Laura Ostenso worked with the World Cocoa Foundation on its signature youth education and livelihoods development project, Empowering Cocoa Households with Opportunities and Education Solutions (ECHOES). ECHOES works in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire to provide a holistic mix of strategies to strengthen rural education, provide opportunities for livelihoods development, and make lasting change in cocoa growing communities. Laura’s primary responsibilities included conducting a qualitative assessment of the program to date from the perspective of beneficiaries, implementers, and stakeholders and researching education standards in Ghana. Read Laura’s blog post on the WCF website to learn more about her work with the ECHOES program.
Laura works to draw on her experience in West Africa with ECHOES to manage a new program, the Cocoa Community Development Fund (CCDF), and the ongoing Cocoa Metrics and Progress (CocoaMAP) Initiative. Both efforts leverage existing public-private partnerships to directly reach farmers; the CCDF delivers innovative small grants to cocoa growing communities, and CocoaMAP consolidates sector wide data to provide a snapshot of sustainability at the farm level to better serve cocoa farming communities. In addition, Laura works with program staff to integrate evidence-based approaches and best practices in program and knowledge management into WCF development projects, and to support the communications and outreach team in its branding and dissemination of WCF programs.
For 3½ years, Laura worked as a consultant to a variety of nonprofit clients—from Native American cultural preservation programs and international health advocates to youth development and microfinance resource organizations—to provide research, evaluation, and capacity building services. With an underlying focus on promoting community development initiatives by improving nonprofit programs and capacities, she has worked in Washington, D.C., Washington State, California, and Texas, and internationally in Uganda, Taiwan, and Brazil. Laura received her MA in the Anthropology of Development from the University of Sussex in Brighton, England and her BA in Political Economics from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Laura is a native Californian and in her spare time enjoys working as a barista in small, craft coffee houses (which she has done for eight years!).