Aly Sanoh, PhD in Sustainable Development Candidate, expected to graduate in May 2012.
During his six years in SIPA’s PhD program, Sanoh has focused on national electricity planning in and across African countries. He has published his first two papers on this topic:
Sanoh has already made a difference in real-world policy decisions. The infrastructure modeling that he did in these papers for local and national electricity planning in Senegal and Kenya was a factor in the World Bank’s decision to finance a $20 million wind project in Senegal and a $60 million energy project in Kenya, according to him.
A central topic of his thesis has been an infrastructure development project that looks at expanding electricity networks in Africa on a continental scale by conducting economic modeling.
For example, there are security issues. The Congo has a lot of resources and little need, while South Africa has little resources and high need. However, there are risks in having your resources depend on a country that’s at war. Sanoh proposes different scenarios to minimize risks.
- Michelle Chahine
A team of four students traveled to Tanzania in early January to design a pilot program for First Access, a new start-up founded by team member Nicole Stubbs (MPA ‘12). Stephen Matthew Lee (MIA ‘12), Maira Riaz (MPA ‘12), Ethan Wagner (MIA ‘13) and Stubbs are working on a unique Workshop in Development Practice, where the client is a company founded by a SIPA student.
Stubbs is the co-founder and CEO of First Access, a for-profit social enterprise.
“What we are doing is trying to reduce costs for borrowing and lending capital in informal markets where people traditionally have no formal financial records that can reliably show what they own or what they earn,” explained Stubbs.
“So we’re actually using an alternative credit scoring model to help extend financial access in informal markets.”
The team’s goal in going to Tanzania was primarily to design the company’s pilot project. To do this, they began to build relationships with government officials, corporations and microfinance institutions
They met with the management of microfinance institutions to collect information about their operations and determine the pricing models that would work best for them. Stubbs explained that a goal of their interviews with various microfinance institutions and data collection was to dive in and build process maps that incorporate the various steps in the lending process for individuals and groups.
The team “made a lot of exciting connections with start ups that are doing a lot of cool things in the tech/mobile space in Tanzania, which is a very new development there,” said Stubbs. “So it’s great to be part of it.”
They also met with lawyers to discuss establishing the subsidiaries, and they found office space in the Commission for Science and Technology, which is partially funded by the Tanzanian government, the World Bank, and Vodacom, the largest cellular provider in Tanzania.
“We have a lot of different organizations on board to help test this model once we’re ready,” she added. The team has now designed the pilot, which will roll out in June.
“We have a huge to-do list: establish our subsidiary, create memorandums of understanding to be signed by our partners, and start collecting a lot more data and build it into our model.”
“The main focus of this project was practical tools for the company,” she said.
It wasn’t so much researching something and producing recommendations, as actually creating something out of nothing.”
From left to right: Ethan Wagner, Nicole Stubbs, Stephen Matthew Lee, with an interviewee, and Maira Riaz.
Photo Credit: Ethan Wagner
To see more of this team’s and other student teams’ photographs from their fieldwork for their Workshops in Development Practice, click here:
- Michelle Chahine
Several SIPA students share their experiences from field work across the world for their Workshops in Development Practice. For more information on the projects featured in this video, click on the links below:
Losses one year after a natural disaster are much greater than those estimated during the same year, particularly when it comes to decreases in income and increases in female infant mortality rates.
This is a major finding of the 2011 study, Destruction, Disinvestment, and Death: Economic and Human Losses Following Environmental Disaster,by Jesse Anttila-Hughes, a candidate for SIPA’s PhD in Sustainable Development, and Solomon M. Hsiang, an alumnus of the program and postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University.
“The paper has pretty direct policy implications - which is generally what I aim for. I think it’s very difficult to do environmental risk work without it being policy related. It directly informs disaster response policy,” said Anttila-Huges.
For example, the paper shows that, in the year after disasters, “more people die than we thought, particularly females,” he added.
By looking at data from the Philippines after typhoons, they found the increase in infant mortality is mostly attributed to the death of female infants. This is driven by economic factors, according to Anttila-Hughes.
In addition, he explained that households with multiple children, particularly older sons, have higher rates of female infants dying.
“The fact that a lot of environmental impacts affect females is very interesting to me. There is a lot that can be done to intervene to change that,” he said.
Anttila-Hughes has been in the PhD program since the fall of 2006, focusing on environmental risk, disasters and demography, climate impact on public health, and behavioral responses to environmental risk.
He studied physics during his undergraduate education at Harvard University, along with several languages - he is fluent in Spanish, French, Mandarin and Japanese. The relationship between his studies led him to SIPA’s doctoral program:
“Physics gave me quantitative skills that I needed… What makes the sustainable development PhD different is we’re expected to do a lot of work in the sciences.
Foreign languages and international affairs [experience] had me thinking about the link between the two,” said Anttila-Hughes, describing the connections he began to make between science, international affairs and international development. “I found this PhD program, which is everything I wanted.”
Anttila-Hughes and Hsiang have a blog together: “Fight Entropy: The Global Environment and Economic Development.”
- Michelle Chahine
At left, Vivik Yadav (MPA ‘12) and Mai Shintani (MIA ‘12), with a group of Dalits in Nepal.
Two team members, Vivek Yadav (MPA ’12) and Mai Shintani (MIA ’12), conducted field research in early January. They visited a Dalit compound, as well as met with NGOs, UNICEF, WHO, and government officials in Nepal.
“One of the goals of the January trip was to narrow our focus of what the project is, because earlier it was just too broad,” said Yadav. “So now we’re looking at exactly what health policies are in Nepal and how they relate to marginalized communities.
Secondly, what access issues do Dalits face when it comes to health care? How do their economic conditions, their educational background… affect their ability to access health care? And thirdly, what discrimination they face at the point of health care delivery.”
Shintani and Yadav interview members of the Dalit population in Nepal.
The rest of the team, Nadia Hasham (MIA ‘12), Kiryn Lanning (MIA/MPH ‘12), and Tsufit Daniel (MPA/MPH /12), will be traveling to Nepal in mid-March.
“We’re going to be there a little over two weeks,” said Lanning. “We also hope to capture more of the voice of the Dalit community, because as of now, we’ve already done a lot of interviews with policymakers and organizations working around these issues, but we really want to hear it from the communities that are most affected by this.”
The team explained that their deliverables include policy recommendations as well as next steps for the Samata Foundation. But an important component of the project is documenting and understanding the complex issue.
“There are so many different social constraints and circumstances and historical discrimination that are compounded within this one particular population,” explained Lanning.
“So understanding this nexus of discrimination is huge, and as a human rights organization, which is the agency we’re working for, being able to capture that in many different sectors and be able to apply it to policy would be amazing.
Basically, when we first started this, we were told that there’s no literature or understanding around health care access for this population, particular to Nepal. There’s a lot of literature on it in India, and there’s been a lot of work around it, but in Nepal there hasn’t been much.”
Lanning added that Nepal is currently designing its constitution, so this is an important time to bring these issues to light.
- Michelle Chahine
Photo credit: Mai Shintani (MIA ‘12)
View more of this team’s and other student photographs from the field.
A few days after the earth’s population hit 7 Billion, Dean Zambrano, a former SIPA student, visited Professor Anne Nelson’s New Media and Development Communications class to share his work on the United Nations’ 7billionandme.org project.
Zambrano is currently a Media Consultant with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). He worked on the development of the 7billionandme.org website, which aims to promote individuals’ awareness of the world and our place in it.
“I led the website development effort. My primary role was to coordinate the efforts between external sources (website developers) and internal sources at UNFPA (Technical advisor for Demographical statistics, Census Policy Analyst, IT Team and Procurement Team in Copenhagen, Denmark). I also served as the technical advisor, recommending technical specifications for the website’s development and liaising between the teams on all technical tasks.
Moving forward, the goal is to enhance the website so it is more user friendly and implement social media strategies that promote the 7 Billion Actions Campaign (7billionactions.org).”
The purpose of the website and world population application of 7billionandme.org is to promote awareness of the “7 Billion Actions” campaign (7billionactions.org), which aims to achieve two key objectives, according to Zambrano:
- Building global awareness around the opportunities and challenges associated with a world of seven billion people.
- Inspiring governments, NGOs, private sector, media, academia and individuals to take actions that will have a socially positive impact.
Zambrano spoke to the class about his role in developing the website, under the umbrella of the course’s theme of applying new media effectively for development projects. He completed one year of coursework in the MIA program in 2010-2011, including Professor Nelson’s course last fall, and is currently working with the UNFPA as he plans the transition into a PhD program at Columbia.
After his graduation from SIPA, Carlos Terrones (MPA ‘08) left New York City for Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, he worked for the U.S. Department of State in governance and reconstruction-development efforts. He was then asked to assist with similar work in Afghanistan.
Carlos shared photographs from his time in Afghanistan with SIPA. View the full photo album.
In an interview with Michelle Chahine, Carlos discusses his experiences since leaving the halls of SIPA.
What is your work currently in Afghanistan? How long have you been there, and how long will you remain?
I am currently the Civilian Team Leader for the District Support Team in the District of Maiwand. I am the State Department Representative and lead governance advisor. I lead a team of USAID and U.S. Army Officers in charge with governance and reconstruction-development. I’ve been in Afghanistan for almost a year and will end my tour end of January 2012. I came to Afghanistan after working in Iraq from 2008-2010.
What has your experience been, both personal and professional?
On the personal level: Working in conflict zones in Iraq and Afghanistan has increased my mental and physical strength. I spent my tours in Iraq and Afghanistan embedded with the US Military in combat areas far away from the large cities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Life was lonely and I discovered encouragement through my friendship with my US military counterparts, friends and family. I almost lost my life once in Iraq and once in Afghanistan. I’ve learned on how take care of myself because I have dealt with uncertainty and violence.
On the professional level: Despite the violence and uncertainty that I have been exposed, professionally, I have learned a lot and gained substantial experience from both the international coalition and Afghan side. I’ve learned the importance of being street-wise and how to adapt to the culture tribal norms and expectations.
My prior military experience as a Marine and in international development in Latin America, Middle East and Asia provided me with the tools to work in conflict zones. Working in tough situations has brought out of me my critical thinking to go outside the box, always seek self-improvement and provide with best alternatives to assist the local communities and sub-national governments.
I have really enjoyed assisting in the development of Afghan sub-national government that is trying to become self-sufficient, transparent, accountable and capable of identifying, prioritizing and servicing the needs of the Afghan people. As I am coming to an end of my tour in Afghanistan, I am proud to have been able to turned around one of the most war-torn districts in Afghanistan, that was known as one of the birthplace of the Taliban, into one of the most supportive and engaged districts in governance and development activities.
Although, much work remains to be down to destabilized the Taliban Shadow Government, the mentorship and perseverance working side by side with our Afghan local officials is finally showing positive signs whereby local leaders and villagers are becoming active agents in their communities.
How do you feel SIPA prepared you for this?
My SIPA education was essential and important to excel in this work. SIPA provided me strong analytical tools that I have applied for development strategies in a district West of Kandahar City that is undergoing recovery from the Taliban insurgent activity. I have a Master in Public Administration with a concentration in Economic and Political Development.
Do you have advice for students who may want to work in conflict zones post-SIPA?
For those interested in working in conflict zones, I will recommend them to take management classes while you are at SIPA. Having a basic knowledge in management is important because of the rapid changed of policies that we continue to have and adapt. With good management you will be able to adapt to crisis and create solutions for your work colleagues and local counterparts.
If you work as an advisor or have to lead a team, your military and local counterparts would look up to you as the subject matter expert to be creative, goal oriented, responsible and visionary. Being a good manager can make things easier in how to allocate your development resources and produce impact.