Working at Dogwood Alliance - The Business Perspective

Housed in an old, beautiful antique brick building on the Biltmore Avenue is Dogwood Alliance which plays a life changing role in the ecosystem of the south eastern US forests. Not many are aware of the kind of work Dogwood is doing to conserve the most bio-diverse region in North America. I didn’t have the faintest of idea that a mission driven non-profit would be doing something cutting edge and pioneering in the conservation arena and making the world a better place to live in.

After studying tools of strategy, marketing, finance and law in my first year of Masters at Duke, I was looking forward to applying them in a new and different scenario where it could have the most profound impact. Dogwood provided the perfect opportunity in the form of the Business Plan Development intern over the summer for the Carbon Canopy project. This project innovates in the payment for ecosystem services sphere and aims at implementing the improved forest management methodology in the smaller forest lands privately owned in the south-eastern US. This region which is 90% privately owned, accounts for 60-80% production of wood pulp for paper and the pellet industry. Carbon Canopy provides multiple revenue streams for landowners, making conservation sustainable and profitable and at the same time developing a sustainable supply chain for forest product companies creating a win-win partnership.

I started working on the plan under the mentorship of Andrew Goldberg and in a month was joined by two creative and talented intellectuals, Yimeng and Rachel. It was a great experience to brainstorm and come up with our recommendations. We also had the opportunity to present the same in the annual Carbon Canopy stakeholder meet!

Working at Dogwood over the summer gave me a new perspective about how non-profits function and the power they have to alter the business landscape. The core team of Dogwood which consists of around 8 people run the organization effectively with an unmatched professionalism and talent. I also got to know about some of the working challenges they face. These include running the board and selecting board members who are driven by the same mission and can provide a long-term vision. Managing funds is a challenge too as the funds are donated for particular uses and cannot be used freely. A true non-profit working sincerely can actually add brand value to its corporate partners. Dogwood Alliance through Carbon Canopy has a potential of building a brand which can alter the way business is done. The idea of premium voluntary offsets, individual retail and a boutique standard for different eco-system services can help add to the brand image of businesses and corporations. I plan to work on a case-study of how non-profits can further their mission and help businesses at the same time.

It’s not always about work, Dogwood cares a lot for its employees and interns. I had the opportunity to enjoy some of the most nerve wracking games of the FIFA world-cup with Dogwood colleagues. The field visits were exciting, informative and fun. Celebrating fellow interns’ birthdays and enjoying happy hours in Asheville were some of the many memorable moments spent over the summer. I want to thank Dogwood for providing this wonderful opportunity!

Arjun Wadwalker - Duke Master of Engineering Management Candidate