On 20th September 2022, Sauramandala foundation in partnership with PRIME Meghalaya (Government of Meghalaya) started its first batch of PRIME Fellows and Associates as part of the PRIME Sauramandala Rural Entrepreneurship Fellowship (PSREF).
The program is a rural entrepreneurship initiative by the Planning Department, Government of Meghalaya in collaboration with the Sauramandala Foundation.
The fellowship has been codesigned with the aim of contributing to developing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the state of Meghalaya. In addition, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for young changemakers to contribute to the development of underdeveloped rural areas actively.
For it first batch (2022-23), 8 fellows (individuals from outside Meghalaya) and 16 associates (individuals from any parts of Meghalaya) have joined. While fellows bring an outside perspective, associates bring an understanding of local culture, language and systems. 8 field units of 1 fellow and 2 associates were formed and deployed across 8 blocks from 8 districts of Meghalaya, selected under the program for its first year.
The PRIME Associates from Meghalaya will support the PRIME Fellows in understanding the local culture, dynamics and insights. Fellows and Associates will be engaged full-time for the duration of the fellowship. The teams will identify the most promising rural (nano) entrepreneurs in the respective blocks and villages, understand their challenges and handhold them during their entire entrepreneurial journey, providing inputs across various aspects- value chain development, machinery, branding & packaging, frugal innovation etc.
The program began with a 15-day orientation cum training for the youth from 5th September 2022. Over the next 2 weeks, the fellows and associates went through a series of sessions, workshops, interactions and activities designed to develop soft and hard skills to support them during their work with the rural entrepreneurs.
The fellows and associates interacted with many dignitaries such as Ms Isawanada Laloo, IAS, Deputy Commissioner, East Khasi Hills District, Meghalaya, Mr Augustus Suting, DPDM, MBDA, Dr Harish Hande, Founder, SELCO, Dr Sankar Datta and many more.
While speaking with our fellows and associates, Ms Laloo said,
In the next 10-15 years, we will need to accommodate everyone coming out of our education system, skilled youth, and provide them with jobs and create opportunities for them. Entrepreneurship is the way forward for this.
Dr Harish Hande also shared learnings from his own entrepreneurial journey. He said,
Give options to the youth, open up the minds of people, create networks and find out what the entrepreneur aspires to be. Smaller things like language have limited many entrepreneurs and enterprises. While many have innovative ideas, not being able to present them appealingly, limits many of these rural entrepreneurs. This is where we as a country lose out. As an external person, we can be that bridge.
The were many sessions and activities on building perspectives on Meghalaya, developing an understanding of state and central government schemes, building perspectives on Livelihoods and Entrepreneurship, Rural Mapping Tools, Human Centred Design Thinking, Communication, Project Design & Planning and the rural simulation game Naranpur Express which the youth were part of, to mention a few.
Over the course of their fellowship journey, the fellows and associates will carry this learning to the rural entrepreneurs from the remotest part of the state. The blocks that will be covered by the first batch of PRIME Fellows and Associates are- Laitkroh (East Khasi Hills), Mawkyrwat (Southwest Khasi Hills), Umling (Ri Bhoi), Laskein (West Jaintia Hills), Khliehriat (East Jaintia Hills), Samanda (East Garo Hills), Rongram (West Garo Hills) and Baghmara (South Garo Hills)
Our group was dynamic and diverse. Program team members and Fellows & Associates aligned themselves through the orientation program. Developing skills was important, but developing a mindset and new perspectives were the focus of the program. We want our fellows and associates to impart the same learning to rural entrepreneurs.
shares Parij Borgohain, Program Manager at Sauramandala Foundation.