Career Profiles – Yaw Agyenim-Boateng
Career Field Prior to HBS:
Management Consulting, Nonprofit
Position in Sierra Leone Plymouth Partnership:
Why did you choose an internship withÿ
Sierra Leone Plymouth Partnership?
I started out RC year with a plan to donate my summer to doing something challenging and impactful that I could also enjoy, in a very poor country. The Plymouth Partnership’s approach to poverty alleviation is simple: take one very poor village, help the locals help themselves (aka: locally-led paternalism) using best practices from around the world, and LEAVE. I like that approach.
What made you decide on interning in Sierra Leone?ÿ
A friend of mine mentioned Jeff Hall (HBS ’92) and his impactful work in Sierra Leone. Later, I met him at the HBS Social Enterprise Conference and talked through his ideas and his vision to help reduce extreme poverty in Sierra Leone and post-conflict African nations. He asked me two questions: do you have what it takes to live with 5,000 farmers, 8 hours from Sierra Leone’s capital city, with no electricity, no salary, no running water and no plumbing for 3 months? Could you use your work and HBS experience to improve the lives of the world’s poorest? I like such challenges. So, I applied for the HBS Social Enterprise Summer Fellow funding, got some flight money from that and jumped on a plane to Freetown, Sierra Leone the day after finals.
Summarize your internship experience – the good, the bad & the overall.
I had a great experience and learned more from this rural farming community than I have in all my years of studying Econ and Development. However, the problems the farmers have do not allow for neat HBS-type 5-forces and 4-Ps or BGIE Balance of Payment analysis. And living there was really challenging – not having direct access to quick research (e.g., online) or a ready business team to problem-solve with disabled me from implementing a lot of best practices I have more recently learned. Still, the hands-on nature of the implementation work (e.g., going to farms with farmers to evaluate what they need to expand their farms) allowed for direct impact. For example, I co-trained loan officers for a microloan/microfinance program and, together, gave 200+ group-based small loans worth $20,000+ to benefit more than 1,000 people. It is the toughest experience I’ve ever enjoyed.