After receiving her MBA, Lauren Foukes Shaughnessy became a mission-driven consultant with the Bridgespan Group, helping nonprofit and philanthropic organizations achieve breakthrough results in addressing social problems. But Lauren’s journey in tackling complex social challenges has roots in critical experiences she sought out as a Ross MBA.
Like many Ross students, Lauren was interested in pursuing a career in social impact. She was excited to find out about the breadth of opportunities at Ross, and served on the board of the student-led Social Venture Fund. “Ross is ahead of the curve in this space,” Lauren says. “I liked the idea of getting in on the ground floor.” Additionally, she published a case study on social venture firm Good Capital, and served as a teaching assistant for Professor Gautum Kaul’s Impact Investing course.
However, when it came to her summer internship, Lauren had a specific goal in mind: to gain hands-on, practical skills and experience grappling with the nuances of social enterprise and venture philanthropy. With the support of the Self-Directed Internship Fund, she identified and secured a Farber Fellowship with REDF, a nonprofit that seeks to get those with the greatest barriers to employment back into the workforce.
“The funding I received from the Self-Directed Internship Fund enabled me to embark on a career path where I can use my MBA skill set in the ever-evolving social impact sector. This Fund allows Ross MBAs to make an impact around the world. I’m not sure how many MBAs could say that their summer work concluded with finding a way to help 20 homeless individuals return to the workforce and begin to get their lives back on track. And that’s the power of social enterprise.”
“Prior to starting my internship, had you asked me what ‘social enterprise’ and ‘venture philanthropy’ were – hot MBA buzzwords– I would have answered with the same vague responses as my classmates. It’s about impact and profit. It’s doing good, well. It’s a triple bottom line. While somewhat true, it didn’t begin to capture what I gained from my summer experience.”
Lauren quickly learned that there is more than meets the eye to getting a successful social enterprise off the ground. “Vetting a business idea is challenging enough, but also keeping in mind that the employees have a host of challenges, and more labor is better, makes it all the more difficult. With support from major funders like the White House’s Social Innovation Fund, REDF’s model had proven successful and well- positioned to achieve a larger scale. But replication and scaling isn’t easy.”
As a Farber Fellow, Lauren conducted a feasibility study and market analysis for a new social enterprise, and developed a growth strategy for REDF to expand into Southern California. REDF now operates a robust portfolio of social enterprises throughout Southern California that are creating jobs and training opportunities.