Reports from 2015 Summer Internships

Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business & Government
Summer Internship Reports
In 2015, M‐RCBG provided financial support to 15 HKS students, enabling them to undertake summer internships in a variety of settings around the globe to explore opportunities at the nexus of business and government. Upon returning, each student submits a short report about their activities.  We’ve compiled these reports below.  Read about their experiences!

Phil Ames, UK Cabinet Office, Centre for Social Impact Bonds
As I write this blog post I’m roughly halfway through my internship in the UK Cabinet Office. I’m spending my summer working in the Centre for Social Impact Bonds, a centre operating within the Cabinet Office’s Government Innovation Group. My team works to expand the number and quality of social impact bonds in the UK.

By way of background, a social impact bond (SIB), is not really a bond but instead is an arrangement where a social investor funds a provider (often a charity) to provide a social intervention (e.g. case support for former prisoners), and the investor receives a financial return from the government if that intervention measurably improves social outcomes (e.g. delivers a reduction in recidivism). They are an extension of pay-for-success contracts, where social investors bear the risk instead of the providers or the government. There are 31 SIBs in the UK at the moment, and over 50 worldwide. The UK Cabinet Office’s Centre for Social Impact Bonds has been at the heart of this growth from the start.

It’s a fascinating time to be working in the UK government, having started 2.5 weeks after the widely unexpected majority re-election of David Cameron on May 7. Before the election, the Conservative Manifesto included the promise: "We have pioneered the use of social impact bonds and payment-by-results, and we will look to scale these up in the future, focusing on youth unemployment, mental health, and homelessness."  I have been supporting the team work through the policy design to help the government deliver on that promise. This has involved working with teams from departments across the government, researching the social services sectors, analysing a range of policy options and attending policy design workshops.

One of the most interesting elements of my experience has been to see the policy making process first-hand in a context of substantial political support and will. This included a two-day workshop run by the Cabinet Office Policy Lab which works to bring innovative approaches to policy-making, including human-centred design, big data analytics, ethnography and more. It was great to see the exchanges in the room when front-line service providers were engaged with policy makers, local government representatives engaged with central government leadership and service users were engaged with social investors, all working towards the best possible policy design.

I came to the Kennedy School from sunny Melbourne, where I completed secondary school then a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne. Having been passionate about public policy for many years, I spent the last two years of my undergraduate studies working in the private office of the Premier of Victoria, John Brumby. Upon graduation I joined The Boston Consulting Group, focusing on public sector work, including a six month secondment working on indigenous welfare reform in a remote indigenous community.

I came to this internship to build my experience in approaches to improving the effectiveness of Government, and with the support of the Dubin Emerging Leaders Fellowship Program and the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government (with support from the Harvard Environmental Economics Program). My MPP has been focused on the variety of ways in which governments are becoming more effective at improving social outcomes. This has included studying Behavioral Economics under Prof. Cass Sunstein, SIBs under Prof. Jeffrey Liebman, Impact Investing under Prof. David Wood and Digital Government with Nick Sinai (so far).  I’m interested in how these and more approaches can work together to make government more effective, and how to best normalize the uptake across governments.

Taniel Chan, National Economic Council, The White House

I entered the summer excited to spend my first summer in DC and looked forward to what would undoubtedly be a memorable summer. However, I did not expect it to be nearly as historical as it proved to be. These past few months were arguably some of President Obama’s most efficacious months – the administration restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, saw the Supreme Court uphold the ruling for the Affordable Care Act as well as legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, and progress was made on the nuclear arms deal with Iran in addition to trade promotion authority. The energy at the White House was certainly palpable and the staff and interns rode this wave of ebullient enthusiasm throughout the summer.

The National Economic Council relies heavily on its interns to produce meaningful content, move policies forward, and monitor the implementation of the President’s economic goals. I had the pleasure of working on the Skills Team which focuses on policies pertaining to workforce development and the improvement of access to better paying jobs and the middle-class for the millions of low-income, underemployed, or undereducated Americans. As someone from an immigrant family and born to parents who never finished high school, this policy area resonated deeply with me and I was eager to contribute to preserving this notion of the American Dream that often appears more fleeting than it should be.

The priority of my summer was a Presidential initiative called TechHire that aims to increase access to technology and information technology based jobs to low-income and minority Americans, particularly disconnected youth and those without a high school or postsecondary degree. In addition, I also had the opportunity to help prepare for the first ever White House Demo Day that aimed to raise awareness about inclusive entrepreneurship by bringing start-ups from across the country to the Executive Residence to showcase their businesses.

Although the White House internship is unpaid, I am grateful for the financial support from the Kennedy School and the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government. This generous funding enabled me to partake in an opportunity, which may have otherwise been financially challenging, that reaffirmed my deep desire to serve my country as a public servant at some point in my career.

Larissa de Lima, Secretaria de Assuntos Estratégicos, Brazilian Federal Government

This past summer I worked for the Brazilian Federal Government, at the Secretaria de Assuntos Estratégicos (Secretariat of Strategic Affairs).  The secretariat functions as a think tank within the Federal Government, proposing legislation and public policy that would support the country’s long-term strategic goals.  It is headed by Minister Mangabeira Unger, on a leave from his professorship at HLS.  The Minister was tasked with creating a compelling vision for education and economic reform, to help overcome the country’s economic recession.

Throughout the summer, the team was developing a platform of proposals to help spur entrepreneurship and innovation in the country.  My work was in identifying policy that enabled financial innovation (for example, peer-to-peer lending) to support the needs of small and growing enterprises.  I held meetings with a variety of stakeholders: government officials, entrepreneurs and investors, including the HBS Alumni Angels of Brazil, which reunites alumni from various Harvard schools to invest as angels in promising Brazilian ventures. 

Within the entrepreneurship front, the Secretariat has published an initial set of proposals in July, including proposals on enabling better access to risk capital and allowing new ways for public universities to commercialize their innovations.  The team will be publishing the next round in the near future.

Armand Babacar Dieng, Africa Growth Initiative, Brookings Institution

I can say without a doubt that my summer internship at the Brookings Institution has been one of the defining experience of my time in the United States. I had my little idea of what it could be like to work for the world #1 think thank but little did I expect that during my first week I would be tasked to write a briefing note to former Assistant Secretary of State to Africa, Johnnie Carson. The reality caught up faster than expected and, with a fair bit of adrenaline and excitement, I put myself diligently to work, doing some of the things we learn to do the best in this school, but this time with my skin on the grill.

 I had the immense privilege to work in the Global Economy & Development department with the Africa Growth Initiative under the direct supervision of its Director, Amadou Sy.  Our objectives were to produce leading analysis and coverage on African issues, while staying current and relevant to all stakeholders. We addressed a multitude of topics through the organization of high-level panel discussions, i.e. covering the Nigeria post-electoral situation, and of outreach events to decision makers i.e. presenting African issues to the Congress with the Brookings Africa Policy Dialogue on the Hill.

The highlight of my time at Brookings came when we received at the office the Obama’s Young African Leader Fellows, a bunch of young and talented individuals who came just before their visit to the White House. Each one of them achieved phenomenal accomplishments and embodies many hopes for the African continent. I had the chance to lead a meeting on how Brookings could best support them in their endeavors and report on key economic and political issues affecting their respective countries.

Working at Brookings was like being at the cornerstone of everything, one step away from so many opportunities, contributing at shaping the global thinking on Africa. It was nothing short of an exhilarant experience and I am deeply grateful to the Mossavar-Rahmani Fellowship to have contributed in making all of this possible.

Clio Dintilhac, African Governance Initiative, Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a millennium old country with a rich culture and a fast growing economy of 100m people. It was a fascinating place to spend the summer.  I spent three months in Addis Ababa working for the Africa Governance Initiative, a foundation that aims at filling the implementation gap and do capacity building for African Governments. Working here, I have been able to provide support in sectors as diverse as industrial park planning, investment, as well as trade facilitation. In a country where the State plays a leading role in the economy, it was very interesting to get a closer perspective on Government work there.

Aviva Feuerstein, International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (Report unpublished at the student's request)

Christine Hou, Private Sector Operations Group, Asian Development Bank

This summer I spent ten weeks in Manila, Philippines, with Asian Development Bank in their headquarters. ADB is a multilateral finance institution, with over 65 member countries, that promotes economic and social growth in the Asia-Pacific region, with over $153 billion in subscribed capital to use towards its mission. As a part of the Private Sector Financial Institutions division, I was able to work on finding private sector solutions to endemic issues in developing nations across Asia. I had the incredible opportunity to learn from a dynamic and driven group of individuals with diversified backgrounds.

During my time at ADB, I helped structure investment opportunities with traditional banks and microfinance institutions, but also do an initial market study in the exciting realm of financial technology and financial inclusion. Though traditionally not a player in fintech, the transformational nature of success stories like mPesa and bKash are hard to ignore. These organizations are able to reach the lower-income in ways the traditional financial sector cannot and are stepping stones to providing the underserved with a whole realm of financial products. With this in mind, part of my internship was dedicated to analyzing the current investment landscape in fintech across ADB’s main targeted countries, to seeing where regulatory environments were supportive to start-ups and fintech as a means to lift people out of the base of the pyramid, and to assess where the greatest needs might be. At the end of the summer, I presented my findings in front of over 30 staff members, including the Director of the division, along with a recommendation on prioritization of countries and subsectors for the Bank. Though humbled by the attendance, I wasn’t surprised. Throughout my entire summer, it was clear that this was an organization that takes its mandate seriously. I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity, and I wish to thank the M-RCBG for providing the support that made this internship possible.

Prabhat Mishra, MIT Energy Initiative

I am Prabhat Mishra. I belong to Bihar in India. I got my B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India in 1989. I worked in the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for four years and thereafter joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1993. Presently I am enrolled in the course - 'Master in Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID)' at Harvard Kennedy School.

I have worked in government in various capacities and have handled a broad spectrum of engineering projects. At ISRO I was involved in payload electronics design for the Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS-1C). In the Ministry of Finance in Government of India I worked as Director (Infrastructure) for four years. During my tenure I was associated with examination of all policy related issues in infrastructure subsectors viz. road, port, shipping, railways, inland water transport, urban development, power, new and renewable energy and telecommunication. I also worked on the policy matters related to Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in infrastructure, issues related to Infrastructure Financing and Infrastructure Regulation.

My interest lie in the overlapping area of technology and public policy related to infrastructure.

I am doing my internship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It is aimed at addressing the rural electrification challenge India is facing. I am involved in figuring out possibility of using off-grid solutions to address this challenge. In particular I am looking at solar power projects as a possibility. The project involves developing Geographical Information System (GIS) based solutions and use of other database available in Government.

This project falls within my overall career interest of technology and public policy.  It will give lead on how public policy should change in view of emerging technology in area of rural electrification in India.

Juan Obach, OECD

Interning at the OECD Development Centre in Paris was a great experience, both at a professional and personal level. I worked for two and half months in the America’s desk, collaborating with the publication of the Latin American Economic Outlook 2016, with a special focus on the relation between China and Latin America. From the beginning the people from the team assigned me specific and challenging tasks, from developing econometric models to writing policy proposals. Before coming here, one of my concerns was the possibility of spending all the summer doing boring assignments such as formatting tables and graphs….but it was all the opposite! The internship allowed me to apply lot of the skills learned at HKS last year, especially the quantitative and writing skills. At the end of my internship I was responsible for the writing of half of a chapter and with two of my colleagues we are now writing an “OECD Working Paper” based on my work. My stay at the OECD was also a great the possibility to interact with a bunch of experts in almost every area of development. I periodically attended conferences with speakers such as current presidents, scholars and experts within the OECD, as well.

There was also time for relaxing and having fun. Paris in summertime is a city full of life, with bustling streets, museums, restaurants and (my favourite) incredible parks to have a picnic the day and time you prefer. With my wife, Tere, we enjoyed every minute of our stay. During the weekends we also managed to travel a lot within Europe to cities as Barcelona and London. 

May Samali, Tumml, and urban ventures accelerator

I spent my summer at Tumml, a San Francisco-based urban ventures accelerator whose mission is to empower entrepreneurs to solve city challenges – from drought conservation to traffic congestion to intergenerational poverty. My decision to be located in the Bay Area was predominantly driven by my professional interests in technology, policy and entrepreneurship.

The brainchild of two MIT Sloan graduates, Tumml invites early-stage companies into its office space to receive seed funding and hands-on support to help grow their businesses and impact their communities. For nine weeks, I served as Tumml’s Resident Advisor. I had the chance to lead a variety of projects and manage many moving pieces and parties. My responsibilities fell into three main buckets.

One of the most fulfilling aspects of my internship was providing startup supportfor the ten companies in Tumml’s summer 2015 cohort. This aspect of the internship complemented my understanding of legal and policy processes with an appreciation of how to design scalable and sustainable enterprises to solve the challenges of city living. I had the opportunity to regularly interact with our companies, advising them on a range of issues including financial modelling, product development, user testing, messaging, and fundraising. A highlight of my time was facilitating pitch preparation workshops for our entrepreneurs.

My second responsibility involved contributing to thought leadershipon a range of topics including urban innovation, impacting investing, and startup policy. The research and writing I undertook gave airtime to cutting-edge approaches to tackling city challenges and innovative models for achieving impact. I really enjoyed this aspect of the job! In my first week at Tumml, I assisted Tumml’s President with the writing and delivery of her TEDxSacramento talk on startup regulation. Throughout the summer I also co-authored TechCrunch and San Francisco Chronicle articles commenting on relationship between startups and government. I also had the opportunity to engage in a productive dialogue with the French Deputy Minister for Digital Affairs. Ultimately, the goal was to cement Tumml as a destination for discussion around urban innovation and startup solutions.

Third, I was also responsible for assisting Tumml with curriculum, programming and events. I designed a new rolling application system for entrepreneurs interested in applying to Tumml’s accelerator program. I particularly enjoyed interviewing startup founders and learning more about their vision for improving city living. I was also charged with the task of overseeing curriculum providers through the course of the accelerator program, including legal, accounting, HR, UI/UX, government and civic leaders, and investors. These mentors are committed to strengthening the urban entrepreneurial community’s capacity to promote urban revitalization and encourage economic growth.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work at Tumml over the summer, and I thank the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government for its generous financial support. I endeavor to take my learnings from my internship and explore them further at HKS in the Fall through further involvement with the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, the Entrepreneurship PIC and Tech4Change. Ultimately, I am dedicated to nurturing, inspiring and empowering the entrepreneurial community to solve today’s most pressing social and economic challenges.

Andrea Sorce, International Diaspora Engagement Alliance at Calvert Foundation 

This summer, I worked on the strategic initiatives team at Calvert Foundation. I had the opportunity to work on several projects related to diaspora engagement in development, focusing specifically on Latin America. Calvert Foundation is the managing partner for the International diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA), a public-private partnership with the US State Department and USAID. Working with IdEA on its Global Diaspora Week initiative, I gained perspective on PPPs as well as the various opportunities for diasporas to engage with their countries of origin, and organizations operating in this space. My primary project focused on Calvert’s new Latin America Diaspora Investment Initiative, called Raices, which launched in early October. I analyzed data from a national survey of Mexican Americans to assess their interest and potential for engaging in the impact investing space. Using this data and additional research, I prepared campaign materials for the initiative and helped develop inclusion criteria for potential borrowers in the portfolio.

Working on this initiative was a great experience for me, as it allowed me to apply some of the quantitative skills I learned at HKS and also gain experience in a strategic planning process. Having only worked in the public and non-profit spaces prior to grad school, this internship also allowed me a window into the private sector and PPPs, and more broadly the fields of social enterprise and impact investing. I was also able to gain expertise on the demographic changes in the US and the importance of Hispanic/Latino populations in a variety of areas – this is a population I have worked with in the past and hope to continue working with in the future.  After this positive internship experience, I am continuing the work in my SYPA (Second Year Policy Analysis) with Calvert Foundation as the client and the goal of analyzing various engagement strategies to involve Hispanic Americans in impact investing. 

Maja Sostaric, Lien Centre for Social Innovation, Singapore Management University

This summer, I am working as Summer Associate for Impact Investing at Lien Center for Social Innovation. It is a small think tank based at Singapore Management University, researching and advocating groundbreaking ideas in-between the public and the private, such as promoting social entrepreneurship, dealing with unmet social needs, or understanding philanthropy and, now, also impact investing. Impact investing is a novelty – even in the United States, from where it originates, and not to mention other parts of the world, where it is a nascent sector and everyone seems to be confused about what it really is. The idea that you can do good (in terms of social impact) while simultaneously also doing well (financially) does in fact sound noble, but it also raises eyebrows in terms of its applicability in practice.

My task is to assess the potential of the impact-investing sector in Singapore, with investments being mainly directed towards the developing countries in the region and Asia in general. All the necessary preconditions are there: Singapore is the 3rd richest country in the world by GDP per capita (IMF World Economic Outlook 2014), it is Asia’s most important financial hub, and philanthropy is a common practice for numerous wealthy Asian family foundations and High-Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs). So why not switch from pure grants to more of an investment-oriented approach? In order to estimate the potential in Singapore, I am comparing it to Hong Kong, because it is roughly of the same size as Singapore, it is also considerably wealthy and, most importantly, it has a developed financial sector. Yet unlike Singapore whose impact investors are mainly outward-oriented, the impact-investing sector in Hong Kong is directed towards its own social enterprises. 

The result of my research will be a ‘white paper’, first of its kind, to be published on the website of the Lien Center. It is intended to serve as a conversation-starter on impact investing in Singapore. For my research, I have talked to almost twenty stakeholders, notably impact investing funds, government officials, HNWIs, commercial banks, philanthropies and social entrepreneurs in both Singapore and Hong Kong. In the final week of my internship (the week of August 10), I will present the paper at the Singapore Management University and a discussion with some of my interviewees will follow. Since there is a lot of interest for the topic, the paper will contain recommendations for the Singaporean government as well as the current and potential impact investors and venture philanthropists.

Shweta Suresh, mPower Social Enterprises Limited

This past summer I worked in Dhaka, Bangladesh at mPower, a social enterprise that uses information and communication technology services—like mobile technology—to make development programs more effective. What I found most inspiring about mPower is its determination to treat program recipients as clients (and not as beneficiaries) and be more mindful about what services recipients need rather than what donors think should be provided. The company is therefore a champion of human-centered design; and to this end, I spent the summer developing a framework for how mPower can incorporate the human-centered approach into their design thinking. This framework—which is still a work in progress that I hope will evolve and grow in the months to come—serves as a guidebook that mPower employees can use to understand the approach and also provides them with creative tools to use during the design process. mPower also hopes to publish the framework as an open-source document to continue the global conversation about using more innovative design tools in international development.

Sarah Tesar, International Trade Centre

My summer internship is with the Office for Asia and the Pacific at the International Trade Centre, a joint United Nations and World Trade Organization agency based in Geneva, Switzerland. Working with both private and public stakeholders, the International Trade Centre assists small-to-medium sized enterprises in emerging economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development.

During my internship, I have been focusing on the SITA - Supporting Indian Trade for Africa - Project. This 5-year DFID funded project aims to enhance trade and investment flows between East Africa, namely Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania, and India.  More specifically, the project focuses on enabling East Africa’s access to India’s market by facilitating investment and the transfer of Indian knowledge, expertise and technology through public-private dialogue, capacity building and forming business linkages.

While SITA is a 5-year project, and I am only in Geneva for the summer, my goals for the internship are to be as involved as possible, and to lead as many analytical processes throughout the project as I can. I also hope to deepen my understanding of the interconnectedness and impact of the various NGOs and IGOs, which are based here. This internship is proving to be a fantastic and incomparable learning opportunity! My tasks to date have been incredibly diverse. I have evaluated target sectors for export, from coffee to pulses to leather. I also have developed frameworks for impact measurement and maintaining stakeholder accountability. This internship is building on my professional experience and providing unparalleled international exposure. Creating sustainable income opportunities for people living in these East African communities is also incredibly important and is very meaningful work.  The internship is providing the ideal global practical and development experience to complement my academic studies and previous experience, from which I can successfully launch my post grad-school career in the field. I also can’t wait to share my experiences with the HKS community when I return this fall.

Ingrid Wallin Johansson, Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority

Between May and August of this year, I interned for twelve weeks at the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (Finansinspektionen, FI) as part of the Office of Economic Analysis. The Office is responsible for FI’s overarching financial stability assessment, in addition to serving as the in-house expertise on macroeconomic analysis. Their responsibilities also include the complete economic analysis underlying the application of macroprudential tools, e.g. the countercyclical capital buffer and financial stability motivated mortgage regulation.

The project on which I spent most of my time during the summer consisted of evaluating aspects of the economic impact from recent years’ regulatory changes in the financial stability sphere, both international and those specific to Sweden. I primarily built a model for assessment, which will serve as a foundation for future evaluations and policy-making made by the Office. In doing this, I relied both on my first-year HKS training and on my previous education, while also incorporating the understanding of the financial sector that I had acquired during prior professional experiences.

I also took part in the ongoing work of the Office. This included contributing to the final stages of a key biannual report, Stability in the Financial System, as well as the monitoring of incoming macroeconomic news. With a focus on macroeconomics news that has the potential to impact the adequate functioning of the financial system, the Greek situation of course took center stage during my internship. Moreover, the internship enabled me to acquire a deeper understanding of key processes for macroprudential policymaking in practice, e.g. regarding the quarterly reassessment of the countercyclical capital buffer level, as well as of the constraints placed on policies by legal and political concerns. I was also able to familiarize myself with the processes and structures regarding international policy-coordination and collaboration on financial stability matters.

I am very happy about the experiences I made during my internship. It has complemented my previous knowledge from the private sector regarding matters related to financial stability, deepening my understanding of the issues at hand. It has allowed me to see what the financial regulatory process is like in practice and from an inside perspective. It furthermore required me to apply both first-year HKS training and earlier training, especially in corporate finance, to a policy area that fascinates me.

The internship has sharpened my understanding of which issues I want to pursue further during my second year at HKS and beyond. I am very grateful to the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business & Government for the support that I received.

Phil Ames MPP16, Day 1 in Whitehall

"One of the most interesting elements of my experience has been to see the policy making process first-hand in a context of substantial political support and will." --Phil Ames, MPP16

Taniel Chan, MPP/MBA17

"[At The White House], I had the pleasure of working on the Skills Team, which focuses on policies pertaining to workforce development and the improvement of access to better paying jobs and the middle-class for the millions of low-income, underemployed, or undereducated Americans. As someone from an immigrant family and born to parents who never finished high school, this policy area resonated deeply with me." --Taniel Chan, MPP/MBA17