Some Cheering News

Fellow Friends of the Foundation,

In the wake of so much bloodshed and cultural turmoil here and abroad in recent weeks, I wanted to share with you some cheering news for a change. I just this morning received an email from Farhan Javed ’18 (’of Currier House and Tulsa, Oklahoma) who is studying at the Central Bank of Armenia this summer thanks to the FDR Global Fellowship based at Adams House. The spirit Farhan evinces — a desire to both learn and teach, both to accept and be accepted, and most of all, to explore unexpected intellectual paths and ligatures — is EXACTLY what we have been trying to do with this program. We are so proud to have him as Adams’ (and Harvard’s) face to the world. Please read his email. I think you’ll find it a refreshing tonic to your day.

All best, Michael

Hi Michael,

These past two months working at the Central Bank here in Armenia have really opened me up to a new world. I’ve had the opportunity to travel up and down the country, from the industrial cities to the forested mountain towns and rural villages. I can sincerely attest to the hospitality of the people here.  Wherever I’ve gone, strangers have invited me into their homes, insisted on feeding me, and have constantly pried and questioned if I am ever in need of anything. Armenia is, by global standards, a poor country with institutions and systems that don’t always function as they’re supposed to. But the people honestly have very rich hearts and that has made all the excursions rewarding.

One of the big challenges I thought I would face was observing Ramadan during the summer in this rather homogeneous conservative Christian nation. Most people here had never met a Muslim before, and despite strained relations with their Muslim majority neighbors like Azerbaijan and Turkey, I never once felt threatened or discriminated against. People were full of curiosity and I loved answering their questions. During my free time, I visited a lot (emphasis on “a lot”) of churches and monasteries. The sheer quantity of churches would put the Bible Belt to shame. It was an amazing feeling to be a fasting Muslim sitting in a church, listening to choir music, and realizing that we all have a mutual desire for some sort of transcendence. These instances changed the way I internally approached the labels of Christian and Muslim. It didn’t make me want to blur the lines, but rather increased my respect for the fact that we could choose to have those lines and that those labels gave us all meaning. It was also a great plus to find restaurants run by Arab-Armenian (members of the diaspora that had returned after living for a few generations in places like Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria) because they served halal food with the familiar zesty spiciness that I was familiar with from my own background.

Another cool realization I had was all the linguistic connections I began to make. The vast majority of Armenians only speak Armenian and Russian (a vestige of their Soviet legacy). I had the fortunate opportunity to be able to take Armenian classes at the bank and as I progressed I noticed some very definitive cognates and similarities between Armenian and my own native Urdu (the national language of Pakistan), which I realized was due to both regions having been under heavy Persian influence for significant periods of history. Discoveries liked that increased my sense of the interconnected-ness of our world.

The work at the bank itself has been fantastic. It’s been an amazing learning process working with the most brilliant economists and econometricians that Armenia has to offer. I have had the chance to go to several conferences where we had finance chairs and economists from the IMF, the World Bank, the EU, and various universities across the world deliver presentations on the most cutting edge developments on economic policy and econometric modeling. My work over the summer has led to the development of a working paper where I analyze how indirect effects of oil price shocks outweigh the direct farhaneffects for Armenia. This actually has far reaching implications because it means that central banks ought to view a good chunk of oil-importing small open economies (which the majority of developing nations are) as oil-exporters when it comes to combating fluctuations if they have strong trade linkages to oil-exporters. This sort of insight can change the way governments from these countries pursue trade policies and respond to adverse shocks around the world to better safeguard against global crises, benefiting the lives of their citizens.

All in all, if I could go back, I wouldn’t do it any other way. My final presentation is on the 25th, after which I’ll be mostly concluded with my work here. Currently doing my best to relish these last few days!

I’ve attached a picture of me on horseback riding outside the town of Ijevan

I look forward to catching up in the Fall!

Farhan Javed

(And of course, if this spurs you to want to create other experiences like this for future students, please email me at as we TRULY need your financial support to continue this program. M)


Crowd-funding Part II: FDR Global Fellow Alicia Merganthaler Reports In


As we get closer to launching the website, this week has been challenging but very exciting. The vast majority of the week, I researched and performed calculations to try to estimate as precisely as possible how much money is going from various crowd-funding services to the developing nations they serve and forecast how much money they are likely to raise over the next year. This was a challenge, as I’m starting to learn that crowd-funding, especially in impoverished nations, is more complicated than it might appear.

Team at Tavern

It’s not always all work and no play: Alicia, second from left, enjoys a traditional pub meal with her team, including project founder Lars Kroijer, Adams ’94, right.

Often, websites like Kiva (a service that gives mini-loans to female entrepreneurs in developing nations) work through field partners in the developing nations themselves, like Micrograam (based in India). This system makes sense, as there has to be infrastructure on the ground to interact with the lenders themselves.

For example, if a woman in India raises enough money to take out a loan on getting a stove, she would deal directly with an organization in India (Micrograam) that is partnered with Kiva. This approach to microfinance makes sense, but the two-tiered process definitely makes the stream of money harder to follow. Mr. Kroijer has been great giving advice as to how to make analytics like this as accurate as possible (along with general career advice) and I’m learning a ton.
One of the things I’ve been thinking about throughout this project is what other steps NGOs and governments can take to drive crowd-funding in developing nations that could give entrepreneurs the final ‘push’ towards launching their businesses. While working, I came across an interesting article from the World Bank that really resonated with our project.

The World Bank argues that for crowd-funding to reach its full potential a variety of cultural, economic, and technological factors need to come into play. On the economic end, securities regulations need to be loosened to allow for equity crowd-funding (which is sort of like mini-venture capitalism) and crowd-funding needs to be tied to a positive cultural message. Socially, in order for crowd-funding to succeed, there needs to be greater awareness of what it is through social media and events that build trust towards this kind of finance. On the cultural end, greater involvement of girls and women in entrepreneurship, more spaces for innovation, and education about consumerism and investment can bolster microfinance.

Our project is vital because it works on the technology end, having determined the gap in information that makes it hard for investors to get money to developing nations. We are working towards fixing that gap by uniting all crowdfunding platforms in one place and providing clear and consistent information about what each service does.

In other news, our team went to the pub together on Tuesday, shown above. It was great to get to know everyone a little bit better and have a traditional English tavern experience (minus the mushy peas!). The group is a fascinating mix of people from all over, including the US, UK, Spain and Denmark, which makes for a great mix of perspectives.

In terms of exploring England, I’m finally getting out of the gravitational pull of work and London this weekend. As I write this, I’m on the long bus ride to Bath, a city known for briefly being the home of Jane Austen as well as having ancient Roman baths. It’ll be wonderful getting out of the chaos of London for a little bit and explore the English countryside for the weekend.

Crowd-funding & Developing Nations: FDR Global Fellow Alicia Merganthaler

IMG_20140725_155448_816This week Alicia checks in from London

The life of a rising senior at Harvard can be unpredictable. I was all set to intern at the Financial Times in London, but at last minute my required work visa didn’t go through. However, despite this setback, I was saved by the Foundation and Adams House alum, Mr. Lars Kroijer, who offered me a place working at the London startup that he’s heading. The startup’s concept is a ‘crowd-funding platform aggregator’ with a focus on investments in developing nations. What is a crowd-funding aggregator, you may ask? Crowd-funding in its most general sense is the practice of funding a cause or business venture by gathering contributions from a large number of people (especially if it is facilitated through the internet). The idea of a crowd-funding aggregator is to unite these websites that send money to developing nations and put them together in an easily searchable and informative way so individuals from all over the world can support budding entrepreneurs in these countries.

Having the chance to work with an Adams House alumnus here in London has been an incredible experience so far. Every day as I ride the tube and see advertisements for Oxfam, Amnesty and other international charities, I’m reminded of what a socially conscious and vibrant city this is.

In the process of working on this crowd-funding project, I’m learning a ton about the budding field of crowd-funding in general and its potential to spur economic activity in developing nations. Although crowd-funding is largely a developed country phenomenon (i.e. campaigns to start a food truck in San Francisco or fund your vacation to Hawaii), it’s widely recognized that crowdfunding has a great deal of potential for developing nations, where talented entrepreneurs are often restrained by traditional attitudes towards risk, finance and innovation. For example, it may be next to impossible for a small-scale entrepreneur in El Salvador to buy cloth and a sewing machine to start her clothing shop, but with the help of a crowd-funding campaign, she is able to make her business a reality. The job of the crowd-funding aggregator we are working on is to increase the visibility of these campaigns and empower investors to support projects like these.

My first week working on the aggregator has me in the thick of the action. Last week, I enjoyed going on a “treasure hunt” and researching existing crowd-funding services that send money to developing nations with the rest of the team. This week, I’m calculating the capital flows from these websites to each country. In addition to these facets of the project, I’ve been finding humanitarian, academic, and non-profit contacts in developing nations that could provide invaluable information for the business strategy.

Many of the crowd-funding concepts we are making more visible and accessible are lesser-known platforms that may only be known at a local level. Even though there are 1000+ crowdfunding platforms online, I only knew a handful before embarking on this project (Kiva, IndieGogo, Kickstarter). Now I’m familiar with platforms that are focused on specific humanitarian purposes in typically unrepresented countries, like, based out of Nepal, which raises money for healthy pregnancies and women’s heath.

On a lighter note, exploring what London has to offer culturally has been wonderful. Despite the heat wave that has washed over the UK, I’ve enjoyed being in air-conditioned galleries and museums, including the British Library and British Museum. It was incredible seeing two surviving copies of the Magna Carta and a Gutenberg Bible (second only to Harvard’s, of course) up close, along with Mozart, Chopin and Beethoven manuscripts. Next week, I’m hoping to visit several local microfunding non-profits and visit a local Rotary Club to learn more about the vibrant non-profit scene here. As a Rotary alumna, I’m curious about the work they’re doing there (not to mention that FDR was an honorary Rotarian!)




Progress Report: FDR Fellow and Goldman Scholar Gina Kim in Korea

At the Ministry of Justice with Mi-Young Ahn, the Chief Prosecutor of the Human Rights Policy Division.

This post FDR Global Fellow and Lillian Goldman Scholar Gina Kim reports in from Korea — MDW


My first few weeks in Seoul have been incredible in more ways than one. First and foremost, despite initial challenges securing interviews in Korea, I was able to utilize family connections to obtain diverse and fantastic contacts. One highlight was having the chance to go to the Ministry of Justice (the equivalent of the U.S. Department of Justice) to interview the Chief Prosecutor of the Human Rights Policy Division. Not only was her interview incredibly helpful, she also had her staff prepare literature on human trafficking in South Korea for me to take back. Having the opportunity to actually come to East Asia to research on the ground has been very rewarding. I am learning so much more from independent research than I did from classes and books. I have a new-found appreciation for this fight against human trafficking that so many amazing people are engaged in. I am also learning to appreciate the huge challenges of conducting independent research, particularly on a topic as controversial and nuanced as human trafficking policy changes.

So, what drives human trafficking policy changes? Is it NGOs, the media, political will, or foreign pressure? The easy answer is that it is all of the above factors. However, one thing I have discovered is that the way the issue is framed and the word choice used is incredibly important for the creation of policy changes. My interviews have suggested that details such as the type of trafficking (e.g. labor trafficking, sex trafficking), a victim’s gender, or nationality can be crucial to the popularity of a news article or the viability of a policy change. For example, in South Korea, combatting human trafficking becomes much more politically contentious when it is in regards to North Korean refugees.

Culinary delights high above Soeul

Culinary delights high above Seoul

On a lighter note, Seoul is the coolest city I have ever been to. It is so modern and efficient on one hand, but on the other, it is not difficult to find ancient history and culture. Seoul is also very convenient in that there are so many places to eat, shop, and hang out. It feels like such a big city not only in population, but also in area–it almost seems to me like there is a different metropolitan city at each subway stop. Overall, I am having a wonderful experience in Seoul.

Foundation Announces 2013 FDR Global Fellows

Adams House and the FDR Suite Foundation are delighted to announce the 2013 inaugural FDR Global Fellows.

FDR Global crimson 6Charlotte McKechnie ’15 of Adams House and Glasgow Scotland will work in rural Tanzania this summer with the NGO Support for International Change teaching educational seminars about HIV/AIDS  transmission and treatment options. Estimates indicate that 5-10% of the population is HIV-positive; however there are few treatment resources in the rural areas. Charlotte travels to Tanzania as part of a movement not only to put HIV-positive people in touch with health resources but to provide crucial information about how to avoid the spread of this devastating disease.

A sophomore concentrating in History and Literature, Charlotte is a highly acclaimed classical singer who has made many televised and radio appearances mckenniewith the BBC and ITV.  She has also recorded with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir, the BBC Concert Orchestra, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and given recitals in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Rome, Turin, Paris, Copenhagen, Nurenburg, Leipzig and China.  At Harvard she is a University Choir Choral Fellow and sings with Lowell House Opera and Dunster House Opera.

Charlotte is keen to utilize her experience and enthusiasm for bringing music to communities and, in her free time, aims to teach music classes in the village in which she will live. These classes, she hopes, will help bridge the oft-taboo subject of HIV and AIDS education in Tanzania.

As for the future, Charlotte hopes for a career that combines her keen interest in activism with her love of music.

ty (1)Government and East Asian Studies Concentrator Tyrell Walker ’14 of Asburn, VA and Mather House will be heading out to Kunming China and Taiwan this summer to study how Chinese minorities interact with their government. Though minority rights discourse dominates national and international media forums, Chinese minorities are often left out of the discussion in China studies, despite the fact that they amount to over 100 million people.  Studying how young minorities in China and Taiwan engage with their government’s ethnic policies will allow Tyrell to frame this discussion – the topic of his honors thesis – and help illuminate the young generation’s attitudes towards government-supported integration programs and celebrations of their respective cultures. Do minority programs create feelings of alienation or value? Do they benefit their communities? Do these modern minorities tend to shed their cultural stereotypes in order to assimilate? And most importantly,  is democracy the best promoter for ethnic minority livelihoods, or can an autocratic or communist regime protect them just as well? These are just a few of the questions Tyrell hopes to answer through his studies this summer.

Tyrell, who began studying Mandarin in high school (where he became a successful student activist and lobbyist when the local school board attempted to shut down the pilot language program) is now a fourth year Mandarin student at Harvard. Active in various ESL groups on campus, Tyrell also finds time for theatrical arts, having directed two plays and acted in six. He is considering a career in academics.

The Foundation, in conjunction with the Institute for Global Health and the Asian Center will  pay the full cost of their summer programs abroad, as well as provide the pair with a stipend to make up for lost summer income – income which Harvard requires them to pay towards their tuition costs. Without this support,  these talented individuals would be back home working in low paying service jobs for the summer.

Charlotte and Tyrell will be taking video cameras with them, and we look forward to frequent updates on their travels.

Remember, the FDR Global Fellowship Program, along with all other Foundation activities, are entirely supported by your donations. We receive no monies from Harvard, and look forward to your continued help to realize our endeavors.

To support the FDR Suite Foundation & the Global Fellowships you can safely donate online with any major credit card, or mail a check to FDR Suite Foundation, Inc., Adams House, Mailbox 471, 26 Plympton Street, Cambridge 02138