September 21, 2011

Celebrating Women in the World

By: The Bridgespan Group

This week is a treasure trove for global development fans: The Clinton Global Initiative and the United Nations General Assembly are both convening in New York. In addition to these established players, a new entrant has come on the scene: The Women in the World Foundation was launched to "spotlight to the causes of women who need so badly to be seen," such as those suffering from violence, lack of economic opportunity, or poor education. The Foundation has assembled a core set of committed funders (such as the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations) as well as key solutions partners (including excellent organizations such as Vital Voices).

One of the most intriguing examples of economic empowerment for women that we’ve seen combines the business savvy and philanthropic mission of Connie Duckworth, a pioneering businesswoman who turned her skills toward Afghanistan after September 11, 2001. Duckworth became the first female sales and trading partner at Goldman Sachs in 1990 and went on to serve her country as a member of the U.S. Department of State’s U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council. As a result of her experience, she went on to found ARZU STUDIO HOPE, an organization led by women in Afghanistan to produce and market high-quality rugs.

Duckworth’s work captures the spirit of engaged philanthropy: She identified an issue, decided on a strong approach that took into account the cultural context, and adapted her approach through trial and error. The result? An enterprise that has empowered people to create tangible benefits for their communities. Duckworth's story is an excellent lesson for all of us who are passionate about powerful, humble, and durable social change.

Read more about Duckworth and ARZU STUDIO HOPE.

Susan Wolf Ditkoff is a partner at the Bridgespan Group and co-leader of its philanthropy practice.

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