The 2021/2022 INSEAD Alumni Force for Good Award winner Guillaume Grosso MBA'03D shares insights from a career of doing well by doing good.
At INSEAD, we know our alumni community is a force for good in the world. The recent Alumni Impact Report 2022 shows that INSEAD alumni are highly engaged in critical issues for business and society. An overwhelming majority are addressing climate change, elevating leadership by women, building technology for the future and more.
Each year, INSEAD recognises one of our alumni with the Force for Good Award for their work as a champion of positive impact. In academic year 2021/2022, this award recognised Guillaume Grosso MBA'03D. In his role at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Guillaume has helped secure more than $8.8bn to accelerate vaccination in developing countries and enable immunisation of more than 300 million children. He works with governments, philanthropists and corporations to support COVAX and the COVAX AMC, a ground-breaking initiative to accelerate equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines across the world. Before Gavi, Guillaume directed Bono’s ONE Campaign Office in Paris, served as COO of the OECD Development Centre global policy think tank and worked on critical issues at the African Development Bank.
The Hoffmann Institute reached out to Guillaume to see if he can share insights from a career spent delivering positive impact by using business as a force for good.
You have a long history of working for impact organizations and shaping global development, what made you choose this path for your career?
I started my career in banking and strategy consulting, where I saw the power of corporations to transform the world. I also saw the critical importance of government leadership and how transformative projects are born from key discussions in international institutions – the UN, the World Bank and others. I wanted to bridge the two sides.
While I was doing my MBA at INSEAD I met inspiring classmates who had worked in Africa. I was fascinated by the continent’s dynamism and inventiveness. After graduating, I joined the African Development Bank high potentials programme, which was the best way to get to the heart of the action. I didn’t regret this choice. It was a vertical learning curve with the exhilarating feeling that I was building a world of new opportunities.
Can you share one or two projects or initiatives that have made a positive impact for communities and economies?
I’ve worked on topics from education, sanitation and global health to climate, water and the environment. Every time, I seek to bring together ‘unlikely bedfellows’. Every actor in society – corporates, non-profits, philanthropies, governments, international organisations – can make a difference. Especially if they work together. Our collective achievement is bigger than the sum of its parts.
In recent years, I’ve been applying this at Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, a global public-private partnership that has provided access to vaccines to more than a billion children in developing countries. Sixteen million lives have been saved so far. An incredible achievement only made possible because everyone worked together. And when the pandemic shockwaves started spreading across the world, breaking lives and economies, I was fortunate to help enable almost two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to reach vulnerable people around the world in just a few months. Proof that in the face of our planetary challenges, human ingenuity is without limits.
What do you think of the INSEAD focus on delivering value to both business and society?
The belief that we should break silos and build new types of coalitions in response to global issues attracted me to INSEAD in the first place. At the time, I was working with the Boston Consulting Group and saw first-hand the transformative role of business in society. I was attracted to an MBA to further expand my horizons and it was clear that INSEAD is a place to connect with the most diverse profiles and backgrounds.
I joined the class of 2003 and wasn’t disappointed. Both the teaching and the peer learning opened my eyes. I realized how many possibilities there are to make an impact. I am not surprised that INSEAD now puts focus on enabling business as a force for good. This is the continuation of a long-time aspiration. I am particularly excited about the Hoffmann Institute, which holds great potential to enable leaders to move from thinking to acting. I find this personally inspiring and I hope it will inspire others.
How has your INSEAD MBA prepared you to be a force for good?
For me, INSEAD is much more than the place where I pursued my MBA. It was certainly about what you learned in class, but also about what was happening outside the classroom – a vibrant environment and interaction with classmates and professors from around the world.
This experience gave me new ways of thinking and connecting the dots that I still use to this day. After rigorous courses and inspiring encounters on campus, I came out with the absolute conviction that we could change the world by inventing new ways to bring together the public and private sector. That’s what I’ve been trying to do ever since.
What advice do you have for current INSEAD MBA students who are interested in pursuing a career with positive social impact? What do you say to your fellow alumni looking to be a force for good themselves?
Throughout my career I’ve met many amazing people – and they were all different. Some had big plans for the world, whilst others helped their local communities. Some had deep pockets and hours aplenty to turn their dreams into reality, but others were busy or cash strapped. But they had something in common.
Each one was challenging accepted assumptions, asking difficult questions, engaging with people who had a different take on the issue. And from these questions, from these encounters come the most amazing ideas. I learned that it doesn’t matter where you begin. The most important step is to start the conversation.
The Hoffmann Institute would like to recognise 2021/2022 INSEAD Alumni Force for Good Award recipient Guillaume Grosso MBA'03D, Director of Private Sector & Sovereign Engagement, Donor Relations & Campaigns at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, for his work in public health and sustainable development. Stay tuned for the 2022/2023 Force for Good Award story coming later this year.