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Mikhael Cohen's Fundraiser:

Innovating for Change - Strategies for Development in Rwanda

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Mikhael Cohen


In just three weeks I will be on my way to Rwanda. Once there I will team up with students from around the world (about twenty altogether), and aspiring social entrepreneurs from the Rwandan villages in which we will live and work throughout the summer. The goal: innovate for change. Together we will work to create small-scale social enterprises that will address some of the fundamental challenges faced by rural villages in Rwanda (from education, to food/water access, to health care). To do it we will build design teams (with two students and three or more Rwandans per team) that will map the skills and resources that exist within these communities, identify the challenges they feel are most pressing, and develop products and services that both address these challenges and generate revenue for the local entrepreneurs working to solve them.

The framework for this collaboration is called the Innovation Institute, a program developed by an inspired social enterprise in the United States called Think Impact. The amazing thing? All of this is already funded! Just two months ago I was awarded a grant from the Global Fellows for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, meaning my travel and participation in the program are fully covered.

So what is this Crowdrise all about? What creative endeavor will this campaign support? I’ve set out to write an in depth account of the role of social entrepreneurship in Rwanda. A thesis on the extent to which social entrepreneurship has driven Rwanda’s incredible economic growth since the end of its devastating civil war, and the potential for social entrepreneurship to make continued economic growth in the country truly sustainable.

This past semester I began this process by completing my thesis proposal with the help of advisors from the Earth Institute, Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs and Columbia’s School of Business. This coming semester I will return to Columbia for my senior year to write the thesis itself. But while Think Impact’s Innovation Institute will play a major role in the research, there are other aspects of the research that the grant will not cover. This is where you come in! From books, to articles, to data collection, to data analysis, your support will allow me to cover some of the less glamorous costs of the research process.



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