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Fellow Feature: FMS Alumna Ellen Halle

October 26th, 2015 · No Comments · 2015 FMS Fellow Features

FullSizeRender (4)We had the pleasure of checking in with Ellen Halle, Middlebury College and FMS Alumna, who is currently an Associate at I-DEV International. She talks to us with passion about the work she is doing and how FMS helped her get there:

Tell us a little about yourself and your current position

I currently work for I-DEV International and am based in the Nairobi office. I was connected to the organization through FMS when I participated in the FMS Training in Amsterdam; the CEO of I-DEV was one of the FMS professors. I have a background in global health; during undergrad, the vast majority of my work was in the NGO world in the context of field work, public health research & NGO programming. After graduating from Middlebury, I wanted to gain more experience in the private sector in the context of healthcare; healthcare was my bridge to the private sector. I spent about 2 years I working for a firm called Oxeon Partners in New York, concentrating on early stage venture and private equity-backed health care companies. I learned a ton about growth-stage business strategy and the dynamism of venture capital. However, all of Oxeon’s portfolio companies were focused domestically, and I was really missing the international exposure. Therefore, I wanted a role that would bridge my experience in global health and international development with the work I enjoyed in high-growth, for-profit businesses. FMS was the perfect next step to find that opportunity.

Why I-DEV International?

I-DEV is a strategy consulting & financial advisory firm focused on growing and scaling small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in emerging markets. We work with SMEs themselves but also impact funds, commercial investors, multinational corporations with SMEs in their supply chain, and NGOs/multilaterals increasing their focus on enterprise development. We do this across two groups: Insight & Strategy and Financial Advisory. I work as a generalist across both groups, but tend to work more on the Insight & Strategy side.

Ellen leading a strategy workshop in Uganda

Ellen leading a strategy workshop in Uganda

I-DEV felt like a natural fit, given my goal of combining my depth of international field experience (in Uganda, Costa Rica & Nicaragua) with my growth-stage business acumen. The work we do is varied and highly dynamic and we get to spend a lot of time in the field. Because we work with such a diverse array of stakeholders (from the NGOs to the MNCs) I get to think from many different angles throughout every project and frankly, throughout every day. I really agree with I-DEV’s approach to advising and improving businesses; we take into account the views of the entire value chain—from the CEO of the business to the investors to the producers of raw material—smallholder farmers in agribusiness, etc. Creating alignment between stakeholders—and creating alignment between impact and shareholder value—is something I really believe in. For example, some of our work with a multinational apparel company has included the development of what I-DEV calls a “secondary benefits program” for their producer co-ops. Secondary Benefits really just refers to the provision of technical assistance, advance payments, low-interest loans, input discounts, and other benefits to farmers in the MNC supply chain. Companies can offer these benefits to farmers provided they reach certain quality provisions, sell a certain percentage of their crop to the MNC and attend a certain amount of trainings to increase quality. In this way, the MNC aligns impact with shareholder value—improving livelihoods at the BoP while increasing supply consistency, production capacity and product quality.

I-DEV’s goal is to help create businesses that are investable and scalable in terms of both revenue & impact; I think both the impact sector and the East African VC space will really benefit as these companies continue to scale, attract capital and ultimately exit.

What has been the most exciting part about professional life in the impact space? 

I’ve been in Nairobi since March and two things stand out specifically. The first is how amazing it has been to experience such a dynamic…and nebulous…space. The so-called “impact space” brings together players with such different backgrounds: the venture capitalists, the local entrepreneurs, the development banking professionals. The intersectoral collaboration—or lack thereof—in the impact space can be confusing, but bringing together different perspectives is the only way that change has ever been achieved.

From a personal perspective, it’s been such a joy to travel throughout East and West Africa for my role at I-DEV. The opportunity to visit all of the places that I spent my academic career studying and reading about is amazing; realizing that as a young professional I’m able to add value here working small enterprises is even better. Additionally, working with a multi-cultural team has been refreshing and energizing.

With regard to Nairobi, it’s really not that different than New York. Bear with me…I know that sounds crazy. But there’s actually a lot of overlay…they are two crazy busy places, there’s always a lot going on. Nairobi is much more cosmopolitan than people in the US tend to think; something that speaks to its attractiveness to investors as well, I think.

FullSizeRender (5)

Ellen during a field assessment of a fair-trade macadamia business in Kenya

How are you directly applying the skills learned through FMS?

FMS formalized my interests by providing additional support and coursework in a structured framework. It also brings together people from a great array of different backgrounds– in that way it prepared me for the impact space…some people are more financially oriented, some are more impact oriented, and FMS mirrored that. Also, I had worked with medium sized VC-backed businesses ($500k+ revenues), but felt that FMS better prepared me for working with very early stage businesses and providing training for young entrepreneurs themselves.

Increasingly my colleagues and classmates who have been working in traditional finance jobs reach out to me to learn about the work I’m now doing and with great interest in FMS. They all have strong business backgrounds and have the desire to do social good but aren’t sure how to channel it. FMS is one of the only programs out there that can harness that type of aspiration and that’s the coolest thing about the program. People do come from different backgrounds, and it’s one of the only programs that can help people coming from the top tier institutions and the traditional experience to apply the skills they have but towards the social impact sector. Other programs target specific people and backgrounds but tend to keep them on the same track, whereas FMS really encourages us to think deeply about change and to go forward and make strong impact.

What are your top three tips for someone looking to start a purpose-driven career?

  1. There is real power in networking and connecting. Do not be hesitant to reach out. It’s the number one way that people can get involved. People like being able to help others, so always feel confident in reaching out and learning more about the spaces that you are interested in. Paying it forward is a good thing.
  2. Think about where you can add value. This is kind of the ultimate catch 22, because in order to add value you need experience, and in order to have experience you probably have one or two experiences where your value-add is minimal. That said, think about the skills that you have and how you can use them to best help a growing enterprise, an impact fund or another entity—maybe its financial analysis, maybe it’s relationship management, but know your skillset and think appropriately about what opportunities fit you best.
  3. Jump in. I think there’s a lot of reticence to move from a traditional finance career to something more nontraditional and risky. Sometimes the best thing to do is just take the leap and make the change you’ve been thinking about.

Reach out to Ellen:  Twitter  Linkedin                           Follow I Dev: Website  Twitter

This is the last week to apply to FMS D.C. Training! Launch your new career, apply today:


Partner Feature: African Entrepreneur Collective, Inkomoko

October 22nd, 2015 · No Comments · 2015 FMS Fellow Features, 2015 Partner Features

AEC Sara Julienne
“One of our main beliefs is that every problem on the continent already has a solution on the continent.”

We are excited to share our first FMS Partner Feature. Our partner organizations are extremely important to us because their work is at the core of what drives our program and our fellows. In a recent conversation with Sara Leedom, co-founder and COO of African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC), she tells us about AEC, how the Frontier Market Scout fellows have impacted their organization and what we can look forward to in the future (including an open job position!).

Tell us about African Entrepreneur Collective

“We whole-heartedly believe in local entrepreneurs, local staff and local leadership!”

African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC) is a network of incubators and accelerators with the goal to create jobs across Africa. Young people across the Continent are more educated and connected than ever before, and yet as countries are seeing double-digit economic growth, young people are often left out of that economic prosperity. We believe that entrepreneurship is a strong solution to the challenge of job creation.

AEC works with young entrepreneurs who already have an idea and a tested model but who can benefit from technical assistance to overcome barriers to their growth. Our ideal client is someone who has worked at least six months on the business and is starting to understand the challenges. At that stage, we want to help support them through those challenges, keeping them in the driver’s seat, and on a healthy path towards success which in turns fosters job creation.

AEC Ent Collage

African Entrepreneur Collective Entrepreneurs

AEC launched in Rwanda, our pilot location, with several offerings: Inkomoko is our core accelerator program, then we launched Tigo’s THINK as the Tech Hub in Kigali to stimulate digital innovation.  We also have a student business plan competition, the African Innovation Prize, which allows us to work with entrepreneurs who are still at the idea stage and give them the opportunity to build a business from the ground up.  And finally, we’re the Rwanda implementer of SPRING, an incubator for companies serving women and girls.

Through these programs, AEC can really help African entrepreneurs because we have been exactly where they are: we’ve had to find investors, hire local staff, advertise here, etc. There is a lot that we have learned by going through the same exact steps that these business owners are experiencing.

Each of our accelerators have four program elements that we believe must exist simultaneously:

  1. Access to Capacity Building Services: practical trainings and workshops, classes on HR and Quickbooks, marketing and human centered design.
  2. Mentorship: each entrepreneur is paired with a mentor from across the globe.
  3. Technical Assistance: for the items that an entrepreneur doesn’t need to master themselves — lawyers on retainer, logo and website designer, tax accountants
  4. Access to Finance: through our Kiva-backed loan fund, we provide affordable and flexible in-house loans as well as transparent repayment plans.

This program model is our foundation as we expand to Tanzania in January 2016.

What drives AEC?

Spending time across the Continent, we have met hundreds of amazing young people who have great ideas and visions for their communities, but who didn’t have access to opportunities present in developed economies. We look to support what these youth have identified as needs in their own communities, rather than AEC bringing our own ideas to the community.

One of our main beliefs is that every problem on the continent already has a solution on the continent. Young people in Africa can create their own future and own businesses, creating their own income and adding to the wealth of their communities. Our job is to help weaken any barriers that may stand in their way.

 What does impact mean to AEC?

On a practical level, our impact is equipping people to have the skills to create jobs for themselves and others. Our target is that within 18 months of working with us, the entrepreneur will have created on average 10 jobs. When you add the multiplier effect, we are looking at long-term, large-scale impact for job creation across the Continent.

On a philosophical level, our impact is holding up our unwavering belief in young African entrepreneurs, so that investors and policy makers around the world see that African entrepreneurs can create the change that is needed on the continent. It’s about helping shift the dialogue so that it’s not only western investors investing in expats in social enterprise but that the young people who have the most to gain in their communities are the ones to direct the impact. We’re there to tell the stories, raise the profiles, and of course invest in young Africans ourselves.

AEC Fellows

Fellows Alberto and Aysha with Inkomoko Staff in Rwanda

Why did you choose to partner with FMS?

This is our first year as a partner with FMS. It’s been such a fantastic experience. We’ve also had the chance to meet with other people in the program and continue to be impressed with the skills and impact FMS fellows achieve. We had two scouts this year, one of which we hired full time, and one of whom we were able to bring back for a second contract with us.

Alberto Rodriguez, AEC Portfolio Manager, has a background with Deutschebank in Madrid and had done some work starting a school in Kenya. He is our portfolio manager for both funds and we have been incredibly impressed with his professionalism and ability to help strengthen our efforts.

Aysha Rajput. AEC Communications Fellow, produced our first annual report, facilitated client testimonials and published our newsletters. She’s now continuing on a consulting project with us to help us fundraise. We loved our fellows and are excited to continue working with them.

What’s on the horizon for AEC?

We’re expanding!  We will be launching in Western Tanzania in January 2016.

Rwanda was a great pilot program and we are so proud of the work we have been able to achieve. With a small population of 12 million, even if we reached everyone, we would still only access a small slice of what is happening on the continent. We are committed to continuing our efforts in Rwanda and as such, are currently hiring a new Managing Director for our Rwanda location. Applications are open now and we hope to find a great fit soon.

Now that we have tested our model in various formats, we want to be able to bring what we are doing to other communities as well.  The relative ease of doing business in Rwanda (low corruption, stable electricity, efficient government systems, etc), also encourages us to stress test our model and see if we can help as much in countries experiencing different complexities.  We want to test the model early enough in our development to see what works and what doesn’t and then advance confidently.  Our goal is 7 countries by 2022.

We’ve had such a beneficial partnership with FMS and we are excited to bring on more fellows in the future. FMS fellows have been incredibly useful in strengthening and supporting our work which is why we’ve been encouraging other organizations to look to FMS for talent. What’s fantastic is that FMS fellows come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and it’s possible to find a fellow to help with anything from photography to financial modeling to due diligence to fundraising.

There is still time to apply for FMS Monterey! Apply now: FMS Application Winter 2016

Follow AEC and Inkomoko on Twitter!

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Fellow Feature: FMS Alumna Jeanette Pelizzon

September 21st, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized


“FMS is by far the most valuable thing I did during my entire time at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS). In many ways, it’s like a highly-condensed specialized MBA degree.”



FMS Fellow Jeanette Pelizzon talks to us about breaking into the impact space, starting with her career-changing fellowship at the Calvert Foundation. FMS partners with hundreds of organizations around the globe and offers scouts competitive placements that launch sustainable careers in impact.



Tell us about where you are today

In July, I finished my FMS Fellowship with Calvert Foundations, an Impact Investing Fund doing amazing work around the world. I worked with their International Diaspora Engagement Alliance, a recent public-private partnership between USAID and the State Department. At Calvert, I focused on their communications activities with the priority of fostering and maintaining connections with diaspora groups around the world while gathering information in preparation for Global Diaspora Week, a highlighting avenue for different diaspora groups. The experience really enlightened me and gave me a unique view of how public-private partnerships work as well as the ins and outs of government funding and grants.

Calvert was a great placement for me because it offered me experience and gave me a better idea of where I fit. In the future, I plan to work on the program and management side of a social enterprise. My ideal position would be to help implement projects in emerging markets. For example, I’d like to focus on the international projects that companies create and fund with the profits from a product that they are offering here in the U.S. Working at an incubator or accelerator where a lot of social enterprises are coming and trying to find their way in the startup phase would be a great position for me as well.

These days I am living in D.C. looking for my next opportunity. I’m working to connect here by attending startup weekends and networking events. The FMS experience solidified my view on where I want to be and with these skills, I feel confident in future prospects because I know that I am well-trained and have a lot to offer the impact space.

How would you describe the FMS experience to a stranger?

Awesome. FMS is simply awesome. It is definitely worth taking the time off of work or relocating for the two weeks of training. You finish each module with real life skills and get to apply them in a semi realistic setting right away; that then flows over to a fellowship with a chance to apply the skills in a very concrete and realistic setting. You’re constantly learning and no time is wasted because every instructor is a practitioner coming from a different background and expertise. These different perspectives on the topic provide a true 360° view. While in FMS, you create a great network of supporters and you have an opportunity for a fellowship to launch your career. You leave feeling skilled and capable because FMS offers a really powerful introduction to each side of the impact space. Even if you don’t have experience with financial models or investments, you will with those new skills and the confidence to use them.

During the training, you will spend one week addressing issues from an entrepreneur perspective and the next week you will shift to addressing issues from the investor prospective. Getting both sides of the spectrum speaks again to the 360° view. No matter which side you choose to work on moving forward, it will be critical to understand both the investor and entrepreneur perspective. As an entrepreneur, you must know the ins and outs of what you’re going up against and what goes into deciding to invest in your company; similarly, when you’re an investor it is important to know what you’re investing in and what goes into building that company. By understanding how a social enterprise is set up and how it is functioning, you can pinpoint areas where a company is innovative and areas where they have pitfalls relative to what is feasible. There is an empathy factor as well, you start to realize things do not happen as fast in emerging markets as they do here, so understanding the time required for the return on an investment or better connecting with what challenges a social entrepreneur can face will help you judge them in an informed way. In FMS, you also learn about the legal side of investment which is honestly so interesting and you wouldn’t be able to get that somewhere else in such a short and informative way. In many ways, it’s like a highly-condensed specialized MBA degree. I still keep the notes and look back at them often.

How has FMS helped launch your current path?

FMS is by far the most valuable thing I did during my entire time at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS). You’re not working with academics, you’re working with practitioners. With FMS, you gain real world experience and also the benefits of a stellar network. It is particularly cool to hear about projects practitioners are working on while they are instructing you in class and then later see the stories pop up on your news feed. FMS also gave me behind the scenes information about the way start-ups can fail and the struggle behind the scenes to get back on track; we often see the success stories in the mainstream, but there is so much to be learned from failure as well.

What were some of the most meaningful connections you made during FMS?

The practitioners themselves become mentors and it is clear that they honestly want to see you succeed and become a part of this sector. To this day, I am still in touch with Paul Breloff and Amit Sharma who have been great supporters well after my FMS training. Connections are about give and take, and I’m always looking for ways that I can give to others in the impact space. In return for these mentors’ advice and direction, I can flag new enterprises that I’m learning about and share them as potential investment opportunities. As for the other young professionals in my cohort, we still keep in touch and often share articles of interest with each other. The community is really supportive, positive and encouraging, instead of cutthroat or competitive in negative ways.

Moving forward, what are you most excited to learn more about?

I’m most excited to learn more about what it really takes to make a social enterprise functional and funded, especially using lean startup models. This is why working in an accelerator or impact hub would be a particularly rewarding position; I know I would be learning new things every day and I would have the ability to apply some of the methods and models we learned in FMS.

What are your top three recommendations for someone looking to start a purpose-driven career?

  1. Find what you are passionate about. If you don’t feel inspired going to work everyday then you are doing something wrong.
  2. Keep educating yourself. There are tons of free online classes and resources for you to continue building your skill set to help you get the career you want.
  3. Find your tribe/pack/crew. I can’t emphasis enough how important it is to surround yourself with likeminded people. It is so important to be able to bounce ideas off of people who understand the socent sphere.

If you are looking for a way to launch into the field of social enterprise and impact management, be sure to apply to FMS before October 2nd  at and start your purpose-driven career.

Link in with Jeanette Pelizzon |  Twitter: @jcpelizzon  | Jeanette Pelizzon  |   Follow @calvertinvests and @calvert_fdn

Follow us @FMScouts  @center4impact



August 28th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized


“The opportunity to…watch our projects unfold from ideas and planning to the actual implementation has been amazing.”


For the past five months, Laura Benoit (FMS ’15) has been working in Lima, Peru with Klaud a Design Consultancy. FMS placements average between 2 and 12 months; Laura intends to take full advantage of her placement and work with Klaud . On the eve of a weekend trip to Guatemala, she gave us the inside scoop about her current job and how she is using her FMS training:

Tell us about your new position

I am the Social Responsibility Project Manager at Klaud, a Design Consultancy that works with artisan groups and designers in the textile industry in Peru. Klaud works with both artisans and the industry; however, in my position, I focus [only] on the artisan groups. Specifically, I implement projects to improve organizational sustainability, such as the work I do with La Republica del Tejido in the Puno Region. My role is to create their business model and ensure that the project is financially viable and sustainable over time. At Klaud, sustainability is a top priority. Historically, projects in Peru tend to exist for only one or two years before fading away, but it is important that our projects can increase the financial autonomy of these women in the long term. In addition to La República, We are also working with La Bodega Mate to source their products from local artisans to maximize local resources. By doing so, Mate contributes more to the local economy instead of importing goods at high cost.

What has been the most exciting part about working with Klaud and professional life in the impact space?

Being able to implement the different projects we have created. In the past I have either implemented other people’s ideas or worked more on the idea side, but here I’m working through the entire project. The opportunity to work alongside my colleagues from start to finish and watch our projects unfold from ideas and planning to the actual implementation has been amazing.

How are you directly applying some of the skills learned through FMS?

In FMS we focused a lot on ensuring that the mission, goals and business model of an enterprise are all aligned so as to create the intended impact. At Klaud, we have been working to align all of their projects with the initial mission and goals of the company. I now have a unique viewpoint because I was trained to not only look at goals and projects through the lens of the enterprise, but through the lens of the investors as well, taking into account how they want their money to be used and the impact they intend to create. I use FMS skills like that on a daily basis. In fact, FMS was the best thing I did at MIIS. The training had the best return on learning, experiencing new things and meeting new people. Another incredible thing about FMS was that it was such a diverse community. I was used to working with graduate students in my program and with FMS we had so many new people and such a mix of backgrounds and experiences that it really pushed me to be competitive in a different way, which was a fantastic learning experience.

PicMonkey CollageLaura

What are you most excited to learn in your current position?

I’m most excited to learn how to build camaraderie on a project between different actors. A lot of our work involves public private partnerships with government, mining companies and the alpaca industry so it is important to present the project in a way that encourages them to really lend their strengths. Essentially, we want to integrate the actors so that each one is playing on their strengths when contributing to the project because with all of these willing actors, the project and community as a whole will be fortified. I am also always learning to better encourage communities to take the projects on their own after we have set the stage.

What are your top three recommendations for someone looking to start a purpose-driven career?

  1. Find a part of the social/impact sector that you are excited and passionate about because if you do so, your work will always be rewarding even though it may not be easy.
  2. Stay flexible and creative in your thinking and process of working. Things don’t always go as planned; new challenges come up and it will be up to you to find solutions.
  3. Surround yourself with people with whom you can share ideas and work through challenges. The more you communicate your ideas and thoughts, the more input you’ll get and the stronger your ideas and understanding will become.v

If you are looking for a way to launch into the field of social enterprise and impact management: apply before September 4th at and start your purpose-driven career.

Why wait? Your impact matters now!

Link in with Laura Benoit |   La Rep. del Tejido: @republica_tejid  |

Follow FMS & CSIL @FMScouts  @center4impact


Fellow Feature: An Interview with FMS Alumna Brittany Lane

August 20th, 2015 · No Comments · 2015 FMS Fellow Features, Uncategorized


Brittany Lane          FMS ’15 Alumna                 Editor, Unreasonable Group


“I get my mind blown every time, and every single day. I’m learning so fast and so much”

Brittany Lane (FMS ’15) chatted with us recently about her new position as Editor at Unreasonable Group in Boulder, Colorado. We wanted to know more about what makes Unreasonable Group such an inspiring and exciting place to work.  Brittany shared insights about life and launching her purpose-driven career after FMS and graduate school:

Tell us about your new position

I love my job. Unreasonable Group works to drive resources and knowledge to entrepreneurs in emerging markets. I focus on our blog at and edit everything that comes my way. I also pitch ideas for content and have great conversations with current thought leaders and mentors that are connected to Unreasonable Institute and Unreasonable Group. We are planning to feature more writing from the entrepreneurs who have graduated from Unreasonable Institute as well.

What has been the most exciting part about working with Unreasonable and professional life in the impact space?

For me, the people are the most exciting part. I’ve heard Daniel Epstein and many others at Unreasonable believe that business is really just about people, not the strategy or the marketing, and that holds really true for me. The variety of people who are interested in Unreasonable and have worked with us in the past or that do work with us now is fascinating. These are people from all over the world, and people from all sectors. Having conversations with such bright minds is great. I get my mind blown every time and every single day. I’m learning so fast and so much; it’s really rewarding work.

How are you directly applying some of the skills learned through FMS?

Without FMS and CSIL, I wouldn’t have discovered Unreasonable. I definitely wouldn’t have gotten this position if I hadn’t gone through the program. I highly encourage the training, and FMS Fellows have the opportunity to place with Unreasonable East Africa, which would be awesome.

For me, coming from a policy study background, the most important thing was being introduced to this whole world of responsible investing and social enterprise. It gave me notions of business for good and an introduction to the general ecosystem. Through FMS training, I learned who the key players are in this space, how investment plays into it,   about the lifecycle and different levels of startup. To be able to speak the language of whatever industry you’re in is a really important baseline. Especially for me working with words on the journalism side of things, language is really important. Plus the connections were amazing.

It was the PERFECT introduction and launching point for me. Without the FMS training experience I don’t know what I would be doing right now. I was studying policy but realized traditional development work wasn’t for me. This is a fresh and energetic approach to solving big and seemingly impossible problems.


What are you most excited to learn in your current position?

I’m most excited about how I can grow within Unreasonable and position myself as a leader as the company grows. Learning how I can improve in my role and continue to spread the culture of giving is very important to me. I just started and already I’ve learned so much, I’m just excited to see what’s next.

What are your top three recommendations for someone looking to start a purpose-driven career?

  1. Take some time to really know your values because they are your distinct compass
  2. Subscribe, Follow, Share, Tweet as much as you can about this field and its language. It’s ever-evolving and the time is ripe for you to actively participate.
  3. Surround yourself with people who share similar values and see how you can support each other.

Like many of our alumni, Brittany joined FMS looking for a change from her previous field of work and study, and now directly credits her FMS training as the launchpad for her current career path.

If you are looking for a way to launch into the field of social enterprise and impact management, be sure to apply before September 4th at and start your purpose-driven career.  After all, what are you waiting for?
Follow Brittany: @brittanylane515    |    Follow Unreasonable: @unreasonable   |    Follow FMS @FMScouts 


Careers with Impact: An interview with FMS Partner Nafessa Kassim on building a purpose-driven career

April 22nd, 2015 · 3 Comments · FMS in Action, Frontier Market Scouts, Uncategorized

Nafessa bright rounded

Nafessa Kassim, Director of Global Engagements at MovingWorlds.

From social worker to Director of Global Engagements at the fast growing startup MovingWorlds – Nafessa Kassim’s career path has been anything but a straight line from A to B. In this interview she talks to FMS Program Director, Erina McWilliam-Lopez about how she combined her passion for enacting positive social change with her entrepreneurial savvy to take on one of the greatest barriers to sustainable development – access to human talent.

Tell us about your role at MovingWorlds

As the Director of Global Engagements I wear many hats – especially since we’re a growing company. My job is to make sure that people and organizations are prepared to have high-impact Experteering engagements. This means ensuring that Experteers and Host Organizations establish clear expectations for success that lead to long-term and culturally respectful social impact. I do this through the following activities:

  • Developing and delivering online training and resources that support synchronicity between the Host Organization and the Experteer.
  • Overseeing all matches. While our matching site does most of this automatically, we curate all opportunities and oversee all matches for quality.
  • Creating and building partnerships with different Host Organizations and Partner Organizations, like Frontier Market Scouts.
  • Project management of our corporate clients who are focusing on Corporate Volunteerism. I am currently working with Microsoft and its MySkills4Afrika program.

What is MovingWorlds all about?  What need is it fulfilling in the world?

The World Economic Forum, ANDE, and others have indicated that a lack of access to human talent is one of the leading barriers to progress in development.

MovingWorlds functions like a short-term Peace Corps experience for skilled professionals focused on tackling this talent gap. We help social impact organizations working on last-mile challenges, and which have employment generation potential, with the necessary talent to overcome barriers to scale. We do this by harnessing the desire of people to travel the world in more meaningful ways and connect them to organizations that will provide them free accommodations and immersive experiences in exchange for their time and skills.

Since managing international, skills-based volunteering engagements can be tricky, we have developed an online training and facilitated planning process to ensure these Experteering matches can happen at scale, be culturally inclusive, and create a sustainable impact.

Talk about your own professional background – how did you end up where you are today?

My path started as a counselor and case manager for sexual assault survivors, and then arrested youth in the juvenile justice system in San Francisco.  In these positions I worked to support my clients and advocated for their rights as individuals and as a group.  Working with high risk populations provided me with an incredible amount of humility, admiration for people’s strength and endurance.

As time progressed I wanted to expand my experience in human rights issues to the worldwide context and accepted a fellowship with the American Indian Foundation in India.  There, I worked with communities who were HIV positive.  My work included running an HIV positive person’s community center with career and personal resources as well as fieldwork in the slums to raise awareness about parent to child contraction.  During my time in India, I was also able to develop a sustainable livelihood program for HIV positive, widowed women.

My experiences in India exposed me to extreme levels of poverty, various types of human rights issues, and the challenges of international development work.  I was also deeply inspired by the passion, drive, and endurance of the people and communities that were focusing on a holistic approach to development. It also exposed me to innovative solutions to drive social change. One such project was working with an incredible local team to co-produce, co-direct and perform in a play about domestic violence in South Asia.

Inspired by my field experience, I returned to the US to attend Columbia University where I pursued a Masters in Social Work with a focus on International Social Enterprise and Administration as well as a Master’s in Global Public Health.  The two degrees were my attempt to develop skills to create holistic impact, hence the focus on social and programmatic skills.

My interest in holistic development deepened throughout grad school and led me to co-lead a research project in Aceh, Indonesia.  The project evaluated microfinance programs implemented post-tsunami, in an innovative way by evaluating the impact of microfinance with social indicators and comparing it to the financial indicator evaluations, to identify if a holistic impact existed or not; this research was recently published.

All these experiences enabled me to work as a consultant for international programming, international corporate volunteerism, and ultimately led me to MovingWorlds. I was the first employee at MovingWorlds for a position that was never publicized. After meeting the founders, I helped highlight risks areas and proposed solutions – they offered me a full-time position shortly thereafter.  I was drawn to MovingWorlds not only because of its status as an emerging social enterprise, but more so because of its mission – to empower local organizations to solve last-mile challenges and create jobs, which, from my experience, was something that I knew was critical to creating sustainable change.

As a professional, you facilitate “Experteering” experiences- tell us about it, and what is an “Experteer” exactly?

Experteering is the combination of expertise and volunteering.  We call “Experteers” people who volunteer their skills overseas with social impact organizations for any length of time.

Typically, Experteers are skilled professionals that work on very specific projects that are initiated locally.  The goal of any Experteering engagement is to leave a sustainable impact by addressing a challenge, and also building the skills of the team they support.  At MovingWorlds, we help enable this by sourcing specific projects, providing training on best practices, and facilitating a holistic planning process.

Talk about any emerging trends you see, or stories that are unfolding as MovingWorlds evolves

A strong trend that we are seeing is the individual and non-traditional pursuit of learning and skill building. A lot of Experteers are using international service as a way to build their profiles and prove their passion for globally focused careers. In our own experience we see global service as an important vehicle for building 21st Century leadership. In fact our Experteers have ended up at organizations like the Gates Foundation, industry-leading agencies and have even received promotions after completing international service experiences. This is because employers are looking for people that can operate in ambiguity, show genuine curiosity, and have a proven record of taking initiative and delivering results.

I also find it interesting to see how traditional work paths are adapting. Now, more than ever, you are seeing large companies work with small but innovative companies, and traditional development organizations work with corporations, all to pool their best assets and create a world-wide impact.   A great example of this is outlined in Forbes. As people work towards creating social impact around them, the players are focusing less on their differences and more on their commonalities and unique expertise, and when brought together they are stronger than ever.

What’s on the horizon for MovingWorlds? Any new and exciting updates to share?

Our team has noticed that the number one reason people don’t go Experteering is time away from work. Based on the success of our international corporate volunteering programs, we’ve realized that employers face massive gains by enabling their employees to go Experteering. As such, we are going to roll out some campaigns soon to help any employee at any company make the case for more time off to go travel the world. We like to say that for the price of a conference, we can connect people to the leadership development experience of a lifetime, one that builds a better world in the process.

We also have some new exciting partnerships coming soon with the Impact Hub, Njambre, Kiva Fellows, Unreasonable Institute and Startup Chile.

About MovingWorlds
MovingWorlds, SPC is a Social Purpose Corporation whose mission is to connect people to life-enriching, immersive experiences that create a sustainable impact. Learn more about Experteering on your own, or through an international corporate volunteering program.

MovingWorlds has offices in Seattle, USA; Washington D.C., USA; and Medellin, Colombia.  



#IWD – Honoring Women Impact Leaders

March 6th, 2015 · No Comments · Uncategorized

International Women's Day

In honor of International Women’s Day the Center for Social Impact Learning will be doing a special series throughout March to celebrate women impact leaders that inspire us. Through interviews and other forms of digital media we will explore how women are shaping and catalyzing the social impact space.

Is there a woman whose leadership has inspired you? If so, contribute to this project by sharing her impact! Contact Nicole Manapol at for further details on how you can participate.

Happy International Women’s Day! #MakeItHappen


Moving the Needle

February 17th, 2015 · No Comments · FMS in Action, Frontier Market Scouts, Socent, Uncategorized

moving the needle

This post was submitted by MPA student and FMS alumna Nicole Manapol

“How do we move the needle?” is a question participants will hear often during their two weeks in the Frontier Market Scouts training program. In a program designed to enable social enterprise and promote impact investing the question is not intended to be rhetorical – it’s a straight up challenge.

According to a 2014 report released by J.P. Morgan and the Global Impact Investing Network there is currently about $46 billion of social impact money under management.[1] As FMS instructor Rob Lalka from Village Capital pointed out “that’s a drop in the bucket when you compare it to the total size of global financial markets” estimated to be over $87 trillion.[2]

FMS instructor Amit Sharma, Co-Founder of Empowerment Capital and Wall Street veteran concurs:

“It is mind boggling that we can create the most esoteric, complex, opaque, multi-dimensional financial products that conceivably diversify risk and drive profits. Yet we do not apply that same talent and energy innovating financial enabling instruments that grow social enterprise.”

Sharma who teaches a module on impact metrics and social venture profiling argues that by definition social enterprise is wealth accretive and risk reductive—it can bring in 2.9 billion people living under $2 / day into the market place as consumers, producers, and market participants. “Social enterprise creates value and yet the amount of innovation in the financial and capital markets currently does not comport to this immense commercial potential.”

So what is preventing more mainstream capital from flowing into the impact space?

As another FMS Instructor and Invested Development Senior Investment Manager, Alex Bashian, explained, “the problem is matching a fragmented supply of deals with the right financially and mission-aligned counterparts on the investment side” The majority of impact investors are not willing to invest in seed-stage enterprises. Without the requisite data and metrics we all depend on in well-established financial markets (like credit history) most investors find it too risky. The majority will choose to invest when an enterprise is ready to scale. Yet without seed-stage capital few social ventures ever reach that point. Essentially it’s a Catch 22 – on the one hand you have investors that are risk averse on the other hand you have seed-stage entrepreneurs unable to assume the burden of traditional debt and equity financing. As Alex points out, “it’s difficult to move money into seed stage enterprises in many emerging markets given the existing system. As an impact fund we need to try and match the different needs for capital with appropriate financing products and other creative mechanisms to help enable growth in this space.”

When it comes to managing risk – metrics matter

One of the main barriers to mobilizing more investment capital into social enterprise is the lack of data and metrics that help investors understand and hedge their risk. Standard metrics for quantifying social impact and assessing risk in this space are difficult given the diversity of contexts in which these enterprises exist. As Sharma explains to students – “although we talk about social impact we continue to benchmark the majority of impact performance through solely monetized value.”

With the proliferation of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governmental) measurements like the Global Reporting Initiative, GIIRS, B Corporations and others it’s hard not to be overwhelmed. Sharma sees the proliferation of these impact metrics as a positive development but a symptom of the same disease that has caused failure in the mainstream – overly complex metrics that are difficult to translate across sectors and cultures, useful to some social enterprises and exclusionary to others, particularly in emerging market contexts. As Sharma emphasizes to students –

“we have to remember that impact, return and wealth creation are contextual, any model of metrics we create has to be dynamic, simple, user friendly, and in a language that the financial purist, socially neutral investor or institutional capital markets can use…as well as the philanthropist.”

No one understands this challenge better than Sharma whose career has straddled the non-profit, government and private sectors. Amit began his career in grass roots international development and social enterprise with the Peace Corps. After receiving an MBA and MA in International Policy Studies from the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS), Amit worked at the U.S. Department of the Treasury where he served as a Senior Advisor in the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, which began as a special task force unit established post 9/11 to develop and execute anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing strategies. He later served as a member of the Department’s senior team, and Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary. He then moved on to Wall Street where he joined Mitsubishi UFJ Securities (USA) as their Chief of Staff and Project Management Head to their Global Markets Unit. It was during this period that Amit saw first-hand the power of capital markets as an engine for innovation and growth. Leaving Wall Street in 2013 he transitioned to a boutique consulting firm, Command Global Services (CGS), where he managed the investigation, intervention and recovery of stolen foreign assets from rogue states, as well as the strengthening of financial integrity and regulatory controls.


Amit Sharma, Co-Founder of Empowerment Capital and FMS Instructor shares the importance of impact metrics

Developing a common language

Recognizing the need to develop a common language between the impact and mainstream investment spaces, FMS Co-Founder Yuwei Shi approached Amit in 2014 to create a new FMS training module devoted to impact metrics.

In June 2014 the two collaborators launched Profiling Ventures for Impact Investing a two-day workshop led by Sharma that takes students through the current system of ESG ratings and analytics, including the ones commonly used in impact investing such as GIIRS. FMS participants then compare those metrics with established commercial financial rating systems and analytics to understand the complexity of “impact risks” more comprehensively, and in a manner that enables greater engagement with mainstream financial participants and stores of capital. Importantly, the workshop emphasizes the recognition and growth of social enterprise across all sectors, including among mainstream corporate entities.

Using what he calls “the five bucket approach” Sharma boils down five core aspects of venture profiling that any social entrepreneur, fiduciary, government regulator, investor or philanthropist is really concerned with – wealth, risk, market, assets and leverage – “how does one leverage their assets to mitigate or diversify their risks and service their respective markets to achieve their impact / wealth objectives?”


FMS Fellows at Winter 2015 Training in Monterey, CA

As Sharma emphasizes, “the purpose of this approach is to help students avoid getting pigeon holed in their thinking, which only contributes to the bifurcation between the social impact and corporate activities.” Instead of spending energy on trying to distinguish impact investing from mainstream investing the module encourages students to take a step back and see how they fundamentally relate. As Sharma points out, “the basis of all investing whether you’re a philanthropist or financial purist is to advance a particular objective to maximize returns in a manner commensurate with their deployed risk (this puts an emphasis on how “returns” are defined, and how risk is understood). We would be selling ourselves short by not engaging global commercial and financial entities and figuring out how to mobilize the power and influence of those markets to advance social enterprise as viable commercial endeavors.”

Impact Venture Profiling

Perhaps the most exciting opportunity the new module brings to FMS is the chance for fellows to contribute to the development of a more comprehensive solution to impact analytics that they can then go out and test in the field. Impact Venture Profiles is a new research-based initiative for select fellows heading out on 6-12 month field assignments in emerging markets. During their time in the field working with seed stage entrepreneurs, fellows will develop impact venture profiles to better understand the nature of social enterprise creation and operations, the universe of risk influencing social ventures, and to better refine the metrics and benchmarks that are required to grow impact activities.


FMS Fellow Coryell Stout with colleagues at One Degree Solar – Nairobi, Kenya

As Sharma explains, “we [at FMS and the Center for Social Impact Learning] have a tremendous opportunity with this research initiative to help overcome current bottlenecks in this space by providing crucial data and metrics to the impact venture community that are needed to redefine, validate and grow the ecosystem around social enterprise. The potential of these profiles is enormous—they can be used to create case studies for research and academic purposes, conduct deep dive due diligence for investors seeking a pipeline of deals, and as real-time management tools for scaling social enterprise. But most importantly it brings multiple stakeholders to the table, including those from the corporate arenas, to recognize social enterprise as profitable business –
to really move the needle.”


[1] Saltuk, Y., Idrissi, A., Bouri, A., Mudaliar, A., & Schiff, H. (2014). Spotlight on the market: The impact investor survey. Global Social Finance, JP Morgan and the Global Impact Investing Network, London, 2.





Reese Hodges

January 30th, 2015 · No Comments · Winter 2015

MTY_W2015 Reese Hodges

Reese’s leadership experience as an outdoor professional and educator, both abroad and in the US, have given him a diverse skillet to bring to village capital. The skills gained as a whitewater rafting guide and field studies assistant instructor are complemented by his skillset gained in pursuing an MBA/MA in International Environmental Policy. Reese is proficient in Spanish language speaking and writing, and has worked with several organizations in Latin America. As a professional guide, Reese has excellent communication, management, and problem-solving skills, enabling him to play a vital role in business developments and strategy.


Laura Benoit

January 30th, 2015 · No Comments · Winter 2015

MTY_W2015 Laura Benoit

Laura is interested in strengthening rural communities in Latin America through the creation of economic opportunities and social enterprises. Laura has experience in business strategy and program design for an artisan development organization transitioning from being a nonprofit to a social enterprise in Guatemala. Additionally, she has worked with a nonprofit in Peru constructing research tools, conducting field research, and analyzing data to make recommendations to the local government.

Laura has also consulted on projects related to: social media, fund diversification, marketing, network analysis, as well as monitoring and evaluation.  Her experience working with international organizations to create sustainable and culturally relevant programs has prepared her to be innovative and flexible with strong problem solving and communication skills. Laura truly believes that development work is most sustainable and valuable to the local community when it is paired with the creation and strengthening of the local community and economy.


Caryn McKinney

January 30th, 2015 · No Comments · Winter 2015

MTY_W2015 Caryn McKinney

Caryn’s experience in the energy sector has given her a valuable interest and background. She has strong competencies in financial analysis and modeling, supply chain and operations management, which give her an opportunity to make valuable contributions to any company’s financial advisory and energy/operations management efforts.  Her research experience has also given her strong project management, problem-solving, and analytical skills, which enable her to play a vital role in business /strategy.  Her recent education at the Monterey Institute in International Business Administration and International Environmental Policy includes many activities in line with her interests in energy consulting and management. These skills and interests can be valuable to any growing or changing business


Jeanette Pelizzon 

January 30th, 2015 · No Comments · Winter 2015

MTY_W2015 Jeanette Pelizzon

Jeanette’s experience in a variety of different fields ranging from public relations to development program management has given her a diverse skill set to bring to any organization. She has proven strengths in using social media mediums to achieve marketing and fundraising goals, as well as event planning and team leadership experience. These proficiencies allow her to be an asset to any organization’s communication and outreach efforts. Recent experience working with rural artisans in Rwanda allowed Jeanette to gain valuable strategic planning expertise, as well as giving her the opportunity to build off previous production management competencies in an international environment. Jeanette sees herself excelling in any role that allows her to build upon her existing strengths in communications and management, while gaining new skills in the realm of social enterprise.


Tiffany Vlaanderen

January 30th, 2015 · No Comments · Winter 2015

MTY_W2015 Tiffany VlandereenTiffany is a Dutch and Indonesian Angeleno who graduated from the University of Southern California. She is a thoughtful problem solver with a diverse skillset to serve strategy or advising roles for a social enterprise.

Her experience in international development spans three continents with a focus on poverty reduction programs, grassroots community engagement and non-profit and for-profit social enterprise management. Recently she worked on business and program strategy development for Kiva Zip Kenya in Nairobi, a platform that links Kenyan small businesses directly to crowd-funded capital via mobile payment platform, M-Pesa and the Internet. Her ability to synthesize complex issues, have foresight and communicate solutions enabled her to develop partnerships with individuals and organizations that serve Kenyan entrepreneurs in various high-impact sectors.

Most recently she worked as the Growth Manager for the Silk Road Bazaar, a fair trade wholesale representative of marginalized artist groups located in Kyrgyzstan. She has an interest in the intersection of creativity and creating economic opportunities for underserved communities, more specifically in understanding how to link small-scale artisans to capital and markets for their products.

She is eager to grow a career in strategy and advising for impact investing and social enterprise management.


Zsoka Ardai

January 30th, 2015 · No Comments · Winter 2015

MTY_W2015 Zsoka ArdaiZsoka is a recent graduate with a field of Environmental Engineering and Environmental Studies focusing on Sustainability, Urban Development and Renewables. She has been active in international programs which enabled to sharpen her communication, problem-solving and professional skills. She has experience in Environmental Management at a multi-company, Sales and Business Strategy at a small enterprise and her recent research focuses on Urban Metabolism Mapping. She is dedicated to life-long learning and her professional goal is to achieve balance between humanity and nature in such a way that it will contribute to a paradigm shift. She believes in the power of love, the importance of collaboration and the joy of life.


Thomas M. Bunn

January 30th, 2015 · No Comments · Winter 2015

MTY_W2015 Thomas BunnTom has had experience in investment banking in Colorado and Boston and, recently, in teaching History on a remote island in The Bahamas. In trying to combine the business-oriented side of banking with the community-oriented side of teaching in a developing country, Tom was drawn to Frontier Market Scouts. As a clear communicator with a track record in business development and financial analysis, Tom is pursuing a career in impact investing with a focus on Latin America and/or the alternative energy sector.