Marilia Bezerra spoke recently to The Sustainable Innovation MBA cohort as the third Innovator in Residence for the year. She is the Managing Partner at CARE Enterprises, CARE’s social enterprise venture that links producers in the world’s poorest communities with the formal markets necessary for those producers to sell their products and services. It focuses on business ventures with the potential for exponential growth and to become game-changers in the fight against poverty.
Marilia’s life has led her on a career path full of sharp turns and road blocks that created her story.
In telling her story she offered nine lessons and pieces of advice to
Figure out how to become the connective tissue for the problems we need to solve. A fundamental ingredient for all of us stepping into the world is to figure out how to connect people to each other to solve problems.
Telling your story can be limiting.
Be keenly aware of your privilege –- Bezerra talked about how she won the privilege lottery. She grew up during a relatively stable time in Brazil and was raised in a middle-class family that afforded her opportunities in life, but gave her a sense of value of the most basic things.
If you are going to say something, know what it means. When using metrics, many of the numbers mean nothing. For example, the calculation of how many lives a program touched. What Bezerra learned was to ask yourself what it means three time when stating metrics and figures. If at any point you cannot answer, then the metric likely does not have meaning.
Sometimes you will need to take sharp turns to figure out what you are doing, and you need to just go for it! Life takes weird turns, close your eyes and say, ‘Mom & Dad, I got this.’
Fundraising is like running a marathon — it is going to be uncomfortable, but you just keep running through it until it gets better.
How you feel now is not going to last — Bezerra talked about the importance of needing to detach yourself from your story for a point in time. This powerful mechanism allows you to step outside and detach from life to get past the disruption.
Take time off & really take it! –- it is tempting to think about what is next, but Bezerra talked about the importance of taking a real break when you are burnt out.
After doing cool things, the expectation of what is next can be limiting. When you are taking a break and looking for the next steps, people will ask what is next, but do not let that limit your story.
…And One Question
Bezerra finished with a question for aspiring entrepreneurs: How are you going to get really good at working at the edge of chaos?
This post was written by Keil Corey, Sustainable Innovation MBA ’18
Recently Laura Asiala, Senior Fellow at PYXERA Global and a Sustainable Innovation MBA Advisory Board member, joined this year’s cohort for an in-class discussion on the role that business can play in addressing some of the world’s most intractable challenges.
Before joining the PYXERA team, Asiala had been the Director of Corporate Citizenship at Dow Corning Company. Over three decades in the corporate sector taught her that environmental and social sustainability are not hindrances to business; rather, they can ensure long-term success and profitability. She carries that vision forward in her current role at PYXERA, where she works to leverage the strengths of corporations, governments, social sector organizations, educational institutions, and individuals to solve complex problems in inclusive and sustainable ways.
Of particular interest to Asiala is how corporations can and must play a role in achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals. Adopted in 2015, the Global Goals identify specific targets and timelines that aim to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. At PYXERA, she is working on aligning multi-sector stakeholders toward those ends.
If you live in Detroit and make only $10,000 a year, you still might be able to buy a newly constructed house. On two vacant blocks in the city’s northwest side, a new neighborhood of tiny houses was designed to help people living in poverty become homeowners.
Through a rent-to-own program, residents will pay $1 per square foot in rent each month. For a 250-square-foot house, for example, rent is $250, when a similar home in Detroit might normally cost twice as much. After a maximum of seven years, the house can be fully paid off.
“Connectivity is productivity,” a mantra which has guided entrepreneur Iqbal Quadir to put cell phones in the hands of over 100 million Bangladeshi people. A country once thought to be synonymous with poverty is now seeing unprecedented economic growth due, in part, to the success of Iqbal Quadir and his venture, Grameen Phone, a micro-loan based company which allows those at the base of the pyramid access to modern communication. Iqbal, who is a SEMBA advisory board member, visited the SEMBA class as part of the Entrepreneur in Residence series. He proved to be a model of the disruptive and visionary values that SEMBA represents. He demonstrated that capital is not the source of innovation and development; rather, development is the source for capital.
Here’s an article by our very ownProfessor Stuart L. Hart in which he writes about the Jungian concept of enantiodromia and tells us what business must do going forward.
Hart stresses that the majority of corporate growth (and later, profits) comes from new strategic initiatives rather than from the continuing development and improvement of existing businesses.
We must refocus our attention on new, transformational strategic moves (or initiatives).Rather than chasing the fantasy of rating entire corporations as to their “sustainability,” let us instead shift the “unit of analysis” and spend more time understanding (and driving) the Green Leap – new strategic initiatives within corporations focused on leapfrog, clean technology and disruptive new business models that serve and lift the poor.
Over the past 25 years, most major business schools have added some kind of program focused on sustainability, corporate citizenship, or social entrepreneurship, though they are not integrated into the core DNA of the institution.
The University of Vermont’s Sustainability Entrepreneurship MBA (SEMBA) is unique in that it fundamentally reinvents business education and the MBA degree to address the urgent sustainability challenges we face in the 21st century. The curriculum is focused 100% on sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship. In this webinar, Professor Stuart Hart will describe the design and significance of the SEMBA — a 12 month, AACSB-accredited program focused on developing the next generation of business leaders who will innovate enterprises to move us more rapidly toward a sustainable world. Vinca Krajewski, a SEMBA graduate and currently Associate Brand Manager at Seventh Generation, will describe her experience in the program and how it has uniquely prepared her to be a changemaker for sustainable innovation.
The Sustainable Development Goals read like the best-intentioned New Year’s resolutions: End poverty; promote peace and justice; cooperate and partner with others for the greater good; and so on. Makes you wonder if the resolutions will stick.
Yet corporations that have begun to pursue the SDGs see business advantages unfolding that will reap benefits in 2017 and beyond. They are expanding markets, attracting talent and eliminating some risk from operations.
Microsoft, Google, Unilever, Tata, Siemens and others are seeing expanded markets, new recruits and risk reduction. Learn more >>
“The rise of human agency also comes from the creation of
new professions. Social entrepreneurship and social-impact investing open wide, new vistas for individuals committed to solving global problems. As Roger Martin and Sally Osberg argue in their book, Getting Beyond Better, social entrepreneurs are distinct from direct social-service providers and social advocates. They “seek to shift a stable but suboptimal equilibrium in a way that is neither entirely mandated nor entirely market-driven. They create new approaches to old and pernicious problems. And they work directly to tip society to a new and better state.”
“Social-impact investing has exploded from a few pioneers into a diverse ecosystem of boutique funds, philanthropic organizations, family offices, and large commercial banks. In Capital and the Common Good, author Georgia Levenson Keohane notes that nearly every mainstream financial institution, from Barclays to Bain Capital, now has a social or sustainable finance unit. The landscape is highly specialized by geography and issue area, ranging from small-business development to environmental and economic sustainability.”