Inside USD

MSGL Alumna’s Passion Makes ‘Project doable!’

Monday, February 4, 2013

What’s your idea for making the world a better place?

Shabnam “Shane” Karimi, a May 2012 alumna of the Master of Science in Global Leadership program at the University of San Diego, is hard at work on hers — Project doable!

Her objective is to create a strong international network of social issue experts — such as employees and volunteers immersed in non-profits and non-governmental field work — and connect them to companies that can provide innovative products and services to those identified unmet needs. Project doable! seeks to incentivize collaboration by bringing solutions to communities and profits to companies who can not only help, but can fulfill their own desire to be a more socially responsible business while making profit and growing their business at the same time.

“With a little bit of innovation everyone wins,” she said.

Project doable! serves as “the connector, broker, source of market research and consult for both ends of our networks,” Karimi said. “The respective company chooses the degree to which Project doable! will be involved in brokering the transaction of goods and services. We do our best to mitigate risk, provide accurate and detailed market data and help facilitate logistics of product distribution, upon request.”

Karimi’s background has shaped her present project. Her undergraduate degree at San Diego State University was in International Conflict Resolution and Linguistics. She interned and worked at the Washington, D.C. office of the United Nations’ Public Information Center. She moved back to San Diego and landed a job as a mass-care specialist for the American Red Cross, a job that, two months later, had her strategizing on how to help San Diego County residents during the 2007 wildfires.

The knowledge she gained honed the networking aspects of Project doable!

“I was working with a lot of city managers and leaders in San Diego County who also had unofficial titles,” she said. “I’d meet and work with people who just ‘get’ their communities, such as the soccer mom who also knows the emergency plan for all of the churches or who knows the council member. I learned about social issue activists and they didn’t need a degree or title, but they had valuable knowledge of their communities.”

Once she got into the MSGL program, Karimi’s foundation of an idea began to take shape.

“My master’s program put it all together. MSGL really focuses on the soft skills of being a leader in the corporate world or organization. How do you lead in this world when everything’s constantly changing? Chaos is a predictable piece of what you do. You can’t count on anything. The economy changes so fast, you can’t study one thing and become good at it. You have to become good at everything. [MSGL] really teaches you how to evolve as a leader. It’s a lot about servant leadership. Management is part of it, but they really stressed the difference between management and leadership and corporate responsibility.”

Karimi looked at business ideas through the 4.1 billion “Bottom of the Pyramid” global population, those who live on less than $2.50 per day. Then came her discovery of USD’s Center for Peace and Commerce (CPC).

“I told [former MSGL program director] Bob Schoultz that my vision was to create something for people who want to do good, but to be business savvy about it. I remember asking him, ‘Is there something like that on campus?’ When he told me about the Center for Peace and Commerce, it was wonderful that an idea I had was already a center here on campus.”

Karimi joined the CPC, a joint partnership of USD’s School of Business Administration and Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies. She was president of the Graduate Students Committee and she met other passionate students dedicated to connecting business and social justice. The CPC has made great strides on fair trade, sustainability and microfinance and it’s the home of the Social Innovation Challenge (SIC). It provides students who create social issue business plans and programs a chance to earn a modest amount of seed funding — there’s $40,000 in total prize money available this year — as well as professional mentoring, networking opportunities and more.

Karimi entered her idea in the inaugural SIC in 2010. She didn’t earn any of the $12,000 available, but her idea was still in its infancy. Still, the experience kept her motivated.

“Entering the SIC pushed me to develop my idea more,” she said. “The CPC gave me the tools and mindset to approach the marketing and I’ve learned ways in which to lead [Project doable!].”

Karimi’s positive outlook and commitment continue to serve her well. She is seeking volunteers to get Project doable! going as well as potential start-up investors. Her passion is an important reminder for any social entrepreneur, especially while working hard to make change happen.

“I’m open about my struggles and I don’t think that’s a negative. Some people say you have to be strong all the time and that you can’t ever fail,” she said. “I don’t adhere to that. I think you’re human. The more human and vulnerable you are in the process, up and down, and if you really immerse yourself in the struggle, the more you’ll appreciate the success when you have it.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

Learn more about Karimi’s Project doable! in this video interview. Photo and logo courtesy of Karimi.

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