Inclusive economic growth key to large scale sustainability
Johnathan Nash ( BS, 95 )
Acting Chief Executive Officer, Millennium Challenge Corporation
I was always so excited to be out of the classroom and in the field, whether we were in some random stream or river, at the arboretum, or at the Biostation. I loved just being there, learning and feeling and touching.
As you’re thinking through your coursework, balance out topic courses with hard skills. When you’re out looking for a job, cast the net very wide. Keep your options open and be flexible.
For Jonathan Nash, environmental degradation is directly tied to poverty and development. It’s a lens he acquired during Peace Corps service in Honduras, when he got a firsthand view of the challenges economic issues create when it comes to protecting natural resources.
“Take poaching in national parks, for example,” he said. “We can’t just police it. To truly stop it, we have to make sure people have other ways, sustainable ways, to advance themselves out of poverty. That’s what set me on this road.”
Today, he is acting CEO of Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an independent U.S. foreign aid agency with a single focus: to reduce global poverty through sustainable economic growth. At MCC, Nash has supported and overseen the development, implementation, and management of dozens of projects across Africa, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific.
About 70 percent of MCC’s investments are in large-scale, international infrastructure – hydro power plants, roads, water systems – and part of Nash’s job is to ensure that the projects are carefully designed and executed to put underdeveloped countries on the path to long-term self-sufficiency, driving economic growth in a way that builds on or preserves natural capital.
Nine years after his Peace Corps experience, MCC sent Nash back to Honduras with $250 million to build a road from the capital city to the economic capital, ultimately expanding job opportunities. But there were scores of impoverished people living on the side of the existing road.
“You can’t just bulldoze them like obstacles. We considered them project partners,” Nash explains. “We resettled them in villages; built them homes, schools, and market stalls; moved them out of living on the margins into thriving communities.”
One of communities decided to name their new school after Nash.
“I was blown away. I was just making sure they were treated with respect. They had not had many opportunities for a life of dignity,” he said. “This is inclusive economic growth.”