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Philanthropy in India is rapidly gaining momentum, yet relevant research remains scarce. Therefore, the Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy (CSIP) at Ashoka University is launching a research fellowship aimed at building this field, strengthening research capacity, and creating high quality, rigorous outputs.


Beginning late October 2020, a cohort of 10 fellows will spend 9 months conducting research on a topic related to Indian philanthropy and giving trends. The fellows are expected to undertake primary research, attend monthly calls, and participate in three online workshops to develop their skills in background research, literature review, data collection methods, analysis and writing.


This 2020-2021 Research Fellowship will be conducted digitally, with all primary research undertaken via computer, tablet, or phone. At the end of the fellowship, fellows are expected to produce an 8,000-word high-quality working paper to be published on CSIP’s website.


Fellowship stipend: INR 1,00,000/month per fellowship.

Research Areas

The broad areas of research for this year are as follows:


What does philanthropy in India look like?

  • How do we define philanthropy in India?
  • What kind of philanthropy exists in India? Why does it look the way it looks? What are drivers of philanthropy and giving in India?
  • What does the philanthropy and giving landscape look like outside of the main metros? Do practices differ across geographies, and urban and rural locations?
  • How is philanthropy diversifying out of traditional sectors towards topics such as climate change, scientific research and mental health?
  • Does philanthropy fund movements, and if so, how? Do we see philanthropists joining forces to fund bigger causes?
  • How do different civil society organisations approach philanthropy in India? What are their fundraising strategies?
  • What has been the impact of COVID-19 on the philanthropy ecosystem in India?


What do different kinds of giving look like in India?

  • What does individual giving look like? Who gives, for what, how and why?
  • What does community-based giving and volunteering look like in different communities?
  • How do family offices give?
  • What does diaspora giving look like in India? – see specific questions
  • What are practices associated with giving in kind?
  • Non-formal giving (not giving to an institution but to a family member, employee or similar)
  • How do people decide how much to give – norms on level of giving. Is it about who asks?
  • How does giving differ in India compared to other countries? What are specific incentives and traits that affect the way giving takes place in India compared to other countries?
  • How does the diaspora give in India? What are different drivers of giving among the Indian diaspora? Does diaspora giving to India differ to how diaspora give elsewhere?


Research during the first year of the Fellowship will have to be undertaken digitally and any methodology should assume that there will be no face-to-face fieldwork.


Candidates must be based full-time in India, demonstrate an interest and relevant background in philanthropy, have the capacity to undertake rigorous research during the fellowship period, and be able to produce a working paper of publishable quality (with help from workshops and support).


For the 2020-2021 Research Fellowship, we seek two types of fellows: 1) individual researchers; 2) individuals that work with small grassroots nonprofit organisations in India, who can spend half of their time on the research project. For the second type of fellow, a fellowship may be shared between two or three individuals in a small organisation.


Fellows will be selected based on the strength of their research proposal, relevant background and drive of the individual, ability to commit to the fellowship, and ability to produce the desired output. Research proposals will be evaluated based on: uniqueness of the proposed topic; rigorous and sound methodology; feasibility of research project; coherent and well thought through proposal; and relevance to the research topics highlighted.


Application Process

Interested candidates should submit the following by September 10, 2020:


  • One-page proposal for your research idea
  • CV
  • One-page cover letter detailing your interest in and qualifications for the fellowship.
  • A sample of your written work (such as a blog post, paper, article or report)


Language: For this year’s fellowship, English will be used.


Shortlisted candidates will be requested to submit a more detailed proposal together with three references. Only complete applications will be considered. Fellows will be selected by a jury of experts. The jury’s decisions will be final.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can undergraduate or masters students apply?

No. The individual fellowship is for individuals with several years of relevant professional research experience.


Can a group of individuals apply for a fellowship?

No, we accept only individual fellowships. The only exception is if you and a colleague already work at a grassroots-based small nonprofit and wish to apply as a group.


Who is eligible to apply as a group working for an NGO?

Only staff already working with small grassroots nonprofit organisations are eligible to apply for a shared fellowship as part of that nonprofit. Staff should have several years of working experience.


Can individuals from multiple NGOs apply together?

No. You either apply as an individual for an individual fellowship or as a member of staff of a small grassroots nonprofit organisation.


Can I apply if I already have a job or am faculty / doctoral student /post-doc?

You may apply provided that you can make at least 60% of your time available during the workweek for working on the project AND your employer/university provides us with a NOC before taking up the fellowship. (The NOC is not required at this stage).


Will you respond to all applicants that have applied?

No. Unfortunately, due to the expected large number of applications, we will only respond to successful applicants that go through to the second round.


Will you let me know if my application is not complete?

No, we will only consider completed applications and will not let you know if your application has not been completed. Please read the instructions carefully. Please also note that you need to put “Research Fellowship Application” as the subject line for your application. If you don’t, we cannot guarantee that we will see, or consider your application.


Will you cover research costs on top of the monthly stipend?

There is some scope for covering specific additional research costs. However, these will be decided on a case by case basis, and primarily for research infrastructure. We will not entertain additional funding for research assistants, for example.


Should my proposed research topic cover both philanthropy and giving?

No. The list of themes is a guide as to what areas that are of interest to us this particular year, so you don’t need to cover all themes. Pick one from the list that you would like to work on.


I have an idea that is not included in the of relevant list themes – can I submit it instead?

The shortlisted topics were drawn up after careful consideration and align with our priorities this year. It is unlikely that a topic that does not closely link to the list of themes, will align as well with our priorities.


Do you have an upper or lower age limit?

No, we don’t.


Can I live anywhere in the world?

No, you need to live full-time in India and have the right to work in India.


Are the workshops optional?

No, the workshops will be mandatory.


Can you complete the research fellowship in a shorter period of time?

No, we expect fellows to be part of the fellowship for the full duration.


What will I get at the end of the fellowship?

You will get a certificate from CSIP and your working paper will be published on our website.


Will you actually respond to all email queries?

We will respond to all queries that have “Research Fellowship Query” in the subject line. We cannot guarantee that we will see and respond to other messages.


How much is the fellowship amount?

The stipend will be INR 1 lakh per month per fellowship, for both individual and group fellowships. When two or three persons share a fellowship they also share the INR 1 lakh stipend.