they are bound to understand.
It is best therefore to leave the decision of room allocation to the Program Leader, who will take all factors into account while allocating rooms to each Fellow. If at some point you do want to change your room you need to discuss this with the program leader. The Program Leader’s decision on this matter will be considered final.
15.] Two of my flat-mates have got romantically involved and insist that they want to share a room and are constantly occupied by each other. Not only is this embarrassing to me it also makes everyday life difficult for me. What do I do?
As stated earlier, Fellows cannot make changes in their accommodation arrangements without first discussing it with their Program Leaders and that the Program Leader’s decision will be final.
Also, Fellows are expected to conduct themselves with decorum while using premises of the organisation. No Fellows will be given the option to share a room because they have opted to be a couple. If you do find your flat-mates doing this request them to stop doing this and inform the Program Leader immediately.
16.] I’ve been reading these questions and it is helping to some extent to shape my behaviour, I know I will follow these guidelines but what happens to those who do not follow these guidelines? Will any action be taken against them?
KEF believes that self-discipline is the best form of discipline and therefore expects that people who join the fellowship and understand its focus and values will respect the guidelines set out. To that extent we do not believe in punitive action and it is not the first choice of the organization. There is space here in this Fellowship to sit down and say… “Well! I did this though I knew it was unacceptable but I want to work on myself and change my behaviour”. Therefore the first form of regulation is self-regulation.
The second form of regulation is, Fellows becoming mirrors to each other thus ensuring that all are living by the practice and spirit of the Fellowship. Supporting a Fellow in continuing undesirable behaviour is not fellowship but supporting a Fellow to get out of it is. By taking responsibility for each other, all fellows together can reinforce the spirit of the Fellowship.
But in cases where it is seen Fellows are not in of themselves maintaining self –discipline or are not even willing to work on their habits, there will be consequences that they will have to accept. For example, the leave policy underlines consequences of taking leave indiscriminately.
17.] Will a Fellow be expelled from the Fellowship?
Yes, there are some situations when a Fellow can be asked to leave the Fellowship.
1) Refusing to participate and completing the mandatory processes of the Fellowship. These include: Teaching in schools to understand Learning Quality, Slum/ Village Immersion, Academic Support Program, Personal Reflection processes, Vipassana and Learning Journey.
2) Continuous and willful violation of behavior guidelines.
KEF has an elaborate Separation Process; please refer to that document for details to know how the separation process will be executed.
18.] What if I do not like the decisions made by the organization?
KEF is an organization that works on dialogue and there is ample space here to express one’s perspective and point of view on a situation or a decision. This dialogue and feedback is built into the daily system of the organization. The reflection you do at the end of each day, all are processes that create space for dialogue and discussion. So, there is room to express one’s point of view. You will have space and opportunity to express your views and feelings on issues.
Decisions on issues are not based on consensus, though everybody’s point of view is heard and can feed into the final decision. But for each decision there is someone who holds the R (Responsibility). It is for that person to take the final call based on inputs and suggestions from all the concerned parties.