March 6, 2013

The Seminal Moment for Philanthropist Connie Duckworth

By: The Bridgespan Group
Connie-Duckworth-198x135.jpgWhat hooked you in your philanthropy? Connie Duckworth’s “seminal moment” happened on a winter trip to Kabul, Afghanistan.

In the winter of 2003, not long after retiring from a groundbreaking career at Goldman Sachs, Connie Duckworth found herself in a military aircraft, headed to Kabul. Why? The state department had put together a U.S-Afghan Women’s Council to advise on giving women “a seat at the table” in the new Afghanistan. A colleague had recommended Duckworth to serve as the business representative, citing her business savvy and her passion for women’s issues.

When Duckworth boarded that first flight to Kabul, she certainly didn’t anticipate what was to come. However, the trip to Afghanistan and—in particular—a visit to a group of widows and their children living in horrifying conditions was the “seminal moment”  that convinced Duckworth she had to “do something.”
  And do something she has. A decade later, Duckworth runs ARZU Studio Hope, a social venture that is one of the largest private employers in Afghanistan. Boasting a nearly all-Afghan workforce, ARZU has provided income, job training, worker benefits, and sustainable community development projects for over 700 Afghan women and their families. ARZU estimates that in all, tens of thousands of Afghans have benefitted from the ripple effect of its work.

A key moment: After visiting Afghanistan, Connie Duckworth knew she had to do something

For a complete archive of Connie Duckworth videos, see here. While there were a lot of unknowns when Duckworth made the vow to do something, she alighted on a few anchors that she was sure about. Given her belief in the power of the economy and jobs to create change, she knew jobs would be central to her effort. While that anchor has remained firmly planted, Duckworth’s journey has included unexpected partnerships with the U.S. Military, and she has learned to be patient when necessary to make sure she is building her business for the long haul.

What hooks have you identified in your philanthropy? And what anchors you to the ground to help you make the hard decisions that will come?

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