Young people can change the world, especially when they’re matched with experienced leaders. That’s the philosophy behind The Global Good Fund, founded in 2011 by Carrie Rich, who has worked tirelessly to make the world a better place by developing the next generation of leaders. Her grit, determination and refusal to take “No” for an answer makes her a real force to be reckoned with. Tune in, and be inspired.
Sandi: Welcome to another edition of The 51%, Conversations with Creative Women. I’m Sandi Klein. Young people can change the world, especially when they work with experienced leaders, and that’s the philosophy behind the Global Good Fund which has been around since 2011 and is the brain child of my guest today. Its mission is to accelerate development of high potential young leaders, who through, entrepreneurship tackle the world’s greatest social issues. Carrie Rich was one of those high potential young leaders, at fifteen she co-founded Teens for Technology, a non-profit whose goal was to bring computer literacy to young people living on the island nation of Jamaica. Within three years, it delivered more than a hundred thousand computers, today, the organization is self-sustaining and it’s run by locals. While an adjunct at Georgetown, where Carrie got a Masters in health systems administration, she developed a health care sustainability curriculum, the first of its kind. The syllabus eventually became a book, Sustainability for Health Care Management: A Leadership Imperative. Carrie also co-developed business plans, drummed up dollars, approached and hired CEOs to run My Primary Doctor, and Blue to Green LLC, that company employs people with special needs to produce environmentally friendly accessories made of recycled blue wrap. She is also the scholarship chair of the National Capital Health Care Executives and former board chair of Everybody Eats DC, a non-profit restaurant.
Carrie. Welcome and thanks so much for joining me today.
Carrie: Thank you Sandi, it’s a pleasure to be here.
Sandi: So, how does a fifteen year old launch a non-profit?
Carrie: [Laughing] Well. Actually, I came in as one of the, I think I was the third person engaged in Teens for Technology. The first person was my friend Anders Jones, when he was thirteen he went on a business trip with his father who was doing work in Jamaica and he sat in the back of a taxi cab and he and the taxi cab driver got talking. The taxi cab driver said, you know, my son goes to school, he’s your age, and he goes to school with eight hundred children and one computer.
Sandi: [gasping] Oh, what year was that?
Carrie: Let’s see, it much have been twelve years ago.
Carrie: They all shared one computer, eight hundred children.
Sandi: Good Lord.
Carrie: And Anders scratched his head and he said, well I go to school with eighty students and a hundred computers.
Carrie: That difference didn’t seem right to Anders, so he said to the taxi cab driver, you know, I have; his name was Carl, he said Carl I have another computer in my basement, I wonder if I could bring it to the school where your sons go if it would make a difference. Carl said, Anders, that’s nice but eight hundred students and two computers really doesn’t make much of a difference.
Sandi: [Laughing] Right.
Carrie: That’s where the seed for Teens for Technology was created.
Sandi: So, he came home from this trip to Jamaica and he said I have got to do something.
Sandi: And he enlisted his good friend Carrie Rich.
Carrie: That’s right and we had a mutual friend, and the three of us; and it grew. There were actually teenagers helping other teenagers through computer literacy. Nineteen attempts had been made prior to Teens for Technology all by adults helping kids and the reality was; when teens help teens; and there was a model in place so that it wasn’t just a handout, it was actually a hand up and the community helping itself and sustaining itself and teaching the next community and the next education center how they could embrace technology to future the education of young people. That’s really how Teens for Technology really came to be.
Sandi: Here you are, three teenagers. Did you know what you were doing? How long did it take you to actually get this thing off the ground?
Carrie: I joined several months in and there was; we were just completing our first school and I thought to myself, gee, if we could do one school, I wonder if we could put computers in a trash dump where people lived and it’s where the entire community hauled its trash.
Sandi: Mm Hmm
Carrie: There was this amazing community center and I figured, if we could, it was called Riverton, and my thought was, if we could computerize a community within a trash dump, you could really bring literacy anywhere. Sure enough, once that community got off the ground and the other schools got off the ground, it became sort of this multiplier effect where the next community was waiting, asking what do we need to do in order to bring computer literacy there- really it was driven by the communities. The teenagers would match the funds raised by the community, and the Gates Foundation would donate computers that were refurbished after being used for one year.
Sandi: That’s where I was going. From whom did you get your computers?
Carrie: In the beginning, we started asking our parents. Do you have any colleagues who might have computers that they want to get rid of?
Sandi: Mm Hmm
Carrie: But the reality was, it wasn’t, there was no quality control. We’d get all kinds of computers, very generous people, but in terms of repairing them and making sure that everyone had the same standards and could be used by the students effectively in Jamaica, that wasn’t a good plan, so we really revised the strategy and accepted standard computers that were issued through Bill Gates effectively, and it was refurbished in a warehouse in Texas, they were shipped by Jamaican Airlines, and they did it out of the goodness (and also for PR opportunities, which we, of course, loved) We started shipping them overseas and then flying the team, and eventually said, it’s crazy to have fourteen year olds flying back and forth.
Sandi: You think, Carrie? I mean, really. [Laughing]
Carrie: That is exactly how it happened. The thing was, adults got involved, we weren’t doing it alone, our parents were incredibly supportive and business leaders in Jamaica got involved. The head of the local newspaper, we would go to the Minister of Education, the Ambassadors home and meet with other teenagers and eventually it got to the point where we were hiring local staff, these teenagers helping to choose
Sandi: Yeah. You three pipsqueaks were doing this?
Carrie: Well, it grew!
Sandi: Mm Hmm
Carrie: We were fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, in college I stayed involved.
Sandi: Mm Hmm
Carrie: Other people got engaged. A DC chapter opened and we would mentor the students in high school who were going once we were in college. That’s how it grew. It sort of snowballed and I think if you’d asked us, you know, what was the business plan, at the time, I’m hoping one of our parents had an idea because we were really putting one foot in front of the other with a grand vision – That if we could empower our peers, other teenagers in Jamaica and eventually in other countries, what a gift to society that would be, through education and computer literacy.
Sandi: Oh absolutely. Where was this? In DC, is that where you all started?
Carrie: We all grew up outside of Boston.
Sandi: Ah Ha.
Carrie: Eventually another chapter opened in DC and in fact, again today, we’re all still in touch. I just went to dinner with Anders, the founder, and his mother is engaged in The Global Good Fund, and a board member stemmed out of someone I met in Jamaica doing Teens for Technology and we all went on to pursue our own ambitions but Teens for Technology is really what gave us the platform to figure out how to organize, how to be a catalyst for positive change, how to speak in front of large communities and really engage our peers.
Sandi: If you’re just joining us, my guest today is Carrie Rich, who is the founder of The Global Good Fund. So here you are, you’re a teenager, you have a commitment to help others; then you go on to college, this just carried along with you. You knew that this was something that you were going to do with your life?
Carrie: Well. Frankly, it felt like the right thing to do. I’m not sure it was so much of a strategic plan, but it was the right thing to do and there was momentum that was building that frankly didn’t need us. At one point, we were going five times a year to Jamaica, and I would go, one time, I would go by myself and meet the other teenagers along the way, and some people, there would be chaperones obviously, but it was largely driven by the teenagers with support of our loved ones. As we moved on to college, younger teens took on the reigns and they became the leaders and those teenagers included Jamaicans who are leading the organization today. Again, we communicate at least several times a month with the folks in Jamaica today, both the ones who were originally engaged and those who are leading today.
Sandi: Teens for Technology started you off that way, then college, and then you developed this Health Care Sensibility Systems Administration and My Primary Care Doctor, and Blue to Green LLC; I’m not trying to jumble them all together,
Sandi: but it was all just a natural progression for you to do this?
Carrie: [Sighs] Well, you know, I think I was frustrated. In each of these situations, I was frustrated. I was frustrated that my friend had so many computers to choose from and my peers in Jamaica basically had none. I was frustrated that society was spending 250 Billion dollars, at the time, in the US alone, on health care facilities and building them with carcinogens known to cause to cancer, for a heath care facility. I was frustrated that we were putting blue wrap, which is the material that are used to wrap surgical tools, I was frustrated that we were putting that blue wrap material into the ground instead of recycling it.
Sandi: Mm Hmm
Carrie: I was frustrated; I didn’t know what to do about it, so I just started putting one foot in front of the other and really started asking questions. Why are we putting blue wrap into the ground? Why are we building hospitals with known cancer carcinogens? That’s really what lead is, was what I am going to do about being frustrated about these things? And I’m not just going to sit there.
Sandi: So, what did you do?
Carrie: For the sustainability curriculum, I had been pursing training with the idea that at some point in my future, maybe fifteen, twenty years from the time, I would perhaps teach at a community college. That was my dream, as some sort of hobby, you know, a way to give back. At the time that I was in graduate school, you know, to pay for tuition I was working at a healthcare architecture firm, which again ties back to Jamaica and Teens for Technology. I had had a conversation with one of my peer’s fathers when we were in Jamaica and he asked me; Carrie, what part of the book store do you go into when you enter a bookshop? I said, well that’s easy, the architecture section. I take a big stack of books and I go sit down in the comfy chair and look at all the pictures. He said, oh, you must love architecture then, you must want to be an architect. I said no, in fact, I love health administration, I love health care and making the world more well. Keeping us healthy. He said, well, in fact, my sister in law runs an architecture firm that designs health care facilities, and that was my first foray, into health care architecture, of course it stemmed from Teens for Technology and a conversation we had in Jamaica.
Sandi: Mm Hmm
Carrie: Fast forward to college and I found myself working at my second architecture firm that designs health care facilities called Perkins and Well, and that was this incredible opportunity to be the liaison between designers, which is a very creative space, one that I had no idea how designers were trained or how they thought or how critique was integrated in an iterative process, and marry that with the business world that health effectively operates in. I was frustrated because I was going through school, learning how to be a health administrator, learning how to do the business side of hospitals and we were spending money and strategizing on how to build facilities, yet none of the operational thinking for running a sustainable health care facility was being taught in school.
Sandi: So, that’s what prompted you to take action?
Carrie: That’s right. I was writing all my school papers at the time, on health care sustainability and finally the chair of the department came to me and she said, Carrie, in addition to writing papers about this topic, why don’t you write a curriculum about heath care sustainability? I thought, gee this is great; I just figured, you know, as a graduate student you just do your work and turn it over and someone else takes it from there. So I just figured that was the same situation here, but a week later, the reality was, I’d been working on the curriculum anyway as part of my training for teaching perhaps one day in a community college, so a week later I brought in the syllabus that I’d been working on along with two sports bags. In the sports bags, I’d been collecting articles, journals, online reading materials about health care sustainability and found that there was really no book on the topic. The chair of the department turned to me, and I dropped both gym bags in front of her with all the reading materials in it, and she said, you know, how would you feel about teaching this course, Carrie? I was twenty-one at the time,
Carrie: And hadn’t dreamed of such an opportunity, but it became a really transformational moment in life, to not only be creative in developing a curriculum, but then actually getting to implement it.
Sandi: So, you’re on this course from one project to another, and then comes The Global Good Fund in 2011. How did that get started? Why did that get started?
Carrie: Well, it goes back to the sustainability curriculum actually.
Sandi: Everything’s connected, huh?
Carrie: It is. What happened was, I had been interning at a Nova Health System in Northern Virginia, and the reason I was doing that was because it was part of my degree program; that we did an internship in health organization and I was willing to do anything. I just wanted to get to network and learn. So, one day I had the opportunity to take attendance, which was the best task I could have been asked to do because it meant I got to introduce myself and meet face to face with all of the administrators of the health system. Once such administrator was the CEO of the health system, Knox Singleton, he’s been the CEO of Nova longer than I’d been alive.
Carrie: Owned the organization from one hospital to a multi-billion dollar networked health and wellness entity. This seemed to me like a wonderful person to stay in touch with. I approached Knox and asked him if we could have a conversation, wondering, he gets asked to have a conversation multiple times a day, why would he bother having a conversation with me, an intern. So, we started having a conversation about what it means to live a life and build a legacy. Live a life of purpose and build a legacy, and I dressed in a very formal business suit and pulled my hair back in a tight bun and at the end of the conversation, I thought how could I make a way for Knox and I to engage with each other for years to come so I can learn from him. At the end of the conversation, I said, Knox would you be willing to write a book with me?
Sandi: [gasping] You got a lot of balls, Carrie, huh?
Carrie: He looked at me, and he said, well sure. What are we going to write a book about? I just lost it! I said, oh this so cool, I lost all of my composure, I said this is so cool, and I said, well, how’s health care sustainability? I’ve been working on this curriculum and teaching the curriculum at Georgetown and I think it could be the first of its kind in the world, and really garner interest from a global audience. Through that process, Knox and I, over year along with another colleague named Seema Wadhwa, who’s the director of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, she and Knox and I engaged in a year long process in writing a book about health care sustainability. Over that period of time, Knox would really pontificate and we would come in and structure his thinking. He would pontificate and we would figure out how to communicate the vision for the future of health sustainability. One day, he called up on the phone, which I hadn’t expected, and he said, hello Carrie, this is Knox Singleton calling from the Nova Health System and I said, this is a prank caller, I’m going to hang up. He called back and that became, what turned into a new job for me. I transitioned from working at the architectural firm and teaching to health administration, which had been my passion since the time I had been going to Jamaica through Teens for Technology. I transitioned to be the Director of Vision Translation, I didn’t know, but which meant coming up with the future vision of health for a Nova in Northern Virginia and translating what that meant. Through that process, I had a conversation with my boss on day, with Knox, and I said, you know Knox, it’s amazing what could be achieved with relatively small amounts of money. He said, you know Carrie, that’s nice, but could you go back to doing you work?
Carrie: I hung my head and went back to my business. Two months later, it was my twenty-sixth birthday, Knox handed me a card and I opened the card, and there was a check for a hundred dollars and a note, that read Carrie, I was going to take you and your colleagues out to lunch for your birthday, instead here’s the money I would have spent, now you can live our your admonition that a small amount of money can go a long way.
Sandi: Huh. So, he gave you a challenge, didn’t he?
Carrie: He did. So, I wrote a letter to six organizations that I’d volunteered with in the past, including Teens for Technology, a local organization in Anacostia DC, a group in Haiti, Tanzania and others. I explained that my boss gave me some lunch money and I’d like to convert that one hundred dollars into a thousand dollars for each of you, what could you do with a thousand dollars? Their answers blew me away. In the seed school in Anacostia DC literacy rates could dramatically improve within a classroom, in Haiti ten families could sustain themselves on community agriculture. In Tanzania, twenty-five women could go through secondary school. This just blew my mind. A thousand dollars, that’s not a ton of money.
Sandi: Not at all.
Carrie: So, I wrote a letter through email, to my family and friends, which I’d never directly asked family and friends for money like this before. I’d always, you know, in fundraising for Teens for Technology or businesses, I’d going through organizations or companies, or people I didn’t know. So I was, first of all, convinced no one would read my email or respond. I just didn’t think they would. Secondly, it was four days before Christmas by the time I got out to sending this email. I figured everyone would be distracted. So, I wrote an email, documenting that my boss gave me some lunch money and here are the six organizations I’d like to support with you help. If we each gave a little bit, it would add up to a whole lot, let’s see what we can do. I didn’t know what to call the email, you know, you have to put in a subject heading, so I called it the Global Good Fund. I figured, no one’s going to read this email, so I might as well add as many people in the [to] section as possible, so I typed the letter “a”. You know how, when you type a letter in your email account, whoever’s email address starts with that letter,
Sandi: Right. Appears.
Carrie: So I hit enter and I added whoever’s, everyone’s email that started with the letter “a”.
Sandi: and you went down the alphabet.
Carrie: And a few hours later there were a few hundred emails, and I hit the send button. My friends were very generous. We were twenty-six at the time, and they’re sending in thirty, fifty, a hundred dollars and two weeks later, it added up to six thousand fifty two dollars. A thousand dollars each for six organizations, which was the goal, and I figured, all done, I can sort of clap my hands and went to distribute the funding. One time deal. Then I got an email from an address I didn’t recognize and I searched back in my account and found that this was an individual whose email address had popped up when I added the letter, and I had met this person at a conference a year earlier, had no idea he had any money, and I had exchanged business cards with him after sitting at lunch and I’d followed up and said nice to meet you. That was it for a whole year, and he responded to my email titled the Global Good Fund and the first sentence said, I’d like to stay anonymous, which we’ve respected to this day, and the second sentence said I’d like to donate a million dollars to the Global Good Fund.
Sandi: Are you kidding me!
Carrie: Where should I send the check? I’m thinking, he’s pranking me, this has to be a joke, this can’t be real. So, I responded that, if this isn’t a prank, meet me at this very public location on this date and time. It has lots of surveillance cameras and I’m not going to wait past ten minutes for you to show up.
Sandi: Was this in 2011?
Carrie: That’s right.
Sandi: Okay. This sounds like something from an old television show, like what was that show, The Millionaire, I can’t remember.
Carrie: It was.
Sandi: It pre-dates you, but yeah.
Carrie: I couldn’t even imagine, so early January, he in fact shows up.
Sandi: The masked man shows up.
Carrie: With a bank certified check for a million dollars made out to The Global Good Fund, which of course, the organization the Global Good Fund, didn’t exist, it was the subject heading of an email.
Sandi: [Laughing] Oh, God.
Carrie: He asked me, he looked at me and he said, what will you do with the money? I said, honestly, I didn’t prepare as much as I should have, I didn’t think you would come. The truth is, the part of my life that has been so meaningful is having people pull me up and coach me and mentor me. If we could identify high potential young leaders throughout the world who are dedicating their lives to social impact through entrepreneurship and match them with people who have experience, what a gift to society that would be if we could accelerate the development of the young people and the enterprises they support.
Sandi: If you’re just going us, my guest today is Carrie Rich, who is the founder of The Global Good Fund and she’s been explaining how this fund got off the ground. So, this masked millionaire, did he ever tell you who he was, I mean obviously signed the check and he didn’t sign it John Doe, did he?
Carrie: In fact, he was the same person who, I mean, he was the person who showed up at the conference a year earlier and he was an acquaintance. He stayed engaged, but never, he stayed anonymous as well.
Sandi: I understand. So, this now propels you to a whole other level. You’ve got all this money and you have got to start an organization here don’t you?
Carrie: I had no idea what to do.
Sandi: Oh, stop saying that. Apparently you always did know what to do. [Laughing]
Carrie: That’s a big responsibility to have someone hand you a check, and I didn’t know what to do because he made the check out to an organization that didn’t exist.
Sandi: So you became a 501 C3 right away, right?
Carrie: Right. Well, it takes a while, I just didn’t know how to figure
Sandi: Mm Hmm
Carrie: I, of course, went back to my boss Knox who gave me the initial lunch money.
Carrie: I’m standing there shaking with the check.
Sandi: Knox, boy could I take you for a meal.
Carrie: I slammed the check down on the table, I said, look what you’ve done. You gave me the lunch money and this, nearly a stranger, gave a million dollars to The Global Good Fund, I have no idea what to do, will you help me? He said, well tell me the vision. I said the vision is that we would identify young leaders throughout the world who are high potential and accelerate their development so that they could apply themselves to social impact through entrepreneurship. He smiled and said, well, I’d like to help you with this idea under two conditions. The first condition, is that at work, at a Nova, you report to me; At the Global Good Fund, I’d like to report to you.
Sandi: Oh, wow.
Carrie: He was empowering me the whole time through. He said the second condition is I’d like to match the initial gift.
Carrie: Two weeks later, with two people, two million dollars and a vision, and that’s how The Global Good Fund was started.
Sandi: I was starting to think that Knox and a hundred dollars sound a little on the cheap side, you know what I mean?
Sandi: [Laughing] A hundred dollars, I mean, come on. So take us to today. This amazing organization is started and what does it do today?
Carrie: We’ve supported nineteen entrepreneurs in eleven countries to date. Over fifty percent are women, fifty percent are for profits, with a social mission; meaning the reason they were created is to fulfil a social cause. And the other fifty percent are non-profit entities with revenue generating streams. Fifty percent of our activities within the US, we believe it’s important to invest both locally and globally, and they’re in different parts of the world, including Latin America, Africa, and Asia. We’re about to launch our commercial product, so this is our first attempt at creating our own revenue stream to support and reinvest in The Global Good Fund and the entrepreneurs we really have the privilege to support longer term. The Global Good Fund was, really grew by putting one foot in front of the other in the same way Teens for Technology grew or creating a sustainability curriculum grew, or any company grows and the reality is, Knox reached out to his peers, the presidents of universities, the CEOs of banks,
Sandi: Sure. You have a track record.
Carrie: You do, and that’s something I didn’t have. One of the things that I learned to do was be okay with leveraging other people’s credibility because I really didn’t have the experience to be credible at that point. I was still, I am still, developing my track record and
Sandi: Yeah, but you have a lot of chutzpah.
Carrie: [Laughing] That’s what my mother tells me. So, I really reached out to my peers and they were amazing, incredibly inspiring people all over the world. Who, if they had the visibility, had the platform, had the people caring and saying I believe in you and had the financial support to grow themselves, grow their leadership development as a vehicle for enterprise growth, that became the focus of The Global Good Fund and that’s the same as it is today. We have our flagship/fellowship program, we’ll be investing in ten more entrepreneurs in January 2015, and we’re launching our first attempt at commercial products.
Sandi: What does that mean?
Carrie: Basically commercialized components of the fellowship program; so, we’re able to sell at a price sensitive point, that anyone in the world can afford, leadership development assessment tools, leadership coaching for social entrepreneurs and leadership development planning specifically tailored for social entrepreneurs.
Sandi: How do you pick your fellows?
Carrie: So, we rely heaving on field partners who are locally accessing high potential young leaders and can refer people who have strong enterprises where we can do due diligence on the leadership development process. We make cull investments with impact investors and venture capitalists and we also have an online open enrollment process. That basically gives us an opportunity for anyone in the world, with internet access, to be able to apply and we have a six month due diligence process that walks through everything from leadership development to enterprise growth and social impact. Today, we’re actually narrowing the top one hundred fifty semi-finalists to the top thirty finalists, down to the top ten Global Good Fund Fellows.
Sandi: So, there are ten finalists every year?
Carrie: Well, we’ve grown, so last; we’re on our fourth cohort, the first year there were five, the second year there were six, we did eight the second year as well, so we had two cohorts the second year, and now we’re on our fourth and so it will be ten, so it went five, six, eight, ten fellows this year.
Sandi: And do you accept donations from regular folk?
Carrie: We certainly do; globalgoodfund.org is our website and you can, I’d be delighted to receive donations directly. You can email me at email@example.com.
Sandi: Carrie, we’re almost out of time, but I just wanted to ask you this last question. Do you look back over these last five, six years and are you just amazed at what you gave birth to?
Carrie: Well, when you put it all together, it’s exciting but the truth is, day to day it doesn’t necessarily look like the big picture. So, I try to see, take a step back and really, this opportunity gives me the opportunity to appreciate what the big picture looks like and I’m proud of how I’m spending my time and proud of the team that I get to support and be part of.
Sandi: I think you’re a little on the self-deprecating side. I’m so impressed with your commitment and your drive and your passion and if the world had a lot more Carrie Rich’s, boy would we be a lot richer for it. I can’t thank you enough for taking time to have a conversation with me. I think you’re amazingly inspiring and I wish you nothing but continued success. It has been a real pleasure to get to know you.
Carrie: Thank you so much for the opportunity and your support, Sandi.
Join us again for another edition of the 51% Conversations with Creative Women. I’m Sandi Klein.
Narrator: Thanks for listening to The 51% Conversations with Creative Women. For show comments and suggestions please follow us on Twitter at #sandikleinshow. You can also find us on Facebook at The 51% Conversations. The show is produced and recorded by Chad Dougatz at the Hangar Studios in New York City. Sandi Klein is our executive producer.