Keiko Nagai was a key part of Development Marketplace for seven years – for the last two as Task Team Leader for the annual global competitions. Now she’s going to head the portfolio management unit and monitoring and evaluation team for two major development funds of the International Finance Corp. – the World Bank Group’s investment lending arm -- in northern South Asia. Before she headed off to Dhaka, Bangladesh, her new base of operations, we sat down with her for this interview.
How did you get your start at Development Marketplace?
In 2003, I was finishing up my graduate program in development at Georgetown University. I applied to the World Bank as a knowledge intern. I was assigned to Development Marketplace. I was told I was going to work in social entrepreneurship. That was a disappointment because what I thought I wanted to do was work in development statistics, not with, say, projects to help small farmers. But as I learned more about the Development Marketplace program and worked with the project team and learned about things like African drip irrigation, I realized how this was really on-the-ground development work, and I was lucky to be exposed to this first-hand experience. There are so many things happening on the ground that we don’t see from Washington, DC. I had this pre-conception that development work was gathering data or having this multimillion-dollar project for roads and highways. But I realized that while these are important, the most important thing is helping people living in poverty.