How to End Terroism
April 10, 2017

by Wesley Pritchett

Jake Harriman graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1998, earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Systems Engineering. He then served seven and a half years in the Marine Corps as a Platoon Commander in both the Infantry and a special operations unit called Force Recon. During his military career, Jake led his Marines on four operational deployments, including two combat tours in Iraq and disaster relief operations in Indonesia and Sri Lanka after the Asian tsunami. He was awarded the Bronze Star for actions in combat during his second tour in Iraq. Following his military career Jake enrolled at the Stanford Graduate School of Business to build an organization focused on tackling extreme poverty. Jake graduated with an MBA in June 2008 and, in the following September, led a team to launch Nuru International’s first seed project in Kuria, Kenya.

BFM: Where did the inception of the idea to create Nuru International come from?

Jake: My first tour in Iraq is what I consider to be my “big awakening.” I really started to think about making a bigger impact in the world and how a person could alternately affect terrorism and instability rather than in the traditional military sense. I deployed to Southern Iraq for a second tour of duty and witnessed the same things I saw during my first deployment: people fighting out of desperation. I began to realize that in many cases they weren’t fighting us out of misplaced hatred against the West, but rather because of the love they had for their families and the desire to prevent them from starving. I became quite moved and decided that enough is enough. Many of these people were being put in situations where they had no choices. I wanted to address the issues of terrorism and instability at a higher level by cutting to the heart of the problem itself, which is extreme poverty. I left my career in the Marine Corps and dedicated myself to studying humanitarian development, organizational leadership, and the problem of extreme poverty. I wanted to create an organization that could scale to become even bigger and better than current operating programs. My entire focus while I was at business school was on building this organization.

BFM: What is the mission of Nuru International? 

Jake: Our mission is to end extreme poverty in remote, rural areas. We work in a country over a seven year period in order to create an enabling environment that empowers and equips local leaders to design solutions that address four key needs: hunger, the ability of a family to cope against economic shocks, unnecessary disease or death, and lack of quality education.

BFM: How do you define extreme poverty?

Jake: The current international definition is solely based on wages earned, stating that anyone who lives on less than $1.25 a day is in extreme poverty. Also, the current answers to combat extreme poverty are short-term. We realized we needed to change the variable we are solving for and the definition itself. We define extreme poverty as the condition when individuals lack the choice to have basic human rights. Nuru is building a model to create a solution to address that problem instead of focusing on the minimum wage problem. Extreme poverty is not just an economic problem.

BFM: What makes your program unique?

Jake: Extreme poverty is a serious problem that humanity is facing and I wanted the best minds to tackle the problem. I realized I needed to have the vision and drive to help people to see what we could do to address the issue. Once people understood what our program was trying to do and caught the vision, they were excited to join. They too wanted to make a difference. Extreme poverty is the greatest crisis of our time and the biggest problem that humanity faces. Why wouldn’t we want the best minds tackling this problem?

BFM: What makes your program unique?

Jake: The really unique thing about our program is that we are creating an integrated model focused on lifting entire communities out of extreme poverty. Our innovational idea is to create a sustainable engine focused on a leadership capacity program and the development of for-profit businesses. We handpick and screen potential leaders from the community and pour our lives into developing and mentoring these leaders throughout the entirety of the seven-year operation. These community leaders mobilize the population into subgroups, which helps them to be receptive to our interventions.

BFM: What is the desired end state of Nuru concerning a specific community or a region?

Jake: Our goal is for western staff and western funding to exit and to leave behind a completely self-sustaining model that scales

on its own to neighboring communities. We do this through the sustainability of the leadership programs. We tailor the program and design solutions unique to each community, but build them with the potential to scale to neighboring communities. Next, we work towards financial sustainability. We work to find successful businesspeople in the community and give them world-class training as well as initial capital. We help them build and scale a for-profit company tailored towards the community. The funds earned filter back s and concerns and after collaborating

with other organizations. The farmers experienced incredible growth in their maize production. Today, the program has grown throughout the region because neighboring communities outside of the original group began to mirror their production techniques. Currently, we work with over 5000 farmers and families in the region who are all showing increases in their maize production as well as production profitability.

Photo by Victoria Smith
Jake Harriman

BFM: Where do you see your next project?

Jake: We recently opened a project in Ethiopia six months ago. Our first phase is working with and training local leaders, fifteen of whom we have already identified. Our primary goal is to defeat hunger in the area. We always start with hunger and then work towards helping families cope with economic shocks. Next, we focus on combating unnecessary disease or death and finally expand to education systems.

BFM: Where do you see the future of Nuru International?

Jake: Our long-term vision is to have continued success with developing and innovating our community development model to a point where it becomes an open source model that organizations and communities throughout the world can mirror and recreate. We are passionate about collaborating and not duplicating effort. We partner with incredible organizations to leverage the best ideas already out there, and we tailor those ideas to individual communities. We understand each program inside and out and then present ideas to the local leaders, allowing them to select whether they want to execute it. Once we prove the sustainability of our model and perfect the scalability, we want to share it across the world. Right now we are working in relatively stable areas; however, eventually we would like to work in failed states and battle extreme poverty in those areas.

BFM: How do you raise awareness?

Jake: The most important thing we are working on is getting people to understand the real definition of extreme poverty. We are pursuing a broad social media marketing campaign to get more people involved by spreading the word. Our goal for raising awareness is to help people understand that this is the greatest crisis of our time and the biggest problem that humanity faces. I believe we can see the end of extreme poverty if we work together to create a world where people living in extreme poverty can make meaningful choices to improve their lives in a sustainable way.

Poverty Military Hunger Economy

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About The Author: Jacqueline Romano

Jacqueline Romano is the Creative Director & Editor of Blindfold Magazine. She feels it is her personal vocation to use her creative skills to raise awareness for people and organizations who are making positive change, both globally and locally.

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