Elaine Lum MacDonald talks about her journey since graduating from Harvard in 1992. Elaine started off her career in management consulting at the Monitor Company in Cambridge. After gaining experience in the field, after that she moved to Asia. She was based in Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Taiwan, and China for four years, gaining meaningful and memorable experiences. After this, she went to Harvard Business School and graduated in 1998. She spent a decade working for Clorox running million-dollar company’s and leading marketing for a division, she went on to launch her own company, the Knowledge Impact Network. This organization focuses on helping leaders and organizations build trust and increase their impact. Elaine also works as a consultant for other organizations that are looking to make a difference in the world.
Working in Indonesia and California
Elaine shares her experiences working in Indonesia and Hong Kong in the 1990s. She describes how she had to take taxis to get around in rural communities and how the retail landscape was changing rapidly. She also shares some of the daunting and scary scenarios she encountered, such as being mistaken for a call girl or not knowing who to trust when taking a taxi. Despite the challenges, she found the experience interesting and eye-opening. She also enjoyed the experience of proving people wrong by breaking stereotypes of a young Asian woman.
Elaine wanted to experience deeper operational management and decided to move to California in the late 1990s to work for Clorox. There was a great exodus of people from the East Coast to Silicon Valley during this time, as it was a land of opportunity with startups. She met her husband and decided to stay in California where she currently lives with her family.
Working as a Strategic Marketing Consultant
Elaine worked part time while her children were young, she and her colleague shared a job and a joint identity where they were known as Elady. Elaine left Clorox to become a strategic marketing consultant, allowing her more flexibility with her time and to do more volunteer work. Elaine shares her story of finding her passion for volunteer consulting while studying at Harvard Business School. Through the Harvard Business School Community Partners program, she was able to provide pro bono volunteer consulting to local nonprofits. She enjoyed the experience of being able to think through challenges and help organizations, and eventually she took on the role of recruiting organizations and alumni to donate their time. For the following seven years, she worked at HBS Community Partners in Northern California with the goal of inspiring and empowering alumni to use their skills for social good. She found her niche in being a connector and bridge, finding people with bright minds and big hearts and matching them with organizations that could really use their help.
Founder of the Knowledge Impact Network
Elaine became the founder of the Knowledge Impact Network (KIN). KIN is an organization that connects alumni of Harvard Business School (HBS) to nonprofits who need assistance in a variety of areas. Elaine first got the idea for KIN from her experience of helping Bay Area nonprofits while she was working with the Harvard Alumni Association. After the pandemic hit, she noticed the need for more help from alumni and decided to create KIN to allow alumni to provide support to nonprofits virtually. KIN provides a bridge between alumni and nonprofits, allowing the alumni to help with a variety of issues, such as food supply chains, by connecting them to the right experts. KIN focuses on three areas of impact: core human needs (food, water, health, shelter); educating for workforce readiness; and protecting our planet. Elaine explains how she and the founders of KIN, who are YPO distinguished leaders, hit it off when they discussed how they could bring the power of CEO networks to share their knowledge with positive causes and accelerate impact. KIN is open to social impact organizations, social ventures, and experts from anywhere in the world. Organizations can apply through the KIN website, and experts can sign up to share their knowledge of a specific area. KIN then connects the organizations and experts and facilitates a 90-minute catalyst session to help the organization solve an issue.
The Social Ventures Network
Elaine then expanded the network with the Social Ventures Network, an organization which connects professionals with causes and social ventures they can get involved with. Elaine talks about how easy it is for professionals to leverage their skills for good and how the Social Ventures Network takes away the friction of getting involved. Elaine explains how the Network works with family offices who want to support a specific cause, as well as companies and individuals. The Network helps people figure out how to get involved with social ventures and learn about them, while also advancing a cause they feel passionate about.
Elaine talks about Impact circles and explains that they are a way to bring together a community of social innovators who want to take action in a certain area. An example of an Impact circle was formed when a knowledge partner met a renowned climatologist at UC Santa Barbara’s Climate Hazard Center who spoke about the data available to help farmers adjust their crops and improve yields in the face of changing weather. The Impact circle brings together experts, companies, government, and academics to help figure out how to get this data to rural smallholder farmers in places like Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department agreed that this data would be extremely helpful. The team is now in the process of developing a site with the right type of data to get it into the hands of the farmers.
Influential Professors and Courses at Harvard
Elaine recounts her experience as a Harvard student. She mentions Nancy Kane, Marty Feldstein, and Michael Sandel as two of her most memorable and inspiring professors. Elaine was a history and science major and enjoyed the challenge and creativity of connecting the dots between different disciplines. Her current project is a great example of how people from different parts of the world can come together to make something happen.
05:17 Experiences Working in Indonesia and Hong Kong in the 1990s
10:26 From Consulting to Brand Management
13:23 Joint Identity and Strategic Marketing Consulting
17:54 Harvard Alumni Connecting Nonprofits with Expertise During the Pandemic
21:43 Exploring the Knowledge Impact Network: Leveraging Knowledge for Social Impact
26:35 Catalyzed Sessions for Social Ventures
30:05 Leveraging Skills for Social Good
34:00 Harvard Education and Global Development Projects
Ep.59. Elaine Lum MacDonald
Elaine Lum MacDonald, Will Bachman
Will Bachman 00:01
Hello, and welcome to the 92 report conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe class of 1992. I’m your host, will Bachmann you can visit the 92 port online at nine to report.com, where you can check out the show notes and transcripts of every episode, and you could sign up for an email. Well let you know about each episode. I’m excited to be here today with Elaine McDonald, who some classmates may remember as Elaine lum MacDonald Mary named Elaine, welcome to the show.
Elaine Lum MacDonald 00:35
Hi, thanks so much well for having me.
Will Bachman 00:38
So, Elaine, I know you are the CEO of the knowledge Impact Network, which we just spent some time talking about before we started recording. I’m excited to hear about that. But let’s dial it back. Tell me about your journey since graduating from Harvard.
Elaine Lum MacDonald 00:56
Sure fell. Well, it has, let’s see, at this point, been a twin, a little over 25 year journey. So tell me if I should be slowing down or speeding up at different parts of that journey. But I graduated from Harvard in 92 Going into management consulting afterwards, so I worked for the monitor company. And I started off working as a management consultant there and the Cambridge headquarters out by the Cambridge Galleria. And then about a year into that moved down to New York to help build out their their New York practices that was just kicking off. And then a year after that moved out to Asia, to work on a number of projects in the Asia Pacific region, as they were also building out the Asia Pacific presence. So was based in Hong Kong, Indonesia, that projects and you know, India, Taiwan, China, etc. After doing that, for about four years, it was an incredible growing experience was challenging, super challenging. But fun. And definitely, as I look back in my life have had such meaningful and memorable experiences that really shaped who I am and what I do. But then decide to go back to business school. And so I then went to HBS, across the river, and graduated in 98. From from there,
Will Bachman 02:29
can I can I just pause you there to say how cool is that be 2425 years old and working in Hong Kong, India, Taiwan, all across Asia? What an amazing, just for me, I mean, I grew up on the east coast of what did it mean? That would sounds like such an amazing experience. Tell me a bit about Tell me one project that really sticks out for you there that opened your world in some way?
Elaine Lum MacDonald 02:57
Yeah, yeah, it really was an incredible experience, especially back in the 90s when, you know, working in countries that were less developed at that time, and certainly we don’t have today’s sort of ability to connect with the internet and so forth. Working in Indonesia was a really eye opening experience. Being in a Muslim country, being in Jakarta. You know, arriving in a place as a single woman, as a single Asian American woman, you know, in some of these locations, was a little daunting. I’m not sure today, I wouldn’t be happy about my daughter’s daughter’s doing sibling, something like this in hindsight, but it can be it can, it can be kind of scary. There are definitely times where I thought gosh, this is kind of a make or break situation, I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I hope I make it out of here. You know, it’s not like those horrible stories that you hear about. But working in Indonesia was a very memorable time I was working at the time for big fortune 500 company, I think today talk about Coca Cola as they were trying to figure out expansion in rural communities. And the retail landscape was just changing so rapidly, Indonesia and evolving very quickly and figuring out how to get Coca Cola products, you know, out there, you know, to the different communities was was interesting. So doing a lot of interviews go into more rural regions, just just eye opening to see how, how so many things we take for granted, you know, is was different there whether communication, traffic, you know, getting from one side of the road to the other. Could be really hard if there are a lot of people sitting on the on the roads eating their lunch, you know, you just can’t, the car just doesn’t move. I mean, just a lot of fun. Yeah, just so many learnings it was it was the 90s. And it was just a fun time also to be in Hong Kong at that time, right before the handover back to China. It was an exciting time to connect with expats all around the world. So yeah, really, really fun times.
Will Bachman 05:17
You mentioned, there was some times where it was a bit of a daunting situation. Little scary scenario, are there any those that you feel comfortable sharing with us?
Elaine Lum MacDonald 05:31
Sure, sure. You know, in hindsight, it’s, it’s funny, because I ended up being safe. But, you know, arriving taking a taxi, you know, to get to someplace, you in these countries at that time. And even today, you know, you don’t know who to trust, right, the systems aren’t in place to protect individuals. And so somebody can have a badge. And it doesn’t actually mean that they are official. And so you know, showing up in like Bombay, in Delhi, and in looking for, you know, a cab to take me to a hotel, and there’s lots of people crowded, Holding, holding badges are looking like they’re inconsistent uniforms to give off an air of authority, you kind of have to just pick one it doesn’t know, you just don’t know who is quote, unquote, more official, you know, a company, and then it’s, it’s late at night, it’s dark, you don’t know where they’re taking you. There’s no GPS system back then. Right? We didn’t have cell phones. So you just have to kind of rely on trust that they’re taking you to where you would like to go. Some funnier stories, that because I was an Asian American, I was an Asian looking woman working with a lot of Caucasian male colleagues, if we would go out at night, people might mistake me for a call girl. And so, like just being stopped, you know, and asked to prove identity. You know, was something that was that happened, you know, on a regular basis. So yeah, just just interesting. Episodes like that. And then just the work the culture, right, people would assume I was the assistant, right, or the receptionist and just, you know, dealing with that sort of, you know, how do you handle a situation where somebody may assume your role, you know, based on your gender. Again, in hindsight, fun, growing experiences, because it’s, it’s helped helped me just deal flexibly in different environments.
Will Bachman 08:00
Thank you for sharing that. That That must have been, you know, kind of insulting and very frustrating to be how people make that assumption. What, what, what, how did you learn to react to those scenarios? Did you? Do you feel it was, you know, kind of toughened you in some way or guy you just, you know, able to kind of, did you make fun of it? Or like, just try to pass it off a comedy? Or how did you learn to react to those sorts of situations?
Elaine Lum MacDonald 08:31
Yeah, it’s funny, I actually. I enjoyed those situations, because then I had a chance to, like, prove, startle them, or prove them otherwise, right? Like, it’s, it was a chance to go, huh? Like, that’s not I wanted to kind of break their eye. It was funny. And interesting to me that Hannah break the stereotypes, right, sort of, to be able to prove that they shouldn’t, shouldn’t assume. So. If I was leading a project, you know, I would be the first to say something, or I would immediately step forward and walk with the whoever was leading the project. First, if, you know, on the client side, so they would know my role. And it was just really funny to see. You know, when I was in a place where they had other people on my team, like they would walk behind me, because in Asia, everything’s very sort of, there’s this there’s the unspoken sort of etiquette and process of like, who talks with and who gets up and like, as you walk the order in which you walk and all of that, and it’s just interesting to see people’s faces because nobody, I was fortunate. I’ve nobody, there was no overt you know, discrimination. It was just, it was a certain way that they expected things to be and to be able to kind of, you know, shake things up a little bit. You know, and surprise them, you know that that was just kind of fun. So that definitely toughen me up and made me more, you know, realize that to kind of step up and you know, help help them help them see that things can be different that women, you know, can can add a lot of value.
Will Bachman 10:26
Wow. Okay, we could probably spend the whole episode talking about your pre MBA, but let’s keep going because you tell me the journey.
Elaine Lum MacDonald 10:37
Yes, so eye opening experiences, they are definitely saw contrasts of, you know, different lifestyles and haves and have nots. And that that’s something to kind of park for later in my journey of you know, that they came back to me, but went to HBS had a had a great experience there for two years. But really wanted to kind of slow down. I mean, I worked so hard as a consultant. And I really wanted to no longer cut, travel, and live out of a suitcase and live out of a hotel and have the crazy hours that one does when you work in a service business. So, and I wanted to just get deeper, deeper operational management experience. So I went to California to work for the Clorox company doing brand management. And this was in the late 90s. So there was a great exodus at this time of people from the East Coast moving to the west coast to Silicon Valley, because it was a land of opportunity with startups, I still wanted to work at a larger company to sort of get some of the basics of training and so forth. And then think about moving to a startup that I ended up not doing that. And that moved into a tech startup, I really liked my experience at Clorox. There was a cohort of, you know, people from HBs there as well that I continue to be friends with, I learned a lot from that experience, working in a large firm. And I love marketing. At that time, I met my husband, who was in the tech space, we got married, stayed out in California, I love California and the climate here and just the sense of opportunity and optimism that I think is a part of a culture here in Northern California, and have three kids. And Clorox was a great place. I really appreciated their flexibility and helping me continue my career. On a part time basis on a job share basis, there was a time where I job shared with another woman have part time where we shared an operating role together and we even had a joint identity. So people would interface with, you know me for the first half of the week with her for the second half of the week. But we you know, when email. So they just provided me the chance to kind of work on a part time basis. You know, and continue to kind of grow my career while I had kids at the same time. That is
Will Bachman 13:23
amazing. We could spend a whole episode just doing a joint identity show. But I didn’t. I didn’t want to spend time on the knowledge impact network. So so keep going. But well, that is like, that’s pretty interesting. Is your job sharing? Well,
Elaine Lum MacDonald 13:39
yeah, we had a joint name elect her name was Heidi, my name is Elaine. And so we were known as a lady. So that was our one night people call this lady and email lady. And we would share with each other background notes about individual conversations. So that second person to pick up on that and call up with like a joke or something. So people really see us as one. So yeah, it’s fun. Sometimes, but yeah, so I Oh. But after a while, you know, just having three young children. I have three daughters, as I alluded to earlier, and wanted to be able to have the flexibility to spend even more time with them. And so I left Clorox and decided to strike out on my own as an individual individuals strategic marketing consultant, which would give me more flexibility with you know, my time I’ll start doing more volunteer work. Probably typical to a lot of our classmates, you know, there’s a are people that stage once you start having children, you start seeing the inequities in life, whether it’s in education, whether it’s an opportunity, whether it’s in health care. So I started doing some volunteer work and first volunteer consulting. Then I encountered a program that that Harvard business school offered locally called the Harvard Business School. Oh community partners program where they basically encouraged alumni to provide pro bono volunteer consulting to nonprofits in the area. So I did a project there met some wonderful classmates, that classmates, sorry, alumni, but from different years, and loved the experience of bringing back that consultant in me being able to like, think, you know, work on a on a MIDI challenge and help an organization figure out how to work through that. And I just love the idea of the program, I love working across different industries, across different sectors, meeting interesting people dealing with and learning along the way. loved it so much that I spoke with who at the time was the executive director of the program about it. And when that person left, they basically said, Hey, is this a role that you’d be interested in basically, recruiting organizations that may need help nonprofits that will be helped recruiting alumni to donate some of their time, and creating, you know, matches to to essentially help them each fulfill that they were looking for. So so that’s what I did for the next seven years was work at HBS. Community Partners in Northern California, just with a goal of inspiring and empowering alumni to use their skills for social good,
Will Bachman 16:32
Elaine Lum MacDonald 16:35
So lots of fun meeting people from all different years in the area with different backgrounds. And I think I found my my niche, my, my calling there back in college, I wouldn’t ever have thought of myself as somebody who enjoys being a connector or bridge, per se. But it’s just so rewarding to see and work with people, right? To talk about with people, bright minds and big hearts. People who have so much to add, but are busy and maybe didn’t know how to add value. And then to find a cause they care about and in engaging them and finding a match with organizations who could really use that help. And the aha moment, you know, that they could add value and the aha moment for nonprofits, to be honest, I love sort of also breaking the stereotype that Harvard alumni, you know, they would confess to me afterwards, gosh, we thought we would meet a bunch of really arrogant people telling us what to do. And instead, they found incredibly kind, sympathetic, helpful, generous, compassionate people who really wanted to help their cause. And so I just love being able to be that bridge and connect those needs.
Will Bachman 17:54
And then what happened next? So it did you move directly from there to the knowledge Impact Network?
Elaine Lum MacDonald 18:01
Yeah. So after doing that, for a number of years, the pandemic hit. And I think what struck me acutely was that, wow, there’s such a greater need out there for or organizations because community partners primarily served local Bay Area nonprofits. But there was such a such a greater need out there for help. And alumni, you know, we’re no longer working locally, but working virtually or could be based in a different location, whether it be in Hawaii, or in Chicago, or wherever, wherever they might be, I’m still interested in helping. And I remember there’s a call that I received from the Mayor’s Office of City of San Jose Innovation Center where they during the pandemics that help, like we really need experts on how do you get food, you know, at scale to people in need, you know, and move it around in the city, we needed a supply chain expert, you know, a food supply chain expert, Do you have anybody in your HBs network who could help? And this was right when the pandemic struck, and we were in lockdown and emergency response centers are being created and just cities, companies, everybody was trying to figure out how do you how do you change the way you operate? I just thought, gosh, you know, I wasn’t able to find help for them. But if I had a larger pool, I know that there would be people who could help if I wasn’t just working on a local basis, but on a broader basis. That’s when I met the founders of the knowledge Impact Network, who are YPO sort of distinguished leaders. These are yp To members who had in the past created the social impact awards within YPO, to recognize CEO leaders who have created great social impact. And, you know, worked on an international basis. And they too, were, were thinking about how could they, they bring the power of CEO networks really to share their extensive knowledge, their insights, their practical knowledge, right? In warm connections with positive causes, and really accelerate impact, they spoke with me about how we were doing that at HBS community partners, and we just really hit it off, because we had similar visions of of how this can really be something that could be global in scope. And how we can create an inclusive network, right? Because at HBS, we’re working with HBS, along with YPO, YPO. Members, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be a network of networks, it doesn’t matter what, where you went to school, or you know, what accolades you had received a certain point of time, what member but member, what places you belong to, but if you were we’ll, if you had a wealth of expertise, and knowledge in a specific area, and if we can help you apply that to organizations who desperately need that kind of help? Wouldn’t that be incredible? And that’s, that’s, that’s why I jumped on board as the first CEO of of knowledge and Tech Network, which we call internally kin, because that’s the spirit with which we treat our global family. That was a couple of years ago in 2021.
Will Bachman 21:43
So talk to me about both sides, like to hear both about the clients, quote, unquote, the social impact organizations that you serve. May we start there?
Elaine Lum MacDonald 21:55
Yeah. So there are actually if I could back up for just Just a second. So the knowledge Impact Network, it’s really about it. Knowledge is sort of a underleveraged sustainable asset, if you will, right. It is intangible, everybody has it in their minds. It’s based on everybody’s unique skills, experiences, perspectives, and figuring out how to kind of, you know, productize it, how can you actually take it and use it and leverage it sort of how Airbnb and an Uber found a way to take advantage of underutilized homes and cars? How could you do that with with knowledge, and what makes knowledge so special is that it’s it’s, um, it’s a gift that you can give without, you’re losing it, it can be recycled, it can be repurposed, it can be regenerated. So how can we take that and use it for for good. And so the social, the way we decided to focus, our efforts was to focus on social ventures working in three impact areas. core human needs, food, water, health, shelter, educating for workforce readiness, and then third, protecting our planet. And we tie these to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We find these social ventures that could be based anywhere in the world. But we find them oftentimes through our partnership networks, we have relationships, for instance, with the UN, we have relationships with foundations, obviously, our YPO and HBs networks. So from our knowledge, partner networks, and so we can introduce two incredible social ventures with such high potential to scale. And it’s just really exciting working with them to find ways to grow.
Will Bachman 23:58
So for listeners of the show that might know a social venture that fits in one of those categories, how do they get them connected?
Elaine Lum MacDonald 24:09
Well, the easiest way is to just go to our website, knowledge impact network.org. And there should be an easy button there for them to see, as a social venture. How do you engage? How do you engage if you want to be one of the leaders sharing your knowledge, etc. We try to make it pretty turnkey, on the website.
Will Bachman 24:33
Okay, so and if also so if you are an expert, and interested in sharing your knowledge, you can go to knowledge, impact network.org and sign up to be on the expert side.
Elaine Lum MacDonald 24:45
Exactly. Different forms when you sign up as a knowledge partner. Provide your basic background and your areas of expertise and the causes that you care about. And then oftentimes a follow up with an interview just to better understand the new wants is of what you know, and the type of knowledge that you can share. On the social venture side, we have somebody else to talk to you about what your specific needs are. And there’s an application form, we have a selection committee, review the social venture applicants and decide if we have the right type of experts in our pool who can help you. And then we set up, you know, the the catalyst session where we meet, put together group of knowledge partners that can meet for 90 minutes with the social venture to help them solve the issue. And then at the end, I’m sorry, not solve the issue, because no issue can be solved in 90 minutes, but can help you kind of get you on your journey and maybe get you unstuck on a particular topic. And then at the end of those 90 minutes, everybody, have the knowledge partners, make a knowledge pledge, to the social venture, have some sort of follow up action, it could be, I will make this warm introduction to you, or a review your pitch deck afterwards, or I will do a separate one on one meeting or help you build awareness by XYZ. So there is some sort of continued I action past those 90 minutes. That’s why it’s called a catalyzed session. It’s meant to just catalyze the initial conversation to get to know each other. But it’s one that people are encouraged to kind of stay stay involved stay in touch. And we we track the impact of that. After after the sessions.
Will Bachman 26:35
For an individual knowledge partner who signs up, what should they expect? Do they have to log into some system to see if there’s any opportunities? Or do you reach out to them proactively when there’s something comes up that they could be a fit? So how does that process work? Yeah, good.
Elaine Lum MacDonald 26:53
Good question. We invite individuals to opportunities because most of our knowledge partners tend to be pretty busy executives, we don’t expect them to need to log in and check in on a system rather from the interview, we have a pretty good handle of what types of opportunities you are interested in and what kind of expertise you can provide. And so while we do share on email, and our website, open opportunities, oftentimes we will reach out and say, Hey, we think this is a this is a great match. And we’ll we’ll reach out to you to one specifically for that.
Will Bachman 27:42
Can you share any examples, I don’t know if they’re public, or if they’re sort of confidential. But are there any that you can talk about publicly like an example of a of a organization you’ve supported?
Elaine Lum MacDonald 27:55
Sure, we just recently did a catalyze session for an organization called Project Maji, which is focused on providing solar powered water clean water to rural communities and in Africa. And it has been successfully operating in a number of different communities, but was looking to figure out how to scale that opportunity. The founder is actually a global impact of YPO global impact social impact awardee with you know, just a track record of success and in running, you know, different businesses. And now he’s just really passionate about this particular cause of providing clean water access and empowering communities to get to basically operate this to save the sense of amount of time wasted in in collecting and trying to filter for clean water. And so they were interested in looking at different alternative revenue models exploring a franchise model. So we put together a catalyze session, inviting knowledge partners who have experience working in, in rural communities in Africa with launching franchise models in, in, in Africa, experts in all different parts of the world really applying their their knowledge in that specific area. It was a great session. I know the group decided that they wanted to have a follow up roundtable discussion a few weeks later after. There was time to kind of process a lot of the initial recommendations. It’s a great chance for the knowledge partners to meet each other as well. It is virtual, but we share bios and encourage people to kind of connect everybody down by their common area of interest in participating in this session. shins. So there’s lots of opportunity to kind of strike up new relationships.
Will Bachman 30:05
Incredible. So Wow. So for so many alums listening to the show, that sounds like a great way to give back and support some exciting causes and learn something new right to get involved in some social venture.
Elaine Lum MacDonald 30:22
Absolutely, it’s it’s easy, we try to make it really easy. And, and turnkey because that’s, that’s our mission is just to find people who can find a way to leverage their skills for good. You also
Will Bachman 30:35
mentioned, take away the friction. When we were chatting before start recording, you also mentioned that you will do work with family offices, right that have some cause that they want to support. Talk about that for a minute.
Elaine Lum MacDonald 30:46
Sure, absolutely. I mean, whether you’re a family office, or a company or an individual, if there’s a cause that you want to advance, and may not be sure, or just an area that you wanted to kind of jump into and figure out and learn about. We have something called Impact circles, where we basically bring together a community of interested parties and social innovators who want to work together to collaborate to take action in an area. I’ll give you an example of one area. This is another Africa example, though, even though our work is you know, global, a lot in the US too. But there was an entrepreneur and knowledge partner at kin, who met this renowned climatologist at UC Santa Barbara’s climate hazard center, who spoke about how there is incredible datasets available now to help farmers adjust their crops and improve their crop yields in the face of weather, climate changing weather and predictability. And the challenge, of course, was getting this knowledge captured and disseminated to say rural smallholder farmers in places like Zimbabwe. And so intrigued by this, the knowledge partner said, Let’s form this impact circle of figuring out how can we get this incredible data, you know, into the hands of farmers, let’s pull together experts, climate data experts, companies that are working on this, let’s talk to the Zimbabwe meteorological services department, let’s benchmark how people are doing it in India in other markets. And so there’s all sorts of different partners, nonprofit, private sector, government, etc, academics that join this circle to help figure this out. And we’re right now in the process, the the Zimbabwe meteorological department services department, you know, agreed that this custom would say would be extremely helpful. We’re in the process, the team is in the process of getting that site developed with the right type of data. And then figuring out how do you get that data from the website into the smartphones and radio so that the smallholder farmers can access that the goal is to get this deployed by this fall and time for crop planting season? And then to figure out next year, in 2024, how do you then scale this to other parts of the country and even other regions in Africa? So that’s an example of a group of people coming together from different parts of the world to say, hey, let’s see how we can how we can make something happen.
Will Bachman 34:00
What an inspiring project. I want to turn now back the clock. I want to turn back to Harvard. Can you share with us were there any professors or classes that you had at Harvard, that have continued to resonate with you in some way?
Elaine Lum MacDonald 34:20
Wow, um, let’s see. A professor. Actual shoe is a TA at the time for my EC 10 class. Nancy Kane is certainly a memorable is one of the most memorable professors I had. Some of you may have had her because you know, it’s pick 10 is such a big chorus. But what makes her so memorable besides being so incredibly engaging, and she was also professor of mine at HBS. She, she is runs a course I don’t know what it’s called today, but on sort of the history of capitalism, and how do leaders I deal with challenging situations. And I wrote a book about it, and it was just fun seeing her again, you know, years later, you know, on the other side of the river. So, she was very memorable as well as taking justice and so so an egg 10 was Marty Marty Feldstein was a professor there and then working with for some reason I can’t remember his first name of justice. Professor. This is Michael Sandel. Michael Sandel, yes, those are very memorable Professors love those courses. In terms of learning, like I was a history and science major, which, at the time, was very unusual and rare, because many people didn’t have multiple cross disciplinary majors. Of course, today, everybody does, that’s, that’s the name of the game. But back then it was a major where you had to take a certain set of history classes and science classes and history of science classes, and then put together a thesis that talked about that really combined the two in your areas of interest. I just loved that major, because I loved that sort of connecting the dots, maybe that’s, that’s the parents kind of going into uncharted territory for like consulting like that. Right. And, and just looking at patterns and putting it together in different fields. And, and, and, and see looking at things in a new way. I guess I that’s what I really appreciate about the history of science. For instance, you know, the impact of Modesta realisation on feminism, right, or how Darwinism was a calling social Darwinism was a calling for, for China to for the Chinese just to sort of wake up and, and build this urgency to kind of develop, you know, in the face of, of Western influence. I focused on East Asian Studies and, and biology as my areas of history and science.
Will Bachman 37:33
Amazing. Elaine, for listeners that want to follow up with you find out what you’re doing. We already shared the link knowledge impact network.org we’ll include that in the show notes. Where else would you point listeners online?
Elaine Lum MacDonald 37:50
Yeah, my my Linked In profile is is updated. It’s under my married name. So Elaine McDonald, that could be a great way to reach me that will stand the test of time, I think versus changing emails and so forth. But um, yeah, I would love to reconnect with with Harvard alum.
Will Bachman 38:13
Alright, we’ll include that link in the show notes. And it sounds like what you’re doing is applicable to so many of us that many listeners may know a social, you know, organization, impact organization, or might themselves be interested in being a knowledge partner. And I hope many of them reach out to you. So listeners, thanks for listening. Again, go to 92 report.com and check out the transcript sign up for notifications. Elaine, it’s been wonderful speaking with you, thanks so much for joining
Elaine Lum MacDonald 38:44
has been a lot of fun. Thank you Well