MEET OUR TEAM
SURYA PRATAP DEKA
LEAD, COURSES AND PROGRAMS
Surya’s work in the education space began in 2009 when he quit his job in the corporate sector to become a teacher in a municipal school in Pune. It was during this time teaching nine-and ten-year-olds that he came face-to-face with the challenge of inequity and quality in the educational system. But what surprised him was that the systemic response to this challenge was based on an incoherent understanding of how humans learn and develop. In 2011, he started Flourishing Minds Foundation (earlier known as Re:Imagine Learning Community) as an ‘action research’ organization in education. He soon relocated to rural Maharashtra and set up a free learning centre for children and families from marginalized communities. A Masters in Education from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, today, he serves as a consultant to schools, municipal organizations, multinational agencies and learning organizations across the country, supporting them in creating cultures of learning and wellbeing in families, classrooms, and schools. His work on learning and development has been published in reputed educational journals and books.
Additionally, Surya is a certified instructor of Stanford University’s Compassion Cultivation Training, an 8-week program designed to help people bring compassion in their lives, relationships, and work. He has studied an MPhil and MBPsS (British Psychological Society) at the University of Cambridge, UK, where he is currently engaged as a Gates Cambridge Scholar working on issues of mental health and wellbeing in education. His orientation as a mental health professional is inspired by his training in both western psychology/psychotherapy and his years-long study of Buddhist Philosophy at Tibet House, Delhi.
HEAD, PROJECT RE:IMAGINE
Swapnil leads Project Re:Imagine, and his work at FMF lies in the intersection of art, pedagogy and therapy. Much before he joined the learning space, his artistic leaning had always been around issues of social justice and wellbeing in education. A graduate from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, he has illustrated books for children and adults and has also worked as a guest lecturer at the AJK Mass Communication and Research Center, Delhi.
In 2012, he joined FMF intending to explore the role of art in the educational experience of marginalized communities. With a desire to connect theory and practice, he pursued an MA in Education from TISS Mumbai. Drawing from his Master’s dissertation work on creative aspects of education, Swapnil has, over the years, innovated ways to employ art in pedagogy, assessments, culture building at our learning center. He is currently working on the implementation of an Arts-based community wellbeing program for vulnerable families which hopes to address issues of emotional resilience through group interventions.
As an educator, counsellor and artist, Swapnil’s body of work rests on the belief that the essential ingredient of true learning is a sense of inner wellbeing. And that art is a wonderful means to foster that.
Rajani’s work as a practitioner-researcher spans two decades in the integrative field of education and psychology. Her doctoral dissertation during her PhD from the University of Nottingham, UK, involved using reaction time experiments to investigate whether individuals with autism make trait inferences. Soon after, in 2009, she joined the University of Calicut, Kerala, as a Faculty. She received an ICSSR post-doctoral Fellowship in 2015 to explore the parental perspective of children with autism on the nature of parent-professional relationship. Her current research interests include understanding how service users and providers in the context of autism experience the process of education and therapy. Winner of prestigious awards like the Commonwealth Fellowship and the Overseas Research Scholarship, her research work has been published in major peer-reviewed international journals like Autism, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry etc. While one aspect of her professional identity is firmly planted in the academic space, she also revels in working on the field employing theatre as a means of reflecting on oneself and the world.
At FMF, she is the principal advisor for our research initiatives. In the next phase of our work, she would lead the organization in setting up interdisciplinary research studies to explore the relationship between learning and wellbeing in the Indian context.