Board Spotlight: Akif Irfan

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By Jimmie Briggs
Community Learning and Collaboration

Ten years ago, advisory board member Akif Irfan first became engaged with the Goldin Institute while studying economics and international studies at Northwestern University. He first heard about the organization having an internship opportunity through Northwestern and was immediately intrigued by the historic connection between the Goldin Institute and the Parliament of the World's Religions. Knowing something of the Parliament’s work and curious about the grassroots approach of the Goldin Institute, he applied and was accepted for a summer internship.

Asked about his first impressions of joining the Goldin Institute team, Akif shared:

I was very impressed by both Travis and the Goldin Institute's network. I felt that they were an incredibly smart, talented, and well-networked organization. Within my first two weeks, a Swiss mathematician, partners working with former child soldiers from Colombia, a clean water expert and delegates from the World Parliament of Religions all stopped by the office.

During his initial summer experience, Akif worked on a wide range of projects including clean water projects with associates in the Philippines, child soldier reintegration efforts in northern Uganda, and was involved with the improving microfinance initiative in Bangladesh.

Graduating from Northwestern University in 2009, Akif took a position at Goldman Sachs where he’s now a Vice-President in the company’s investment management division. Even with his demanding schedule, he remains actively engaged with the Goldin Institute.

Akif has reprensented the Goldin Institute at international events such as the 2014 Forgiveness and Reconciliation conference in Mexico City which convened practitioners of the "ESPERE" methodology. At this conference, he helped coordinate the Goldin institute's representation with colleagues from Colombia and Uganda. Akif also represents us closer to home in events like the “Gender Equity: Engaging Young People’s Conference” in the winter of 2015 in New York.

Akif Irfan represents the Goldin Institute in Mexico City<br>Left to Right: Global Associate Lissette Mateus, Advisor Sebastian Sosman, Advisory Board member Akif Irfan and Partner Fr. Leonel Narvaez

Akif became the youngest member of the Goldin Institute’s advisory board in late 2014. In reflecting on his experience as Board member:

Until I became involved with the Goldin Institute, I didn't appreciate the value of a grassroots approach to addressing global issues. Through working with the Institute I have come to realize the negative consequences of well-intentioned, but ill-constructed, efforts. You have to work in partnership with local organizations at a grassroots level to make real change that lasts. These partnerships are an important part of a successful philanthropy process and the cornerstone of the Institute's success.

He's currently leading the effort to develop a business plan to leverage the Goldin Institute's GATHER platform to help foundations and philathropic groups give more wisely. When asked about how the skills and expertise of the Board helps inform the work, Akif suggests:

With almost eight years of experience working in the finance sector, I hope to offer an additional perspective to the Goldin Institute and its global grassroots network. I think that this can be particularly helpful when considering business development and the economics of successful projects.

We are thrilled to have Akif on our Advisory Board as he brings his passion and experience with all aspects of the Goldin Institute's work; from an internship to governance and from the board room to the field.

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