by Nathan Cohen-Fournier (MIB ’17)
The Arctic, once inaccessible, today offers itself to an interconnected world and thirsty for resources. As melting ice reaches record levels, governments and multinationals are wondering how to take advantage of this region, which is full of oil, natural gas, and minerals. In Québec, the implementation of the Plan Nord is an example of this, with more than $ 50 billion invested over 25 years. Despite growing international attention, northern communities aspire to develop their markets independently. More and more Nunavimmiut – Nunavik residents – are turning to entrepreneurial approaches. During my research during the summer of 2016, I sought to understand the prospects for entrepreneurship in Nunavik.
Read Nathan’s full op-ed in The Huffington Post
Menghan Li (F18) first realized she wanted to fight poverty while she was working with rural children. These children had been abandoned, not only because their parents needed to find employment, but also because they were female. “I started to think about how a special group of people — rural girls — suffer from dual disadvantages from the society — one from their background, the other from their gender,” Li recalls.
When she heard about The Fletcher School and The Institute for Business in the Global Context’s (IBGC) partnership with D-Prize, which awards up to $20,000 to fund new ventures that fight poverty in Africa, Asia or other developing regions, Li knew what her project would be: women’s education. Li won over the judges with her ComeOnGirls scholarship platform, and was recently announced as the 2017 Fletcher D-Prize winner.
Menghan Li (middle) receives the Fletcher D-Prize award from (left to right) Dean James Stavridis, Dorothy Orszulak, Bhaskar Chakravorti, and Marilyn Davison (and her dog, Chili!)
ComeOnGirls is a nonprofit that works to alleviate poverty by improving women’s education. The pilot program will launch in Western China —where Li says two-thirds of female students drop out of school — and she hopes to expand to other countries like Brazil and India. “We want to help remove the financial barrier and gender discrimination in secondary education by awarding scholarships,” she says. “The girls we select must demonstrate outstanding academic performance or special talents, and the drive to change their own lives as well as to contribute to the long-term development of the local community.”
Seize The Year: And Now For All The Non-Trump News Crowded Out in 2017
It is already the start of the third month of 2017. We have been so absorbed with the daily barrage of news from Washington DC and Mar-a-Lago, and news about news, both fake and real, that it seems all other headlines have been crowded out. So much else needs to be done in 2017 to create the headlines we would like to see in the months ahead. It is time to “carpe annum”, to seize the year.
No doubt, 2017 will live in the long shadow of 2016. We must also find ways to take stock and push beyond the shadows. Of the many from which to pick, we found 5 developments from the past year worth noting in its impact on our work ahead.
Read the full piece from Dean Chakravorti in Forbes
by Alisha Guffey (MIB 2016), Nemmani Sreedhar (MALD 2016), and Rajiv Nair (MALD 2016)
In the summer of 2015, we conducted research to understand media consumption patterns in economically poor areas across India. We found that there was an acute shortage of local content with respect to current affairs across India. This was true even in areas where television and internet penetration was high. We realized that it was business economics that did not allow media companies to spend resources to collect local information, as the costs to do so was more than the revenue that could be generated through advertisements broadcast to a local, generally poor, audience.
Focus group screening of Rshmi
With support from the Harvard Innovation Lab and MIT Media Lab, we designed a concept that could reduce the costs of local content generation drastically while providing a platform to unheard voices. The concept involves crowd-sourcing content through commonly used mobile phones and curating this content based on relevance to a particular location. The Institute for Business in the Global Context at the Fletcher School supported us with funding and guidance for launching a pilot of our concept in the tribal area of Attappady in South India during summer 2016.
After reaching India, we scheduled meetings with all major stakeholders to get buy-in for our project. We met the Chief Secretary of Kerala (top bureaucrat in the state), Tribal Minister of Kerala, elected leaders of both National Parliament and regional legislative assembly, local government offices, and the District official handling Attappady region. Additionally, we also met community leaders from the hamlets that constitute Attappady. To tackle the issue of communicating in local languages, we recruited two students (Prasad and Bharathan) from the tribal community to assist us.
Tomorrow at 9:30AM EST Dean James Stavridis will go LIVE with alumnus, author and CEME Senior Fellow Steven Koltai! Tune in and watch on The Fletcher School Facebook page as the pair discuss Koltai’s latest book, “Peace through Entrepreneurship.”
Can’t make the event? Stay tuned for an archived version of the chat!
What’s it like to launch a social venture in a low-income country and have real world impact?
Picture this: 10 tons of maize grown by 8000 different smallholder farms in Rwanda, all trying to get to market in Kigali. The challenge? The crops are here; the markets are there. Lack of access to reliable, efficient, and transparent transportation means farmers struggle to get their goods to customers. Spoilage, delays, and lost shipments all come at great costs.
That’s where Kumwe comes in.
Co-founded by Fletcher alumnus Charles Dokmo (F’14) as part of a team of supply chain engineers from MIT, Kumwe aims to create a ground transportation brokerage to serve as “the connective tissue” between shippers, including farmers and transporters. The brokerage is intended to ensure professional, reliable and affordable freight transportation, all while lowering costs and improving efficiency in getting goods to markets for small farmers and other shippers.
Back in the summer of 2013, Dokmo completed a Blakeley-funded summer internship in Chad following his first year as a MALD student. “This is where I experienced first-hand the challenge of last-mile distribution,” said Dokmo. “I was helping a small biomass charcoal and cookstove pilot project become financially sustainable when I discovered the largest barrier to profitability was a lack of predictable, affordable transportation.” This sparked the idea of Kumwe, which turned into a reality after Dokmo graduated from Fletcher.
by Nadim Choucair (MALD 2016) and Thomas Flynn (MALD 2017)
With no warning, Banque du Liban, the Lebanese central bank, issued Circular 331 in August 2013. If you believe some people, the idea for the Circular came directly from the mind of BdL’s governor, who conceived of it while flying from New York City to Beirut. Others say that it was created at the behest of the Lebanese banks to allow them to invest some of their reserve capital. Whatever the case, the Circular — designed to spur economic growth and create more and better paying jobs — seeks to foster a “knowledge-based economy (KBE).” Essentially, the Circular is a guarantee scheme which encourages Lebanese banks — an economic pillar of the country, yet very risk averse — to invest up to 4% of their capital, amounting to at least $400 million, in startups, incubators, accelerators, and venture capital firms.
The “buzz” surrounding entrepreneurship in Lebanon is palpable
In summer 2016, we went to Lebanon to answer the question: Given the context of Lebanon, is Circular 331 the most effective way to improve access to finance and therefore to help create a knowledge-based economy?
Lebanon’s economy has struggled since 2010, its political institutions are ineffective, and its infrastructure is weak. The rise of the Islamic State and the war in Syria have scared away foreign investors and tourists, particularly those from the Gulf. Lebanon’s traditionally strong real estate and tourism sectors have subsequently faltered. Instead of focusing on these traditional sectors, the Circular builds on the wave of tech entrepreneurship, and corresponding support organizations, that emerged in Lebanon in the mid-2000s.
by Nathan Cohen-Fournier (MIB 2017)
To share: to allow someone to use or enjoy something that one possesses. We can share what we possess in substance such as food or toys. We can also share immaterial matter such as time, memories, or affection. The meaning of words evolves along with the context and culture in which societies operate. That is to say the transformation is continual.
For the past 50 days, I have been conducting a research project on entrepreneurship in Nunavik, the northern portion of Québec. Inuit account for approximately 90% of the region’s 12 090 inhabitants and live in 14 villages connected solely by air and maritime transport, when possible.
When I first arrived, I was craving to discover spiritual bonds uniting native peoples with nature. I believe in the interconnectedness of life and matter. I was initially disappointed to discover a community in many ways similar to the ones “down south,” so clearly distinct from its surrounding environment. Maybe the spirituality I was looking for expressed itself in a way which I had not expected. I couldn’t force the discovery of what I wanted.
That’s when I started to realize the extent of sharing in modern Inuit culture.
Care About People And Planet? Time To Add A Third ‘P’ — Profit
The entrepreneurial nature of business makes it a powerful force for problem-solving. As far as I am concerned, all points of intersection between entrepreneurial business and the wider context is fair game: geo-politics, economic development, international and national security, climate change, technological shifts, humanitarian issues, war and peace. It is time we recognized that the world of business must engage directly with the world – for the benefit of both. The power of ideas at this intersection has captured my imagination.
Read the full op-ed from Dean Chakravorti in Forbes