TechnoServe recently received a significant gift to support the TechnoServe Fellows Program from Board Co-chair Rachel Hines and her husband Michael Cemblast. The Fellows Program is a highly competitive fellowship where proven business professionals lend their insight to projects and country teams globally. Fellows often lend much-needed skills like industry analysis, business plan development, and financial modeling.
The gift is designed to have a lasting impact and will fund 10 Rachel Hines Fellows annually. These Fellows will focus on projects that prioritize climate change solutions and nature. This vital support will enable 200 dedicated professionals to lend their expertise and create lasting change for people around the world through this fellowship for the next two decades.
Lasting Impact: A Conversation with Will Warshauer and Rachel Hines
Will: How did you find out about TechnoServe? When did you first become involved, and what appealed to you about the organization?
Rachel: TechnoServe has been on my radar for a long time. I was re-introduced to the organization by someone at a party who was part of the Global Advisory Council (GAC) about 15 years ago. Soon after, I contacted the organization and joined the GAC. I knew this was an organization I’d always wanted to get more involved with, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I visited a few TechnoServe projects in various countries and continued to show my interest before joining the board 11 years ago.
In terms of what appealed to me about TechnoServe, it’s the way the organization goes about its work. You see so many examples of development projects that don’t work or don’t have a lasting impact. TechnoServe can change people’s lives for the duration, which resonates with me, and I think with many other people as well.
Will: Over the years, you’ve gotten to see our work in person in several countries around the world. Is there a particular program or TechnoServe client that stands out to you?
Rachel: I’ve met many TechnoServe clients in various programs worldwide, and several stand out. One of them is the Smart Duka program in Kenya. These are the shop owners who own the small stores in Nairobi and other cities. We started the Smart Duka program to help them improve their business skills. When you meet these shop owners, they often say that before joining the TechnoServe program, they were barely making ends meet. They didn’t understand how to keep their books or buy products at a more reasonable rate.
But by joining the TechnoServe program, they learned how to manage their inventory, work together in cooperatives to purchase their products at lower prices, and take their businesses to the next level. Many of these shop owners are young women, so we’re addressing the youth unemployment challenge and supporting women. Ultimately, we’re helping people improve their lives and communities, and that’s what’s so exciting about this work.
The TechnoServe Fellows Program
Will: You’ve supported TechnoServe for many years, but you and your husband have recently made an extraordinarily generous and unique gift to TechnoServe. Can you tell us about the gift and why you decided to make it now?
Rachel: TechnoServe is an inspiring organization, which is why we wanted to make this gift. We struggled with thinking about how to best support TechnoServe, and focusing on the Fellows Program resonated with us in many ways. I love the idea of a cohort of climate Fellows who can be a subgroup of the main Fellows Program. These Fellows can continue to drive impact for TechnoServe in a critical area for many years to come.
Will: Any reflections on the Fellows Program and what makes it special?
Rachel: For the Fellows themselves, this program allows them to get out of their comfort zone into an environment where they must immerse themselves in the local culture to be effective. On the one hand, it’s a unique personal experience, but we should also recognize that Fellows are doing critical work for TechnoServe that might not otherwise get done. The experience has a tremendous impact on the Fellows, both personally and professionally.
From my experience, having that kind of experience at a young age transforms your worldview and can shape your career going forward. It’s something you take with you your whole life. We’ve seen that expressed by many Fellows who have come back. Several people on the TechnoServe Board were Fellows in their youth. They’ve gone on to great careers, but they still cite their TechnoServe experience as a formative part of their career and personal development. I think this fellowship has an incredible impact on TechnoServe and the Fellows personally.
Lasting Impact and Giving
Will: This gift is such an incredible legacy. What would you say to other people considering making a similar gift?
Rachel: People give for their passions because they’re committed to organizations and want to support their community and issues they care about and believe in. I’ve seen it at my age. Many people think about how they can give back at the end of their careers. Some people give back in terms of mentoring or non-monetary ways.
Supporting organizations you care about financially is so critical. We know so many organizations need financial support. Being able to do something like this with TechnoServe – an organization I believe has an incredible impact – has defined this part of my life. Being involved with the Fellows and on the Board enhances my life and impacts the organization in a way that will have a lasting impact.
The Fellows Program resonates with me, and I’m thrilled to support it. I know other areas at TechnoServe could benefit from this kind of endowment or other financial support. Can you think of some areas where this kind of support would be beneficial?
Will: I’d say to anyone considering making a private donation to TechnoServe just how critical those flexible private donations are. The bulk of TechnoServe’s funding comes from large donors, and that’s terrific, but their giving is 100% tied to a specific project in a particular place. As I try to run a large, complicated, global organization responding to an evolving set of challenges around the world, the need for flexible funding is more significant than ever. It gives us critical flexibility to test innovations, to find and fill gaps, and to be the kind of impactful organization we’ve been for the last 55 years.
(This interview was filmed by Julieta Ocampo Giraldo and edited by Olivia Sakai)