When I was a student at Georgetown University 15 years ago, the Jesuits inspired me to think about a future that put purposeful and positive social change at the center of my life. They taught me the importance of asking questions, embracing difficult conversations, never accepting the status quo and working to achieve better solutions —they were teaching me the importance of social impact.

Since then, I have focused my career on the idea and execution of social impact — the effect of an activity on the social fabric of the community and well-being of individuals and families. I first ventured into social impact work during my sophomore year at Georgetown, when I co-founded Roots of Hope, Inc., which partners young leaders in the United States with the next generation of Cuban change-makers: entrepreneurs, artists, journalists, community organizers and students.

After graduating from Georgetown, I was fortunate enough to serve under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama working on issues I care deeply about: Cuba and immigration. As an entrepreneur, I have put service at the center of my companies and I push myself and my teams to think about the social impact of our business models.  

PETE SOUZA L. Felice Gorordo shook hands with President Barack Obama at National Security Council meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, May 5, 2015.

In February, I returned to the Hilltop as a senior fellow at the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation. In my new role, I will have the honor of helping global leaders and organizations develop innovative solutions to global challenges that encourage inclusion and equity. The Beeck Center works to solve complex social problems like poverty, hunger and migration.  

I am excited to bring my professional experience over the course of the last 15 years back to campus, especially at the Beeck Center, because it was Alberto Beeck, who, in 2014, launched the Beeck Center along with his wife, Olga Maria Beeck (SFS ’81), to push us Hoyas to think bigger and to have a greater and more tangible impact.  

At the 2014 Georgetown John Carroll Weekend, an annual gathering of Georgetown alumni to celebrate the best of the university, Beeck noted during a panel discussion about the Beeck Center’s launch that “nonprofits” seem to be the only type of organizations that defines themselves as “what they are not, instead of what they are.” Sonal Shah, the Beeck Center’s executive director, challenged us to cast aside the business models of the past, to stop conforming to the boxes others wanted to put us in and to design models that could support the outcomes we envisioned.

This was a lightbulb moment for me as I thought about how we could leverage our work and business model to have even greater social impact in the lives of those we seek to serve.

So, motivated by memories of Georgetown’s Jesuits and far-reaching influence, we started to think about impact in new ways. At Roots of Hope, we had raised more than $1.4 million in private donations for programs in Cuba, mobilized 1.2 million young people for a one-of-a-kind peace concert on the island and helped launch the island’s first independent digital media platform with 5.1 million unique views in a country where the internet penetration is 5 percent. However, now we are putting resources back into the communities we serve.

We have launched a social venture, a wholly owned “for-profit” subsidiary of Roots of Hope called Discover Cuba, which organizes authentic travel experiences to the island. All profits of the subsidiary go back to support our StartUp Cuba entrepreneurial trainings, and many of the Cuban entrepreneurs in our programs have become service providers to Discover Cuba. This structure has led to mutually beneficial relationships between travelers and entrepreneurs, diversified our organization’s funding sources by more than 30 percent and helped Roots of Hope become more self-reliant.

The Beeck Center makes people’s lives better by promoting innovative approaches that yield scalable and tangible solutions to the problems they face. I am honored to return to campus as a newly appointed senior fellow at the Beeck Center to engage with students and faculty who are effecting positive social change.

I am excited to bring my experience — first inspired by Georgetown’s Jesuits — to my fellowship at the Beeck Center and, like Alberto Beeck did for me at John Carroll Weekend, inspire my fellow Hoyas to think innovatively about the impact they can bring to the world.

L. Felice Gorordo graduated from the College in 2005. Gorordo is Global Director at Startup Health LLC and Senior Fellow at Georgetown’s Beeck Center on Social Impact & Innovation.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

One Comment

  1. David Velasquez says:

    Well done, my friend. Congratulations on the notable distinction and welcome back to the Hilltop.

    Cheers,

    David

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*