Harvard Business School » Social Enterprise » Blog » SEI25 Series: Monisha Kapila (MBA 2005), Founder & CEO, ProInspire
Impact Insights

SEI25 Series: Monisha Kapila (MBA 2005), Founder & CEO, ProInspire

By: Monisha Kapila 06 Jun 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, Monisha Kapila (MBA 2005) shares her insights on pursuing social impact and founding a social enterprise. Monisha is the Founder and CEO of ProInspirea social sector leadership development nonprofit.

How would you describe the social impact you seek to have in the world? I seek to support individuals and social impact organizations to advance leadership and equity so that we can change systems and better address social problems. I do this through my work as the Founder and CEO of ProInspire, a nonprofit that activates leaders at all levels to accelerate equity at the individual, organizational, and systems levels. We design and deliver cohort programs, fellowships, workshops, coaching, research, and convenings for nonprofits, foundations, and social impact organizations. I also serve as a Board member for the National Human Services Assembly, an association comprised of some of the largest national nonprofit human service organizations in the United States, and AchieveMission, a nonprofit talent consulting organization.

What has your connection been to SEI? I was selected as an HBS Leadership Fellow and joined Accion after graduation. During my Fellowship year, SEI brought together the Leadership Fellows so we could learn from each other. That camaraderie was so valuable when we were just a small percentage pursuing this “non-traditional” path. I feel that SEI has played a key role in my career by making that Fellowship possible and providing ongoing support after graduation. When I launched ProInspire, SEI staff provided guidance and connections to other alums. HBS alumni have been valuable partners, supporters, and donors in growing our work.

How is the organization in which you’re involved pursuing social change? ProInspire envisions an equitable and just society – free of systemic oppression where all people thrive. Rooted in the belief that leadership and equity are key to the systems change needed to realize this vision, we activate leaders at all levels to accelerate equity in their work, within their organizations, and across the social sector. We design and deliver programming and resources to support these leaders, strengthen organizations, and influence and equip the sector – so that leaders at all levels have the competencies to accelerate equity, confidence to take action, and connections to build their network and maximize their impact. 

Founded in 2009 and based in Washington, D.C., ProInspire runs programs in multiple cities across the United States. We research and convene on building a race equity culture through Equity in the Center. We partner with leading local, national, and international nonprofits, including Accion, America’s Promise Alliance, Communities in Schools, Share Our Strength, and more. Over 3,000 individuals have participated in ProInspire’s open enrollment, custom programs, and convenings to-date. ProInspire was named by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as one of 7 Nonprofits to Watch in 2015, and as a Top-Rated Nonprofit from 2015 to 2018. 

What is one "aha" moment you've had related to SE? My “aha” moment to launch ProInspire came in 2008, while attending the HBS Centennial event. At that point, I had worked at three nonprofits and three large companies and was thinking about the lack of investment in leadership and talent in the social sector. At the HBS event, we had a discussion about the nonprofit leadership deficit, and the need for more intermediaries to support nonprofits with expanding pipelines and developing leaders. I had personally seen this a challenge and felt that I had to do something about it. I launched ProInspire in 2009 focused on expanding talent pipelines but realized quickly that the challenges to strengthen nonprofit leadership were much more complex. Over the past ten years, ProInspire expanded our focus to supporting leaders at all levels with the goal of advancing equity inside organizations and externally in the work they do.