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SEI25 Series: Adem Bunkeddeko (MBA 2017)

By: Adem Bunkeddeko 18 Apr 2019

This post is part of our Social Enterprise Initiative 25th anniversary blog series, which highlights some of the faculty, staff, students, and alumni who have been a part of SEI throughout the years. In this post, Adem Bunkeddeko (MBA 2017) shares his insights on pursuing a social enterprise career. Adem was a 2018 candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in New York's 9th Congressional District.

How would you describe the social impact you seek to have in the world?

The difference I would like to make in the world is creating opportunity where it does not currently exist. It is hard to imagine I would have been able to attend HBS given my upbringing and background. Growing up in working-class New York neighborhoods, most people around me did not go to schools like HBS. Many of the children I went to school were just as capable, if not more capable, than myself. However, I was fortunate to have mentors and teachers that nurtured my potential, and many of those same peers did not. In order to create a fair and just society, opportunity must be as universal as talent and ability are. I hope that once it’s all said and done on my end, I can say I helped move the ball forward on that front.

What motivated you to pursue a career path in the social sector?

As the son of two working-class war refugees from Uganda, I have dedicated my career to seeing that folks on the margins of society are given an opportunity to succeed and create their own version of the American Dream. My parents started in this country with very modest means and managed to create better lives not only for themselves but also for their children. It is a testament not only to their hard work (both of them are social workers), but also to their temerity and courage. However, in my hometown of Brooklyn, more and more folks are finding it difficult to do that. In our house, we were raised to do more than simply take care of ourselves, but to also take care of the communities around us. Those values have played a significant part in my life and the career choices I have embarked on, whether community organizing or working in the social/public sector. The road hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve tried to stay true to those beliefs. I’m fortunate that I even have the ability to make sacrifices to pursue public service.

What advice would you give to other alumni or students interested in pursuing a career in the social sector?

My advice is to start now. There are many ways to pursue a career in the social sector. It does not necessarily involve a full-time role—you can give in many ways. It can be a volunteer role. It can be on a part-time basis. There are many organizations that can be positively impacted by an HBS graduate (and would love to have you). However, before picking up the yellow pages and dialing a random organization, I’d say look internally ask yourself a few questions. What are my values (i.e. what do I care about and why)? What are my interests? What are my skills? Ideally, you’d like to find an opportunity that sits at the intersection of those questions. I believe not only will the impact be greater if the nexus is there for you, but the organization you’re helping will greatly benefit as well.