Fabiana Bentes works in one of Rio de Janeiro’s most violent favelas, a place of extreme poverty where people stay because they cannot afford proper housing in the city. “There are significant risks to work there,” she says. “I understand that I am there on a mission.”
Each day, Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim focuses on her mission to work on problems that address institutionalized racism. “I am a person of color, and so are my nieces and nephews,” says Abdur-Rahim. “I want to be able to leave behind a just society for them to live in.”
Tim Gocher left his career as an investment banker to make a difference in one of Asia’s poorest countries. “It is our own personal values that make us want to go into whatever we hope will make a difference. For me, it’s inequality, especially global inequality.”
Bentes, Abdur-Rahim, and Gocher participated in a panel at the 2021 EMBAC Conference that explored the contributions of EMBA alumni to a broader social purpose. They also agreed to serve as EMBASSADORS, part of a 2021 EMBAC initiative that shines the spotlight on alumni as a positive force in society.
Bentes’ background includes experience as a journalist and in government. Her career covers much ground: She’s worked on projects to help refugees and to prevent violence against women, indignance people, children, and the elderly. She was state secretary of social development and human rights, as well as public security counselor, for the state of Rio de Janeiro.
In addition, she served as consultant and director of the Interamerican Bank of Development, and vice president of the Public Safety Council. She currently leads Sou do Esporte, a Brazilian-based non-profit association that promotes a network of relationships between athletes, sports entities, public authorities, and the private sector, and in 2021 was elected tourism ambassador of Rio de Janeiro. She received her MBA as a graduate of the Fundação Dom Cabral Executive MBA.
“I have always taken the responsibility to act in favor of the vulnerable population, regardless of where I am or the position I hold,” says Bentes.
“Everything I do has to have a purpose. Because I believe what I do has a positive impact – engaging more people in charitable or social responsibility actions. It’s necessary to realize that many people want to get involved, but do not know where to start or which path to go down. When are actions are well-developed, when you persuade people to work with you, it’s a sign that you’re a force and actions are helping and are having the desired effect.”
Abdur-Rahim spent 17 years of her career building the Future Foundation in Atlanta. The non-profit started with a team of two and a mission of helping youth in underserved communities graduate from high school. It grew from that team of two to 40 and from serving 15 students to 60,000 students with a 100 percent high school graduation rate.
Now as Chief Equity Officer and Executive Director, One Atlanta: Mayor’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, City of Atlanta®, she collaborates with other internal departments and external partners to develop social justice policies that confront diversity, equity, and inclusion issues.
The Future Foundation allowed her to help children and families break the cycle of generational poverty. Her work for the city involves helping dismantle the structural barriers of racism through the creation of policies. “Both of these missions are extrinsically linked to equity,” she says. “The issues I work on have to address institutionalized racism.”
Gocher forged his commitment to global equity when he was working for an American billionaire and at the same time started a charity, Dolma Foundation for Nepal, to support education and health care in Nepal.
“One minute I’m on a private jet doing a business deal in Singapore and in the other, I’m in a village on a mountainside in Nepal helping the poorest of the poor. I almost couldn’t live with that, and I couldn’t live with the fact that I had skills which might be able to bring private sector capital to the poorest countries.”
He founded and now serves as CEO of the for-profit private equity fund Dolma Fund Management, which invests in health care, technology companies, and renewable energy, primarily in Nepal. “We generate nearly 5,000 jobs in Nepal through our portfolio companies and also 1,000 in Kenya. We have investments in other countries and provide renewable energy to 1.6 million people.”
Each of the three acknowledges the impact of their EMBA education in their lives and in their work to help others and impact society.
“It was a huge moment in my career,” says Gocher. “I didn’t know how much I didn’t know until I went to business school.” He still refers to course notes and books and keeps in touch with the network he formed during the program, as well as staying involved with his EMBA alma mater, London Business School.
As the only student in her EMBA class from the service sector of the economy, Bentes helped her fellow students better understand why companies need a stronger relationship with social impact. She also learned more about how business operates. “It has improved my knowledge in managing resources of companies and in dealing with the expectation of social impact.”
A first-generation college student, Abdur-Rahim says her EMBA from Emory University marked a major milestone in her career. “It transformed my life, just from a learning standpoint, but I was also able to apply learnings real-time for the organization that I was leading, which resulted in our revenue quadrupling and being able to maintain that revenue growth for 10 years.”
Abdur-Rahim encourages others to dig deep and be uncomfortable to help increase their own impact.
“If we all as individuals find the courage deep in our hearts to do the uncomfortable thing that is right for humanity, then this world will be a better place and we will have societal impact.”