Many students arrive at HBS with a desire to explore. Abby Falik, a self-confessed “West Coast girl, through and through,” came with a clearly defined purpose: “I’ve had the concept for Global Citizen Year in mind since I was in high school,” Abby says. “My goal was to develop a business plan that would enable me to have the greatest impact on the largest number of people.”
After graduating from Stanford with both a bachelor’s and a M.Ed, Abby spent five years collecting experience in the non profit sector. Disillusioned by the inefficiencies that limit the potential of too many social-impact organizations, Abby turned to HBS. “I wanted to find more people like me – people who wanted to build high-impact, sustainable enterprises, while considering the broader impact of their work on their communities.”
HBS helps shape, launch ambitious plans
After the Peace Corps denied Abby’s post-high school application (on the grounds that she didn’t yet have a college degree), Abby found her inspiration for Global Citizen Year: “How can we provide a global learning experience before college, to help all young people, regardless of income, develop a deeper understanding of the world and our roles within it? A ‘Global Citizen Year’ would help students begin college with a greater sense of purpose; they’d be better prepared to make the most of their educational opportunities.”
How did HBS contribute to her ambitions? Abby is clear: “I would not be where I am with Global Citizen Year without HBS. The faculty were invaluable in helping me understand the nature of the challenge and creating a roadmap for designing both my business and social impact models. I spent my time using every course – whether in leadership, strategy, marketing, operations or entrepreneurship – filtering the lessons through the lens of what I cared about most. The cases tested my assumptions and developed skills that would give me the confidence to hit the ground running.”
In fact, Abby didn’t wait until graduation to begin. While at HBS, she introduced herself to the founders of City Year and Teach for America (programs which are both models for Global Citizen Year), to seek their guidance. Alan Khazei, Michael Brown and Wendy Kopp each remain advisors to the program.
Up and running today
Abby completed her MBA in May 2008. By January 2009, she had raised initial seed-capital and formed her team. In September, Global Citizen Year launched its first class of eleven student Fellows who have been placed with families and non-profit organizations in Guatemala and Senegal. There, they are working as apprentices, supporting local projects in education, environmental sustainability, micro-financing and appropriate technologies.
HBS has been a part of the start-up at every step. “My classmates still form the core of my support base,” Abby says. “They’ve held fundraising events, organized volunteer chapters – and even helped interview our applicants from across the country.”
Reflecting on the international nature of HBS, Abby notes, “Part of the advantage of HBS is its unique, global network. Having peers from around the world is invaluable as we look to scale our program and operations. ”
In acknowledgment of her already considerable accomplishments, Abby has been named the HBS Social Entrepreneurship Fellow for 2009-2010, just the second person to date to receive the honor. “HBS has given me the confidence to be committed to the biggest possible vision,” says Abby. “It’s helped me be comfortable playing the many roles required of a social entrepreneur, and has offered me access to remarkable leaders at the intersection of social, non-profit and for-profit enterprises.”