Nonprofit Counters Terror With Jobs
Published: Friday, October 18, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 18, 2013 12:10
When Marshall Bailly founded Leadership Initiatives as an undergraduate at American University, he never imagined he would still be managing the nonprofit nine years later.
But nearly a decade after its founding in 2004, Leadership Initiatives is still successfully funding entrepreneurial ventures in Nigeria.
Rather than donating money, food or medicine to struggling communities, the nonprofit partners with communities by financing small businesses. Loan recipients pay back local investors at a modest 12.5 percent interest rate.
“Leadership Initiatives works with the community to build up the community,” Bailly said of the nonprofit, which has started more than 40 businesses in Nigeria. “We changed the way people live their lives.”
Leadership Initiatives has been able to provide an alternative lifestyle for young men and women who might otherwise join Boko Haram, a terrorist group that is widely influential in Nigeria.
Emmy Buck (COL ’16) interned at Leadership Initiatives for a year through her “Law and Society” class taught by professor Sarah Stiles, who Bailly has formed a relationship with to promote Leadership Initiatives and find potential interns.
In the past four years Bailly has partnered with Stiles “Law and Society” class and has drawn a majority of his interns from speaking to her class.
“There is a lot of fighting, and we can never completely know what is going to happen next,” Buck said.
Despite these challenges, Leadership Initiatives has largely been able to convince Nigerian locals that their program is a better option than joining a terrorist organization.
Soon after joining Leadership Initiatives, Buck became the assistant director of the organization’s International Business Alliance program, a competitive program for high school students that allows them to assist Leadership Initiatives’ projects in Nigeria. The program stresses cross-cultural collaboration so that students can help implement a broad variety of projects.
“Leadership Initiatives has a hold in so many areas, not only helping Nigerians but high school and college students as well,” Buck said. “They learn what it means to become a leader, to be innovative, to communicate their ideas and take charge, allowing them to have a better understanding of Nigeria,” Buck said.
The nonprofit has partnered with a variety of organizations, including Microsoft and the U.S. government. After Leadership Initiatives hones operations in Nigeria, it hopes to expand its college internship program and continue to grow the International Business Alliance program.
“The craziest part is that we’re taking Georgetown students and they improve these programs every year,” Bailly said. “They make a huge difference.”
Leadership Initiatives intern Kelsey Jones (COL ’15) said that the nonprofit has made a notable impact in a variety of areas in the United States and Nigeria.
“The impact that LI has is mind-blowing,” Jones said. “LI has improved the health, economy and overall living experience for the Nigerian people involved.”
“What Professor Holtom has taught me is that in order to affect the world outside, you have to understand the world within. And so he would make us do things like ‘what do we value,’ ‘what makes us tick,’” O’Driscoll said. “Themes start to emerge throughout your life, and when you see those themes, you identify who you are, and when you identify who you are, you can stand for something, and when you stand for something that is when you have the first seeds of leadership.”
Holtom’s focus on passion has led the students to choose projects that are individually meaningful.
Jack Schumacher (MSB ’15) and his partner Max Allen (MSB ’15) are working to raise money for organizations including the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team and the Honor Flight Network, which invites World War II veterans for tours around Washington, D.C.
Schumacher spent six years in the military, and during his time in Afghanistan, he was severely wounded, leading to the loss of his leg.
“While I was recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, I saw how much of an impact small groups such as the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team truly had on returning veterans,” Schumacher said.
Because Allen is also on the Georgetown baseball team, the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team was a way for the two to express their passions simultaneously.
Previous projects have also made an impact, according to Holtom. One student started a project to help homeless people find jobs by providing resume-writing workshops and helping with interviewing techniques. By the end of the project, half of the participating group had gotten jobs for the Christmas season. Holtom said that this creativity in solving real world issues is effective leadership.
Holtom emphasizes introspection in the class because he believes the characteristics of a leader are very individual.
“I can’t tell you what a good leader looks like,” Holtom said. “You have to determine what you want to be as a leader and some people want to be a leader in their home, that’s great, some people want to be a leader in their community, some people want to lead the free world.”
Holtom further emphasized the role of passion and interest in leadership and entrepreneurship.
“Great entrepreneurs are born of passion. It’s not just a job, you have to have something you care about personally,” he said.
Holtom refuses to take credit for the successes of the projects and the students in the course. However, students said that Holtom’s guidance helps them develop their leadership skills.
“He definitely has a big role in the success of the class,” Matthew Hickey (MSB ’14) said. “Everyone that I’ve talked to just rants and raves about him.”