Individuals from the Chevening Research, Science and Innovation Leadership Fellowship Programme (CRISP), in conjunction with the Gurukul Programme alums who studied at Oxford University held their first ever joint reunion, recently, in Kochi, India.  Including Chevening administrators and staff from Oxford, we had 28 who came from all over to attend.

Chevening is an organization established by the UK government that offers scholarships to individuals who show promising leadership abilities. These scholarships are used at universities in the United Kingdom

The first event of the reunion was held on 19 January.  It featured panel discussions organised by alumni directed to 175 women undergraduates from Kerala, a state in Southern India, about climate change, education, bottom of the pyramid manufacturing, healthcare, water, recycling, sanitation, AI, inclusive finance, infrastructure, and the start-up incubation ecosystems of India. The orientation of the day was to assist the women in attendance as they think about studying STEM subjects at graduate school in the United Kingdom. In particular, the British High Commission sponsored the day so that the women could learn about Chevening scholarships which could pay for their Master’s degrees.

Chevening fellows spoke about their careers, and how they ended up participating in the CRISP and Gurukul programmes at Oxford University.  It was a chance for the fellows to inspire the next generation of young potential Chevening scholarship applicants and to explain the process of applying, and how a program like Chevening can have a positive and lasting impact on their lives and careers.

The following day the group met to network, discuss, and elect leaders for Combined Social Ventures (CSV), an organization of fellows that was formed to encourage CRISP and Gurukul alumni to participate in ventures to promote science, innovation, and leadership as a means for economic development, environmental protection, and poverty alleviation throughout India.

CSV’s mission is to pave the way towards a better, effective and sustainable future by putting to work the human resources of CSV. The fellows, some of the most qualified and well-positioned people in all of India, possess the abilities to drive the economy, generate value, address climate change, and enlighten the nation towards making the most of opportunities through collaborative efforts. The four goals of Combined Social Ventures based on the bylaws are: (i) mentoring of one another; (ii) large scale projects having social impact (iii) education programmes and (iv) for-profit ventures with social and environmental benefits.

On the final day, 21 January, 14 of us took a bus trip from Kochi to the backwaters and enjoyed a four-hour houseboat trip during which we continued to network, mentor one another, and exchange ideas for future projects and opportunities.

For a first ever reunion of its kind, it was a tremendous success.  Future gatherings and projects are already in the works.  The spirit and fellowship of the Chevening programmes live on, long after the dreaming spires of Oxford are left behind.

John Hoffmire, Director of The Center on Business and Poverty and Advisor for Combined Social Ventures.