Introducing Candice Corvetti, Nuru Kenya Social Enterprises Business Intern

Candice Corvetti hails from a small rural town in the Adirondack mountains, and she is currently pursuing her MBA at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. During her first year of graduate school, Candice worked extensively with Stanford’s d.school to apply design and analytical thinking towards social innovation issues. Prior to graduate school, Candice worked in private equity at Madison Dearborn Partners and received her BA in Mathematics and Economics from Williams College. Given her background, Candice is incredibly eager to engage the work that Nuru is doing to increase opportunities for the rural poor through business. She deeply admires Nuru’s ideals of empathy and servant leadership, and is excited to live and work alongside the Nuru community in western Kenya. Below, find some of her initial thoughts about Nuru and the Nuru Social Enterprises Program.

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I’m sitting under a creaky tin roof in Kuria, Kenya. Not too far away, I hear a donkey braying, a cow mooing, and local school children singing in Swahili. I see cornfields on the adjacent hillside, and by the river women are hand washing laundry. I’m not on your typical MBA summer internship, if there is such a thing. 

Just five years ago, Nuru International, my summer employer, chose this impoverished agricultural region of Kenya for its inaugural project – a project that aims to accomplish something that’s never been accomplished before. Nuru’s revolutionary ambition? A model that initiates self-sustaining, self-scaling change to end extreme poverty in remote, rural areas. This goal is both awesomely aspirational and completely daunting.

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I grew up in a small rural town that relied heavily on outside money in the form of tax dollars and government subsidies. I know that outside money can be transformational to kick-start change, but from my own experience, I saw how tax revenues and government handouts created an environment of dependence, entitlement, and even bitterness towards financial success. Because of this background, I’ve often been skeptical of aid programs. Much of the development work that I’ve learned about has left me feeling conflicted between being compassionate and being cautious about the damage that free handouts can incur if they distort existing markets.

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When I first learned about Nuru in the fall of 2010, I was immediately drawn towards the organization. I was living in Chicago and working in Private Equity – an industry that fits me well since it’s driven by analytics, market forces and, ultimately, quantifiable performance results. To me, Nuru’s model is about reconciling compassion with the recognition of the need for long-lasting, self-sustaining solutions. Nuru doesn’t give handouts, but instead works with local communities through education, training and access to capital to drive holistic change.  This model seeks to avoid dependency and instead aims for community empowerment and autonomy.

My work this summer is to support Nuru’s drive towards self-sustainability by insuring that Nuru Kenya can become independent from Western aid. I’m working alongside a local team to help identify and establish for-profit business opportunities for Nuru that leverage the organization’s existing strengths, relationships and distribution channels. The income that these businesses generate can then be reinvested into the organization, supporting program expansion beyond Kuria and throughout Kenya.

Here in Kuria, I’m inspired by the vision of a hand-out free development model that ignites self-sustaining change. I am completely humbled by the opportunity to be here learning and working alongside so many talented people, and I am very thankful for the Stanford Management Internship Fund (SMIF) support that has made it possible.

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