By Emily Haddad ’16
Last month, I spent seven days in India as part of a new Booth class—the Global Social Impact Practicum. The Global Social Impact Practicum is led by Booth's Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) and supported by the Tata Trusts, India’s largest philanthropic organization.
Starting with the trip to India in December, my fellow students and I will then be working with the Trusts throughout Winter Quarter on a consulting project exploring how bamboo can be used in rural India as a form of biomass to generate renewable, clean energy and to create jobs.
I applied to the class with the aim of deepening my consulting and international development experience, and gaining exposure to the clean energy sector. As a joint student at Booth and the Harris School of Public Policy, I also was curious to see how my Booth peers, many of whom have primarily private sector backgrounds, would approach the policy issues inherent in encouraging the growth of a new market -- in this case, bamboo-based sustainable energy.
As I packed for the trip, I thought about what I might learn. I hoped to return with a better understanding of renewable energy in India and of the country’s unique development challenges, both of which were new to me.
During our week-long visit, we began to scratch the surface of those two topics. We visited sites that comprise different components of the biomass supply chain: a business that turns heaps of leaves and brush into small, dense bricks of biomass; a gasifier plant where machines turn those briquettes into power; and a village that could potentially benefit from that power, through irrigation or other uses. We learned about the particularities of the energy and bamboo industries in India, from solar energy policy to the variance in how well-suited a given region or village may be for bamboo-based power.
But, as I had hoped, what I learned extended well beyond content knowledge. More than any other class at Booth, I learned about people. The professional backgrounds of my nine peers vary widely, and more importantly, so do our personalities.
We worked together non-stop in a country that was new to most of us and is as hectic as it is colorful. We traveled to three different sites across India, waking up a few times at four a.m. to make flights. Over this intense week, I observed my classmates’ distinct approaches to a question or situation and reflected on how my perspective fit with theirs. Stretching ourselves in this type of environment enabled me to learn about how I approach team situations. Over the short visit, we progressed from what seemed like a cacophony of ideas on day one to a supportive and cohesive unit by day seven, ready to tackle the project in the coming quarter.
Emily Haddad is a joint student at Booth and the Harris School of Public Policy. She interned this past summer at a Chicago-based impact investing PE firm and a Denver-based healthcare technology startup.