Diana Jue-Rajasingh

Meeting Steve and the Centre for Contemporary Issues

Posted in Fulbright, India, Traveling by Diana on August 13, 2012

A telling of my Fulbright journey would not be complete without talking about Steve and the Centre for Contemporary Issues (CCI). CCI is a start-up think tank and my host affiliation in Bangalore. Its director is Steven David, who was the former Principal Correspondent for India Today’s Bangalore Bureau.

I’ve known Steve for about five years. I met him in 2007, when I was studying abroad in Bangalore. He knew my program coordinator and was called upon to give rides one day. I just so happened to be his front seat passenger. Soon after the drive began, I heard a Bob Fitts worship song play through his car stereo. I said to Steve, “I know this song!” followed by “Are you a Christian?” It turns out that he was.

Since that somewhat divine connection, Steve has played a key role in my Bangalore experiences. I feel blessed to know him and his family, and it is clear that I’ve been provided with much through him.

2007: The boss-man and me.

After I returned to MIT, Steve and I were in touch every so often. When he told me that he left his job as a well-respected journalist to start a think tank, I was at first surprised and then intrigued. After he explained his organization’s big picture mission, I was onboard from the get go.

In the summer of 2011, I made a return trip to Bangalore to help Steve launch CCI. I got to experience a side of Bangalore that I hadn’t known before. Before that summer, I had worked with NGOs, nonprofit organizations, and small social enterprises that focused primarily on bottom-up interventions. But during that summer, I met with members of the Indian Administration Service (IAS) in homes and coffee shops, hosted buffet breakfasts for Bangalore’s movers and shakers in five-star hotels, and helped organize and emcee a conference for Bangalore and Karnataka’s top government officials in urban development. I was nervous about taking on so many high-level responsibilities, but Steve confidently entrusted them to me.

2011: Learning about Bangalore’s statue park.

On an academic level, that summer was eye-opening. My prior exposure to development had always been at the grassroots level. I had always been surrounded by people who were fighting against the status quo. But that summer, I met with people who set and/or perpetuated the status quo. They yielded a considerable amount of decision-making power (enforcement was a separate issue, and it is probably something that I will explore through the Fulbright). I saw how important it was to understand how decisions are made at the top of a sociopolitical system, not just the bottom. Both parties are needed to make real progress.

When I returned to MIT the following fall – which was less than a year ago – I decided to apply for a Fulbright to research public administration and to continue working with CCI. I was taking a class at the Harvard Kennedy School at the time that fit in perfectly with the research topic (Getting Things Done: Management in the Development Context with Professor Matt Andrews – I highly recommend it!). I wasn’t sure if my topic would fly with the Fulbright folks because of its potential sensitivity, but I’m thankful that it did.

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