Emotion as a Common Language

2008 Echoing Green Fellow Elizabeth Scharpf was interning for the World Bank in Mozambique when she overheard some colleagues complaining that many of their staff were missing work because they were menstruating. She did a little digging and learned that 18 percent of school-age girls in Rwanda, as an example, miss school because menstrual pads are too expensive. With a little more research, Elizabeth discovered that indigenous materials could be used to manufacture pads. She founded Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) to create a new system for education, business training, and manufacturing of menstrual pads made from banana fibers—eventually allowing women to know their own franchises and regain dignity and control over their own health.

In an interview for Harvard Business Review with Anne Kreamer, Executive Vice President for Nickelodeon and Nick at Nite, Elizabeth explains that her approach to the problem started by talking to people—“when you talk to people, you discover what’s missing. It’s that simple.” She has also found that emotion is a common language that everyone relates to—as she is building her team, understanding what drives people to do what they do, what makes them feel good about themselves is critical to finding the right people for SHE. Their success will be determined not just by a strong infrastructure and solid operations, but “by their ability to align people’s interests and passions with their roles.”

At Echoing Green, understanding why people do what they do helps us to select Fellows, hire staff, and seek out partners. Our own experiences have shown us that the alignment between an individual’s or organization’s “heart” and “head” is central to their success in the high-impact social change space.

Read the full article about SHE and Elizabeth’s thoughts on psychology classes for all MBA students here: http://ht.ly/98NHm. And check out our new program that shows people how to create careers that are both right for them and good for the world.