Student Group Spotlight: Empower

The Empower Program at the Institute for Global Leadership seeks to motivate, educate, and provide resources for aspiring social entrepreneurs at Tufts University. To empower students who seek to solve the world’s social, cultural, economic, and environmental issues through private initiative, the program supports three different types of fellowships.

The Social Entrepreneurship Grant funds students who wish to launch or continue working on their existing social ventures. By providing travel, accommodation, and other funding, Empower allows students to conduct the research needed to get their social entrepreneurship ventures off the ground.

In 2019, Empower supported both Magnifique Mukwanda (E’20) and Vanessa DiDomenico (F’20) in their projects in Rwanda and Greece, respectively.  Magnifique began To the Waters in Rwanda to emphasize access to clean water and the need to focus on Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Nutrition (WASH-N).  Vanessa is working to launch an NGO connecting youth and the maritime industry in Greece, to provide apprenticeships and employment opportunities to a once robust field.

The second type of fellowship supports internships. Here, Empower funds summer internships and helps match organizations with prospective interns.

School of Arts and Sciences undergrad, Connor Doyle (A’21), traveled to Dubai to intern for Endeavor, an organization that targets prospective, local small businesses and gives them the resources needed to scale up. While there, Connor not only was able to immerse himself in a new county and culture but gained real-world business skills while helping Endeavor’s Local Selection Panel select which business would be chosen to partner with Endeavor.

Fletcher School student Geoff Tam (F’20) spent the summer in Nairobi, where he conducted impact research for local startup Kwangu Kwako, LTD (KKL), which has begun providing safer, healthier, and more secure housing alternatives for residents of lower income neighborhoods. Geoff helped his organization with the construction of an evaluation framework to collect, analyze, and communicate impact data. While reflecting on his time there, Geoff noted the “generous support of the Empower Fellowship in facilitating an eye-opening summer internship…where [he] had the opportunity to apply [his] Fletcher coursework to real world problems.”

The third type of fellowship is to support students conducting research. This fellowship funds students pursuing impact evaluation research for existing social enterprise organizations. At the end of the summer, students present tangible final products to their organizations and Empower.

Empower supported Fletcher School student Mohammad Uzair Akram (F’20) to travel to Pakistan to interview and survey small holder farmers for Kisaan. Kisaan is a proposed microfinance product aimed at incentivizing farmers to buy agricultural inputs such as tractors, solar-powered irrigation pumps, etc.

During the fall, the Empower program organized a presentation in which fellows were able to share their experiences with the campus. Here, fellows not only had the opportunity to show their impressive work, but also to inspire new students to pursue social enterprise work.

Empower also hosted a talk by Kenyan Regional General Manager at Tala, Ivan Mbowa. The Tufts alum shared his experience in, and expertise on, microfinance projects in Africa. Tala will be partnering with the IGL to offer internships in Kenya and India this summer.  (This connection came through EPIIC alumna Alice Pang, who also works for Tala.  

Stay tuned for the announcement of our spring-term Fellows Presentation and additional public events.