The Youth Fellowship

Youth & Urban Knowledge production

The NGO has trained youngsters from marginalised sections to conduct study on topics that "affect their life".

Youth & Urban Knowledge production

Where youth power gets channelized through participatory action-
research for creation of
experience based knowledge that results in self and community


Partners: Sir Ratan Tata Trust; (2005-2013)
EdleGive Foundation (2015-2018)
Gunavati J. Kapoor Foundation (2014-2018)
India Development Service ( 2014-2017)
Sinha-Kikeri Foundation (2016- ongoing)
American Jewish World Service (2018-ongoing)

Youth Trained


Communities Accessed


Research Projects completed


Media Coverag

From Me to We:

Based upon Arjun Appadurai’s seminal essay “Right to Research” Youth Fellowship is PUKAR’s flagship project that engages with the youth living on the fringes of the communities, cities, and empowers them with knowledge of using Community Based Participatory Action Research (CBPAR) as tool for the development of their community as well as themselves. This project has successfully democratized research, has challenged and changed the profiles of researchers and the ownership of the knowledge by availing multiple epistemologies of knowledge production through research that is community based.

PUKAR has been working with marginalized community youth between the ages of 18 and 35 years since 2005. Through our engagement, PUKAR identified a general lack of agency and access to opportunity for them to assert their right to respond to urban development and social inequalities prevalent in their own communities. Deprivation of educational opportunities for some and the conventional mode of pedagogy and knowledge production for the others, often leaves the community youth with no room to contribute their experiences and insights to the larger knowledge pool. They lack self-esteem and negotiation skills. This project serves to fill this void. Believing strongly in the process of collective, this Group Based Research Process inculcates values like participation, inclusion, democratic functioning, respecting diversities of opinions, empathetic listening and critical thinking; values necessary for supporting an electoral, participatory, inclusive democracy.

Spread over 40-42 Sundays during one year, this project adopts a four-phase approach to engage with the community youth through experiential learning: Self & Team, Research Ethics and Research Instruments, Advocacy for and in the communities, Transformation of Self, Communities, and Governance.
In the first phase, the selected youth participate in orientation that emphasizes importance of team work, participation, inclusivity, equity, equality and justice.   Over the year they are also introduced to various social realities like caste, religion, ethnicity, gender, region, language and environment.

They explore a topic for undertaking research that is located within their communities and anchored in their lives. This non-textual, experiential subject invariably mirrors the socio-economic and political circumstances that they deal with every day, encompassing themes like education, culture, livelihood, social realities, gender and sex, environment and governance. This process provides deeper understanding of the self and society, and they learn to see themselves as part of  the problem as well as the solution. Over the next few months, the youth take baby steps into the world of research.  Through literature review they engage with existing literature to strengthen and challenge their own insights. They receive vigorous training in developing skills such as conducting interviews, survey, focus group discussions, writing skills, communications including listening skills, use of ICT for research and advocacy, RTI for collecting information on governance issue etc. Supported by facilitators, resource persons, practitioners, community leaders, documentaries, they also participate in workshops, debates, dialogues, and network with relevant organizations and domain experts to obtain a holistic view of the larger subject. The initial emphasis on pedagogic process of self-development and self-discovery lays a foundation for subsequent dialogue and discussion for the youth in their on-ground processes of community engagement, data collection, analysis and of intervention. Armed with their research data, together they design, advocate, disseminate and implement change in their communities. Throughout the yearly process of research, youth are continuously encouraged to raise questions, reflect upon experiences and document their own feelings as well as information, analyse what they have documented or collected as data and then try to reach a conclusion that will help them to take an independent informed decision, a fundamental ability for a sensitive, responsible citizenship.

With informed choices, the youth often become the harbingers of systemic change in their own neighbourhood. Their research document becomes the stepping-stone to create awareness and initiate participatory action within the community. Community engagement which forms the crux of this program tests their communications competence, negotiation dexterity, articulation processes, and leadership potential repeatedly. They must try to use multiple avenues to convey their opinions, an activity that boosts their creative spark. The knowledge they produce empowers them to challenge prevalent practices, and demand actions towards good governance, thus becoming the game changers in their own communities. All these activities enable them to negotiate the many contested spaces in the social, economic and political realms of their life, and in their communities, thus helping to skew the debates in their own favours. The research also helps to permanently document the city’s socio-cultural history that is otherwise in the process of unmaking.

Accreditation by Tata Institute of Social Science:

After having scrutinized the PUKAR’s Youth Fellowship Project for its course content, and outcomes and having witnessed the impacts on youth, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) decided to accredit the program from June 2017. This means the participating youth who complete certain credit hours and attendance and then they receive a certificate jointly given by TISS & PUKAR. For many of our marginalized youth this approval from a prestigious social science institute like TISS has huge advantage for their future careers.

Transformational Journey of YFP- June 2005- June 2018

This project was launched in June of 2005 under the auspice of Sir Ratan Tata Trust (SRTT) where the first batch of Youth Fellows consisted of 300 youth from communities across the cities. The team was made of 5 coordinators and one director. In conjunction with the academic year of various educational institutions of the city from where many of our youth fellows had arrived, this year was a year of experimentation, learnings, struggles, researches conducted, and transformations seen. All these triumphs and tribulations, gave us the energy, vision and inspired new ideas and new innovations as to how to steer the program on a better path.

At the insistence of our graduating fellows who were keen to continue their research deeper and broader, we added the second tier to the project, titling it “Advance Research Program”. Realizing the need to get everyone on the bandwagon of technology, a component of ICT training was added. When we realized the importance of Governance as a subject of research, we felt the necessity to add “RTI- Right to Information” as a part of training. Our resource persons were kind and willing, most of them coming from academic sectors like TISS, University of Mumbai etc. also journalists, artists, practitioners, CSO partners and many other who willing joins us and helped us in this journey.

Support after SRTT Funding:

After SRTT funding was over after 9 years, various other partners joined this unique and innovative project and supported it. They included Gunvati J Kapoor Foundation, UNDP and Sekhsaria Foundation, EdleGive Foundation, India Development Service (IDS)Chicago, Sinha Kikeri Foundation (Chicago).
From 2005-2018 the project has facilitated and trained more than 4000 Barefoot Researchers from 400 communities scattered across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region that spans more than 400 Sq KMs. Many of our Barefoot Researchers have joined other civil society organization, other research institutes and many have persuaded their post graduate studies in national and international universities. Other have started their own organizations and helping change people’s lives in their own communities. Many have become part of PUKAR, finding an upward mobility within the organisation and becoming leaders in their own right. We find this process very heartening. These are the real success stories and impacts of the distinctive YFP.

Special Program for Educational Institutions:

The transformation capacity of this program has been recognized by many educational institutions of the city, requesting us to emulate this program for their students in limited capacities. Honouring their request the YF Team has been conducting short versions of this project in BMN College of Home science where this has become a credited curricular inclusion. More institutions are in the process of getting permissions from UGC for accreditation of this project.

International Interests

Some of the western universities that have received exposure to this program through their faculty and students are also keen to emulate this program in their universities and few such attempts are ongoing. Kabul…