The First Steps Toward Impact

In the Fall of 2018, I was working on a community mental health project in Nashville, and looking for other graduate student organizations with the passion for social impact. This brought me to the doors of the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures. At the start of the academic year, I walked into the TFC information session with the intention of wanting to partner with them – but little did I know that I was walking into what would be an incredible two year journey of growth. 

I left the information session with more questions than answers as my curiosity had been piqued. And in all honesty, the idea of business driving social change was a hard concept for me to wrap my head around. I vividly remember sitting at a Lunch and Learn that very same semester being shown the Social Impact Continuum (displayed) and being asked where on the continuum I had the most experience with social impact and felt most comfortable. As an individual who had spent all of her working experience in the non-profit industry, that was my obvious answer. Then it was posed: Could business be part of the solution? Better yet, why should business be a part of solving social issues? A light bulb went on in my head in the same way you cannot unsee something you’ve already seen. I realized I was approaching solutions in a silo, not challenging myself to conceptualizing problems differently. In that spirit, I joined the TFC Education & Student Experience Committee, I later was accepted into the first cohort of the Emerging Impact Leaders Fellowship, and finally I had the privilege to serve on the TFC Executive Leadership team my final year of graduate school. Reflecting on this two year journey, I learned more than I bargained for and I miss the TFC and all it stands for every day (pardon the nostalgia).

The gravity of community within the TFC made you want to do more, be more – not out of competition, but out of inspiration. The innovation that came out of small day to day operations that carried through into large seven month projects made one feel like they accomplished something bigger than themselves. In a sense, looking at the history of the TFC and the impact of students year after year meant you were carrying on a legacy that was meant to be known and shared. 

Leaning into that history, I also gained a reservoir of knowledge. Learning at the TFC was the kind that compelled me to ask more questions than to answer them. In a similar vein, I began to learn the art of problem solving. I came to find there’s never really a “correct” solution so letting perfectionism and overthinking get the best of me actually impacted the “good” I could do for those around me.

Finally, the TFC was the only place in graduate school that gave me the opportunity to sit in the same classroom as an MBA, JD, MA, MS, MPH, and MDiv student, where together we cultivated the importance of interdisciplinary work. What I found, in tandem with my M.Ed. in Human Development, is that bringing about social change cannot happen without the dynamic of human differences. We inherently look for those who match our similarities, but the people we need to reach for are those we would never think to approach. I believe that’s the most important thing I took with me into my post-graduate life, whether it’s personal or professional, I look for a way to connect with the people who do not think in the same way I do. Why? Because there’s value, innovation, and prosperity in our differences… if we only have the courage to take that first step. 

 

After graduation, Lauren moved to Denver, CO, where she is now working for an Education Management company helping to launch and manage online graduate programs.

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