By Ritu Bhargava
Cayman Macdonald is a fifth-year student studying International Affairs and Political Science with minors in Global Social Entrepreneurship; Economics; History; and Food Systems, Sustainability, Health, and Equity. She is originally from West Palm Beach, Florida, but upon reading a book about boarding school, she applied and received a full scholarship to Pomfret School in Connecticut. Cayman arrived as a freshman and over the next four years became the captain of the volleyball team, Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper, rowed crew “mostly for the food,” and graduated as the valedictorian. By the time she finished high school, she was “interested in politics and writing” and was offered a full scholarship to Northeastern University as a University Scholar.
What do you do for SEI?
I am the SEI Logistics Coordinator. My tasks include organizing and preparing the 2017 South Africa Dialogue; serving as a TA for Professor Shaughnessy’s global social entrepreneurship class; organizing the structure of SEI and staff; and working with SEISA to help social enterprise projects develop, organize the speaker series, and facilitate events for SEI and SEISA.
Was there a particular experience that solidified your interest in social entrepreneurship?
I took Professor Shaughnessy’s 2206 class in Fall 2014 and liked the idea of the South Africa Dialogue. Within 3 days of being on the Dialogue in July 2015, I decided I had to come back! So I set up a co-op for January 2016 with TSiBA, the in-country partner institution for the Dialogue. Last fall I started working on a microfinance project and worked with TSiBA students on it. Then I went on co-op in January at TSiBA and while I was on co-op, in my free time I worked on launching the microfinance program. Currently the pilot is working with about 20 people, mostly Zimbabwean refugees. We are looking at whether cash-based versus asset-based loans are more effective for microfinance in Cape Town.
What goals do you have in social entrepreneurship and what have been some challenges achieving these goals?
I would like to find a way to expand and scale the microfinance project to meet the needs of local communities through grassroots setup. The project right now has a lot of challenges. It’s amazing to think that it was just an idea a year ago and now it’s actually implemented. The base challenge was providing the training, mentorship, and support, but designing a training program can be very expensive and time-consuming. Getting things done in South Africa is a totally different story than getting things done in the US, so the people we tried to work with were too expensive or it wasn’t getting done so we had to create a one-week business training program ourselves. In the future, I’d like to focus on social enterprise in the food systems realm.
What you do for fun outside of saving the world?
I play guitar, ukulele, fire hoop and cycle! I am planning on going to South Africa for spring break and am going to cycle with the TSiBA team 110km for the Cape Argus Cycle Race to raise money for 2 TSiBA scholarships. $7,000 will provide scholarships for two students for a whole year at TSiBA!
What advice do you have for current students of social enterprise?
On our microfinance team, we are working with Zimbabweans and we have some Zimbabwean refugees working with us. Get to know the people you want to help and it’s important that they’re on your team.