Becoming a Change Maker | TFC Summer Fellow Reflection – Sahesha Upadhyay

I grew up observing my father nurture his small business in the same manner he raised his children. Owing to my father’s profession, I have closely observed an operating business all my life. It gives me immense pride in knowing that my father is providing jobs to people through his footwear company in Nepal, even if they may be few. With his work, he is making positive contribution to the economy and other people’s lives. He inspires me to believe that each of us can make a difference. Following my father’s legacy, I am determined to become a contributor to Nepal’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The TFC fellowship supported me with excellent projects this summer to work towards my goals.

In June 2018, I spent two weeks in Nepal to better understand the landscape of entrepreneurship in the country.  I visited ten emerging social ventures in Kathmandu, to learn about their major achievements as well as the setbacks in their journey of making social impact. It has been encouraging to see private organizations shifting their focus towards noble causes and not mere profits.

Following this, I spent two months with the ChangeMakers team at Ashoka in Washington DC. I had come across Ashoka many years ago while learning about social entrepreneurship, and I remember being intrigued by their work. This year, TFC provided me with this valuable opportunity to be a part of this pioneeringinstitution of social entrepreneurship, supporting more than 3300 social-innovators across the world. While the idea that they support local individuals, who have dedicated their lives to bringing changes in local communities, is quite impressive, their innovative models and areas of impact are equally fascinating. The innovations are tailored to tackle social problems unique to each local community, by the people from within the community itself.

My internship involved formal reporting of the impact of various products of the Changemakers team over the past three years. The Changemakers team is striving to create a “Everyone a ChangeMaker” world by promoting the idea that each of us can bring about positive change in our communities. They have products ranging from social innovation mappings, courses on social entrepreneurship, bootcamps and a range of social-innovation challenges. As a graduate student pursuing Masters in Economics, I couldn’t have been happier as I delved into data and worked with exciting data visualization tools. Reflecting on and contrasting my learnings in Nepal and at Ashoka, I’ve realized that there is huge gap in terms of data collection and management in Nepal. Ashoka allowed me to see how data helps us make informed decisions.

It has been enriching to learn how individuals across the world have taken strides toward bringing about changes in their communities. From replicating McDonalds’ service efficiency model to “eliminate needless blindness” in India, to using rats to detect landmines in Africa, the stories of Ashoka fellows across the world as well as the efforts of social entrepreneurs in Nepal have given me plentiful new insights and a lot of inspiration.

TFC has been an important part of my graduate school experience and has contributed largely in giving me a new perspective and helping me grow as a professional. In addition to the incredible summer opportunity, they also connected me with social ventures in the U.S that focus on the apparel industry. This has allowed me to learn the global best-practices and build relationships that can support me in instigating a social-enterprise model in my family’s existing manufacturing company in Nepal.