Friends of CSIL Feature: Cara Hagan

Cara profile

Cara Hagan, MBA ’15 and one of CSIL’s brightest stars, connected with us about her new position in Quito, Ecuador and we can’t help but share our excitement. Cara is an inspiration to fellow MIIS students who hope to follow in her footsteps working in the international impact space.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve been doing lately.

I completed my MBA at MIIS with a specialization in sustainable supply chain management. After MIIS, I joined MUJUS as a production manager in Quito, Ecuador. MUJUS is a social enterprise that produces contemporary artisan jewelry under fair trade practices.  In this position, I have learned how to manage an efficient supply chain while maximizing the social impact.

Then, like any start-up employee, I had to exercise my versatility. These days I am temporarily working for MUJUS in New York to help with the busy holiday markets.  Working with sales and distribution on the US front has allowed me to see all sides of this social enterprise. It is amazing to understand and be a part of the entire value chain, from sourcing raw materials in Ecuador to placing the product in a customer’s hand in New York. Although I am loving the lively environment in NY, I look forward to returning to Ecuador and our incredible artisan partners in a few weeks.

Why did you choose to work in the social impact space?

Prior to my MBA, I worked from an activist/NGO standpoint to fight social and environmental injustices that businesses commit in their supply chains. I then transitioned to researching and working with these issues from the business angle, as more opportunities were arising in the wave of responsible and sustainable business.

Then while at MIIS, I learned about social enterprise and impact investing as a new approach to international development.  This is what sparked my interest in working for a social enterprise.  I also wanted to gain experience in supply chain management. The production manager position at MUJUS was the perfect fit.

How did your experiences with CSIL impact your current path?

While working for CSIL, I worked closely with the Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) program.  During the FMS trainings, I learned the motives behind the fellows wanting to work for social enterprises and impact investing firms. In my work and in attending conferences, I built an extensive network in the impact space, from FMS fellows to employees and founders of social enterprises and impact investing firms. This network was very useful when I was applying for jobs post-graduation. The individuals in this space are passionate and connected.

In fact, my network continues to prove extremely useful in my current job. For example, I have reached out to FMS fellows in the field working for impact investing firms such as Pomona Impact, and to fellows Cara Post2who work for similar social enterprises in order to find raw materials in the Andean region.

Above all, CSIL was helpful to me because I learned valuable lessons from the amazing CSIL directors and staff. I learned that 1) You can learn from every single experience in life, and 2) It is worth it to work hard, make sacrifices and do absolutely everything in your power to have an impact career.

These lessons have proved very useful in my current job. Working for a start-up and social enterprise has been both challenging and rewarding. My team and I learn as we go. We are part of an exciting journey of growth. I have learned not to be afraid to make mistakes, and that we are all in a process of self-improvement and self-growth, even the most experienced professionals.

Social entrepreneurs are driven, hard-working individuals. Working in a social enterprise is thrilling. From managing artisans in Quito to managing salespeople in Manhattan holiday markets, I Iove seeing the connections between production and sales, between success and social impact.


Connect with Cara: LinkedIn  Email    Connect with MUJUS: Website  Facebook  Twitter



Fellow Feature: FMS Alumna Ellen Halle

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.

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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:

CSIL SOCAP15 Recap and Takeaways


CSIL attended Social Capital Markets’ SOCAP15 conference, and WE LOVED IT!  

SOCAP is a the perfect event opportunity to reconnect with great minds! Above, Slater Matzke, FMS Partner Engagement Associate at CSIL reunites with recent MIIS graduates and CSIL stars, Sarah Sterling and Donna Sinar (left to right) while at SOCAP.

CSIL Staff and MIIS graduate student attendees are excited to share their impressions with you in this special edition of testimonials and takeaways.



The next generation of impact investing isn’t about being fund managers allocating capital as a removed, third-party. Rather, its about democratizing investment decisions within the community.

Ben Grimmig, Graduate Candidate Middlebury Institute of International Studies, Strategic Initiatives Assistant at CSIL

The session on ‘Human Capital Solutions for the Future of Impact Investing’ led by some great Tanous Headshotpractitioners, including Sal Giambanco of Omidyar Network and Paul Breloff of Accion Venture Lab, really hit home with its emphasis on talent. The panel spoke about questions of how to find qualified talent, about employee engagement in social enterprise and of course the widely-discussed compensation. Hearing from leaders in the world of impact investing about the importance of universities and programs like Frontier Market Scouts and Ambassador Corps drove home the impact of the activities of CSIL.

Hunter Tanous, Strategic Initiatives Associate



Impact investing portfolios are outperforming traditional portfolios. This gives us confidence in the work we are doing and the causes we believe in.

Annie Makela, Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives




1. Some significant, challenging, introspection is required around the following questions: Is the social enterprise and impact investing space a well-functioning market? Do impact investors need to delineateAlex Headshot between “bridging the frontier gap” and “market distortion”? (i.e., When, where, and how do traditional grant money and LPs willing to accept concessionary returns serve to help impact entrepreneurs scale their businesses and become profitable in nascent, undercapitalized, markets/industries? When, where, and how might they create perverse incentives?)

2. There seem to be some lingering, unanswered, questions surrounding environmental and social impact metrics: What do investors want measured? Among different types of investors and asset classes, are there a varying appetites for rigor when it comes to impact metrics? If so, how do impact asset managers best adapt to tailoring varying levels of reporting required by different LPs? How do asset managers propose to collect data? What is the burden for data collection on social entrepreneurs? What are the challenges and costs associated with remote data collection in emerging markets? How do you establish a baseline? How is monitoring and evaluation conducted over the lifetime of an investment? Over what time intervals should asset managers report? Should there be an expectation that this data becomes public?

3. The ideas and investment vehicles coming out of the natural resource conservation space are among the most exciting financial innovations in the US economy. Some revolutionary propositions around:

Market-based methods to combat drought and forest fire (panel: Ricardo Bayon @EncourageCapital, Zach Knight @BlueForestConservation, Eric Hallstein @TheNatureConservancy, David Groves @PrivateCapitalForPublicGood, Louise Bedsworth @OfficeofJerryBrown)

Land conservation (Eric Hallstein @TheNatureConservancy, Susan Phinney @David&Lucille Packard Foundation, Peter Stein @LymeTimber)

Water conservation (Joe Whitworth @FreshwaterTrust, Eric Hallstein @TheNatureConservancy, Ricardo Bayon @EncourageCapital)

Established vs. emerging market opportunities in real asset conservation (Ricardo Bayon @EncourageCapital, Justina Lai @WetherbyAssetManagement, Chris Larson @NewIslandCapital, Jerome Ryan @ConservationForestryPartners)

Environmental investments generating social outcomes (Taryn Goodman @NatureVest/TNC, Debra Schwartz @JohnDandCatherineTMacArthurFoundation, Bettina von Hagen @EcotrustForestMgmt, Craig Wichner @FarmlandLP)

Alex Wilbanks, Operations and Marketing Associate


1. Social responsibility in supply chains (impact sourcing) opens a new door for advertising/marketing

2. As social entrepreneurs working in innovative spaces, why are we using the same models to function as those not in our space (wages and other compensation)? Is it possible to generate new motivations for the work of social innovators so as to encourage more creativity as opposed to confining them to the same parameters as every-day business people?

3. Although not a new idea, I think this one needs to be emphasized! Every person that makes up an org brings their own opinions and biases that stem from their worldview/experiences. These collective opinions and biases end up forming the work culture, suggesting that people should take full responsibility for how they personally improve or worsen the workplace dynamic, and individuals should have more agency to confront personal issues, if not only to better themselves, but also to improve the efficiency and morale of their employer.

Danny Pavitt, Graduate Candidate Middlebury Institute of International Studies

CSIL’s Operations and Marketing Associate, Alex Wilbanks, has compiled a list of great reads as a follow up to SOCAP15. We are particularly proud to highlight “Investing for Sustainable Global Fisheries“, a publication which Alex contributed to as a consultant for Encourage Capital. Well done, Alex!

“Introducing the Impact Investing Benchmark” Exciting data on the performance of impact asset managers
“Liquid Assets: Investing for Impact in the Colorado River Basin” Walton Family funded research exploring innovative financial approaches to massive natural resource management challenges surrounding water use in the Colorado River Basin
“Investing for Sustainable Global Fisheries” Funded through a collaboration between Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative and The Rockefeller Foundation, this report proposes several investment blueprints that promote enhanced fisheries management for artisanal and mid-scale fisheries in The Philippines, Chile and Brazil.
“ImpactAssets Releases Annual IA 50 Impact Investment Fund Showcase” “ImpactAssets has released its 2015 impact investing showcase, the ImpactAssets 50 (IA 50), a free online resource for investors and financial advisors. The fifth annual guide features fund managers representing private debt and equity investments that deliver social and environmental impact as well as financial returns. “
“Scaling U.S. Community Investing: The Investor-Product Interface” “The GIIN, in partnership with the Carsey School of Public Policy, published Scaling U.S. Community Investing: The Investor-Product Interface, an in-depth landscape study of the U.S. Community Investing (USCI) field. The full report includes a detailed analysis of the major types of USCI products, parameters that different investors use to evaluate investment opportunities, and the barriers and opportunities to increasing investment.”

Upcoming Events:

Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) : It’s your last chance to apply to our D.C. Training! Applications close this Friday, October 30th. Apply:

CSIL will be hosting our SOCAP RECAP event tomorrow!
On Tuesday, October 27th from 12 to 1:30 in our offices, SOCAP attendees will share their biggest takeaways from SOCAP15 and group discussions will be held on key topics. Bring your lunch, snack on CSIL goodies and let’s talk impact! Looking forward to seeing you there.

1st Millennial Impact Speakers Series Event: “B Corps;Business as a Force for Good.”
 ​ Four B Corp rockstars such as Marcello Palazzi (co founder of B Corps Europe) and Vincent Suich (founder of Monterey’s first B Certified Benefit Corporation, Sox Box) will present for us. Join us to answer these burning questions:  What is a B Corp?  Why do B Corps Matter? How can MIIS help local businesses become Certified B Corps?​ This special event will take place on Monday, Nov. 2nd in McGowan 102 from 6-7pm with free food, wine, prizes, and reception to follow. Please contact for more info. We’ll see you there!

Partner Feature: African Entrepreneur Collective, Inkomoko

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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Ambassador Corps Fellow Profile: Nick Zelle

We always enjoy chatting with Nick Zelle, one of our stellar Ambassador Corps Students from our summer 2015 pilot cohort. Now back at Middlebury College in Vermont, Nick reflects on his experience in Peru:NickZelle1.1

 Name:  Nicholas Andruss Zelle

Citizenship: US

Current title: Student at Middlebury College

Dream occupation or job title:  I am interested in the intersection of arts and social change, especially given my background as a professional circus artist. My ideal job would include writing and storytelling, strategic planning and social outreach.

Why did you decide to join the Ambassador Corps (AC) program?

I applied to the Ambassador Corps (AC) program because I wanted an immersive work experience abroad. I was also very interested in learning more about the social entrepreneurship field. Furthermore, I was excited about being put in a foreign situation, with a unique set of challenges – both in sense of those that belong to the local community and in the ways that an NGO engages with those challenges in a responsible way. I knew that the AC program offered a unique opportunity to do meaningful work with an NGO.

What were you hoping to get out the experience?

In part, I was hoping to gain certain practical skills and know-how in working with an NGO. Mostly I wanted to understand the social entrepreneurship field better and see what parts of it most resonate with me so as to concretely decide what I want to do in the future.

What was a typical day like during your AC internship?

A typical day was spent at the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD) office, working in collaboration with Evelin and Adam to accomplish the goals we had set for ourselves that week for our overall project. For example, one week we focused on researching experiential learning programs both at Middlebury and other institutions in order to better understand how a potential student research program could best meet the needs of students and the host organization. We used this perspective later when we designed and refined or original experiential learning programs with the AASD for Middlebury students. At the end of the day, we’d walk back down to our homestay, usually stopping at the Churro vender on the way, and we would spend the rest of the evening with our host family.

 Were there any surprises or unforeseen benefits that emerged?

I was pleasantly surprised by the culture of the organization which was very critical of sustainability and community development practices. Before working with AASD, I was unsure of how to think about the ethics of NGO intervention in community issues and how it could engender positive social change without a patriarchal approach to working with the community. After my experience, I’m so happy to say that I have seen first hand how NGO intervention can be navigated responsibly and to have been surrounded by people who think so deeply about the meaning of their work.

What were some of your biggest obstacles during the experience – professional or personal?

There were many micro-challenges as we tried to figure out the best way to move forward with our project. It was sometimes necessary to just trust the process and know that the uncertainty of what we were doing would eventually give way to really great results.

Describe someone you met during the program that had a major impact on your experience.

Spending time with my host family was one of the most important aspects of my experience in Peru. There was a considerable language barrier (I had spent three weeks teaching myself Spanish before arriving, and among the handful of words they knew in English were such important ones as “I am,” “fork” and “Fakir” , which made little sense when strung together). Despite our difficulties communicating verbally, we spent many evenings over dinner or games laughing and talking about Peru, their work and lives and more. We even had the chance to follow them one day to the school where they teach. After weeks of hearing them talk about their students and the challenges with education in the region, it was incredible to see them in their element.

How would you describe AC to a stranger?

AC is a highly individualized experiential learning program that allows students to immerse themselves in meaningful work with an organization in the social entrepreneurship field abroad.

Did AC change or pivot your path? If so, how?NickZelle2

The experience certainly broadened my perspective and made me think more critically about the social entrepreneurship field and the type of work I’m considering. I already intended to work in the social impact sector before embarking on AC, and this summer has confirmed that decision.

Describe the AC experience in 5 words.

Immersive, individualized, formative, challenging, unique

What are some of the biggest challenges in growing the impact-driven economy?

We can’t move along a community development project at a pace faster than that at which the community functions. This is to say that sustainable social change cannot be top-down directed, so a successful impact-driven economy would need to be patient. Another challenge is that people (including social entrepreneurs) often identify the weaknesses of a given community, rather than focusing on and harnessing its strengths; as a result, there is this attitude that outside aid can be “the solution”. While it’s well intended, I think this mentality can be detrimental. Capitalism works in opposition to an idyllic, community-accountable economy, so we would need to abandon greed and a self-satisfying mentality that we are able to fix (others’) problems quickly.

What’s next for you?

I feel very motivated to tie this experience into my studies and life at Middlebury in some way. I think it will greatly dictate the way I mentally approach all future academic and professional endeavors, especially relating to development work or work oriented around community wellbeing.


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Fellow Feature: FMS Alumna Jeanette Pelizzon


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 |    Jeanette on Twitter: @jcpelizzon  | Jeanette Pelizzon

Follow @calvertinvests and @calvert_fdn | Follow us @FMScouts      @center4impact

Ambassador Corps Fellow Feature: Grecia De La O Abarca


I learned to confront my fears and to ask all the difficult, yet necessary questions.”

Recently returned Ambassador Corps Fellow Grecia De La O Abarca checked in to tell us all about her summer experience in Chile. Below she shares insight from her fellowship and updates us about the knowledge and skills she is bringing back with her:


Full Name:  Grecia Paola De La O Abarca      Citizenship: Mexican
Middlebury College 2017   Center for Social Entrepreneurship Fellow  UWC – USA’13

Dream Occupation or Job Title:
Executive Director at a socially responsible organization/company in Mexico or Latin America.

Why did you decide to join the Ambassador Corps (AC) program? What were you hoping to get out of the experience?

The Ambassador Corps program initially caught my attention because of its “authenticity”. I didn’t want to have a traditional internship experience and I knew that being part of the AC Program would give me a broader set of skills and experiences that would transcend one summer. Indeed, I left Chile with a large community of correspondences and colleagues who have taught me much more than I could have learned on my own. I really liked the global leadership focus that this program pursues; in particular its emphasis on working closely with the host organizations while simultaneously immersing into the local culture.

How would you describe your AC experience to a stranger?

For 10 weeks over the summer, I worked with the UN Global Compact in Chile. Our mission was to design a Social Responsibility course that will be taught as part of the general educational program for students at the Chilean university, Andres Bello. I was working with amazing and very distinguished people,  starting with Ms. Margarita Ducci, Executive Director of Global Compact Chile; Maria Isabel Muñoz, graduate professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaiso; and Mabel Tatiana Cortes, professor and designer of the online course platform. I was amazed at how fast and how much I could learn in one day. Each day I learned something new. It wasn’t easy; it was an accelerated and challenging job. The difference between the AC experience and another undergraduate internship is that I wasn’t just an intern for the organization, I was a part of the Global Compact team and I had important responsibilities. At first I was apprehensive and unsure of whether or not I could handle the responsibility but my goal was to cope as best as possible and learn as much as I could from the experience….and I’m happy to report that in the end, that is just what I did.

What was a typical day like during your AC fellowship? 

My days at the office were busy and challenging. Each day was different in terms of activities; some days I had to attend events with my boss and other days I would focus on research in the library. I had weekly meetings with my colleagues where we discussed the material and resources we wanted to include in the program. There were some periods where I worked only with professors for a full day. On these days, our meetings were quite intense, starting at 10am and finishing at 6pm. We reached a point where we knew each other well enough that we could feel when it was time to break until the following day. Once home and after family dinner, I would sometimes explore the city, but usually opted to catch up on much-needed rest.

Were there any surprises or unforeseen benefits that emerged? What were some of your biggest obstacles during the experience – professional or personal?GreciaAction1Final

The biggest surprise was difficulty with the language. Although Spanish is my native language, it still found it very difficult to understand the Chilean accent and some local words. This difficulty was completely unexpected and I hadn’t prepared for the weeks that it took to adjust. My host family and co-workers were very understanding and helped me as much as they could. Oftentimes I had to translate the Chilean expressions to “standard Spanish” in order to better understand the connotation. My host family went as far as to provide Chilean Spanish lessons every night. Not only did I learn more about Chile’s history and culture, but it also allowed me to reconnect with my host family daily and share news from that day. With such inclusion and sensitivity to my needs, my hosts truly made me feel like part of the family.

At work I was basically immersed into a new world. I was learning a lot about Social responsibility: starting at the individual level, passing through its impact in organizations and culminating with State intervention and the International Organizations that promote it. My focus was mainly on the Sustainable Development Goals, Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Policy. I gained a deeper understanding of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) even before they have been approved internationally. I was pleasantly surprised that my boss took me to important and transcendental meetings. Two events stand out in particular: one where the Minister of Chancellery spoke about the priorities for Chile in terms of the SDG; and another with a panel discussion about the Papal encyclical that criticizes human effects on the planet and how we are working to address it. I felt privileged to have the opportunity to attend such events not only for my internship purposes but also as an enriching learning experience.

Describe someone you met during the program that had a major impact on your experience.

One of the professors in my team who later became one of my mentors was Professor María Isabel Muñoz. She was undoubtedly the person who had the biggest impact on my experience. I met her the first day I got to Global Compact and to be honest, I was really intimidated by her. I felt inferior to her and nervous to think we were expected to work together for the following 10 weeks. As I asked myself how I would get through, the answer came to me: ask for help. I learned to confront my fears and to ask all the difficult, yet necessary questions. To my relief, Professor Muñoz showed humility and enthusiasm to work with me from the very first day. She answered every questions with a big smile on her face. She told me once “information has been given to us with the purpose to be shared. You cannot keep information for yourself that would make you feel superior to others. Why would only you have it then?” This sticks with me to this day and I am proud to call her my mentor.

Describe the AC experience in 5 words. GreciaShot1Final

  1. Eye-opening
  2. Challenging
  3. Encouraging
  4. Realistic
  5. Rewarding

What’s next for you?

I’m going back to Middlebury College for my last 2 years of undergraduate studies. This experience has impacted my vision of what I want to do with in my life, especially why, where and for whom I want to work in the future. This was my first time in South America. From this summer, I kept two distinct memories with me: one of the warm people, and the other of the current issues that still need attention. I know without a doubt now that I want to continue contributing to Latin America in any way possible. I encourage others to focus their skills to help Latin American countries as well. There is still much to be done, and it is never too late to start.  No contribution is too small.

Read more about Grecia:  Middlebury Center for Social Entrepreneurship Fellow Profile

Learn more about her host organization: Global Compact Chile (Red Pacto Global Chile)

Are you the next Ambassador Corps Fellow? Inquire about next year’s Ambassador Corps Program and join the new cohort! Want to partner with Ambassador Corps and source talent for a fellowship in your impact company? Send a partner inquiry to

Twitter, FB & Instagram: @center4impact   |     Youtube & G+: +CenterforSocialImpactLearning

Fellow Feature: Laura Benoit Current FMS Fellow in Peru


 “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

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 

FMS Alumni Present Emerge Salvador: Supporting Afro-Brazilian Entrepreneurs in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil


Current Frontier Market Scouts Fellow, Yuniya Khan and FMS Alumna, Nyia Hawkins are collaborating on a new and exciting project: Emerge Salvador. The project’s mission is to “facilitate the emergence of Afro-Brazilians as successful entrepreneurs, leaders and agents of change in Salvador.” Salvador, the third-largest city and first capital of Brazil, is proud to be the “heart and home of Afro-Brazilian culture”. However, with high unemployment and inadequate opportunities for Afro-Brazilians, many courageously choose to become entrepreneurs. Their big ideas and big dreams have enabled them to create big impact in a growing city and Emerge Salvador intends to showcase their stories and highlight their efforts for the global community. Visit their campaign page for more details.

“The way forward, though littered with obstacles,
is a path many [Afro-Brazilians] are eager to travel”


-Yuniya Khan

Emerge Salvador is grateful for it’s many supporters and encourages you to help support their efforts. The following video outlines in greater details the inspiration and need for this project in Salvador.

With support, Emerge Salvador will help these entrepreneurs create greater impact and serve as role models for fellow Afro-Brazilians. Yuniya outlines the concise project goals as follows:

Over a period of four months (Sept. to Dec.), we will engage in the following activities:

Create a Bilingual Website Featuring Short Films, Blogs and Photography  Share the stories of hardworking Afro-Brazilian entrepreneurs through film, photography, and written narratives. These stories will be posted on our website ( – still under construction) in Portuguese and English.

Partner with Local Nonprofit Instituto Mídia Étnica to Create a Co-working Space Dedicated to Afro-Brazilian Entrepreneurs  Help create and manage Salvador’s first co-working space dedicated to Afro-Brazilian entrepreneurs, in partnership with Instituto Mídia Étnica. This co-working space will provide participating entrepreneurs with office space and equipment, and also opportunities to collaborate with and learn from others. We will also provide classes, workshops, speaker series, etc. to help promote growth and expansion.

Support Emerge Salvador Today!

Sites DOT MIISThe Middlebury Institute site network.