Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 06/15/2013

HSU_500Esther Hsu Wang, Class of 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Founding Partner, IDinsight

The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation provided me with the opportunity to study at the Harvard Kennedy School, collaborate with lifelong friends, and engage with some of the most accomplished people of our time. I will always be thankful for these myriad opportunities. I loved being part of the Center for Public Leadership and was honored to join the unforgettable Academy of Achievement Summits in South Africa and Washington D.C.

Since graduating from Harvard in 2010, I shored up my private sector roots at Bain & Company, and launched IDinsight with three other Kennedy School classmates (Andrew Fraker, Neil Buddy Shah, and Paul Wang, who is now my husband). IDinsight’s vision is to improve millions of lives by transforming how the social sector innovates, learns, and improves. Our mission is to partner with our clients to generate and use rigorous evidence to improve their social impact. Depending on client needs, we help diagnose systems, design and test potential solutions, and operationalize those solutions found to be most impactful. We believe that client-centered, rigorous, and responsive evaluation is essential to help managers maximize program impact. I believe we are filling a gap in the social sector that spends hundreds of billions of dollars per year trying to fight the world’s intractable problems for the poor and disadvantaged.  Our clients include national governments, global foundations, NGOs and social businesses.

I have moved to Zambia (after several months establishing in Cambodia and India) and with my co-founders, are building IDinsight offices in Zambia, Uganda and India, plus activities in Cambodia and Kenya. We are continually learning from each of our projects — in water, sanitation, governance, health and agriculture — and refining our approach and our model. We’ve benefited from other networks such as the Echoing Green Foundation, but I believe the seeds of our work were sowed during our precious time at the Kennedy School. It’s been an exciting ride so far, full of lucky breaks and lessons learned. In a typical day, I can be negotiating car insurance for the office, or having a tête-à-tête with a director in the national government. Each day is a surprise, but such is the life of a young start-up… in the social sector… in a developing country.

As a Reynolds Fellow, I was inspired by the many social entrepreneurs who blazed trails before us, and my fellow classmates, who were constantly challenging each other to stick to our visions and make the world a better place. I still think fondly of the group of five Fellows with whom I met weekly, acting as sounding boards and advisers, to push each others’ ideas forward. Several of my Reynolds classmates sit on IDinsight’s Board of Directors (Arun Gupta and Jacob Donnelly) and we are honored to have them with us. A special “shout out” to my friends David Noah and Keren Raz, whom I met at the Achievement Summit in South Africa, and who have provided valuable legal counsel for IDinsight.  Thanks to the Reynolds Foundation and all the amazing people I’ve met on this journey.  Please give me a shout if you pass through Zambia!

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