A decade of Learning and Growth with the Melton Foundation
Hi There! My name is Vigneshwar Shankar and I am a Senior Fellow of the Melton Foundation from Bangalore, India. Way back when I joined the Foundation, we were both still in our teens. Looking back over the years, to me the Melton Foundation is that organization with which I have been associated for the longest period of time, completing one decade this year. In my early days as a Junior Fellow (JF), both the Foundation and I were still figuring out our purpose, vision, and calling. After all this while, we both certainly find a lot more clarity on our focus today, relative to 10 years ago. However, in some ways, there’s still more left to be defined as we move forward.
Vigneshwar Shankar currently works as Associate Vice President, Office of Management at Darashaw, and is a Business Manager with over 5 years of experience across Consulting, Corporate Strategy, and Performance Management in the Indian Financial Services Industry. He is also an active member of our network of global citizens and has been a part of the Melton Foundation’s Grant Committee for the last five years.
When asked about his journey so far as a Melton Fellow, he candidly shares,
“This story is my attempt to offer you a unique insider perspective on the opportunities presented by the Melton Foundation and what I was able to take away from them.”
Why did I join the Melton Foundation?
When I was a Junior Melton Fellow, it would have been an enormous task for me to articulate my reasons for joining the Foundation. Fortunately enough, that did not matter as I was one of the few people to nonetheless be given the opportunity to become a Melton Fellow and I am grateful for everything that followed.
Later on, I discovered that the reason for me to join the Melton Foundation (MF) was that it was the perfect culmination to my search for the following opportunities:
- A sense of community
- Learning and growth
- Social Impact
If you’re reading this and want to apply for the Fellowship, you will find more information here about the cohort of 2021.
How the MF changed over the years
In 2010, I joined a very different MF from what it is today. During my Junior Fellowship, the MF pursued the idea of Creating Positive Change in the world through Intercultural Communication. While this was quite abstract, as fellows we did manage to interact with peers from across the world and leverage this opportunity to learn about each other, our cultures, and exchange ideas, thus broadening our horizons in our formative years.
Around the time when I graduated and became a Senior Fellow, the MF pivoted to focus on a specific aspect of this abstract purpose, zeroing in on Global Citizenship advocacy and action. Since then the Foundation has done well to crystallize this purpose even further, to make it accessible to more people across the world and drive the effort of its community towards initiatives such as 100 Acts of Global Citizenship and Global Solvers Co-Lab to create impact centered around some of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by United Nations member states.
Through this period, I witnessed a sea-change improvement in the quality of projects championed by Melton Fellows, with them laying an ever-greater focus today on inclusivity and wide-reaching impact in their local communities.
5 things I learned over the years as a Melton Fellow
- Recognizing Multiple Perspectives
Working on projects within the community has taught me that
There are multiple perspectives to any situation or challenge
Identifying them prepares you to address the situation in an inclusive manner Better solutions emerge when you pay attention to narratives which are beyond what you already know
- The necessity for Open Communication
It is not easy for you to understand fully the experience of other people and likewise for them yours
Investing time and effort in communicating transparently with others helps make your perspective become more accessible to other people with the benefits mentioned above
- Embracing Multiple Identities
At the Annual Symposium (now called ‘Global Citizenship Conference‘) in 2011 held in Chile, I learned that it is common for all of us to have multiple identities and thus be members of various sub-cultures simultaneously
We bring different versions of ourselves to different circumstances Being mindful of this allows us to change or improve how we participate, contribute, engage and communicate in different settings
- Strategic Planning
Strategic Planning is the method of identifying, establishing, and documenting the future course that you want to traverse as an organization
The outcome of this process serves as the definitive guide for all your efforts and commitment of resources set out from that point onwards
With the opportunity to witness this at various times in the MF, I learned what it takes to step back at an organization level, dwell upon the vision for the future and distill this into an actionable plan for the community
Critically, there is a need to take great care in forging a new identity for yourself, all while doing your best to retain the essence of your past identity to the relevant extent
- Learnings from the Grant Committee
As a member of the Melton Foundation Grant Committee for the last 5 years, I have learned that for an organization to make meaningful progress towards its goals, it helps to adopt this 3-Phase continuous approach to resource allocation:
- Define clearly the ‘criteria for allocating resources to opportunities’ along with the ‘reason for choosing these criteria’
- Assess opportunities to test whether they align favorably with the defined criteria and allocate your resources wisely
- Review the progress made by these initiatives backed by organizational support and learn from them to periodically improve your criteria for resource allocation
My years with the MF have given me a unique insight into the growth and maturity of the foundation. Through this post, I hope that I was able to convey some of it to you along with an insider perspective on the opportunities presented by the Melton Foundation for learning, personal growth, and creating impact.
After nearly a decade of sharpening its area of focus on Global Citizenship, the Melton Foundation finds itself at the cusp of a new and exciting chapter in its story.