Featured Alumni

Working to promote sustainable development in India

Caitlin Fer­gu­son

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Caitlin Fer­gu­son, a 2013 North­east­ern Uni­ver­sity grad­u­ate, is return­ing to India for the third time to start The William J. Clin­ton Fel­low for Ser­vice in India with the Amer­i­can India Foun­da­tion. The ten-month fel­low­ship places young pro­fes­sion­als in orga­ni­za­tions work­ing to cat­alyze sus­tain­able devel­op­ment in India within the fol­low­ing sec­tors: advo­cacy, edu­ca­tion, human rights, social enter­prise, pub­lic health, liveli­hood, and youth development.

Fer­gu­son has been placed at Waste Ven­tures, a social enter­prise in Visakha­p­at­nam, Andhra Pradesh. The com­pany oper­ates prof­itable waste man­age­ment projects through an inno­v­a­tive col­lec­tion and pro­cess­ing model. It pro­vides low-income indi­vid­u­als with gain­ful employ­ment and a foray into the for­mal sec­tor. Waste Ven­tures also lever­ages part­ner­ships with local munic­i­pal­i­ties to run a car­bon credit sys­tem that secures addi­tional income for low-income work­ers and also has a pos­i­tive envi­ron­men­tal impact. Ferguson’s pri­mary role at Waste Ven­tures will be devel­op­ing met­rics for Waste Ven­tures to mea­sure their social impact.

Dur­ing her time at North­east­ern, Fer­gu­son stud­ied Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Rhetoric, and Pub­lic Advo­cacy with minors in Inter­na­tional Affairs and Social Entre­pre­neur­ship and devel­oped a spe­cial­ized inter­est in India through both her sec­ond co-op expe­ri­ence and an inten­sive Hindi immer­sion program.

In addi­tion to her pre­vi­ous pro­fes­sional expe­ri­ences in India, Fer­gu­son is con­fi­dent that her field expe­ri­ences with the Social Enter­prise Insti­tute have pro­vided her with a solid frame­work for eval­u­at­ing social enterprises. “My expe­ri­ences with SEI have also pre­pared me in a num­ber of ways from increas­ing my knowl­edge of social enter­prise and pro­vid­ing dif­fer­ent mod­els to look at inter­na­tional devel­op­ment to on-the-ground expe­ri­ences in South Africa and Nicaragua,” said Ferguson.

The William J. Clin­ton Fel­low for Ser­vice in India and her par­tic­u­lar role at Waste Ven­tures is a slight depar­ture from Ferguson’s past expe­ri­ences, which focused on non­prof­its in India as well as lan­guage immer­sion. Dur­ing her sec­ond co-op in 2010, Fer­gu­son first worked at the Desh­pande Foun­da­tion in Hubli, Kar­nataka . She later returned to India in the sum­mer of 2012 to inten­sively study Hindi for three months in Jaipur, Rajasthan — a pro­gram spon­sored by the U.S.  Depart­ment of State.

In the long-term, Fer­gu­son hopes to work in inter­na­tional devel­op­ment and is assured that her fel­low­ship with the William J. Clin­ton Fel­low­ship for Ser­vice in India with the Amer­i­can India Foun­da­tion will sig­nif­i­cantly build upon her past field expe­ri­ence. “My pri­mary goal for this fel­low­ship was, quite broadly, to get more on-the-ground inter­na­tional devel­op­ment expe­ri­ence, which I find imper­a­tive to work­ing in the sec­tor. I’m also cer­tain that I will learn more about India, study Hindi and broaden my skill set.”