Recent Blog Posts
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! 

Lessons from the Field: Jonathan Starr

"Know when not to play. Think like a startup. Win over the society. Focus.  Commitment and sacrifice."

This advice came from Jonathan Starr, the founder of Abaarso School in Somaliland. Jonathan joined us last week to discuss the lessons he's learned over the past eight years in starting a school in a different country.

As our Rhodes Fellows are continuing to explore issues and concerns within the field of education, Jonathan provided a global lens for us to consider. In 2008, Jonathan left the world of finance to launch Abaarso. Starting from scratch, Abaarso has grown rapidly over the past eight years thanks to Jonathan's leadership, the commitment from their faculty, and the drive and buy-in from their students.

Our Rhodes Fellows asked Jonathan about hiring faculty, navigating cultural norms in a new environment, the school's core values, and Abaarso's curriculum.

Thanks for joining us and sharing your insight, Jonathan!

Case Study: Urban Death Project

Urban Death Project 
Chloe Chen and Isabella Lombino
November 2, 2016

The Urban Death Project, founded by Katrina Spade, “utilizes the process of composting to safely and gently transform our loved ones into organic material, creating a meaningful, equitable, and ecological urban alternative for the care of the dead.” The project’s three main goals are: to create a greener solution to body disposal, to support the grieving, and to maintain a service open to everyone no matter their financial needs. Before the founding of this organization Spade made a few realizations. First off, she realized that “we are all gonna die one day,” a fairly obvious statement but one that is important to the enterprise’s ideas. With this established she realized that the current industry for body disposal was environmentally horrible, very expensive, and did not support the grieving. In an attempt to acknowledge these different needs, Urban Death Project was founded. Because of this series of realizations that lead to the founding, Urban Death Project is a needs-based approach. Spade started off by noticing a group of needs and then went on to try and address these needs through her project.

Urban Death Project was founded as a nonprofit organization, meaning that it relies on donors for support and it really tries to maximize the social profit it can provide. This social profit comes in multiple forms. It reduces wood and metal used for burials, as well as the amount of toxic fluid used in burials. It creates compost for farms and gardens that can be used by the community. It provides a cost sensitive alternative to funeral, burial, and death rituals. It helps to solve the issues of overcrowded urban cemeteries and also keep the deceased in their community (not miles away where there is a cemetery). It establishes a more eco-friendly ritual for death. As well as, helping to support the loved ones of the deceased. Clearly, Urban Death Project creates a huge social impact on the community and has a lot to offer.

Since the project is relatively new (started in 2015), it has not really had an opportunity to grow. In fact, the first one of these facilities has not been built at this point. It is suppose to be built by 2023 in Seattle and then they will provide plans for other cities to also build branches and facilities, opening up the service to more people. So far, the project has gotten a lot of financial support from donations and grants, which have paid for much of the research and design phases as well as programs. With this said, they anticipate that finances may be a problem as their enterprise continues to develop. Since it is so key that the service is open to people who could not afford a burial service currently, donors are going to be needed to lower costs. Another problem that arose is the conflict with religion. Many people’s religions have very specific practices for when a loved one passes away. This may cause religious oppositions to Urban Death Project. However, the project is mainly aimed at the people who do not follow a conventional religion. With that said, the building will also have spaces for prayers and services if the family desires to use these. The other problem that came up was that the project goes against cultural norms. We do not usually have gardens grown in soil that came directly from the deceased. It may seem weird at first, however connecting back to nature when one passes away, can be a very full-circle idea.

In terms of partnerships, Urban Death Project worked with Echoing Green to provide the initial funding and support to get the project off the ground. They have also worked with the Satterberg Foundation that deals with environmental issues and Olson Kundig for design and architectural help. The research needed to make this project happen was done in partnership with Western California University. The Urban Death Project has reached out to many different groups in order to support their program as best as possible. Concerning competition, there is obviously burial and cremation options in the industry, but none of these have the same goal as Urban Death Project. In fact, the Urban Death Project is in objection to many of the practices involved with burial and cremation.