Arvind Ojha Desert Fellowship

Applications Closes

“मरुभूमि मरी हुई भूमि नहीं है। बहुत गहरा पानी लोगों को भी गहरा बनाता है।
मरुभूमि में प्रेम है, रंग हैं, जीवन है, जीवट के साथ।
रेत के समंदर में असीम सुनहरी संभावनाएं हैं। जरूरत है नौजवानों की जो अपनी जमीन, अपना देस छोड़ किन्हीं झूठे सपनों के पीछे भागने की बजाय अपनी धरा में बदलाव रचें।”

Arvind Ojha was an experimentalist choosing to dedicate his life to social changemaking through education, working with children, making institutions and keeping people and organisations together. Someone very forthcoming to dialogue and collaborate with youth. Perhaps something that kept him innovating with community for over 40 years in social sector.

He was an artist, storyteller and a social changemaker. In his early years he wrote extensively. Prose and poetry were his forms of storytelling. He used camera to capture his times and stories, principally focusing on desert.

Later years, he committed to working with communities of Thar desert in the remote places and contexts. His innovations and models have today evolved into institutions and reflect in the people who stand tall in their values and actions.

Arvind Ojha remained a creator and a dreamer working on smallest little things and taking on challenges in desert. He responded to each silence of nothingness with hundred ways of creative changemaking. Unafraid of loving and trusting, He keeps inspiring the people he touched.

This fellowship is a celebration of his values, ideas, experiments and work. It is an attempt to take forward his work and continue building the collectives he strived for.

Our Dream

To foster high potential youth towards sectoral excellence and social leadership having a special bond with deserts, and eventually growing into a committed network of changemakers. We hope to see this network of changemakers evolve into a Global Desert Partnership, engaging with a wider group of thinkers, innovators, entrepreneurs, changemakers, storytellers and explorers.


Deserts are bioregions enliven with innovation, resilience and faith. Arvind Ojha Desert Fellowship Programme derives these as core values deeply ingrained in the approach & design of the programme.

The fellowship programme will be an opportunity to dream; to be mentored by practitioners and theorists alike; to live in desert; to get knowledge & resource support  and, most importantly the space to make mistakes and learn therein.

It is visualized to be a unique one-year immersive experience of living and working with desert community. Principally based on the idea of ‘Plural’, the fellowship will enable opportunity for collective exploration, synthesis and action.

Participants will explore the bioregion – its land, life, living; synthesize the complex socio- economic-cultural linkages of each with other(s); and, design their unique interventions to respond to those in their medium and domain.The fellowship programme will follow mentor facilitated do-it-yourself design.

Key themes the Fellows will be exposed to and work on will include Pastoralism, Rainfed agriculture, Textiles & Handicrafts, Education, Environment action, Climate change. The medium for interventions by Fellows will be diverse, broadly categorized in two segments – (a) Institution building (b) Storytelling. Various aspects in both the segments will include engaging with community, dialogue with stakeholders, designing programme interventions, writing, reading, planning, reviewing and more planning.

Fellowship Segments For 2022

Institution Building

Solving Small But Solving Strong

One segment of the fellowship is ‘Institution building’, at the core of this fellowship is to look for future leaders who are not hesitant of taking grassroots challenges, tackling disruption due to ongoing and future climate change stressors and coming up with solutions that enable green livelihoods. Unleashing the potential and the spirit of micro-enterprises as the driver of long-term sustainability, the fellowship is looking for fellows who are willing to immerse themselves in challenges at the grassroots, articulate them as problems that are affecting the communities and come up with a bottom-up business solution that can bring a positive impact in a green, fair and transparent way. Selected fellows will be working with mentors and communities in identifying one specific challenge which they would like to solve for and over the period of one year, develop it from a challenge to a solution to a micro-enterprise, they will be supported by mentors and a set of experts in making it a sustainable and saleable micro enterprise and be part of our network of distributed micro-enterprises.


Asymmetry of Human Development

The most effective way of interpreting and communicating complexities is by the means of storytelling. Deserts are full of stories. Stories of people & possibilities; land & water; struggles & resilience; music & silence; of the trees, before and after; stories of development and beyond. All these and many more deserve to be told by storytellers whose passion flows over any obstacles of limitations. The storytellers who look at art and stories as the means for beyond!

One of the two segment for the fellowship programme this year is storytelling. We are looking for storytellers who very strongly desire to look at desert and human conditions through art, and, use their unique medium to tell a story. The medium used by the fellow could be cinema, writing, music or any other capturing the imagination and attention of reader or viewer. Fellow will work closely with a set of mentors to refine the theme, idea and the product,  justifying one full year of work by the fellow.

How The Fellowship Will Work

The Arvind Ojha Desert Fellows will operate out of a desert village in selected field area. They will get two months of time to acquaint themselves with the local culture and people. During this period, they will be mentored by range of experts and thought leaders. In the two months the Fellows will come up with their intervention ideas. Fellows will use the balance of their Fellowship duration to develop their idea into an institution or a story product. During the entire duration series of thematic dialogues, discourses, panel discussions, mentoring sessions will be organized.

  • Dreamers who are responsive and sensitive towards environment, community, diversity and culture
  • Who are creative and have the ability to think critically and analyze
  • Have a strong resolve to act upon grassroot issues, opportunities, challenges
  • Is a leader in thinking and work approach
  • Is guided by values and principles
  • Any individual between the age of 18-40
  • Can come from any region (rural/ semi-urban / urban), nationality or gender
  • Should have at least completed schooling education till 12th or equivalent
  • Should be nominated by someone who knows the nominee well. (Village Head, Institutional Head, Mentor, Teacher, Line Manager or any community elder).
  • Should be very adaptive to diversity and local culture & lifestyle
  • Should be committed to relocate to a village in the desert for 1 year
  • Should be willing to develop a vision and willing to work on a rigorous action plan during the course of fellowship
  • One year Fellowship to five high-potential individuals
  • Bespoke mentoring by domain experts and sector leaders throughout the programme
  • Fellow gets up to INR 5 lac per annum grant custom designed to finance the Fellow and the Fellowship project

The Selection Process

There will be a two-stage selection process for the fellowship. All the Fellowship applications received will be thoroughly screened by the longlist jury comprising of mentors. This screening will primarily be based on the nomination received for the applicants and the response given by the applicant in the application form. Additional virtual interviews may also be set up. All the long-listed candidates will be invited to participate in a 5-7-day ‘Maru camp’ at a location in Rajasthan. All costs for the Maru camp will be covered for the candidates selected to this stage. Final set of Fellows will be selected during the Maru camp, basis their performance and potential mapping by Final Jury.

Application Closes

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