Introductions

At the end of 2016, Quantum Impact’s two co-founders, Sarah Grausz and Farah Mahesri, met at a coffee shop in San Francisco. Our friendship had first begun six years earlier, when we collaborated to design a $90-million basic education program in Indonesia. Big picture thinkers, advocates for social justice, and rarely willing to take ‘no’ for an answer, we quickly forged a friendship and professional bond over our appetite for catapulting ideas into action. Over the course of that two-hour coffee, we brainstormed a transformative movement that we want to share with you today, called Quantum Impact.

In our combined 30 years of international development experience, we have seen global monetary investments increase to help solve critical health challenges, enable access to quality education, and prevent human rights abuses around the world. Yet, we have not seen a commensurate return on those investments. Failed development interventions continue to be replicated by the major donors and implementers, who somehow expected a different outcome each time. We pondered, what was preventing the industry from “cracking the nut?” Was it lack of creative solutions? Was it how interventions were being delivered? Was it who was delivering them? All of the above?

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We pondered, what if a truly diverse workforce were engaged to tackle the world’s most intractable social challenges? And what if that began with a movement to talk about overcoming bias, recruiting more diverse talent, empowering them, and creating more inclusive social impact workplaces to improve retention?

The answer we think lies somewhere in Silicon Valley. Let us explain. Living in the Bay Area, we have been fixated by the shift in focus among tech companies to expand their workforce to include more diverse talent. As these organizations have grown in power, size, and global reach, they have also invested millions to respond to mounting evidence that more diverse and inclusive teams are more innovative and return higher profits. These companies have not resolved their diversity issues, most still struggle to hire and promote women and minorities, but they’ve certainly broken the mold.

Like tech, the global social impact industry believes in the power of human potential to advance civilization. And like tech, the majority of decision-making power in the industry is held by white men. Farah, Sarah, and every other woman we know in this line of work have faced blatant and repeated identity bias at work, stories we often share in whispers at office happy hours and among trusted friends. The acceptable response is either to get over it, or find a new line of work. No industry conversations on diversity or inclusion are happening, as they are in the technology industry, nor is any diversity data being publicly shared.

We pondered, what if a truly diverse workforce were engaged to tackle the world’s most intractable social challenges? And what if that began with a movement to talk about overcoming bias, recruiting more diverse talent, empowering them, and creating more inclusive social impact workplaces to improve retention?

Welcome to Quantum Impact.

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