‘Seven Fund’ Grants Fuel Students Seeking Enterprise Solutions to Poverty

January 13, 2010
from the Center for International Development

Surveying bus drivers and micro-entrepreneurs about public transit in Rwanda. Striving to communicate with Egyptian nurses on health care innovations. Confronting the political bureaucracy in Swaziland. These are the firsthand experiences of Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) students conducting field research during school breaks, using Seven Fund grants administered by the Center for International Development (CID) at Harvard University.

Working with CID, the Seven Fund has committed to fund student internships related to enterprise solutions to poverty for the next two summers. Previously, the Seven Fund supported CID’s January Travel Grants for students pursuing PAE or Second Year Policy Analysis (SYPA) research on topics ranging from ecotourism as a route to poverty alleviation in Ghana to high-technology entrepreneurship in Malaysia.

“Gaining experience in the field is one of the key components of understanding economic development and developing a passion for change,” said Ricardo Hausmann, CID Director and HKS Professor of the Practice of Economic Development. “For Master’s students, it brings to life the abstractions of the coursework and makes the challenge of development that much more compelling as a career choice.”

Recent grant projects have taken HKS students to Africa and the Middle East.

David Shlachter MPA/ID 2009 “pounded the pavement” in Kigali to explore the feasibility of using electric vehicles (EV) for public transit. Working with a Rwandan professor, he designed and conducted survey research to gauge whether an EV set-up would benefit this landlocked country facing severe oil dependence. The ad hoc team collected on-the-spot data from minibus drivers who serve the daily transit needs of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans.

Sarah Nadel MPA/ID 2009 traveled to Swaziland for the NGO Technoserve to investigate how to promote investment and industrialization in the country. Face-to-face meetings with government officials altered her perspective.

“Swaziland’s business environment was so difficult that even people well-connected enough to get government jobs could not start businesses themselves,” she wrote. Faced with multiple agencies with overlapping mandates, ideal solutions eluded her. “The obvious recommendation – cut down the number of agencies – was not politically feasible,” she commented.

Prerna Srivastava MPP 2010 and native Hindi speaker, traveled to Egypt on behalf of the mobile telehealth organization, ClickDiagnostics. Her goal: to construct replicable models for building synergistic networks with microfinance institutions and women's organizations in order to develop women micro-entrepreneurs. But the true learning went much deeper.

“[D]evelopment work is about negotiating relationships with other human beings in a raw, sometimes frustrating manner that challenges us to understand worlds and worldviews that exist outside of our daily existence. . . . [S]ustainability isn’t simply about achieving ‘scale’ or ‘replicability,’ but rather, about truly making a commitment to understand people and the way they view the world,” Srivastava observed.

Harvard Kennedy School students who wish to apply for Seven Fund grants must satisfy eligibility requirements and submit an application to CID. Internships must relate to Enterprise Solutions to Poverty and be a development project in a developing country. Students awarded grants submit a follow-up essay describing their work and also make a presentation during a CID Graduate Student Lunch Seminar upon their return. More information is available at CID’s website at www.cid.harvard.edu/.

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Women in Egypt

Prerna Srivastava MPP 2010 traveled to Egypt  to help in the process of developing women micro-entrepreneurs. Pictured: A group of women in Egpyt from Srivastava's travels. Photo provided.

“Gaining experience in the field is one of the key components of understanding economic development and developing a passion for change. For Master’s students, it brings to life the abstractions of the coursework and makes the challenge of development that much more compelling as a career choice.” - Ricardo Hausmann

electric vehicles

David Shlachter MPA/ID 2009 “pounded the pavement” in Kigali to explore the feasibility of using electric vehicles or public transit. Photo provided.