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Spotlight: Small Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Development Fund

You might not have heard about S3IDF yet, but North­east­ern co-op stu­dent Matt For­rest is work­ing dili­gently to make sure you do.

Matt, a Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion major in the class of 2015, is the cur­rent Out­reach Coor­di­na­tor at the Small Scale Sus­tain­able Infra­struc­ture Devel­op­ment Fund, a small Cambridge-based non­profit with a big mis­sion: to reduce poverty in devel­op­ing coun­tries by sup­port­ing small-scale enter­prises that meet basic infra­struc­ture needs and pro­vide oppor­tu­ni­ties for eco­nomic advancement.

S3IDF’s approach revolves around their Social Mer­chant Bank ApproachSM (SMBASM), which pro­vides entre­pre­neurs with three bun­dled ser­vices: lever­aged co-financing, tech­nol­ogy access and knowl­edge, and busi­ness devel­op­ment sup­port. Through this approach, they help the tra­di­tion­ally unbank­able poor access employ­ment, asset cre­ation, own­er­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties, and other basic ser­vices. Imple­men­ta­tion of their projects, includ­ing solar, bio­mass and bio­gas, water, and other tech­nolo­gies for small-scale indus­tries, is con­cen­trated heav­ily in India, but infor­ma­tion about their research and approach has been pre­sented all over the world, from south­east Asia and Africa to Europe and the United States, and they look for­ward to cre­at­ing even broader and greater impact within poor com­mu­ni­ties all around the globe.

As the Out­reach Coor­di­na­tor, Matt gets the oppor­tu­nity every day to con­tribute in a big way to S3IDF’s ambi­tious global mis­sion. His main duties include lead­ing their social media efforts to spread the word about S3IDF and per­form­ing research on inter­na­tional devel­op­ment and poverty alle­vi­a­tion in devel­op­ing coun­tries. In fact, Matt is no stranger to the field of inter­na­tional devel­op­ment and poverty alleviation—he recently returned from NU SEI’s Domini­can Repub­lic Field Study this sum­mer, where he com­pleted on-the-ground research with loan clients of the renowned Domini­can micro­fi­nance insti­tu­tion Esper­anza Inter­na­tional. [LINK: http://www.northeastern.edu/sei/2013/08/esperanza-restoring-hope-through-microfinance/ ]

My favorite part of work­ing at S3IDF is that that I can go home at night and know that I con­tributed a lit­tle bit to an orga­ni­za­tion that makes pos­i­tive impacts on people’s lives,” says Matt. And he is cer­tainly doing that—Matt says his proud­est accom­plish­ment is how much he has been able to achieve so far on S3IDF’s social media pres­ence. In just a few months of co-op, he has already expanded their reach enor­mously and expects that this will help them very much in the future as they con­tinue to scale.

Of course, no coop is with­out its obsta­cles, and Matt says bal­anc­ing his heavy work­load was, at first, a big chal­lenge. He was given a wide range of duties and had to fig­ure out on his own how much time to spend on each to make sure he accom­plished each one with qual­ity and on time. How­ever, “as time has passed, I have found it eas­ier to man­age and pri­or­i­tize my work­load”, he says.

Matt is not the first SEI stu­dent to be involved in S3IDF. 2012 NU grad­u­ate Gwen Kidera also recently worked there as a Project Asso­ciate, where she uti­lized her exten­sive back­ground in inter­na­tional devel­op­ment and social entre­pre­neur­ship, from South Africa and Kenya to the Domini­can Repub­lic and Belize. Her work includes a recent arti­cle [LINK: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/08/27/shedding-light-in-the-night-how-solar-energy-and-mobile-charging-improves-quality-of-life-in-india/] about S3IDF’s efforts in appro­pri­ate solar tech­nol­ogy, pub­lished on National Geographic’s Newswatch web­site.  Like Matt, Gwen also spent time on a wide range of duties at S3IDF but says that her favorite respon­si­bil­ity was the graphic design of pro­mo­tional mate­ri­als and web design. In fact, Gwen was so encour­aged by this part of the job that she has decided to take the leap and pur­sue this pas­sion as the next step in her career; this fall she will be study­ing graphic design at Mass­a­chu­setts Col­lege of Art and Design.

Upcom­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties at S3IDF include the next co-op posi­tion, start­ing in Jan­u­ary. Matt rec­om­mends that inter­ested stu­dents talk to their co-op advi­sor, since they will begin accept­ing appli­ca­tions soon.