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Hanna Jamal: Changing the World Through Social Entrepreneurship

Hanna Jamal

After a life of travel and work in impoverished areas across the globe, one observation struck Hanna Jamal, MBA '15: "Wherever you go in the world, you will see a Coke bottle. What does the Coca-Cola company know that gives them such world-wide penetration while we in the NGO and development community are still struggling to get a foothold?"

That question led her to pursue an MBA at McCombs, which she selected after researching different graduate programs worldwide. Her goal was to ramp up her understanding of marketing and management in order to have a greater impact in her chosen field of social development.

After graduation last year, she co-founded Urban Co-Lab, a startup incubator in East Austin where young, socially minded entrepreneurs can collaborate.

And now she has taken on a new challenge. In January, Jamal assumed the role of associate director in the Austin office of Social Finance Inc., a Boston-based nonprofit that serves as an intermediary among governments, social service organizations, and private financiers.

In her new role, Jamal quantifies the financial benefits and savings of non-governmental social programs and seeks out private investors interested in both financial and social return.

Jamal says her ultimate goal at Social Finance is to create systems between private and government entities that can offer a whole new kind of support for innovative social change programs.

Born and raised in New York, Jamal traveled widely as a child. Her mother is Welsh and her father is a Briton of Indian descent who grew up in Tanzania. Her father's work with the United Nations took him to stations around the world, including Bangladesh and

Switzerland, for extended periods of time. She often joined him.

With dual citizenship and family in the U.K., Jamal pursued her undergraduate studies at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where she earned her B.A. in anthropology with an emphasis in development studies. Eager to put her education to use in the field, she joined Voluntary Service Overseas (the U.K.'s version of the Peace Corps) and worked in Gambia to establish educational programs for impoverished children.

After Haiti was struck by a hurricane in 2010, she spent a year there establishing schools for children from areas where infrastructure and shelter had largely been destroyed.

She also worked for Plan International in Washington, D.C., researching outcomes of the education programs sponsored by the organization. Her work in Africa had impressed her with the need for rigorous quantitative analysis and evaluation in humanitarian efforts.

With Plan International, she traveled to Ghana, Burkina Faso, Niger, Kenya, Mozambique, and again to Bangladesh.

When she landed at McCombs in 2013, she found its small classes and collaborative approach to problem-solving a perfect fit.

"I've always been a little different," says Jamal, "and McCombs fosters an environment where difference is not only accepted but also embraced."

- David Canright


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