Social Enterprise Perspectives: Summer in Uzbekistan

Organization: Carthill Capital
Location: Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan remains a relic of the Soviet system with authoritarian leadership and a controlled economy. In recent years, the economy has experienced significant contractions that have imposed tremendous hardships on the population. Although Uzbekistan’s economy is still centralized, it is currently initiating its first major privatization program and vast reforms to liberalize the economy. Carthill Capital, as a member of NAII (the Uzbek equivalent of the NASD), is part of the effort to develop a capital market system and improve the investment environment in Uzbekistan. NAII is pioneering this effort in Uzbekistan by gradually building the institutions necessary for a functioning financial system.

An internship with this organization was a particularly good fit with my interests since I hope to work on private sector driven development after graduation. Consequently, it provided me with grassroots experience in building the financial architecture necessary for private investment. It represents a necessary and significant initiative that will facilitate further development-focused activities in Uzbekistan and the region.

Previously, I worked for World Relief as the director of the Zavet Business Center, an NGO dedicated to providing business services to the ethnic-minority communities (predominantly Serbian) around Pristina, the regional capital of Kosovo. Two of the most important services we provided were microfinance and inter-ethnic business liaising. The mission of the business center was to promote a lasting peace by providing an economically isolated and depressed area access to capital and (the larger Albanian) markets. Though different in scope, my experience in Kosovo was directly relevant to my work in Uzbekistan: developing financial institutions (whether they be microfinance or large-scale capital markets) in an emerging economy, operating in post-communist countries, and adjusting to the ways of life in a foreign country and culture are all challenges that I have faced before. These experiences have taught me a tremendous amount about different perspectives, about managing in new/foreign contexts, and about unique ways of finding solutions.

I seek to be part of the solution in reducing poverty. My years working in the corporate world have exposed me to the immense resources dedicated to building wealth. It has made me aware of the glaring disparity between the institutions dedicated to sustaining financial markets and those dedicated to social needs. I would like to combine my business skills with my experience in development towards a career in international development to help bridge that gap.