Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/14/2013

bardhan300Sonny Bardhan,
Class of 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation

The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellowship provided me with the incredible opportunity to earn my Master in Public Administration at Harvard, specializing in International Development. The fellowship provided weekly co-curricular events, providing an excellent forum for the fellows to exchange ideas and meet with inspirational leaders. This generosity of Catherine and Wayne Reynolds was instrumental in completing my transition from the private sector to the world of international development.

Since graduating from Harvard, I have been working at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), based in London. CIFF is an independent, philanthropic organization that aims to demonstrably improve the lives of children in developing countries by achieving large-scale, sustainable impact.

The approach used throughout is highly analytical. The latest development research is used to help identify where the principal bottlenecks and highest impact opportunities exist in the sectors of interest for the foundation.  Extensive due diligence is conducted on high potential opportunities prior to determining whether to make an investment, which would generally be in the form of grants of several million dollars over multiple years. Finally, an engaged management approach is used over the course of the multi-year investment, so that plans are adapted and improved, based on regularly measured performance data. While the investments do not seek financial returns, they are rigorously measured on a handful of key parameters, including social impact and cost-effective use of philanthropic dollars.

My role as an Investment Manager is to develop strategy for the foundation to best meet its goals, and to identify, design and advance specific opportunities for it to deploy its resources. Once I have identified an opportunity with good potential, I lead a multi-disciplinary team over several months to develop and conduct due diligence for the concept. If we believe the fully developed proposal is promising, I make the case to the Board of CIFF to seek final approval.

My role at CIFF has led me to work in India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique, in sectors including nutrition, water, and hygiene, and to form partnerships with the governments of these developing countries, as well members of the private sector, academia and NGOs, and with other donors. The work has been diverse, interesting and often very challenging. Recent investments have included a large-scale hygiene program to improve hand-washing behavior in rural India, and funding systematic research to develop lower cost formulations of products used to treat and prevent malnutrition. Next stop: Ethiopia!

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