Global Brand ConvergenceSM is a global collaborative experience for higher education students, faculty and professionals in public relations and marketing, to connect a community and advance new ideas. With six topics of discussion and artists, academics, writers, scientists, innovators, practitioners and entrepreneurs speaking from all over the world, Global Brand ConvergenceSM is a complimentary exchange of concepts, including navigating cultural differences in marketing.
Catalyst connected with Shazeeb M Khairul Islam, founder and managing director of YY Ventures and Obama Foundation Scholar, to learn more about his presentation “Social Entrepreneurs: Building Your Sphere of Influence and Social Impact.” Here, Islam defines social business and shares insights to how it can play a role in solving the most pressing social and environmental issues of our time.
Shazeeb, you’re the founder and managing director of a social business company that incubates and invests in businesses that are fighting poverty, unemployment and carbon emission. What does social business mean to you?
As defined by 2006 Nobel Peace Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, social business is a cause-driven, for-profit, non-dividend company dedicated to solving human problems. In social business, investors can gradually recoup the invested amount but cannot take any dividend beyond that. With social business, the motive is always to achieve social objectives through business operations rather than personal gain or profit maximization. Thus, to me, social business means that the company, with its business activities, must cover costs, make retainable profits and simultaneously deliver positive social and impact.
What inspired you to embark on this career path?
Uneven development is a common problem in the global south. Growing up in rural Bangladesh, I have witnessed firsthand the social issues that I devote myself to today. My community struggled with basic amenities like access to electricity, access to safe drinking water and much more. Witnessing and experiencing these challenges, I realized how difficult social mobility is for most people in society. These experiences shaped my sense of responsibility, driving my passion to bring social change and inspiring me to embark on this career path.
You’re an Obama Foundation Scholar from the class of 2020–2021 cohort at Columbia University. Share one or two highlights about what you learned from that experience related to influence and social impact.
The Obama Foundation Scholars program gives rising leaders from around the world who are already making a difference in their communities the opportunity to take their work to the next level through an immersive curriculum that brings together academic, skills-based and hands-on learning.
As an Obama Scholar, I got the opportunity to know and interact with inspiring, brilliant individuals from across the globe. I tried to learn from my peers at every step of the journey. I also take insights from global experts for taking local impact to a global level.
Since 2016, YY Ventures has supported 64 entrepreneurs through our incubation program, and they have improved the lives of 150,633 people. With the vision to take local impact to a global level, we aim to enrich the social business ecosystem in some of the world’s emerging nations. For example, in East Africa, in collaboration with Yunus Centre, Yunus + You—The YY Foundation and the Catholic University of Zimbabwe, we are undertaking several initiatives to cater to aspiring social entrepreneurs and fresh graduates through creative workshops, design sprints, competitions and roundtables. We are contributing in the peace-building process in Central African Republic by designing and implementing an agribusiness incubation program to support 25 youth to help them understand the social business model, create their own social business activity and help improve soft skills to successfully present their social business proposals to customers, their community and investors.
What is one insight you hope Global Brand ConvergenceSM participants take away from your panel?
I am super happy to be speaking at Global Brand ConvergenceSM. At the conference, I want to invite and inspire everybody to consider social business as a good alternative to solving some of the most pressing social and environmental issues of our time. So many problems exist in the world today. Our current economic system is not working, the adverse effects of climate change are increasing, the wealth concentration is getting worse, our education system needs a lot of fixing, our health care systems are failing us and so on. Unfortunately, so many people, especially the youth, have ideas about solving these issues but are scared to take a step and worry about what their families and society will say if they fail.
I want Global Brand ConvergenceSM participants to recognize that there are two ways to deal with the social and environmental challenges that surround us. We can either point out the issues and complain about them or take action to solve them. I want the audience to realize that even their small efforts and tiny initiatives can create an impact on society.
Share one piece of advice you have for the students and young professionals in the Global Brand ConvergenceSM audience who are looking to build their influence and social impact as they grow in their careers.
There are so many young people out there who want to build their careers around creating social impact and dedicate themselves to solving the most pressing challenges faced by humanity. One piece of advice I would like to give the students and young professionals in the audience is: listen to your heart, travel more, explore more, eat healthy and go after your dreams. If you don’t take care of your dreams, who will?
IABC is a partner of Global Brand ConvergenceSM, which takes place online Thursday, 21 April. Learn more here and register for this free event.
The photos included within this story are coutresy of Shazeeb M Khairul Islam and Jacqueline Strayer.
Shazeeb M Khairul Islam
Shazeeb M Khairul Islam is an Obama Scholar at Columbia University in the City of New York (class of 2020–2021) and the founder and managing director of YY Ventures, a social business company that incubates and invests in social businesses that are fighting poverty, unemployment and carbon emission. Before founding YY Ventures, Shazeeb led the establishment of Bangladesh’s first independent social business incubator, YY Goshthi, which has backed more than 60 social entrepreneurs since 2016 who have impacted the lives of more than 100,000 people and created over 1200 jobs. He is also a co-founder and director at Impact Hub Dhaka, part of the global Impact Hub Network mobilizing a vibrant community of entrepreneurs in Dhaka through inspiring space, meaningful content and a diverse network to create a Bangladesh where everyone thrives. Previously, Shazeeb worked as the founding country director of YGAP in Bangladesh, an innovative international development nonprofit that supports local entrepreneurs with local solutions and country advisor at Give2Asia, a U.S. based nonprofit funding vetted community-based organization that is addressing the most pressing issues at the local level. He is an International Exchange Alumni and a One Young World ambassador. Shazeeb is mentored by Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus and wishes to see a world where every youth will work their communities’ way out of poverty.