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Social Enterprise Perspectives: Summer in Narok, Kenya

Social Enterprise Summer Fellow: Rick Buhrman (OB)

Internship: Maasai Education Discovery (MED)

Instead of taking the traditional investment banking or consulting routes, last summer almost ten percent of EC’s dared to do something different by participating in the HBS Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship program.

Since 1982, the fellowship has helped students find positions in social enterprise and supplemented their salaries from sponsor organizations. Rick Buhrman (OB) spent the summer working in Narok, a small village in the Rift Valley of Kenya, with an education-based NGO that aims to liberate young Maasai women from cultural injustices, such as early marriages, female genital mutilation (FGM) and general abuse, and provide the women with an education. Buhrman reflects, “The summer was just extraordinary. It has altered me in many ways and I really could not have constructed a more fruitful experience for myself.”

One of MED’s primary programs is the Girl’s Scholarship Program, which sponsors over 500 girls who lack the resources and opportunity to pursue their education. Because families tend to educate boys before girls and many girls are forced into early marriages, Maasai girls are often prevented from receiving education. The program works toward increasing the retention level of Maasai girls in schools and the empowerment of women in Kenya. His job responsibilities were twofold – conducting a strategic assessment of the organization for the CEO and teaching two business classes to students in the newly established post secondary program.

Buhrman’s final deliverable was a 65 page document, which analyzed and made appropriate recommendations for every facet of the organization, including every job position, staff member, and programs. While this document was certainly impactful to the organization, Rick was most affected by his experience teaching the Maasai women.

“Teaching was just a wonderful experience for me,” said Buhrman, “more exhilarating than anything I have ever experienced professionally.” He taught two post-secondary classes on Foundations in Business with the HBS case study method, using everything from Porter’s Five Forces, to MLK Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail to Dell’s Working Capital case.
Said Buhrman, “I was continually blown away by the quality and depth of discussion that these girls rose to when given an opportunity to do so. The students loved it because for the first time, they were encouraged to question everything and participate in solutions.”

After his summer in Narok, Buhrman’s key takeaway was that the change that needs to occur in Kenya must be led internally. Said Buhrman, “The role of the foreigner is critical, without a doubt. But our role, I believe, is ultimately a supporting one, not a shaping or leading [role]. It’s equipping Africans with the tools to solve these problems and us fully supporting them in every way we can through love and compassion.”

Buhrman reflects, “I went to help people, but truthfully I was the one being helped.” To this day, he is amazed by the girls’ clear sense of obligation and hope they instill this in others.”

Editor’s Note:
Interested in learning more about Rick’s experience in Kenya? You
can contact him directly at rbuhrman@mba2005.hbs.edu.

For more information about Social Enterprise Summer Internships and Careers, contact V.P. Careers for the Social Enterprise Club, Valerie Faillace at vfaillace@mba2005.hbs.edu.

November 22, 2004
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