Elizabeth Davis on Starting an International Organization (March) Notes

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					             Elizabeth Davis:
How to Start An International Organization

                 March 21, 2012

           Elizabeth Davis
    Elizabeth Davis, Akilah Institute


        PROFILE                INTRODUCTION & SPEAKER PROFILE         3

         TOPIC 1               GETTING STARTED IN A NEW WORLD         6

         TOPIC 2                      BARRIERS TO OVERCOME            9

         TOPIC 3              UNDERSTANDING A RAW GENERATION          11

         TOPIC 4
                                         TIPS FROM AN EXPAT           16

© 2012 Extreme Entrepreneurship Education, LLC All Rights Reserved.

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Featured Speaker:

                            ELIZABETH DAVIS


Elizabeth Davis studied international development and political science at Vanderbilt University. In
college, she worked on education and community development projects in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru,
Kenya and South Africa.

After studying the Rwandan genocide in college, Elizabeth knew she wanted to participate in the
reconciliation and rehabilitation process. A few days after graduating college in 2006, Elizabeth boarded a
plane to Rwanda to volunteer with grassroots education projects.

In 2007 she founded a nonprofit organization that provided scholarship to street children and supported a
local Rwandan orphanage. Unfortunately, her Rwandan partners embezzled upwards of $100,000 and
Elizabeth’s business failed.

Elizabeth did not lose heart or her passion to help in rebuilding the local economy. She began laying the
foundations for Akilah Institute for Women in Kigali, Rwanda. Akilah is a new model of business education
that prepares women to become compassionate and confident leaders in their communities and in the
rapidly developing sectors of the African economies.

Akilah opened its doors in 2010 and will graduate its first class in the summer of 2012. It is supported by
the Rwandan government, the Packard Foundation, the World Bank and many more. Additional funding is
provided by student-run for-profit businesses.

Elizabeth Davis is currently the CEO and co-founder of Akilah Institute for Women and is the recipient of
the Woman of Peace award in October, 2009.

Elizabeth Davis had the courage to follow her fascination for Rwanda and travel across the world. Her
story of perseverance and success inspires a hunger to learn and affect change!

From the Girl Next Door:
             Elizabeth grew up in Florida and attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN
             Upon graduating college in 2006, she moved to Rwanda
             Elizabeth spent 2 years volunteering with a non-profit organization in Rwanda before
                starting what would become the Akilah Institute for Women

Founding Akilah:
             The Akilah Institute for Woman is a college for woman in Kigali, the capitol of Rwanda
             Since it’s founding 2.5 years ago, The Akilah Institute has been working to develop a
                model of affordable higher education that can be scaled around East Africa
             Establishing a business in Rwanda is fairly easy due to the government’s recent efforts to
                help businesses be started in just one afternoon
             Akilah is a hybrid organization, as a non-profit with a for-profit enterprise to help fund their
                scholarship fund. This way, they are not so reliant on international donors
             Their first graduating class this summer will be about 40 students
             This year’s graduates have 100% job placement year

Persistence Pays:
             When she wanted something, Elizabeth started off cautious and afraid of bothering
                people by being too aggressive. She thought that if people did not respond they were not
             Her outlook changed with a piece of advice, “be like the wallpaper.” Now, Elizabeth is
                consistent and always ‘there’ in front of people she wants something from
             The use of phone and email contact is minimal to get things done in Rwanda – to get
                results Elizabeth shows up for a face-to-face interaction
             When it was hard to set up an appointment with Government Officials, Elizabeth would
                not take no for an answer, she would even wait by the official’s car until the end of the

Quotable Quotes from Topic #1: Getting Started in a New World

“We are about to have our first graduating class this summer and we have about 40 students who are
graduating with 100% job placement, having increased their income by 10 to 15 times.” – Elizabeth Davis

“We offer a two-year business diploma for young women, most of them who come from rural areas, from
families who come from agriculture and live on less than $2 a day.” – Elizabeth Davis

“We give [students] very practical skills to become businesswomen and entrepreneurs in their community.
Because Rwanda is such a quickly growing community in East Africa, there is an opportunity for young
qualified professions in the region.” – Elizabeth Davis

“Once you get [the business] up and running, there are of course more challenges in terms of dealing with
the tax structure. Importing stuff also makes logistics a little more complicated. Getting it registered is
easy.” – Elizabeth Davis

“You have to invest in a good lawyer and a good accountant, that is just good business practice. You
have to have that expertise to make sure that you have really done it the right way.” – Elizabeth Davis

“Moms are the best. Especially when you are starting a non-profit.          Literally my mom is a full time
volunteer and handles all of our logistics and our government filing and our accounting.” – Elizabeth Davis

“No one told me this before starting a non-profit, but doing all of the reporting and the filings is incredibly
time consuming, it really is. You need someone to help with the administration of it (especially if you are
based somewhere else).” – Elizabeth Davis

“Rwanda has been really applauded for their work and eliminating corruption. It is an easy place to work.”
– Elizabeth Davis

Elizabeth knows from experience, when getting to a new culture it is well worth it to invest time, build
relationships, understand the culture and learn how organizations operate.

     Rwanda just changed their national language from French to English
     English is the language for East African politics so Rwanda feels a lot of pressure to change
     The switch from French will take a full generation for the Rwandan people
     People are every excited to get the opportunity to practice English
     All Rwandans speak Kinyarwanda and most speak French (and now English)
     Elizabeth studied Kinyarwanda in college but hit a wall with the grammar. She can get by and
        have simple conversations in the native language

Cultural Norms:
     America is a lot more expressive and communicate at ‘face value’ – Rwanda is more based on
        non-verbal communication
     East Africans can be a lot more reserved – saying “yes” does not always mean they agree to do
        something. You have to read between the lines.
     Knowing the right person to talk to is key when trying to get something
     Before she was engaged, men could not take her seriously because she was unwed and not
        considered an adult
     In Africa, you rely on government institutions much more than you do in the US – it is critical to
        build and maintain relationships

Split-Brain Syndrome:
     Elizabeth has one foot in the US and one in Rwanda. Doing both is taxing when trying to deal
        with two different countries and two different cultures
     She is running everything on the ground in Rwanda with her Executive Director (who manages
        students and personnel)
     In the US she is dealing with fundraising and managing a Board of Directors to get the resources
        needed to operate

Quotable Quotes from Topic #2: Barriers to Overcome

“I’ve got this split-brain syndrome in between these two different countries and two different cultures.
It’s communicating in a different way.” – Elizabeth Davis

“[Rwanda] is a lot on nonverbal communication and knowing who they are in the institution and who you
need to talk to in order to get stuff done and going to the higher level government official.” – Elizabeth

“East Africans tend to be a lot more reserved. They don’t wear their heart on their sleeve as much as we
do. There is a lot more non-verbal communication.” – Elizabeth Davis

“[Akilah has] maintained our good relationships with [government officials] by making sure that they
always have a seat at the table.” – Elizabeth Davis

“It seems like a big part, at the end of the day, is understanding the culture and the norms before
projecting what one has learned or what one’s presuppositions are.” – Michael Simmons

“For Rwandan’s, they want to work with people who are there to support them and to support the
Rwandan government’s vision to support their country, not coming in and telling them what they need to
do.” – Elizabeth Davis

“It is impossible to just come in [to Rwanda] expecting to get things right away and especially as an
entrepreneur.” – Elizabeth Davis

“Over the past six years living there, I have invested a lot of time getting to know the government officials,
getting to know the officials, building relationships, building a sense of trust. That is really valuable.” –
Elizabeth Davis

“Working in Africa is just very different when working with African government institutions. It seems to me
like you have to rely a lot more on government institutions to get stuff done than you do in the US.” –
Elizabeth Davis

“I’ve had government officials, or men in Rwanda tell me that before when I was not married, when I was
not engaged, that they could not take me seriously.” – Elizabeth Davis

Many of the girls at Akilah all carry the physical and emotional scars of genocide everyday. Akilah is
supporting these women to rise up and overcome the burdens afflicted on them during their childhood.

Rwandan Genocide:
    Mass murder of an estimated between 500,000 – 1,000,000 people
    Lasted approximately 100 days (April 6 – mid July) in 1994
    Civil war conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes
    The genocide was supported and coordinated by the national government as well as by local
       military, civil officials and mass media
    Elizabeth first moved to Rwanda with a fascination on how genocide like this could happen – her
       logic attributes it to a lack of education

Genocide Survivors at Akilah:
    Most of the women at Akilah are genocide survivors because they are between he ages of 18 and
       30 (the genocide was just 17 years ago) and students were either infants or children when the
       genocide occurred
    Students lost families and homes then, and the genocide still affects them on a daily basis today
    Everyday students literally carry physical scars from the violence
    Some of the students at Akilah have fathers in prison for committing genocide

Where are they now?
    In 1994, 100,000 men were sent to prison for committing genocide
    Now, tens of thousands of (uneducated) men have been released due to the lack of resources
    The majority of college and vocational programs now focus on providing various technical skills
       for these men to get jobs
    Akilah wants to provide more opportunity to females affected by the genocide
    During the genocide, tens of thousands of women were raped and infected with HIV. Many
       students are working to provide medicine for loved ones infected

The Reconciliation Effort:
    The Reconciliation Effort has been incredibly successful due largely to developing this vision for
       the future of Rwanda
    People don’t use the words Hutu or Tutsi anymore in public. They say “We are all Rwandan.”
    It is still hard for Elizabeth to hard to wrap her mind around the level of forgiveness and
       reconciliation in the country

Quotable Quotes from Topic #3: Understanding a Raw Generation
“There is a very powerful rhetoric in Rwanda that really unites communities and brings people together.” –
Elizabeth Davis

“Being a male is a lot easier to have the opportunity to continue education and launch a professional
career path.” – Elizabeth Davis

“I believe that having the education systems and having the quality of education is the most important
step in ensuring that something like this [genocide] does not happen again.” – Elizabeth Davis

“When the genocide happened it was a mostly illiterate population living in rural poverty with no access to
education or healthcare or resources of any kind.” – Elizabeth Davis

“It is something that we will never be able to understand. Never. We will never be able to understand what
it is rely like to grow up in extreme poverty and have to deal with those types of decisions. It is so hard for
us to cast judgment of what it is like to be in those types of situations.” – Elizabeth Davis

“You have two demographics: teenagers (both male and female) and then older women who literally carry
the physical scars who literally carry the violence with them every day. It’s not just erasing the memory
and going through some counseling and moving on. It’s dealing with it on a day-to-day.” – Elizabeth Davis

“We have students who have lost 30 members of their families. Every single person in her family was
killed. They were the sole survivors. The amount of hatred that you could carry around with you for the
rest of your life, it is almost tempting to want to be so angry. But they are not.” – Elizabeth Davis

“It is still very raw. People are still seeing it everyday and still feeling the aftermath of it.” – Elizabeth Davis

“It is normal for people to live side by side in communities with the men who committed genocide and
released from prison.” – Elizabeth Davis

“It is not just setting up a college for young women and teaching them business and entrepreneurship. It’s
doing that on top of a demographic that is suffering from very high levels of posttraumatic stress.” –
Elizabeth Davis

“It impacted their lives in so many ways. Not just losing their families and their homes but it affects them
on a daily basis.” – Elizabeth Davis

Elizabeth is working as an expatriate [someone residing in another country] and plans to live there for a
long time to come. She has committed her life to another culture. She shares her ups and downs and
lessons learned!

Finding International Support:
     Akilah is only 2.5 years old so they are still relying on international donors
     Constantly seeking support and scholarships - most donors are generated through word-of-mouth
     $3000 covers one student’s tuition for one year (including lunch, books, uniform etc.)
     International support is put on the backburner due to the state of the US economy over the past
        few years
     Many donors want to see the direct impact of their money – they cannot do this with the huge
     Many donors come visit the school

Dramatically Increasing Odds for Success:
     Working in East Africa, you must put in the time to build relationships with the government
        officials. It is well worth it!
     Understand the strategy and big picture of the country you are working in and mold to support
        that vision. You cannot just go in expecting to implement change without seeing their reality.
     Make sure that policy makers and government officials always have a “seat at the table” and are
        constantly updated with organizational happenings (better too much than too little)
     If possible, partner with existing initiatives and implement your scalable model

An Entrepreneur Abroad:
     In being an entrepreneur abroad, you have to sacrifice so much (special events, friendships,
        simple luxuries)
     Elizabeth works about an 84 hour week and everyone knows that her schedule is apt to change
        depending on unexpected business meetings that may arise
     Scalability drives a lot of the discussion on international development right now: What can we
        build that will not only work here, but can be applied all over the region?
     The key to Akilah’s success has been involving the private sector business community. Designing
        programs to fit their needs and developing a model and curriculum so that they are extremely
        invested in

Quotable Quotes from Topic #4: Tips from an Expat
“[Donors] want to see a direct impact of their support and know the differences they are making. I think
that promotes a sense of international and global giving.” – Elizabeth Davis

“I see a lot of Americans (and other internationals) coming into Rwanda and wanting to launch different
initiatives or set up different organizations. They what things to be done overnight, immediately. It just
does not happen that way.” – Elizabeth Davis

“You really do have to spend the time. I think first and foremost is the relationship that you build with not
only government, but with community officials.” – Elizabeth Davis

“You have to as much as possible partner with existing initiatives and come together rather than working
in an isolated bubble with your own initiative.” – Elizabeth Davis

“56% of Rwandan’s government is female. There are some very influential, very powerful women in
senior government positions that means that Rwanda has some of the most progressive laws against
gender based violence.” – Elizabeth Davis

“I don’t know as many foreigners or expats living in Rwanda any more just because people come though
pretty quickly. So my support community is more Rwandan or people that live or are based there.” –
Elizabeth Davis

“Especially in Africa, you have to pour yourself into it 110%. You have to and it is totally all consuming
and can be exhausting but it is worth it.” – Elizabeth Davis

“Developing and standing that model is the first and most important piece of it. Building a strong
foundation in Rwanda.” – Elizabeth Davis

“For us, the quality and the curriculum and the outcome are what are important. We can teach Akilah
underneath a tree if we had to.” – Elizabeth Davis

“We are not just churning out graduates that have political science degrees, or sociology degrees that
they are immediately moving into the workforce.” – Elizabeth Davis

© 2012 Extreme Entrepreneurship Education, LLC All Rights Reserved.


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