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Students Commit at Clinton Global Initiative University Conference

by Caitlin Ferguson

On April 5th, 13 stu­dents from the Social Enter­prise Insti­tute trav­eled to St. Louis, Mis­souri to take part in the Clin­ton Global Ini­tia­tive Uni­ver­sity con­fer­ence (CGIU). Over the week­end, they pre­sented projects, inter­acted with stu­dents from around the coun­try and world, and lis­tened to lead­ers in the field such as Muham­mad Yunus and Bill Clinton.

Just like the Clin­ton Global Ini­tia­tive con­fer­ence, stu­dents must make a com­mit­ment of action and be selected to attend the con­fer­ence. The com­mit­ment needed to be in one of five areas—public health, poverty alle­vi­a­tion, edu­ca­tion, envi­ron­ment and cli­mate change, or peace and human rights—and have well thought time­lines, imple­men­ta­tion strate­gies, and impact mea­sure­ment. Through the appli­ca­tion, four North­east­ern com­mit­ments were selected.

Two of these groups were part of Pro­fes­sor Shaughnessy’s Cap­stone Advanced Stud­ies in Social Entre­pre­neur­ship course with com­mit­ments tak­ing place in Nicaragua and the Domini­can Repub­lic. Camino Nuevo—a team made up of Becky Dar­ling, Abhi Nan­gia, Gabrielle Page, and Anahi San­toyo Delgado—presented their com­mit­ment to work with the La Chureca jew­elry coop­er­a­tive as part of the cap­stone trip to Nicaragua. They have been work­ing to bet­ter mar­ket the jew­elry to cre­ate more jobs for the women of the La Chureca com­mu­nity. They pre­sented their project as part of the Res­o­lu­tion Challenge—which includes poten­tial for funding—and recently launched a new Etsy page.

Work­ing with the Domini­can Repub­lic field study, DRIP Irrigation—Habib El Magrissy, Ando­nis Mar­den, Paige Marze, and Nico Rodriguez—presented their com­mit­ment to bring irri­ga­tion to the com­mu­nity of Mata los Indios. They have cur­rently pur­chased an irri­ga­tion sys­tem that is en route to the Domini­can Repub­lic for par­tic­i­pants of the field study to install this May with the hopes of increased agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion in the community.

Mike Behan pre­sented his com­mit­ment, social enter­prise Njabini, Inc., which works to increase the income of poor farm­ers in rural Kenya. Njabini recently launched a cam­paign on Indiegogo called The Potato Project to raise cap­i­tal to invest in 5,000 farm­ers to more than dou­ble their income through qual­ity potato inputs.

Armed with freshly-printed mag­a­zines, the Social Enter­prise Review team—myself, Rob Gulick, Rachel Sha­heen, and Chris­t­ian Shannon—presented the newly launched Social Enter­prise Review, a col­lec­tion of op-eds writ­ten by North­east­ern stu­dents in the field of social enter­prise. The web­site and mag­a­zine are intended to be a place where under­grad­u­ates can voice their opin­ions on what is cur­rent in the field, and the mag­a­zine will be pub­lished each semester.

Beyond pre­sent­ing their projects, stu­dents attended work­shops on san­i­ta­tion, human traf­fick­ing, mea­sur­ing impact, and social media. They also attended a num­ber of ple­nary ses­sions and pan­els led by Chelsea and Bill Clin­ton which focused on empow­er­ing girls, the impact of this gen­er­a­tion, and keep­ing com­mit­ments. The con­fer­ence ended Sat­ur­day night with Stephen Col­bert inter­view­ing Bill Clin­ton as part of his show The Col­bert Report. It was a fit­ting end­ing to a con­fer­ence as both talked about the global issues the world faces and joked about the conference.

None of this would have been pos­si­ble with­out the sup­port of North­east­ern Uni­ver­sity and the fac­ulty sup­port of Dr. Jonna Iacono who worked to have North­east­ern become a mem­ber of the CGIU Net­work. North­east­ern joins 32 other cam­puses who have pledged a min­i­mum of $10,000 in fund­ing to sup­port stu­dent commitment-makers. As such, each com­mit­ment group—Camino Nuevo, DRIP Irri­ga­tion, Njabini, and The Social Enter­prise Review—will receive fund­ing to con­tinue their com­mit­ments, and stu­dents will be able to attend the con­fer­ence each year.