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Jonathan Greenblatt discusses successful cross-sector models for social progress. He was recently announced as Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation. Credit: Kris Krüg , Courtesy of Kris Krüg/Creative Commons

Penn’s newest Senior Wharton Fellow is coming to Penn straight from the White House.

Special Assistant to the President and White House Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation Jonathan Greenblatt can now add Senior Wharton Fellow to his repertoire.

Greenblatt will come to campus a few times a month for the remainder of the academic year to lecture as part of the Wharton Social Impact Initiative.

He spent the last twenty years starting and scaling companies, working in public services and developing non-profits. Greenblatt co-founded Ethos Brands — which launched Ethos Water, a product now owned and sold by Starbucks — and founded All for Good, an online platform that aggregates volunteer opportunities to increase the number of Americans participating in community service.

Vice Dean of the Wharton Social Impact Initiative and Wharton management professor Katherine Klein knows Greenblatt both personally and professionally and asked him to come to Wharton when she found out he would be leaving the White House to lead the Anti-Defamation League.

“Jonathan has had an extraordinary social impact career,” Klein said. “He was an early-stage entrepreneur using the for-profit business strategies to spin off huge contributions to children around the world. He is someone who can speak to all kinds of different [social impact] strategies and is in a terrific position to comment on social impact trends, opportunities and best practices.”

Greenblatt said he is excited to explore the opportunities of social impact in an academic setting.

“Wharton has been doing important work in social impact in the past few years,” he said. “When Katherine proposed [coming to Wharton], it was an exciting idea for me, coming out of the White House.”

Greenblatt will speak to students about a number of topics under the umbrella of social innovation, including impact investing, social entrepreneurship and financial innovation.

On Jan. 14, Greenblatt lectured in Klein’s undergraduate-level “Knowledge for Social Impact” class, offering a taste of his future presentations. He not only spoke to the students about his interest in social impact and his contributions to the field, but also discussed intertwining both policy and business in creative ways to make the greatest impact.

Wharton and College junior Sarah Baldinger, who is studying business economics and public policy and political science, has done a lot of policy research at Penn. “I found it very interesting to see how he has interacted with the public, private and non-profit sectors and to see how many ways someone can make a difference,” Baldinger said.

College and Wharton senior Morgan Motzel has an extensive background in social impact and plans to enter the field after graduation. Motzel was impressed by Greenblatt’s speaking style and how he interacted with the students.

“He wanted to know every student in the class and why we were interested in social impact,” Motzel said. “He really tailored what he spoke about to what we were interested in and wove in answers to our questions throughout his talk.”

“The discussion was very inclusive,” Motzel added. “I felt like he really respected our opinions. He felt like a very, very experienced peer.”

When asked about Greenblatt’s lectures later in the semester, both Baldinger and Motzel said they would love to hear more of his message.

As for Greenblatt, he was highly impressed by the students. “You have a very engaged, very intelligent and well-prepared body of students who have a sense of their place in the world,” he said. “It’s exciting to see what I can teach them and what I can gain from them.”

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