Recent Grads Contributing to Innovative Development Projects in India

October 20, 2017

Congratulations to 2017 grads Ann-Kathrin Beck (SPP '17) and Andrea Kobor (SPP '17). Beck and Kobor recently joined 26 top graduates of leading academic institutions for a year-long fellowship with the International Innovations Corps (IIC). 

Beck and Kobor will receive professional training and experience, hone their skills and join a valuable professional network.

IIC’s professional fellowship program is focused on social impact intervention. Fellows are divided into teams of three-to-five IIC Project Associates who serve as consultants to public-sector and non-profit organizations in India.

CEU Careers recently caught up with Andrea and Ann-Kathrin to learn more about their experiences -- read on to learn more!

Intensive Training IIC started for Ann-Kathrin and Andrea in July 2017 with intensive management training on two continents. The first stop was the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Management for a three-week Summer Management Lab that included a mini-consultancy with a local organization and was useful from a team-building and skills development perspective. 

“Booth’s approach is experiential,” Ann-Kathrin explains. “We experienced working in a matrix organization, did primary and secondary research, and pitched our ideas to the client.”

“I got to know my IIC cohort and understood the basic logic and steps of the consulting process, applicable to both business and policy consulting,” Andrea says. 

From Chicago, the IIC cohort traveled to Delhi, India for two additional weeks of training, including a personal strengths assessment and high-level panels on current policy issues, before starting their client engagement.

The projects Ann-Kathrin’s IIC team is working with the National Federation of Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA). SEWA was originally established in the 1970’s as a labor union for women from lower castes working in the informal sector. Today it organizes 1,9 million women across India; its initiatives include self-help groups, agriculture cooperatives, access to finance, skills and energy access programs.

Ann-Kathrin's team will work on a number of projects, including an effort to develop longer-term strategies for Monitoring and Evaluation. “SEWA is very keen on the Monitoring and Evaluation project. They want to understand the impact of their programs on women’s lives. I’ve always been interested in this topic, and I’m excited to apply the knowledge I gained through my studies. However, it's a complex subject. Right now, I am grappling with a big question: How do you measure empowerment?”

Ann-Kathrin especially appreciates the fact that her IIC colleagues include alumni of Indian universities. “It has been amazing to see India’s problems and challenges through the eyes of my teammates. Never before have I had the opportunity to be immersed in politics, culture and society in such an in-depth manner, right from the start.” 

Andrea serves on an IIC team working with the Rural Electrification Corporation (REC). REC, a public company, manages and monitors the government’s rural electrification schemes. 

Andrea’s team will contribute to establishing REC’s new Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Foundation, including development of a CSR strategy and a monitoring framework. Andrea will also support REC on a newly launched government scheme that aims to bring electricity connection to every Indian household by the end of 2018. Andrea attends high-level meetings within the company and with government officials. She appreciates the opportunity to witness real-life policy making at this level.

Challenges The IIC experience is not without challenges. This is Ann-Kathrin’s time working within a large, grassroots organization, which means different work styles, communication modes, and daily routines. “Most of the women we’re working with do not speak English,” she adds. “Overcoming the language barrier is a great challenge.”

It is Andrea’s first experience within a corporate environment. She encounters challenges as a young, foreign woman working in a male-dominated sector.

Both are also adjusting to life in Delhi, which is, in Andrea’s words, “big, hot, crowded, noisy, chaotic,” but also full of “nice parks, beautiful temples and good food.”

Advice Although it’s early in their IIC experience, both alums are pleased thus far. Ann-Kathrin values the opportunity to gain on-the-ground experience, which is crucial for future international development professionals. She adds: “IIC’s projects are diverse. You don’t choose for yourself which organization you work with. Apply to IIC if you’re flexible and willing to try the unknown!”

Andrea adds, “You should apply to IIC if you have an entrepreneurial mindset, like working on challenging policy problems and are ready for a long adventure.” 

On November 2, IIC's Associate Director for Talent & Program Operation held an information session at CEU. Read about it here.