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Helping to spread a good idea

CASE’s faculty director Cathy Clark is a leader in social entrepreneurship.


athy Clark’s aha moment came more than twenty years “CASE is about the discipline of what business principles can ago, when she had lunch with Lloyd N. Morrisett, add to the pursuit of social impact,” Clark says. “What can you one of the creators of the groundbreaking children’s learn about marketing? How can finance propel a good idea fortelevision show Sesame Street. Clark was working in ward faster? How do you take good ideas and grow them? How communications technology at the Aspen Institute in Washing- do you grow innovation? How do you figure out if it’s working? ton when Morrisett, the president of the Markle Foundation, How do you attract people to help you?” explained he was a venture capitalist. Recently, Clark served as the lead author of CASE’s online Clark, now CASE’s faculty director, didn’t know what he was learning series, CASE Smart Impact Capital. She also coauthored, talking about. along with CASE Executive Director Erin Worsham and DirecMorrisett explained that there were financial institutions that tor of Programs Robyn Fehrman, the Scaling Pathways series, a partnership among CASE, the Skoll Founinvested in growing companies that want dation, USAID’s Global Development Lab, to make a social impact. “I thought this and Mercy Corps that explores strategies to was amazing—how you can use money to solve widespread, seemingly intractable sobuild enterprises,” says Clark, who, at that cial problems. point, had only a bachelor’s degree with a She was named, in 2014, one of the major in French literature. top-twenty women in the U.S. working in Clark quit her job and moved to New philanthropy, social innovation, and civic York to find out how Morrisett was able to engagement. Clark has been an active piuse new technology to solve educational issues. She wanted to see how he was able to oneer, researcher, educator, and consultant prepare children for kindergarten by using for over twenty-five years in the fields of commercial television production elements impact investing and social entrepreneurship. She also founded and directs CASE and techniques to teach children their A-Bi3, the Initiative on Impact Investing, and C’s. co-leads the Social Entrepreneurship AcShe was a part of the generation that, with celerator at Duke (SEAD), an accelerator many of her classmates in inner-city Philadelphia and the rest of the country, mastered working to scale impact of global health reading and arithmetic by watching Big Bird ventures in India and East Africa. and Elmo. “As a teenager, I “When Dees started recall being a counselor at CASE, social entrepre“CASE is about the discipline of what business neurship was not well summer camp putting kids principles can add to the pursuit of social impact.” understood," Clark says. in front of Sesame Street on “He explained what it TV, to complement the was. He basically said this is not a hobby, this is a discipline. We books we were reading to them. “I was in awe,” she says. “How do I learn to do that?” She can see patterns. These problems are urgent for the people who wanted to master the knowledge of taking a good idea, testing it are suffering. We need to do everything we can to help the perin a small enterprise, and then sharing it to address the needs of son trying to read or to provide food for people in a food desert. the masses. This became her first lesson in how to scale a project. Our team lived and breathed that sense.” “What’s happened in the past fifteen years?” Clark asks, rhetorMost ideas stay really small, but Clark says she wanted to examine how to reach more people with a good idea. Encouraged ically. “There are CASE networks now around the world. There by Morrisett, Clark eventually earned an M.B.A. at Columbia are university programs helping them grow. At CASE, we are University. Then she returned to Columbia to teach for nine focused at the graduate level on really going in-depth in the discipline of businesses scaling up a good idea. When we talk about years before coming to Duke. Clark was recruited by Greg Dees, the founder of CASE, in scale, we are not talking about ideation but more about when 2007. She started as an adjunct professor teaching social entre- people hit a wall. When your enterprise is not the shiny new preneurship. Dees and Clark had compatible views of the field, thing, and you hit a roadblock. When you need to hire a mandespite coming from different backgrounds. She came with a ager or the environment has changed. “That’s where the business skills are needed. How do social enNew York network of for-profit enterprises interested in making a social impact. Meanwhile, Dees had worked in rural Kentucky terprises pivot smartly? They have to pivot toward impact. And that takes a different level of skills.” n with nonprofits wanting to do the same.


Fall 2017 Issue v. 3  
Fall 2017 Issue v. 3  

Includes Duke Forward campaign insert