The Back Story
In 2018, RipplEffect was born out of two decades of cross-sector experience in media, strategy, emerging markets,finance and nonprofits. After successful careers in ad sales and investment banking, RipplEffect founders, Lauren Biegler and Stephanie Moon, had each experienced “success” on many levels, yet wrestled with an emptiness brought on by a lack of greater purpose in their respective life’s work.
Lauren and Stephanie’s paths crossed as they set their sights on the nonprofit sector, meeting during their work on WeJourney, Lauren as cofounder and Stephanie as CFO. Here, Lauren, Stephanie and the team took over 600 people on transformational impact-driven trips, where they built over 150 homes, formed thousands of meaningful, life-long friendships, and learned about poverty and empathy firsthand. On the surface, it all looked perfect.
Behind the scenes, a different story was unfolding. As Lauren and Stephanie took on more types of projects and raised more impact funding, they began to understand the myriad complexities that come with volunteerism and international development work.
Difficult questions like:
- Is it acceptable for people of privilege to volunteer in developing countries? Does it offer a positive lasting impact to local communities or a negative one? Do they feel seen and helped, or seen then abandoned?
- Are individuals who volunteer abroad helping others, or helping themselves (or both)? Is there a right or wrong answer?
- A picture is worth a thousand words—but is it appropriate to take a picture with a child, without asking the permission of the parent (or knowing where the parent is), if your intention is to share the story and inspire more positive impact and service?
- Are volunteers, celebrities, and foundations contributing to a post-colonial “white savior complex?”
Their #1 question was:
Is there any way to build truly responsible, beneficial, cross-sector relationships, and share these stories with the world – or is it better just to “mind your own business” and avoid potential criticism that the approach many not be 100% perfect, or may change later on?
This is the question that drives RipplEffect, and one that we continually and humbly examine, discuss, and provoke.
What we’ve learned is that there is no “right answer,” no easy solution, and no black and white: instead, there is a grey area with a massive opportunity and an equally massive responsibility. (By the way, if there were easy answers to global challenges of poverty, education, housing, water… we would have solved them already!)
Instead, we rely on our moral compasses, our global experts, and longtime change-makers, our insistence on putting the needs of the beneficiaries first, our willingness to continually re-evaluate and up-level our strategies, and our bravery to step into the unknown and take risks, in the pursuit of bettering our world for the next generation.