The Experiment: Lessons that Last a Lifetime

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Peggy Koenig

A natural entrepreneur, ’73 Netherlands Experimenter Peggy Koenig was determined to make the most of her first time outside of the United States, on a trip that she says made a lasting impression, even so many years later.

It was on her trip that Peggy recalled she learned the extent of her independence and resourcefulness. “It was the whole idea of going to another country and seeing how people live, similar and different from the way I grew up, getting comfortable living with a family that was not my own family,” she said.

Peggy also looks back fondly on the opportunity to forge strong bonds with her Dutch host siblings, as well as “building new relationships with the participants from The Experiment from the U.S. who were very diverse and from all over the country.”

Now, as managing partner and co-CEO of ARBY Partners, a private equity investment firm, Peggy leads an organization of over 60 people and manages $13 billion of capital across business, growth equity and media communications platforms. She says the key to maintaining such a successful venture is being able to “innovate around the edges.”

“It was the whole idea of going to another country and seeing how people live, similar and different from the way I grew up, getting comfortable living with a family that was not my own family,”

While many of the qualities that make her the businesswoman she is today are innate, Peggy believes that those attributes were given the chance to flourish while on The Experiment as a teen.

“I am always comfortable saying yes to new opportunities, new experiences and new sets of people and not ever feeling fearful that I wouldn’t gain something from being open to new experiences,” she said. “I don’t know
if it was The Experiment or how I am as a person but I think that being comfortable in new situations…and standing on your own two feet in new situations was a building block.”

A graduate of The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, Peggy serves on numerous boards, including the Board of Trustees at Cornell University and the Boston Medical Center. She believes wholeheartedly
that those in positions to make a difference should do their best to impact the lives of others.

“It’s not just about cultural exchange, but about working on projects that have social impact.”

Of World Learning and The Experiment, Peggy said, “This is one of the organizations that had an impact on me and so I wanted to be in support of it.”

Peggy has been a longtime supporter of The Experiment, and is proud to see it focusing increasingly on critical global issues — with programs that focus on gender equality and human rights in the Netherlands, global youth activism in Ireland, social justice in South Africa, and public health in India.

“As I have continued to develop in my career it has become increasingly important to me to figure out ways to have impact beyond the things I do day in and day out, and that means social impact.”

Peggy helped showcase the importance and impact of these programs by funding last year’s inaugural Experiment Leadership Institute Digital Media Fellowship. The program embedded Lauren McCracken and Leah Varjacques, two outstanding journalism students from Northwestern University, with the Experiment Leadership Institute groups to India and South Africa. It was a unique opportunity for the aspiring young journalists to experience a gratifying, challenging long-term international assignment and put their journalism and story-telling skills to the test, while also helping Experiment youth find their voices.

“As a World Learning Digital Media Fellow in South Africa, I learned that I can do so much more than I ever expected,” Lauren said. “Now I know to trust myself and my journalistic instincts, and that I’m capable of
completing creative projects of a large scale if I really set my mind to it,” she said.

During their trips, Lauren and Leah captured hundreds of hours of video footage and photos, and helped several students craft blogs for the PBS Newshour website. In addition to mentoring the students, the fellows cultivated their own multimedia journalism skills.

“I worked on a video with three students to engage them in the reporting process and show them how to cut and edit a video,” Leah said. “I also saw a huge improvement in my photography. I gained crucial experience for my aspirations to become a documentary filmmaker as I learned how to build trust and be a ‘fly on the wall.’”

Peggy believes these experiences are a vital component of Experiment programs that can create long-lasting benefits for individuals and communities.

“It is not just about cultural exchange, but about working on projects that have social impact,” she said of The Experiment. “That is something I support because that is how I continue to spend a meaningful part of my life.”

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World Learning empowers people, communities, and institutions to create a more peaceful and just world.

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