Attending the OYW conference in Pittsburgh last October was humbling. I have never been surrounded by such a passionate and accomplished group of peers in one shared-space, and it was an exceptional experience to address them as a speaker.
There was a great sense of excitement and a deep shared feeling of concern for the social issues that we see in society. The attendance of Bill Clinton and Kofi Annan were only two of the many surprises at OYW. But like the other Bainies (see previous blog posts), it was beyond this set of high-caliber speakers, among my fellow participants from 180+ nations and their stories, that I found inspiration.
I had the privilege to address these representatives as a delegate speaker during the ‘Global Business’ plenary session. With the encouragement of Bain’s Social Impact team, I applied to speak about the role of business in the social impact dialogue. It was a way for me to share what I have been striving to answer since my first day at Bain and to test how like-minded global citizens would react.
When we discuss business and social impact, we often hear about aligning profit-making with social impact to make corporations more socially responsible. We also see the rise in social entrepreneurship ranging from small-scale local initiatives to global social venture funds. But my focus, the question I have asked myself since day one at Bain & Company, was if business logic and frameworks are applicable to social sector organizations. I believe they are, in fact, quite applicable and will go even further to say that I believe they are essential.
In order to support my assertion and demonstrate how the skills of business/consulting are transferable to the social sector, I highlighted the pro bono project I had worked on for Polaris Project Japan, an anti-human trafficking organization. Our work together shows that the ability of social sector organizations to maximize impact with limited resources is a highly applicable tool when thinking through the organization’s competitiveness, strategy, and value. By applying business tools and frameworks at Polaris Project Japan, we were able to help them sustain their efforts and make a plan to scale for greater impact.
I was happy to see that there was a tremendous amount of support at the conference for the concept of applying business skills in social sector organizations. I found that many other delegates were also interested in bringing business skills to the social sector – and some had already found ways to do so, much as I have with Bain.
Through this experience, I also learned that Bain & Company has provided me with a great platform to address pressing social issues such as poverty and equality. The relentless pursuit for results and transformation, and the mindset to be proactive and to contest the status quo – which are both fundamental to Bain’s culture – translate to all sectors and all nations. The topics we discussed, such as governance, education, and human rights, may require localized narratives, but the desire to act and do something about them is universal. That is the tie that binds us as concerned global citizens.
If you’re interested in hearing the speeches from the Global Business plenary session, click here – my speech is around 40 minutes in.