Last spring, I was faced with a decision. I could either spend my summer working with a development organization in Haiti or embed with the Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability division of
This was not an easy choice to make. Having worked with NGOs for most of my career, I was apprehensive about working with one of the biggest and most recognized corporate entities in the world.
What would I learn? Would I adjust to a “corporate culture?” What work would I do and would it actually be impactful?
As I tried to make a decision, another pressing thought arose.
Does taking this internship make me a "sellout"?
Though it may sound silly and a bit immature, it was a real concern.
Whether real or perceived, there is a tension between the role of the public and private sector in international development. This tension is characterized by questions of efficiency and intent, influence and access, and most importantly, impact. Can a business primarily concerned with its bottom line really do good in the world while doing good business? Despite these reservations, I saw the Coke internship as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a peek behind the red curtain and see how a corporate juggernaut creates shared opportunity.
This summer was a particularly exciting time to join as the company was in the midst of launching a new sustainability project. Upon arriving in Nairobi, I learned that each
Through Kuza Kazi,
I’m happy to report that I've learned a great deal about how difficult and gratifying developing and managing a project can be. There is nothing quite like seeing a concept or vision come to life, while gaining support and momentum along the way.
One of the most important lessons I learned is that public affairs and communications are critical to structuring and piloting a successful sustainability initiative. Wedged between long days chasing down contracts, and meeting with commercial managers to figure out exactly how one gets ice to a street vendor in the middle of Turkana, were meetings with national and county government, international donors, foundations, UN agencies and other private sector actors. I quickly realized that an expert grasp of public policy and stakeholder management could make or break Kuza Kazi’s success.
I look back on my experience in Kenya with a new appreciation for the role of the private sector in international development. Through public-private partnerships, impact investment, impact sourcing, B-Corps, social enterprises and so much more, how we define development work, where it is done, how it is done and who does it is changing every day. I can’t think of anywhere better to learn such a lesson than in Kenya, where signs of transition are present in a growing middle class and exploding culture of startups and entrepreneurship.
All in all, I can say with complete honesty that I have no regrets whatsoever about my decision to leave behind what I know best, and join
The Coca-Cola Company is an internship partner of Georgetown University’s Global Human Development (GHD) program. Each summer, Master's candidates in the GHD program work in Coca-Cola offices around the world, getting firsthand experience in the areas of corporate social responsibility and sustainability. This special blog series highlights their time with Coca-Cola. Here, Araba Sapara-Grant (pictured above) reflects on her time in Kenya.
Araba Sapara-Grant joined GHD after several years working for multiple development organizations including Pan African Capital Group, Africare and GAIN, and will graduate in 2019.