Field Work Term

The (Good) Business Plan

A junior pitches value chain efficiency ideas to one of the largest micro-financing
organizations in the world.

The (Good) Business Plan

When your job requires you to wake up before the sun rises, to drive hundreds of miles a day to remote villages, to work seemingly endless hours, to make difficult financial decisions that will impact communities—you have to be passionate about your work. “The work we do is not easy,” credit manager at Root Capital Diaka Sall explains. “The only way that you can do it is if you have passion and dedication, because most of the pay off is the personal satisfaction you get knowing that you’ve just made a huge impact in a community.”

Ousseynou Diome is unmistakably passionate about many things—science, the environment, economics, communities, education, and above all, making a difference in the world. For his junior Field Work Term, he contacted Root Capital—a leading nonprofit social investment fund that grows rural prosperity in poor, environmentally vulnerable places by lending capital, delivering financial training, and strengthening market connections for small and growing agricultural businesses.

Root Capital is like many organizations responding to huge demands with smaller than huge teams—time is precious. For that reason, Diaka Sall wasn’t sure that taking on an intern would benefit the student or the organization. But then she interviewed Ousseynou. “He spoke about his interest in reducing waste in the value chain. He had a lot of ideas about how we could do that, and how we could approach it. All he needed was guidance on how to apply and implement his ideas,” she explains. “It was in our conversation that Ousseynou helped me to see how we could work together.”

After almost seven weeks of working with the Bennington College junior, Diaka Sall is impressed. She sees big things happening for Ousseynou, and for the communities that he decides to bring his passion to. “He’s a leader,” she says. “He doesn’t just have ideas, he has the courage to make them happen.”

He’s a leader. Ousseynou doesn’t just have ideas, he has the courage to make them happen.

An excerpt from ousseynou diome’s plan essay

“Finding an efficient and sustainable solution to poverty is an issue of particular importance to me and the focus of my Plan. Concentrating my study in mathematics and political economy, I am interested in responding to questions such as what are the limitations of the demand-supply model? Can universally accepted economics and public policy theories be universally applied? What effect(s) does a change of environment have on them? Should a government always design economic policies aimed at maximizing a country’s total welfare or should it sometimes prioritize equity and fairness? How do entrepreneurs identify opportunities and devise models to efficiently organize factors of production to raise society’s overall well-being?

“Some of the classes I have taken focused on the purely theoretical aspects of economics and have allowed me to develop a deep understanding of the merits but also the limitations of some of the most powerful economic models, including the demand-supply model. My other economics and political economy classes had been oriented more toward the macro aspect of economics. Those classes gave me the opportunity to study and evaluate various public policies that have been implemented in both developed and developing nations. Attempting to study and evaluate those public policies have made me aware of why it sometimes makes sense for a government to pursue policies toward equity even though it would result in less efficiency.

“In addition to course work, my Plan is influenced by summer internships and Field Work Term experiences. Last summer, I was an intern at one of the largest NGOs in Africa. This internship gave me an opportunity to take an active role in designing and implementing capacity-building programs for women, the youth, and local business leaders in the most impoverished areas of Sub-Saharan African countries such as Senegal, Cote D’lvoire, Mali, Cameroon, Nigeria, Zambia, and Uganda. More recently, during my latest Field Work Term, I was in Senegal working for an American investment fund that seeks to fight poverty in African and Latin American countries by financially supporting and training actors in the agriculture sector. These internships have not only allowed me to gain a better understanding of the work/business environment in my home country and expand my professional network in Africa, but they have also brought me closer to my goal of identifying how an entrepreneur defines an opportunity for investment.

“For my advanced project I plan to investigate and model the relationship between the health of entrepreneurship and the health of the national output.”