A Digitally Enabled Summer at TechnoServe

This is part of series of posts by recipients of the 2020 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Becca Bean, COL-WH ’21

In setting out for my summer internship at TechnoServe, I wrote that I hoped to gain the following: a firsthand experience in market-oriented approaches to combating urban and rural poverty in emerging economies all over the world. Alongside other goals such as successfully navigating the remote work environment and developing lasting relationships, I’m more than satisfied with the perspective and insight I was able to gain at the international development non-profit.

I was able to learn about TechnoServe’s 75 programs in about 30 countries around the world. These programs work in areas including high-margin agriculture, coffee, and entrepreneurship to provide capacity building to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and business owners. TechnoServe was founded in 1968 and a lot of the training has traditionally taken place in person. Like my internship, TechnoServe programming has had to adapt to the largely virtual environment we find ourselves in. A large part of my work was understanding how programs are currently using technology and how this activity can drive impact. This type of internal consulting project was a wonderful way to get a broad view of TechnoServe’s work around the world while building an analytical skill set.

 

My work station in Philadelphia

One of my favorite elements of the technology project was setting up interviews with program staff. I got to hear from TechnoServe team members in Nicaragua about how they were using WhatsApp and team members in Nigeria about their use of bulk SMS. It was incredible to hear how they were adapting to COVID-19 to continue to provide smallholder farmers with knowledge and skills. One of the elements that drove me to TechnoServe was their dedication to rigorous impact tracking – quantifying and measuring exactly how their work improves the lives of the people they are working with. With this, I was able to begin to grasp how digital tools can encourage practice adoption that can improve livelihoods.

Another highlight of my summer was interacting with TechnoServe team members who I wasn’t necessarily working closely with. The other members of the Strategic Initiatives team were generous with their time and wisdom in offering me advice as I navigated not only a remote internship with TechnoServe but potentially much more remote school and work to come. I also got to chat with professionals working in areas of particular interest to me, including gender, entrepreneurship, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Tech-enabled happy hours and team trivia helped me feel connected to not only the New York team I would have been working with but the entire global team.

I had a lot of fun with our team’s weekly trivia!

My hours spent cutting data, engaging in discussion, and building slides ultimately culminated in the idea of technology enabling programs to drive greater impact. As I look back on the summer, I’m grateful for the ways technology enabled me to have an enriching experience. From Zoom calls that helped from relationships to screen sharing to learn Excel formulas, I had an enriching and immersive experience in international development.

One of the highlights of my summer was spending some time working remotely from Maine! I took this photo to share with the team before one of our Friday morning meetings.

 

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