EPIC Spotlight: Abby Davidson

Abby Davidson has seen the effects of conflict in war-torn countries. She has worked to assist communities in overcoming poverty and has met with refugees driven from their homeland.

Her interest in international affairs began with her pursuits at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in international economics and business and a master’s degree in economics.

“The business school, in general, teaches you how to present yourself and work professionally with all types of people.

She was fascinated by the charts and graphs in the textbook for her first economics class, taught by Javier Reyes. Davidson then took a class with Amy Farmer, who suggested she read “The White Man’s Burden” by William Easterly, which focuses on the West’s ineffectiveness in eradicating poverty in the rest of the world.

Her world continued to expand with a study-abroad trip to Belize with Farmer and other University of Arkansas students as they embarked on service learning projects. Davidson helped create a travel brochure to promote tourism to the city of Dangriga.

“The trip sparked something new in me. I loved the people I met. Witnessing poverty in another country is life-changing. It alters your whole perspective on development.”

Davidson has taken the spark to Washington D.C. where, since January 2016, she serves as a research analyst with the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), a program of the Aspen Institute, which, through a network of organizations, works to promote entrepreneurship in developing countries.

Her role at ANDE is her latest accomplishment in her mission to bring innovation to international development efforts, which she began as an undergraduate when a friend and fellow student of Davidson’s shared with her the idea of forming ForgottenSong, an organization that empowers women and children in war-torn communities to become economically self-sustainable. The organization’s name, Davidson says, comes from the idea that everyone has a song, yet so many in the world, especially women and children affected by war and violence, aren’t heard. Davidson fell in love with the idea. “I absolutely wanted to help him with it, ” she says.

She and Charles Davidson began dating while simultaneously filing the necessary paperwork to form ForgottenSong as a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization. A year later, the two were married.

Together, they have been to several countries, including Egypt, Uganda and Iraq, where they lived for 2½ months.

Through their contacts, they learned that the northern region of Iraq needed quality, subsidized daycare facilities.

ForgottenSong worked with community leaders to start a program for facilities to be operated by local women and to serve families – many who had lost a parent to violence.

Other ForgottenSong projects include establishing poultry farms in Uganda, which, after only four months, became economically sustainable and reproducible, providing income for its recipients and serving as an educational service to community members interested in agriculture.

The organization’s most recent venture is the establishment of goat farms to support projects which bring children out of armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Davidson says the Walton College changed her perspective on what she could do with a business degree, especially with her desire to work with people on other continents. “The business school, in general, teaches you how to present yourself and work professionally with all types of people, ” she says.

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