Recent Blog Posts
Food Security Mock Enterprises

Over the past six weeks, our Junior Rhodes Fellows have been looking into food insecurity and hunger. Taking primarily a regional focus, our students had an insightful conversation with the director of our farm, Jake Morrow, which served as a helpful introduction to the topic. We looked at the history of hunger and food insecurity in the United States, looking at how public and private programs seeking to alleviate hunger have changed over the years. Additionally, our students were able to meet with people like Daniel Ross '90, founder of Nuestras Raices and professor at Hampshire College, and Heather Clark of the Western Mass Food Bank.

Our unit culminated with our Junior Rhodes Fellows developing their own mock enterprises related to food security. With an all-star panel of Justin Costa (Director of the Center for Self-Reliance Food Pantry), Jay Lord (Business Manager and Founding Director of Just Roots), and Jake Marrow, our students received critical feedback on their four different ideas.

Mona Zhang '19, Grace Eggleston '19, and Coby Shalam '19 started us off by discussing Stalk, an app that "empowers consumers to make healthier food choices by increasing affordability and access to fresh produce.” With a target demographic of people who can consistently get enough caloric intake, but do not always have the means to afford a nutritious meal, they focused on the qualitative aspects of food security.

Also taking a tech approach, Mairead Collins '19, Mikayla Gilliam '19, and Sebastian Shin '19 developed Surge, an algorithm that could be used on existing grocery store apps. Having contacted multiple partners including app developers and supermarkets, the group focused on making more fresh produce available and accessible to SNAP users.

Mia Flowers '19, Leah Leslie '19, and Tayhee Lee '19 developed an enterprise that addressed a need within rural Franklin County. Hearing how transportation was a related issue, they thought about how they could utilize existing resources to tackle both the transportation gaps and food insecurity in our area. Seeing an opportunity to get both NMH students and our farm more involved in the local community, the group developed an organization that would deliver NMH produce to people in low-income areas without much access to public transportation.

Eliza Mann '19, Melvin Mercado Bulacia '19, and Connor Wall '19 then turned our attention to a more urban environment. With their enterprise Agrikids starting in the Bronx, the group saw an opportunity to involve youth in an after school program that engaged them in both farming and art. Working in public parks, they would partner with farmers to build up community gardens. These gardens would also provide low-income families access to healthier foods.

While we now move on to discuss housing in our next unit, our students may return to these enterprises later in the spring as they consider their work ahead in senior year.

NMH @ Harvard SECON

For the second consecutive year, NMH sent a delegation of twelve students to the Harvard Social Enterprise Conference (SECON). The two-day conference hosted by Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government gave us the opportunity to engage with a variety of people working in the social enterprise field, including professors, graduate and undergraduate students, and professionals. The four senior Rhodes Fellows and eight junior Rhodes Fellows were the only high school students in attendance. The conference served as an affirming experience for their work. As Connor Wall ‘19 wrote, “It felt eye opening to finally see others in action outside of the NMH bubble. Not only did I learn about how different entities may prioritize education. I also learned about different strategies of innovating and thinking creatively.”

From L-R( Connor Wall '19, Grace Eggleston '19, Mona Zhang '19, Mia Flowers '19, Leah Leslie '19, Tayhee Lee'19 Melvin Mercado Bulacia '19, Adrian Eastmond '18, Chloe Chen '18, Fardusi Uddin '18, Mikayla Gilliam '19)

The conference opened with a speech from Matt Forti, the U.S. managing director of One Acre Fund. Forti pushed us to consider the entire ecosystem that we work in, and asked us to remember the needs of those who we work with and for in our enterprises. In addition to the opening speech, we each were able to select seven sessions to attend across the two days.

Mia Flowers ‘19 appreciated the “Building a Movement” workshop, where she “made really close connections [with a] Teach for America executive,” and “talked a lot about what to do once you have established your social aim and are looking to become a business.”

Tayhee Lee ‘19 enjoyed the "Scaling: From Bad to Best" session. Tayhee noted that, “The presenter in the session gave the example of Henry Ford and spoke about how in order to have a successful enterprise one must be able to ‘own the ripple effect’ of their company.” Mikayla Gilliam ‘19 also found this session instructive, learning “how to think of your social enterprise in a way that could help prevent major issues in the future.”

Tayhee also noted how, “After each session, I took the initiative to speak to the panelists and other guests at SECON. Overall, I think that this part of the conference was also very useful to me. While waiting to talk to the leader of the first session I encountered someone named Gail Foster who is developing an enterprise in New York focused on early childhood Chinese learning for nursery students. Through conversing with her, I was able to learn more about her thought processes between actually starting an enterprise. Additionally, I asked her some questions about problems I saw in her model. Through these questions, she acknowledged them as true and therefore spoke about how she still needs to analyze the results of her pilot program to answer many unanswered questions.”

Grace Eggleston ‘19 found the session, “Creating Economic Opportunities for Women” beneficial and encouraging. Grace noted that, “It was really nice to hear from three such articulate, self-established, thoughtful female entrepreneurs. They set great examples in a variety of fields.”

For Gaelin Kingston ‘18 and Chloe Chen ‘18, it was their second time at SECON. Both are now in the midst of building their own enterprises. Gaelin found it helpful to hear from others in the field that “passion is not enough. Just because someone is invested in a worthy cause does not mean that the organization will work because there are so many other factors that go into it.” Chloe meanwhile, got a crash course in using data to help achieve greater social impact, with four professionals including the director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). Connor Wall ‘19 also attended that session. As Connor wrote, “I learned about the role of feedback in innovating an enterprise as well as scaling it. I believe the most important thing I learned was that a simple yet intimate survey is a powerful tool for collecting data, which is the core part of every aspect of an enterprise. Data is necessary for efficient research, successful pitching, and meaningful growth.”

Other sessions that we attended included, “Empowering Youth Through Social Enterprise,” “Art for Social Change,” and “Balancing Head and Heart: A Mindfulness Approach to Building Social Enterprises.”

3D Design and Prototyping with David Warren

On Tuesday, faculty member David Warren joined the junior class to introduce us to 3D design and printing. As we worked through creating tail fins for rockets, we also discussed this activity as an example of iteration within the design process. 

Thank you, David for your work with us today.

Coincidentally, just this same day Senior Rhodes Fellows Isabella Lombino '18 and Heidi Leeds '18 unveiled their new mechanism for Shampoo Shuttle created from their own design and 3D printer!

Senior Enterprise: Baking for Joy

Gaelin Kingston '18 and Adrian Eastmond '18

Baking for Joy is a two part enterprise whose goal is to provide therapy through baking  for children in the Brattleboro, Vermont area who have a range of social, emotional, and behavioral needs. Revenue for these classes will be obtained through a separate mobile bakery that will seek to sell baked goods  in the same community. The backbone theory of the organization is that mental health needs in Vermont, and in the United States as a whole, are not being sufficiently met. Too often people are labeled and written off, and it is our goal to instead embrace and support these people as they navigate what can be a very difficult time in childhood and adolescence. We also hope to demonstrate to our participants that they are capable of being contributing members despite their needs.

The commercial baking is primarily going to be done by our  partner, Sophie. Sophie went to technical school for two years for baking, and has been pursuing her passion for working with kids with special needs for a few years prior to Baking for Joy. She will also co-lead the sessions with our help. The first place that we intend to sell is one of the local elementary schools. We hope to sell our baked goods as a snack for the students at least once a week. This could be anything from a cookie to bread, as Sophie has the ability to make a wide variety of items.

We also intend to partner with Families First, an organization in Brattleboro that works with similar children. They have let us know that there are opportunities for free spaces in Brattleboro in which we could hold our sessions.  This location is perfect, and will keep operating costs low.  The sessions may also include other activities than just baking, such as games, stories, music, and sharing time.  This combination will allow the children who participate to connect to others in a supportive environment.  Currently we are working toward finding a local school who would be interested in buying our baked goods.

Senior Enterprise: CivicExpo

From Chloe Chen '18 and Fardusi Uddin '18

As Northfield Mount Hermon students, we recognize that we live in a “boarding school bubble.” We are in an isolated community that shields us from the outside world. Many of us do not pay attention to the events in nearby towns and cities since it does not directly affect us. To become a contributing global citizen, it requires us to go beyond the bubble and be aware of the space around us. Thus, we decided that we wanted to create a civic engagement platform for high school students in Franklin County in order to encourage students like us to burst the bubble and look into the reality of our local area.

CivicExpo is based on the idea of collaboration among high school students in the same area via virtual forums. The mission of CivicExpo is to better connect high school students in Franklin County in order to enhance civic life in the community. The first section of this social enterprise is a forum. We will set up a website that allows users to post discussions and information threads about activism in nearby communities. Unlike now how students rely on the school administration to provide them with information about current issues, the role of this forum is to enable students to learn about different events that are happening in Franklin County. Students will no longer passively receive messages, but they will be actively participating in conversations online with other students from different schools.

The second role of the forum is that it will provide high school students from Northfield Mount Hermon, Stoneleigh- Burnham, Greenfield High School, Turners Falls, and Pioneer Valley a platform where they can express new ideas, or feedback to ideas.  Students can engage in discussions about topics of their choice on the platform, and they will not be limited to existing events. Another section is dedicated to student-initiative event organization. CivicExpo highly encourages students to initiate civic engagement projects for the community. Students can propose their idea to the core team during a live conference on an announced location, and the core team will discuss and help organize events with the students. The core team consist of representatives from each membership school. The team is responsible for moderating the discussions, updating event information, and checking student proposals.

Right now, we are at the beginning stage of the organization. In the following weeks, we will contact schools who we want to partner with, talk to local officials, and survey Greenfield residents for their opinions on the project.

We're looking forward to this work ahead in connecting different constituencies within our community.
Senior Enterprise: Shampoo Shuttle

From Isabella Lombino '18 and Heidi Leeds '18

“We know from experience that people don't stop being homeless until they find self-esteem and dignity,” Dannielle Watson and 14 other recently homeless people wrote in response to a letter published in the New York Times.

Shampoo Shuttle is an organization that works to help give the homeless population back their well deserved dignity. We acknowledge that this is  not an easy task and that our work alone is not solving the problem; however, we believe that we are part of the process.

Shampoo Shuttle is a not-for-profit organization that supplies homeless shelters with shampoo and conditioner by recycling partially used bottles from hotels. We, like many others, have thought about how wasteful it is to throw out the shampoo bottles from hotels after having only used a drop. After some research on the constant demand for shampoo at homeless shelters, we saw an enterprise and Shampoo Shuttle was born. By connecting this excess resource from hotels with a place that is  in need, we are able to help both the environment and the homeless population.

We have been collecting partially used bottles from the Hampton Inn in Greenfield MA, consolidating them so that all containers are full, and then delivering them to the Salvation Army where they have free showering facilities for the homeless. So far we have made four deliveries of shampoo, conditioner, bath gel, and body lotion, all of which have been received with great thanks. Currently, we are working on creating a mechanism that will help us streamline the bottle filling process so that we can grow our enterprise and help more people.

To find out more and follow our progress, visit
Harvard SECON

"As a young individual, having an opportunity to create an enterprise appeared to be daunting because I had this mindset that older people had greater success in the professional world with their experiences, which still stands true. But, this conference built hope and confidence regarding this daunting task... because successful role models like Michael Brown displayed the urgency and need for people like me in the social sector." - Fardusi Uddin '18

The Harvard Social Enterprise Conference gave us time and space to engage with a variety of people working in the social enterprise field, affirming and making us think critically about a lot of the work that we've been doing on our campus. NMH brought a group of ten Rhodes Fellows to the two day conference where attendees included professors, undergraduate and graduate students, and professionals operating across a wide spectrum of interests.

The conference opened with two keynote speeches from Andrew Kassoy, founder of B Labs and Michael Brownthe CEO and co-founder of City Year. Kassoy and Brown pushed us to consider how we can redefine our current institutions and structures, with shifting priorities towards a true triple bottom line. 

Across the two days, we each were able to select five sessions to attend in addition to they keynote speeches. 

Isabella Lombino '18 and Heidi Leeds '18 both went to the pitch competition. Isabella noted how she "was able to see how effective different presentation techniques were, which will help my presentations and pitches in the future. Afterwards we were able to talk with some of the entrepreneurs about their companies and their work." Heidi commented that "it was interesting to compare how they boiled down complicated enterprises into just a two minute speech. I learned different strategies about how to present to engage the audience but also get across  as much information as possible."

Gaelin Kingston '18 appreciated the conversation around holding organizations accountable to both its funders and its workers in the Business Models for Sustainability session. 

Many of us were impressed by the discussion in the early Saturday session, "Innovation in Education: A Global Perspective." The panel included Jaime Saavedra, former education minister of Peru, Lant Pritchett, an economics professor at the Kennedy School of Government, and Pranav Kothari, Vice President of Large Scale Assessments and Mindspark Centres. During the Q&A, the panel and the audience went back and forth on what improving education should look like for those at the bottom of the charts globally. 

Other themes and topics from the conference included innovation without westernization, creating financial and legal structures, systems entrepreneurship, and using technology for positive social change. 

We ended the conference with a keynote talk from protester, activist, and educator Brittany Packnett. Packnett is vice president of national community alliances for Teach for America and a co-founder of Campaign Zero (a comprehensive policy proposal to reduce police violence in the US based on community and activist input, research and rigorous data). Packnett called on the audience to remember that social entrepreneurs can succumb to paternalistic attitudes and approaches, asking us all to be "accomplices" and not just "allies."

Finally, it was great to run into Katherine Dumais '11 who is working in the social enterprise field with B Labs. Thanks for sharing your insight with the group Katherine!