I have always been excited about exploring foreign lands and working in a startup. When SPOUTS of Water, a rapidly growing early-revenue-stage social enterprise that manufactures and distributes ceramic water filters in Uganda offered me the opportunity to go to Uganda for the filter startup, I accepted it. I was glad that I did it because the experience was fulfilling both culturally and professionally. Though there were many concerns about the safety and sanitation in Africa from my parents and friends, I told them that if I didn’t do this when I was at INSEAD, I would probably never do it again.
This internship gave me the chance to experience a start-up social enterprise in the developing economy of Uganda. Professionally, I touched upon two new areas: funding-raising for the NGO sector and the improvement of the NGO operations and implementation models. Culturally, I also learnt more about the social and cultural aspects of Uganda by working with local colleagues on the field. We did things that we never thought we could do in Uganda, like learning how to dance salsa and watching French movies on the rooftop of the Alliance Française. The experience allowed me to get to know Uganda as a country, and allowed me to get a better understanding of the East African continent in general by discussing the history and culture of Africa, and talking about the potential opportunities there to better development.
My role as a Strategy and Business Development Intern supported the team to draft a business plan for fundraising from external investors. I delivered the strategy, mission and opportunities for partner engagement in the NGO part of SPOUTS of Water. In addition, I also supported to enhance the new community model in carrying out the NGO mission with efficiency and effectiveness.
The highlight during my 6-week internship was a crowdfunding project that I initiated by using a crowdfunding website in China. This was the first-time that I participated in fundraising, and experiencing how hard it is to convince people to join a cause. But thanks to the great support from friends and family, the project raised funds which were sufficient to provide clean drinking water for about 100 people in Uganda for a period of 2 years, of which 50% were children.
The key takeaway from this experience is that I should always appreciate the life I have now, and should not take for granted common things like clean drinking water, which is a rare resource in the other part of the globe.
Another key takeaway is that poverty reduction (for NGO purposes), always also goes hand in hand with education. The downside to simply dumping goods or money into a country or giving it to people in need is that it may become difficult for them to have the awareness to proactively make efforts to bettering their lives.
I will continue pursuing my interest in social impact organizations in China after INSEAD as a long term objective, ideally providing advisory services for local NGOs and social enterprises in China.
Internships are great opportunity to explore the social impact sectors. I have an entirely different understanding about social impact sectors after my experience. And starting in a developing country also helps expand the impact of these social enterprises as there are urgent social issues to be addressed to.
About SPOUTS of Water
SPOUTS of Water is a rapidly growing early-revenue-stage social enterprise that manufactures and distributes ceramic water filters in Uganda with a team of over 40 employees. Since its first sale in 2015, SPOUTS has distributed more than 12,000 ceramic water filters across all 4 regions in Uganda, reaching over 80,000 Ugandans who lacked consistent access to safe and easily accessible drinking water.
Alicia Hu is a ‘17D MBA student at INSEAD who likes to travel and explore different countries and cultures. Prior to joining INSEAD, Alicia worked for an automotive company in China, as well as contributed her time to a Beijing Volunteer Association where she spent time with the elderly and children from rural areas. The volunteering experiences has offered alternative angles to understanding the problems of the society and encouraged her to think about how to solve them.