“The Impact Mind” by Fareeha Mahmood caught my eye for its strong and deliberate title. The book is organized by strategic twelve chapters that each highlight a different principle to develop the “impact mind,” with each chapter highlighting the professional and personal stories of several individuals that sought to drive change in vastly different spaces. The chapters even end with introspective questions that enable the reader to truly understand themselves and the potential impact they could have if they chose to set their minds to it.
It explores the thought process of several professionals as they navigate and alter their careers to serve marginalized and underrepresented communities. The best part? It’s written by a PoC author who is, herself, exploring the itch to learn and give back. I knew that I had to get an interview with her, and immediately asked her what drove her to write the book:
It was an interesting experience growing up with different cultures. Going to school with international students and always being cognizant of the privileges that I’ve had regardless of where I was whether it be in Dhaka or Dubai. I realized that in terms of my career and my future I really wanted to do something meaningful and impactful where I could help someone or a group of people because it just never felt right that I had so many privileges. I worked hard, but it’s so much dependent on luck and just arbitrary fortune. I feel like I should use all the opportunities and resources I have to actually open up sort of similar opportunities for other people who may not have had that luck or background that I did. In college, I was very determined to figure out what exactly I wanted to do in terms of social impact and initially I thought, you know, doing good was limited to working for a nonprofit or the UN or the government.
Mahmood made the point that although she was fortunate enough to receive opportunities in the nonprofit world and even local government, she wanted to break the stereotype and explore ways in which you can deliver social good from a nontraditional perspective.
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Mahmood distills unconventional ways to be a driving force for social good in the private sector. This piqued my interest since I was conditioned into thinking that social work strictly sat in the non-profit and government sectors. However, in an effort for companies to use their capitalistic gains to spread their name and humility, there are certain roles where you can evaluate the social impact and deal with the finances that power these practices.
Much of Fareeha’s book focused on this principle called “impact investing.” Impact investing refers to the allocation of funds used expressly to drive projects that create a beneficial social or environmental impact. Unbeknown to me, there are impact investing majors prominent at many prestigious schools including Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania. To me, this brought to light the juxtaposition of the elite with the do-gooders — you need a strong foundation in education and finance to give back to classically poorer countries and territories, but this education comes from the ivory tower that is disconnected from the reality of world poverty.
A concept that piqued my interest, I am now determined to learn more about what impact investing can achieve long term. To me, the question is how to come across this “impact investing” opportunities without needing further, money-consuming education. Fareeha admits that higher education is a privilege, but not a necessity to achieve your end goal.
Higher education in general is a privilege, a lot of the times because you know it’s just so expensive and it’s not possible for everyone. I wouldn’t say that it’s an absolute necessity, but it’s something if you have the interest and the means.
Fareeha, at many points during the book, mentions doing what is in your capacity to reach small goals. For example, if you are involved in any current communities, how can you better their resources? Once you achieve that mindset of smaller communities, you can then think about tackling opportunities at a larger scale. Oftentimes, students and residents of a certain country think they hold or their reach is restricted to their country of residence (obviously there are many internal things that can change). However, upon talking to Fareeha, she wanted to drive home this point:
Social impact isn’t restricted to the United States. It really exists everywhere, but a problem that some people might encounter is that there are a lot more resources within the United States compared to other countries. So it really is dependent on the person who’s determined to make a change to seek out those resources, find the right people, and the right team that will be supportive in their journey.
Many of the highlighted individuals interviews were people coming from diverse backgrounds, including the Black and Muslim communities. This act tied together what I thought all along: social impact, a formerly white glorified space, can be dominated by individuals that are anything but — Black and brown, Hindu and Muslim, from anywhere in the world. The power to create impact stems from the ability to create smaller changes within yourself and your communities and amplify those learnings to address the needs of a larger community.
I saw that a lot of people were inspired by their personal experiences or just seeing the reality of what a lot of people experience in their home.
Given the backdrop of the pandemic and civil unrest throughout the nation, it is important to recognize the good that can come from using your voice to empower those who aren’t heard. It is paramount to ask each individual to internally question what they are putting on the table and evaluate their goals repeatedly. Mahmood’s book is encouraging, uplifting and ignites a fervor to do good. For anyone who feels like there is something more that they could be doing but has no idea where to start, Mahmood’s book details with simple confidence a truth that we all need to hear: that you can create defined and impactful change with your time if you choose to create and utilize resources and reach for your goals.
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Curious, I asked Fareeha what her next steps for herself looked like. Ringing in her senior year at NYU, she said:
I’ll definitely be using the resources at NYU to further learn more because there’s never an end to that. What really stuck out to me from all the career options that I included in my book was definitely impact investing. I feel like that was just really interesting – studying economics and understanding the importance of capital and the role it can play in order to actually make a difference really resonated with me.