SFS Students Adithi Sanjay and Meghan Mandi Travel to Panama with Georgetown Global Consulting Fellowship

August 28, 2018
by Callie Randall

Exploring Casco Viejo and negotiating prices of art in Spanish over 2,000 miles away from home offered an appeal far greater than the typical summer internship for SFS sophomores Adithi Sanjay and Meghan Mandi. Through their membership in the Georgetown Global Consulting (GGC), Sanjay and Mandi were trained and deployed to a client site abroad to work with the nonprofit organization Enseña por Panamá (Teaching for Panama) through GGC’s new fellowship. “Normally, GGC works remotely, and project teams contact their clients via Skype. The fact that the project was onsite completely changed my perspective on development consulting, as I could clearly see the ways in which my work could have a tangible positive impact on the organization,” says Sanjay.

Adithi Sanjay in Casco Viejo Old Town

GGC is a 501(c)3 student-run nonprofit organization that works with other nonprofit groups in the developing world to help them find sustainable solutions to problems and aid in reaching their long term goals. GGC offers NGOs pro-bono assistance through advising on financial, fundraising, digital and marketing strategy. GGC has worked with organizations all over the world, including Mongolia, Kenya, India, and Argentina.

Enseña por Panamá is a nonprofit civil association with the main goal of creating systemic change to improve the quality of education in Panama, which has serious educational disparities affecting the population. Only 20 percent of students in Panama who enter the 1st grade graduate from high school and only 15 out of 100 students enrolled in a university actually obtain their degree, according to Enseña por Panamá. The financial condition of the country exacerbates the problem. Only 1 in 20 students living in poverty finish university education. Enseña por Panamá was founded in 2015, and is part of the “Teach for All” international network that has locations across 45 countries.

Sanjay and Mandi helped Enseña por Panamá improve their outreach and realm of impact. “My primary tasks were to scope out the project or, in other words, to figure out the most pressing issues facing the client and a plan to address them, conduct research for our recommendations and deliverables, and then create our final products and deliverables,” says Mandi.

Through their work, both fellows gained experience in communications and PR to help express the organization’s dynamic mission and revamp its media presence. “Our major task throughout the fellowship was to develop a comprehensive rebranding strategy for Enseña por Panamá’s website, Facebook, and Instagram platforms, as well as an overarching rebranding strategy that focused on establishing congruence between brand image and brand identity,” says Sanjay. “I specifically did a lot of work in graphic design for our products, so I worked on programs like Canva and Adobe Illustrator a good amount to produce graphics and add to the aesthetic nature of our products, while Adithi did some more work to gather research for our deliverables,” says Mandi.

Working in Panama required some adjustments to a different business culture. “The pressure put on time and fast pace business practices like in the U.S. is definitely not present in Panama. People often work from home or come into work later/leave earlier,” says Mandi. Sanjay and Mandi identified factors that were hindering Enseña por Panamá’s work. “The best part of the fellowship also proved to be the most challenging. We had to determine how we could best take advantage of being onsite, in terms of data collection and client contact, as our approach had to be very different than our conventional remote projects,” says Sanjay. Panama culture also came with pleasant surprises. “Without fail, every time you entered an elevator someone would say “buenas” or ‘buenas dias’ to you and a ‘luego’ or ‘hasta luego’ when they left, which I found strange because it is not customary to greet strangers in similar interactions like that in the States,” says Mandi.

Meghan Mandi in Panama City, Panama

Mandi and Sanjay believe their time in Panama has been a huge help in understanding and appreciating the culture. “As someone who has a great interest in learning about Latin America and Spanish, it was an invaluable opportunity to immerse myself in another country’s culture and to couple that with working for an organization that does so much to grow the education sector in Panama,” says Mandi.

While working to give back, both agree the experience was rewarding equally for their individual goals. “I aspire to major in Global Business and go into consulting full time after graduation, and the fellowship was thus an incredibly valuable opportunity, as it gave me an insight into the life of a development consultant, inspired me, and made me all the more determined to pursue consulting as a future career path,” says Sanjay.

For now, Mandi and Sanjay are excited to return to the Hilltop to further develop GGC. “I’m looking forward to bringing back the knowledge I’ve gained this summer to better inform GGC’s general approach to projects and, more specifically, the onboarding process and our communication with our existing NGO and MFI client base,” says Sanjay.