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Making A Difference

Ideas with Economic and Social Impact

Karen Wilson (MBA 1991)

While many countries are facing mounting economic, social, and political challenges, Karen Wilson (MBA 1991) says that “there’s a lot of potential in leveraging private sector approaches to address these challenges in new ways. The interest and willingness to innovate among both developed and emerging countries is very encouraging.”

The former executive director of the HBS Global Initiative, Wilson is the founder of the consulting firm GV Partners, based in Geneva, Switzerland. Her impressive list of clients includes global institutions such as the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Her report, Financing High-Growth Firms, the Role of Angel Investors, written for and published by the OECD in 2011, has attracted interest from governments seeking the organization’s help to put angel investing policies in place.

“My research is focused on ideas that can be put into practice,” notes Wilson, “so seeing that interest in the report was very rewarding.”

Whether she is lecturing at Oxford or the Stockholm School of Economics, presenting research with colleagues from the Bruegel economic think tank in Brussels, or leading an event at HBS for the European Foundation for Entrepreneurship Research, Wilson says she is grounded always by “a strong belief in the power of innovation and entrepreneurship as drivers of economic growth.”

Impact investing, the topic of her most recent work, follows a mandate given at a G8 summit in 2013 and resulted in a report published by the OECD in 2015. That work has continued with the next report coming out at the end of 2017. “We’re looking at economic, environmental, and social challenges in developed and developing countries,” she explains. “There’s broad consensus that just throwing more money at problems doesn’t solve them. We need new approaches.”

(Published September 2016)