Introducing CASE Scholar Bahari J. Harris

We’re continuing our series introducing the Class of ’16 CASE Social Sector Scholarship recipients. We have already introduced Sarah Martin and Katie Campbell. Now, we are proud to welcome Bahari J. Harris!

Motivated to empower enterprise-related endeavors that will develop and transform the lives of those living at the bottom of the global economic pyramid, Bahari J. Harris has joined the Fuqua and CASE family. Bahari has already spent a year at Duke studying at the Sanford School of Public Policy, where he is pursuing a dual Master of Public Policy degree and certificate in International Development.

Before Duke, Bahari directed a faith-based, community development non-profit organization called Urban Hope  that he founded in Durham, NC over a decade ago. Inspired by Urban Hope’s mission to “raise up generations of young heroes,” Bahari and his wife Mamie intentionally live in Durham’s inner city (Walltown) and use their home as a “safe place” to serve and mentor the youth in the neighborhood. During Bahari’s tenure, Urban Hope grew from an entrepreneurship summer camp to include an after-school program, youth basketball teams, a leadership and college-preparation group, a mentoring program, and a residential-based internship program. Through the years, Urban Hope has served 250 + youth.

To introduce Bahari to the CASE community, we asked him a few questions about his background and why he chose Fuqua. Welcome, Bahari!

What is one of your proudest accomplishment in life thus far?

“A 100% high school graduation rate.” This figure is one measurement of the success of Urban Hope’s Young Leaders Group (YLG), a program I developed that served 25 youth. Though the odds of dropping out, becoming a teenage parent, or being adjudicated were stacked against the youth in YLG, all 25 have entered college or the military. I view YLG as my most significant professional accomplishment to-date.

What/Who inspires you?

Bahari Taj Mahal Pic (Bright)I am inspired by stories of transformation and hope such as Digna’s. I met Digna when she was living in the middle of a slum in Ecuador. She was gripped by poverty. Her eleven-member family resided in a one-bedroom bamboo house with a tin roof, built above two feet of water on tall wooden poles called mangles. The neighborhood was called an “invasion” because the people built their homes without purchasing the land. These neighborhoods are void of running water and indoor plumbing. They steal electricity.

Digna’s family income was insufficient to provide enough food and clothing for the family. Living on one meal a day, the family was stripped of their humanity. To supplement their income, Digna and her husband had an ingenious idea to sell mangles to community newcomers. Although they possessed the skill to sell, their lack of capital obstructed their market access. To assist, I worked with a microfinance institution to invest less than $80 USD into Digna’s business and provided start-up consultation. As the business flourished, Digna and her husband were able to better provide for their children and expand the size of their home.

The Dignas of the world energize me! As a social entrepreneur, I love diagnosing and solving problems, especially for people who have no safety net and the risks are high. I enjoy sharing knowledge, resourcing, building relationships, and walking alongside business owners as they encounter challenges. I value empowerment.

Why Fuqua? What impact do you hope your Fuqua education will allow you to have on the world?

Unfortunately, many people like Digna are not receiving help. Regardless of how rich their ideas or their creativity, many enterprise owners at the base of the global economic pyramid will inevitably join a permanent underclass, confined to financial subordination. The emerging “impact investing” sector offers a hopeful path for addressing this issue. Therefore, I want to pursue the joint MBA/MPP degree at Duke as an inroad into the world of impact investing.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 1.04.20 PMFuqua professor Cathy Clark has written that “the most effective impact investing firms are run by ‘multilingual leaders’ who are fluent in the languages of philanthropy, finance, and policy.” In policy school, I am learning the “languages” of domestic and international public policy, as well as the “languages” of philanthropy, from a programmatic-beneficiary standpoint. At Fuqua, I hope to add the “languages” of financial analysis and philanthropy, from the investor standpoint. Fuqua will help me become a leader that can code-switch, be resourceful, and build genuine, multi-level relationships to affect positive social impact.

With the CASEi3 program providing experiential learning opportunities in impact investing, nationally-acclaimed student organizations such as the Net Impact Club, and the Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator at Duke (SEAD) serving as a hub for research and innovation, I know I will be supported in reaching my academic and professional goals here at Fuqua. I know I will be able to receive the tools I need to produce creative, multi-layered solutions to complex problems. Tackling systemic issues to address the world’s most pressing problems cannot be done alone. It requires a solid network of relationships, fresh approaches, unrelenting resolve, and “leaders of consequence.” It requires the best of the brightest, thus Fuqua.

Share one of the 25 facts from your application essay?

I LOVE the Latino culture! Yo hablo Español. And I am addicted to Latin dancing – especially Salsa, Rueda, Merengue, Bachata. I go out dancing 2-3 times per week.