Impact Fellowship — The Origin Story

The Forbes Ignite Impact Fellowship Program is a four-month-long program that aims to bring intellectually curious changemakers together to use their diverse skills, knowledge, and experiences to create executable solutions to systemic problems. Together, we will create a real and lasting impact.

As you will see, this statement defining the Fellowship Program highlights all the “relevant” words you might read on any and every website that is change focused. So you might think — “well this is something I’ve read so many times before” and you might be right, but fortunately, at Forbes Ignite, we believe not only in action over discussion but also in getting the right people involved in the conversations. That means we ensure that literally each word we’re putting out there not only comes from real-world experience and research but is also linked to plans and achievable goals.

The very idea of the ‘Impact Fellowship Program’ was born out of the involvement of relevant niche experts from around the world, each with unique backgrounds and achievements. The final construct of the program was a result of numerous primary interviews, ethnographic research sessions, 6 months of brainstorming and finally, the merger of two of our partner initiatives — the Future of Work and Reimagining Mentorship, which allowed us to bring together the moving parts.

So, now, only a few days away from launching our first (of many) Impact Fellowship Programs, the focus of which is Healthcare & AI, we would like to share our origin story.

The Backstories

Let’s go back to early 2020, when two of our partners — Abhinav & Gauri, got introduced to Forbes Ignite and started working on their independent initiatives

Abhinav Singhal

Abhinav was leading our initiative on the Future of Work for the Middle East. Why the Middle East? Because we believe that like most global economies the Middle East too, is on the verge of a massive digital disruption. And while several countries-including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Qatar-are leading the digital consumer charge, with high smartphone adoption rates and social media use, digitisation has not washed over the region evenly. Businesses and governments alike have struggled to adapt. The region has a chance to transform itself into a leading digital powerhouse and with that, benefit from significant economic prosperity. However, to achieve this, it needs to bring stakeholders across governments, businesses and educational institutes together to focus on developing the region’s talent and addressing several structural challenges across the ecosystem. Our discussions with some of the decision makers in the region revealed these following issues:

  • Over-reliance on foreign expertise and talent without true knowledge transfer
  • Limited focus on applied research especially in partnership with corporates
  • A lack of suitable candidates in ME with required skills (esp. Digital)
  • Lot of fragmented initiatives and at times over-projection by the state and public sector
  • Women especially with limited STEM education opportunities

So, Abhinav’s task was how might we develop future-ready skills in high potential candidates in the Middle East by providing an immersive and unparalleled practical learning experience.

Meanwhile thousands of miles away, Gauri was working on another initiative…

Gauri Angrish Photo
Gauri Angrish

Gauri was leading our work around reimagining mentorship and the flow of knowledge, especially at that crucial time in one’s career when they might be interested in pivoting away from their core area of competence and exploring different professional opportunities. Why? Because the business world is changing rapidly. Technological evolution,new thought processes and changing consumer habits are developing new industries to be a part of and forever changing existing roles where professionals can shine. All of this means that the traditional journey may not be broadly applicable anymore. Additionally, the well practiced mentor-mentee model appears redundant. Given the moving goal posts and the constant evolution of the marketplace, an individual can no longer lean on the experiences of a mentor’s past. Simply said, a mentor’s experience may not be relevant and they should definitely not be the only resource to guide an individual on their professional journeys.

With this thought process, backed by research and internal discussions, the Forbes Ignite team reached out to niche experts and relevant individuals across geographies, cultures, work streams, age and gender, to conduct primary interviews and stakeholder analysis. These interactions revealed a lot of intelligent insights and even actions one can take to make this process or experience more rewarding for everyone involved. But what was most interesting was that the insights and suggestions were pretty much common across all the unique individuals who were a part of this research. Some of the highlights were as follows:

  • Need for a more immersive experience of learning and being a part of actual work/ projects, while keeping one’s day job
  • Forging deeper relationships as opposed to transactional meetings or “speed” mentor programs that are the trend these days
  • The need for various types of mentors in one’s journey, those who empathise with one’s position or thought process and can guide by drawing from their own real experiences.
  • Need for challenging oneself by working on new ideas, using new and disruptive methodologies and working with peers from across the globe with similar experiences
  • The importance of inclusion and diversity in all its various forms including, but not limited to, cultural, cognitive, educational, geographical, etc. This, we learnt, will help increase one’s exposure and expand the thought processes or even possibilities especially when working on medium to long term projects together.

So Gauri’s task was to reimagine an experience that would help optimise an individual’s professional journey and be inclusive, allowing for cross pollination of knowledge across diverse factors.

The Magic Potion / Spider Bite / Ironman Suit

…in other words — what gave this story its true power?

The realisation that if these two initiatives are merged, together they can create a truly unparalleled learning experience for everyone involved. Thus the Impact Fellowship Program was born — An experience which will not only help individuals to learn and apply future ready skills but also spark personal exploration and reflection and redefine the flow of knowledge along with the mentor-mentee construct.

The Superpower

It all sounded great, but as you know we at Forbes Ignite are biased for action. So we started planning a pilot of this concept to see it in action and also collect valuable feedback which will help us firm up this new model of learning and application for future participants.

One of the critical design elements of this pilot was the scope — and after a lot of deliberation we decided to restrict it to applications of AI in Healthcare. As we were starting with a focus on the Middle East, we strongly felt that this is one of the most underrated opportunities in the region which can affect the lives of millions of people. Especially with COVID-19, we realised that humanity cannot afford its healthcare system to be immobilized by another pandemic like situation.. Over the last decade there has been an explosion in the availability of healthcare data, including genomics, medical records, information from monitoring devices and wearable technologies. If we can combine this with the advances in software and hardware we have a unique possibility to harness this data in new and powerful ways. We can now diagnose disease earlier with greater accuracy, provide customized and more effective treatment to all remotely and ensure higher adherence to prescriptions, improving the patient care journey as a whole

With the dynamism of the healthcare industry over the last decade, the amazing advances technology has made and most importantly the caliber and experience of the 31 finalists we have selected, we are extremely excited to see our conversations come to life and very hopeful about the positively charged disruptive solutions we can bring to life with the Forbes Ignite Impact fellowship Program.

Ultimately all it takes is two flints to come together for a moment and the fire is Ignited!

Originally published at on January 26, 2021.




Forbes Ignite is a coalition of intellectually curious changemakers redefining success together.

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Forbes Ignite is a coalition of intellectually curious changemakers redefining success together.

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