For the next profile in our series of interviews with Hoyapreneurs, we chatted with Atlas Corps founder Scott Beale. Scott started Atlas Corps while living in India to coordinate the U.S. Government’s efforts to fight human trafficking winning him the title of most 'Georgetowny' Hoyapreneur we've interviewed yet! Read Scott's fascinating interview and learn how he's grown Atlas Corps to support over 600 leaders in 88 countries.
1. What is Atlas Corps? What's your mission and how did you get start Atlas Corps?
I started Atlas Corps 11 years ago based off the premise that while talent is equally distributed across the world, opportunity is not. I had just read Thomas Friedman's book "The World Is Flat" and although I could see business leaders increasingly moving between borders, it wasn't so evident in the nonprofit/for purpose sector. At the time I started Atlas Corps I was living in India coordinating the U.S. Government’s efforts to fight human trafficking. I saw Americans volunteering the global south, but not leaders from countries like India to volunteer in the U.S. Atlas Corps addresses critical social issues by developing leaders, strengthening organizations, and promoting innovation through an overseas fellowship of skilled social change professionals.
2. How many Atlas Corps leaders from how many countries have you worked with and brought to the U.S.?
Over 11 years, Atlas Corps has supported 600 leaders from 88 different countries at the world's best organizations including Ashoka, AirBnB, CARE, Human Rights Campaign, IBM, the Malala Fund, Microsoft, Net Impact, Nike Foundation, Save the Children, the UN Foundation and over 200 more.
3. Atlas Corps is the most Georgetowny venture ever. What did you study and how did Georgetown prepare you to be one of the Top 50 Nonprofit CEOs doing good?
Although I started out in the School of Foreign Service, I graduated from the College with a Government Major and Econ minor. Beyond what I learned in the classroom, I was surrounded by a community of activists and social change leaders as part of both student government and the community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. These peers inspired me and educated me on how to effectively create social change. These peers went on to lead large nonprofits like the Human Rights Campaign, start social enterprises like Dexex, and shape corporate philanthropy at places like AirBnB. It is worth noting that I was also inspired by the Ignatian lesson to “set the world on fire.” As a student at Georgetown I learned that I had a greater ability to change the world than I previous thought possible and also learned I could inspire and teach other people to create more change themselves. Georgetown set me on fire with a belief that I can change the world and through my work at Atlas Corps I try to ignite that some passion and teach those same skills to leaders around the world.
4. You've lived in 7 countries, Bosnia, Colombia, Cuba, Pakistan, Mexico and India. What was your favorite country to live in and why?
I’ve been very blessed to live in a diverse set of countries and I loved everyone one of them. Colombia was probably the most fun, India the most exotic and Cuba is the one I am hopeful to live in again since we were evacuated from Cuba and have not been able to return yet.
5. What was your favorite class and/or professor during your time on the Hilltop?
Professor Charles King taught a few courses on the Balkans, which inspired me to volunteer in Bosnia and drop out of school to work in Bosnia before I graduated. He also inspired and supported me as I set out to write a book about the Millennial Generation. These were life changing experiences that shaped me beyond the history lessons I learned in the classroom.
6. How has Atlas Corps grown and what is next?
Atlas Corps has grown about 40% each year over the past few years and has grown faster than leading organizations in the field such as Ashoka and Echoing Green. We’ve grown by bringing Fellows from all over the world, now 88 countries, to the U.S. We’ve also grown by sending Fellows to cities across the United States. We’ve expanded beyond Washington, DC to include New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Detroit, Portland and another six cities across the U.S. Finally our biggest area of future growth is sending Fellows to other countries. Currently there are 60+ Fellows in Colombia and we’ve recently expanded to Australia and Malaysia.
7. Many of your fellows have gone on to found initiatives, NGOs and hold leadership positions. What are a few of your success stories?
While we teach entrepreneurship as one part of our Global Leadership Lab, we don’t require candidates or push alumni to found their own initiatives. Regardless of whether they are entrepreneurs, nearly all of them return home to leadership positions in their country or region. One Fellow became the first-ever Armenian Country Directors of World Vision Armenia; another Fellow became an advisor to the President of Colombia on Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship; a third Fellow started a leadership development program in Nigeria, and a fourth is preparing to run for office in South Sudan.
8. You're an adjunct professor at Georgetown teaching leadership. How do you try to instill leadership in your students?
I try to teach students to be self aware to understand their strengths and style and to learn how social change leadership and innovation is different than other forms of leadership. I try to teach the students how to effectively communicate a clear vision that inspires other people to work together to create a better world.
9. Finally, how do you feel about Patrick Ewing as coach? Is there a tournament bid in our future?
I’m very excited about Patrick Ewing coming back to the hilltop. We were the best in the country when he was a player, I’m confident that he can at least take us back to the tournament.