The economies of China and India have grown spectacularly in the last decade. Strong middle classes in both countries are emerging, but millions still live in extreme poverty in urban and rural areas. In response to these pressing issues, ICI appointed a highly dynamic second group of ICI fellows in 2008 to explore the theme of Prosperity and Inequality.
Between 2008 and 2010, ICI Fellows attended four intensive residencies and conferences in New York, India, and China. Participants from government sectors, academic institutes, businesses, non-governmental organizations, and media and arts groups developed highly collaborative projects that included working papers, policy briefs, artistic productions, public exhibitions, and curriculum designs. These projects brought them into the public domain and broadened the impact of the program far beyond scholarly circles.
From March 14–28, 2008, the second cohort convened for residency in New York, where ICI’s first group of fellows were concurrently completing and presenting their work. ICI brought together the two groups with a view toward establishing intellectual continuity and building momentum for the next phase of innovative scholarship. Continuity and Exchange: New York Residency presented various formal and informal opportunities for the two full fellowship teams to interact, share their expertise, and develop a framework for research and collaboration for the next two years and beyond. Using the 2006 inaugural Fellows Residency as a model, the intensive two-week session consisted of roundtable discussions, field visits, a retreat, and an international conference.
The centerpiece of the 2008 New York residency, Prosperity and Inequality: Debates in India and China, marked the beginning of two years of trilateral conversations among the 2008–10 ICI Fellows. The March 27–28 conference juxtaposed issues in India and China such as urbanization and wealth-formation; the management of risk associated with rapid growth in agrarian societies; the implementation of alterative designs for future development; and how to combine the virtues of socialism and capitalism without sacrificing the virtues of democracy and grassroots activism. Kemal Derviş, then head of the United Nations Development Programme and Chair of the UN Development Group, delivered the keynote address. Derviş discussed the need for economic growth in China and India; those countries’ relationship to the U.S. economy; as well as constraints on growth and the effect of the economic slow-down.
ICI’s second China gathering, New Encounters: Beijing Residency, was held November 22–30 and helped further refine the model of intensive collaboration, local observation, and learning by the nation’s leading experts, advanced by the preceding residencies. For the first time, ICI fellows based in China were centrally involved in the design of the agenda. As a result the discussions, field visits, and overall themes mirrored the range and depth of the Chinese fellows’ expertise. In taking this approach, ICI set a new precedent for fellows’ interaction, with, and molding of, the theme of Prosperity and Inequality.
The principal aim of the residency was to experience in real-time the emerging and historic issues facing China’s economic development, while dialoguing with leading experts and government officials. Five roundtable discussions were held, covering topics from independent documentary filmmaking to civil society’s role in addressing water pollution. Nirupama Rao, then Indian Ambassador to China, hosted the discussions and addressed the present and future of India-China relations.
The profile of the second cohort demonstrates the prestige and visibility that the program garnered in just a few years of existence. For example, joining other renowned scholars and economists were Xu Zhiyong, a nationally recognized legal scholar and international human rights activist in China, who was named one of the country’s ten most influential individuals by the Chinese press, and Mahendra P. Lama, Vice Chancellor of Sikkim University. Dr. Lama was appointed as one of 28 members of the prestigious National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) to the Prime Minister of India.
Fellows from this cohort have continued to receive acclaim for their academic and political contributions. In January 2010, Ashwini Deshpande, professor of economics at Delhi University, received the prestigious VKRV Rao Prize in Economics from the Institute for Social and Economic Change.
In addition to earning accolades, fellows have organized interdisciplinary public forums. New School Professor of Economics and ICI Fellow Lopamudra Banerjee continues to work with the university and the larger ICI community of researchers through pioneering events.