In our first few years as Associate Consultants (ACs) at Bain & Company, we’ve had the opportunity to get involved in Social Impact at Bain in many different ways. After attending a social enterprise conference a couple weeks ago, we wanted to share some of our experiences to-date along with a few insights coming out of the conference.
In early February, Bain & Company helped sponsor the annual social enterprise conference (SECON) jointly organized by Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Though the weekend of the conference happened to coincide with the arrival of the Northeast’s biggest winter storm of the season, hundreds arrived from near and far undeterred and excited to connect and share experiences. As Bain ACs in Boston, we were lucky not only to be a quick cab ride away from the festivities, but also to be offered sponsorship to attend the conference to complement our experiences at work. The day was packed with panels and keynotes featuring the founder and CEO of Acumen Fund and Change.org, among others who encouraged us to “be interested” rather than striving to “be interesting” and emphasized that the problems of our society and world are shared problems: problems which can only be solved by people who are unafraid to dive in.
Bain encourages us to dive in and help solve these shared problems. As ACs, we have engaged in social impact work through formal pro-bono cases, extra 10% (beyond our case work) and volunteer opportunities. Bain positions us at the forefront of growth and change in the education sector through cases for non-profits such as Citizen Schools and StudentsFirst – giving us a direct opportunity to impact this space through case work, and we have received widespread support and training to help local, established or foundling organizations enhance their impact through Inspire and Bain Day for People. We also partner with our fellow Bainies to raise money for organizations we care about through fundraisers, fun-runs (like the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge®) and local events. Just as we were sponsored to learn more about social impact at SECON, we have also been connected to like-minded practitioners as we explore options for externships and future careers.
TAMTAM is yet another way Bain has helped us make a difference. For the past few years, ACs from Bain Boston and New York have been working alongside Harvard medical, government, and business students in leading TAMTAM, a nonprofit distributing free bed nets through Partners in Health in Malawi to protect pregnant women, small children, and other vulnerable populations from malaria. TAMTAM has historically had and continues to have tremendous Bain involvement, not only because of the number of Bainies on the executive team, but also through the results-oriented and data-driven approach through which TAMTAM implements its mission. Most importantly, without the connections we have made at Bain and the AC skillset we have developed, we would not have been connected to the organization nor able to contribute to TAMTAM the way we have.
The concept of using business skills to further social enterprise, as we do at TAMTAM, was a key theme at the recent conference. While speakers at SECON reinforced the potential of social ventures, the day did not unfold without acknowledging that the challenges of building and scaling a successful social enterprise are numerous. We were continually struck by how the process of overcoming the challenges of creating impact with limited resources depends on sound business and on many of the tools that we are learning and applying at Bain & Company on a daily basis.
The morning keynote speaker at SECON was Tracy Palandjian, CEO and co-founder of Social Finance, a Boston start up that seeks to fund social service programs through social impact bonds. Though she encouraged young professionals not to be afraid of taking risks, she also emphasized the importance of compelling economics and measurable results, tracked using the correct set of metrics. This data-driven approach has played out in our own experience. When TAMTAM was at a crossroads and considering adjustments to its strategy, our Bain training was invaluable in leading the team through potential paths we could take. We leveraged our case experience and AC skills to conduct research, benchmark, and lay out potential business models, and then presented these options to the team for discussion. The focused and organized, data-driven approach made it an efficient process and rich discussion, and it allowed us to maximize the impact that TAMTAM will have going forward.
In addition to the data-driven aspect of helping social enterprise, there’s also the people-driven aspect…and that’s a big part of what makes Bain so special. While we know Bainies are dedicated to social impact, we were unbelievably thankful and excited to have about 100 Bainies come out to TAMTAM’s first event to support the cause and the Bainies who have been working on it. Social impact isn’t just something we talk about, and it isn’t even something we just do as an “extra” thing at work; Bainies are living it every day, within the context of their jobs and outside of it, and Bain is helping us make a bigger difference.
– Rae and Alyssa, Associate Consultants in Boston