One of the objectives that has always made Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham stand out is its dedication to compassion-driven research and to development aimed at helping the poor, the sick and the needy. This is something Amma has insisted upon since the institution’s inception. The people at the base of the pyramid must be strengthened so that the entire edifice of society becomes healthy and strong. With this goal in mind, Amma inaugurated Amrita’s School for Sustainable Development in 2019. The programs include undergraduate, master’s, and PhD programs that focus on areas in line with United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The curriculum utilizes the E4LIFE framework—Experience, Embrace, Empower, and Engage with communities. In 2020, the United Nations awarded Amrita the UNESCO Chair for Experiential Learning for Sustainable Innovation & Development. The activities include developing a comprehensive framework to build sustainable communities in rural India based upon the students collaborating with the villagers, not simply designing for them. This enables the academic community to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values necessary to implement solutions among vulnerable and rural communities.
It also empowers the villagers by giving them a voice to share the challenges they face in their daily lives. The majority of projects—be they in the fields of clean water, village-outreach, toilet-construction, healthcare, or education—involve the beneficiaries as active participants. In this way, they gain the skills needed to achieve self-reliance as individuals, families, and communities.