Njideka Françoise Harry is working with leading entrepreneurs who have made a big, positive impact in their industry and who want to make an equally transformative impact on society. An experienced entrepreneur-for-good and philanthropy advisor, Njideka is a Leadership Group Member and Vice President, Strategic Entrepreneurship Relationships, where she oversees "Entrepreneur-to-Entrepreneur," an exclusive network of high-impact entrepreneurs who partner with Ashoka's most powerful social entrepreneurs to change the way people harness their social, political, financial and intellectual capital to create lasting systemic change.
A serial social entrepreneur and an Ashoka Fellow, Njideka started her first social business, a neighborhood bakery, at the age of 12. She experienced first-hand how such enterprises sit at the inflection point of market and social norms – as a transactional business requiring an understanding of non-market values that regulated operational behavior. Most Ashoka Fellows have their first changemaking experience in their early teens. Those who signaled that they started something noteworthy in their teens are four times more likely to be entrepreneurs.
At 25, Njideka founded Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF), an education technology citizen sector organization. YTF leverages appropriate technology for education and entrepreneurship, replacing economic disparity with economic opportunity. Since founding YTF, Njideka has built several award-winning initiatives that leverage technology for good, while bridging digital and gender inequities.
A Fellow at the World Economic Forum, Njideka serves on the Civil Society and Future of Work committee. She has served on the Kellogg Advisory Council and is currently in the Pete Henderson Society of Northwestern University. She is an advisory board member of the Alliance for Affordable Internet, an expert contributor for the prosperity index at the Legatum Institute in the UK and is on the Global Advisory Council of TWIN Tech. Prior to working in social impact and philanthropy, Njideka began her corporate career at GE Capital and Microsoft traveling and working out of offices in Europe, Africa, and North America.
Njideka earned her Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a Master of Business Administration from Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management. She completed post-graduate studies at Stanford University, where she was a Reuters Digital Vision Fellow.
From Influence to Social Impact: Mobilizing Resources for Good
Over the past two years, the world’s wealthiest people grew their wealth by one third, despite mounting global crises like climate change and Covid-19. Some high-wealth entrepreneurs desire to use their resources to address the crises we face. To make a positive difference. And perhaps, to be just as successful at social impact as they have been in business.
There has never been a better time to adopt a changemaker mindset. Now more than ever, our cities and communities need leadership, innovation, and creative problem solving—just the kinds of things successful entrepreneurs can help provide.
The goal to engage highly resourced individuals in the changemaker movement extends beyond finding effective solutions; it centers on identifying a deeper sense of purpose—a purpose that will drive a lifetime of social impact.
Working Towards Systemic Change
Purpose is at the heart of a new report, “Influence for Good,” by Ashoka and McKinsey, along with Echoing Green, Generation Pledge, and Catalyst 2030. It focuses on “highly resourced individuals” (HRIs) and argues that those with access to large resources can be particularly powerful in creating systemic change. In other words, not simply addressing symptoms, but tackling the root causes of the inequality and other problems that strain our societies today.
At the same time, there is a growing desire among HRIs to deploy their resources for the benefit of all.
For those HRIs who are already actively working towards systemic change, this engagement “became part of their identity, and they derived a sense of purpose, belonging, and liberation from their work. They reported very positive impacts on their wellbeing, especially mentally and emotionally,” the report explains.
In short, mobilizing individuals’ resources for social impact is both needed, effective, and incredibly rewarding.
Engaging resources effectively
So, how to do this well? If someone is extremely successful at building businesses, but perhaps less experienced in effecting social change, how can they engage their resources in such a way that it ensures the greatest social return on investment?
We found two crucial answers:
1) Engaging the full suite of one’s available resources, rather than focusing exclusively on monetary donations.
2) Working in collaborative partnerships, particularly with those who are already “doing the work.”
Seeing beyond the money
Too often, philanthropic initiatives focus solely on donors’ financial resources. The mindset is “Give us your money, and we’ll do the rest.”
This is a mistake. Any one individual’s impact will be far greater if they engage not just financial but also other types of resources. This includes social, political, and intellectual capital.
Just as importantly, the singular focus on financial resources denies people’s desire and ability to have an impact beyond just donating money.
Simply put, entrepreneurs used the full suite of their resources to become successful in business. Why do it any other way when it comes to achieving social impact? Why settle for simply donating and standing on the sidelines, when being actively engaged is not just more effective, but also far more rewarding?
Working in collaborative partnerships
This brings us to the second insight on effective engagement: no one individual can succeed on their own. This is true in business, and it is perhaps even more so when it comes to achieving systemic change.
The good news is that nearly every major issue in this world already has people working to address it. Often with solutions that are rooted in a deep understanding and lived experiences.
What we need are collaborations between those who are already working on solutions, and those who can provide the necessary resources to amplify their impact.
These types of partnerships not only ensure the most effective “bang for your buck”—they also provide an avenue for deploying non-financial resources in a highly targeted way.
The main challenge is that this is easier said than done. Selecting the right people and solutions to support takes time, patience, and a specific type of know-how.
That’s where additional partnerships come in.
Practical examples from Ashoka’s E2 network
Ashoka alone supports nearly 4,000 social entrepreneurs around the world. With our Entrepreneur-to-Entrepreneur Network, or E2 Network, we bring these social entrepreneurs together with successful business entrepreneurs. Sharing the same future vision and enterprising DNA, they achieve greater impact when working together.
Ashoka facilitates these collaborations and adds both practical and theoretical know-how. In doing so, we prevent reinventing the wheel and help to direct resources where they have the greatest impact.
Take the story of Anne Wojcicki, co-founder and CEO of 23andMe. Anne supports the work of Ashoka Fellow Sunitha Krishnan, whose organization Prajwala has rescued over 24,000 women and girls from human trafficking in India. Anne visited Sunitha to see her work firsthand and is supporting her and other Ashoka Fellows with financial resources, insights, and her network.
Brian Kim, Chairman and Founder of the South Korean tech giant Kakao, found a cause to support much closer to home, in the work of Ashoka Fellow Hye-Shin Chung. Her work enables ordinary citizens to help the people around them overcome trauma, as well as grow the country’s mental health awareness. Connecting with her inspired Brian to support her work directly, and also to collaborate with Ashoka on a multi-million dollar initiative in South Korea that brings innovators together around the future of education.
Collaborate to amplify your social impact
The experiences of Anne Wojcicki, Brian Kim, and others illustrate the mutual benefits of collaborations. Combining the world’s best minds in business and social enterprise, committed to the good of all and with the same ethical standards, brings enormous power.
With the E2 Network, we identify and select founding entrepreneurs with a hunger to lead these kinds of systems-changing ideas. We provide the framework for you to design and implement your vision, collaborate with our network of social entrepreneurs, and transform your—and their—community.
Together, we work towards a world where everyone can be a changemaker.
Ashoka has over 40 years of experience in reimagining social impact and philanthropy. Through Ashoka’s Entrepreneur-to-Entrepreneur Network, we partner with philanthropists around the world to maximize their impact. To learn more, please contact Njideka Françoise Harry, Global VP, Strategic Entrepreneurship Relationships at [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Medium.