Empowering the Future of Social Impact
Carrie Rich is the co-founder and CEO of The Global Good Fund, a nonprofit organization that supports high potential social entrepreneurs in more than 25 countries globally, collectively serving 339,000 beneficiaries.
Could you tell us a little bit more about The Global Good Fund and what it’s all about?
Global Good Fund is a nonprofit organization that was created to identify and accelerate the leadership development of social entrepreneurs. And these are young people with a business idea that they’ve created and launched to address a social issue of our time. And they’ve already taken a dive from the airplane and are building a parachute on the way down. So, they’re in the midst of having created this business and they’ve gone to market or done a pilot and they’re ready to scale what they’re doing. And Global Good Fund comes in and provides a year-long fellowship program for mentoring, support, and financial capital. And my background is that I was mentored by my former boss in healthcare. And I thought, “How lucky am I to get to work for someone who, at the time was CEO of a multi-billion-dollar company, and I thought if we could pair other young people like me, with seasoned business executives who have hearts of gold, and put together those two groups of people as a catalyst for good, imagine the positive impact we could create for the world. And so that’s where the Global Good Fund came to life.
How did you go from wanting to kind of make such a great impact and change the world and all of that to actually doing it?
My background is in healthcare, and when you’re in health care, you try to improve the health of one patient at a time. And then you look at that in the context of one health system, or one community and then the world. And then you look at that in the context so it was a lot of long hours and a lot of failures and some successes that led to the Global Good Fund. But I think the idea is if we could identify a high potential leader, that leader can have a ripple effect on his or her community. And so we started really by not letting perfection be the enemy of the good. And we started reaching out to leaders, social entrepreneurs through social media, and reaching out to seasoned business executives. And what we found is it really only takes one person to get started. You can find one person who’s willing to mentor and one entrepreneur who wants to be mentored. And that’s where it all started. And once we started building a track record, other people wanted to be part of something that was greater than themselves.
What would you say you look for in a potential fellow, and what qualifies them to start this journey with Global Good Fund?
We look all over the world to find extraordinary people who have started a company and sustained it for usually between two and five years. And again, they’ve already started their businesses, they’re committed full time to their social enterprises. So, they’re really hard-working, they have strong values, and they’re also humble and coachable. Meaning, they want to take feedback on how they can do even better. Those are all the things they are, what they’re looking for, or what they may not be as well connected in terms of a network of people and resources to help them grow. And so we want to know regardless of where your business is today, do you have a fire in your eye and hunger in your belly to make the world a better place? And if we can give you a platform to do that, do you have the humility to grow? So, we’re really looking for entrepreneurs who are full time committed to their enterprises and who have a sense of I want to do better, I can do better, and I’m willing to take feedback to help grow my leadership, which will, in turn, grow my social enterprise.
As you mentioned Global Good Fund’s original focus was social entrepreneurs from a younger demographic. What do we gain by investing in the younger demographic?
Our original founding idea is to create a significant impact, both domestically and globally. And when we focus on young people, who are in their earlier stages of leadership, we have a longer time horizon to create a ripple effect of social positive change for generations to come. We also launched a program that ran for three years to invest in entrepreneurs over 50. Because we know that being able to deliver positive social change isn’t limited to young people, of course. But our underpinning philosophy is to invest in people who have a long time horizon to positively impact society.
Whose responsibility would you say is it to empower these young social entrepreneurs? How do we ignite their drive and push them forward?
I actually think social entrepreneurs are very ignited. I think what I’m seeing is that there’s not an equal platform for where these entrepreneurs are coming from. Be it socioeconomic background, or gender or race, or any kind of privilege that or lack thereof that these entrepreneurs backgrounds afford them. And so what we do is try to support underrepresented communities not exclusively, but that’s 70% of the entrepreneurs we support are people of color, 50% are women. And we have veterans, people, with disabilities, LGBTQ. We have people who don’t have formal academic backgrounds who it supports. So, the point is that it really doesn’t matter what your background is. There’s lots of people with amazing ideas and there’s not access to the resources and the platform to scale those businesses is not equal. And so we try to create a more equitable world by surrounding these entrepreneurs with resources and mentoring to be able to take their businesses to the next level.
You can’t put it [the responsibility] on one institution or one part of the system. What I have noticed is that when one entrepreneur receives the message from one other person in power, in a powerful role ‘I believe in you’, it can change the entrepreneur’s complete mindset in terms of what they’re capable of. And to get that message of ‘I believe in you’ from someone who’s been a wildly successful business person, in this case, makes entrepreneurs think, ‘Wow, no matter where I’ve come from this person believes in me and I can change the world.’ And so whether it comes from the school environment, or parents or businesses or mentors, we all have a role to play there. So, we can’t pin it on one part of the system, we all need to be part of the solution. And it’s a really long term solution because growing businesses for social impact takes time.
How would you say you’re working to fulfill your [Global Good Fund’s] mission during these various current events?
What we’ve seen in the last few weeks is that whether it’s a pandemic, or crisis, regarding race, there are always going to be issues and major problems. And social entrepreneurs are well poised to address the greatest challenges of our time. And so in the case of COVID-19, one way the Global Good Fund has supported social entrepreneurs through the pandemic was we created a survive and thrive fund. And the first thing we did is we asked our entrepreneurs, we asked 27 current fellows and 100 plus alumni to understand how is this pandemic impacting your work. And 80-87% of the respondents said that running out of cash was their biggest concern. And so in response, we launched what we call the survive and thrive fund to rapidly deploy funding to our fellows and alumni. And the funds were distributed directly to the entrepreneurs to help cover rent, salaries, and crisis planning. Now, that times have shifted and we see, first of all, I think COVID-19 has exacerbated the racial issues that you’re seeing erupt that have been going on for hundreds of years.
So, we believe that our role right now is to stand in solidarity, which is the first thing we did, and then secondly, we listened. So, we have been listening, which is why the numbers in terms of 70% of people of color are the people who we support, that’s why our numbers are what they are. We pick the best entrepreneurs that we can find, and when you do that, you support diversity by default. So our board reflects that, our staff reflects that and not just with regard to race, but also other measures of diversity, including disabilities, veterans, age, gender, and sex, LGBTQ, etc., disabilities. We need to listen, we need to recognize who we are and stand for our values and right now we’re in a place with regard to race and listening and responding to the community’s needs as the community tells us what they are. And that has changed in the face of current events.
How is your program specifically targeted to reach its greatest potential for both the young leaders who join and for the organization as a whole because maybe [the goals are] not always synchronized.
Global Good Fund receives thousands of applications a year for a very limited number of fellowship positions. And so a large part of how we increase our impact is by serving as connectors. Our fellows are part of a global cohort of social entrepreneurs. What the Global Good Fund does is facilitates regular interaction among our fellows and alumni. So, our fellows are encouraged to engage each other, the alumni, we have content experts who are all tackling leadership development challenges. And then the Global Good Fund intentionally connects our fellows with content experts to address specific functional or sector or geographic issues based on the fellow’s needs. We believe that by connecting the fellows to one another, we’re expanding our impact for the fellows and for our organization. Global Good Fund’s philosophy is around a ripple effect that if we can invest in the right people, and help them connect with each other, they’ll create a ripple effect that’s even bigger.
Where do you see the Global Good Fund at five to 10 years down the road? Do you see yourself doing this on a larger scale? Or is there a different path or maybe other programs that you see including in the future?
We intend to grow. And by that, we aim to support more entrepreneurs in a variety of sectors. Right now we see that occurring in continuing and increasingly representing support for under providing support for underrepresented communities which we have been doing and will continue to do especially after we listen to hear how most effectively to do that. So, continue to support underrepresented entrepreneurs coming from underrepresented communities will continue to support entrepreneurs as they grow in fields related to sustainable environments, health, education, women entrepreneurs, we’re continuing to support veteran entrepreneurs. And we see an opportunity for Global Good Fund to provide more resources for leadership development to entrepreneurs outside of our fellowship program. We have a sister company that provides impact investment capital to some of the entrepreneurs that come out of the program as well as entrepreneurs who don’t go through the fellowship. We think that’s another opportunity for the Global Good Fund to expand how we continue to support social entrepreneurs.
What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to be a social entrepreneur?
I try not to give people too much advice, because I’m still figuring everything out myself. But in terms of what’s worked well, for me, I would say investing in myself has been really important. Investing in my own leadership development has been really important before asking anyone else to invest in me. So, when I go to ask other people to invest in me, I’ve already spent time and money investing in myself. And then I can say, “Hi, will you join me in investing in me and I commit to serving other people.” So, that’s one method that’s served me well. The second aspect I would just share, in terms of my own development, has been resilience and you get knocked down, especially as a social entrepreneur. You just never know what challenges you’ll be facing, so it’s important to remember your goals and why we’re working toward these goals and to continue to push forward on them, especially when it’s difficult.
If you don’t know where to start, where would be a good place if you are looking to become a social entrepreneur?
I think a lot of people assume that you have to travel the world, get really educated, do a bunch of startups and that’s the path to becoming a social entrepreneur. And the reality is, there is no one path and I’m most impressed by the entrepreneurs who do something whether it be innovating from a social impact standpoint within their existing school environments or places of work, being sort of an ‘intrapreneur’ or learning, reading up and just talking to people and really listening about what the social challenges of our time may be and what’s my role to play in that. I found it really useful to connect with people who I aspire to emulate and who I think are really making a difference. If I couldn’t connect personally, to watch videos about them, read what they are putting out into the world.
The next thought process I would have is, find something that makes you mad. Find something that you’re upset about that you think this has to be different. This has to be better. Because the number of times you get knocked down makes it so important that you’re willing to stand up and keep getting up in the face of challenge. I think when you find something that really makes you upset, you’re more apt to keep wanting to get up. So, find something that’s upsetting to you and research the people who are making a difference in that space and learn from them and then ask what you can do to be helpful. I think when you ask what you can do to help, it doesn’t matter how much help it is, it matters that you’re doing something, anything, no matter how small is making the world a better place. That’s what matters: that you’re taking a step in the right direction.
Before I ask our final question, I wanted to leave the floor open to anything you’d like to say or ask.
What I have appreciated especially right now is how important different perspectives are and how important the people we surround ourselves– how important it is to surround ourselves with different kinds of people. And I really believe that if we’re going to be truly positively impacting the world, long term, we need to surround ourselves with all different kinds of people who lend different perspectives to how we approach making the world a better place. I think I’ve personally benefited from doing that in terms of my own leadership because, in part, it makes it really hard because not everyone has the same opinion. The same situation can unfold, and there’s all these different opinions. I think it makes me a stronger leader because of the people I’ve surrounded myself with, and the different perspectives that they have. I can’t say enough, especially right now, rather than trying to figure out what the solution is, figure out who you’re spending your time with. Who are you surrounded by? And for me, that’s been a really compelling thought exercise and one I’m actually pleased with who I’m surrounded by. And I think it makes me a better person and hopefully a better leader.
As a leader, what would you recommend to other social entrepreneur leaders?
Honestly, if I were in that setting, and when I am in that setting, I tend to listen. I think that would probably be my recommendation because there is so much to learn about how we can do better. Most people who are social entrepreneurs, genuinely, you make a lot of personal sacrifices to do this kind of work. And most people who I’ve interacted– have had the pleasure of interacting with their intentions and heart are in the right place. And our job is to listen. And so that would be my ask of the other thought leaders, when you get identified as a thought leader, the natural inclination is to want to share your ideas. And the truth is that we’d all be better off if we took some time listening, especially to people who maybe aren’t deemed thought leaders yet but are clearly thought leaders in there– on the front lines of their communities.
Now our final question: What concerns you about the world? What gives you hope?
I hope that the crises that we’ve experienced these last few weeks and months highlight how interconnected we all are. And I think it’s both a major challenge and an incredible opportunity. When we can realize that a threat to someone on another side of the planet who looks at eats and prays and speaks differently from what I may look like and that that person is connected to me in some way. And I should be concerned about that person’s welfare and health and everything else; it helps me understand and it should help all of us understand how interconnected we are and the world is global. And I think from the standpoint of Global Good Fund, that’s why we were founded is that we believe there’s a global world out there, and that we have an opportunity to learn from each other and help each other and the opportunity that when things go wrong, they will go wrong around the world. And racism in the US looks a little different. It might be tribalism in another part of the world, but it exists in different forms all over the world. And when we can learn from each other what works in one society, we have the opportunity to spread across the world global good.
Ms. Rich has co-authored two books on leadership, the first of which became a Top 5 Business Book in Germany. She previously served as adjunct faculty at Georgetown University and currently teaches at George Washington University in Washington, DC.
Ms. Rich is the 2016 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, recipient of the POLITICO Women Who Rule Award, 2018 Enterprising Women Awardee, Washington Business Journal 40 under 40, Entrepreneur.com Top 30 Start-ups to Watch, Stevie Award for Women in Business, Asian Social Innovation CEO of the Year, Social Enterprise Alliance 50 under 40, and Empact100 awardee. Ms. Rich has been published in media outlets such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, HuffingtonPost, The Founder Institute, and Philanthropy News Digest. She sits on both nonprofit and for-profit boards, co-owns ROMAN retail boutique, and volunteers globally teaching fundraising for social impact to aspiring social entrepreneurs.