A 1931 ‘Histomap’ by John B. Sparks has gained popularity recently. It’s an ambitious attempt at portraying the relative power of different civilizations over a 4000-year period of human history. Not surprisingly, India is one of the only two civilizations that have continued to exist throughout this period, the other being China.
The idea of nation-building and civilizations started to fascinate me during my college days. I was a student at IIT Delhi from 2010 to 2014. Those were exciting times to be in college and be in India, that too in Delhi. Anna Hazare’s movement had gained national prominence, Modi had announced his national campaign, Arvind Kejriwal had launched a political party. I became an active volunteer in the ‘India Against Corruption’ movement for the Jan Lokpal Bill. Once, I and some friends had organized a rally starting at our campus gate and were arrested the moment we stepped out of the campus.
The churn that was happening nationally was not limited to the Jan Lokpal bill. Particularly from a youth perspective, it was evident that young people had a desire to play a role in nation-building. When I was graduating from college, I along with my friends and mentors started the Rashtram School of Public Leadership (erstwhile Vision India Foundation) so that we could identify, support, and prepare such youth to become future public leaders. We received a heartening response from youth, political leaders, financial supporters, partners, social workers, academics, and more. More than 1600 youth have undertaken our programs out of which 26% say it helped them make a career shift towards a development-oriented career.
What enabled this nation-wide fervor to explore new careers and contribute to society? I think that for the first time in India, in a very long period of history, has a generation been endowed with sufficient resources to not be bothered too much about making both ends meet. This generation can afford to take-up financially less rewarding careers, and fortunately, many of them are making this choice. Our role as an institution is to ensure that we provide the right philosophical grounding, peer network, strategic vision, and practical training for our youth to achieve their dreams.
India’s moment doesn’t rely only on its demographic dividend and democratic values. There is a civilizational reawakening that has inspired people to tap into our spiritual wisdom while designing solutions to modern-day problems. There is a growing universal eagerness to look at indigenous wisdom when we think of prevalent problems of climate change, mental wellbeing, public health, socio-emotional life, and so on.
Rashtram School of Public Leadership therefore pioneered a model of public leadership education through an amalgamation of philosophy, culture, and meta-skills. When we say ‘public leadership’, we are nurturing a combination of political, social, and thought leaders. We believe that these areas have a direct impact on the progress of any nation. A coherence of how we think about these three areas, and a coherence between the leaders in these areas, can catalyze our journey as a strong and prosperous nation.
The Rashtram school is housed within a new university that I fortunately had the opportunity to start as the co-founder and CEO. Rishihood University in Haryana is a public-spirited university founded by a group of philanthropists, educators, public leaders, medical professionals, and entrepreneurs. Suresh Prabhu, an eminent political leader and chartered accountant in India, is the founder and chancellor. The university broadens the underlying vision that we had at Rashtram and takes it to other academic areas. We have built an ‘impact ecosystem’ that encourages our students and faculty to use for social impact. In this way, the academic training and research is not linked to careers alone, but becomes an integral part of societal development. The academic areas at Rishihood include entrepreneurship, healthcare, education, and creativity.
The idea of generating new knowledge and equipping the next generation of leaders is a powerful combination for us. That is what motivated us to choose ‘institution-building’ as our method for social change. If a nation’s life is measured in centuries, an institution’s life is measured in decades. Out of the several meaningful ways to bring about a change, we feel institutional change is long-lasting and currently lacking in India’s phase of development. We find traces of this in Kautilya’s approach at Takshashila more than 2000 years ago, again in Emile Boutmy’s work to establish Sciences Po in France 150 years ago, and recently by Matsushita, the founder of Panasonic, in Japan 40 years ago. We believe India is ready to step up in the global arena. Our ideas and our people are now gearing up to provide global leadership. We hope to make a significant contribution to this possibility.
As we prepare the next generation of public leaders, we invite Indians globally to contribute to this mission. Please see more about our work and ways of contributing here.
Sahil Aggarwal is the co-founder of Rashtram School of Public Leadership and Rishihood University. He is an alumnus of IIT Delhi.