By UTPALA MENON
With a Fulbright scholarship and multiple policy research initiatives in the MENA region, Jamil Wyne already has some impressive experience under his belt. Now a first-year IDEV student in the SAIS-INSEAD dual degree program, he is spending his time in Bologna expanding his social enterprise experience. Along with a team five others, Wyne has recently acquired a Net Impact membership for SAIS Europe, the first of its kind in Italy. The SAIS Observer sat down with Wyne to discuss his past experiences, how they tie into Net Impact and finally his plans for the network in the future.
The SAIS Observer: Tell us more about working on social enterprise issues. .
Jamil Wyne: All the work that I’ve done since I graduated in 2008 is focused on economic and social development. The majority of that looks at the way private enterprises, big and small, can be used to support a country or region’s development agenda. It can be in the form of social enterprises that have a business model to generate revenue or profit but its services or product contributes something to a development goal. It could also be a tech start-up that is producing a new technology in a developing country that can help to educate, inform and empower people while creating jobs. Alternatively it can be a corporation that is thinking about how they can effectively interact with the community it’s operating in while responding to its socio-economic needs. I enjoy looking at these angles of social enterprise and net impact.
TSO: Before coming to SAIS, you spent a large portion of your career in the Middle East, working on social enterprise issues. Can you tell us more about the work you did there?
JW: While in the Middle East, I lived in Egypt, Syria and Jordan. When I was in Jordan, I was a Fulbright Fellow and then founded the Wamda Research Lab. This focused a lot on understanding and creating new ideas and data around the state of entrepreneurship development in the Middle East and North Africa. I would say that it was the space where most of my personal learning and contributions were rooted. I was never assigned to MENA by the World Bank or the IFC, though while running the Wamda Research Lab, we worked with the World Bank on two projects, one in Kuwait and one in Oman.
TSO: Can you explain your more recent experiences working for the World Bank and the IFC in DC?
JW: I worked with the World Bank’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship division in DC. I also worked with the World Bank’s innovation lab. It focused internally on the World Bank itself, in order to understand how one supports the concept of innovation within the World Bank teams and departments. I also worked with the IFC’s corporate advisory and strategy team to create their disruptive technology investment strategy team. It focuses heavily on the role new technologies can play in developing countries. For example, we looked at how one gets policymakers, investors and entrepreneurs in civil society to align better to make sure that these technologies are not just getting exported to new countries, but are growing and getting used productively.
TSO: What would you say is the most important influence for your work with Net Impact?
JW: This would have to do mostly with my work with social enterprise. When I ran the Wamda Research Lab, all of our work focused on how entrepreneurs affected the Middle East and North Africa’s economic and social development. So, we ran a lot of studies on how entrepreneurs were creating jobs, contributing new technologies to healthcare and energy sectors, etc in parallel to running the research lab. In relation to Net Impact, I also authored a chapter of a book on social entrepreneurship in the Middle East. Additionally, as an advisor to Refugee Open Ware, I was helping a social enterprise identify funding and partnership opportunities.
TSO: What would you say is an ideal Net Impact member?
JW: Well, I would say someone who really is just curious about thinking about the field of development differently Especially with the recent elections, I would imagine that there are quite a few people out there who might be reevaluating their plans a little bit, not in the sense that they are going to change them, but maybe thinking more critically about how they might approach them. I think the concepts on which Net Impact was built could be very helpful for people who might want to re-strategize a bit. Another thing to consider is that there is a lot of networking value to being a part of Net Impact.
TSO: What does the Bologna Net Impact team have planned for the future?
JW: At SAIS, we will have events where we bring in different speakers to talk about their research and experience that contributed to social enterprise and the corporate social responsibility (CSR) field. In addition to that, we are also going to build a database of alumni in this field of Net Impact in collaboration with the Net Impact, SAIS DC team.
Regarding SAIS Bologna exclusively, we are exploring the possibility of doing some research on the state of social enterprise and CSR in Italy. This is a more long-term project. Last but not least, the Net Impact team has a communications and outreach component to it. I think a lot of people at SAIS is sensitive about the way in which they might have an impact in their field, community or world. A lot of us might still be trying to figure out what that might look like, myself included. At Net Impact, we just want people to know that there is an alternative option to traditional pathways such as governments or NGOs.
Utpala is a campus columnist for the SAIS Observer. She is an MA student concentrating in International Law and Organizations at SAIS Europe.