Social Impact MBA

Finding the Third Way: Alumna Merges Finance and Social Good Through Social Impact Investing

Adwoa Asare, MBA’19

Adwoa Asare, MBA’19, is driven by access and impact. From her past work as an associate director and community organizer at Habitat for Humanity to her current position as program manager for the Turner MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (MIINT) program, she strives to bring more people to the table who can make a positive impact in their communities and the wider world.

“No matter the industry—technology, affordable housing, impact investing—I’m always looking for the people trying to get into the game but who are just on the periphery,” she says. “How can I help them get into the field and launch their impact journey?”

At MIINT, that means working with more than 500 students and professionals around the world to help them craft investments that align profits with the common good. Recent examples include investment proposals by MBA students to help communities deal with invasive species in waterways, offer carbon-neutral laundry services and provide energy-efficient appliances in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“I see this as the next step to traditional grants because it allows more autonomy for entrepreneurial individuals and more flexibility than typical nonprofit grants,” she explains. “Impact investing puts social impact in lockstep with financial returns.”

That’s why Asare was drawn to the Social Impact MBA Program at the Heller School, which combines hard business skills with social consciousness. The university’s handling of the Ford Hall 2015 protests also played an important role.

“Heller immediately stood out as a place that valued social justice and those who make it their life’s purpose,” Asare says. The protest involved a 13-day sit-in that ended with Brandeis administration reaching an agreement with students seeking racial justice and increased inclusivity. “This represented an institution filled with students who were both talking the talk and walking the walk. I’m easily frustrated by lip service and saw Heller as a place to put my beliefs and intellect to work.”

In the program, she found exactly what she was looking for, with courses that enabled her to build her network while making management and business decisions in real-world scenarios. In MBA Program Director Carole Carlson’s social entrepreneurship class, for instance, she connected with business founders, entrepreneurs and dozens of other social-impact professionals in her first few months on campus. And as president of the Net Impact Club, a member of the Heller Awards selection committee, a two-time teaching assistant and a graduate assistant for the Career Development Center, she also didn’t shy away from getting involved.

“I am a strong believer that you get out what you put in,” she said in her 2019 Commencement speech. “And I put everything I had into my time at Heller.”

Today, Asare is still putting everything she’s got into the school. She recently joined the Heller Board of Advisors and hopes to foster young alumni giving, increase student and faculty diversity and improve the graduation-to-career timeline.

She also hopes to guide the school as it fosters the next generation of social entrepreneurs who seek the “third way”—working for social justice through private enterprise rather than prioritizing one over the other. It’s something she has long studied but only found a way to realize through her Heller experience.

“In my early servant leadership and social-justice training we were taught about the ‘third way,’ but it’s often hard to implement in a world full of people who only see things in black and white,” she explains. “Now, I’m working with many incredible people who I see as world changers, hard workers and pioneers who see a ‘third way’ out of traditional investing that’s not solely focused on financial returns.”