TechnoServe is an international nonprofit that works in roughly 30 developing countries to promote business solutions to poverty, such as strengthening market connections and growing small businesses. As a Fellow I was based in their Ethiopia office for nearly six months between October 2017 and March 2018, working on a project in consortium with three other NGOs (Save the Children, MercyCorps, and SNV). I had the pleasure of being the only American expat on a collaborative team of eight locals from these organizations.
My project was called, “Livelihood Improvement for Women and Youth,” and was the design phase of a five-year initiative aimed to improve incomes of 200,000 poor women and youth in the capital city of Addis Ababa. Over the course of my time there we built our strategy from the ground up. This included:
- Assessing which sectors in the city would be most feasible for us to make an impact on our beneficiaries
- Designing a portfolio of interventions to reduce constraints for our beneficiaries in the microenterprise, labor matching, and manufacturing sectors
- Identifying potential partners to collaborate with to ensure the sustainability of our interventions and using a market facilitation approach
- Developing a high-level five-year implementation plan and starting the ball rolling on pilots across each sector
One of the most rewarding parts of the experience was being able to apply my consulting skillsets to a completely new type of engagement and context. Although I didn’t have any background in international development or with Ethiopia specifically, I was able to add unique leverage and lead my team through problem structuring, team coordination/organization, and my technical toolkit. Meanwhile, I learned so much from my team about the local environment and drew on the expertise of each of their home organizations.
I loved being out in the city, speaking with people about the barriers to higher incomes among Ethiopians. These interviewees ranged from stakeholders (government officials, other NGOs), to potential partners (startup incubators, employment agencies), to our beneficiaries (job seekers, microentrepreneurs). This absolutely brought the project to life for me.
When I signed up to do the fellowship I knew the work would be interesting and fulfilling, but I never imagined how quickly I would form a community with my team, locals, and other expats there. I left Ethiopia with rich memories of cooking Ethiopian food at my colleagues’ homes, seeing stunning landscapes in the countryside, and developing a deeper understanding of the local history and culture. I’m a huge supporter of the Nonprofit Fellowship program at Oliver Wyman and highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about it!
This story and others like it appear in the Oliver Wyman for Society Annual Social Impact 2018 Report.