By Robert Young (FEMBA ’17)
Photos by Mark E. Lee (FEMBA ’17)
Coming from a background in service-based nonprofit fundraising, I was skeptical of social entrepreneurship as a way to effect change. Since serving in the Peace Corps for three years, I’ve had an additional nine years’ experience working in nonprofit organizations as a fundraiser, including in my current job handling fundraising logistics at an independent school in Culver City. Until recently, it had always seemed to me that the most efficient way of ensuring that positive change reached those who needed it was via an organization that didn’t care about financial returns and used traditional, proven remedies.
Last summer, I was lucky enough to be a part of a UCLA Anderson Global Immersion course in South Africa, led by Gayle Northrop. After the first couple of days visiting companies and organizations in Johannesburg and Capetown, my thoughts on efficient organizations changed entirely. I now understand the significant advantages that social innovation and entrepreneurship can bring to places where traditional philanthropy just can’t do enough.
The first breakthrough came in a visit to AllLife Insurance, a firm in a suburb of Johannesburg that specializes in delivering life insurance to HIV-positive South Africans. Ross Beerman, the CEO and founder, told our group he had never thought of himself as a social innovator or entrepreneur. Instead, he saw a life insurance market gap (nearly 20 percent of South Africans are HIV positive) and simply wanted to run a successful business in which the positive externalities dramatically outweighed the negative.