Last summer, Ben Powell ’05 received a CORPS Fellowship to work with Ashoka, a global nonprofit that supports entrepreneurs who advance social change via scalable and systemic approaches. “I see entrepreneurs as the key leverage point in development,” he says.
Powell worked on the Full Economic Citizenship (FEC) initiative, which aims to connect social entrepreneurs with for-profit companies and foster “bottom of the pyramid” development models. “Low-income communities are almost always underserved by business,” says Powell, “but social entrepreneurs are often closer to the market and can help business tailor and sell products needed by low-income consumers, while helping small producers to develop products higher up on the value chain.”
Powell also interviewed Ashoka Fellows in Mexico, who are using market-based solutions to solve social problems. “These social entrepreneurs serve as a critical bridge between small producers and the global economy, and provide business models that can be replicated elsewhere.” Insights gained from these interviews now form part of Ashoka’s knowledge base and are being used to refine and implement the FEC initiative.
Powell is now working to develop a new entrepreneur-driven development organization that will make equity investments in small-scale, socially responsible companies in developing countries: www.agorapartnerships.org. “There’s so much human potential that’s squandered in many parts of the world,” Powell says. “My passion is to use private equity partnerships to unleash some of that potential, create opportunities for outstanding socially responsible entrepreneurs and stimulate economic development from the bottom up.”
MBA students gave a record-setting $60,000 during the funding campaign in March. Many thanks also to the Class of 2003, Sheila and Bill Lambert, Helaine and Sid Lerner, alumni, faculty and staff for their gifts to the CORPS Fellowship Program.
With support from the Columbia Business School community, the CORPS Fellowship subsidizes summer internships in the public and nonprofit sectors.