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HBX Business Blog

Stimulating Economic Growth in Burkina Faso

Posted by Sam Gant on June 24, 2015 at 3:17 PM

I’m writing this post on the shady terrace of my office in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. After nine months of searching I connected with my dream job in May of this year: I work as a consultant for Trickle Up, an NGO that uses the graduation model to provide a comprehensive economic development program to the poorest of the poor in West Africa. I arrived in Burkina three weeks ago to contribute to a Randomized Control Trial of Trickle Up’s program, and I’ll be living in Ouagadougou and coordinating with partner organizations in rural areas for at least the next three months.

Trickle Up participants at home with dried millet and sorghumTrickle Up participants at home with dried millet and sorghum

This is a very exciting time to be working at the intersection of impact evaluation and the graduation approach to poverty alleviation. A recent NYTimes article by Nicholas Kristof gives an overview of the fascinating and effective ways that new economic development interventions can treat poverty, and the article mentions Trickle Up’s work specifically.

Meeting a of a village savings groupMeeting a of a village savings group

Impact evaluation fieldwork requires one to be versed in diverse and numerous fields. In the coming weeks, I’ll be designing program materials in French and communicating with the headquarters office in English, moving around Ouagadougou and out to the field by motorcycle and 4X4, tracking partner activities on Excel spreadsheets, considering budgets to find cost-effective ways to implement programs, helping to produce monitoring and evaluation surveys and tools, and coordinating contracts with partner organizations.

My transport in OuagadougouMy transport in Ouagadougou

My HBX CORe experience prepared me well for the adaptability, patience and quick thinking that this job requires. I have a much more rapid and intuitive understanding of Excel shortcuts, survey techniques, data analysis, financial incentives, asset investments and depreciation, and cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. All of these are skills that I acquired over painstaking hours of study in my basement in Boston, and can now apply to my work in Africa.

Notebook tracking contributions to the communal savings fundNotebook tracking contributions to the communal savings fund

I’ve been interested in pursuing an MBA for several years. I now have a much more realistic understanding of the subjects I can expect to study and the relevance of these subjects to my field of interest. I appreciate the CORe program because it was both intensive and adaptable. On our cohort’s Facebook group, I’ve seen investment bankers, computer programmers, English majors and airline pilots talk about how the concepts that they’ve studied in CORe give them insight into their chosen profession.

A program participant brewing sorghum beer to sell in markets and from her houseA program participant brewing sorghum beer to sell in markets and from her house

I would recommend this program to anyone who wants to expand on their interests and expose themselves to new subjects, with the important caveat that the work is HARD, and you only get out what you put in. Best of luck to my fellow classmates, and to all the future cohorts! Wherever you’re going, I hope this program will help get you there.

Topics: HBX CORe, Student Bloggers