Seeking Clarity

Rachel Lichte is a student at Duke, pursuing her joint MBA/MEM (Master of Environmental Management) degree. She gave this TED-style talk as part of CASE’s 10th anniversary celebration in December 2012.

Next time I’m having one of those days where I need a little inspiration, this is the moment that I need to remember.

I’m sitting in Fuqua’s auditorium amongst a large crowd of socially minded MBA students and professionals, looking at a picture of MBA student Rachel Lichte dancing with elementary school students in Sierra Leone, and listening to her story about launching a social venture. She says:

“I came to Duke because of places like CASE. I wanted to learn about the environmental foundations upon which sustainable business can be built. I wanted to better understand how to bring social enterprise to scale.”

When we talk about developing Leaders of Consequence here at Fuqua, that’s what I mean.

Students that can see the opportunity to create positive change when a market demand (more than 2 million women in the US receiving an engagement ring each year) meets a market failure (diamonds and minerals are taken out of communities, leaving behind a wake of environmental destruction, community disempowerment, poverty, and lack of education). As Rachel states:

“This is unacceptable, I can’t imagine a product with a greater disconnect between the circumstance of its giving and the circumstance of its source.”

So, Rachel and her cofounders set out to solve it. To create a system where diamonds actually enrich the lives of those who mined them. To use the power of business and consumer demand to create change and social impact. The launched The Clarity Project in 2009 – a certified B Corporation that sources fair diamonds, gems and metals, makes and sells jewelry, and invests the profits back in to mining communities.

Through their profits to date they have supported the education of more than 700 children, 4 adult literacy programs, and are part of the international dialogue around ethical sourcing. And now Rachel is at Duke developing her business skills to scale her business and increase its impact.

Truly inspiring. Listen to her speech and I bet you’ll be inspired too.