Since 2008, the Yale School of Management’s Global Social Entrepreneurship (GSE) course has allowed graduate students across Yale University to apply what they have learned in the classroom to pressing social impact challenges facing organizations in emerging markets.
A semester-long course, GSE pairs student consulting teams with social enterprises in countries such as India, Kenya, and Brazil. This year, my classmates and I had the opportunity to work with various organizations in Kenya through the spring GSE course. After two years of GSE classes not being able to spend time in-country due to the pandemic, we were thrilled to get time on the ground in Nairobi to work with our respective partner organizations.
As part of one of five student teams, I have been working with PayGo Energy, an energy tech startup focused on bringing cleaner cooking to base-of-the-pyramid consumers through digital innovation. Prior to traveling to Kenya, my teammates and I had worked with PayGo to scope out a project regarding a potential switch to an even cleaner fuel source. During our time in Kenya, we were to explore the market conditions that would allow such a change to be feasible, as well as affordable, for their target customers—low-income Kenyans living in urban and semi-urban areas.
The other teams are working with: Sanergy, which is building affordable sanitation products designed specifically for urban slums, and franchising them to community members to serve all residents; DOB Equity, which is investing in businesses that positively contribute to a more social and sustainable society and deliver long-term profitability; Ilara Health, which provides diagnostic equipment to a network of primary healthcare clinics delivering affordable, quality healthcare to Africa’s under-served communities; and Victory Farms, which works hand in hand with communities in Kenya to create sustainable fish farming and economic opportunities.
Our time in Nairobi was far more impactful than we could have ever imagined. Each day, we woke up early and drove around the city to meet with PayGo’s leadership and operations teams, clean energy startup leaders, renewables experts, regulators, and more. From being asked to provide feedback on future Kenyan energy guidelines to learning about the intricacies of carbon financing, our team gained actionable data from our fieldwork and grew to become “mini-experts” who could share emerging findings with those we spoke to in Kenya. As a former public policy consultant who has never worked in the energy or sustainability spaces, GSE allowed me to flex my consulting skills and learn the language of an entirely new space within a few weeks.
And it wasn’t all work and no play - we had a lot of fun during our time in Kenya! At the end of each day, our whole GSE class would go out for dinner and learn from each other’s experiences. My teammate Luke Nicholls ’22 and I benefited greatly from having Daniel Mainye ’22, a Master of Advanced Management student, Kenyan native, and an alum of Global Network for Advanced Management member school Strathmore University, on our team. Along with others, our team spent ample time in various Nairobi neighborhoods learning about the culture, food, and day-to-day life of residents. Following our week of fieldwork, some of us set off on an incredible safari and visited the crystal blue waters of the Kenyan coast. Others chose to boldly trek up Mount Kenya, the second-tallest mountain in Africa after Kilimanjaro.
All in all, GSE Kenya has given us a space to own a social impact project, engage in deep learning throughout the semester, and take away unforgettable memories from our time at Yale. After a transformative past few weeks, we look forward to working on our projects to deliver valuable takeaways for our partner organizations.