Kate Reott joined Village Enterprise as a Fellow working on our Smarter Market Analysis Risk Tool (S.M.A.R.T.). Kate hails from Chicago and graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in 2013, majoring in African Regional Studies with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. During her time at Georgetown, Kate studied in Paris, Rwanda, and most recently Ghana, where she spent a semester at the University of Ghana in Legon. While in school she worked at the Rwandan Embassy, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the Global Environment and Technology Foundation. Before joining the Village Enterprise team, Kate worked at the South African Consulate on business and trade development projects. In her free time, Kate enjoys trying new foods, reading, and playing soccer.
Kate sat down for a quick Q&A on why she joined Village Enterprise:
Why did you choose to accept the position?
The hands-on learning that comes from work in the field is invaluable, so finding an opportunity based in sub-Saharan Africa was very important to me. While interviewing, it was clear that Village Enterprise has the team-oriented work culture I was looking for, and it seemed the organization was growing and changing in exciting ways. Finally, the chance to manage something as innovative as SMART was impossible to turn down! Despite being a big decision, it felt so easy to make.
Why Village Enterprise?
Village Enterprise is focused on what matters: the conversation always comes back to delivering the best outcomes possible for our program participants and it shows at every level of our operations. The large percentage of local field staff and the emphasis on M&E illustrate VE’s commitment to sustainability and innovation. But at VE, those aren’t just buzzwords: spend five minutes in the office and it’s clear we rely on our field staff and use data to improve our program on a daily basis. Every organization faces challenges—that’s an unavoidable reality. If you’re focused on the big picture and willing to try new things, however, I think challenges can become your greatest learning and improvement opportunities. This really seems to be the modus operandi at Village Enterprise.
Why is tackling extreme poverty through business a cause you care about?
Addressing extreme poverty in a sustainable way seems like a no-brainer: who wouldn’t want to work towards achieving that goal? However, in the era of the 24-hour news cycle, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by stories about poverty—and therefore, desensitized and detached from those people and places. Helping the rural poor create businesses is something concrete and sustainable we can do. It’s that simple—rather than focus on all that we can’t do, here’s something we can do that will help families and communities in a big way.
Could you talk about the experiences with school or the organizations you previously worked for? Did they influence your decision to take this position?
When I think about the experiences that led me to work with VE in Kenya, three things really stand out. In 2011, I traveled to Rwanda and worked for the Rwandan Embassy in DC. I developed a strong interest in all things East Africa and have been itching to return to the region ever since. In 2012, I studied in Ghana for a semester and learned so much about development that I never could have learned in the US, particularly about the severe consequences of unsustainable development interventions. Also in 2012, I worked for an amazing non-profit, the Global Environment and Technology Foundation, that manages water and sanitation programs across sub-Saharan Africa. It was there that I realized my passions for project management and M&E. Fast forward a year: I’m based in Kenya doing project management and M&E for an organization extremely focused on sustainability. What more could I ask for!
What are some of the things you hope to accomplish at Village Enterprise?
I’m very eager to see how we can improve SMART and take it to the next level: streamlined data collection processes, SMART for livestock businesses, and measuring variability across cycles and years. I think SMART has incredible potential and we’ve only scratched the surface! Additionally, through different Program Pilots, I’m working to address two critical challenges: increasing the sustainability of our BSGs and increasing support for our program from the families of our business owners. I am excited to test various strategies and hopefully develop solutions that can work for VE for the long term.
What are some of the challenges you think you’ll face?
Being an outsider is an inevitable challenge of a job like this. There is so much I don’t or can’t understand but luckily I have wonderful colleagues who are willing to discuss their experiences and share their insights. Working with colleagues across three offices won’t always be easy, especially when Skype isn’t cooperating! I’m learning new depths of patience because of this. Finally, I don’t speak Swahili, which is a daily frustration, but I’m trying to learn!
How has your experience been so far?
I’ve had a very exciting fellowship year thus far. There are a hundred different things happening at Village Enterprise on any given day, so my first few months were such a blur! Now that I’m settled in, however, I think I can see the pieces of the puzzle more clearly. I had the opportunity to spend a month visiting our Uganda offices and I came back with a more complete understanding of our program and some great ideas for my projects. The best part of my experience at Village Enterprise? Every day, I learn something new: some days, a best practice for pig rearing. Other days, a new word or phrase in Swahili. But every day, something exciting.