March 21, 2018

Veteran Social Innovator and Founder of Atlas Corps Discussed Leadership in the Changing World During SE@UVA Speaker Series

Can Americans benefit from assistance provided by nonprofit professionals from other countries?

A dozen years of multinational success by Atlas Corps says yes.

Scott Beale, founder and CEO of Atlas Corps, sees firsthand how experienced nonprofit leaders from countries around the world bring their skills to serve in highly effective 12- to 18-month fellowships alongside professionals in the U.S.

Beale spoke Thursday, Mar. 22, at 5 p.m. at in the Great Hall of Garrett Hall, as a guest of Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Virginia (SE@UVA). His program is titled “The Role of Leadership in Changing the World.”

Beale also is a guest instructor at Batten this semester, teaching a class called Innovation & Social Impact.

“Atlas Corps has created this opportunity for these social change leaders to come and serve and learn, and also these organizations in the United States benefit from it,” Beale said.

Beale’s career shows the value of leading in a wide range of international assignments. He helped supervise elections in Bosnia with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and fought human trafficking in India with the U.S. State Department, helping to coordinate a $9 million campaign to fight modern slavery. He’s been Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House, working with governors and state leaders. He’s also worked for the nonprofit Ashoka, partnering with AmeriCorps.

At Atlas Corps, Beale and his colleagues receive 15,000 applications annually for 100 positions. They’ve worked with more than 600 leaders from 88 countries, and Beale’s work has drawn attention and awards from numerous organizations. Beale has twice been named one of the top 50 nonprofit leaders in the U.S. by The NonProfit Times.

Atlas Corps’ mission has sometimes been referred to as a “reverse Peace Corps,” since it’s the U.S. that receives international help. But that short description might not translate well everywhere. As a friend in India told Beale, “I like your idea, but why are you against peace?” His friend, Beale said, “didn’t exactly know what the Peace Corps was.”

It’s a small incident that shows the value of the cross-cultural partnerships to straighten out misunderstandings and foster improved communication and cooperation. (This article in The Washington Post highlights some of Atlas Corps’ work in the nation’s capital.)

“We know that more diverse teams create better outcomes, but too often, achieving diversity is very difficult, particularly achieving diversity from global perspectives,” Beale said.

And the Atlas Corps approach also helps leaders experience change and adapt to it in their own lives and careers.

“For most of the social change leaders I know, who have spent time in the private sector, or in government, or in the nonprofit sector — there’s a broader arc to the work they’re doing, but not necessarily an obvious path, when one looks at it, initially,” Beale said.

“I don’t think anybody really knows how to plan out their lives or careers anymore. So the importance of being exposed to different ideas and different people, and being open to different paths can serve people very well in their lives,” Beale said.