Alison Kjeldgaard

Where Alison is from

Denver, Colorado, USA

 

Interview

What was your dream when you were a kid? What was the reason?

My dream was to become a veterinarian. I later found out that I was much better suited for writing than for medical sciences. So it goes.

This might sound cheesy, but I think even back then, I felt in my heart that I needed to do something to help other living things.

 

What was your dream when you were 18 years old? What was the reason?

My dream was to become a force for good. I didn’t know how, or when, or even what it would be, but I had big dreams for doing something – and becoming someone – that would change the world.

 

What made you start thinking about social entrepreneurship/social enterprises? When was that?

I started thinking about social entrepreneurship about a year and a half ago. I had been working in the nonprofit sector for 5 years. This afforded me the opportunity to meet many courageous people who had dropped everything to help others. One in particular was a woman named Triveni Acharya, an Indian journalist who rescues children from brothels and helps them transition back into society. After meeting her, I again felt the need to do something; but the same question I’d been turning over in my head since college came back to me: What would that something be?

Meanwhile, I was working away in an office raising money for programs like Triveni’s. Though I loved my job and knew that I played an important role in helping people like Triveni do hers, I felt utterly disconnected from what was happening on the ground. Every morning, I read (and still do read) about yet another atrocity happening somewhere in the world. Every morning, I felt powerless to do something about it.

I eventually decided that I would go back to school to get my MBA. This would allow me to start my own nonprofit or socially-focused business. Around that time, I discovered social entrepreneurship. The idea that business and social good could be woven together really spoke to me. I decided that I would start my own social business and follow in the footsteps of the other inspiring social leaders I had met.

This story still needs an ending, and I think this past year has set me on the path to find it…

 

How much do you think social entrepreneurs play an important role in the world?

I think that the role of the social entrepreneur is to make the very word “social entrepreneurship” redundant. All of us have the chance to not only change the world, but change the way the world does business. I hope that one day, every business will take social and environmental needs into account, giving us a much better economic ecosystem to live on.

 

What would you say to future social entrepreneurs / those who are interested in social entrepreneurs?

Don’t stop dreaming, but know that the gap between your dream and reality is a big one. No one can tell you how to get across; you have very few tools at your disposal; and there is no right answer. Always be prepared to think creatively, to pare down your big dream down to small steps, and to get other people on board as quickly as possible (never try to go it alone!). Only then can you bring your dream to life.

 

What is your favorite quote? Who said that quote?

“Let all of life be an unfettered howl. Like the crowd greeting the gladiator. Don’t stop to think, don’t interrupt the scream, exhale, release life’s rapture.” – Vladimir Nabokov

 

Who Alison is

Alison is a unique listener. When she listens to you, she does so carefully, and with a smile. Her gentle gaze grabs you strongly but softly, as she nods with each sentence you speak. Even if she has a different viewpoint, she takes yours, accepts your stance and understands you first. One of the strengths that Alison has is that she makes people comfortable around her. You feel a sense of peace when you are with Alison. I have thought of this many times; we came to San Francisco to learn how to change the world, but it might be people like Alison that are able to stop and abolish wars from the world.

As I already described, Alison is so sweet, but she has another side. You would be amazed how sharp Alison’s thoughts are. Her questions get to the point every time, even though she has that disarming smile. Alison was one of my second teammates at Hult and we selected her as our presenter in a debate against the other team. I already gave you some of my impressions about Alison, like ‘she listens carefully,’ her ’smile,’ that she is ’sweet,’ etc, but she always fiercely killed it in those debate formats! I swore to myself that I would not argue against her even once after seeing that.

Alison is a great writer as well. Reports and assignments that Alison wrote for our team were incredibly well organized and encompassed valuable information. I wish I were able to write like she does.

Leadership is another attribute that Alison possesses. She ran a student club called the Hult SF Net Impact Chapter. It is a cool club that focuses on how students can pursue purpose-driven careers with organizations across sectors. She organized events, such as workshops and conferences, and invited guest speakers from different industries. One of the events she organized was called Co-Creation Lab, which was an accelerator for student social business startups. Alison was mainly a host and helped to facilitate each event.

Words and thoughts she gave to our class throughout the year were powerful. She connects with people very well in this way. She can stand in front of people comfortably and make her thoughts accessible, meaningful, and relevant for her audience.

Lastly, Alison likes trying different things, such as experiencing different cultures. She went to Shanghai and Japan a few months ago, and she loved it!

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Awesome Episode

It was at around 10PM after a team meeting last March. Alison and I were on the same team and also both of us had our own bicycles. Plus, each of our apartments were the same direction so we biked home together. On our way home, we found Chipotle and it made her want to stop by there.Unfortunately, it was closed. Since it was10PM both of us were hungry so we wanted to have dinner together before going home. For me, anything was fine. However, Alison was dying to have Chipotle since she had seen a Chipotle store. Google maps said that there was another Chipotle on our way home so we accelerated our bikes in that direction…but it was too late. The store was closed as well. Still, Alison could not get Chipotle out of her head. Unfortunately, I got home before finding another Chipotle. I asked Alison if she had made it the next day and her answer was “No,” with a face of grief. I was sorry for her, but it was rare to see that side of Alison that night. She went forward, persistently trying to find a Chipotle. Of course, I believe she will also be persistent in moving on from other obstacles as she makes the world a better place.

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The Power of MSE

What Alison is holding is a symbol called “go-en(ご縁)”, which means ‘fate’, ’destiny’ and ’special tie.’

I believe that it is meant to be that we met in San Francisco! I studied Social Entrepreneurship with Alison for a year, saying “We will make the world a better place.” I would love to spend the rest of my life with MSEs (Master of Social Entrepreneurship; my classmates) until the very day I die. They have already completely changed my life.

At the same time, however, I also think that we should not be together all the time, because that is not the reason why we learned Social Entrepreneurship. That is not how we will deliver the impact we want to give to society and to the world.

I think MSEs are like dandelions. We were seeded at the first day at Hult and we bloomed on our graduation day. Our mission is that we spread all over the world like dandelions and seed the future, the next generation, from each place where each of us has landed.

本当にありがとう(Honto ni Arigato-); Thank you very very much for everything!! The world needs you! Let’s make the world a better place together!!

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