“The power of CH is in its community. Now it’s time to turn the dial up on that potential and let us see what that kind of light can accomplish when it’s got full [insert preferred renewable energy source] behind it.”
Miki has been working in international aid development her entire adult life. Currently, she is the Deputy Executive Director and Chief Strategist for impl.project, which focuses on community-led, data-driven solutions for international development and stability. Miki holds a BA in International Service from The American University in Washington, D.C. and an MPA in Development Practice from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). At Civic Hall, she’s been both an Entrepreneur in Residence (for her monthly policy-oriented Franklin Street Policy Group roundtable) and a cherished Ambassador. Miki’s bucket list includes visiting 50 countries by her 40th birthday. Miki also wields a rare gift: the superpower to name things. You can reach to Miki via Twitter and email.
What Does She Do?
Miki is the Deputy Executive Director and Chief Strategist for impl.project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit international development organization that uses micro-data to create effective programs for underserved communities in places like rural Western Niger; Benghazi, Libya; and Marawi, in the southern Philippines.
Impl.project — which just celebrated its third anniversary this summer — is focused on “systemic drivers, not band-aids” — assessing structural problems and building solutions with stakeholders. “Impl is doing community development that’s driven by the people who need it. We co-create, and it’s magical.”
“I’m looking for three things when assessing whether to work with a partner: A complex problem set; a vulnerable community; and, most importantly, does the client demonstrate a commitment to community-identified solutions by a partner?”
“We use technology to create these datasets at scale — to the tune of more than 4,400 surveys in 10 days in Benghazi; 2,300+ in Niger; and a couple thousand both during and after a 5-month siege in Marawi last year, building community resilience against violent extremist organizations. Ask 4,300 people in a community — as opposed to one person – then you have something.”
How Did She Get Into This Work?
“It’s really about getting all the potential stakeholders contributing in effective and meaningful ways. Development doesn’t happen with just government, or just NGO’s, or just the private economy. All three need to be contributing, from NYC to Benghazi.”
Miki’s parents had a ‘Meet Cute’ that would seem to predict their daughter’s wanderlust and risk-taking: They met on a ship as undergraduates, during their Semester at Sea. Her mom recalls meeting her future husband at the dining hall. While his command of English was impressive, in truth, they were the only two able to journey above deck; no one else had yet gotten their sea legs. They had their first date when the boat docked at Accra, Ghana, and later maintained correspondence via snail mail — until her Mom gathered up her courage and moved to Japan. They later married in Tokyo.
Miki’s family ultimately settled in California. Even though they were solidly Democrat, they found themselves in Reagan country. Which made Miki’s choice of a volunteer outlet that more… interesting: Miki was in high school and decided to participate in a pilot program for the American Red Cross, becoming an HIV/AIDS peer educator, speaking at public high schools throughout Orange County. While antiretrovirals (ARV’s) had come online by the early nineties, public education was still in its infancy. “There were about twenty of us across the County for this pilot program.” This was at a time when coming out as a supporter of HIV prevention — much less than coming out as HIV positive — carried a great stigma. Miki doesn’t recall debating the risk of becoming involved. Just that she thought it was necessary and had the full support of her parents.
Miki went east for her undergraduate education, enrolling at American University’s School of International Service. Her time at American overlapped with Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and, during her junior year abroad in Brussels, NATO’s air campaign of Kosovo – just as the NATO spokesperson was her teacher. After finishing her degree in three years, Miki moved to Japan. She was working a shift at a soup kitchen when a fellow volunteer asks about her background and skills. This led to a job at the Asian Development Bank Institute in Tokyo as its first full-time economic development research editor.
While this job leveraged Miki’s background, in hindsight she views it as “a million miles removed from the field.” The work, she recalls, was the “very last step, after all the research, all the policy analysis, policy recommendations, everything was developed.” While she succeeded at managing and growing the office, “I wasn’t exactly jumping out of bed in the morning to get to work. I wanted to get my hands literally and figuratively dirty as well as get back to my original interest in the intersection of international development and security/conflict.”
Miki moved back to the States to attend Columbia/SIPA, where she targeted all of her coursework, research, and fieldwork around economic and political development in frontier and emerging markets — mostly Rwanda and Afghanistan.
“It was at SIPA that I realized the outsized yet vastly under-leveraged role of the private sector in development and began my deep dive into this tri-sector intersection.
What Project Is She Working On?
“We’re looking to develop a U.S. market — with private sector companies interested in creating shared value with any stakeholder communities.”
“I was brought in to develop and prep our programming and organization for scale and bringing impl.project to the States. It’s always been a goal of our founder and part of the ethos of the organization that there’s a lot that needs to be done right here in our own backyard. Working in far-flung and closer to home communities is not mutually exclusive — the more people I meet around the world, the smaller our global community feels.”
Miki is sanguine about impl.project’s prospects in America, given its experience in working in conflict areas. Of course, there will be complex issues to tackle, but she muses, there won’t be the need to travel with constant security and our infrastructure is so much better than what she’s accustomed to. Sure, we have blind spots like Flint and Puerto Rico, but an overwhelming percentage of the States has indoor plumbing and electricity. “Being used to working on a low-resource environment seems like a pile of opportunity.”
How Did She Come to Civic Hall?
“I first became aware of Civic Hal shortly after it opened in 2015 by attending New America Foundation events, but didn’t realize at the time that it was attached to a workspace. In the fall of 2015, I was awarded a Civic Hall scholarship for the social venture I founded after grad school, Franklin Street Policy Group, which is growing a network of practitioners across the business, development, and security sectors. Pretty soon after joining Civic Hall, Jenn Shaw offered me a role as an Ambassador.”
What are you reading right now that is relevant and/or inspiring?
“Our latest report for a client in Central Asia. There’s a lot of great capacity and potential there and it makes me excited to think about our program co-creation and design with the communities we’re working with.”
When pressed, Miki demurs about not having time for fiction but is a ravenous consumer of news. “NPR — as both a listener and reader — is my morning ritual every single day. Listening to WNYC AM and reading articles on the NPR app.” She adds that she’s quite unhappy with its app redesign. (cc @schuyler1d)
What Is Her Ask of Civic Hall?
Ask: “I’m looking to connect with great partners and clients for impl.project, both domestic and international. We work with the private sector to create shared value with stakeholder communities, nonprofits and IGO’s to develop performance evaluation and feedback systems, and governments to assess and implement community programming.”
Offer: Miki has experienced Civic Hall from almost every perspective: “I’ve been at Civic as a member; I’ve been on scholarship (the Franklin Street Policy Group) and as an Ambassador.
I’m able to think through how to best leverage your time at Civic Hall and be part of this community.”
“I love, and sit in awe of this community and the people and organizations I’ve met thanks to being a part of CH’s adventure (since almost the beginning). They have have been invaluable and inspiring. I’ve been lucky enough to experience, benefit from, and contribute to exactly what the founders hoped would happen — a spontaneous collaboration that reaps real outcomes and action for social impact. If my experience can scale — repeatably and reliably — for everyone that is part of this community… wow, that is some serious impact.”
“The power of CH is in its community. Now it’s time to turn the dial up on that potential and let us see what that kind of light can accomplish when it’s got full [insert preferred renewable energy source] behind it. ?”
Follow Miki on Twitter!