Living in: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Senior Manager, BRAC
Anjali is a social innovation expert and development practitioner with seven years’ experience in leading projects that empower the underprivileged population, with a special focus on youth and women. Her journey in the development sector started at the age of 20 when she co-founded a social enterprise to provide affordable, accessible and eco-friendly sanitation solutions in the rural areas.
After running her enterprise for two years, she joined Ashoka to launch its operations in Bangladesh. As the launch leader, she worked with local entrepreneurs and supported them to increase their impact. Later she joined BRAC, one of the largest development organisations in the world, in its social innovation lab. At the lab, she had designed, developed and implemented multiple cross-country projects in South Asia and East Africa. Currently, she leads the Innovation Fund for Mobile Money, a project in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to bring digital financial services to one million rural women in Bangladesh.
In addition to her work as a development practitioner, she serves as a Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum and is a New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute. She was invited to two TEDx events in Hong Kong and in the Netherlands to speak about social innovation and entrepreneurship. Young Professionals in Foreign Policy and Diplomatic Courier magazine, recognised her as one of the Top 99 leaders under the age of 33.
Her previous independent work included serving as an advisor in several start-ups, working as a freelance journalist and providing consultancy support to organisations on ‘Human Centered Design’. She holds a bachelor’s in Business Administration from Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka and a Diploma in Social Innovation from Lund University.
My career in the development sector took me to a wide range of places - from the broken hut of an widow to the stage of TEDx. I have met with people who are deeply affected by inequalities and have come across people who do not even know that inequality exists. While leading a countrywide financial inclusion project for rural women, I experienced how gender norms and inequality connect. At times, I felt ecstatic to see how development interventions can bring incredible changes in society’s power dynamics and empower women to take control of their lives. Other times, I saw development professionals reinventing the wheel and wasting massive amount of resources; ultimately failing to achieve their desired impact. In a nutshell, after spending seven years in the sector, I have more questions than answers.
Now I am on an intellectual quest to find the answers through research. I am most interested to explore the underlying reasons and consequences of inequality, and how system-level interventions can be designed to fight inequality. I believe this programme will allow me to reflect on development from an academic perspective and push my intellectual boundaries to make me a better practitioner.
Working for one of the largest non-government organisations in the world has given me a unique exposure to a wide range of development projects taking place in South Asia and East Africa. I have seen that solutions are often found in the most unexpected places, in the most unexpected manner. Therefore, in addition to my interest in inequality, I am also curious to find out what the development sector in Bangladesh can learn from other parts of the world. Being able to explore these complex issues with a diverse group of experienced professionals will enable me to understand inequalities better and apply that understanding in my work after coming back to Bangladesh. With the right kind of guidance and resources offered by the AFSEE programme, I hope to develop myself in a way that will complement my past experience and add new dimensions to it.