After three years working for One Acre Fund (OAF) in two different regions of Africa, Carolyn Bruckmann ’12 will return to the US for graduate school this fall. OAF is a non-profit social enterprise that helps address hunger and poverty at a global scale by providing resources and training to local farmers. OAF aims to help small-scale farmers in developing countries “grow their way out of hunger” and build sustained, long-lasting pathways to economic security. Carolyn’s work with OAF grew out of her experience working at Bain, the corporate consulting firm.

Carolyn’s decision to work at Bain was intentional and strategic. After graduating from Stevenson, as an undergraduate at Harvard, she became interested in global inequality. She knew that someday, she would want to pursue a career that would help address socioeconomic issues in the developing world. But she also felt like she needed to strengthen her business and analytical skills to prepare for that work. Her job at Bain helped her gain additional experience with quantitative, structured problem-solving.

At Bain, Carolyn held a 6-month externship at the Gates Foundation, where she worked to improve the process of delivering health commodities in emerging markets—specifically East Africa. After a trip to Rwanda in 2019, Carolyn knew that she wanted to tackle the problem of inequality head-on. She applied to work for OAF, and accepted a position working directly under the organization’s CEO in Rwanda. After moving to East Africa, she helped OAF by completing a variety of strategic projects, including creating a 5-year growth plan for the organization and developing a variety of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. In 2021, Carolyn transferred to a different position at the organization, overseeing one of the operations of the organization in a specific region in Kenya.

In her current job, Carolyn oversees the OAF client experience for more than 140,000 farmers. She also manages the performance of about 600 field staff. She spends about half her time focused on strategy (e.g. how to increase the impact each farmer can make and how to enroll more farmers); a third of her time on day-to-day organizational operations (e.g. ensuring the team in the field has what they need to market to and enroll farmers); and the rest of her time on directly managing her team and visiting field sites in person (e.g. going out to farms to see how things are going). She explains that the work has been incredibly fulfilling, especially since OAF typically sees the yield of every farmer they help increase by around 50%.

After three years of working abroad, Carolyn decided that she was ready to head back to the US to pursue more education. She explains that she’s learned invaluable, unforgettable lessons during her time with OAF–in part because OAF’s reach extends far beyond simply increasing the number of crops a farmer can produce. It transforms the lives of people, generations down the line. She adds, “My favorite part about the work has been being so close to where the impact happens! I live in Kakamega, Kenya, and get to spend part of my time out in the field meeting with field team members and farmers. I love meeting with farmers and hearing how OAF has changed their lives by simply increasing the amount of money they have. They can use that income in a variety of important ways; for example, to spend on their children’s education or to invest in creating a business, etc.”

Next year, Carolyn will pursue a dual graduate degree in business and public policy (an MBA-MPP) at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and either Harvard Business School or Stanford Graduate School of Business. Carolyn then hopes to help reduce economic inequality in the US in some way—potentially by coming up with different ways to reform workforce development. However, she explains that she has no set idea of what the next step in her adventure is, and she feels similar to how she did when she was in her first position at Bain: open to wherever her journey may take her.