Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1994


This profile was prepared when Ashraf Patel was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1994.
The New Idea
Ashraf Patel's organization, Pravah-Smile, offers students a curriculum that, for the first time, looks beyond a prescribed syllabus and initiates youth to practical decision-making within a complex context of social problems. Her goal is to create a new generation of receptive, aware and responsible decision-makers. She says, "We feel that we must instill awareness and sensitivity towards societal issues in young individuals who will be the decision-makers and leaders of the future. Typically, these are the youth who have better opportunities today." She believes there is an urgent need to help train tomorrow's leaders to build institutions that will prevent social conflicts from taking place rather than perpetuating the cycle of ill-timed and ineffective responses after the occurrence of a conflict.
Ashraf is working with students who attend elite schools and colleges– the country's historical breeding ground for its leadership. As an alternative to moral values education courses, Ashraf's curriculum is flexible and interactive. It helps students to look inward, probe into their immediate and extended roles within a community, and then connect to a broader social context. Thereafter, through group activities such as games, group discussions, role play, residential workshops, theater and music, students help one another (with the assistance of moderators and resource people), to confront and analyze conditioned values, biases, stereotypes and social trends. These studies and exercises help them realize that social responsibility is a logical progression of self awareness. The students are also helped to acknowledge the need for responsible interaction with the community and the larger society.
The Pravah Smile curriculum has separate programs for schools and college students. While the basis structure is the same, the programs vary to match the intellectual and emotional maturity of different student groups. Participatory exercises and workshops that make up the curriculum have been created after much research on studies in human resource development and social work. They also draw upon the knowledge, skills and experience of resource persons who work in theater, the arts, and community activism. "The purpose," explains Ashraf, "is to provide students the opportunity to interact with people who question conventions, are committed to unconventional areas of work and have managed the compromises and the tensions."
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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