Social Impact Award: Alumna honored by Wharton Club of New York

Impact investment pioneer and social entrepreneur Durreen Shahnaz was recognized last week at the Joseph Wharton Awards Dinner in New York, an annual gathering of alumni that dates back to the 1970s.

Durreen Shahnaz, WG'95
Durreen Shahnaz, WG’95

Shahnaz, WG’95, received the Joseph Wharton Award for Social Impact, one of four prestigious awards given by the Alumni Club of New York. It honors a Wharton graduate who has had the greatest impact in public service, social enterprise or philanthropy.

In her award acceptance speech, Shahnaz called attention to many contributions of Wharton alumni through their professional work in traditional capital markets or through philanthropic dollars — but also spoke of the need for a “third way” to create impact on society.

“I believe that this ‘third way’ is the social capital markets which will enable socially conscious investors to combine the efficiency of the free market with the higher mission of philanthropy and to invest for impact,” she said. “This ‘third way’ requires the creation of a vibrant marketplace which harnesses the power of the capital markets to bring together investors, entrepreneurs and the entire financial ecosystem who value social and environmental returns as well as financial returns.”

An investment banker and media executive turned social entrepreneur, Shanhaz is the founder of Impact Investment Exchange (IIX), the home of the world’s first social stock exchange and the world’s largest private placement platform for impact investing.

She also founded Shujog, an impact accelerator for social enterprises in Asia and Africa; Shujog helps to quantify, strengthen, and deepen the impact of social impact organizations.

Shahnaz holds a BA from Smith College, and an MBA/MA dual-degree fromWharton and the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University. She is an appointed member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Social Innovation and on the advisory board for CASE i3 at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

As she mentioned in her speech, Shahnaz was the first Bangladeshi woman to work on Wall Street and also the first Bangladeshi woman to attend Wharton; she spoke of a lifetime of breaking down barriers and constraints in the business world, but also of “building bridges between cultures.”

“If we believe Wharton is the best business school in the world, then let’s show the world that it is a leader in sustainable business,” she said. “Use your skills and resources to immortalize Wharton not only on Wall Street, but also on all the Main Streets and dirt paths of this world.”

 View her full speech online, or read her profile from Wharton Magazine’s Winter 2014 issue.