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Interview - Turning an Idea Into Action

Originally posted on the IFC Intranet on March 30th,2020

Strategy Analyst Khondoker Tanveer Haider spoke with Communications Consultant Gregory James Felder about the importance of youth engagement at IFC and launching the MSME Finance Competition. This is an edited version of their conversation.

Q: Khondoker is an interesting name. What does it mean? Can you tell us your story?

I am glad you asked. Khondoker is a Bengali surname that originated in the Persian language. I believe it means someone who shares knowledge and helps in learning.
My story starts with me growing up in metropolitan Dhaka surrounded by a large family and then leaving Bangladesh to complete my studies here in the US.  Over the last 14 years, I have been fortunate to live in four different countries, including China, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, and the United States, and prior to joining IFC, I worked for several international organizations, including Islamic Development Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the United Nations. The journey I’ve had so far has allowed me to grow both professionally and as an individual. Living in multiple countries among different communities has opened my mind to new cultures, and I’ve learned some key life sessions that I now share with others. Now that I think about it, I believe I have just been trying to live up to my given name.

Q: What do you do at IFC?

My main role in Sector Economics and Development Impact (CSE) Department is assessing development impact potential of Financial Institutions Group’s investments using IFC’s internal development impact assessment tool (AiMM) or in other words, my colleagues and I work with Investment teams to ensure we maximize IFC’s development impact and collaboratively understand and articulate each of our project’s development impact story. The rest of my time goes into doing analytical work, which can range from conducting economic research to providing support on reporting IFC’s development goals, and of course drinking coffee.

Q: Why is working with young people important to you? And have you had the opportunity to do so in your work at IFC?
I think youth bring a different and important perspective that unfortunately gets dismissed because of the stereotypes behind young age. Their energy, creativity, and ideas are unparalleled, as I have seen firsthand over the years.

Last year, I was able to support several youth-engagement initiatives. I worked with an amazing team to launch IFC’s first MSME Finance Competition and was part of the WB Youth Summit Competition’s core team. I also joined as a panel member in several career events at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown universities and represented young researchers in a panel session with Joseph Stiglitz at the Global Development Network’s Annual Conference.

Millennials are growing in number at IFC and contributing much to IFC’s work. I am also glad to see that in my VPU more than 40 percent of staff are millennials. We are making progress—evident through the current HR recruitment efforts at GE/GF level, the line of events organized by the IFC Millennial Resource Group and Young Professionals Network, and internal stories highlighting young professionals. 

Q:Tell us more about the MSME Finance competition. How did it come about?
A year ago, a few colleagues and I started brainstorming on the best way to encourage the use of IFC’s MSME database published on the SME Forum website. A competition seemed to be the right channel to disseminate this data—through one event we’d reach a wider group, including potential recruits who would get the opportunity to learn more about IFC’s work, and strengthen our partnership with local universities.
The Competition was truly a team effort, with contributions from several volunteers from CSE, FIG, SME Forum, HR, Communication, KNovember, and the ACS network. We were overwhelmed by the tremendous support we got internally, especially from our managers and directors of CSE and FIG, who provided resources and time to make it a success. 
PICTURE

Q: You had different challenges and prizes for this competition. Can you talk about some of your favorite winners?
About 85 graduate students from seven universities attempted to complete three challenges. First, participating teams were challenged to present the MSME finance gap using creative infographics. The goal was to show that good data always needs to be digestible and presented to the public in a way they can understand.

During the second challenge, we received research proposals tackling issues faced by MSMEs. This challenge was won by a compelling proposal to measure the complex relationship between digital infrastructure and the financial gap for women-owned enterprises.

The live challenge was a tough one—we asked competitors to propose a universal definition for MSMEs, which is nearly impossible. We were very impressed by the effort the participants made, and we got some new ideas from their analysis.

Q: Your department recognized you with an award. What did that mean for you?
In 2019, CSE department announced a recognition program to encourage us to be innovative and take up challenging tasks we are passionate about. I was fortunate to be the first recipient of this award for launching the MSME Finance Competition. To me, this award reflects the support of my Department’s leadership for out-of-the-box thinking and actionable ideas. 

Article by Gregory James Felder