Empower Presentations by Sean Silbert

by tuftsigl
Nov 09

Each year, the Institute for Global Leadership sponsors a group of motivated Tufts University students to pursue social entrepreneurship projects that have a real-world impact. This program, Empower, has led students to start their own social enterprises, work closely with marginalized groups and gain valuable experience in internships. The 2016 Empower Fellows recently presented how they used their Empower fellowship grant to make a difference around the world, from evaluating microfinance programs in Sierra Leone to establishing a line of socially-conscious footwear with Guatemalan craftsmen.

Peter Sacco

Peter, a second-year student at the Fletcher School, worked with Guatemalan craftsmen to establish a line of socially conscious, high-end footwear. Peter initially applied to graduate school to find his purpose and found it in social entrepreneurship – something the Empower fellowship allowed him to achieve. The Empower grant gave him the means to travel to Guatemala to speak with the craftsmen directly, obtaining sample products and evaluating them, and setting up a company that operates through a model that allows the workers to define a wage that allows them to live well. His company, Adelante Shoe Co., launches this month with a Kickstarter campaign.

Nitya Agrawal and Cristina da Gama

Nitya, a senior, and Cristina, a sophomore, trekked through the highlands of Ecuador to work on a BUILD: Latin America project. The project partnered with Libraries without Borders to implement the Koombook Program, which establishes portable digital libraries in vulnerable communities in order to ultimately empower and educate marginalized people. The two students recognized the need for the technology and information that the program could provide in Ecuador and worked with local schools to evaluate their needs and the effectiveness of previous programs. Nitya and Cristina met regularly with NGOs in order to gather information about the impacts of previous projects and their plans for future projects. The students partnered with three NGO’s in Ecuador to further this program, planning to spend this year working with BUILD and LWB to prepare for the implementation of this program in the near future, with hopes of empowering the community through technology and education.

Ananda Paez

Ananda Paez, in the five-year program between Arts and Sciences and the Fletcher School, worked in Sierra Leone to conduct Randomized Control Trials with BRAC Sierra Leone’s Independent Evaluation and Research Cell. Over the summer, she worked with a team to monitor the collection of data in rural and urban settings throughout the country, a valuable opportunity to gain hands-on experience with microfinance and a better understanding of how it is implemented. Though there were challenges, such as dealing with delays from the torrential rainy season, Ananda gained a deep understanding of the country. Her data provided interesting insights on how microfinance was implemented, with implications for gender and policy analysis, as well as the qualities and difficulties faced by large organizations in the developing world.

Nemmani Sreedhar

Nemmani, a second-year student at the Fletcher School, traveled to Attapady, a far-flung tribal area in Kerala, South India, to film a video featuring marginalized voices within the community. Nemmani and two other students met with local leaders and villagers alike, listening intently to the problems the villagers faced, such as the dangers of local wildlife and disappearing cultural identity. The video aired on a local channel in India, Channel Plus, on July 24.

Jack Whitacre

Jack, a second-year student at the Fletcher School, spent the summer interning with the Iceland Ocean Cluster – an example of a cooperative environment where entrepreneurs, businesses and marine environment experts join forces to solve problems relating to the sea. Jack observed how members from various expertises worked together in this organizational model. He also simultaneously studied a new social entrepreneurship program called “100% Utilization. (which is?)” His Empower experience led him through the maritime museums and fish processing plants of Iceland and talking with engineers and fishermen who were working on solving pressing logistics and maritime problems, such as…. Jack was exposed to a cutting-edge organizational strategy that he hopes to bring to the United States.

Maggie Kellogg

Maggie, a second-year student at the Fletcher School, trekked through Rwanda to work with the African Entrepreneur Collective in Kigali, working to empower young people to grow their own businesses. Maggie acted as a mentor to two client businesses - a milk collection business and a pepper producer and exporter - while at the same time exploring new models of business development. In particular, she worked with those companies in the “missing middle” - agencies in a developing context of a size that their financing needs are unmet (what does this mean). The agency that she worked with provides a strong model to reach out to these businesses, and Maggie used her skills in business development and social entrepreneurship to find solutions to pressing economic development and poverty problems.

Siddharth Divakaruni, Megha Nayar, Kristina Chu

Siddharth, Megha and Kristina, all sophomores, in BUILD: India, an IGL program dedicated to providing sustainable development through partnerships with local communities, spent a month continuing their work in the village of Thottiyapatti in Tamil Nadu, India. The team worked on a variety of initiatives, from repairing and improving Eco-San toilets, to increasing variety and production style of organic farms, a waste management project to reduce trash contamination and an educational initiative to support students learning through hands-on site visits outside of the classroom.