Kenneth Fennell (MPP '17) is submitting this field report from his summer 2016 internship at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Jakarta, Indonesia.
I was at a Buka Puasa, a Ramadan fast-breaking meal, with my Indonesian colleagues sharing nasi goreng, martabak, and countless other traditional dishes of which I can only remember their deliciousness, when the reality first set in: I had traveled over 10,000 miles from Ann Arbor to Jakarta, Indonesia to be a summer intern for the U.S. government international development agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
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MCC promotes poverty reduction through country-led economic growth. Together, MCC and a partner country design a five-year compact to improve infrastructure, education, public health or governance. Over the five-years, MCC performs ongoing monitoring and evaluation to measure program outcomes and tracks economic indicators to determine the investment’s economic rate of return. MCC then shares this data publicly to promote aid transparency and accountability. Since its creation in 2004 and entry into force in 2006, MCC has worked in forty-five countries across Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Americas; working, for example, to reform the judicial sector in Rwanda and assisting El Salvador with infrastructure planning to foster regional trade.
With only 10 years of operational history, MCC is a relatively young international development agency. It is critical MCC achieve early and continued successes, which is what makes the Indonesia Compact so significant.
As the world’s 3rd largest democracy and 4th most populous nation with 242 million people of hundreds of ethnic groups and languages spread across 17,500 islands, Indonesia is arguably MCC’s most complex country to date. For MCC, success in Indonesia is essential to signal the young organization’s effectiveness.
MCC’s Indonesia Compact provides $600 million to improve childhood nutrition, government procurement, and renewable energy across Indonesia. For my internship, I’m responsible for developing lessons learned from each of the renewable energy projects; a portfolio with approximately 80 projects and a total value of $334 million USD. When the compact ends, the lessons learned will be maintained by Indonesian universities and the government so implementers can use the knowledge to improve their renewable energy project outcomes.
My work has taken me across Indonesia to the far east island of Kupang to meet cocoa farmers learning crop-mixing techniques to improve cocoa quality, to the city of Bandung to meet female farmers learning to use bio-digesters to produce more environmentally friendly fertilizer, and north to the island of Sulawesi to see villages installing micro-hydro power plants to reduce their reliance on expensive and environmentally harmful fossil fuels.
When I came to Indonesia I wanted to work on projects that would combine my civil engineering background with the economic and statistical tools I learned during my first year at the Ford School; this internship has perfectly blended the two. From meeting project stakeholders and engaging with my colleagues, I’ve enhanced my ability to empathize and listen across cultures. By summarizing renewable energy project proposals into one-page memos, I’ve improved my writing and practical understanding of economics and engineering. This combination of hard and soft skills will help me promote equitable economic development domestically and internationally, which is what I plan to do, once I finish my academic career at the Ford School.
Kenny Fennell (MPP '17) graduated from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts with a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering. He has been actively involved in international development throughout his career as a civil engineer. Kenny's interests include improving socioeconomic mobility through strategic infrastructure planning as well as engaging and empowering communities throughout the design and implementation of social, environmental, and economic programs at home and abroad.
This internship is made possible through generous support from the Annenberg Fund for International Policy Education.