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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.