Christie Getman headshot

Innovating to meet the needs of a developing nation

February 28, 2023

Christie Getman, ’97, pioneers the use of innovative technology in responding to natural disasters in Nepal

From her perch atop the world in the Himalayan Mountains, Christie Getman, ’97, is ideally positioned to witness extreme weather. As the Nepal country director of the humanitarian nongovernmental organization Mercy Corps, she also is ideally positioned to do something about it.  

“The Himalayas are the canary in the coal mine for climate change,” Getman said. “Extreme weather events like floods, droughts, and snowstorms make it harder for people living on the edge of poverty to build resilience. Last year, monsoons wiped out farmers’ crops just before harvest in the southern and western regions of Nepal. At Mercy Corps, we combat climate change by adapting, mitigating, and responding.”

To help Nepali farmers adapt to changing climate conditions, Mercy Corps Nepal introduced drought-resistant seeds and micro-drip irrigation. It funded the building of stone walls and planting of flood-resistant bamboo along river banks to mitigate flooding. And it responded quickly to alleviate suffering following natural disasters.   

“Several other leaders and I advocated for distributing digital cash to people affected by natural disasters,” the country director said. “We partnered with agencies, local private sector technology companies, and the U.S. and U.K. governments. My team’s digital innovation transformed the way nonprofits respond to emergencies in Nepal.

“Rather than providing in-kind donations like blankets, we evolved the technology of digital cash for people to purchase items to meet their most pressing needs. This technology could reach people even in the most remote areas—people who had never used an ATM before or didn’t have a bank account. Initially, the Nepali government was skeptical. But digital cash has proved so effective in mitigating the impact of emergencies, that the government now includes it as part of its best practices.”

Last year, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) presented Mercy Corps Nepal with an award for digital innovation.

Christie Getman meeting with Nepali villagers in the Himalayan Mountains in 2021

Getman said she is also proud of her organization’s work to address malnutrition, especially in the hard-to-reach mountain communities, and to promote gender equity and women’s leadership programs.

“I can be a role model in that I am both a leader and a mother,” she said. “My team advances gender and social inclusion in a patriarchal society. We encourage women to apply for leadership positions, and we just started a leadership mentoring program for young Nepali women.”

Her University of Richmond majors in leadership studies and international studies have contributed to her successful career in international development, the alumna said. “At the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, I learned the importance of visionary, transformational leadership and gained an understanding of how to inspire and lead change.”

Getman likened her role as Mercy Corps Nepal country director to that of a “mini CEO.” She manages a $25 million portfolio; serves as a key representative to external agencies; oversees human resources, administration, business development, fundraising, technology compliance, and emergency response; and leads strategic planning and visioning.

“I continually draw upon the servant leadership concepts I learned at Jepson,” she said. “I’m not here to be at the forefront. I’m here to support the Nepali people in developing their country.”


Watch a 2021 CNN interview with Christie Getman about Mercy Corps Nepal’s efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.