October 31, 2023

Staff Spotlight: Hannah Benn

Hannah Benn is a manager in the Johannesburg office. She serves the philanthropy and nonprofit sectors as well as impact investing clients, with a strong focus on organisations that are advancing socially and ecologically sustainable development across Africa.

Hannah Benn

How did your journey in the social sector begin?

I’ve always wanted to work for and with people. Originally, I thought that meant I wanted to be a doctor. I was lucky enough to get some work experience, and I soon learned that being a doctor would be very difficult emotionally for me. I then thought about another sector where I’d actually be engaging a lot with people—that was the environment, climate, and sustainability space. As much as it is people impacting the planet, the planet also has such a big impact on people’s livelihoods and well-being. So I turned my focus to that as a way to try and contribute to building resilience and contributing to a solution to one of society’s most pressing challenges.

Within the sector, which issues or areas are you particularly passionate about?

I’m interested in climate resilience and conservation: helping communities and people adapt to changing climate conditions and live cohesively with nature. Within that, there’s so much to do, and I have a strong passion for sustainable livelihoods. I’m interested in understanding how people make their living, and how we can turn those activities not only into something resilient to climate change but also something that contributes to improving climate conditions and the conservation of nature.

What brought you to Bridgespan? 

I’d been working for a long time with public-sector clients, including governments, development banks, and aid agencies. I was eager to start working with a different client profile, so I was looking for companies that were engaging more in the nonprofit sector and working more directly with impact investors or philanthropic funders. I wanted to see if there was a little bit more immediacy and activity here because I was getting a bit jaded with the bureaucracy of public sector clients. A team member in the Johannesburg office, who is also a friend, suggested Bridgespan, and it sounded like a great place to be. The more I spoke to people working at Bridgespan, the more I got to experience a flavour for the casework. 

Is there any exciting project you’re currently working on? 

We’re about to kick off an exciting strategy case with a nonprofit called Ubongo—they are based in Dar es Salaam and operate across 41 countries in Africa. They offer edutainment across multiple media platforms, and we’ll be helping them with their next strategic plan as well as looking at their key leadership capabilities and how they can configure those to execute the plan effectively. This is a completely new sector for me, as I’ve never worked in the broadcast media space or the education space before. So I’m excited to apply what I know about impact and reaching communities with interventions in this new space. Our team will also travel together to Dar es Salaam, which will be great. The client team seems really inspiring, engaged, and innovative, and one that takes a lot of initiative as well. I think they will give us a lot of energy. It’s going to be an exciting partnership.

What do you see in Bridgespan Africa’s future?

I’ll start with the present. It makes me very proud to be part of an office that has such an infectious energy. The kindness and support that I’ve been shown during my welcoming period has been so warm. There’s a really constructive attitude towards building and growing this section of Bridgespan, and I see the Johannesburg office becoming a really innovative and impactful force on the African continent. There is such a need for the kind of partner that Bridgespan is, helping organisations think through the impact that they’re creating and the challenges they’re facing. The diversity of skills we have in this office, growing every day, will only make us a more capable and trusted partner. I’m excited to be a part of that.

What do you enjoy the most about working at Bridgespan?

The intentionality in everything that Bridgespan does. From diversity, equity, and inclusion to the way we support team members with meaningful professional development, the responsibility we take with our clients helping them tackle complex challenges and working through uncertainty in a constructive way, all the way through to our ultimate belief in impact—there’s a strong thread of intentionality through all of that. Bridgespan is a unique organisation in that we walk the talk so strongly. And if we continue to hold ourselves accountable to that, it will continue to be a great place to work. 

What do you enjoy doing outside work? 

I love to be outside in nature. Even if I’m at home, I’m typically in the garden playing with my dog and my cat. Or I’m with out with friends. I like to do a lot of running and hiking and spending time with my family. I’m excited that our seasons are changing and it’s becoming summer, so I’ll be able to spend a lot more time outside doing all those things. 

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