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Young Entrepreneur

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YEC Virtual Speaker Series Guest Jessica Jackley Discusses the Future of the Sharing Economy

Every quarter, YEC will host an intimate, members-only live video chat with one of the world’s most influential thought leaders as part of our brand-new Virtual Speaker Series. Each Virtual Speaker Series event will expand on a theme explored in the pages of YEC Quarterly, giving you an opportunity to glean high-level insights from different entrepreneurs each quarter.

Our inaugural Virtual Speaker Series event -- an exclusive 1-hour event that will take place this coming Monday, June 22nd at 11 a.m. Pacific / 2 p.m. Eastern -- features Jessica Jackley, an award-winning social entrepreneur and investor focused on financial inclusion, crowdfunding, the sharing economy and social justice. 

Few entrepreneurs have helped shape the brief history of the social enterprise’s rapid tech-fueled growth as Jackley has in the last decade. Her work spans the public, nonprofit and private sectors, and as such, has placed her at a unique crossroads in social enterprise and technology.

Jackley first made her mark as co-founder and CMO of Kiva (kiva.org), the world’s first person-to-person microlending platform designed to alleviate poverty. Since its founding in 2005, it has facilitated nearly $680 million in loans between individuals -- with a 98.76 percent repayment rate. She later co-founded and served as CEO of ProFounder, one of the first crowdfunding platform for entrepreneurs.

Today, in addition to her work teaching and speaking, she works as an investor and advisor with the Collaborative Fund; a member of the Council of Foreign Relations; and as a board member or advisor for multiple organizations that focus on women, microfinance, tech and the arts. She’s been recognized for her work many times over. In 2012, she was named one of Fast Company’s 60 in the 2012 League of Extraordinary Women; she has also received the University of California’s Human Security Award in 2012 and the 2011 Economist’s “No Boundaries” Innovation Award, to name a few highlights. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, the author Reza Aslan, and their three children.

As she prepares to publish her book, Clay Water Brick: Finding Inspiration from Entrepreneurs Who Do the Most with the Least on June 23rd, we asked Jackley to share some of her insights and predictions for the future of social enterprise and the sharing economy with YEC members. Highlights from our interview are below. 

Social enterprise organizations that continually redesign the experience for donors and lenders will have the brightest future.

“I think many organizations are doing phenomenally well now at telling honest, transparent, genuine stories of the people they aim to serve (or better yet, letting those stories be told by folks themselves!). This of course helps not just communicate impact but promote better understanding among people whose paths may not have crossed otherwise in everyday life. However, as more stories emerge, there's a risk of saturation/exhaustion among donors (or lenders, or other contributors). The organizations that last will be the ones that continually refresh and redesign the connected experience so that everyone's interest stays piqued.”

Technology has the power to free us from limiting ideas about money.

“I'm always excited about seeing organizations utilize tech to make money less and less of a pain point for people, freeing them to do/see/become more than they think they can because of financial limitations: whether that means having to worry less about having enough funds at the right point in time for an entrepreneurial venture, or -- most important -- helping people think differently about what money means (and doesn't have to mean) in their lives.”

Sharing economy companies will continue to push us to trust more and better.

“What I love about the best ‘sharing economy’ companies is that they truly value trust at their core. You can't participate in the sharing economy unless you trust the person on the other site, and the system that connects you and facilitates that exchange. In terms of how this relates to building better social enterprises, I guess I think that many of the projects and ventures I love the most are build by people who see the best in others, and trust is part of this -- so I hope more social enterprises can push all of us to trust more, to hope more, to believe that more is possible for ourselves and those around us.”

To uncover opportunity, ask better questions.

“We need to get better at asking and answering the right questions. Not just, ‘How can I create one particular kind value and then capture that value for myself (make money)?’ but, ‘How can create value in a broader way? How can I share that value?’”

The successful organizations of tomorrow will build flexibility into everyday work.

“We all care about finding meaning and purpose through work, and more and more, people are insisting on prioritizing these values (vs. financial reward, for instance). Additionally, people want to find meaning outside of their jobs, so this means balancing additional things (whether family, friends, or just other activities or pursuits) outside of work is of increasing importance. Organizations will need to flex around this if they want to attract and keep top talent.” 

YEC members can register now for Monday's Virtual Speaker Series event at events.yec.co.

This feature originally appeared in our Spring 2015 issue of YEC Quarterly, our print magazine for YEC members. Photo courtesy of Jessica Jackley.