Meet Tiffany Morris, Golden Baobab Strategic Development Fellow

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Golden Baobab is thrilled to welcome Strategic Development fellow, Tiffany Morris, to the team. Tiffany comes from the Strategic Partnerships team at Ashoka, the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide. A Stanford graduate with an International Relations degree, Tiffany has extensive experience in strategic development having served in similar capacities at ACLU, IBM and Centre for Researching Education Outcomes. She brings her passion to see social impact across different economic sectors to the team for a month (locally) and two months (virtually). She will be working with Golden Baobab for 3 months to develop sustainable corporate partnership models. Let's have a quick chat with Tiffany. 

 

You’ve been in Ghana a little over 24 hours, what are your initial impressions, how long are you staying, and how are you feeling about your stay? 

This is my second time in Ghana and though it’s only been 24 hours, it hasn’t disappointed!  The plane ride was easy, the staff in the airport were very helpful during what could have been a painful luggage mixup (my bag arrived on Monday although I arrived yesterday), and the friendly Golden Baobab Fellow Phoebe was there at the airport to welcome me to Accra as soon as I arrived.  

So far, I am overwhelmingly pleased with the weather.  When I first walked outside, it had just finished raining so that air had a fresh, cool quality to it. As a native of the hot and humid Southeastern US, coming to 83 degrees weather feels like home!  

I also feel very luck to be staying with a wonderful host family: Uncle Kobby and Aunt Joyce live near the office and have been amazingly kind and welcoming so far.  I’m looking forward to the rest of my time here!

 

How did you decide to join the Golden Baobab team?

I’m going to business school in the fall and wanted to use this summer to get hands on experience working on financial sustainability efforts with a social enterprise with 1) a great team 2) large growth potential and 3) a mission that I am personally passionate about.  Soon after speaking with Debbie and her team I knew that objectives 1 and 2 were covered in terms of number 3, I couldn’t find a social enterprise whose mission felt more personally relevant than that of Golden Baobab’s.   I attribute much of who I am as a person to the books that I read as a child.  Moreover, as an African American woman, Golden Baobab’s mission particularly resonates with my personal experiences as I remember a marked dearth of African-American and African protagonists in the books I read growing up.   There’s a certain empowerment that comes from seeing qualities of yourself reflected in your childhood literary heros, a sense of empowerment that is often not as available to children who live outside of the elite circles where books are produced in the US and Europe.  There’s a quote by Junot Diaz that speaks to what I’m trying to say here about the power of self-recognition and narrative.  At the risk of making this already long interview even longer, I’ll include it here because it’s just that good:

“You guys know about vampires? … You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, ‘Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?’ And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might seem themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.” 

From another perspective, I also know how reading a book as a child can make a person deeply empathetic for a character’s experience and the world that that character lives in.   The idealistic part of me (which is a very big part of me) believes that in our increasingly globalized world, it is critical that we increase our understanding and empathy for cultures and perspectives other than our own. In other words, children need to read stories from every part of the world so that they are prepared for their place in it.  Right now, the stories that children read in Europe, the US, Indonesia and Ghana overwhelming reflect only the former two countries’ way of life.  And that’s no fairer to kids in he US than it is to the kids in Ghana.  

I think by putting more diverse stories into the marketplace, the Golden Baobab has the potential to at least put a dent in the huge disparity in the types of stories that we, as a global human race, have access to.  And that’s a very good thing! 

 

Who was your favorite storybook character growing up?

O man this is a difficult question. I loved so many! Josephine from Little Women and Anne of Anne of Green Gables were two of my favorite characters, the Chronicles of Narnia was one of my favorite series and I loved anything by Shel Silverstein. There was also a wonderful picture book called Mufasa’s Beautiful Daughters that stands out as a favorite illustrated story. 

 

What did your 8 year-old self want to become in future?

At age 8, I’m pretty sure that I wanted to be an artist although to be honest, I probably didn’t know what that meant.  

 

What will you be doing at Golden Baobab and what about it is particularly exciting to you?

I’ll be working on corporate fundraising for the Golden Baobab and while I’ve worked in this area for almost 3 years at Ashoka, which is an international organisation that finds and supports social entrepreneurs, I feel like I still have a lot to learn!  However, I find corporate relationships to social enterprises fascinating and full of possibility for increased social impact as well as business impact (see this recent article from HBR blog for more of what I mean).  

The aspect of this project that excites me is figuring out how to valuate the knowledge, expertise and presence that the Golden Baobab has developed over the past 5 years to corporations.  Then, most interesting to me, is figuring out how to communicate that value to corporations in a way that they would not just understand, but see the benefit in investing in for their own bottom line. Really, it’s all a matter of telling the right stories to a different sector in a way that they would understand and I guess I’m someone who loves storytelling, no matter the context or form that it takes!

 

What do you want to achieve in the role?

I plan to learn as much as possible about the publishing industry, children’s literature and the infrastructure that exists and needs to exist in order to ensure that children in every part of the world have access to high quality stories that reflect their varied experiences.  In addition, as a Strategic Development Fellow, I hope to use what I’ve learned by working with social enterprises to contribute to the short-term and long-term sustainable financial planning of the Golden Baobab. 

While in Accra I hope to solidify my understanding of local CSR efforts and of the publishing industry here.  When I return to the States, I hope to use that understanding to expand the network of individuals and organizations that know about and actively contribute to the Golden Baobab’s success.

 

What do you enjoy about being part of the Golden Baobab team?

I’ve only been here one and a half working days so answering this question is probably a bit premature!  However, I will say that thus far I have appreciated Debbie’s availability and openness to answer any questions that I have, as well as the ready brainstorming and creative energy that is felt in the office.  It’s a comfortable way to work that feels natural to me!

I very much enjoy working on teams and think one of the best professional feelings is to build something excellent with a group of people who you respect, trust and believe in.  I’m excited to work with the Golden Baobab team to hopefully accomplish this with regards to a sustainable corporate fundraising model.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love dancing of any sort (I’m partial to salsa), playing tennis (when it’s nice out) and having interesting conversations with interesting people, strangers and friends alike.  I also am addicted to the American television show Scandal so my couch is usually where you will find me when I’m in the US on most Thursday nights. 

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