The latest FMS Global Impact Chats webinar session featured sustainable supply chain management specialist and FMS alum Ben Couch. Click here to view a video recording of the presentation.
There is so much opportunity for improvement in the way we produce, process and distribute goods around the world, between small business loans in emerging markets, to biofuels, to smarter technology for distribution. – Ben Couch
The most recent Global Impact chat session featured guest Ben featured shared insights from his FMS experience and highlighted how it connects to his current role with Traditional Medicinals ™ Inc. Ben Couch is a supply change management and social projects specialist for Traditional Medicinals ™ Inc., a medicinal tea company headquartered in Sebastopol, CA. One of his company’s top ingredients comes from the desert in northwest India and the company is partnering with Gravis, a local NGO in Rajasthan, India, to develop a social business model. The goal for this model is to improve the livelihood of their farmers and at the same time the quality and security of their ingredient supply.
FMS Global Impact Chats are webinar sessions to enable community building and idea sharing focused on professional development, tools, and trends in the social impact space. Stay tuned for real-time FMS updates on twitter: https://twitter.com/FMScouts
The career-defining opportunity to work with social ventures and impact investment firms around the world.
I’ve loved learning about the startup environment, the issues startups face, the time and resource constraints. It’s not like the corporate world where you have departments doing the work for you – you have to be resourceful, you do not have the luxury of time to research the best approach, you’ve got to just get in there and figure it out.
Get ready to embark on one of the most professionally and personally rewarding experiences of your career. As an FMS Fellow you will join a network of nearly 300 impact-driven professionals who share your passion and dedication to solving today’s most intractable social problems through social enterprise and impact investment.
Ready to get started? Here is a snapshot of what you can expect on the first part of this exciting journey.
Program Welcome (Webinar and Fellow Handbook): the FMS Fellowship begins with an online webinar to welcome participants to the program and provide an overview of what to expect during the upcoming placement process. Fellows will receive a welcome packet / handbook prior to the webinar that they should review beforehand and come prepared with any questions.
The Placement Process (2 – 4 months): the placement process is where the fellowship learning experience really begins. Although this can be a nerve-wracking time for fellows as they wonder where they will be placed, we see huge successes from fellows who can clearly express their professional goals, build relationships, and above all, are truly adventurous and able to accept ambiguity with a positive attitude. Our team works with fellows to prepare them for their interviews and coaches them throughout the placement process.
The placement process is broken up into three main phases:
One-to-one Career Consultation (October – November)
One-to-one career consultations take place within the first month after fellows have paid their program deposit.
Fellows meet with a member of the FMS team who works with the fellow to better understand their specific career goals, skillsets and professional maturity.
Prior to their career consultation, fellows will develop a personal pitch to a prospective employer that they will practice during the consultation with the FMS team.
Matching Process (November – December)
The FMS team reviews available job opportunities and recommends each fellow to all potential matches, based on experience, skills, and career goals.
Partners receive the list of recommended candidates at which point partners short-list which fellows they would like to interview.
The FMS team introduces fellows to placement partners and share job descriptions
Interviews (December – February)
Once introductions are made it is up to the placement partner and fellows to arrange a time for an interview.
Fellows are guaranteed at least 3 interviews with prospective employers
Jobs are offered at the partner’s discretion
Once an offer is made fellows and employers must sign a copy of the agreed upon job description and submit to the FMS team.
Pre-Departure Orientation (Webinar and course materials): This webinar will take place 4-6 weeks prior to the 2-week certificate training in Amsterdam and Monterey and will focus on training logistics (flights, accommodation, travel insurance, important contacts, training agenda and readings). Former Fellows will join the conversation to provide guidance on what fellows can expect during the training and how to get the most out of the experience.
Two-week certificate training (Amsterdam or Monterey): Prior to departing on their field assignments, Fellows participate in an intensive, two-week certificate training that prepares fellows for 2-12 month field assignments with social enterprises and impact investment foundations in the US and abroad. The FMS training is an incredible opportunity to network with leading practitioners in the field and professional peers – you will be busy!
Field Assignments (US and Global Locations, 2-12 months): Two – four weeks following the FMS training, Fellows embark on field assignments with social enterprises and impact investment foundations in the US and abroad. While on assignment, fellows provide due diligence for investors and technical assistance for entrepreneurs to discover innovations, improve business processes, attract investments and promote sustainable business models.
Career support and peer mentoring: While in the field FMS Fellows will have the opportunity to participate in a series of Global Impact Chats with other fellows and mentors to share experiences, lessons-learned and new knowledge to maximize impact and cultivate resilience while in the field. Topics will also cover job search strategies for fellows transitioning out of their assignments.
In my circles, when we ask “what’s your story?” we want to learn about where someone grew up, what they do for a living, their plans for the evening or something similarly superficial. In contrast, when Resonate leads a workshop with this underlying question, they are probing participants to demonstrate their values through a story of struggle and triumph.
I arrived in Rwanda nearly two weeks ago and already I have enough stories to fill a shoebox. Every morning there’s a story about hailing a moto and moments later engaging the core and hailing Mary, hoping I’ll make it to the office in one piece. There’s the one where I unintentionally ordered goat guts on a stick (it was salty, crispy, and tasty) or the one where I rallied the participants of a training to sing Happy Birthday for Resonate’s Lead Trainer, Solange, though I was totally wrong about it being her birthday.
There are plenty of muzungu in Kigali stories I can tell you. But I want to tell you about the self-transformation and community building that I witnessed at the Nyarirambo Women’s Center (NWC) training in mid-July. It was a Sunday filled with revelations, both for the twelve young staff members and me – and we were not in a church nor a mosque.
NWC is a center in Nyamirambo, an eclectic and vibrant neighborhood in Kigali. The center engages local youth (up to age 35) in hospitality and tourism by training them to lead tours for visitors in their community. We arrived early to set up for Resonate’s core training on Storytelling for Leadership.
The group was insightful, disciplined, and open – different from American youth groups I’ve led. They were quick to connect with Solange, her story, and her facilitation style. One shared his story of abandoning his life as a street kid to finish his high school education and today reaches out to street kids to show them another way. Another illustrated her strong-held values of self-respect by opening up about rejecting a Sugar Daddy’s propositions. A third shared his experience as a young elected neighborhood chief and the challenges that arose when he was put in positions of contesting his neighbors and elders.
When each in the group had learned to tell their story succinctly and heard of the trials and victories of their peers, a seismic transformation occurred both individually and collectively. Evidence and testimonials of group bonding captivated the room. “I love that we are just like a family… [and] hearing from all who shared their story” proclaimed an NWC participant. While the group grew closer, each person held within them a reminder of the courage they already possessed. Resonate’s training taps into the existing well of bravery, strength, and love within each person and gives permission and guidance for participants to tell it in a compelling way. On a pragmatic level, the young tour guides learned a new way to connect authentically with tourists as well as a way to present and express themselves and their ideas in their future professional and personal endeavors.
What results from the workshop is an outpouring of love: self-love and familial love, which is ground zero for social change. Like Cornell West beautifully stated: “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Resonate’s Storytelling training lays the foundation for individuals to take on leadership, call for action in the face of injustice, and mobilize others for change.
I had the privilege to learn that storytelling is an opportunity to connect more deeply with peers and strangers alike. Through telling our stories we can build a more intimate relationship with ourselves as well as the circles we walk in. Listening and telling our stories serve as windows to the shared human experience. After all, stories are the background music to falling in love and stories can also make the dangerous mistake of broadcasting a single narrative and breed deep-seeded, yet misplaced, hatred (as we’ve seen the pendulum swing both ways here with the genocide twenty years ago and ongoing reconciliation today). For better or for worse, stories move us to small actions and great leaps of passion. Stories, and the people who tell them, hold power for change.
I hope the next time you’re asked “what’s your story?” you will use it as an opportunity to connect and express your love out loud.
About the Author:
Donna has committed her heart and energy to the anti-human trafficking movement for over a decade. Most recently, she headed the anti-human trafficking unit at The Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE) Project, a survivor-centered nonprofit organization in San Francisco. Donna is an innovative and adaptive leader, a keen strategic planner and a compassionate team builder. Donna is motivated to weave mission with sustainable business practices to urge meaningful change in the areas of migration, poverty, and exploitation. She is fluent in Hebrew and competent in Spanish; a self-starter and industrious. Communication is her strong suit – she is comfortable in boardrooms and in the field alike and is at her best when she is bridging the two spheres.
[Note to readers: My plan is to gracefully pass over that 2 year gap that was my Darden experience, just for ease of transition really. I’m happy to talk about all things business school in a different venue, if you are interested in my thoughts, learnings, etc. Moving forward, the purpose and function of this blog will be the following:
Chronicle my experiences and learnings during my work, and in Colombia in general
Retain a somewhat-articulate grasp of the English language
Have a central repository of the basics, so that when I DO actually connect with friends and family, I don’t have to repeat the same details on my end (so self-serving, I know!)
And finally, lure visitors to this fine country. See you all soon.]
First, let’s cover the basics: What am I actually doing in Bogotá?
My employer in Bogotá is BizCorps, a US-based nonprofit that places recently graduated MBAs with growing companies in developing countries. BizCorps was founded by Rob Mosbacher Jr., former head of OPIC, a federal organization tasked with “mobilizing private capital to help solve critical development challenges.” Through his tenure there, Rob learned that the real constraint to addressing these challenges was not capital flows, but human capital – access to highly trained managers who bring knowledge of best practices and global markets. He mobilized around this central learning and created an organization to fill this need – hence, BizCorps. In country, we operate as long-term consultants, embedded in our placement companies for about a year, working to diagnose and address a variety of issues (more on our clients & this process later).
By the numbers: 6 of us comprise BizCorps’ 2nd cohort in Colombia, hailing from 5 different American universities and 4 different countries. BizCorps also operates in Kenya, based in Nairobi (Nick and Heather are both blogging from Nairobi, if you want to keep up with that side of the world too).
My client is Fruandes, an organic, fair trade dried fruit company that exports 96% of it’s product to Canada & Europe (& a little to the US). They have sold out their planned production through most of 2015, and are looking to expand their capacity (& rethink their operations strategy) by likely moving out from Bogota. I’m helping them with this process by both assessing the feasibility a relocation and of new possible locations, while then working to build processes that will make them less-reliant on individual’s knowledge and save time and money as they grow.
All you have to do is google ‘Colombia turnaround’, or something of the like, to be introduced to the loads of literature recently published on the subject of Colombia’s emergence on the world stage. Some recent free trade agreements have boosted this too.
Here is a sample of how Colombia is performing in what someone-who-has-a-website called the “Top 10 Growth Markets in Latin America”:
TV sales in Colombia will go up by 30% in 2014
Pets market: average annual growth of 13%
Cosmetics: grew 31%, 2011-13
Hotel rooms under construction in Colombia: 2,805
Luxury boat sales: up 27%, 2009-13
Also, if you’ve never played around on Google’s Public Data Tool, it’s pretty fun:
GDP growth rateGDP per capita (constant US$ 2000)
This week my Facebook feed has been bombarded with friends doing the Ice-Bucket Challenge. I’ve seen some pretty interesting adaptations (including a traveling friend who had no bucket, so jumped off a 60 foot cliff into the ocean instead – kudos Rob). I’ve also seen a number of what some people might call “haters” questioning the merits of the whole endeavor. With feelings running strong on both sides, I couldn’t help but join into the fray. What should we make of this fad?
I think the first thing we should notice is just that: it’s a fad. That said, it’s a fad I wish I had thought of. Working for a small non-profit myself, I would be the hero of the century if I could increase our revenue by such huge percentage with a random viral challenge. So I think the first thing we should recognize is: There is absolutely nothing wrong with using crazy marketing stunts like this to raise money for a worthy cause.
With the exception of the many who seem to have trouble dumping water on themselves, there is no harm in the challenge, and it will hopefully do significant good for the state of research for ALS.
So before I move on, I want to emphasize the importance of the outcome. The outcome is very positive, so from that perspective, the ice bucket challenge is great. And I applaud anyone who has participated with the goal simply of increasing funds going to this research.
But regardless of the outcome, why has this particular endeavor been so successful? And what does the answer to that question tell us about American society? Anything that goes viral tells us something about the deep desires of the society hosting the “virus.” What is this “virus” exploiting so effectively in our society?
A Google search tells me that, among all taxpayers (not just those who itemize tax deductions), charitable giving in the US averaged between 2 and 2.5% of income in 2008 for all those with income less than $500,000 (the most recent I could find for this total population data). With a median income in the US of $51,000, 2% would amount to just over $1,000 per year given to charitable causes, including religious organizations. Why do we spend so little on causes we claim to care about, when we are willing to spend so much of our income on frivolity (consider the hordes of low-salaried young people who will spend $100-200 in a single night on alcohol, and that multiple times per month)?
The rather obvious fact is, people want to spend money on themselves, regardless of what they say about their beliefs or goals. That is why it takes a gimmick to bring out donations in any sizable amount from the population at large. That doesn’t make the ice bucket challenge bad; it makes it savvy.
But there have been other gimmicks. Why has this particular gimmick been so effective?
Some of the response is chance – the right influencer dumps water on his head at the right time, and it takes off. But it never would have gone viral if not for the fact that we all want to appear as good, generous people online. No one is going to applaud my generosity—or my well-apportioned swimsuit physique—if I am asked to give money for ALS research and I just do it, privately.
An immediate clarification is needed – I know that many people who are participating in the challenge are extremely generous, and give regularly to all sorts of good causes. Even if the truly generous join in, the reason something like this goes viral is, sadly, because of appearances. Requests to privately increase support for any cause will never be as effective as requests to increase support for a cause that also bolsters your image, even if the generous donate in both instances.
But I would argue thatprivate giving is what counts, especially because it is often more durable, not being motivated by social performance. Very few of those who give $10 for ALS research will continue supporting the cause on an ongoing basis, simply because of the lack of any continuing social payoff. But sustainable change only happens with sustainable support, most of which does not afford the opportunity for Facebook posting.
The wild popularity of the ice bucket challenge is sad evidence that as a society, we have missed the whole point of generosity, which is not really generosity if the goal is self-aggrandizement. There is a good reason that the ideal of Christian generosity is captured in Jesus’ command to not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing when you give to the poor.
Wait – I can’t see your abs!
My Challenge to You
The world is full of problems, and the world is full of people trying to solve those problems. To make any sort of sustainable impact on those problems, more is needed than generosity only when a viral trend demands it.
So instead of challenging you to dump water on your head and give two Starbucks lattes worth of money to ALS research, I challenge you instead to pick an organization that you think is making a lasting, positive difference in the world, and commit to support it for at least a year, with at least $100 per month, or whatever amount makes it hurt just a little.
And don’t tell me about it.
Filed under: Life and Culture Tagged: ALS, charitable donations, generosity, giving, ice bucket challenge
This post was submitted by MPA student and FMS alumna Nicole Manapol
Madelle Kangha may have just completed the FMS Training in June but this budding social entrepreneur (and aspiring leader of Cameroon) is already having a big impact on one of Africa’s most complex challenges – youth unemployment.
Since launching the JumpStart Academy Africa in 2013 with her Nigerian friend, Omotola Akinsola their venture has trained 220 young people from Cameroon and Nigeria in ethical leadership, civic engagement and entrepreneurship. JumpStart also provides employment opportunities to 30 young people.
One of their scholars from Ndu, Cameroon recently became one of 50 young people across Africa selected to join the inaugural class of the Yale Young African Scholars program. JumpStart Academy was also recently nominated for the Youth Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition, an international contest sponsored by the Goi Peace Foundation, Stiftung Entrepreneurship and UNESCO.
Madelle and her team have big impact goals – their plan is to reach 17,000 young people over the next 5 years.
In this interview Madelle talks about what led her to establish JumpStart and how the Frontier Market Scouts Program can help social entrepreneurs accelerate their impact.
Tell us a bit about your background – what led you to establish your own social venture?
Growing up amidst challenges in Cameroon lit a fire in me to create a more equitable society. I also benefited from strong role models, like my parents and siblings. This inspired my mantra and daily motto: “Setting the sky as your limit is overrated – Set the sky as your base. For in doing so, you soar to new heights and define the boundaries of what is possible.”
Beyond my personal experiences, I also had a very rich and unique education, which is at the core of my work as a social entrepreneur – especially with regards to Jumpstart Academy Africa. After 7 years in an allgirls boarding school, I learnt the possibility and value of female leadership in society. At the African Leadership Academy, I learnt firsthand how to design and implement solutions, business principles and new languages like Swahili.
During my time at the London School of Economics, I immersed myself in extracurricular activities such as helping pupils with their school work and raising their aspirations for higher education, running free law clinics, participating in Moot Courts, serving as Marketing Director for the LSE Entrepreneurs Society, Events Officer for the LSE Catholic Society, and study abroad with the LSE UN society at United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
Beyond academics, I was fortunate to undertake challenging internships and work experience programs with leading organizations such as Clifford Chance, Oliver Wyman, ICAP Plc, Standard Bank, Shearman and Sterling LLP and Teach First.
With these experiences, I set out to implement my ideas to create a better world; first with Youths4Change and then with Jumpstart Academy Africa.
What do you love most about your work?
My work as a social entrepreneur is all about creating value in a way that changes lives and advances society – this is what drives me.
I love that every day presents a new learning curve for me but my most important lesson has been managing the triple bottom line – People, Planet and Profit. My business can’t sustain itself without profits, and the world can’t be sustained without my business.
Managing multiple bottom lines can be a challenge but a combination of a well thought out model, a clear set of operating principles, deep passion and sufficient attraction of capital taken altogether, can allow a social entrepreneur to have both mission and margin.
Tell us about the JumpStart Academy – how did this all begin?
I enrolled at Watson University in 2013. It was at Watson that my path crossed with Omotola Akinsola, a groundbreaking changemaker from Nigeria. Aside from the fact that we both hope to someday lead our respective countries, we also had the same theory of social change – so we joined forces and Jumpstart Academy Africa was born.
The idea behind Jumpstart Academy Africa is simple using the principles of ethical leadership and entrepreneurship; students can learn the skills needed in today’s transformed and transitory world. Beyond acquiring skills, students receive training that enables them to innovate across different sectors – to be job creators as opposed to the old rhetoric of job seekers.
Why does this matter? Currently, Africa is the most youthful continent in the world. At least 35 per cent of its more than 1 billion population is between the ages of 15 and 35. Experts estimate this could double by 2045. Africa is home to the world’s fastest growing labor force, which by 2040, is expected to grow to 1.1 billion people. With an ever-increasing youthful population, the challenges are ever increasing, more complex and more urgent. Most pertinent is the fact that Africa is home to seven of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world, yet 70% of the workingage population is unemployed.
This means reaping the demographic dividend of Africa’s youthful population is not a given. It requires immediate and urgent substantial investment. Africa’s largely youthful population makes up the next generation of workers, politicians, teachers, parents, entrepreneurs and leaders. I firmly believe that harnessing the untapped potential of Africa’s youthful population is key to achieving economic growth and prosperity for the continent.
At Jumpstart Academy Africa, we are tackling this challenge via Leadership and Entrepreneurship. The model is simple. JumpStart Academy delivers a two-year Leadership and Entrepreneurship curriculum to students aged 15 – 18 across partner secondary schools, through trained university students and graduates. Currently, we serve over 220 students in 15 schools across Cameroon and Nigeria. Ourgoal is to reach over 17,000 young people across 10 countries in the next 5 years.
Tell us about your FMS Experience – how did you first learn of the program and what were the most valuable aspects of the training for you?
My FMS Experience was great. I was impressed with the caliber of the fellows, the mentors and trainers. The content of the training was very well tailored and relevant to my work with the JumpStart Academy. I particularly liked Ross Baird’s session on the Fit Framework, which looks at the Investor’s perspective in the Social Impact Space. This has been a very useful tool as it gives me insight as a social entrepreneur into what investors are looking for when considering whether or not to fund a venture.
As a social entrepreneur the training is invigorating – you get to bounce ideas off of others working in the space, collaborate and in my case – recruit talent for my enterprise!
Any advice for other aspiring social entrepreneurs?
This post was submitted by MPA student and FMS alumna Nicole Manapol
Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign,but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Danger of a Single Story (TED)
Stories are transformative – whether it’s the “official” story of a despotic regime, a beloved myth or the self-destructive narratives we sometimes play in our heads.
No one understands this better than FMS Partner Ayla Schlosser, Founder and Executive Director of Resonate – a startup teaching leadership skills to women and girls through a training course rooted in storytelling. Launched just over a year ago and based in Rwanda, Resonate was founded on the principle that stories matter. Through her background in community organizing and communications consulting, Ayla saw firsthand the importance of storytelling as a tool for affecting change and building leadership capacity. As Ayla often remarks – a compelling story can mean the difference between having an idea about how to fix a problem and actually leading the charge for community-based solutions.
Seeing the potential of narrative-based leadership training in other contexts outside the US, Ayla began looking for organizations where she could use her expertise to catalyze work already being done with women internationally. When no such organization materialized, Ayla (in true entrepreneurial fashion) decided to start her own company…in a country (Rwanda) she had never visited. When asked about the risk of traveling halfway across the world to test a market in which she had no prior experience – Ayla responded – you’re never going to have all the information – at some point you’ve just got to dive in and see what happens…
In October 2013 Ayla was off to Rwanda.
Why Rwanda? Although Ayla had no prior experience in Rwanda, there were a lot of reasons that made it an ideal place to pilot Resonate’s training. Over the past 20 years Rwanda has been working hard to rebuild its economy. Women’s economic empowerment has been a central feature of the government’s recovery strategy, creating a favorable environment for women’s leadership initiatives. Rwanda also has a strong tradition of oral leadership making the training a good cultural fit.
But perhaps the most compelling reason to launch in Rwanda was a strong partner – the Akilah Intitute for Women, an East African women’s college. As a graduate of Smith College, an all women’s school in the US, Ayla felt a natural affinity with Akilah. Her first training at the college with a group of female journalists still counts as one of her best moments since launching Resonate. Prior to conducting the training, Ayla worried about how participants would receive it – would it make sense? Would it fit the culture? The outcome is something Ayla still proudly recalls. The women got it…but not only did they get it – they were transformed by it. For most of the women at Akilah and also at subsequent trainings that was the first time they had ever told their story, felt how their personal narratives could resonate with others – how they could affect and inspire change. One of the women in a Resonate training later related to Ayla that she keeps the video clip of herself telling her story on her phone to remind herself of that moment – the moment she truly recognized her own strength and what she had to offer others.
With less than a year since launching programs on the ground in Rwanda – Resonate is poised to expand into Kenya and potentially other countries in the Region. Ayla attributes much of her success to her staff on the ground –in particular lead trainer Solange Impanoyimana who came to the project with a strong background in community development, storytelling and radio and who has already taken ownership of the enterprise. Friends, family and professional networks were also incredibly helpful to Ayla as she sought points of contact within Rwanda, developed marketing and communications strategies, fundraised or just simply needed advice.
Ayla recognizes programs like Frontier Market Scouts, which provided her with the talent and human resources to support operations. As a busy entrepreneur, traveling between Rwanda and the US and trying to launch a business, having the time to recruit and screen candidates is a major challenge. The benefit of working with FMS is having the program vet top candidates for you. Through this process Resonate was able to hire Donna Sinar, an MPA candidate at the Monterey Institute of International Studies with significant management experience in the non-profit sector. As a startup, priorities are constantly changing. What Ayla likes best about Donna and her FMS preparation is her ability to be flexible and respond to whatever new priority may arise on a daily basis.
Moving forward Ayla is considering different business models to generate revenue to sustain Resonate, including crowdfunding and a one-for-one training model with corporate CSR programs. There is a lot of interest and demand for Resonate’s Storytelling for Leadership training. The challenge now she says is being strategic about what she pursues given the size and capacity of her team. Other challenges involve fundraising – as many entrepreneurs know you need a history of funding to get funding.
But Ayla is undeterred – my approach is collaborative, I don’t want to re-invent the wheel. This is an exciting time for Resonate – particularly for anyone interested in Resonate’s work. As a startup we are constantly evolving. People who get involved with us now have the unique opportunity to shape what Resonate will be…
MIIS and FMS Alumna Danielle Steer Shares Tips on Living and Working Abroad.
Over the course of the next two months, 21 Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) Fellows will be heading into emerging markets as scouts, business development consultants, and impact investing associates. FMS fellows come from a variety of backgrounds and have very diverse international experiences. For some, the FMS field placement is a first exposure to living and working in an emerging market.
As an alumna of the Monterey Institute MPA program, I can’t begin to count the number of experiences my colleagues and I have shared about being a development practitioner including “how to cope” and “methods for success”.
I decided to enlist the help of fellow FMS and Monterey Institute alumni to give our fellows advice for living and working in the developing world. Their collective advice stems from experience in Nigeria, Cameroon, Rwanda, Peru, Ecuador, Philippines, and India.
Tips for Living and Working in an Emerging Economy
Talk to your taxi driver! They have some of the best suggestions for local places to check out and more generally just some great stories about life.
Get close to a family or two, especially if you’re in a more rural area. This will give you so much more insight than just hanging with the expat crew. Have meals with these people a lot. They will also look out for you.
Invest in a good fan that oscillates, embrace crowded bus rides, and keep a good sense of humor.
It’s okay to be homesick. There may be moments when you long for the safety of “home.” Find a way to bring a piece of home with you to self-sooth when need be (i.e. a DVD, favorite book, cooking spices and ingredients, or Siracha).
When family and friends visit have them bring you items from “home” like cheddar, mac & cheese boxes, and socks.
Take part in four things that can expedite building relationships – playing sports, music/dancing, food, & drinking (albeit not to excess or to the point where you cannot make sound judgments).
Be prepared for reverse culture shock. Sure, there will be some initial culture shock when you move out of your home country. But no one ever prepared me for the reverse culture shock. It might hit you when you order a coffee in Swahili at Starbucks or when you are overly cautious trying to cross the street in your hometown. If you can, get in touch with other people who might be experiencing it at the same time or who can sympathize. That community of people “who get it” when you are stunned by consistent electricity or hot running water is comforting.
Money & Safety
In a taxi, lock both back doors. Sometimes people try to open them while you are sitting in traffic.
Keep your money in two places on you. If a thief tries to steal from you, pull out your stack with less money and say that’s all you have.
Keep $50 USD in small bills stashed away in your luggage.
Try to find out before arriving at your assignment whether or not credit/debit cards are commonly accepted. More often than not, you’ll need to carry cash, so finding an ATM in a well-lit, secure location is key.
Put together a thoughtful budget before you leave. How much are you willing and/or expecting to pay for housing each month? Groceries? It adds up quick, and if you’re traveling with a fixed amount of cash in the bank, you don’t want to find yourself in a sticky financial situation without a backup plan.
A steripen is a great small investment. You can use it anywhere and it saves a bunch of money as opposed to buying bottled water. It’s also good for the environment.
If you are a single (read: unmarried) female, regardless of having a boyfriend or not, be prepared to frequently explain your lack of husband. (Side note: You’re not likely to convince an inquiring man to change his stance on the matter, but don’t let it keep you from sharing your point of view. “Some of my female colleagues chose to wear fake wedding rings to avoid this, but I personally didn’t feel right pretending to be married just to avoid these conversations.”)
Keep your bag or backpack in front of you down by your legs or on your lap when traveling or at a restaurant.
Keeping in Touch
A picture is worth a thousand words.Take as many pictures as you can of your community, your work, and your travels but know when to be discreet either out of respect or for your own safety. It might feel vain, but ask people to take pictures of you in the field as well. It makes for better storytelling and helps your family and friends to better understand what you did. Not to mention when you’re feeling nostalgic upon your return, it’s nice to look back.
Post about your travels via social media. Someone in your network will always have a good recommendation for a connection, place to eat, or site to visit.
Patience is a virtue: In Peru, everyone is late, and people have different professional standards. In the end these are all cultural differences and shouldn’t be taken personally.
Take your colleagues out to lunch! You’ll get a taste for local cuisine, build relationships, and hopefully pick up on some local slang!
During rainy season, don’t walk through flood water in the street. There may be a hole in the ground that you don’t see.
Don’t be scared to rock a fanny pack!
Never travel without the following:
Pocket knife & sewing kit
Charcoal pills (for tummy aches and intestinal issues)
Calendula cream (for mosquito bites and burns)
Duct tape (It really fixes everything!)
Have any intriguing travel tips or stories of your own? Please share them via: email@example.com
FMS alum Elliot Rosenberg has had great success with his own social enterprise, “Favela Experience.” This is a way for tourists to stay in Rio de Janeiro’s Favelas and experience the local culture. Elliot’s personal experience staying with host families is what inspired his business model. By staying in the authentic and culturally rich Favelas, tourists gain a unique perspective and learn about the way of life of their hosts. Additionally, the local hosts earn a sustainable income and get the chance to meet culturally diverse guests. With the World Cup approaching, his business is growing and was featured in Next Billion Blog.http://www.nextbillion.net/blogpost.aspx?blogid=3670
When asked why he decided to start Favela Experience, Elliott remarked, “When I first visited Rio’s favelas, I was overwhelmed by the exciting culture and hospitable people. I knew I had to open these communities to the world in an immersive way that contributes to local development.” By promoting tourism within the favelas, the negative connotations are also improved. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that during the World Cup, over 600,000 tourists are expected to visit Rio and compete for 55,400 hotel rooms. There lies an excellent opportunity for business and sustainable development within Rio’s favelas. Hotels are rapidly increasing prices, and tourists are even willing to pay more to stay in the home-stays.
When asked about the role of profit in a social enterprise, Elliot reports that, “Social enterprises should aim to be wildly profitable, in order to have the most social impact. Profitable businesses get the best talent, they garner the most investment, and they expand. If people can improve the world and become incredibly wealthy at the same time, why shouldn’t they? It’s a destructive cultural norm that we censure social change agents who make a lot of money; it’s backward how we accept that the people who most harm society and the environment have the highest salaries. If we can reverse that mindset, we’ll see a radical shift in capital toward ventures addressing the world’s most pressing problems.”
FMS Global Impact Chats (GICs) are monthly meetings featuring fellows in the field, alumni, interested participants and friends. GIC webinars offer a community building platform for sharing stories and ideas around professional development, tools, and trends in the space. To subscribe, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve been lazy/busy and haven’t been writing this for a few days now, but figured I should get to this before I start traveling. I’ll be going to Kolkata, Taiwan, and Korea over the next couple weeks and am pretty excited for the prospects of being back at home. That being said, let’s run down my list of Top 10 Things I’ll Miss About India thus far:
10. Auto Rickshaws 9. American English vs. Indian English 8. Desserts 7. Animals everywhere! 6. Living in a developing country 5. Learning to communicate without words
Without further ado, my top 4!
4. CULTURAL IMMERSION
India is a country with such rich history and culture that has formed over so many years. In particular it amazed me the level of pride for country and yet regional individuality that pervades in society. Combined with the importance of religion in society and community, I found my time here to be extremely enriching. I feel blessed to have been included into this life and have been guided through the process by my friends.
If I have a few takeaway about the culture that I’ve been lucky to be a part of the past few months, I’ll remember that it’s one where family extends beyond your household…
…things are made beautiful…
…and where this motley crew summons pride.
3. REAL INDIAN FOOD
No offense (actually yes offense) to Indian food in the U.S., but real Indian food totally beats what we get at home. I’ve enjoyed being exposed to other types of Indian cuisine from what I’ve learned is only Americanized North Indian food and am now sad that I will not be able to get the same quality when I go back. In particular, a few dishes have really stood out in comparison to their American counterparts. Now I know what they’re supposed to really taste like!
2. CIIE and IIMA
I’ve been lucky to have worked at CIIE and lived at IIMA while I’ve been here. Being on a campus and having housing taken care of is a huge deal and it is a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of Indian streets. The campus is actually quite beautiful and has offered me a chance to walk around, thus allowing me to walk off calories I consume from all the eating out we did!
I forget sometimes that some of India’s best and brightest come to study here, and I’ve been told time an time again by people not living on campus how nice I have it here. Just one picture of the campus:
Not to be too cliche or anything, but what I’ll miss most about my time here is the time I spent hanging out with my friends here. For someone who felt completely lost in a new country, they took me in with open arms, joked around with me, and explained India to me with patience and a smile on their faces. I can say that I worked with some great people and I will definitely miss them when I return home. Without them, I would not have traveled as much, tried as many (and good) foods, have had as much fun in the office, or felt like that (at least for a short while) that I was living the Indian life.
Alas it is time for me to go home, but I hope to see everyone again in the future. Good things the world is becoming smaller though, yeah?
I am overdue with an update! The end of the year has been very busy and successful for YSB Haiti!
Update: The chickens have been flying off the shelf (so to speak) at the chicken farm and everything is on track for the next batch!
YSB: YSB Haiti is very close to investing in three businesses at the close of the year! The businesses range in industries from agribusiness (castor oil), safe cleaning products, to clean energy. This is very exciting as this all promotes new jobs for Haitians, social problem solutions and a growing Haitian economy.
Work: As for me, I have been continuing my work on the castor oil business and hope to close it out by the time I leave Haiti (which unfortunately is quickly approaching). I have learned so much over these past months and I am so happy I chose YSB to intern with. As my first real professional experience, it couldn’t have been better. My only regret is not being able to stick around to see how the businesses bloom. There is such a great team here in Haiti that is working their hardest to bring the best social businesses to the investment table.
Personal life: I have recently met up with a friend from back home and we plan we enjoy the December festivities in Haiti together. She, like me, is Haitian American, has her master’s and has decided to move to Haiti to find a career. Though our families may think we are crazy for moving from a first world country to a third world country, we are personally pursuing something; whether it be applying our degrees, searching for “ourselves,” looking for “something more”/fulfilling, or yearning for a new start.
Next week marks the start of my 3 week vacation dedicated to enjoying more time with my family and hopefully go to Ile-a-Vache (please do yourself a favor and google this beautiful island)!
Haiti: Through this experience I have also learned more about Haiti, its culture, and people in general. Many times I found myself comparing the US and Haiti, wondering why some countries flourish and others don’t. Unfortunately there is no one answer and no quick fix. While living here I have noticed all the intricacies of the Haitian economy: street children, working children, lighter skin Haitians or foreigners occupying the upper echelons of society, NGO and UN presence, two markets (independent sellers on the streets & formal retailers), a currency that is referred to in two different ways (gourdes and haitian dollars), easily paying in American dollars wherever you go, the dented and damaged cars climbing the streets, the absence of homeless people, the lack of proof of the most famous fact about Haiti, and so many more. And all of these aspects have their pros and cons and their reasons.
I am still adjusting to the interactions I have with the Haitian culture to this day. I found myself asking what would it take to change this problem, where do these problems stem from? Ignorance? Culture? Or is it that these problems that I observe are not problems to them at all. Whatever the case may be, this country is full of inspiration, culture, beauty, hospitality, and camaraderie.
Being a foreigner here, I realized for the first time how difficult things must be for anyone who decides to make the leap and immigrate to a new place. Things don’t quite make sense, and it’s honestly easier to simply fade away and stick with the one or two things you know. In particular, the inability to fully communicate yourself verbally can lead to a sense of helplessness and feeling a bit like you will never fully be a part of that world.
This definitely was the case with me. Armed with 8 words outside of names of food (counting 1-5, “more”, “stop”, and “okay”), I face an uphill battle when attempting to communicate with locals. What I realized is that without language, I found that I was still able to connect with people on a different level and communicate after all.
It’s pretty easy to start distrusting people who you can’t understand, but there is a certain basic humanity that I found I was tapping into when I was communicating. Making eye contact and giving a genuine smile, I was able to connect with people and know that the guy who I don’t know and can’t speak a word to has still got my back. Pointing, grunting, intonation, and perfecting the infamous Indian head bobble also served as huge helpers.
This really isn’t anything new — communicating through things outside of spoken language. However, with limited effectiveness in speaking, I enjoyed a sort of “speaking without speaking”. It made me feel more included and in touch with the culture, and while I can’t really ask them to be sure, I’m pretty sure the local shop owners kind of like “talking to me” too.
Still far from perfect, but it’s been nice to tap back into that and realize that I can still connect with someone who comes from the other side of the world. My conversations with the chai-wala is limited to “Wassup Joony,” “Not much,” “Issa nice shirt,” “Thanks,” but I still feel like the guy is my buddy. The guy who runs the small snack Nescafe stand on campus doesn’t speak English to me, but the guy still chuckles when I deviate from my normal chicken puff order. It’s a connection that goes beyond words and reminds me that we’re all essentially the same species after all!
This one’s a little different but is nonetheless a very important part of my experience in India, and the primary reason I ended up coming here in the first place. It’s something I both will and won’t miss at the same time, but hear me out.
In my pursuit of trying to do good and help people with my life, I realized that my privileged life in the U.S., for all of the wonderful blessings it provided me, also made it more difficult to understand what it meant to truly be in need. In order to serve people, I’m a believer that you need to be involved in that world. While I can’t say if having India-specific knowledge will necessarily help me in my career, it has been eye-opening to live in a country that is in a very different economic situation from what I am used to.
In terms of infrastructure, it just became apparent to me how much can happen before planning does. City planners would love to be able to map everything out and ensure that things are built properly, but when there are so many people with so much to do, it seems that sometimes it doesn’t always work out the way you hoped it would. Even in a planned business park area like Gurgaon outside of Delhi (seems a bit like Los Altos, CA), there are very nice office buildings but also a bunch of small shacks and slums that have sprung up around them. Surely this was not a part of the designer’s plans, but what can you do?
Slums do seem to spring up in random places, and sometimes how they’re dealt with can get iffy. This is an issue that isn’t as in your face in the U.S., though it does happen sometimes. From efforts like setting aside affordable housing for young professionals in historically dodgier neighborhoods to the gentrification that occurs around places like Nationals Park in DC, it’s a seemingly less messy “upscaling” that occurs in American cities (though I realize it’s probably still kind of messy..). In India, the poor are always around and continuously remind you that that segment of the population exists. To me at least, this forces you to think about how society and policy handles people who are lower on the economic food chain.
As much as I look forward to getting back Hulu+, access to Thai food, and a house with no ants, I am thankful for the exposure, as brief as it was, to a world where there are a whole different set of challenges that affect such a huge part of the world’s population. I’m hoping that this helps me be a more sympathetic person and have a better understanding of what a bit more of the world actually looks like.
Doing two again since I was out and traveling yesterday. Without further ado…
So I really am not a dessert guy and more often than not find it to be a waste of money. I would much rather save the $5 that could be used on a dessert for a future $5 footlong at Subway.
But that was before India. Then it happened. Or more specifcally, The Chocolate Room happened. This place was our staple and we’d go there as our nightcap probably about every other night, consuming items like the “Chocolate Avalanche,” pictured here.
Then by a stroke of horrible luck, the Chocolate Room near campus closed down and got replaced with a subpar coffeeshop. Any ordinary person may have thrown in the towel and given up — but we are not just ordinary people! We took the change in stride, broadening our scope to ice cream, kulfi (indian ice cream), jalebi, gulab jamun, ladoo….you name it. Before I knew it I, Joony “dessert is a waste of time” Moon, found myself suggesting dessert after meals.
While I’ll probably go back to my old ways when I get back home, I will now have a soft spot for Indian treats and desserts. So heads up kulfi places in the U.S., I will find you!
One of the most striking things for me when I first arrived in India was the number of animals that share the city with people. Stray dogs and cows make any road an obstacle course and help add to the distinct scent that makes Ahmedabad Ahmedabad.
Although I’m still wary of dogs on the street since they could still bite me, I’ve grown fond of the cows that essentially own these streets. There’s something about large lumbering mammals that make them so intriguing to watch and to poke (still working my courage up to do this). They get up, walk around, eat random stuff, walk home, sleep. Awesome life. You can honk all you want, but if a cow walks at you, you better dodge.
I’ve also grown attached to the dog that used to live at CIIE. He was a weird dog, but he loved us. He now lives on the other side of campus, owning his corner of the school like a boss, but he still comes by to give us love once in a while. Here is Mohsin rubbing the dog’s belly with his foot / using the dog as a shoe cleaner:
Sleepy cat napping under our chairs at a restaurant in old city:
Looking forward to hanging out with my brother’s new cat when I get back home, but these guys have been keeping me company in the meantime. Gonna miss these fools!