Finding Harmony In Misaligned Pro Bono Partnerships

Ashoka, Washington, DC, 2016

In addition to supporting social entrepreneurs across the globe through its well known Fellowship program, Ashoka works to create systems change by partnering with institutions that wish to deepen their impact by learning from Ashoka Fellows.

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PURPOSE

My primary role at Ashoka was to synthesize Ashoka Fellows’ insights into systemic change and share my findings with institutions poised to deepen their impact. One of my projects began when the Corporate Social Responsibility manager at American Express partnered with Ashoka to conduct research into what social entrepreneurs want out of pro bono services from business professionals.


PROCESS

I conducted a survey of business professionals in the U.S. and social entrepreneurs across the globe. Additionally, I added
a prototyping stage to Ashoka’s typical research process. To test the initial findings, I convened a series of open-ended interviews with thought leaders on the role that work plays in peoples’ lives.


OUTCOME

The business professionals I surveyed expressed a preference to provide pro bono services in their own time, outside of their work responsibilities. Social entrepreneurs, on the other hand, expressed a preference for ongoing, longterm relationships in which business professionals work within their companies to better align their practices with social impact.

Based on the prototyping I did with thought leaders, I was able to contextualize the business professionals’ preference within the normative belief that work is not a possible arena for social benefit. From this analysis, I made a set of recommendations that could shift perspective on the role of work as well as satisfy both parties’ desires, such as a rotating expertise exchange between a company and a social entrepreneur.

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