Title: From Impact Investing to GHD: Spotlight on Professor Rehana Nathoo
As part of the Global Human Development’s initiative to feature the diverse voices and perspectives of our students, faculty, alumni, and as well as provide program highlights and a glimpse into life at GHD, we sat down to talk with one of our professors, Rehana Nathoo.
Rehana Nathoo comes to GHD with a different perspective on development than most people expect to see. The Founder and CEO of Spectrum Impact, a strategy consulting company that supports a range of organizations, funds, and families that are looking to expand their impact investing footprint, Rehana has also worked on impact investing with the Case Foundation, the Bank of New York Mellon, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
She first came into GHD as a guest lecturer at the invitation of Professor Holly Wise, and soon the GHD staff found a way to incorporate the intersection of social finance – inclusive of impact investing – and emerging markets into the course offerings, leading the way for Rehana to become an adjunct professor.
Coming up on her fifth year in the program, she has loved every minute of it. Her favorite course to teach is GHD 658: Social Finance and Global Development. Although she has been teaching this course since starting at GHD, the course is never the same. Adapting to student interests and feedback to refine and improve the class, the focus has been on impact investing and other investment tools, perspectives on philanthropy, and hands-on case study material that allow students to practice writing investment memos and engaging in pitches.
So how exactly does investment in products, companies, and funds fit into the development sector? According to Rehana, impact investing has a foundation in “using the best elements from the traditional investment sector, development sector, and philanthropy to help scale solutions to our largest – and most complex – problems.”
“I inevitably learn more than I bargained for [in exchanges with students]. That exchange is really meaningful to me.”
Impact investors are trying to solve the same problems that GHD focuses on. Challenges like gender equity and equality, financial inclusion and access, and climate are three issues that Rehana continues to return to in her career because they “seem to touch so many, if not all, of the positive outcomes we hope to see in the world.”
Teaching at GHD has not only allowed Rehana to share her knowledge and experiences with students, but the collaborative and inquisitive nature of the program and students have also opened up the opportunity for her to learn as well. “I especially enjoy the students who come to impact investing with a lot of skepticism, but are open to the idea of learning more and testing their own assumptions. And in that exchange I inevitably learn more than I bargained for. That exchange is really meaningful to me.”
The development sector is constantly changing, and GHD tries to recognize that in its course offerings. The students that come to GHD also bring their own perspectives into the classroom, embracing a multi-disciplinary approach to development while pursuing their interests and thinking critically about the current challenges we see today.
“No job is ever permanent – now more than ever there’s opportunity to switch jobs and even whole careers in the pursuit of what you truly want to do. Nothing is fixed!”
Even with a twinge of envy of the current GHD student experience, Rehana has some advice to share with students:
“I kind of wish I was graduating now! As students start moving into the career phase I hope they feel empowered to call on the skills they have learned both inside and outside GHD, and remember no job is ever permanent – now more than ever there’s opportunity to switch jobs and even whole careers in the pursuit of what you truly want to do. Nothing is fixed!”