The US based non-profit Foundation for Excellence (FFE www.ffe.org) has developed a financially sustainable method for higher education for the smart and talented youth in India.
The San Francisco-based Foundation for a Sustainable Future (FSF www.sustainable-future.org) has developed a supplementary program for economically-challenged Indian Parsi youth, and seeks to:
- identify and nominate Parsi scholars to benefit from the program
- recruit a network of interested Parsi organizations for information dissemination
- recruit a volunteer force to help with scholar recruitment and due diligence
to become part of this educational ecosystem in India. An initial pledge to support 10 Parsi scholars through the program is already in hand.
In the last 22 years, FFE has sponsored approximately 45,000 Indian youths for a 4 or 5-year college degree in India, helping with expenses of about $ 2500-3000. There are currently about 5,000 scholars being supported through the program. The qualifying conditions are:
- Must be in the top 15% academically
- Must be in the bottom 15% economically, with some flexibility in this definition depending on the urban/local location of the scholar
- The degree must be in engineering or medicine
- Must agree to sponsor 2 other scholars in the future, under the same conditions, once they have the income and assets to provide a hand up to those in a similar situation
Several FFE scholars have come to the USA for graduate studies after succeeding in the FFE program, and have developed highly successful careers as entrepreneurs, consultants, bankers etc. This is a transformative opportunity.
The donors have principally been individual overseas Indians, though the donor base has more recently been expanded to include employers, corporates and foundations in India and overseas.
100% of donations go directly to the students; all administrative and overhead expenses are completely being borne through the generosity of a well-wisher.
FFE can identify to each donor the specific individual/s they have helped, and if they mutually choose, the donor may develop a mentoring relationship to help in the donee’s future career.
Some of the scholars who went through the early years of the program have already sponsored 5 or more scholars themselves within 15 years of graduation, far beyond their initial commitment to sponsor 2. This is a successful, proven, highly scalable and multiplicative model.
Both the tax-deductible USA nonprofit fundraising mechanism and an extensive 500-strong due diligence team in India to vet applications is already in place and experienced for more than 2 decades. FSF seeks to expand this ecosystem to the Parsi community.
Applications made through this mechanism could ensure that Parsi youth are given a fair chance to compete for these scholarships, particularly since until now there has not been any explicit outreach to Parsis.
The next set of initial student applications is due later in 2016 for vetting and due diligence. Since this will be an ongoing program, younger scholars should be apprised of the opportunity so they can be inspired to work hard, knowing that their opportunities in life could be significantly improved based on their performance.
Regarding next steps, we have to work backwards from the FFE online application deadline to determine the roles and protocols for all organizations and individuals who choose to participate in this worthy project. Through community organizations, publications and activists, FFE seeks to:
- Locate and identify Parsi scholars meeting the criteria
- Identify the principals and heads of Parsi schools and orphanages, particularly in economically-challenged areas like Sanjan, Surat, Udvada etc whose students can be encouraged to apply, and where the difference in the college/non-college career opportunities available to the youth will be most dramatic, and do the most good
- Identify and recruit a Parsi organization or organizations to work with, to shepherd scholars’ applications and funnel them to FFE, in competition with other youth meeting the criteria
- Inform scholars meeting the specified financial and performance criteria about the opportunity and encourage their applications at http://ffe.org/programs/online-application-form.php
- Outline and formalize a protocol and flow for the entire process described above, of funneling the nominations / applications from the qualifying youth to FFE
- Recruit volunteers to help with due diligence, identifying scholars, events etc
- Recruit mentors for the scholars and graduates for support and maximum career impact.