BFP: What do you do?
YZ: I work at Acumen to develop creative partnerships with institutions that share our vision for a more inclusive and sustainable world. This involves working with a range of corporations and foundations to develop partnerships that help scale social enterprises, expand leadership development, and spread ideas that offer new approaches to tackling global poverty.
BFP: What is the best part about your job/project?
YZ: There are many things I enjoy about my work, whether it’s helping to raise awareness about the critical role that social enterprises play in solving global challenges, or working with our partners to find ways to leverage their strengths. But I think my favorite part of my job is finding people inside large organizations that are as passionate about radical change and impact as any of the social enterprises that we work with, and finding ways to work with them towards meaningful systemic change.
BFP: What has been your greatest challenge?
YZ: Big organizations and small entrepreneurial ones work in different ways, at different time scales, and with vastly different resources. Part of my job is to bridge the gap between corporations and social enterprises by helping each side see, and respect the realities, of the other.
BFP: How have you overcome these challenges? / What has been the secret of your success? / What advice can you give others ?
YZ: I am always experimenting with ways to overcome these challenges, but I find that the most important thing is to recognize the humanity of everyone we work with, from the low-income consumer that has been underserved or exploited, to the corporate executive who is driving change in their own organization. I try to bring people together, through a shared vision, through storytelling, and through face-to-face interaction, that can lead to powerful new partnerships.
BFP: If someone wants to do what you do – where do they start?
YZ: My route has gone through corporate environmental sustainability, as a researcher and consultant, into the social entrepreneurship space, through business school, and into social enterprise and patient capital investing. My function, whether it was as a consultant, a portfolio manager, a communications director, or now partnerships director, has always been less important than the purpose or objective of my work. I advise people to pursue a path that stretches them, brings them into contact with great people, and allows them to leverage their strengths to have an impact. That kind of career can lead you down a non-linear but really rewarding path.
BFP: Finally, What do you hope to get out of being part of the BFP community?
YZ: Being part of this community has exposed me to the ideas of peers who share the view that business can be a catalyst for change, has helped us find new potential partners, and will hopefully help us share what we are learning from our partnership work. We are proud to be partnering with BFP to extract lessons and amplify the impact of our Technical Assistance Initiative, which you can read more about here.
Thank you to Yasmina Zaidman for taking the time to do this interview.
Read previous Member of the Week interviews here.