In the Classroom: What would you do with $10,000?
The honors class received a $10,000 investment grant to develop a strategy which they believe would have the most impact on alleviating global poverty. The students were joined with a university-organized panel to make the final decision about the allocation of the funds.
The panel was made up of industry specialists from family foundations as well as faculty from the University, including Dr. Maureen Kelleher (Director of the University Honors Program), as well as private donors of the Social Enterprise Institute and a representative from a family foundation.
“10,000 dollars is a huge responsibility and the size of the grant was both surprising and inspiring,” says freshman Rebecca Ruehlman who was involved with the program. “For the first time in my life, I can make a huge difference in the world and it is totally up to me!”
Beginning in September of the fall 2011 semester, students quickly went to work researching and contacting high impact, mission-driven organizations that they felt were deserving of the investment. After three months of research and a multitude of presentations, the students convened to vote for their preferred organizations. The final consensus of the class was in favor of advancing four social enterprises to the panel: One Acre Fund, Njabini Apparel, Esperanza, and Children and Family Wellness (CFW) Shops.
One Acre Fund is a hybrid organization devoted to poverty alleviation through the improvement of agriculture primarily in Kenya and Rwanda. Their innovative system involves no transfer of cash, instead OAF relies entirely on agricultural inputs like seeds and fertilizer, as well as education in farming techniques to poor farmers. A $10,000 investment would enable One Acre Fund to provide their services to an additional 500 farmers and their families.
Children and Family Wellness (CFW) Shops works mostly in Kenya to supply safe, high-quality medicines to the poor by micro-franchising pharmacies and clinics. Each facility is owned and staffed by local entrepreneurs and operated for-profit, although the overall organization is a non-profit venture. If selected, a $10,000 investment would finance a new clinic, where CFW Shops could pioneer new techniques for supplying medical care to the poor, inclusive of new vaccinations.
Esperanza International is a microfinance institution that aims to free children and their families from poverty through initiatives that generate income, education and health through microcredit services. In 2008, they partnered with a group of donors and created projects to bring clean and affordable potable water to communities through an advanced social business water filtration system financed by a microfinance loan. A $10,000 investment would be used to fund an expansion of one of the existing 15 water projects in order to become more accessible to more families as more efficient.
Njabini Apparel is a for-profit social venture founded by a Northeastern junior, Mike Behan, that partners with a non-profit organization Flying Kites which serves as a home and primary school for homeless, orphaned, and abused children. Njabini Apparel finds the poorest women who are unable to participate in the agricultural economy of Njabini due to physical disabilities or lack of land and employ these women in handcrafting apparel. A $10,000 investment would be used to start a microfinance pilot program coupled with financial literacy seminars and agriculture specialists.
The final decision from the judges was made at the Impact Investment Strategy Event, hosted at the Alumni Center on Tuesday, December 13, 2011. The judges awarded One Acre Fund with $10,000 prize and Njabini Apparel with the $5,000 prize funded privately by the Social Enterprise Institute & University supporters, Bob and Denise DiCenso.
The University Honors Program Director, Maureen Kelleher and CBA’s Entrepreneurship Group Coordinator Frank Spital awarded two Honors freshmen, Allison Smith and Gail Batutis with the SEI Honors Scholar Award, whose main responsibility will be to continuously monitor and report on the impact of Northeastern’s investment in the coming year. Allie Smith, one of the recipients of the SEI Honors Scholar said, “The success of this investment project demonstrates how a group of young people, when given the opportunity, can impact the world in a sustainable way.” Both students will share a $2,500 award to help govern the program
-Amy Steele and Maureen McGill