For Ivy So (MBA 2015), the decision to attend business school was a tough call—after years of seeking opportunities to apply her business background to social change, she was enjoying her work in building the market for impact investing in Canada. But she also knew that having an MBA would generate even more opportunities—the key would be ignoring distractions and sticking to her original plan of working in the social sector.
Once at HBS, So maintained her original focus, using a Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship to work at Acumen Fund between her first and second years and collaborating with Lauren Barra (MBA 2015) to oversee Impact Connector, a student-led impact investing group. “I selected HBS largely because it had the best selection of social enterprise-themed courses and activities of any other school I saw,” she says.
So was particularly drawn to SEI faculty members’ path-breaking research on defining and measuring social impact. Under Professor Alnoor Ebrahim’s guidance, she and classmate Alina Staskevicius (MBA 2015) undertook a self-designed Independent Project and surveyed over 20 impact investors to gain a deeper understanding of their efforts to measure the social impact generated by their investments.
“People were very responsive when they learned we were HBS students,” says So, “and the experience was a great way to build relationships with practitioners in the field.” In addition, she notes that some of the project’s findings and recommendations were incorporated into a report presented by Ebrahim as part of his work for the G8 Social Impact Investment Taskforce.
In her current role through the HBS Leadership Fellows Program, So is serving as strategic advisor in the executive office of the Nonprofit Finance Fund, an organization providing financing and advisory services to nonprofits throughout the US.
“At first I was looking for something longer than one year, but this job description was a dream,” she says. “I report directly to the CEO—a leader and role model in the field who literally wrote the book on impact investing—and I work with the senior leadership team in a chief-of-staff-type position, in addition to focusing on strategic growth projects.” So notes that she is also continuing the focus of her Independent Project by working to establish standards for social impact measurement.
“The Leadership Fellows Program has been tremendous in helping me follow my original path,” she says. “Having the support of HBS and the Social Enterprise Initiative makes it easier to stay true to your passion.”