Das of All Trades

Mar/02/2021 / by KT Hall

Visionary. Facilitator. Coach. Strategist. Influencer. Change agent. Problem solver. Nureen Das is a leader who wears a lot of hats. Maybe it’s her employment as an MIT-India program manager. Or, perhaps, it’s her social impact work through her organization, Artisan Gateway. As a solution-oriented individual, one of her greatest strengths is using critical thinking to help find solutions for those in need.

A Passion for Cross-Cultural Education

Das began her career in India, working in the microfinance sector. She then worked with an assortment of different grassroots organizations, including the Peace Corps. As a global traveler, Nureen lived, worked, and studied in India, Fiji, Hong Kong, the UK and the U.S. She is a graduate of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a major in history and economics, and holds an M.A. in development studies from the University of Wales. She’s also passionate about cross-cultural education.

Asked if any aspect of Indian/South Asian culture influenced her journey in any way, Das responded, “I spent my formative years in Asia, growing up in India and Hong Kong, and this shaped the course of my study for both my undergraduate and graduate studies.”

“Early on, I was drawn to understanding how issues of socio-economic development impact the lives of those that are vulnerable as a result of technological, social, economic, and political change. This led to my pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees that provided me with the framework to understand community and international development. While I haven’t had a traditional career path, each opportunity has allowed me to build on my skills and strengths, developing a toolkit of sorts that allows me to contribute to the social impact space.”

Supporting Local Women’s Groups

One of the reasons Nureen wears so many leadership hats is her continuous commitment to different improvement initiatives. She’s dedicated to positively impacting the lives of the most vulnerable. And, it was her early days working as a volunteer that led to a profound impact championing the underserved. 

“As a volunteer posted in Fiji, I was involved in capacity building initiatives with local women’s groups focused on income generation,” she said. “This led to my ongoing involvement in supporting social impact initiatives, through establishing the Artisan Gateway. It’s a global community and network of entrepreneurs, designers, and others working at the intersection of sustainable production, consumption, and livelihoods. It’s great to see this next generation, particularly young women entering the workforce wanting to work in the social impact space, wanting for their professional and personal lives to contribute to the many societal challenges we face today.”

“By bridging the challenging gaps people face, they’re open to more opportunities like building communities. This also creates and cohesively integrates networks of entrepreneurs and social impact champions.”

Why Gaining Experience and Exposure are Important

Das offered some advice on how to address real-life challenges: “Take the time early on to get exposure to a variety of professional experiences, be it at the grassroots level, within the corporate world, etc. A breadth of experiences, while focusing on a technical skill, can help one to understand the root problem, or issue, one is trying to tackle and will give you a holistic view as one tries to develop and implement strategies to address the needs.”

And, incorporating holistic solutions into her strategies is helping her make more informed decisions. As a change agent, she’s better able to envision solutions that play integral roles in the lives of others.

“Having had the privilege to live and work across five countries globally, and as a product of international education, I have had the opportunity to work with people from a wide range of cultures and professional backgrounds. This has fueled my passion for promoting cross-cultural education and professional experiences, particularly those with a social impact focus.” 

Shaping the Functioning of Civil Society 

A lot of Das’ work centers around her involvement with social enterprises. She’s committed to providing skills training and employment through craft production which helps to support economic sustainability.

“My South Asian heritage and experiences living and working in the subcontinent, have provided me with the ability to adjust whenever changes and/or obstacles come up and have given me the competence to thrive amidst the chaos. Through my travels and work in two-thirds of the world, I’ve been struck by the sheer will and determination of the men, women, and children who have learned a new skill to financially support themselves and their families. These individuals have learned to make pottery, design jewelry, and use their imaginations to create recycled products—to name just a few skills.”

While the world is a small place, Das, through Artisan Gateway and her other social impact initiatives, is creating networks of individuals, businesses, and organizations that can collectively – and positively – impact their own lives and that of those around them. With any problem, it’s simply a matter of funneling decisions through a filter to find the right outcome. And, it’s with this unique approach that Das is able to get to the heart of an individual or business matter to find the best solutions.

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