Here is how our 2014 students applied their studies to complete a final practicum project.
Kate Spade + ADC in Rwanda
My practicum focused on developing a robust and relevant life skills program for Kate Spade and Company’s newest Rwandan Vendor: ADC. I chose to focus my practicum on the life skills program, as my job portfolio is centered on the economic generation and product side of the business. As ADC is being set up as a for profit social enterprise, I felt it was important to develop a life skills program that met the needs of the employees, community and business. I traveled to Rwanda on 8 occasions over the last 12 months. Through spending time with the employees at ADC it became extremely apparent that we were facing business complications, as a result of poor communication, health issues or language barriers, that a properly crafted life skills program would not only help serve the employees at ADC, but also improve efficiency and productivity on the production floor.
Strategic Good and FailSafe
Largely through the client-centered coursework of the Social Enterprise Program, Nick Boedicker realized that what he really loves is working with passionate problem solvers who are coming up with innovative new ways to create positive change in the world. He also realized that making a career out of supporting these social entrepreneurs with the autonomy he desired would take a new kind of consulting firm. As his practicum, Nick set up a social enterprise consulting firm named Strategic Good that will serve as a vehicle for him to take on the kind of high-impact work that he will be seeking after graduation. During grad school, Nick also became a believer in the power of design thinking in the social sector. Wanting to incorporate this skill into the offerings of his firm, Nick has designed a new methodology for teaching and practicing design thinking called Failsafe.
Organic Perspectives in Uganda
Adrienne worked with Organic Perspectives, a local grassroots non-profit social enterprise located in Kamuli, Uganda, approximately 2.5 hours east of Kampala. The vision and mission of the organization is to transform rural communities and improve the livelihoods of local farmers through sustainable agro-forestry, organic gardening, and alternative household energy. Adrienne applied an “engaged venture philanthropist” approach to assist the organization in initiating The Uganda Community Farm - a for-profit community-managed organic vegetable farm and “Center of Excellence” where local farmers will receive the training, financial support, and the capacity building needed to improve their production. Through collective production and marketing, the farm aims to produce high-quality, organic produce on a commercial scale to improve local diets/health as well as improve the livelihoods of local farmers in a sustainable way. Adrienne provided strategic business advisory services and simultaneously conduct due diligence on this venture to determine its viability as an investment.
My practicum was not without challenges; my original objective was not my ultimate objective, though I still accomplished a great deal. Beginning with a large scope of work, I narrowed down my official practicum to a consulting project with a financial inclusion technology start-up. I chose to do this because the start-up is interested in expanding to the Philippines and I wanted to further build my network there. Utilizing design thinking principles, I took a consultative approach to developing interview questions. When faced with constraints because my contact at the company was traveling in Africa, I chose to conduct interviews independently. I synthesized insights from four interviews and found that the missions of the institutions were very indicative of how frequently they engaged with clients. Organizations with social or double-bottom line models were more likely to have senior staff engage with clients. Another insight was around technology: despite mobile phone usage being ubiquitous in the Philippines, mobile banking is still uneasy or uncharted territory. Of the four providers, two failed in their pilots of mobile banking and two were just in their testing phase. Through the process, I learned to take risks when others create roadblocks. I also learned to consult advisers early on, particularly when developing interview questions. Finally, I solidified the importance of keeping my scope of work smaller than my ambitions.
Increasing Diversity in Foreign Policy Career Paths
The purpose of my practicum project was to create a virtual networking platform for the alumni of a defunded federal program, the IIPP Fellowship. The platform or website would double as virtual mentoring platform for aspiring minority students in international affairs. After months of planning, networking, and survey stakeholders, the initial launch of the project failed. We had taken a decentralized approach to creating a network. After revisiting the model, we decided to concentrate our effort on creating an online professional development resource for students and young professionals. We have an established website, a database of available resources, and developed a webinar series all directed toward professional development in international affairs. As we grow as an organization, we will leverage the success of the organization to gain support from and reconnect the IIPP Fellowship alumni network.
The Equitable Apparel Movement
Stephanie Navarrete, in an effort to emerge an expert and thought leader in the sustainable apparel industry, created a basic guidebook, digestible in 15 minutes, based on the principles of leading social innovation; specifically those on how to start a movement. The TEAM Guidebook is an open source document that provides quick and easy reference to understanding the complexities involved in the production process within the apparel industry. The TEAM Guidebook was created with the intent of being openly sourced in order to inform and propel to action the consumer types most likely to adopt sustainable purchasing behaviors. The creation of this guidebook is the culmination of a series of classes undertaken while working towards the Masters in Social Enterprise program. They include, Leading Social Innovation, NGO-Private Sector Engagement, Marketing for Social Change, and Grassroots Digital Advocacy. The Social Enterprise program was a great platform for idea incubation, providing the skills necessary to develop a one of a kind guidebook, through hands-on formative research and design thinking methods.
Abriendo Mentes in Costa Rica
As the Social Enterprise Coordinator for the women’s empowerment micro social enterprise, Abriendo Mentes, in a rural town in Costa Rica, Jessica Nehrbass conducted a women’s needs assessment to help the social enterprise better understand its clients and determine areas of greatest positive impact. By working with over 60 community members to uncover these needs, she was able to highlight serious issues that women in the community suffer from including machismo, drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, teen pregnancy, and domestic violence. Results from the needs assessment will be used to provide future programming through the social enterprise. Jessica plans to continue her focus on community engagement as a consultant for social enterprises in the US and abroad.
Heartbeat Music Academy in Israel + Palestine
As tensions continue to rise between the diverse communities of Israel and Palestine, music education offers a natural meeting place for young people to come together to develop tools for creative self-expression while also building respect and trust for those from different ethnic, linguistic, and religious backgrounds. For his Practicum, Aaron mobilized and led a task force of youth and professional musicians and educators to research, plan, and lay the groundwork for the establishment of the Heartbeat Music Academy. The Academy aims to provide affordable music education to the communities in the Middle East which most lack access to quality music and arts education.
Public Interest Architecture
Through her international development courses at SIS, Sara Stromer learned the importance of community driven, locally appropriate projects. In her Social Enterprise courses, she learned about innovation, human-centered design, improving NGO management practices, and the increasing importance of private sector and public-private partnerships. After writing a literature review and completing a case study of a prominent humanitarian architecture firm in a core Social Enterprise class, she saw clearly how the quality of the built environment affects the quality of life, and she became passionate about increasing the interactions between the non-profit and architecture sectors. Sara created a proposal for a public interest architecture fellowship modeled off of the best practices of the public interest fellowships that have been successfully institutionalized in the field of law. This proposed fellowship will connect newly graduated architecture students with the opportunity to work with non-profit organizations to increase interaction between the fields, resulting in more effective, sustainable projects benefiting those in need.
Monitoring the Microfinance Competitive Landscape
Trey Waters’ practicum involved working with FINCA International, a microfinance organization that operates in 23 countries. Using a design thinking approach Trey worked with FINCA managers and staff worldwide to construct a survey and dashboard that FINCA will use to more accurately monitor the competitive landscape at the subsidiary level. The data collected from FINCA subsidiaries will be used by organization managers and board members to improve decision-making capabilities and analyze the health of local subsidiaries.