I lead GRAVIS in India, a not-for-profit organization that works for integrated for rural development in the Thar Desert region. GRAVIS works in the spheres of healthcare, water security, agriculture and animal husbandry, education and research and advocacy. We reach out to about 1.3 million people with our interventions and have facilitated the formation of over 3,400 Community Based Organizations (CBOs).

In 2014, I applied for the American Express Leadership Academy. The main reason for applying was that I wanted to enrich my thinking by being in a leadership programme that provides me the pause, creates reflective opportunities and inspires me with the knowledge and connectivity both with trainers and with a cohort.

At that time, I thought I was trying to do too many things and a focused approach in my expansion strategy was lacking. Leadership, in my views, is about team building, delegating responsibilities and nurturing an organization with its core values. I had felt that I was making mixed progress on my leadership expectations and needed to look at a clearer path.

The programme turned out to be a very fruitful experience. I would like to highlight three key gains:

  1. The knowledge that I received on the professional front was very useful and relevant to my work
  2. The programme had numerous inspiring moments within the sessions and during the site visits to the project that help in igniting new ideas
  3. The connectivity with the trainers and with the cohort was a very positive and something that has continued over the years.

I have applied and used all the knowledge gained, all the re-envisioning ideas, learning and insights from the Academy to expand the work that GRAVIS does. Constant connectivity with the group helps, and I was able to use that advantage positively. Since 2014, GRAVIS has significantly expanded its programmes and its outreach. It has formulated several new partnerships, incepted many new projects and reached a much larger number of people in need.

The process of learning and evolution continues and my journey of supporting communities in need goes on. There is more to come and I look forward to the future. “Live as if you are going to die tomorrow but learn as if you are going to live forever”, are wise words from Gandhi that inspire me.

I am grateful to Common Purpose for the Academy experience it provided me as well as for its ongoing connectivity and support.