The Optimist Citizen
Yashveer Singh

A village boy’s journey from a remote village school to University of Oxford


Story of Yashveer Singh  – Country head of Ashoka Youth Venture who started his life from a remote village school in Pilani

“Dreams are not that you see in sleep, Dreams are those that do not let you sleep”, these famous words from the People’s President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, resonate in every child’s ears. But only few understand what the words mean. A small village 15 kms away from Pilani Rajasthan, had farming as the only means of livelihood. Some of them from the next generation took other professions. Yashveer’s father took to sports, and became a state level volleyball player. But his mother being a school teacher, they felt that getting a good education was of prime importance for their son. Thus after finishing primary school, his father admitted him to the prestigious Birla School in Pilani. Here watching students in BITS studying, playing, and singing, innocent Yashveer felt that this was the place that can change his entire world. After his 12th he cleared BITSAT and chose to study Economics at BITS.

In the 2nd Year, as his hostel representative, he started going to the Student Union meetings and understood the scope of student level policy making. He understood how decisions had their implications on the student population, and developed a conscious decision making ability in himself. He learnt planning, strategising and management while organising Fests and events in college.
In 3rd Year getting elected as the first North Indian President in 34 years, became a turning point in his life. Inspired by APJ Abdul Kalam’s book ‘Vision 2020’ he designed the BITS PIlani Vision 2020 Charter. In the process he interacted with many alumni and Professors, and created a name for himself, attracting good media attention too. This experience helped him think beyond his capabilities, and made him understand the importance of inclusive thinking.

Not able to decide what to do next, he joined Infosys, but left it soon and came back to Pilani. There, after discussing with the Vice Chancellor of BITS Pilani, he decided to design a vocational training centre for the rural youth from the neighbouring areas. After series of conferences, interaction and approaches for funding, his project got stuck in a rut of inactivity. A senior suggested that since there was no formal training, on how to become a social entrepreneur, a framework was needed that can train the youth in this area. Along with 2 others in 2009, Yashveer started a Not for profit organization called ‘National Social Entrepreneurship Forum’. The first chapter started in BITS Pilani. By 2013 they had started chapters in around 42 universities and colleges, and received great response all over.

With unlimited dreams and to improve his skillets, he decided to go to a B-School. His love for entrepreneurship got him selected to SAID Business School at Oxford, UK. But even here, he wanted to do something different. After completing his MBA, he proposed a Fellowship programme for Social Entrepreneurs to the Director. Impressed by his proposal, SAID Business School started the Fellowship programme, and Yashveer became the first Fellow. Coinciding with the visit of Gram Vikas’s Head (Mr.Joe Madiath) to Oxford for a talk, Yashveer joined Gram Vikas as SAID Fellow and Head of strategy for 1 year. Curious to understand what model they were utilizing to transform villages, the 1 year experience was extremely enriching. Here seeing how people dedicated 30 years of their life for a single cause motivated him immensely (eye opening), and he realised that money was not the only motivator for people.

With both knowledge and experience to back him, he decided to make everyone a Changemaker. Resonating with the mission of ‘Ashoka Innovators for the Public’, he joined them as Country Head for Ashoka Youth Venture program in May 2015, where he is working on how to initiate the youth to think and act for change.
The journey from a Village school to Oxford, and then heading the Youth Venture program of World’s largest social entrepreneurship organisation, could not have happened without a dream. And it was a Dream that Yashveer did not see in sleep, it was a Dream that did not let him sleep.


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