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Youth are not only leaders of tomorrow but they are also partners of today. While many young activists, artists, innovators have been trying to change things in the world through expressions in their own spheres, their participation in politics remains limited. FLAME alumna Hemakshi Meghani has set out to change that with Indian School of Democracy (ISD), which she co-founded in 2018. Beginning her stint in the development sector with Teach For India to pursuing her Masters in Public Policy at Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, and Social Impact role with The Boston Consulting Group, Hemakshi has remained committed to her passion and built her skills to be a changemaker in the development sector. We talked to her about her journey, dream project ISD and her vision for youth in the country.

With the goal of redefining public leadership, Indian School of Democracy was set up to nurture principled political leaders with moral courage and imagination. The non-partisan organization believes in making democracy work for every citizen and organizes various programs to energize and activate youth to participate in politics. “It’s not just about equipping them with skills but also giving them a community of people that they can work with. We organize short term and long term programs like She Represents, The Good Politician, and Democracy Express, for aspiring grassroots political leaders. We strive to build a positive narrative around politics, and equip people with skills needed to be principled political leaders. We select young leaders from rural and urban areas of the country, with a focus on gender, class and caste inclusion in our cohort to make it inclusive and truly representative of India. Our programs offer participants insights into day to day decisions, ethical dilemmas political leaders face and skills to navigate the political system,” says Hemakshi, her passion for the project evident in her voice.

The Class of 2011 student Majored in Marketing while choosing Literary and Cultural Studies as her Minor. Few years later she joined the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) as a World Bank Graduate Scholar. In her impactful career journey, Hemakshi has been a part of two start-ups in education and socio-political consulting. But it was her stint with Teach For India right after her time at FLAME, which set her on the path of work in the development sector. “It was the early years of the program and there were few platforms that helped people get into the development sector then. Today there are 80+ such fellowship programs but none of them really function in the political space. That’s how ISD came about. My experience working with the government as a policy analyst, training in public policy and leadership development came handy,” she reminisces.

“FLAME taught me to dream, gave me the ability to do audacious things, think out of the box, connect the dots and not look at the world in silos. I think entrepreneurship is about all these things,” adds Hemakshi as she goes further down the memory lane.  She also talks about the importance of listening to oneself, understanding our talents and passions rather than focusing on what the society wants us to do.

To aspirants driven by the desire to bring about a change she says, “Pick something that connects you to people you want to work with. Don't be afraid to just throw yourself into the pool; you'll learn how to swim. Don't be too careful; this is a golden time to take risks.” It’s something Hemakshi has consistently done with her strong belief in bottom-up social reform and is inspiring others to walk with her on the journey.