What is Faces of New Profit? It’s a spotlight on members of the New Profit community, why they do what they do, and who they are. This week, we talk to Adetola Olatunji!
What motivated you to work at New Profit and/or in the social sector?
My passion for and commitment to the social sector is deeply personal, and draws from my family’s experiences. I am the daughter of two social entrepreneurs and faith leaders who moved from Nigeria to this continent to ensure a better life for their children. The immense financial sacrifices my family made for my education influenced my decision to choose a career that would enable me to pay it forward to the communities that raised me. As I seek to mirror the example set for me by my parents, working at New Profit rejuvenates my commitment to leveraging my talents and resources to positively impact communities that have been historically underrepresented in some of the nation's largest systems.
I've been very intentional about focusing each career step on work that explicitly aims to uplift communities and address systemic issues. If there's one academic lesson from my major in Political Economy that most resonated with my personal experience, it was that culture, race and ethnicity play a significant role on economic outcomes and developments such as resource allocation. Following my undergraduate studies at Princeton, I knew I wanted to focus on work that sought to interrogate the nature of this dynamic. Prior to joining New Profit, I worked for a strategy and research organization called the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC). ICIC focuses on inner city economic development through its research & advisory practice, and through programs launched in partnership with the private sector to support and celebrate entrepreneurs creating jobs in inner cities.
While at ICIC, I studied the role of entrepreneurship in spurring economic mobility in communities. For me, doing this work well required an intersectional approach to unpacking themes related to both race and class within inner cities. In search for additional vantage points around these points of connection in our field, I came across an event that New Profit was hosting across the street from ICIC's Dudley Square office in Roxbury. The event was called "Pipelines with Purpose: Diversifying the Social Sector for Greater Impact", and it is the reason I am at New Profit today. During this event, I watched New Profit facilitate dialogue around challenging questions related to race and class in a way that was deeply resonant with my personal experience and career goals. I also met many members of the team, and had the opportunity to learn about the organization's culture and strategic priorities. Less than six months after this event, I began my journey at New Profit with the Learn to Earn team.
What is the theme song of your life? Or name a few songs that make up the soundtrack of your life?
It's hard to choose one song or even a few. I draw inspiration from a number of genres such as gospel, Afrobeats, soul, R&B, even country. I've made a playlist of some of my favorites with themes about transition, faith, family, love, ambition and drive which you can find here.
Who is the greatest influence on who you are today?
My mother - she is my role model. As a Nigerian woman, she challenges cultural and gender stereotypes through the way she moves in the world. My mother taught me to challenge misconceptions, to confront incorrect assumptions, to lead by example, and to hold onto my faith in God as a grounding force. What’s most inspiring to me is that after taking a step back from her career for many years while raising myself and my siblings, she has had the most incredible resurgence of her career as a serial entrepreneur and a Pastor/evangelist. I am not only indebted to her, but I am also inspired to follow her example of living boldly and with purpose every day.
What is the one thing you think our world is missing today?
I think the world is missing balance, particularly in the context of interpersonal relationships and dialogue. I've noticed that in current public discourse, we see themes such as kindness, empathy and placed on opposite ends of the spectrum as themes such as accountability and responsibility. To me, this is a false dichotomy. I think it is important to hold the high expectations that we have for each other as fellow humans in the same regard as we do the care and love that we strive to have for each other. If I don't have high expectations of you, and share that with you, how can I claim to truly love and respect you? I long to live in a world that cultivates the most impactful points of human connection through balance.