In his junior year, Nathaniel Houghton PAM ’11 co-founded the Congo Leadership Initiative (CLI) with Robert Kumkum and Emmanuel Baraka, after meeting them during a sophomore year trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
For nearly ten years CLI has offered leadership training for young entrepreneurs throughout the DRC, with a focus on culture and context-specific curriculum, entrepreneurship for social good, and giving girls and women equal access to leadership training. Since inception, the program has trained over 2,500 youth in leadership soft skills and entrepreneurial hard skills, and started a low-interest microfinance program. CLI graduates have gone on to start approximately 450 businesses and community projects across the DRC, impacting thousands of lives.
“We currently have eight active sites across the country,” Houghton said. “One of our youth was elected to parliament, others have gone on to be doctors or lawyers. All of them are positive, productive, selfless leaders at all stations in society, which is what we set out to do.”
In his time at Cornell, Houghton ran philanthropy for Phi Kappa Tau, volunteered as an after-school tutor through the Public Service Center, and helped run the Cornell United Way campaign.
“Cornell in and of itself is a deeply service-oriented institution and has been since the very beginning. It’s part of the DNA of the school. I happen to think Human Ecology is the most Cornell-y of the colleges in a sense. In the same breath as the academic mission is the public service orientation.”
Until a few months ago Houghton was the President of the Human Ecology Young Alumni Council, which he described as one of the best experiences he has had since graduating. Houghton said he believes in giving back to Cornell because it amplifies the impact of your giving.
“If you give a dollar to Cornell it can create more than that in societal impact. What graduates end up doing afterward and even what they do while they’re on campus, that’s the most compelling case to me.”