Bhavna Sivanand (’14) is the director of social innovation initiatives at the Price Center. With a background in public health, Bhavna is now merging her passion for making impact on a large scale with her business degree from Anderson. She has spoken about her passions in public health and the impact of projects she’s contributed to in various conferences, including TEDx Anderson. For more information on social impact at UCLA Anderson, visit the new website.
Tell us about your background and what inspires you about social innovation?
My background prior to business school was in public health. Coming out of undergrad, I was a biology and psychology double major, but instead of going the Medical route I started working locally and globally in public health. I was interested in having a population and policy level impact, and spent a lot of time figuring out how to distribute the burden of improving health across multiple sectors, including public, non-profit/non-governmental and private.
My work on various public-private partnerships led me to see the type of impact the corporate sector has on people and I started to explore how this impact could be used to improve social outcomes. I came to Anderson to learn how social innovation could benefit businesses, and so working at Anderson as the social innovation director seemed like a natural joining of my previous experience with my current interests.
I chose LA because there’s a lot of innovation happening in California. I wanted to merge my passion in global health with business principles. I was inspired by the rigor of the curriculum here at Anderson, and the ability to collaborate with like-minded professionals to create a better world to live in.
How would you describe your responsibilities as director of social innovation initiatives?
I manage social innovation programs for the Price Center at Anderson. What that means is essentially any program that enables the business world to create a social impact. Social innovation refers to any innovation (process, product, or program) that addresses and attempts to solve the most complex problems of our society in an effort to create positive social, environmental and economic change. You’ve probably heard of things like triple bottom lines, benefit corporations, mission-driven businesses, one-for-one, corporate citizenship, impact investing, social enterprises – these are all part of the solution. There’s a trend towards shifting corporations to think about more than just an economic impact, and my role is to promote thought leadership, partnerships and experiential opportunities for students at Anderson.
I’d like to put Anderson at the forefront of the discussion. We have the opportunity to shape the future generation of leaders, and stay ahead of the curve in the shifting role of business.
What are some of your goals to make an impact at Anderson?
I believe Anderson can help expose students to the ideologies of other graduate programs here. This helps break down silos. Sharing mindsets across disciplines makes it easier to work across different sectors! The more we learn to think in different ways, the more we can innovate and solve crucial problems.
The biggest change now is that consumers are increasingly connected through social media. Never before has a consumer had so much power in communicating with corporations. This increased transparency leads to a global society, and prompts us to think about the global footprint that each corporation has. It’s important to think about the net positive impact as much as possible.
What are some businesses that are doing a great job of incorporating social missions in their brand?
There are a lot of companies making strides: some off the top of my head include Google, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Thrive Market, Method, Patagonia, Warby Parker, TOMS, The Honest Company, … Los Angeles itself has so many companies working towards social innovation. Enrou is a company founded by UCLA alumni that is working toward “shopping to end poverty,” and Etsy is one of the first benefit corporations to go public.
What are your interests outside of Anderson?
I’m a travel junkie! I’ve been to Peru, Ghana (twice), Cuba, Argentina and Chile. I’m originally from Canada.
I think for me, being passionate about what I do is really important. I don’t believe I belong to any one city, and I love meeting people that are thinking about problems that are bigger than themselves. I’m excited to hear about other peoples’ passions, and I feel like I’m never going to quench my thirst for learning. I’ve had a great support system from Anderson so far, and I’m excited to help host the biggest Social Innovation Week thus far at Anderson. It feels like I’m working with family here!