David Baum Article - December 8 2018.docx

When we think of dynamic, successful, start-up organizations, we typically think of Silicon Valley and its rich complement of technology-driven, wildly-profitable businesses. From ride sharing applications, to social media platforms, and autonomous electric vehicles, the stories of overnight, billion-dollar success stories from the West coast are plentiful and well-known. Less known are the stories of rapid success and explosive growth by non-profit and social impact organizations. One typically doesn’t think of those entities as being particularly bold or innovative. But there are great stories to be told and lessons to be learned from their resourceful and creative leaders who are driven primarily by a dedication to better the world, rather than furthering corporate ambitions. I recently had the opportunity to study one such organization and its own dynamic leaders, the Canadian-based entity known was WE, which was founded by brothers Marc and Craig Kielburger in 1995. The organization consists of WE Charity, a not-for-profit entity, and ME to WE, an innovative social enterprise that funds the charity and employs hundreds of workers in developing countries. The arc of WE, which began operating out of the Kielburger’s family basement when the brothers were just 12 and 16 years old, has been astounding and worthy of study. As it approaches its 25 year anniversary, it has grown into a large-scale international organization operating on 4 continents with over a thousand employees. In many ways, WE’s trajectory of rapid growth in a very short time is quite similar to a typical tech start-up, but what makes WE’s story unique is the talent, dedication and passion of the two brothers who lead the organization. Their story unfolds in four distinct phases, each with its own unique set of challenges and successes. In just over two decades, the Kielburgers and their fledgling ‘start-up’, matured, adapted and grew into what is now becoming a world-class social impact organization. When the small group of young volunteers formed Free the Children (WE Charity’s original name) in 1995, their resources couldn’t have been more meagre, but their passion was unlimited. The original cause they fought for was ending child labour in developing countries. Sketching out plans from their parents’ kitchen table, or stuffing envelopes in their basement, the culture of the organization then was ‘everyone does everything’. The small team was fueled by their vision to help other children in faraway countries, the belief that they could make a difference, non-stop work, and a lot of stale pizza. They were a tiny operation by any measure, but their work was noticed on the world stage almost immediately when 12-year old Craig managed to secure a meeting in India with the visiting Canadian Prime Minister. That meeting landed him on front-pages and newscasts Stage One: All for one, one for all

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