American India Foundation
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|Founder||President Bill Clinton, Lata Krishnan, Rajat Gupta, Victor Menezes|
|Focus||Education, Livelihood, Public Health|
|Lata Krishnan (Chair)
Pradeep Kashyap (Vice Chair)
M.A. Ravi Kumar (CEO)
Dr. Hemanth Paul (India Country Director)
The American India Foundation (AIF, founded 2001) is a nonprofit American organization that is devoted to accelerating social and economic change in India. The AIF has partnered with 227 of India’s NGOs to build a trusted network for implementation, scale, and sustainability while raising over $84 million since its inception. It is one of the largest secular, non-partisan American organizations supporting development work in India.
AIF awards grants to education, livelihood, and public health projects in India – with emphases on elementary education, women’s empowerment, and HIV/AIDS, respectively. AIF has a program called Digital Equalizer which attempts to bridge the digital divide by providing computers, internet access and training to under-resourced Indian schools. It also funds the Service Corps Fellowship, renamed the William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service to India on May 11, 2009, which sends skilled young Americans to work with NGOs in India for a ten-month period. The fellowship helps exchange technical skills, intellectual resources and helps increase the capacity of Indian NGOs to continue their work while giving American leaders a good understanding of India.
The American India Foundation was founded by a group of Indian-Americans responding to the 2001 Gujarat earthquake. Former United States President Bill Clinton serves as the Honorary Chair, and has been involved in a number of AIF events; he was asked to get involved with the group by Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the wake of the earthquake.
AIF's emergency response
In cases of major national disasters in India, AIF has been involved in relief and rehabilitation efforts. It has undertaken three campaigns for relief and rehabilitation:
- In 2001, after the Gujarat earthquake.
- In 2004, after the tsunami
- In 2005, after the Kashmir earthquake
AIF takes a multi-phased approach to disaster relief: relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation. AIF's focus is the long-term rehabilitation of communities, and it dedicates most of its resources to this phase. In Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, AIF funded organizations in affected communities for up to three years following the earthquake so that NGO partners could identify long-term solutions to improve the lives of people affected by disaster.
AIF’s approach to grant making in the area of elementary education is premised on the following:
- It is the state’s responsibility to fulfill its constitutional mandate of free and compulsory education for all children between 6 and 14 years of age.
- The government has committed itself to the Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE) by 2010.
AIF’s education grants program, therefore, focuses on complementing and supplementing state efforts in meeting the above commitments. It does this by working with partner NGOs that:
- Focus on the “left-out children” and find ways to ensure that such children have access to quality education, and are able to successfully complete the primary and the elementary cycle. AIF works with the following categories of children who are excluded due to a complex combination of physical and social reasons:
- children of seasonal migrants
- deprived urban children
- children of sex workers
- children with disabilities
- children living with HIV/AIDS
In all these groups, the focus is on girl children, and children of ethnic/religious minorities.
- Work on improving the quality of education, and strengthening government schools.
AIF's focus is to enhance the livelihoods of poor and marginalized communities in rural and urban areas with a particular emphasis on promoting empowered and dignified livelihoods for women, youth, disabled and people living with HIV & AIDS. Broadly, the AIF livelihood strategy is organized around two sub-sectors—rural livelihoods and urban livelihoods--- with micro finance as a cross-cutting theme in both contexts.
Rural livelihood and microfinance
In rural areas, AIF concentrates on those geographies and constituencies that are characterized by being chronically drought-prone, undulating topography, an acute degradation of natural resources, semi-arid climatic conditions and afflicted by shortages of drinking water. In these places, even in years of adequate rainfall, crop distress is caused by the gaps in the rain at critical points of time in the crop growth cycle.
In such geographies, AIF’s emphasis is on improving poor communities, particularly women groups’, with access to and additional control over natural resources, mainly around water and forest. Alternative and sustainable uses of water and forest are promoted in enhancing livelihoods opportunities.
The link between water and development is recognized in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which set specific targets for water: By 2015, the population which has no sustainable access to safe water resources must be halved.
AIF partners’ efforts are largely directed towards community mobilization, forming women’s self-help groups, and strengthening community-based institutional arrangements. This will ensure the sustainability of these institutions, proactively resolve the competing resource-use conflicts, and bring women's perspectives to the top of the priority list. Particular attention is given to encourage dialogue to resolve contentious issues, allow women to make key decisions and choices, and lay dawn transparent resolution strategies and mechanisms to address conflict resolution. Systematically documenting community watershed works with an objective to learn from different situations - especially on conflict resolution and gender - and influencing the larger discourse and public policy, are of highest priority for AIF.
Urban livelihood and microfinance
In urban areas, AIF’s work priorities go beyond large metro cities, i.e. focus on medium and small towns from poorer states in northern and eastern India. Urban population growth is much higher than the rate of overall population growth, and currently an estimated 29% of India’s population live in urban areas.
AIF’s approach is to link the urban poor and migrants with various types of self-employment and wage employment opportunities that are emerging in an urban informal sector economy, by taking full advantage of a growing economy, mainly around the growing services, manufacturing and construction sectors. This is accomplished by AIF partners mainly by forming collectives, promoting saving and credit groups, exposure and training on employable skills, linking them up with markets, and promoting group enterprises. Forming groups or collectives of urban poor enable them to better negotiate their terms of engagement. Some of the urban poor who have been mobilized for livelihood enhancement are construction workers, rickshaw pullers, home managers, rag pickers and sweepers, etc.
Guided by national priorities, AIF is rolling out a new generation of programs under its Public Health portfolio, with a focus on building community investment and ownership. The goal of the program is to reduce mortality and the burden of disease in impoverished and under-served communities by promoting and protecting healthy lifestyles.
The twin emphasis will be on accelerating health literacy, particularly about preventable and infectious diseases, and strengthening health systems for delivery of quality services. AIF’s interventions will bring private sector resources and ingenuity to drive public health changes for saving lives, particularly those of women and children. Specifically, these investments will:
- Promote women’s rights and well being using a life cycle approach: reproductive health and maternal health will be central to AIF’s interventions;
- Protect child survival and well being using a service delivery model to assure quality care by family or community, and engender responsive and accountable public services.
To begin with, the program will be implemented in under-served districts of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, and in peri-urban and urban slums attached to Delhi and Mumbai. The program delivery will be chiefly through:
- Clinics with focused diagnostic and limited curative services to meet reproductive and maternal/child health needs, and referral connectivity with government hospitals, in high density under-served areas.
- Community radio stations spanning 5 northern belt states to accelerate health literacy and secure accountable public health services for illiterate migrants.
- Campaign to invest in the girl child to end fetal selection and son preference, and to protect survival and growth of girls.
- Link in with existing micro-savings and lending schemes to ascertain best in practice initiatives.
- Outreach to 5 districts in 2 states with high levels of infant/child mortality and 1 district with large numbers of infected and affected children.
- Integrated primary care: nutrition education & fortification sachets, immunization, and preventing water borne infections, and life cycle skills.
AIF’s “William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India,” supplements different programs by connecting young American and Indian professionals with Indian NGOs in India for ten-month fellowships to increase NGO capacities and build bridges between the US and India.
Building the Next Generation of Global Leaders
In its vision to build a lasting bridge between the United States and India, the Fellowship has expanded to incorporate young professional Indians to work side by side with fellows from the US, providing an exciting opportunity for the future leaders of both nations to strengthen ties in service to the underprivileged, leading to an ever-greater platform for collaborative learning and impacting our communities in deeper and more profound ways.
The Fellowship creates a community of socially engaged, global citizens who represent the leaders of tomorrow. Alumni of the program are leaders in international development, academia, journalism, business, entrepreneurship, public health, and other fields. Together they represent a collective force for sustaining a long-term agenda dedicated towards change in India.
AIF Clinton Fellowship offers the opportunity to capable candidates from India and the US to work on tangible and sustainable projects in the social and developmental sector in India. The Fellows are matched (on the basis of their interest and experience) with and placed at credible and high impact organizations in the social sector for a duration of 10 months where they will work on scalable and sustainable projects. The William J. Clinton Fellowship provides a prestigious platform to develop the skills, resources and the network needed to become the next generation of leaders with a social conscience.
- "Long Distance Philanthropy Brings Donors Closer to Home". Retrieved 2008-11-20.
- "AIF- Who We Are". Retrieved 2008-11-20.
- "Accelerating Change in India by Inspiring Entrepreneurial Philanthropy in the U.S". Retrieved 2013-11-11.
- "AIF Service Corps Fellowship". Archived from the original on 6 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-20.
-  Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- "AIF Emergency Response". Archived from the original on 2008-05-22. Retrieved 2008-11-20.
- AIF Annual Report 2007-2008
- Program (Fellowship placements across India): AIF's William J. Clinton Archived December 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.. idealist.org. Retrieved on 2013-07-18.