According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, business has emerged as the most trusted institution during the pandemic. GlobalGiving CEO Alix Guerrier reflects on the unique opportunity for businesses and nonprofits to take collective action to advance social change.
Who He Is:
Alix Guerrier is the CEO of GlobalGiving. He is a co-founder of the education technology company LearnZillion and previously served as its president prior to joining GlobalGiving. He's also been a consultant in McKinsey & Company’s Education Practice, a middle and high school math teacher, and worked in the public finance department at Citigroup. He currently serves on the boards of LearnZillion, Capital City Public Charter School, and GuideStar USA. Alix has a Masters in Education from the Stanford University School of Education and an MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. He graduated from Harvard University with an AB in physics and is a proud product of New Haven Public Schools. A first-generation American and child of parents from Haiti and rural Brazil, he lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and two daughters.
Q: Your bio is such an interesting read! How has your background and experience prepared you to be effective in an environment that holds diversity as core to its mission and values? How has it challenged you?
A: I certainly rely on my background in education and my time as a classroom teacher when I think about some of these issues. From my perspective, the core problem in education in the U.S. is one of equity. At least, that is why I became a teacher: because my own educational experience showed me that access and opportunity can be systematically withheld on the basis of race, gender, income, and other factors. The entirety of my time in the education field included an explicit focus on these issues. However, almost all of my experience is in the American context. Even with an international family, I have a lot to learn about how to make progress around the world.
Q: In an article you published last year, you shared your hope that GlobalGiving can contribute to progress on ending racial injustice. What does that work look like?
A: I believe the first step for us was to make an honest assessment of our starting point. We were in a beginning state; for example, we didn’t have a good way on our site to find projects focused on racial justice. We started there with some of the basics, like rethinking our project themes. From there, we have a number of ways to learn, grow, and improve. Of those, I’d highlight the responsibility we have to listen to the nonprofit partners we have working on this issue (like the ones listed in that piece from last year!) It’s a privilege and a responsibility for us—we get to learn from their approaches and should work to amplify their work.
Q: GlobalGiving partners with a large number of companies. How can business leaders drive social change? How can businesses partner with nonprofits to support them as they respond to calls from consumers to take action to support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)?
A: Prioritization can help turn a very daunting task (“let’s improve our DEI”) into meaningful progress.
It is critical to remember that when we’re talking about businesses, companies, and nonprofit organizations, we are actually talking about groups of individual people—the leaders and staff of these entities—who are each taking action every day.
This framing allows us to make racial justice actionable because every decision taken by an organization’s leaders and staff is an opportunity to advance the social change they desire to see. A company’s leadership can then prioritize: for which activities and decisions would they like to work on change first? Their choice will help determine with whom they should partner.
Q: What are the most challenging aspects of an increasingly diverse global nonprofit community, and what steps has GlobalGiving taken to meet such challenges? What are the benefits?
A: Our most daunting challenge: scale. Our model of partnership with global nonprofits is heavy on person-to-person interactions. We take phone calls. We know the names of our project leaders, and they know the names of members of our team who are working on their behalf. However, we also raised more than $100 million last year, and we’re working hard to get to half a billion and beyond. Technology is surely part of the solution in our desire to preserve the personal relationships we have with our partners as we grow, but we must also be careful because overreliance on technology can leave some folks behind.
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Featured Photo: National Health and Safety Program by Cummins’ grantee Wuxi Xishan Lezhu Social Work Office