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Wilfrid Laurier University Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing
October 26, 2016
Canadian Excellence


Joanna Harries, Alumna

Joanna Harries (BBA ’03, MBA ’08) believes that business leaders can help solve some of the world’s most complex social issues, which is why she worked toward her MBA while being employed as a brand manager for Unilever.

“I always knew that I wanted to apply my business skills to make a positive social impact,” she says, adding that it was her Laurier MBA degree that showed her the direct path to do so.

“I became exposed to the hybrid concept of a social enterprise – essentially a for-profit business, but with a clearly defined social mission. Something clicked into place for me. This was an area of work that I wanted to pursue.”

Harries got the chance to apply her newfound knowledge right after she earned her MBA: she was awarded a fellowship with the Acumen Fund, a leading social venture fund that invests philanthropic dollars in debt and equity financing for social enterprises in India, Pakistan, Kenya and Tanzania.

She spent her one-year fellowship as a business development director for Dial 1298 for Ambulance in Mumbai, India. Dial 1298 for Ambulance uses a cross-subsidization model to provide emergency medical service to anyone in India, regardless of income.

Harries then used her experience in India to help California-based Benetech expand its Bookshare initiative. Bookshare converts leading publications into Braille and houses them in an online library, improving the lives of millions of print-disabled people. 

Today Harries is the director of international expansion for Endeavor Global, a New York-based non-profit that seeks to strengthen emerging economies by identifying and supporting “high-impact” entrepreneurs.

“Can corporations make a difference?” Harries asks. “If I commit my skills to a cause and search out a career where I feel I can have the most social impact, aren’t I making a difference? There are no easy answers, but I am glad to be on the path that has me searching for them."