Looking back and reflecting is something I have never been that good at. The pace of my life over the past five years and the aggressiveness of what we are trying to achieve at Nuru keeps me running so fast that I seldom feel like I can pause, take a breath and take stock of what has actually happened. The end of the year tends to be a great time to do that though, so I found myself on New Years Eve again at the same beach I sat at last year watching the sun set and thinking about the amazing progress my team has made over this last year. It is so humbling to be a part of a team that is making such solid gains in the greatest fight of our time – the fight against extreme poverty.
One of the things that impressed me most about Nuru’s growth this past year is the organization’s growing independence from me and my personality. Founder’s syndrome is a disease that kills many promising new companies before they can reach a catalytic growth phase, and we never want to fall into this trap. I am so humbled by the people and systems that we as a team have put in place to become a more sustainable organization.
Our amazing HR team, led by Karina Sobieski, made several key hires this past year that have enabled us to significantly grow our leadership bench strength. Nisha Chakravarty (Wharton, Columbia, Time Warner, Goldman Sachs, and former CFO at KIPP Schools LA) joined the team in September as Nuru’s new CFO. Nisha is already adding rigor and depth to Nuru’s financial systems and finance strategy. She is re-tooling the Nuru financial model to drive profitability through the Income Generating Activity (IGA) Program more efficiently. Scott Rumpsa (built a successful social enterprise, Aqua Clara International, in Kenya from scratch) joined the team in May to take over all Nuru operations in Kenya. I can honestly say that Scott is now running Nuru Kenya more effectively and efficiently than I could at this point. He has greatly enabled me to focus on higher level strategic issues and milestones for Nuru’s growth as we move toward proof of concept. Barry Mattson (US Air Force Academy, Wharton, Tufts) joined the team in October as a Team Leader Candidate. Barry will work with me to build the Ethiopia project for six months in Boreda before he completely takes over Nuru Ethiopia in September. Scott and Barry have added significant depth to Nuru’s country leadership teams.
Charles Molloy, Nuru’s Chief Development Officer, stepped fully into his role this past year and worked with his team to begin creating a successful diversification, awareness and long-term funding strategy for Nuru that will allow us to plan much further in advance as we move toward proof of concept. Some of his team’s wins in 2012 included multiple year funding commitments at greater levels from Nuru’s top investors, a Nuru op-ed featured in the NY Times, membership in the Combined Federal Campaign, Nuru being picked up by the Lavin Agency as a speaker resource, new partnership with a group of web developers that has resulted in $125,000 and a feature on Google for Nonprofits homepage.
Part of growing up as an organization includes having objective observers “kick the tires” and take a deeper look at the Nuru Model to identify weak areas. We are committed to accountability and transparency, and we know that the only way we will achieve our goal is if we undergo a high level of scrutiny that can push us to become better. In 2012, we had objective, third party investors take a close look at the Nuru Model. Bill Cotter and the Robertson Foundation conducted a site visit and significant due diligence as part of a larger funding ask from the foundation over the next three years. Dalberg Strategic Advisory Firm conducted a robust, high level strategic review of the Nuru Model and organization as commissioned by Nuru investors, Bob and Dottie King.
2012 saw significant increases in our capacity for the model to become self-sustaining. We believe that capacity building in our leadership and business models is the key to long-term sustainability as we work to enable communities to make meaningful choices to free themselves from poverty.
This past year, we invested heavily in revamping the Income Generating Activities (IGA) Program strategy in Kenya. We brought on a full-time program manger for the IGA Program to focus on identifying the most promising gaps in the market and rebuilding the IGA financial model. In addition, we hired two post-graduate interns and three Kenyan research assistants to assist in the development of the IGA business models. Nisha will be using these business models to build the five-year financial model for Nuru Kenya in the first quarter of 2013.
In addition, we made significant progress in the development of our Leadership Program. The philosophy, process and curricula were refined to better equip the leaders of Nuru Kenya, and the details of the co-creation process were completed to begin building solutions for Nuru Ethiopia in 2013. We also finished defining a series of program metrics to effectively measure the impact that the Leadership Program is having on our staff in Nuru Kenya.
In 2012, our Senior Program Managers and the Monitoring and Evaluation Team (M&E) worked together to make significant headway in refining the Nuru Model to drive a much higher level of efficacy. The M&E Team hired Heather Ozhogin as the team Data Scientist to enable us to more effectively collect and analyze data that we are gathering in the field. Thanks to the hard work of the M&E Team, we were able to produce statistically significant data that proves the impact of the Nuru Agriculture Program. The data collected showed a 123% increase of crop yields for Nuru farmers above a baseline for the long rains season of 2012. Plans and processes have been put in place to produce similar data for the other three impact programs by the end of 2013.
We made exciting progress in the models of our four impact programs. The Agriculture Program was able to increase Ag loan repayment rate from 79% in 2011 to 96% in 2012. The Community Economic Development Program was able to produce a 100% loan repayment rate on over $32,000 in micro-loans issued to Nuru farmers in 2012. We made the Nuru Model more efficient by merging the Water and Sanitation Program into the Healthcare Program to eliminate redundancies in targeted behavior change. The Social Marketing component of the Healthcare model launched with a successful first campaign called “Nuchoo” – successfully marketing pit latrines to Nuru farmers and other community members in Kuria West. The Education Program reached 3,806 students across 9 primary schools with its Outreach Program in an attempt to increase literacy levels among primary school-aged children to Standard 2 reading level.
Proof of Concept
At Nuru, we are pushing hard toward proof of concept of the model. While we believe that proof of concept is still three years away, in 2012, we saw significant gains toward reaching this goal.
Part of proving that the Nuru Model works is actually leaving. We have to exit Kenya successfully. In order to do that, we need to have clearly defined exit criteria enabling us to know when we have achieved success – criteria showing that we have created a completely self-sustaining entity that is improving the lives of families in the project area. In 2012, the M&E Team was able to refine what those exit criteria look like so that we can now clearly describe what the successful end state looks like for Nuru Kenya that will facilitate exit.
Another pillar of proof of concept is successfully implementing the Nuru Model in a second country to show that the Nuru Model is not just a Kenya success phenomenon. In 2012, we were able to overcome significant obstacles to establish Nuru Ethiopia, a registered, international NGO in Ethiopia. We conducted a rigorous situational analysis, hired a senior Ethiopian management team, established an administrative and logistics infrastructure for the project and began construction of the Foundation Team compound there. Nuru Ethiopia program training will commence in March with the insertion of the Scout Team.
I am so excited and blown away by the progress we made as a team this past year. None of this would have been possible without you – our selfless, passionate supporters who are so committed to giving sustainable hope and a voice to those trapped in extreme poverty. Thank you for making 2012 a year of significant growth and advancement toward sustainable change in the global fight against extreme poverty. I look forward now to fighting next to you as we step into this new year together.
Stay in the fight,