19 Jul 2013
All in Good Time
Andrea Silbert (MBA 1991 / MPA 1992) has made a career out of taking on challenges for the public good.Topics:
Financial analyst. Grassroots organizer. Social entrepreneur. Candidate for political office. These are just a few of the titles held by Andrea Silbert (MBA 1991 / MPA 1992) over the years. Now president of the Boston-based Eos Foundation, a philanthropic grant-making organization focused on creating social equity and economic self-sufficiency, Silbert has a simple take on what ties her career together: "I'm a problem solver. I love digging into an issue and the analytical rigor of doing a scan of existing research to figure out the best approach to take. The process is fun, and then, hopefully, you have a real reward in the end because you've made a difference in people's lives."
At Eos, Silbert is hoping to make a difference by targeting hunger in Massachusetts, with a specific initiative to get affordable healthy, nourishing food to as many low-income children as possible. Its initial program focuses on partnering with school districts to coordinate federal and private funds to provide free breakfast in public schools. "Hunger in the United States is not like hunger in other parts of the world," Silbert notes. "People are getting enough calories, but they're not getting enough of the right calories. It seems counterintuitive, but it's possible to be undernourished and overweight."
After HBS, Silbert worked for Women's World Banking, an international network of microfinance organizations, and was named an Echoing Green Fellow for her efforts to help at-risk Brazilian street girls gain job skills and start their own businesses. After returning to the United States in 1994, she served as economic development director for Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation in Roxbury, Massachusetts, before launching the Center for Women & Enterprise (CWE), a nonprofit that continues to help women start and grow their businesses. Silbert credits her parents, both doctors for the Veterans Administration, as well as growing up in socially conscious Brookline, with her longstanding interest in economic and social justice.
"Starting CWE was one of the best experiences of my life, and it was probably something I could have done only when I was not fully engaged in raising young children," says Silbert, the mother of eight-, eleven-, and twelve-year-old children. Asked if she might enter politics again—she ran as a candidate for Massachusetts lieutenant governor in 2006—Silbert responds, "It's not something I'd rule out. But how would it fit in my life? I like the balance I have now."
While she graduated over 20 years ago, Silbert values the new HBS contacts she's made—none of whom she'd known as an MBA student—including professors Howard Stevenson, Michael Chu, Dutch Leonard, Allen Grossman, and Laura Moon, director of the Social Enterprise Initiative. "The experience of being in an environment that demanded rigorous thinking has been invaluable throughout my career," she says. "Continuing to be a part of that network, and staying in touch with new ways of thinking and training, is incredibly rewarding."