EMERGE! From Village to Marketplace: Building a Sustainable World
My first exposure to the developing world was in spring 2005. Since then, my fascination has only grown – exponentially. In fall of 2006, I began my freshman year at Princeton University. And during the 2007/08 school year, I deferred to take a gap year. That’s when the whirlwind began.
But, let’s take a step back. In the summer of 2006, my sister, through her own work in Haiti, inspired me to work in Thailand, and so I followed her into service. I teamed with Thai villagers to build infrastructure, raise the standard of living and create sustainable business models suitable for their climate and culture. I immersed myself in their lifestyle, living in a bamboo hut and taking bucket showers on the Thai-Burma border. And I wanted to bring my new awareness of the developing world home.
That’s when the idea for Emerge! A Global Bazaar germinated. Ideas began to swirl through my mind and take form. We would host: A fair. A speaker. Food. Performances. Explore development initiatives. Sell the handmade crafts made by the remote cooperatives I saw on my travels.
Formulation had seriously begun, but was interrupted in summer 2007.
After winning a fellowship from Princeton Internships in Civic Service, I went back to Thailand. I traveled to and from refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border to help prepare the refugee’s cases for U.S. resettlement to be presented before the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (The International Rescue Committee in Thailand was contracted by Department of Homeland Security to carry out this much-needed mission.)
That summer I met Harold Rosen, Director of the Grassroots Business Initiative (GBI) at the International Finance Corporation, World Bank Group. He started his department to engage the poor as producers, consumers and entrepreneurs, working to provide financial and technical assistance to companies that create sustainable incomes for the poor. I had the honor of joining him while he visited his Thai initiatives, and learned much from him during many hours in the car. After following up with the Thailand project, I was offered an internship at the World Bank.
Although, my original concentration was architecture, after my experiences in the developing world, I became more interested in urban planning. Within urban planning, I was always interested in infrastructure and projects that spurred economic progress for those living in poverty. Innovative, entrepreneurial initiatives in emerging markets became my focus.
My enthusiasm to implement Emerge! was revived. I had been working on it during the summer – meeting artisans and those engaged in the development field. When I returned to campus, I was fortunate to gather a dedicated team to work with in creating Emerge!
Through the Woodrow Wilson School, I began working with Paula Chow, Founder and Director of the Davis International Center, whose mission is to foster understanding among and between diverse cultures.
In December 2007, Emerge! came to life. Its initiative is designed to support the developing world through increasing awareness and provoking action and interest in international development. EMERGE! also seeks to give a holistic view of life in the developing world, and the bazaar mixes celebration (traditional crafts from across the globe, cultural performance, art and culinary arts) with presentations on the challenges and obstacles facing the regions.
Our first year was successful beyond what the team imagined, attracting over 650 people to the lecture, fair, reception and dinner.
In January 2008, I was awarded advanced standing at Princeton and began working for the Global Business Initiative in Washington, D.C. The team is extraordinary, hardworking, respectful, innovative and goal oriented. My work in supporting four portfolios, expanding sectors and regions, taught me more that I could have dreamed regarding working with grassroots businesses and double bottom line companies. My field assessment in Cambodia aided in my understanding first hand how much our work had an impact on thousands of lives. Seeing those who were now receiving reliable incomes was a true delight, and I am grateful to the Global Bank Initiative team for their support and teachings.
My time there was especially exciting since they were in the process of restructuring into a nonprofit and social venture capital fund, independent from the World Bank, called the Grassroots Business Fund.
Rachel Steinberg was born and raised in New York City. In 2005, she spent the summer at an overnight camp running the photography darkroom and teaching photography. In 2005-6, she took a gap year to study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and traveled the world. In 2006, she spent the summer in a Thai-Burmese village building infrastructure and living in a bamboo hut with limited electricity and no running water. As a Junior at Princeton University the idea for EMERGE! a Global Bazaar germinated when she was filling out an application for the Pace Center Council for Civic Values. She was a junior in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy when she wrote this piece.