Project RISHI at Clinton Global Initiative University

Allowing members of our organization to create meaningful ties with like-minded social entrepreneurs

Early in March, the UC Berkeley, UCLA, Northwestern, and other RISHI chapters had the opportunity to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University conference in Coral Gables, FL. This conference brought together undergraduate and graduate-level social entrepreneurs, and allowed us to collaborate and share ideas. CGI-U was a life changing experience that put the work of Project RISHI into perspective, and underscored the fact that every impact we make in our villages contributes to the betterment of global development.

The conference began with a networking event where RISHI members spoke with other non-profits and initiatives that work in the same development areas as we do: health, women’s empowerment, economic empowerment, water, and sanitation. This event was followed by the opening session lead by President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. During the session, students listened to a panel discussion that included Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and Nobel Peace Laureate Tawakkol Karman. Perhaps the most meaningful part of the conference was meeting the Surgeon General after the panel and having a conversation about the work of Project RISHI. It was truly amazing to be able to speak with the Surgeon General, and hear his thoughts on RISHI.

UC Berkeley Project RISHI at CGIU

The next day, students attended working sessions and office hours aimed at sharpening our skills as social entrepreneurs. During office hours with Susan Davis, the CEO of BRAC-USA, the US arm of the world’s largest non-governmental development organization, RISHI Berkeley students asked questions about how social entrepreneurs can create the demand for their development initiatives, and ensure that the work we do has even more of an impact. They were also able to create contacts with positive change makers like Dr. Mohammed Zaazoue, an Asoka fellow who is working to create demand for health initiatives in Egypt through his health education programs. This day of working sessions was followed by the closing conversation, hosted again by President Clinton. During the conversation, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced her No Ceilings initiative that aims to improve gender equality in the US and around the world.

The closing conversation was followed by the CGI-U Exchange, a poster session in which the attendees of CGI-U presented their commitments to action. RISHI Berkeley presented the Himalayan Sunetra Initiative, a plan to improve ocular health in our village, Bharog Baneri. The exchange was another great way to cross-pollinate ideas with NGOs that work in our project areas.

The two days of conference events were followed by the CGI-U Day of Action. Attendees of CGI-U helped revitalize an inner-city school in Miami by repainting the basketball court, planting community gardens, and beautifying the school’s hallways. RISHI representatives had the chance to meet President Clinton as he walked around the various project areas during the Day of Action.

CGI-U was a very memorable experience that allowed RISHI members to learn what other like-minded organization are doing to meet their development goals. The many commitments to action made at CGI-U showed the vitality of student-led NGOs in the field of global development, and inspired us to continue the work of Project RISHI.

Author: Suvruta Iruvanti

Originally published at