It’s about People: Getting at the heart of our goals

What is our “secret sauce”?

At the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, we constantly consider how to best accelerate opportunity for children living in urban poverty.

And what we come back to – each time — are the seven goals that anchor our social impact work. From creating opportunities for low-income students to attend high quality schools, to helping young parents gain access to responsible financial services, to supporting low-income families as they navigate out of poverty, the goals that drive our investments are anchored not in models or causes, but in people.

And in return, our goals have helped to keep people front and center in our work for nearly 20 years. Our goals hold us accountable to ensure that we are working directly with disadvantaged and underserved children and families in the United States, India, and South Africa, learning from their experiences and partnering with them to successfully remove obstacles to opportunity.

In the communities in which we work, real and lasting solutions cannot be executed from conference rooms. When life is hard, good ideas can only get you so far. True solutions are about turning ideas into reality; they are about working at the community level with determination, with persistence, and with a relentless commitment to making it work, no matter what.

Across the world, we are privileged to work with a set of partners who share our passion for people and for outcomes.

As an example, one of our seven goals is to provide new career and job opportunities for over 250,000 low-income young adults globally. Consider our investment in iMerit, an innovative company in India founded by Radha Basu to train marginalized young people and give them the opportunity to enter careers in the global technology market. Early in the company’s history, Radha was faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to achieving the impact she sought:  the young women she wanted to hire were not allowed to leave their residential community for training or work because of religious and cultural traditions. Even after significant yet unsuccessful efforts to forge a solution with community leaders, Radha refused to give up. If the girls could not leave to access opportunity, then opportunity must be brought to them.  Despite the substantial extra work and investment that it created for the company, she ultimately opened an iMerit center directly in the heart of that community.  Today, those young women are in leadership roles at the center, and this very successful iMerit center is providing technology services to some of the world’s best-known technology companies – and opening up previously unimaginable job opportunities to young women and young men across that community.  Across iMerit’s locations in India and the US, Radha is helping hundreds of young people change the trajectory of their lives and strengthen their families. Her organization embodies not just what we strive to achieve but how we do it – working shoulder to shoulder alongside the people we want to support.

Radha and her iMerit team are just one example of the literally thousands of people we’ve worked with across the world who refuse to accept ‘it won’t work’ as an answer.  As you read over our social impact goals, I hope you will see in them the faces of so many people who are both embracing new opportunity and helping to create it.

At the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, we believe more than ever that our seven social impact goals are an important filter to help us get at the very real needs in the communities in which we work, in a way that enables solutions that truly make a difference – for real people, on the ground, every day.

So what’s our secret sauce? It’s the people – those at the heart of our work and those we partner with across the world. Because, in the end, money doesn’t solve problems, people do.