Monday, 2 December 2013

Growth, gossip and good company: the Delhi Alumni reunion

By IDS Director Lawrence Haddad

The Delhi alumni reunion last week was a resounding success: over 60 alumni from the 1980's to 2013. They came from far and wide with some flying in, some taking 5 hour train rides, and others driving 4 hours to get to the meeting. I was joined by Anu Joshi, a Research Fellow and the new leader of the Governance team at IDS, Jaideep Gupte, a Research Fellow in the Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction Team and Anna Shepherd our Head of Partnerships and Fundraising.  

The reunion was held shortly after the policy panel, "Economic Growth in India: For What and For Whom?" (see my Development Horizons blog), so we were still buzzing about that and were joined by two of the panelists, Santosh Mehrotra and Biraj Patnaik.  

The reunion meeting featured (very) short speeches by me on:

1.  Recent IDS work on tax, malnutrition and the new Development Goals.

2.  The recent work we have done on the building up the alumni network, with the appointment of over 30 alumni ambassadors 

3. The new graduate scholarship fund with 1 to 1 matching from IDS.  

We then had short speeches from Rajesh Tandon (IDS Trustee and President of PRIA), alum Santhosh Mathew, and alumni ambassadors Ranjani Murthy, and Shantanu Gupta. These speeches were really touching, with alumni telling us about their own journey to IDS and beyond, making the point about how important scholarships were to set them on their way. It was also wonderful to hear about how the IDS brand helps to open doors to interesting new opportunities. It was fascinating to hear about what everyone is doing, working in the Government of India, Indian universities, small Indian charities, national development banks, 3ie, ABD, UNICEF, UN WOMEN, DFID India, JPAL India, the YUVA Foundation and more. 

The 2014 election was very much on people's mind (one of the participants told me that one sign of the slowdown in government activity in advance of the election was the fact that he knew 3 government colleagues who were writing books!) There was discussion of Narendra Modi's strong showing in the Prime Ministerial polls. Modi is the Chief Minister from Gujurat. Gujurat's economic performance, at least measured in GDP/capita, has been very good over the past 5 years, driven primarily by growth and private-entrepreneurship. His economic record is hitting a nerve because many think the state driven distribution model of states such as Kerala only serve to increase the opportunities for corruption.  

In terms of IDS, the alumni had lots of good ideas about how we could create new opportunities for students via internships and how we should highlight student's IDS research assistant opportunities much more strongly in our promotional Masters material. Several of our alumni made donations to the scholarship fund-donations that will be matched by IDS. We are very grateful for their generosity and to Shantanu and Ranjani for their commitment to being Ambassadors. 

All in all a good mix of politics, gossip and networking!

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