By Zahraa Dagher, 2019 Summer Fellow at Resonance
For a life-long learner, this summer was rich in learning opportunities for me. Some of the summer’s highlights were honing entrepreneurial skills alongside 90+ Fulbright scholars from 45+ countries at an entrepreneurship seminar, then joining 450+ ecosystem builders at an ecosystem building summit, and brainstorming social enterprise solutions with an impact accelerator. One of the best learning experiences I had was at Resonance’s headquarters in Burlington, Vermont, where I spent the majority of my summer as a Fellow with Resonance’s Innovation team.
The Summer Fellowship role at Resonance stood out to me because the job description seemed very structured and had clear deliverables as a product of the role; the results-oriented part in me loved that! However, what sealed the deal for me was the interview I had with a Resonance member who turned out to be my supervisor and most influential mentor. After that conversation, I knew that I would be within a team that had an action-driven attitude to support its mission-driven vision.
It took no time for “Resonators” to welcome me as one of the team. I was fortunate to work alongside a highly collaborative group where I was not only well-received but encouraged to approach members across the organizational hierarchy and national/international office locations. Overall, Resonators provided me with support as well as autonomy to perform competently and independently.
Taking on a fellowship with a global impact consulting company was the perfect way to combine my interests in private sector development, social impact, and consulting. My role was to support Resonance’s strategy for assisting multinationals to profitably reach customers in low-income communities. The fellowship embedded highly informative learning opportunities such as conducting market research, mapping out the inclusive business landscape, conducting over 20 interviews with industry leaders and multinationals, as well as networking events.
After eight weeks at Resonance’s offices in Burlington, VT and Washington, DC, I picked up countless lessons and skills within my areas of interest. I came in with certain expectations about the scope and how the work would flow. I even had a flow chart with expected deliverables. However, the direction of the project took unexpected turns as I uncovered more information. Fortunately, I had international experience and an academic background in management consulting, but more importantly a supportive supervisor and a well-rounded team at Resonance. I got to practice different approaches to walk in with clarity whilst navigating through uncertainty.
I learned so much international development jargon! Understanding terms like base of the pyramid, emerging markets, and frontier markets was just hitting the surface. Literature introduced me to multinational corporations (MNCs), eMNCs, pharmerging markets, last mile distribution, PSD, and of course, inclusive business. I was somewhat equipped with a lexicon that enabled me to comprehend the language of international development. The interviews I conducted, however, were with native speakers of business development. I quickly realized that I needed to switch between both languages and make sure that the semantics I used were translating well to my audience.
Having impact at heart is not enough to communicate the message. When our target clients are multinationals, we need to speak “Business”. Corporations will see more value within low-income communities if we successfully build a business case. Having that in mind guided me to keep companies’ perspectives in mind and craft an actionable framework that Resonance could incorporate. As a consultant, I had to speak Resonance’s language as well. This meant that my recommendations for Resonance had to align with the organization’s current focus and future goals. I was delighted to know that Resonance was taking my recommendations into a new practice area. To me, this means that I passed the Resonance language test!
To conclude, I had the fortune of spending my summer in a collaborative environment, gaining new skills that are relevant to my career, and producing relevant deliverables that will hopefully create an impact. I end this summer as a happier, more competent consultant, and an honorary Resonator!