Beeta Ansari

Beeta is Ashoka U’s Exchange Director, the world’s largest global convening for social entrepreneurship education.

Changemaker of the Week: Leah Davidson

Leah Davidson, a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, describes her work with Expand Peru, launching a microenterprise incubator for teenage girls.

Leah is being featured as part of Ashoka U’s “Changemaker of the Week” series, which highlights extraordinary student changemakers in college and graduate programs around the world. Check the Ashoka U Blog each week for a story of a new Changemaker of the Week!

1) What is your project or organization?
I am working with an NGO called Expand Peru in Huancayo to launch a microenterprise incubator for teenage girls. The goal is to help them develop vocational and leadership skills and start a sustainable business through community mentoring, training modules, and microloans.

2) How did you get involved with this project / organization (or how did you decide to found it)?
I became involved with Expand Peru after receiving an Omprakash Volunteer Grant in December 2012. Although Expand Peru had never attempted a microfinance program before, they were eager to work with me, as I conducted research of other organizations and prepared to test my own prototype.

3) How has being a college student changed the way you act as a changemaker?
Being a college student has opened up a myriad of opportunities for personal development. From networking organizations like the Kairos Society to conferences such as the Global Engagement Summit at Northwestern and the Clinton Global Initiative University, there are many ways to meet like-minded people, access funding, and gain publicity for social ventures.

4) What’s the best part of working on your venture?
The best part is watching the project I have been planning for nearly ten months come to fruition. When I was writing grant applications and presenting my idea at conferences, I could only imagine what the girls and the Peruvian culture would be like. It is so rewarding to get to know my students, hear about their aspirations, and experience their infectious love of learning.

5) What’s one piece of advice you’d give to any college student thinking of becoming a changemaker?
Don’t be afraid to reach out to people outside of your network. Many of my most valuable conversations occurred as a result of Google searches and emails. In the nonprofit world, people are generally very eager to learn about your cause and give advice.

6) How has your school or school’s social entrepreneurship initiative helped you progress as a student social innovator and in this venture?
I am part of the Penn Social Entrepreneurship Movement and a Compass Fellow with the Kenneth Cole Foundation. These programs have allowed me to meet on a weekly basis with aspiring social innovators and solve problems with a supportive team. Although Wharton is generally known for its finance recruiting, it is also a great hub for entrepreneurship and social impact.

More information about Leah will be featured on social media this week, so make sure to like Ashoka U on Twitter and Facebook! Check out Ashoka U’s blog each week to see new stories of phenomenal student changemakers making a difference in the world.