Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Project will continue over the summer

By Hristiana Eneva ’10

EASTON, Pa.(, March 24, 2008 — Hristiana Eneva ’10 reports on the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference in New Orleans:

After being formally recognized by President Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference in New Orleans last week, three students are returning to campus with a new perspective and valuable contacts for the future.

Lori Gonzalez ’10 (Bronx, N.Y.), a mechanical engineering major; Katherine Reeves ’10 (Colorado Springs, Colo.), an economics and business major; and Kavinda Udugama ’09 (Kandy, Sri Lanka), who is pursuing a B.S. in electrical and computer engineering and an A.B. in mathematics; presented the progress of Lafayette’s Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Project (EEGLP) at the conference.

Together with their faculty mentor, Gladstone Fluney Hutchinson, associate professor of economics and business, they have helped design EEGLP, which aims to facilitate entrepreneurship and growth by collaborating with small communities on developing sustainable business plans and, when necessary, providing them with basic technology.

Built around the idea of partnership and collective action as opposed to mentoring and paternalism, the project combines creativity with feasibility and thus offers a new perspective on development methodology. What is unique about the manner of work, however, is its unrestricted geographical scope based on the belief that every community deserves support and providing it can be an invaluable learning experience for both sides.

The team has broadened its area of interest and after successfully implementing its agenda in the Honduran villages of Lagunitas and La Fortuna, it has now focused on the reconstruction of the Holy Cross neighborhood of New Orleans, La. It was the students’ determination to approach every location individually and work with the local community that brought the project to the attention of the CGIU. President Clinton underlined the importance of this strategy in his introductory speech. EEGLP was one of only 13 commitments explicitly supported by Clinton out of about 690 projects.

Apart from getting to share their experience at the conference, the students had an opportunity to discuss it with distinguished panelists and fellow students and take part in several workshops focused on poverty alleviation.

“Getting to know people with similar objectives helped us check where we are and also provided substantial food for thought” the students said. “Collaboration is what lies at the heart of our project and in that respect the conference proved to be an incredible networking experience.”

However, networking did not end there as the students took the rest of their time in New Orleans to meet face to face with both potential partners and members of the Holy Cross community.

“Recognizing ourselves as outsiders is an essential part of what we do. Working with the locals will not only give us a better understanding of the specifics of the area and facilitate our research, but it will also make the results of our actions sustainable and render further intervention obsolete,” Professor Hutchinson stressed.

In just the few days following the conference, the project managed to gain the approval and support of the Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane and Xavier Universities (CBR) and The Idea Village, a non-profit networking facility which holds economic empowerment a priority.