A Self-Sustaining Solution for Fighting Poverty

Nuru International was launched in 2009 to address the challenges faced by those living in extreme poverty in remote, rural areas. When founder and CEO Jake Harriman, a former U.S. Marine Corps Commander, saw firsthand how the lack of resources and basic human rights affected individuals in these impoverished areas, he set out to create meaningful change.

Nuru’s goal is to build a self-sustaining, self-scaling, integrated development model to alleviate extreme poverty. A grant from Helmsley in 2012 helped Nuru Kenya equip local leaders with the skills needed to manage existing programs and continue to grow poverty-fighting solutions after the exit of Western staff. In June 2015, Nuru Kenya reached a major milestone of leadership sustainability as Western staff left for good. Founder Jake Harriman discusses the importance of this accomplishment and the role that philanthropy has played in the organization’s success.

HCT: NURU KENYA JUST REACHED AN IMPORTANT MILESTONE NOW THAT STAFF HAVE COMPLETELY LOCALIZED. HOW DOES NURU'S MODEL ENSURE PROGRAMS ARE SUSTAINED AFTER EXPAT STAFF LEAVE? 

Jake Harriman: Nuru International intentionally designs for an exit strategy from the beginning. Nuru creates separate, independent local organizations in each of its country projects. These local organizations have their own management structures. People like myself are not an integral component to local operations, but rather a supporting ‘expat scaffolding’ around the local organizations. By design, this support is removed gradually over time as local projects begin to be able to carry their own weight.

Nuru's exit strategy is gradual and phased over a five to seven year time period. Layers of scaffolding are removed as local projects continue to gain relevance, efficacy, impact, sustainability and scalability. Expat exit is a key phase in this structured and deliberate turnover. Nuru International expat staff will continue to support local operations through a combination of remote advisory roles and periodic visits during key points in the project’s lifecycle. Over time, expat support will continue to reduce gradually as the project achieves greater self-sufficiency.

HCT: WHAT SUPPORT DOES NURU INTERNATIONAL PROVIDE TO LOCAL LEADERS? 

Jake Harriman: Nuru International provides a wide spectrum of training for its leaders. Leaders learn the skills to design poverty solutions, which requires learning to understand the needs of communities, how to analyze solutions that are working or not working in other areas, and how to synthesize ideas to develop effective and long-lasting solutions in the communities where Nuru works. Project management, financial management and personnel management are skills we focus on as the project launches and matures. Some of the softer leadership skills include effective communication and feedback, teamwork and servant leadership. But, outside of the comprehensive training, one of the keys in developing our leaders is rooted in the fact that our facilitators – local and international – train and work in an environment of co-creation where the agency of all participants is restored and promoted. This is essential to ensure leaders have the confidence to implement solutions and overcome obstacles.

Our vision is to create a world where every man, woman and child has the ability to make meaningful choices to improve the lives of their families in a lasting way.

Jake Harriman, Founder and CEO, Nuru International

HCT: WHERE DO YOU SEE THE ORGANIZATION IN 10 YEARS? 

Jake Harriman: We want to end extreme poverty for 1.6 billion people and we know we cannot do it alone. Collaboration across our sector is critical, and we each have a specific role to play. Nuru believes its unique contribution is demonstrating the international community’s ability to implement sustainable development programs in highly fragile states.

Our success in Nuru Kenya encourages us to remain focused on designing the Nuru model to have global impact. Currently we’re preparing to do this in two ways: first, take the Nuru model to some of the toughest places in the world – highly fragile states and conflict zones where others cannot or will not go; and second, scale the Nuru model via other organizations and governments by open sourcing our approach, methodologies, best practices and lessons learned, and training others on how to use the Nuru model effectively in countries where they are already working. Our vision is to create a world where every man, woman and child has the ability to make meaningful choices to improve the lives of their families in a lasting way.

Without the help of those with capacity to give catalytically to our efforts, Nuru would never have gotten past the idea stage. With the support of innovative philanthropists like the Helmsley Charitable Trust, we can see the end of extreme poverty in our lifetime.