The Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University today announced that Cori Zarek will take over as executive director.

Zarek is a lawyer and public interest technologist with deep experience in government, civil society, and the tech sector. She served as Deputy Chief Technology Officer of the United States, designed and led the Mozilla Foundation’s tech policy fellowship program, and has worked with non-governmental organizations including Code for America. She joined the Beeck Center in 2019 to expand the action-oriented research and project work using data and technology for greater impact. Zarek has also designed curriculum and mentored students as an adjunct professor since 2007 at various universities including Georgetown.

“The Beeck Center’s work is increasingly focused on using tools like data and technology to solve problems in our society and Cori is a known leader for this work,” said outgoing Beeck Center Executive Director Sonal Shah, who founded the Center nearly eight years ago. “We know she will continue growing the Center’s work in this space to reimagine how our institutions better serve people. I look forward to supporting the work as a member of the Beeck Center’s Advisory Board.”

 

New Executive Director Cori Zarek

In her role at the White House from 2013-17, Zarek rolled out policies and practices on open data, digital government, and open source software. Zarek has extensive non-profit leadership experience, and currently serves as President of the Board of Directors of the MuckRock Foundation, a nonprofit, collaborative news site in the U.S. that promotes transparency for an informed democracy. In 2020, she co-founded U.S. Digital Response which matches pro-bono technologists to work with government and organizations responding to crisis. Previously, Zarek was President of the Board of Directors of the D.C. Open Government Coalition. Early in her career, she was a lawyer with the non-profit Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. She has both a B.A. and J.D. from the University of Iowa, where she is a member of the Advisory Board to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“As tools like data, design, and technology continue to drive the way institutions operate, we have more opportunities to reimagine how those institutions solve problems and deliver better for society,” Zarek said. “The Beeck Center attracts fellows who want to use their data and tech skills to design new approaches that put people first and we train and teach students who are becoming the next leaders in the public interest tech community. This work is more important than ever and it is an honor to keep building on the incredible work Sonal has led.”

“The Beeck Center is a vibrant force of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Technology & Society and Cori has played a leading role in that cross-campus effort,” said Robert Groves, Georgetown University Provost. “Her leadership at the Beeck Center will continue to give students and faculty the hands-on opportunities to impact policy and practice in our institutions which is what they seek out in coming to Georgetown.”

After months of planning, Shah founded the Beeck Center in 2014 with a generous gift from Alberto and Olga Maria Beeck. She grew it into a leading center on campus for cross-collaboration and also co-founded Georgetown’s campus-wide Initiative on Technology & Society. Shah will continue her work as a professor at Georgetown and will continue advising the Tech & Society Initiative. She will also join the Beeck Center’s Advisory Board.

Founding Executive Director Sonal Shah

“The Center would not exist without Sonal and her dedication to building the Beeck Center and social impact. We are grateful that she will continue to be a part of the Center by joining the Advisory Board,” said Beeck Center Advisory Board Chairman Alberto Beeck. “Cori is an excellent leader and has the same qualities. We are excited that she will guide the Center to the next phase of growth while keeping students at the center of all that we do.”

Since 2014, the Beeck Center has served as a hub where both practitioners and students explore leading-edge ideas using tools like data and technology to drive toward better and more equitable practices in society. The more than 60 fellows, students, and staff at the Center lead projects ranging from increasing data capacity in state and local governments and community-based organizations, supporting and upskilling the public interest technology workforce, and establishing new approaches for digital identity or open source software in governments.

The Beeck Center is conducting a U.S. Public Interest Technology Workforce Survey to help us understand how best to support the individuals who make up this growing field. We want to ensure that we’re considering the perspectives and experiences of the people who are doing this work. To do this right, we hope to document and learn from those who currently make up the field and have forged some of the career development models and resources that exist today. Based on the results, our plan is to publish a demographics report of the trends and opportunities from the survey, as well as follow up with individuals to have more in-depth conversations. This will help us identify how to institutionalize career support resources like professional development opportunities, mentorship models, and training curriculum that are specifically designed for public interest technology professionals.

We define public interest technology in the broadest sense of the phrase: studying, applying and/or leveraging data, design, technology, and innovation in service of the public interest. We recognize that this work has taken place for many years and consider similar terminology such as civic technology or digital government to fit within this field as well. Anyone who identifies as working in this field is encouraged to participate in this survey, including practitioners, students, volunteers, and researchers.

To ensure that your experience is accounted for in this work, we hope you will please fill out the survey and share with any others who we should also hear from. The questions ask about individual and organizational demographic information and details about your work experience. It should take about 10 minutes to complete and participation in this survey is completely voluntary. Your responses will remain confidential, anonymous, and all results will be compiled only in the aggregate.

Once you’ve completed the survey, we would appreciate it if you would please share it with your networks and those who have inspired your career in public interest technology to ensure that we are learning from their unique experiences as well. This survey will close at 11:59PM EST on Dec.4, 2020.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at beeckcenter@georgetown.edu.

 

FAQ

How does the Beeck Center define Public Interest Technology?

The Beeck Center defines public interest technology in the broadest sense of the term, i.e. studying, applying and/or leveraging data, design, technology, and innovation in service of the public interest. We acknowledge that this work has been occurring for multiple decades now under many different banners: Civic Technology, Digital Government, and now Public Interest Technology. As the opportunities and bounds of this field continue to be defined, we believe that it is important to bring in as many people to the conversation as possible. We know that this work cannot and will not be defined by a single voice. Thus, we include individuals across a wide range of experiences and skill-sets into our understanding of the field.

As New America’s Public Interest Technology University Network defines it, the field “can—and should—include people who may not identify as technologists but are at the forefront of equalizing access to technology and promoting inclusive tech policy, such as those working in the ecosystems of access, open source and creative commons, digital literacy, inclusive design, movement and activist tech, community tech, and digital privacy and security.”

Can students be a part of this survey?

Absolutely. We believe students are at the forefront of this work and that their experiences and identities must be accounted for as we continue to build the field.

Are volunteers a part of this survey?

Yes. Since the Beeck Center is dedicated to comprehensively supporting all individuals who make up the public interest technology field, we encourage responses from anyone with experience in this field including volunteers and other professionals alike.

I don’t work in the U.S. Public Interest Technology field. Should I still fill out this form?

We are only considering responses from those who identify as part of the U.S. Public Interest Technology field. However, we encourage you to share this form with others you may know working in the field for them to voice their experiences.

How is my personal information going to be used and stored?

If you choose to share your personal information with us, we may request you to provide us with your name, email address, job title, employer, details about your professional background and skills, and additional demographic information. Your survey responses will be kept confidential and anonymous. The data will be stored securely and we will actively protect your information; however we will use this information to share aggregate statistics on who represents the field today and in what capacities. Additionally, if you opt -in, we may use this information to contact you as part of our efforts to understand how to create a more inclusive work environment for the public interest technology field. To ensure consensual and ethical data use, we adhere to the data privacy policy and principles of Georgetown University.

Can I get access to the raw data?

If you or your organization is interested in accessing an anonymized version of this data, please send us an email at beeckcenter@georgetown.edu.

Data + Digital

  • Modernizing Government

  • 2020 Census

  • State Software Collaborative

  • U.S. Digital Response

  • Data + Justice

  • State CDO Network

  • Other

 

Fair Finance

  • Inclusive Community Impact Investing

  • Creating Equitable Capital Markets

  • Reimagining Community Investing for the 21st Century

  • Other

Sustainable Student Impact

 

Other

Program Overview

The Student Analyst program is an immersive learning experience in social impact, centered on paid-employment at the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation. In addition to working at the Beeck Center, student analysts engage in a curriculum of workshops, dialogues, and team-building activities. 

The Work 

The Student Analyst program is grounded in an experiential approach to education, providing students with hands-on opportunities to tackle real world problems. Student Analysts (SAs) work alongside expert practitioners within our Data+Digital, Fair Finance, and Sustainable Student Impact portfolios. Students conduct research, write reports, communicate impact, and manage projects that contribute towards the Beeck Center’s mission to actively re-imagine policies, systems, and partnerships in service of the public good.

Watch past SA Capstone presentations to see the sort of things you’d work on.

The Curriculum

While students are integral to how we do our work, we are also committed as a training ground for students to preparing emerging leaders for social impact. The work serves as a central part of this preparation, which we complement with our social impact curriculum. The curriculum helps students build a community, reflect, develop resiliency, and better understand a cross-sectoral, systems-level approach to social impact. 

Workshop examples include:

  • Social impact @ scale – systems level change
  • Human Centered Design: Designing with, not for communities 
  • Wellbeing in Social Impact: Discernment & Reflection 
  • Working in social impact spaces: (a) giving and receiving feedback, (b) advocating for yourself, navigating team dynamics
  • Social Impact Storytelling

Students typically spend about 20-40% of their time engaging with this curriculum, with the majority spent on project-based work within the portfolio. 

How to Get Involved

  • Get to know us: a great first step to engaging in our work is to learn about it! Take a look at our website, read our blogs and reports, and discover which areas of our work interest you most!
  • Attend our events: we host workshops, convenings, panel conversations, and more. Watch videos of our past events, and get notified of upcoming events.
  • Apply: we recruit for new positions every semester. Be among the first to know by subscribing to our newsletter (below), check our careers page, and read our FAQ to learn more!
  • Connect with us: Subscribe to our weekly Social Impact Opportunities Newsletter, and follow us on social media (we’re @BeeckCenter on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and coming soon, Tik Tok).

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What Our Student Analysts Say

“The Discern + Digest dialogue series was such a great experience and so worthwhile. I learned so much about myself and my fellow SAs. I liked the vulnerability created in this space to foster candid discussions about difficult issues.”

– Brooks Watson, MSB’21

“I learned that workspaces can be inclusive, thoughtful, and provocative in the best of ways if the effort is made to create it. I can expect future employers to create a similar space because I know it’s possible, and if they don’t, I know I can take the initiative to do so.”

– Saumya Shruti, COL’20

What’s it like to be a student analyst?

Who is eligible?

Do student analysts have to be located in Washington, D.C.?

What is the background and experience that a student analyst is expected to have?

Are student analysts paid?

What are the time commitments for a student analyst?

How will work happen across different time zones?

Who can I reach out to for an informational interview or coffee chat?

Do you have a referral process?

How can I apply?

What is the hiring process and timeline?

Given the distributed and virtual work plans for Fall 2020, can I work with the Beeck Center as an international student?

Can applicants apply to multiple positions?

What are you looking for in a writing sample?

 

Student Analysts at the Beeck Center

The Beeck Center provides students with experiential learning opportunities for social impact. The Student Analyst program engages a cohort of students through semester-based, paid positions across our three portfolios: Fair Finance, Data+Digital, and Sustainable Student Impact. In addition to work-based experience, student analysts participate in programming designed to equip them with the knowledge and skills for social impact leadership.

What’s it like to be a student analyst?

Students gain experience working on projects alongside Beeck staff and fellows, including seasoned practitioners from the public, private, and social sectors. While each position varies depending on the portfolio and project, each involves substantive work and often includes a combination of research, writing, project management, and programmatic support. 

In addition to the project-based experience, our Student Analyst program builds community and teaches reflection, while providing professional development opportunities through mentorship and workshops. Students participate in our program onboarding and orientation, weekly reflection dialogues, workshops, team-building activities, and receive mentorship, concurrent to their day-to-day responsibilities within our portfolios.

LEARN MORE

Who is eligible?

Enrolled graduate and undergraduate students are eligible to apply. 

For Fall 2020, we are restricting eligibility to Georgetown University students, due to hiring restrictions resulting from the pandemic. Typically, we are delighted to bring students from a wide variety of higher education institutions and hope to reopen our program in the near future.

The Beeck Center strongly encourages those who hold the following intersecting identities to apply: Black, Native or Indigenous, People of Color, LGBTQIA+, non-binary, poor or working class, persons living with disabilities, neurodivergent, young, undocumented, speak English as a second language, and others with lived experience in overlooked and/or underestimated communities.

Do student analysts have to be located in Washington, D.C.?

We are a distributed, remote-friendly team and many of our fellows and staff members are not located in Washington, D.C. We rely on tools like Slack, Zoom, and Asana to keep in touch with each other and on track with our goals. That said, we do have offices located on Georgetown University’s Main Campus and downtown near the Georgetown Law Center and once campus reopens, we plan to responsibly transition our student analyst program back to an office-based work environment. 

Please also note that the Fall 2020 Student Analyst Program will take place in a remote and distributed work environment. The Beeck Center’s team, including students, will not have an on-campus presence in the fall semester. Applicants should be prepared to work in a remote environment and through this experience, you will learn how to effectively work on a distributed team.

What is the background and experience that a student analyst is expected to have?

Our students have a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and skillsets. We thrive as an interdisciplinary center that brings together students with a variety of interests, majors, and career goals. Student Analyst position requirements are tailored to the specific needs of the project and are detailed in position descriptions, found on the Careers page of our website.

Are student analysts paid? 

Yes! We believe our internship opportunities should be paid. Wages for hourly student employees are based on Georgetown University’s Student Employment Office guidelines, starting at minimum wage for undergraduates ($15/hr) and $20/hour for graduates.

In addition to financial compensation, student analyst positions serve as a valuable professional development experience, providing critical exposure and experience in social impact work and connecting you with a tremendous network of professionals who are dedicated to leveraging the tools of education, finance, and data and technology, for the common good. 

What are the time commitments for a student analyst?

During the fall and spring semesters, student analysts can work up to 20 hours/week, though typically hours fall in the 10-15 hours/week range. Applicants must be able to commit a minimum of 10 hours per week. 

During the summer semester, students can work part-time or full-time, up to 40 hours/week. 

Position descriptions will state whether or not there is a preference. 

Throughout the semester, we work with students to enable flexible schedules that help students prioritize their academics. At the same time, we encourage applicants to be thoughtful about their other commitments before deciding to apply. 

How will work happen across different time zones?

We are a distributed, remote-friendly team and many of our fellows and staff members are not located in Washington, D.C., thus we are well equipped in working across time zones within the continental United States. We believe that work can be done asynchronously but also value meetings so that the team can connect and engage collaboratively on work in real-time. As mentioned, the Beeck Center works with students to enable flexible schedules that help students prioritize their academics. If any issues arise or if there is an extenuating concern, we encourage you to let us know your specific situation. 

Who can I reach out to for an informational interview or coffee chat?

To ensure that we are conducting a transparent and fair recruitment process for all applicants, we do not schedule meetings outside of the application process. We make it a point to ensure that our position descriptions are as detailed as possible and provide the general context and background for our work that is needed for a successful application. Position descriptions also list an email address to contact for questions or clarifications about information present in the position descriptions or application forms.

If you do have a question you can’t find the answer to, go ahead and ask us, we may even add it here!

Do you have a referral process?

We encourage our students and staff to get the word out about our opportunities but do not have a formal referral process, once again in order to ensure that we are conducting a transparent and fair recruitment process for all applicants. On the application form, you can identify any connections in responding to the “how did you hear about us” question. Most importantly, we encourage you to research our Center, our core values, and our work, to discern the alignment between your goals, our work, and the position description.

How can I apply?

All applicants must complete the application form, which has three sections. Section I is meant to collect key demographic and logistical information. Section II includes short answer questions and requires you to upload a resume/CV and a writing sample. Section III asks how you learned about the Beeck Center, while also providing you with the opportunity to share any additional information that may be relevant to your application.

Please ensure that in addition to the application form, you carefully review the job description for the position you are applying to. Job descriptions can be found on the Careers section of our website.

What is the hiring process and timeline?

The application is due August 9th at 9pm EDT, though we encourage early submission and will consider applications on a rolling basis. 

Our review process includes both application review and interviews for select candidates. A more detailed timeline is included in the job description and application form.  

How selective is the process?

This is a very selective process, though if you think you are a good fit that should not deter you from applying. We’re always looking for a mix of experiences and skills in order to develop a dynamic cohort, and that means that we’re interested in bringing in first-year students at the undergraduate level all the way to second-year graduate students. 

To give you a sense of the competitiveness by sharing some data, we received 101 applications for 6 positions for our Summer 2020 program. The number of applications per position varied, with as few as 6 applicants for one position and as many as 21 for another. 

Given the distributed and virtual work plans for Fall 2020, can I work with the Beeck Center as an international student?

Based on guidance from the University, it is our understanding that international students are eligible to apply and that there are no U.S. immigration restrictions barring GU-enrolled international students from seeking employment at the Beeck Center. Please do take into consideration time zones as well as internet connectivity if you would be working from abroad. The Beeck Center operates in multiple U.S. time zones and works asynchronously, but some work requires real-time collaboration and meetings which could prove difficult if there are major time zone differences or connectivity issues. 

The University is actively working to develop further guidance on information security and tax implications for student employment from abroad, so we encourage you to keep yourself informed. Specific inquiries regarding work eligibility for international students should be sent to the Georgetown Office of Global Services: internationalservices@georgetown.edu

Can applicants apply to multiple positions?

Yes, applicants can apply to multiple positions and have two options to do so. You can submit multiple applications or you can apply to a primary position and note your interest in other positions through the “anything else you would like to know” question at the end of the application form. The advantage of submitting an individual application for each position to which you wish to apply is that you will be able to customize your short-answers and your writing sample. 

What are you looking for in a writing sample?

First and foremost, choose a writing sample that best demonstrates your writing ability. We’re looking for strong writers who can express ideas with a strong focus on the audience and in a clear and concise manner. Next, choose a writing sample that relates to social impact or even better, to the specific portfolio or project to which you are applying. Consider this second consideration preferable while the first is a must – we want you to showcase your writing ability!

​The Beeck Center brings together changemakers across multiple sectors and industries with a wide range of skill sets – policymakers, designers, journalists, data scientists, community organizers, technologists, investors, strategic advisors, community development experts – to engage in action-oriented research and dialogue that reimagines how our systems can work towards sustainable social impact. 

 

What is it like to be a fellow at the Beeck Center?

Fellows at the Beeck Center are senior leaders in their field who engage in action-oriented research projects that aim to create a positive social impact at scale. The Center experiments with cutting-edge ideas to shape the way public and private institutions operate and to help them rebuild trust with society. 

Fellows usually conduct research that is connected to a specific project under one of our three portfolios: Data + Digital, Fair Finance, and Sustainable Student Impact. Each fellow works with their portfolio staff and student analysts to produce resources, tools, and events that make research findings actionable. We work in a collaborative, open environment and use our core values to guide the way we approach our projects and team relationships. Our fellowships range from full-time “Resident Fellowships” to part-time and affiliate fellowships, depending on project and portfolio needs. One of the most unique aspects of being a fellow at the Beeck Center is having access to the Georgetown University ecosystem. At the Beeck Center, we sit under the Provost’s Office, which allows us to collaborate with the other academic schools, centers and institutes across Georgetown’s different disciplines and schools as part of Georgetown’s cross-campus Initiative on Tech and Society

 

Do fellows have to be located in Washington, D.C.?

We are a distributed, remote-friendly team and many of our fellows and staff members are not located in Washington, D.C. We rely on tools like Slack, Zoom and Asana to keep in touch with each other and on track with our goals. That said, we do have offices located on Georgetown University’s Main Campus and downtown near the Georgetown Law Center that we encourage all of our fellows to visit and work from alongside our staff and students once campus reopens. Additionally, some roles may require fellows to be based in the Washington, D.C. area.

 

What is the background and experience that a Beeck Center fellow is expected to have?

Our fellows come from a wide range of different backgrounds, experiences and skillsets. Fellowship position requirements are tailored to the specific needs of the project and are detailed in position descriptions.

 

What are a fellow’s responsibilities, apart from conducting research or publishing reports?

Fellows at the Beeck Center join an active, busy Center and their work fits within one of our portfolios which operate as collaborative teams. Our fellows are expected to manage their project timelines and deliverables and routinely report to portfolio staff on their progress. Fellows also engage with their portfolio teams through weekly team meetings and other occasional events, work closely with the Center’s students, staff, and other fellows, and actively contribute to the Center’s events, meetings, publications, and other activities. Fellows are expected to engage with and support the students involved at the Center. We host a range of different events including lunch and learns, professional workshops and a student analyst program that provide avenues for fellows to collaborate with students at the Center. Our fellows are spokespeople for their work as part of the Center and support communications and media outputs for their respective projects, which might include written reports, playbooks, blogs, and social media campaigns.

 

Are Beeck fellows paid? What other benefits are included in a fellowship?

Beeck fellows receive a faculty appointment to Georgetown University. Most fellows are paid, typically through a monthly stipend that correlates to their project work and the amount of time they are committed to the Center. For example, full-time fellows receive a stipend that is commensurate to their experience and the full-time nature of their work. Full-time fellows are also eligible for Georgetown benefits which includes health care. Part-time fellows may be paid a part-time stipend commensurate to their experience and the part-time nature of their work. Part-time fellows are typically not eligible for Georgetown benefits. Affiliate fellows are typically not compensated or eligible for Georgetown benefits.

 

How are fellows funded?

Fellows are typically funded through project-related grants and gifts for the specific project that the fellow will be working on. Some fellows will interact closely with funders depending on the nature of the project and relationship with the funder. This can include project updates as well as additional business development and funding requests or follow-on as deemed appropriate. All interactions would be coordinated with and supported by the portfolio lead and core Beeck Center leadership team. Our current and past funders include: The Rockefeller Foundation, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Schmidt Futures, Surdna Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, and more. 

 

Who can I reach out to for an informational interview or coffee chat?

To ensure that we are conducting a transparent and fair recruitment process for all applicants, we do not schedule meetings outside of the application process.  We make it a point to ensure that our position descriptions are as detailed as possible and provide the general context and background for our work that is needed for a successful application. Position descriptions also list an email address to contact for questions or clarifications about information present in the position descriptions or application forms.

Data is a strategic asset. If it were missing or unavailable, it would severely limit the ability of government to function. Additionally, data has the ability to help government to deliver the types of services expected by the public, to create more effective policy and to operate more efficiently. This is why state governments benefit from having chief data officers. Looking for a model CDO job description, or just a better understanding of what a CDO can do for your state? We’re here to support states in establishing a CDO role. Contact us to get started with your CDO position.

June 4, 2020 | By Matt Fortier

“The Student Analyst Program allows students to meaningfully immerse themselves in these initiatives and start their own social impact journeys.”

– Shaily Acharya, SFS’23

Between the pandemic and growing protests over racial inequity, the need for leadership in social impact is critical, and we’re proud to work with individuals dedicated to that goal. This week, we’re excited to welcome fourteen students, budding leaders for social impact from across the country, to participate in our Student Analyst Program. This summer’s cohort includes 10 Georgetown students, joined by colleagues from American University, Fordham University, University of Michigan, and University of North Carolina, bringing diverse perspectives from outside the Hilltop to enrich our community and learning environment.

We had a record number of applicants representing over 30 different institutions of higher education. Some of these students are brand new to our Center, while others engaged us through other Beeck Center programs, such as our events, workshops, and Discern + Digest discussion series. 

As we highlighted in the spring, we are adapting student programming to continue our mission in equipping students with the mindsets and skills for social impact leadership. The distributed environment has presented both challenges and opportunities in driving this mission forward, and we recognizeare proud of our students for the flexibility and resilience in the wake of these changes. 

“My passion lies in ensuring communities marginalized by our current economic system have equitable access to the financial resources they need to thrive. I hope my work at the Beeck Center and beyond is able to contribute to the enrichment of these communities for years to come.”

– Brooks Watson, MSB’21

Our students have been proactive in sharing their ideas, exemplifying our experimental attitude in helping us adapt our programming. This spring, we experimented with programs to promote community, piloting virtual office hours and using tools like Slack and the donut app to recreate the types of water cooler moments we’re all missing. We’re looking forward to further codesigning solutions and developing more best practices as we work and learn this summer. 

While the students have had a couple of months to work on distance learning, some of our new alumni shared advice on maximizing their time here at the Center:

“Your favorite word this summer should be Question: Ask questions; Question the status quo! Today what we need more than anything else is the ability to rethink our existing models. The Beeck Center is doing exactly that: to reflect, research and redesign cutting-edge ideas. And you are the instruments for scaling this process.”

-Ali Shahbaz, SFS’20

“Don’t treat your role as a Beeck Center Student Analyst as just another campus job – immerse yourself in the opportunities to reflect, to consider your own growth, and to set goals. Insert your own creativity and voice into projects and seek the insights of others. Your coworkers will become your friends and mentors, so enjoy each and every minute with the Beeck Center community.”

-Casey Doherty, College’20

Welcome to the summer 2020 Student Analyst cohort, we can’t wait to see what you produce in the coming months.

NAMESCHOOLHOMETOWN
Grace RectorGU - School of Foreign ServiceLos Angeles, CA
Josephine GrahamUniversity of MichiganSt. Clair Shores, MI
Divjot BawaGU - School of Foreign ServiceSterling, VA
Angela GuoUniversity of North CarolinaChapel Hill, NC
Natalie WardFordham UniversityPortland, OR
Alberto Rodriguez AlvarezGU - McCourt School of Public PolicyVeracruz, Mexico
Hayley PontiaGU - Graduate School of Arts & SciencesPittsburgh, PA
Elaina FaustGU - School of Foreign ServiceSouthborough, MA
Taylor SavellGU - School of Foreign ServiceNashville, TN
Katie SullivanGU - School of Foreign ServiceBarrington, IL
Saumya ShrutiGU - College of Liberal ArtsSan Ramon, CA
Shaily AcharyaGU - School of Foreign ServiceRockville, MD
Brooks WatsonGU - McDonough School of BusinessAnnapolis, MD
Cristina Alaniz-RamirezAmerican UniversityBrownsville, TX

May 15, 2020 | By Nate Wong and Audrey Voorhees

Nearly two months into quarantine, we’re seeing a shift in tone of company press releases from generic COVID-19 responses to something different. Beyond donations to relief and assistance, Target is investing over $300 million in employees with added wages, paid leave, and back-up childcare. Intel granted researchers and scientists open access to its global IP portfolio to pursue an end to the coronavirus pandemic. Actions like these no longer seem like window-dressing, but deeper commitments which may signal how some companies see themselves in a post-pandemic world. 

A newer model of capitalism is emerging– acknowledging that “companies, workers, customers and communities are the engines for achieving success,” says Kavya Vaghul from non-profit JUST Capital. Real commitments to positive social impact are taking center stage as leaders know publicity ploys alone will not attract customers, and certainly won’t keep existing employees or their supplier base safe and healthy. COVID-19 is a litmus test for corporate leaders to think beyond maximizing profit and instead reimagine their relationships with workers, communities, and natural systems. Reimagining will require hard-wiring and building impact into their DNA, not just tinkering on the edges of CSR or marketing. 

Enter born-socials with a playbook

Thankfully, a playbook for this new model of capitalism exists. “Born-social” companies put impact into everything they do, and model how to improve social and environmental outcomes while turning a profit. Patagonia and Ben and Jerry’s committed to community-oriented principles early. Warby Parker and Bombas embedded impact through non-profit partnerships. As corporate leaders make the shift from COVID-19 triage to strategic scenario planning, they should be intentional about how they re-form their corporate purpose, taking lessons from their “born-social” peers. 

(Re)define what truly matters and measure it. Born-social companies set clear environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals alongside financial metrics. Sustainable footwear startup Allbirds’ includes carbon as an expense line item on the balance sheet, helping the company reach carbon neutrality before any corporates pledged to do so. Allbirds also plans to reduce the carbon footprint of each shoe produced by investing a portion of the $75M raised in their most recent funding round in regenerative agriculture for raw materials. Prioritizing environmental goals may reduce Allbirds’ profits in the short-term, but it will pay off as they scale a sustainable supply chain that supports their competitive advantage. Even in a constantly changing environment like now, ESG measures can be dynamic in a time of COVID-19. 

Create a stakeholder governance structure to “bake” it in. Leaders both loathe and respect governance. Its true value comes from how these structures help guide decision-making toward shared goals. The B Corp certification provides structure for born-social companies to demonstrate their commitment to creating public benefit and sustainable value for consumers, employees, and investors. Now, with over 3,000 certified B Corporation companies across 70 countries and 150 industries, these born-social companies have tied social and environmental performance to how they make decisions, who’s involved, and how they report it. Others created their own internal structures. Airbnb recently added a new Chief Stakeholder Officer role to execute its commitment to stakeholders in an effort to tie the company to specific principles, for example linking its compensation structure to guest safety and strengthening communities. As COVID-19 ushers in a surge of voluntary executive pay cuts, there’s an opportunity moving forward to better align compensation and incentives with holistic performance rather than stock price

Bring your entire supply chain into the picture. Born-social companies know that each link of their value chain is critical for their long-term success. Sweetgreen carved a fast-casual niche by building a transparent “farm-to-table” supplier network. Rather than just an RFP process, Sweetgreen sees sourcing as long-term partnerships that allow customers to trace back their foods to the farm it was sourced. As this pandemic has made clear, supply chains are inherently linked. Unilever set aside over $500 million for early payment to small and medium-sized suppliers and extended credit to small-scale retailers, reinforcing their long-term value to their operations.


Related Links


Not why, not how… but when

As corporate executives reckon with complex future demands, the question is no longer why value a stakeholder lens (last year’s Business Roundtable corporate purpose statement made that clear). And as the examples above highlight, it can no longer be a question of how to do it. Born-social companies are raising the bar for improving society while turning a profit. It’s just a question of when others will catch up. 

Successful corporate leaders see their actions today as a way to lay the groundwork for tomorrow. These vanguards will use this pandemic to re-tool how they treat their employees, work with community partners, create a resilient supply chain, and source in a regenerative manner. When we emerge on the other side of COVID-19, most if not all companies will need to embed social impact into their ethos to thrive. They will value stakeholders and measure their financial and non-financial performance. Leaders will re-form their corporate governance structure to align compensation with these new performance measures, emphasizing pay equity. Companies will integrate their supply chain more fully into their business with a sustainability-lens, including disaster response and continuity. Let’s start now. A more resilient and inclusive economy depends on it.

Nate Wong leads the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University. He previously helped launch social impact units at Boston Consulting Group and Deloitte Consulting LLP and is passionate about using business assets for the greater good. @NathanielKWong

Audrey Voorhees is a 2020 MBA Candidate at Georgetown University with a focus on private sector social and environmental impact who is passionate about designing innovative solutions across public, private, and social sectors. @VoorheesAudrey

Jameela Sylla | March 2, 2020

What did participation in the 2020 Yale Black Solidarity Conference teach me about systems level impact? 

When I think about my ancestors and how they worked together to advocate for access to higher and equal education, it becomes surreal to realize I am part of the impact that they wanted for minority groups. I carry along that impact and now take advantage of the opportunities and blessings made available to me. Changing systems isn’t easy, and as a participant in the 2020 Yale Black Solidarity Conference, I’ve expanded my knowledge on how to generate systems level impact. 

Jameela with her 2020 class

The first conversation centered on the “Intersectionality in Activism,” which really resonated with me as a Black woman. Activist Carmen Perez highlighted that because she gained access to higher education, she became equipped with not only the knowledge but the skills and passion necessary to be the best leader she can be.  

In terms of activism and organizing, intersectional feminism requires collaboration and empathy to foster change in a system that denies women (specifically, women of color) equality. A remarkable quote that stuck with me was “when you see your liberation bound in someone else, then organize with them because activism is about collective power.” Perez’s bravery and collective work as one of the leaders of the Women’s March made me realize that a system level impact cannot be done alone and how important unity is. A second conversation was “Organizing Protests in the Face of Resistance,” where a student, an organizer, and an attorney worked to advocate for Black lives in Connecticut. They talked about the lives that have been degraded, mistreated, and lost to a brutal system that is often at odds with their livelihoods. Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes, it is crucial that activists of different professions partner together to change systems for justice, and fix the parts of the legal system that disproportionately targets Black bodies. 

Speaking on legends such as Thurgood Marshall, who made a great impact in the Supreme Court, and cases like Graham v. Connor, that ruled law enforcement must be able to point to objectively reasonable facts that justify their use of excessive force, further put into the perspective how we can make a systems level impact. This level of change needs to be brought to life not only in the streets during protests but also in the legal justice system. Oppression can foster internalized discouragement and defeat. Despite this, I know that systems level change and impact can be brought to fruition within communities, which is crucially necessary and powerful. The conference was eye-opening, empowering, and encouraging in terms of bringing to light how much power I have to unite and uplift my community.

Jameela with Activist, Carmen Perez and Classmates

February 24, 2020 | By Matt Fortier

Students today have myriad job opportunities presented to them: work in the library, the dorms, or a local retail outlet. Others choose internships (paid or not) in their chosen future industry. But what if you have higher goals? What if you want to make an impact on society? What if you want to dive deeper into your own motivations? We’ve got you covered, and today, we open applications for the Summer 2020 Student Analyst program. 

About a dozen undergraduates and graduates, from both our home here at Georgetown and schools across the nation, will get more than the typical summer job experience because we hold the deep conviction that they’re more than employees – they’re the future of social impact leadership. 

Interested? Read the Job Descriptions and Apply

In fulfilling our mission as a training ground for students and preparing students for leadership in the social impact space, we center our approach on experiential learning. Student analysts gain hands-on experience supporting projects across our Fair Finance, Data + Digital, and Sustainable Student Impact portfolios, learning by doing and applying theoretical concepts to real-world problems. What sets the Student Analyst program apart is that in addition to gaining direct experience tackling social impact projects, we accompany students on their social impact journey through fostering reflection and cultivating mutual investment. Let’s explore how this is achieved. 

A key feature of the program is the creation of a Mutual Development Agreement, where students identify 2-3 learning and development goals they wish to achieve over the course of their semester at the Beeck Center, connecting them to their project and portfolio’s broader goals. The process is iterative, with the analyst and their supervisor working to identify not only the appropriate goals for the semester, but also the responsibilities of both the student and supervisor in meeting each goal. For example, Casey Doherty (College ‘20), works with me to support our Social Impact Navigator. She set the goal of improved communication through different mediums and for different audiences (the Navigator calls this Influential Communication & Collaboration). To help her reach that goal, I provided her with relevant opportunities while developing additional resources to enhance her abilities. For example, we’ve designed a Social Impact Storytelling workshop for this spring, to guide students on how to break from their usual academic style. 


Student Analysts in Action

Read first-hand reports from our student analysts on the work they’ve done.


Another aspect of the program that sets us apart from any old job, is that we provide workshops and team-building activities throughout the semester. In addition to our upcoming Social Impact Storytelling workshop, we’ll also be hosting a training session with Data + Digital Fellow Denice Ross giving students practical skills for creating and leveraging a LinkedIn profile, and navigating formal and informal networking opportunities. The Center’s open workspace serves as a great starting place for such a network, as students develop lasting relationships through team-building activities such as a National Archives field trip and kayaking on the Potomac. 

We encourage students to break down silos and bridge gaps through our Discern + Digest series, where students grapple with challenging questions and strive to discover their personal role in working towards the common good. This weekly series provides students an important opportunity to step back from their daily work activities and gain perspective on their actions through reflection and discernment. Given the busy lives we all lead – all too true at a place like Georgetown – putting away laptops and phones (D+D is a technology free zone) and talking through questions about identity, personal responsibility, personal motivation, and self-care, is incredibly valuable. Moreover, Discern + Digest helps students become comfortable not necessarily solving thorny questions, but rather unraveling them, leaving space for silence, discomfort, and uncertainty.

I’ve written this blog in conjunction with the Summer 2020 Student Analyst Program application launch because we hope to attract students who are interested in social impact, who want to apply themselves to our work, and with whom this concept of “more than just a job” resonates. We want to attract students interested in gaining skills for social impact leadership and developing a mindset that embraces reflection and is motivated towards the common good. For students thinking about their role in the greater social impact space and who are ready to immerse themselves in a unique learning opportunity while taking risks and being challenged, we look forward to seeing your applications and getting to know you this spring! 

Excited by this opportunity? APPLY NOW

January 22, 2020 | By Sheila Herrling and Audrey Voorhees

We are at an inflection point where the stakes are high to reimagine how capitalism and democracy work for everyone. Critical to that reimagination is a movement to evolve the thinking around the role of corporations in driving social impact at the scale that today’s challenges require. Milton Friedman’s notion that the only social responsibility of business is to maximize profit is increasingly being questioned by many, including investors, philanthropists, business leaders, policymakers, and perhaps most notably Millennials, who will represent the future workforce and consumers. People want to buy from, work for, invest in, and donate to companies that identify as social enterprises. Corporate CEOs stand poised to seize the greatest opportunity of their lifetime to deliver both greater financial returns and social returns at scale that could, quite literally, make the world a better, more equitable place.

That said, it’s complicated terrain. Accelerating the movement requires proof points of companies pursuing and achieving financial and social gains, how-to’s for those who are convinced of the value but don’t know where to start, and a solid understanding and appreciation of the counter-arguments.

As we set out to better understand the ideas, actors, flashpoints, and gaps in the corporate social impact (CSI) movement, we learned and built upon the work of others. You can see our full landscape analysis presentation here. As part of our work, we also pulled together what we feel is a “Must Read List” for anyone interested in the role corporates are and could be playing in driving social impact at scale and ensuring that capitalism works for all. We’ve done our best to share a diverse list of authors and viewpoints.

First, get situated in the early, foundational work; corporate social impact is not a new idea.

Second, make sure you understand all sides of the argument; you can’t advance a movement without knowing and truly appreciating all views.

On the pro side, we found these particularly interesting with…

…Compelling arguments 

…Key moments and decisions that served as flashpoints accelerating the movement

…A great new media series

…And many framed within the broader movement to reimagine Capitalism

On the counter-argument side, our thinking was informed by:

Third, understand the landscape of actors and activities that can drive the movement forward.

Once the foundational arguments were absorbed, we began to create the landscape of actors and plot them across a grouping of activities and historical flashpoints that were driving the movement forward. You can view that landscape analysis here. [link to the blog]. Among the gaps standing in the way of mainstreaming the movement, two seemed ripe to solve for in the near-term: how-to content for the already convinced, and the need for a uniform, involuntary impact measurement standard.

For those companies convinced of the need to embed social impact into their operations, there’s not a lot of public content out there. Here’s some we found useful and we hope to see more.

We are convinced that the movement will continue to stall without agreement on a uniform, involuntary impact measurement standard; here’s food for thought.

That’s our must list; for those wanting a deeper dive, here are some of the books on the topic that influenced our work. Dig in!

 

 


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Cover Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

 

January 15, 2020 | By Nate Wong, Sheila Herrling & Audrey Voorhees

As public trust of business and markets wanes, there’s an ever important call for everyone to play a critical role in reforming the system “so that it delivers prosperity for the many, rather than the few.” The Beeck Center has been observing the trends in the corporate social impact (CSI) space for the past few years as mainstream rhetoric has shifted from a shareholder to stakeholder-centric view of capitalism, most importantly seen in the recent United States Business Roundtable announcement

The question remains, where does the CSI movement stand and where do we go from here? As a “grasstop” player, the Center links grassroot and institutional efforts poised for action, and puts our energy toward the messy infrastructure work that can accelerate and sustain positive social impact movements like corporate social impact. It’s what we’d call “Impact at Scale.”


CSI Defined: The increasing recognition that corporations need to rethink their role in society and embed social purpose into their business model in order to manage risk, maintain market share, and secure competitive advantage. For those more bullish, you could be more specific that purpose will drive higher profit.


We set out to explore the topic – who is doing what – and to identify gaps in the CSI landscape that require concentrated action to accelerate impact at scale. My colleagues Sheila Herrling and Audrey Voorhees conducted this analysis to consider potential roles for the Center, but believe it serves as a “global public good” for all interested parties to help move this movement forward.  

Analysis highlights include:

  • The CSI movement arguably began over 12  years ago… with at least 11 key flashpoint events that have been foundational in building momentum, but there is still more work to do to tip the movement. 
  • 22 actors stand at the forefront of accelerating this movement and their efforts are worth looking out for.
  • There are 4 major gaps standing in the way of mainstreaming this movement that require attention.

We have 7 gap-closing ideas. Dive deeper here.

Our hope is that this will ground people’s understanding no matter where you may sit in the space – a corporation finding its position relative to others, a policymaker navigating the shifting system, or an academic seeking to teach business through a more current lens – and empower coordination.

With all of the Beeck Center’s work, we pair learners and expert practitioners. Watch MBA candidate and Student Analyst Audrey Voorhees’ capstone presentation as she shares her own journey and some of the research highlights.

Engage with us. 

This is our first pass at creating a comprehensive landscape analysis of the corporate social impact movement. As a community of practitioners driving impact at scale, we want this analysis to provide value along the learning continuum, from initiate to expert. How does this analysis resonate with you? And the market? We’d love your feedback.

The potential for corporates to drive social impact is scale is enormous. If partnerships can be leveraged, strategic alliances formed and critical gaps in the movement filled, this movement just might tip!

Sheila Herrling is a Fellow at the Beeck Center, where she pursues initiatives in impact investing and measurement, inclusive entrepreneurship and social innovation at scale.

Audrey Voorhees is a Student Analyst at the Beeck Center. She is currently pursuing an MBA at the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business.

Nate Wong serves as the Interim Executive Director at the Beeck Center, where he leads the Center’s pursuits and thinking on social impact at scale across its major portfolios. He previously helped launch social impact units at Boston Consulting Group and Deloitte Consulting LLP.


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Interim Executive Director Nate Wong shares his vision of the Beeck Center’s mission.  

Solving complex social problems requires a joint effort across partners. Impact at scale goes beyond growing the efforts of any one organization or program, instead demanding collaboration within a system of players and groups. As Nate Wong takes the helm at the Beeck Center with founding Executive Director Sonal Shah’s leave of absence, he shares the Center’s reinvigorated mission and program goals. 

The Beeck Center’s mission is simple yet ambitious: we exist to help scale social impact globally. This goes beyond replicating the success of a single organization or program. Impact at scale requires cross-collaboration and ultimately behavior change. Societal problems are increasingly complex and cannot be solved in silos. Business, government, and social programs alone will not be able to fully address these issues. We need models where collaboration can flourish, and a new way of training people to adequately solve these intractable problems, using the tools of interdisciplinary and experiential education.

The Beeck Center solves these two needs as an experiential hub located at Georgetown University. To spur greater impact, we hold up scalable models where multiple sectors are solving societal problems. We do this through our two portfolios, fair finance and data + digital, which house our projects that we incubate and eventually scale out of the Center. Using our perch at Georgetown University, we serve as a truth-teller and impact broker to showcase truly emergent impact models and the leaders making an impact through their work. We also are a training ground for students, teaching them the importance of a human-centered, interdisciplinary problem solving approach. Through our experiential programs connected to our real-world problems and our world-class problem solving practitioners, we prepare students with the tools to truly make an impact now and into the future.  

I am excited for the fall not just because students will be coming back to campus, but also because we will be showcasing the full breadth of what we have been incubating over the past few months. A few highlights include:

  • New models for how local governments can better collaborate and use the power of people-centered design and technology to better improve services like foster care or disaster relief. 
  • Emergent collaborations around how investors/ developers can responsibly deploy capital to designated locales called Opportunity Zones.
  • Piloted navigation tools to help students better navigate the impact space by cataloging key skillsets and mechanisms for the 21st century leader.

This is an exciting time here at the Beeck Center, and I’m looking forward to sharing updates throughout the year.

July 18, 2019

Dear Friend of the Beeck Center:

I am writing to let you know about an upcoming leadership transition at the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation. Sonal Shah, founding Executive Director, will be taking a leave of absence from the Beeck Center and Georgetown University to become the national policy director for the Pete Buttigieg presidential campaign. Sonal has done a tremendous job of establishing the Center internally and externally and has recruited a stellar management and research team to lead the Beeck Center. After five years (see our origin story), the Beeck Center is well known and respected at Georgetown for its forward-leaning research and for training students on social impact. We hope in Sonal’s new role she can infuse some of the Beeck Center’s leading-edge ideas around finance and leveraging data and government digital services into future policy.

To ensure a smooth transition process, Board Chair Alberto Beeck and I have asked Nate Wong, the current Managing Director, to assume the role of Interim Executive Director. Nate is already leading implementation of the Beeck Center’s strategy focused on “impact at scale” as well as creating structures and processes to help scale the work of the Center. Nate brings more than 13 years of expertise in the social impact space from the private, public, and non-profit sectors, including more recently launching two social impact units at leading consulting firms, and will continue to build on the Center’s past successes. The Beeck Center’s research leads will closely support Nate’s leadership. They include Lisa Hall who leads the finance portfolio and brings more than 25 years of expertise in impact finance, and Cori Zarek, former Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer, who leads our portfolio on responsible data use and government digital service delivery. The Beeck Center’s Director of Student Engagement, Matt Fortier, will continue to integrate our leading-edge ecosystem ideas with our student engagement efforts.

Nate and Sonal walking through Georgetown University’s campus on their way to the Beeck Center. Picture taken by Student Analyst, Estefania Ciliotta.

With Nate as Interim Executive Director, Alberto and I will ensure that the Beeck Center continues to play an important role in our efforts across the University, including our growing Tech & Society Initiative, and to promote our research efforts and brand externally.

Our work is further bolstered by the addition of two new Beeck Center board members, Courtney O’Donnell and Olivier Brousse. Courtney is a Georgetown alumna and Director of Strategic Engagements and Planning at Airbnb. Oliver is the CEO of John Laing Group plc. We are excited that both are joining as we further grow our efforts to scale impact through leadership in finance and data and digital services.

We appreciate your continued support of our work and our mission. Please see our latest insights around “Growing The Government Service Delivery Movement” and how our “Opportunity Zones Investor Council Develops New Approaches to Community Investment” and stay connected through our newsletter.

Please join me in congratulating both Sonal and Nate on their new respective roles.

Sincerely,

Robert Groves

Provost, Georgetown University

Get involved at the Beeck Center by signing up for our newsletter and visiting our latest insights:

Growing The Government Service Delivery Movement – What’s next for the government service delivery movement? Growth. Find out how Director of the Digital Service Collaborative, Cori Zarek is bringing teams across public, private and government sectors to help fill the gaps.
Opportunity Zones Investor Council Developed New Approaches to Community Investment – Beeck Center gathers Opportunity Zone Investor Council Members to discuss implementing best practices for engaging the community as an investor.

July 1, 2019 | Forrest Gertin

On June 3, the Beeck Center welcomed its largest Student Analyst program cohort ever! 16 student analysts have joined us from as far away as Peru and China for the summer semester.  The Beeck Center’s Student Analyst program is designed as an experiential learning experience for students who are interested in social impact at scale. This program provides students, thought-leaders, and academics a common space to dream, break rules, collaborate across disciplines, and ideate solutions for rethinking the social sector. Students are paired with a Beeck Center fellow or staff member to work on projects ranging from Righting the Rules for Shared Prosperity to developing workshop methodology on social impact scaling. Get to know our summer 2019 cohort and what they are working on below.

2019 Summer Student Analysts Cohort by The Numbers

  • They hail from 9 different countries: Bangladesh, China, France, India, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Spain and the United States.
  • 6 are current undergraduate students.
  • 7 are current graduate students.
  • 2 have completed their graduate degree programs.
  • 1 has completed their undergraduate degree program.
  • They have earned or are pursuing degrees in fields as varied as Chemical Engineering, International Political Economy, Social Enterprise, and Experience Design.
  • 12 are enrolled at or earned degrees from Georgetown. HOYA SAXA!
  • The 4 non-Hoyas study at American University, Brown University, Northeastern University and Northwestern University.

What are they working on? 

Digital Service Collaborative

Student analysts are supporting the Digital Service Collaborative (DSC) in building a body of research around government digital services, creating tangible resources for practitioners and cultivating the community of digital service leaders in governments to share and scale efforts. Students are also supporting the DSC’s work on data collaboratives and multi-party data sharing by exploring policy considerations around ethics and privacy. 

Opportunity Zones Investor Council

Some of our student analysts worked with the Opportunity Zones team to launch the Opportunity Zone Investor Council. The Council includes 15 fund managers, developers, and investors working in urban and rural communities to drive impact through Opportunity Zones. Their work has included supporting membership outreach, developing communication materials, and managing event logistics. They’ve also researched past tax incentives to discover best practices and lessons learned that their team, and investors, can apply to Opportunity Zones investing.

Student Passport Project

Student analysts on the student engagement team are working to help students navigate their social impact journey. Their work centers around identifying the core characteristics of a 21st Century Social Impact Leader, and determining the myriad pathways that students can take to develop and apply those skills. Their work will give students a clear model to reference as they chart their own course towards a social impact career that incorporates their individual passions.

To learn more about our current cohort of student analysts, click here. If you’re interested in joining our student analyst team for Fall 2019, sign up for our newsletter. Applications currently aren’t open but we will send out an announcement when they are with more information.

June 7, 2019 | John Heffern

Today public funding of essential services is shrinking, creating significant challenges.  But there is a solution: public-private partnerships to drive bottom-up change. Enterprise-led development and partnerships can jumpstart innovation, inclusiveness, environmental sustainability, and shared prosperity.  

While serving as Ambassador to Armenia, my wife’s and my interest in Armenian archeology led to a major, multi-stake-holder, multi-million dollar public private partnership to promote rural development, entrepreneurship and innovation.  New enterprises are springing up in fruit processing and crafts. Rural sites, such as Armenia’s unique Areni Cave (below), are contributing to tourism and other rural job creation programs.

Areni Cave: Earliest Known Wine Making Vessels, Photo by Gregory Areshian, UCLA

Now, at Georgetown’s Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation and Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, I promote such bottom up change by fostering engagement and partnerships among embassies, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship organizations.  As entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship evolve to include more hybrid for profit and not for profit models, we seek to help drive that activity in a positive direction.   

I am connecting entrepreneurs with foreign embassies in Washington and U.S. embassies abroad.  This is uncontested market space, where little is being done to demonstrate to embassies and organizations the potential for mutually beneficial partnerships.  The partnerships are natural because the missions of our embassies and the entrepreneurship organizations overlap in fundamental ways. All these organizations can double their impact through enterprise-led development and partnerships.     

1. Linking our missions. The Department of State and U.S. embassies have long sought to shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress.   At least five key American entrepreneurship groups have similar missions:

  • Ashoka: Support social entrepreneurs with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social, cultural, and environmental challenges. 
  • Echoing Green: Support visionaries around the world who are transforming their communities, addressing economic development, racial and gender equity, and environmental sustainability.
  • Endeavor:  Create a world in which the most valuable & influential companies of our time are those solving humanity’s most pressing challenges. 
  • Unreasonable Goals:  Support the most effective entrepreneurial solutions in the world towards each of the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Global Good Fund: Invest in leadership development to promote enterprise growth and achieve global good.

2. Creating Partnerships. I am building on these related missions to foster joint efforts.  To do this, I have initiated opportunities for embassies and organizations to meet and explore their shared goals and interests.

  • In March, I helped bring together the U.S. and Norwegian embassies, the Chamber of Commerce, and entrepreneurs from Ashoka and Unreasonable Goals to seek opportunities for collaboration.  
  • In April at the Spanish Embassy, I connected more than two dozen entrepreneurs with embassy and foreign trade personnel to help them double their impact through partnership.  

At both events, lively discussion unearthed several suggestions for changes in foreign assistance policy that could help promote entrepreneurship overseas.  Follow-up meetings to deepen collaboration are in the works. One common theme was the need for European embassies and governments to loosen restrictions on working with for profit social businesses to facilitate partnerships.  At our urging, French and EU officials agreed to look into this suggestion at a round table discussion on social entrepreneurship at the DC-based residence of Halcyon Incubator in April.  France is hosting a major summit on Social Entrepreneurship in July.

3. Building trust between embassies and entrepreneurs. I have devoted the last ten years of my Foreign Service and post-Foreign Service career to building this trust and creating these ties. Let me give one example.  In 2014, as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, I helped The Global Good Fund get established in the country and the region.  I invited the group to local community events and introduced them to key people to further social entrepreneurship in Armenia. Perhaps most effective, was a salon-style event hosted at my residence, which helped launch The Global Good Fund and other social entrepreneurship groups in Armenia and beyond.

Now at Georgetown, I am promoting these partnerships around the world.   Africa, as the continent with the world’s second fastest economic growth rate and fastest youth population growth, holds tremendous potential for entrepreneurs from around the world.  Enterprise-led development and social entrepreneurship have real potential to create jobs with positive social and environmental impact. We are taking advantage of several important near-term Africa-related opportunities to boost this potential and build trust.     

In May, the Department of State hosted a major two-day event on growth, investment and entrepreneurship in Ethiopia.  Government and embassy officials, investors, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship organizations used this opportunity to seek areas for collaboration and mutual benefit.  During this conference, we brought the key stake-holders to Georgetown to foster dialogue and brain-storm about next steps. One take-away was recognition of the tremendous work being done by Echoing Green to promote social entrepreneurship in East Africa and the desire to collaborate.  After the meeting, we linked Echoing Green’s leaders with Ethiopian Government officials, U.S. Embassy leaders and the key NGOs that sponsored the event.

Ethiopia Partnership Forum: Mortara Center, Georgetown

The U.S. Embassy in Togo, a leader in the State Department on social entrepreneurship promotion, hosted an important conference on the movement last year.  We participated in the program, and the excitement that it generated, led the embassy to host a three week boot camp for social entrepreneurs from five West African countries in June this year.   The strong response of local entrepreneurs to these events demonstrates the growing collaboration and trust between the key groups and officials involved.

4. Improving the entrepreneurial environment. The major entrepreneurship event of the year has been the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), co-hosted since 2009 by the United States and another country.  In June, we partnered with the Netherlands on GES2019, which was held in The Hague. Over two days, thousands of government officials and private sector leaders explored ways to advance the impact of entrepreneurship in five key areas:  agriculture, water, energy, health and connectivity. During the summit, we did what we could to build trust, promote partnerships, and improve the climate for entrepreneurship around the world, drawing on the lessons we have learned from this effort.

5. Expanding the vision of our students. A key element of the project has been the tremendous contribution of our Georgetown student volunteers.  Eight graduate and undergraduate students provided essential research on the state of entrepreneurship in the relevant countries, helped organize the events and drafted action plans.  None of the students had prior exposure to social entrepreneurship, so the learning curve has been steep and the experience rewarding. Together, they are working through the stages of the Beeck Center’s student engagement framework – Learn, Explore, Act and Partner.  We are building a cadre of committed and talented young people to help shape the social entrepreneurship movement around the world for years to come.

As this project moves into its second year, I will increasingly use these meetings and events to deepen the policy dialogue on enterprise-led development around the world and produce concrete outcomes. Through public-private partnerships, each organization and stake-holder will be able to double its impact as it seeks to accomplish its social, economic and environmental goals. I thank the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy and the Beeck Center for giving me the opportunity to pursue this work.