Hi everyone, Spiffy here, your one and only interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth. I’m thrilled to be talking to Archana Shah, co-founder and COO of Impact Hub New York Metropolitan Area, to understand the organization’s vision and approach to support talented entrepreneurs advancing UN SDGs. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Welcome, Archana, what a pleasure to be able to talk to you. Can you start by telling us what kind of a world ImpactHub New York envisions and how the organization is working towards that?
Archana: The pleasure is all mine, Spiffy. So, to realize our vision of creating an integrated equitable impact ecosystem in the New York Metropolitan Area, we will continue to create opportunities for stakeholders to intentionally collaborate through formal and informal partnership agreements. We are cementing our identity within the existing ecosystem by creating a culture of cooperation and partnership. This is reflected in the breadth and scope of our Advisory Board members’ expertise and networks, and in the speakers, experts, and facilitators we have featured in our programs. Our members represent the breadth of the impact ecosystem from innovators to investors, academics to practitioners, nonprofits to for profits. Through these intentional partnerships, we can recognize and reorganize existing resources, making them widely and equitably visible and accessible. We believe this will benefit the whole ecosystem. We are committed to the deliberate and consistent approach needed if we are to be a credible ecosystem builder within the Metropolitan Area.
Spiffy: This sounds spectacular! We would love to hear about a specific initiative or organization that has made a tremendous social impact with your support.
Archana: As we emerge from the effects of the pandemic, the landscape is going to look very different. We are inviting stakeholders to collaborate across programs, community building, funding, sponsorships, or other areas of interest, and while the process takes time and effort, I believe it will have a tremendous collective impact from which we all will benefit. Our Blueprint Impact Fellowship invites advisors, experts, and practitioners into group working sessions from time to time—several are past accelerator participants. It has been truly inspirational to not only see their journeys play out but more importantly, see the generosity of support they bring to the cohort.
Spiffy: Could you tell us a lit bit about your ongoing programs and how they’re helping entrepreneurs and driving impact?
Archana: The COVID-19 pandemic prompted us to make a significant pivot to fully remote operations and virtual programming for the foreseeable future. Impact State of Mind launched in May 2020 as a free, digital membership series, designed to support the Metro Area impact community navigating the pandemic. Since launching the program in May, we have hosted over 50 sessions spanning a wide range of topics related to entrepreneurial education, community engagement, storytelling, and business needs in the context of the economic outlook. We continually curate content and formats to engage and support the impact-driven community locally and regionally in the New York Metropolitan Area, while also leveraging our network of 100+ hubs to showcase global ecosystems at work. Another amazing initiative, Blueprint 2021: Impact Fellowship, is an accelerator focused on igniting and supporting the Metro Area impact innovation community, through a business model validation process, peer and expert engagement, and network building. We recently launched the first cohort of approximately 15 startups. This is our first program focused on intentional engagement of the Metro Area, and with identified spread-the-word partners who we believe represent our target communities best. The last 15 months have caused disruption, upheaval and in many cases destructions of ecosystems, resulting in a real loss of support—peer connections, resources, capital—but also just general isolation. At the core, all of our programs focus on wide community engagement, not to be everything for everyone, but to try and create a sense of belonging and community in a largely virtual world.
Spiffy: Before we sign off, Archana, I’m curious what advice you could share with social entrepreneurs striving to make the world a better place.
Archana: Well Spiffy, without getting too peppy or esoteric, my advice would be to stay tenacious and stay focused despite the challenging environment. The stark realities of how broken our communities are across social and environmental metrics locally, regionally, and globally have never been more apparent. The world is catching up to this realization, and as a social innovator you are already leading this change—now is the time to dig deeper, stay rooted, and fight harder to create change.
Spiffy: Thanks for that reminder, Archana. I think we all need encouragement to keep going, even though things have been hard. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, it’s been an honor!
Archana Shah is the co-founder and chief operations officer of Impact Hub New York Metropolitan Area. After spending the first 18 years of her career in the financial services sector, including J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley in client-facing and product development roles, Archana left Morgan Stanley in 2012 to pursue her passion for social innovation full-time. She joined Grameen America as a Director in Development, during which time she also chaired the New York chapter of Women Advancing Microfinance (WAM). For the past six years, Archana managed the day-to-day operations of a university-based social entrepreneurship center, running programs for the students, staff, and faculty while engaging with stakeholders in the impact ecosystem. In January 2020, she joined the founding team of Impact Hub New York Metropolitan Area. (Originally published on the Ladderworks website on March 15, 2021; republished on September 2, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Tania Goklany and Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.