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November 15, 2018

The one question you need to ask yourself to make an impact

At just 28, Priya Singh is Fonterra’s youngest General Manager. She has two social enterprises and recently spoke at an international conference about changing the world.

Speaking from her experience of founding two social enterprises, Priya has plenty of knowledge and advice for those wanting to make an impact in their local community, country or world.

These are her learnings:

  1. Shift your mindset from “finding your why” to simply asking “why not?” when an opportunity or idea presents itself. Our “why” will change throughout our lives but a simple “why not?” is the fuel that ignites you.
  2. Three common responses to “why not?” are – I don’t have the time, I don’t have the right skills and/or I don’t have the funding. All can be overcome by thinking differently, and in Priya’s words, here’s how:
  • Time

“We tend to think about time as linear and finite, but a change in the perception of time can unlock the freedom to try new things. Yes, every hour is made up of 60 minutes, but not every hour has the same potential. Running for one hour, watching an episode on Netflix, and writing a board paper can all take an hour, but in each instance, we are drawing on different levels of the potential an hour holds. If you can think about your days, weeks, months and years in this way then ‘I don’t have the time,' is no longer an answer to ‘why not?’.”

  • Skills

“Making a concerted effort to build a core set of skills is important — it enhances your ability to make a contribution. However, often we see our core skill as a constraint, rather than a stable foundation to stand on and make a difference. When I was asked to help farmers living below the poverty line in Kyrgyzstan, I remember thinking — I know nothing about maximising land productivity, but I can build financial models in my sleep and I can speak the language of bankers. So, I built a predictive model that the national bank now uses to help micro-funded farmers make sound choices to maximise their returns from their farms and minimise their debt.”

  • Funding:

 “At the Mentor Me Fiji Foundation, I have led a team of 30 people for six years; and at Karma Collective, I have led a team of 142 people for two years. Across both organisations we make a positive social impact in New Zealand, Fiji, Nepal, India, Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam — without spending a cent. Both have worked this way because someone’s ‘need’ has been matched perfectly with someone’s ‘want’. For example, at Karma Collective, millennial professionals in New Zealand ‘want’ to use their experience in finance, law, engineering and business to make a difference in the world, while millennial entrepreneurs in the developing world ‘need’ access to these exact skills for their businesses to succeed. I brought a few friends together and we built a digital platform to help make this happen.”

So, if you’re ever wanting to make an impact in your local community, country or the world, simply ask yourself this one question: Why not?

Priya Singh is Fonterra’s General Manager, Enterprise Data and Financial Excellence in the Office of the CFO. She founded Mentor Me Fiji, which is a mentoring programme for orphan girls to reach university education and Karma Collective, which supports young entrepreneurs in the developing world by matching them with business mentors.  

She spoke to 5,000 professionals at the World Congress of Accountants, and shared the stage with notable speakers such as former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon.