FMS Alum Taking “Giant Steps” to Use Music as a Tool for Social Change

Frontier Market Scouts alum Drew Foxman is the founder and chief creative officer of the organization Giant Steps. The flagship program of Giant Steps is the Music Action Lab—an international platform which brings together musical innovators so that they can collaborate creatively and produce original music and art that to address and advance global social issues. Drew spoke with CSIL’s Outreach Associate, Clare Margason, about the connection between music and impact, and the potential for social entrepreneurs to utilize music as a vehicle for social change.

Please describe yourself/background.

I grew up in a jazz family.  My dad is a scientist, but, outside of his professional life he had over 12,000 jazz albums, and contributed to a lot of publications. These were classic records that came before bebop. I was raised with these incredible jazz musicians, but over time I began to reject that world. I started playing sports and got really into hip-hop, reggae, and rock music. However, my sophomore year of college I had the opportunity to study abroad in Paris and this is when things started to shift. While I was there, a friend of mine introduced me to John Coltrane’s album “Giant Steps,” and it was like I was hearing jazz music for the first time. From that point forward, jazz became a fundamental part of my life.

Besides the time I dedicated to studies and immersing myself in French culture, I listened to as much jazz as possible. I even met John Coltrane’s son and had the chance to work with him. When I finished my undergrad, I had very little direction other than my love of music, culture, and travel. I tried working as a musician, but then shifted to the tech world in order to pay the bills. Serendepitously, that didn’t pan out, but it funded a year abroad where I split my time playing music in Europe and doing volunteer development work on the Tibetan plateau.

When I returned to California, I was connected to the San Francisco Jazz Festival right after they had decided to become a non-profit, now called SFJAZZ. They set up an education department, and I was hired as the third employee. I had a rare opportunity to build out the community development through a variety of outreach and education programs, working with everyone from privileged, talented, and high-performing young musicians, and also with at-risk youth in the violent neighborhoods of San Francisco.

Tell us about your current work/position?

I decided to launch Giant Steps with the concept that is closest to my heart.

To me, the Music Action Lab is about creating a new global musical language that challenges and inspires, and works to address and advance global social justice.

In the Spring of 2017, we will release our debut album, “Foundation.” It is perfectly titled because we focused our first year on laying the necessary foundation for doing social justice work in the first place. Without this groundwork, social justice wouldn’t be able to take place. In the future, the albums and curricula that come out of the Music Action Labs could be about refugees, immigration, or other pressing issues.  We will work to build a catalog of Social Action Recordings, and every album will have a specially designed curriculum that goes along with it. Giant Steps has the vision of creating a new global music genre dedicated to advancing social justice and a whole generation of musical social entrepreneurs and activists. During the Lab, they incubate their work with Music Action Projects (MAPs), social action projects that they take home to their communities and are supported by Giant Steps. People may come in as fellows and musicians, but they walk away as artistic changemakers. Take the example of one of our current members Derek Beckvold, a conservatory-trained saxophonist who spent the last four years doing music reconciliation work in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan, and Sri Lanka. Since joining Giant Steps, he has been heading education programs at the Boston Philharmonic and has launched his own MAP called Teach to Learn, a free video-based music lesson initiative connecting talented instructors from the western world to learners in the developing world.

What is social impact to you? How did you first realize the potential for social innovation and music to collide?

There is an undeniable connection between music and impact. Historically, slavery, oppression, forced migration, all played a prominent role in music’s evolution and in fact led to many of the western world’s music genres, especially jazz and reggae. Music has also been a huge catalyst in all the human rights movements—whether it’s the civil rights movement in the US, apartheid, the fall of the Eastern Bloc, or the Arab Spring.

For me, I was really interested in creating and expanding movements with music. While there is such a thing as “music for good” it’s not yet a sector or field; it’s just a collection of rather disparate practices. Some of these practices are very effective and some of them are not. A lot of these practices come from the music industry, which means there is a lot of scope and opportunity for impact-led initiatives in music.

I liken this to the creation of SOCAP. Yes, it’s a conference, but it was designed to take this disparate field of impact investment and develop a platform for knowledge sharing and ideation in a meaningful and collaborative way. This is the ultimate vision for Giant Steps—building an infrastructure for “social impact music.”

Finally, a story.  I was in Visitacion Valley during a time when a lot of murders were happening. We were working at a school on a project that combined the concepts of jazz and language arts, and one student used the project to express what it was like to stand over his brother’s grave. Everyone that was there could see the power of music for the healing process after a traumatic event, and for sharing deep personal stories.

What inspired you to work in the impact space?

On the one hand I think that music is such a powerful tool that is being underutilized. Half the time artists don’t make money to support themselves, even with so much consumption of music happening all over the world. There is huge potential for making a contribution through this vehicle which is completely overlooked in the impact space. There really aren’t many people working on this, and I want to change that.

On the other side of the coin, we have to look to the current political landscape in this county. We are seeing our leadership undermine the core values that, in my opinion, are what define humanity. If we were successful in embracing and progressing certain value systems, things like human trafficking, the conflict in Syria, and so many other crises and intractable problems wouldn’t be happening.

In response to these global phenomena, we have large scale, multi-lateral, target setting entities that are attempting to solve problems by a certain date. It sounds nice and gives people motivation and hope, but clearly the periodic re-setting of these targets mean we are stuck on a kind of “poverty alleviation treadmill.” If the folks behind the biggest networks of money and aid are only making marginal improvements, it seems we as a collective community need more creative and innovative approaches. So, I say, let’s look at these issues through a different lens.

Let’s use music, a tool that has now been scientifically proven to have positive impacts on our neurological, as well as psycho-social development.

Who has been particularly inspiring to you?

John Coltrane, the Dalai Lama, Bob Marley, Bill Belichik are a few that come to mind immediately. However, over the years I’ve had to build a lot of inspiration myself because I haven’t benefited from long term mentors. I’ve been fortunate to have some great mentors take me under their wing, but the majority of those relationships were transient. I feel like I’ve drawn most inspiration out of experiences that I’ve designed for myself.  For example, when I wanted to learn about Tibetan Buddhism, I just went to Tibet and did it. The same goes for music.

I do recall an experience that was particularly inspiring to me. I was in the field with the American India Foundation. This was in western Orissa—a landlocked and very impoverished area in India. We were doing site visits and I remember being so moved by the continuous stream of music that greeted us wherever we went. The music was non-stop. It was multi-generational. And, it seemed like the music was part of the reason that people were so opening and welcoming. I’ve never seen or heard anything like it. Music ever-present, and with so much warmth and acceptance. I’m sure that experience helped me along the path to starting Giant Steps.

How would you describe your FMS experience?

Every year I try to do something intentional for my professional development. My choice in 2016 was Frontier Market Scouts. First, the focus on social enterprise was very attractive as I was close to launching Giant Steps. And I didn’t know much about impact investment, and felt that this would help build out my knowledge of the social sector. I guess you could say that I’ve become a generalist overtime. I’ve worn many different hats working as the director of marketing, development, programming, but I didn’t necessarily have a  specialization. This is probably due to the fact that I am constantly yearning to create new things and to keep moving. I always want to learn new skills and hope to never stop being innovative and creative.

I really thought both aspects of the program, the instructors and their curriculum, as well as the cohort, were very valuable. The cohort was outstanding. It was representative of multiple backgrounds and experiences. One person had been running USAID projects for 20 years, there were graduate students with experience on every continent, I could go on and on. Additionally, everyone helped build a really supportive community. I liked how open people were, and how willing they were to learn from each other. I felt like the FMS was a microcosm of what development and impact work should be like.

During the FMS training, I connected with our first instructor, Morgan Simon. She is the founder of multiple organizations such as the Responsible Endowments Coalition, Toniic, and Transform Finance. I needed to complete my fellowship with Morgan’s firm, Pi Investments. I was actually able to use some of the financing from this work to launch Giant Steps!

Note to reader: Wondering how you can be involved? Giant Steps is raising funds for the 2017 Music Action Lab. You can learn more and support their work here. Applications will go live in Spring 2017. Like them on Facebook and visit the website to learn more.

FMS Fellow Feature: Nenneya Shields


Nenneya Shields, a recent MIIS graduate and young mother of a 3-year old, recently launched her career in the social impact space after completing the Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) program. Nenneya is the Director of Impact and Learning at Jibu and she is based in Kampala, Uganda. She spoke with CSIL’s Outreach Associate, Clare Margason, about her unique experience of managing a fast-paced leadership role supporting a social franchise and the daily demands of parenting a toddler. 


What does Jibu do, how does it relate to social impact, and where does it operate?                                                 

Jibu is everything social impact – from the business model itself, to how we treat our customers, and to the products that we offer. I’ll walk you through the various aspects of our business and impact.

Jibu provides access to clean, safe and radically affordable drinking water in urban locations in East Africa. We operate using a franchise model. Local entrepreneurs invest in their own franchise using the branding and recognition of Jibu to launch their neighborhood store. Each store has its own filtration machine that filters previously unsafe water in multiple steps and packages the water in reusable bottles that can be brought back by the customer for a refill. A customer places a deposit on the bottle and then brings the empty bottle back when the water is finished, taking a new bottle but only paying for the water at a fraction of the cost. Relative to other bottled water companies in the area, Jibu has a strong price advantage because the refill model and localized production of water keeps costs low, whereas customers pay the full price of a new bottle each time when buying from competitors. Jibu focuses on ensuring quality and convenience by training filtration machine operators regularly and performing strict quality checks on each franchise with the ultimate goal of always providing safe and clean water to customers. With prices so much lower than other bottled water companies in the area, Jibu is able to reach customers that previously couldn’t afford safe water and who regularly boiled water for drinking, unable to decontaminate the water completely and resulting in the regular occurrence of water borne illness and disease.

Jibu’s main competition is boiling water. It is a very common practice in East Africa and a difficult behavior to change. Educating individuals about the health implications when boiling water helps bring awareness to the issue. It is true that boiling water can kill some bacteria with heat, but certainly does not get rid of other contaminants such as rust or metals found in piping throughout the city. Furthermore, once boiled and cooled for drinking later, water is often stored in such a way that many contaminants and bacteria reenter the water. For these reasons and more, people continue to fall sick with water borne illnesses that can be avoided by drinking purified water.

In addition to the health focus and convenience of neighborhood locations where customers can simply walk a short distance to refill their water, Jibu is passionately committed to creating entrepreneurship and employment opportunities. In East Africa, jobs are hard to find, even for the highly educated. Not only do we provide these opportunities to potential franchise owners and their employees but expand those opportunities by implementing a microfranchise model. Microfranchises are small boutiques that buy from the larger franchises and resell the water to areas that are outside of the franchise’s convenient reach. This brings water even closer to households. These microfranchisees also operate their businesses and provide even more job opportunities when they hire employees.

Jibu entrepreneurs and franchise owners pay a licensing fee for the rights to our brand, business support, training and technical assistance, but they are in charge of operating, and managing their business. We encourage them to look for the best way to reach their neighborhood and customers based on their business needs, recognizing that each franchise location has different opportunities and challenges. We currently have just under 30 franchisees, with some owning multiple stores and 100+ microfranchisees in Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. Today the Jibu network provides over 420 jobs in those countries alone and looks to expand to new regions and countries in the coming years. The franchise and microfranchise model allows us to reach more and more customers who were previously boiling water and households drinking Jibu water report a significant decrease in water borne illnesses now that they can afford purified water within walking distance of their home.


Can you describe your current role and responsibilities?

I currently work as the Director of Impact and Learning for East Africa.  I’m based in Kampala, Uganda, but I work with our businesses in Rwanda and Kenya as well. On the “impact” side of things, my work is to track the aforementioned data and help us understand metrics such as how many customers we are serving, how many jobs we are creating and in what ways we are improving community health. We recently ran two city wide surveys of our current customers to gain better insight into their needs and preferences with regards to the products we offer, our price point and the quality of our water. On the “learning” side of things, my focus is on providing training modules to support our franchisees, microfranchisees and employees. We train each entrepreneur in business literacy skills and offer any operational support they may need. I deliver the training modules themselves and help facilitate trainings as well in order to provide the entrepreneurs with whatever business acumen they need to be successful and reach more customers. Since I am also impact focused, I make sure to bake Jibu’s mission into all of the modules and encourage trainings on mission alignment itself, since social entrepreneurship is a newer model in East Africa and many of our entrepreneurs are learning how to balance profit and impact for the first time. Examples of modules include training franchisees on how to fill and submit monthly P&Ls, how to submit local purchase orders to fill their inventory needs or training employees on customer service skills. In addition to the impact and learning work, I serve as Jibu’s Kiva Coordinator and help manage the process of posting and repaying loans for our franchisees who are now able to source funding through Kiva, helping them to pay for inventory costs and increasing their initial working capital.



Can you tell us about your daily routine?

 Generally, I wake up around 5:30 A.M. to get some quiet time and prepare for the day. My son, Aiden Zikora, will wake up around 6 A.M. to have breakfast and I pack his bags and snackbox for the day. He is just under three years old and full of energy, so we usually run and kick the football around the grass in our compound before his school shuttle arrives by 7 A.M. Nowadays I jump on a boda (motorcycle taxi) to travel the short distance to work and once there, the Jibu team holds our morning huddle. This is a great start to our day and brings everyone together, passing a ball around offering our responses to that day’s topic. The topic may be to tell the group something positive about yourself, a favorite place in the world or specifically what you plan to concentrate on at work that day. This always gets us energized and it is awesome to start the day seeing everyone’s smiling faces before we break into our individual tasks.

From there, if it is a Tuesday, we have a weekly team meeting to catch each other up on what we are doing and find ways to support each other in our work. There are a number of action items that come from those meetings, so I’ll generally update my task list and spend some time responding to emails or sending updated documents and working on my excel documents. There is always an excel document, after all. Usually franchisees will either call me during the day, or I’ll need to discuss/schedule something with them and we will chat briefly. They often come in for trainings or meetings and it is always great to hear about how they are doing and the successes (or challenges) they are facing. These conversations generally finish with more action items as we think of ways that I can better support them. At Jibu, franchisees are our main priority and we always stop whatever we are doing in office to make time for them first if they pop in.

If it is a training day, we start with our pre questionnaire to assess their current understanding of the topic that will be presented and we eat a snack together before diving into the training. As the training is conducted, franchisees may ask questions or give comments that help me understand how I can adjust a training module for future sessions. We conclude the training and pass out a post questionnaire or assessment to gather more data about how the training can be improved and how comfortable they are with the topic now that they have completed the session.

I typically finish my day by checking in briefly with the CEO, Country Director and colleagues to see if there are any pressing needs for the next day. From there, I run out to pick up my son on time and we usually go right to our backyard hammock for reading and swinging. We eat dinner and play with trains or trucks or, well, anything with a motor and then sing him to sleep. Lately, we have been making puppet shadows using our headlamp while we cuddle under the mosquito net. I love watching him grow and seeing him use his imagination in creative ways, and once he is asleep, I always thank God that we made it through another day together and safe.


What are some of your passions and unique skills and what was the process of discovering them?

 My passion for travel, language, culture and entrepreneurship have been steady constants in my life. I am extremely passionate about the African continent, and am particularly passionate about entrepreneurship there. I recognize the need for job creation and supporting job skills on the continent and around the world, including in the U.S. Local entrepreneurs understand the challenges that their areas face better than anyone and when they are creative and blessed with an entrepreneurial spirit, the solutions to those challenges can be offered through a unique business model or product design. I have always been inspired to support such projects and business ventures. In that way, the position at Jibu was great for me – I’m now working for a company that shares my same values, goals, and motivations.

In Africa we rely a lot on the government to provide jobs – they are often seen as the more secure jobs, but they are few and far between. And of course, when people do get those jobs, they tend to stay in them and there isn’t much turnover or opportunity for the younger generation.  Uganda is one of the youngest countries in the world with regards to citizen age and you have a lot of youth who are acquiring great skills and attending higher education institutions, but there just aren’t jobs available. I’ve heard this time and time again. I’ve met many people that are eager, wiling, and ready to work, but they can’t find jobs in their country. If you can help encourage the spark that they already have for entrepreneurship and for wanting to make a difference in their community, and you add the business skills and the financing, then their ventures have a greater potential for success. In this way you can create jobs, while at the same time, people are serving the higher purpose of contributing to their own country, which every African wants to do. Additionally, the entrepreneurs will provide jobs for their peers, or others in their communities who also have the skillsets, want to learn, and are in need of work.


Has there ever been a point where you realized you had to learn a new knowledge or skill in order to move forward? What did you do?

Before coming to MIIS, I had experiences living and working or traveling to developing countries and separately some experience with business consulting and start ups, but I didn’t have any traditional experience in those areas and wanted to concretize the hard skills required to truly make an impact in those career paths. I enrolled in the dual degree MBA/International Policy Studies degree in order to focus on both international development work and international business. Today, passions for development and entrepreneurship merge well in the field of social impact, so I was particularly drawn to that subset of business and the opportunity to join the Frontier Market Scouts was a big draw when applying to this school. As I became more and more involved in CSIL projects and working with CSIL, I realized how perfect the opportunity was to launch myself into the field I wanted to focus on: entrepreneurship in emerging markets in Africa. FMS would allow me to learn more about the general landscape or ecosystem of social entrepreneurship around the world. Moreover, I knew it would introduce me to a network of like-minded passionate individuals who were connected to the social impact space and committed to creating social change at an international level. The two weeks of FMS training taught me more than I expected about social enterprise management and impact investing, while introducing me to a network that I am still in touch with today and with whom I still discuss and dream big about new opportunities to create positive social impact around the world.


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

My son was 9 months old when we moved to Monterey to start graduate school. It was a scary decision. As a single mother, you are fully responsible for the life and future of he/she who you love most in the world, and it is incredibly overwhelming at times. Small decisions always feel like big ones, and big decisions require much thought and planning. To move from Virginia to California was taking a giant leap of faith, especially at that time and in our circumstances. I had to remind myself every morning (or, every few hours in the night as my son was waking up) that we could make it through and that this was for both of us, but also that if we found we couldn’t do it now, it was okay to take a step back. If it didn’t work out, that was actually just okay. While every day was full of challenges, and a lot of loneliness, I learned how powerful love is and love pulled us through. Many of my peers didn’t have to wake up early to take their teething son to daycare before an 8 AM exam and leave right away to pick him up again and be on time for his morning doctor’s appointment. It was sometimes difficult to exist within my reality when my peers’ realities were so different, but I had to accept that my challenges were my challenges and my joys were my joys, and it was incredible to still find friends who were so supportive and who were there for us through it all. When you are the sole, sleepless, provider of a toddler going through terrible twos -and therefore the main recipient of fistfuls of tossed oatmeal, tantrum kicks and hair pulling- it is quite difficult to motivate yourself to spend any free time writing your capstone report and applying to job after job in your last year of grad school. But my supportive friends and community helped me keep the fire alive and reminded us that we came to graduate school for a better future, and that we could make it through.

Despite all of the pressure, my son kept me going as I was able to watch him grow and laugh and learn to walk and dance and run and kiss and hug and…compost food scraps. And upon graduating, I proved to myself and him that we can achieve our dreams. When things change a little or a lot, you learn to adapt. You can stay within your intended trajectory or deviate from the plan, you can leap out on faith and on love, and you can be where you want to be if you work for it. He was always my motivation to do better and be better. I hope he always knows how much he is loved, and how grateful I am for him, because he is my greatest blessing.


Talk about the process of getting your position – where there any non-negotiables that had to be considered in your dual role as a mom?

Yes, definitely. It was my last semester of grad school, and I was applying to jobs all over, as everyone is at that time. I had no idea what was going to happen. I had just taken FMS and was really excited about my placement options, but I knew I had more constraints given my son’s age and needs. In the past traveling as a single adult, I was concerned with living conditions such as housing or healthcare, but to a much lesser extent. I could quickly crash at a hostel if I found myself in an unsafe situation, for example. With Aiden Zikora coming along this time, I wanted to ensure that certain safe housing, transportation and healthcare was set up and confirmed well before arriving. These had to be upfront conversations with potential employers and it required more support from them before even arriving in country. I came to a point where I became discouraged and realized that maybe I needed to focus on jobs in the States related to social impact until he was a bit older. This was a hard realization for me because my heart was still abroad, and had been since well before Zikora was born. I had committed to staying stateside throughout graduate school, but had always kept the hope that we wouldn’t have to wait much longer before venturing abroad together. So, I started applying to jobs in California but asked FMS management to keep my profile open to interested partners, in the event that something worked out.

Fortunately, Jibu read my profile, and recognized the fit since I was clearly passionate about entrepreneurship in Africa. I had my first conversation with Jibu and saw that they were looking for someone to concentrate on precisely what I wanted to do and be part of – impact measurement within a company and entrepreneurship and business skills training. As I talked more about what I wanted to achieve in my career, my interviewers recognized that their needs aligned with that skillset and passion.

We negotiated a short term contract to start because it was a way for the company to get to know me and also for me to understand the country and context before committing to a long term position, given that we had never lived in Uganda together before. My son and I had already moved across country once and had to build a new community, but moving continents and culture and healthcare systems was an entirely different decision. I told myself that three months would give us an understanding of how we would adapt long term. My two deal-breakers were around health and education, because those are critical for my son’s development and wellbeing, so I also felt that we would have a better idea of those things if we started with just a three month contract. Further negotiations were around whether or not Jibu could help fund our transition costs, and whether or not they were willing to support daycare, housing and transportation in the short term. We also needed a safe neighborhood and quick access to good healthcare. Additionally, we had to discuss my schedule because I want to be fully and completely present in Zikora’s life – especially after grad school, I was craving work life balance and really needed to be able to come home after work and have time for my son.

The team at Jibu is extremely supportive and without that support, I don’t believe I could have accepted the job, given all of the challenges that come with moving overseas- alone with a toddler. I would say that something I will always look for in any company is the way they support their immediate team. It’s of utmost importance to make sure that employees are healthy so that they can do their work, but also –we’re human and we need to take care of each other. This is so important to me, and I felt how important that was to Jibu as well, further confirming that our values aligned. Their support eased my transition and enhanced my commitment to the company. I’m very proud to work for a company with these values and practices.


What advice would you give to other young moms trying to move forward in their careers?

Take those leaps of faith because it doesn’t have to work out. It can work out, which is exciting, buy it doesn’t have to. We worry so much about making sure we have everything in place for our children and families. Yet, we have to remember that mothers also deserve exist in a happy place, and to do that we need to take leaps of faith to achieve our dreams. My advice is to go after those dreams! You are going to have to do it differently than everyone else – but if you prepare for that and you tell yourself, “my life is my own, and this is all for our family,” then you will find a way. And, if it doesn’t work out this year, it might work out next year. Throughout this process, come home and look at your children each night and remember why you are doing what you are doing. It’s true what we always say: we can never know if we don’t try.


Are there any burning questions that you have related to work, life, or social impact etc…?

Lately I have been thinking a lot about equality in social impact. How can we provide equal access to opportunities that create social impact around the world? No matter where you are, you see that it’s heavily skewed – meaning the majority of the impact that is trying to be created/funded/supported is from Western countries and Western talent. How can we create opportunities for individuals who don’t know about impact in an academic sense, but who want to create it and are creating it, so that they can be involved in not only the impact, but the conversations and the curriculum building and so on? We talk about this issue, and we say that everyone is involved and that their voices are there, but it is clearly not enough because the West still holds the cards. How do we create a larger global conversation, where those voices are not only there, but are actually leading the conversation? How does “impact” even become important to someone who is focused on feeding their children, and making enough money to pay for school fees? Meanwhile, these are the individuals we hope to “impact” so how can we continue to bring them into the conversation, and to their benefit? I feel like these conversations are happening at the micro-level, but those individuals aren’t involved in the greater action. How do we remove the barriers, whether financial barriers or what have you, so that there can be a collective conversation around the world?


Another burning question is, “how do you reconcile the motivation and the passion for international work and travel, with the benefits of stability?” There will always be so much benefit to “stability” or being in one place, especially for families. But, there is also so much to be learned and experienced by children traveling and moving around. How do we reconcile that? How do individuals like me, or those who are thinking about starting families, reconcile this? It feels like they pull at different ends of a rope, but do they have to be so opposing? Plenty of people tell me that they feel they have to choose one or the other, giving up on one dream to be semi fulfilled by the other and never knowing which they should have chosen. I understand more than many what the challenges are around family and international work, and what leads us to believe we have to choose one or the other, but I also encourage us to keep being creative. Possibilities abound, it just may not be easy.


Who has been particularly inspiring to you?

It’s difficult to give specific names because there are so many are individuals that have made a huge impact in a brief period of time. Often it’s people I don’t know well. For example, there’s a woman that I met who owns a shoe store in Shanghai when I lived there, and her daily work ethic was incredibly inspiring. Like her, there are several individuals that I’ve met in my journeys who have become constant reminders of how privileged I am, and also how capable we are as humans if we are intentional in society. If we are cognizant of the realities of those around us, and we are empathetic and proactive, then there’s no limit on the impact that can be achieved.

I used to teach English in my travels and here in the States, so naturally my students have inspired me as well. The change that you see after a semester of training students and the stories that you hear are part of this. Also, the stories or updates from people I’ve met through my travels. This has all taught me how different and similar we are around the world, and I have found it very motivating and inspiring. I hope that my son learns these things in his life. I think of my job raising him as helping him become a positive being in the world; someone that shines light and encourages others to be themselves in his presence. In order to do that, he needs to learn about the world first. Empathy is huge; the ability to empathize with others, and also to understand that he does not know everything is really important. First understanding that the things that make us human and that connect us to one another – are more than the things the things that make us different. If we work together, and if we focus on society, people, and how we connect to others, life will be so much richer than if we were to only focus on material or physical things. Many of us know this intellectually, but continue with old habits. I’m also guilty of this. I just hope he doesn’t have to reach the age of 70, or even 40, before understanding this and living his life accordingly.


Tell us something that no one knows about you.

Most people don’t know that I am of Nigerian, Scottish, and Kenyan origin.

Another thing is my love of rock climbing! I’m going back to Uganda with climbing holds in order to build a bouldering cave in my compound. I want to encourage the climbing culture in Kampala. It already exists as an outdoor activity to some extent, but I want there to be more accessibility within Kampala itself. I find climbing to be incredibly therapeutic and I want to bring that with me wherever I go.

FMS Fellow Feature: Ben Grimmig

Ben Grimmig, MBA ’17

Ben Grimmig (MBA ’17) has worked with Ambassador Corps in the CSIL offices while completing his degree at at the Middlebury Institute. He also participated in the FMS Training as part of the January 2016 cohort, where he found a passion in impact investing. Current Partnerships Associate Christina Lukeman caught up with Mr. Grimmig in Washington, D.C. this summer to hear his thoughts on fair trade, his top mentors in the field (looking at you, Mr. Hildebrand!) and how his love for the environment has optimally affected his trajectory in the impact sector.

Tell us about your current work/position. What are your next steps?

BG: Currently, I am a Mission-MBA intern at Honest Tea. My main responsibility is to write our mission report (kind of like a sustainability report which tracks Honest Tea’s mission-related initiatives over the last 12 months). They use four main metrics: organic purchasing from a pounds-perspective, fair trade purchasing from a pounds-perspective, fair trade premiums generated from a dollar-perspective, and servings sold (this shows scale and scale equals impact—Honest Tea sells more after being bought by Coke). For example: They converted to 100% fair trade sugar (but my role is to demonstrate what that means from a fair trade perspective?)

My next moves are going back to school at MIIS (and working at CSIL!), meanwhile I’ll continue to work at Honest Tea in a project-oriented sense—I’d like to see it my work through to publication of online report and distribution.

In Spring 2017, my plans are to do a FMS placement in Latin America working for an Impact Fund.

What is impact to you?

BG: Impact is giving people the tools so that they can autonomously best improve their community or situations. Obviously, my answer is very influenced by working in fair trade where you pay a premium so that the community can democratically decide what to do with that extra money. In essence, you give people the tools to do what THEY think is best, not necessarily what the money-holder thinks is best for the community.

We are so naïve to think we can step into a new situation and think we can change it, but often times where you can move the needle is not necessarily what is the sexier job position. So, impact from a personal perspective is knowing what you are good and moving [the needle] there. That’s why I love impact funds—you are supporting different grassroots initiatives and letting the community decide how to best allocate capital. Something I would really like to see grow in the impact investing space is improving the lines of communication between the funds and the community so that there is way more community involvement in the decision-making process of allocating funds.

What inspired you into impact? 

BG: My trajectory is heavily influenced by the environmental space because I love the outdoors; I wanted my career to be environmentally focused. I thought the best way to get involved was with CSR. A lot of that can be attributed to Adam Werbach – who was the youngest president of the Sierra Club, but later left controversially and went on to consult both non-profit and for-profit companies (like Walmart) on how to green their business. He gave this speech where he said “While there’s a certain activist romance in the David vs. Goliath story, I began to get more comfortable with the odds of working with Goliath in the spirit of a David.” And I think this idea that you could actually work with big companies really influenced me.  So I went on to do communications consulting, with a focus on CSR, for large companies. My whole belief system when getting into public relations was that company’s could do well by doing good – that consumers actually seek out environmentally or socially conscious brands (i.e. B-Corps!) – but that brands often fail to communicate their initiatives and therefore miss out on a big opportunity. I wanted to help companies tell their sustainability story. I wrote sustainability reports and other communications assets related to brands’ CSR efforts. Ultimately, while I still firmly believe that business can be a force for good, I was frustrated with my role. I was seeing a company’s environmental or social initiative after it had already been implemented – and my job was to communicate. While, telling a story is very important to in engaging stakeholders with your values, I didn’t always find it genuine and I thought I could have more of an impact if I could get involved earlier in the process of formulating an initiative.  That’s what led me back to school. I wanted to get a deeper background in finance and impact investing. I thought if I could get to the source of the money, I could have more influence over social or environmental initiatives in the private sector compared to when I worked in communications and only saw initiatives after they had been implemented. I am now more interested in the finance side – particularly helping smaller enterprises access capital.   

How would you describe your FMS experience?

BG: There was never a dull moment. During the experience you are exposed to people from so many backgrounds. The curriculum covered a wide swath of material; the facilitators presented many problems. My favorite part was getting in my group every day and creatively solving those problems. From a networking perspective it is all the people you could hope to see in that space; it made me feel very much in the inner circle.

What did you learn from working with CSIL?

BG: I’ve learned a lot from the individuals who work there. The staff genuinely care about what they do, even “impact” aside and really how to live a good life. They’ve created a family feel in the office. Jerry is a mentor and great example of what I want my work to feel like: he demonstrates the power of relationship in the workplace. I remember walking into SOCAP the first day and I felt like I was walking in with Brad Pitt—everyone wanted a hug from him and he made everyone feel special. The business we do with Ambassador Corps is so relationship-based, so this is essential. Also, I’ve also learned the back-end on how to run a lean-organization: long hours and how to make choices when resource-constrained.

Ben and Jerry at an Ambassador Corps meeting in Spring 2016.

Who has been a “pillar” mentor to you?

BG: First and foremost, Jerry! Also, due to my interest in the private sector, Yvon Chouinard (Founder of Patagonia). But probably the most influential to me has been Adam Werbach, who has the youngest president of the Sierra Club, quit and went to work for Walmart (a nod to the metaphor of David and Goliath). He found that he had more impact working from within. He went onto found Saatchi & Saatchi S (a Public Relations firm focused on sustainability). He, to me, was a defining person that got me into CSR from a communications-perspective.

 How has your life changed since getting involved in impact?

BG: I’ve become not so idealistic and more into realistically taking a more holistic approach to business. I’ve taken my focus off solely the environment and become more focused on social issues as well, understanding that impact is interconnected.

Tell us something that no one knows about you.

BG: I was prom king!

Editor’s Note: Ben makes the best homemade chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever tasted—and yes, I realize that is a big statement.



FMS Fellow Feature: Megan Vose

FMS taught me great techniques and frameworks for thinking through our challenges as we grow and has enabled me to employ more creative models for success.”


Megan Vose is a Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) Alumna, recent Middlebury Institute graduate and social entrepreneur who participated in the FMS  2016 Monterey Certificate Training. She is returning to Panama to manage her business, El Motete, with her best friend and business partner, Will Riddlehoover who served with Megan in Peace Corps. She tells us more about her FMS experience and El Motete’s impact:


Why did you join FMS?

Moving into a growing business environment that is becoming more socially conscious in Panama, I knew it would be a great opportunity to apply FMS skills to our business and further expand our network of people that could possibly support us as we grow.

What was your biggest takeaway from FMS?

Networking: I met incredible and creative people. It was also really eye-opening to learn about how vast the space still is, and how much there is still room for growth and involvement. I enjoyed learning about the key players and the people who are really building the space in very unique and interesting ways.

Tell us about your current work

I am co-founder of El Motete, a specialty grocery store located in Panama City, carrying 100% locally-made and locally-grown products. We carry items such as fresh produce, value-added products, and artisanal goods all made by local producers that we work with through a direct producer-to-market supply chain. We launched in March of 2016 and are excited to be expanding our customer base in the city.

As Peace Corps Volunteers in Panama, Will and I realized that the greatest barrier to access for small-scale producers was access to retail markets. As we noticed a growing culture of not only food-conscious but also socially-minded and progressive food-based businesses opening in Panama, we saw a great opportunity to bridge the gap between rural communities and the city by giving them a space in El Motete to share their products and their stories, spreading the value of buying local.

What were some of the greatest challenges that you faced launching your business?

Financing was challenging, but we were fortunate enough to reach our goals through a successful Indiegogo campaign and with some money from our own pockets. It was a lot of work, but we were able to start without being indebted to anyone, and that gave us a great foundation for growth. Another challenge was navigating the legal and bureaucratic framework of starting a business in a foreign country. With the help of friends and fellow business-owners in the city, as well as our amazing lawyer, we continue working through these challenges. Support, patience and an open mind have been key to our perseverance and we are excited for the new challenges as we continue to strengthen the presence of small producers in Panama City.

What does impact mean to El Motete?

The whole basis of our business is to build a system that has a positive and sustainable impact to small-scale producers outside of Panama City. These are the individuals that we met and worked with in Peace Corps and they are the motivation for everything that we do. We’ve been very busy and have had great success in our first two months since opening. We realize that first and foremost we need to build a lucrative and sustainable business in order to best support our mission moving forward and this is our focus today. From there we will be able to impact more and more small-scale producers and hopefully continue to encourage buying local.

How are you using the skills you learned in FMS?

The tools I learned in FMS have helped me think about ways of moving forward to ensure that we stay true to our current mission. It taught me great techniques and frameworks for thinking through our challenges as we grow and has enabled me to employ more creative models for success. I’d highly recommend FMS to anyone working in this space.

What are your top three tips for those looking to start an impact career?

  • Follow your passion
  • Take risks
  • Value the relationships and networks around you!


Follow El Motete:  Website  Facebook  Instagram

The Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) program seeks purpose-driven professionals to join its award-winning social enterprise management and impact investing certificate trainings in Monterey, California (June 6-17, 2016), and Washington, DC (Winter 2017). Founded in 2011, FMS has trained more than 300 professionals since its inception. FMS received a 2013 Cordes Innovation Award from AshokaU and has now become the flagship program of the newly launched Center for Social Impact Learning at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

Announcing a New Impact Investing “Hard Skills” 2-Day Clinic: Financial Analysis and Modeling for Social Businesses, Projects and Impact Investing Funds

ClinicWhat hard skills are required for a career in the impact investing? For starters, you are going to need to know the difference between debt and equity. You must be able to understand financial statements and how to create a financial model, analyses, and forecasting.

What is a social enterprise? What does “impact” really mean? The “impact space” spans across all industries. It is an exciting new approach that uses finance and business as a tool to address pressing environmental and social needs. Many purpose-driven people have worked “close to the impact” through the Peace Corps, or with a local nonprofit. However, the essential frameworks for social business design can be challenging to distinguish for those who have little or no background in basic finance.

We’ve designed a 2-day intensive clinic focused on the essential frameworks for financial analysis and modeling for social impact. The clinic is a comprehensive introduction that will break down key concepts. It has been designed as a primer to the Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) certificate training in social enterprise management and impact investing.

The clinic takes place the weekend prior to the FMS Monterey training—June 4 & 5, 2016. It is ideal for incoming FMS participants as well as past alums who lack a solid background in finance. This course is also an excellent opportunity for professionals interested in gaining a foundational starting point for understanding how impact investing and social enterprise works. Check out the schedule for a break down of each day.

Workshop Fee: $450 (Special pricing available for FMS participants)

To apply, submit your information here –


Course Instructor

Kim Kastorff founded both Kimpacto, Inc. and Global Success Fund, after many years in banking, investments, social responsibility & education, and understanding that social entrepreneurs & global businesses need affordable financial services, funding and greater collaboration, plus the increasing importance to demonstrate social impact. Today, there is an increasing trend for ‘Maximizing financial + social impact.’  Kimpacto further supports impact investors in connecting their personal mission with impact funds and social investment opportunities.

Kim’s goal is to promote financial inclusion and push for a more educated and financially sustainable global environment.  As a Benefit Corporation and Certified B Corporation, Kimpacto, Inc. is held to our global mission and a higher level of social, environmental, community and governance standards.
Kim is fluent in English & Spanish and brings her global finance, investment banking and Big 4 Consulting experience (U.S., Europe & Latin America) and holds an MBA in Finance, and a Masters in Research – Impact Investing and FINRA Securities Licenses (7, 63, 65).



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.

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

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!

Follow CSIL and FMS:  CSIL Twitter   FMS Twitter    FMS Facebook    CSIL Facebook   Newsletter

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

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

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.