Fellow Since 1998
Savitri Godirao College of Social Work
This profile was prepared when Avinash Shirke was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Avinash Shirke has established a college, Savitri Jorirao Samajkarya Mahavidyalaya (SJSM), based in part on the idea that hands-on field experience in rural social work is an effective way both to train students and to provide labor and resources for innovative reformers in the region. The college prepares students to mobilize local resources and build grass-roots participation rather than relying on outside resources. His curriculum prepares young social workers for the difficulties of field work, and revises the antiquated, bureaucratic conceptions of social work that prevail in most colleges throughout the country. Avinash's college functions as a base from which he can spread his new educational program throughout the state of Maharashtra. Avinash has organized training sessions for instructors at other social work colleges throughout the state, and has successfully recruited the support of other prestigious social work institutes. Ultimately, Avinash aims to train a new generation of reformers, and to stall the migration of trained social workers from villages to city or town-based organizations. These workers often come from remote areas where no developmental infrastructure exists – areas that truly need their skill and experiences – and move to the cities because their education gives them no training in hands-on, rural development.In a five-year time span, Avinash plans to create a network of state-wide and then national allies who will give input, refine the model, and then disseminate it in their regions. Avinash will involve the entire network in an ongoing, introspective debate on the relevance of social work education and its directions for the future.