Emzingo: Preparing Leaders, Empowering Communities

Somerville, United StatesJohannesburg, South Africa
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Emzingo is a leadership development company. Our mission is to inspire responsible leadership, prepare individuals to address global challenges, and connect business to society through social impact projects.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we could prepare an entire generation of leaders committed to social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and financial success.
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Yes, economic growth improves lives, but it also putting the world at risk. Undoubtedly, the global economy will undergo a structural transformation to create socially inclusive, low-carbon, long-lasting economic growth, and begin the long overdue restoration of our planet. The time calls for a new kind of consciousness and leadership.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

People recognize the need for and want a different, better, kind of leadership. We are giving them access to experiences and like-minded people that want the same thing, to improve the world through better leadership. Through our solutions, participants experience leadership development, increased self-awareness, and responsible decision-making taking into consideration environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and financial success. Our global network will allow anyone who wants to get skills, experience, network or a job in impact, the ability to do so.


Winners of Start Up Chile Competition in 2012. Winners of Ashoka U Cordes Innovation Award.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Our innovation is a comprehensive approach to empowering communities and connecting two seemingly disconnected worlds, the business sector, and the social sector. It’s our holistic approach of field work in social impact projects coupled with a pioneering leadership development curriculum that sets us apart. And we have great stories, like Ashley King-Bischof's. An American Emzingo alumna that, after graduating from her MBA at a top academic institution, went on to win the Barclays Africa Innovation Challenge for supply chains with her project Markit Opportunity. An e-commerce platform that improves the incomes of women smallholder farmers in the East African Community. Or Thulani Madondo that went on to become a CNN Heroe in 2012.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We categorize our impact on three levels: 1. the individual transformation of our participants, 2. the transfer of this positive experience into their business schools, companies, or organizations, and 3. the positive effect these participants have on their social project organizations and the communities in which these organizations serve. The large scale impact Emzingo's programs have is on the beneficiaries of the social sector organizations with whom we partner. Since 2010, we have impacted 300+ participants, 70+ organizations, and an estimated 250,000 community members. Our 2025 goal is to reach over 2000 participants, 800 organizations, and an estimated 2,000,000 people in communities around the world.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We envision knowledge and learning as a lifelong journey. People development through flexible, affordable, accessible, and enriching online and offline experiences. Global presence with local interventions. We enable south-to-south, and south-to-north knowledge transfer. Our team has built robust networks in Boston, Johannesburg, Lima, Madrid, New York, and Rio de Janeiro. We want to reach 50 cities by 2025.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Pay-as-you-go and membership model for our experiences and programs, events, and content. We have contracts with academic institutions such as IE Business School (Madrid, Spain) McGill University, (Montreal, Canada) USC (California, USA) as well as with companies such as AXA Insurance and Everis Consulting. We raised 50K USD via crowfunding in 2013 and received 250K from a Spanish impact investor in 2014.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are other players in the service learning space, many of whom we know and collaborate with. These would include ThinkImpact, Emerging World, Pyxera MBA Without Borders, and MBAxAmerica. As mentioned earlier, it’s our holistic approach of field work in social impact projects coupled with a pioneering leadership development curriculum that sets us apart. This includes mentoring from professional consultants and coaches, cultivating core competencies that future global leaders require – emotional intelligence, sustainability, authenticity, innovation and global mindset.

Founding Story

The co-founders met in 2009 during their MBA at the beginning of the financial crisis. It was their dissatisfaction with the current state of business leadership, corruption and lack of accountability that led to a powerful conversation. Andrew Bonfiglio (co-founder) was vocal to his classmates at IE Business School about his interest in people development and social impact. A classmate told him to connect with Ramon Marmolejos (co-founder). About 15 minutes into a conversation over a beer at lunch, Ramon mentioned the notion of combining leadership development with cultural immersion. This was the A-ha! moment. One year later we had the first emzingo program in South Africa.


Since its inception, Emzingo has been a mission-driven, values-based organization that is about making a difference as well as a profit. As such, our team is committed to our long-term vision. Our resolve to persevere through challenging times is unparalleled. Additionally, we have the perfect blend of skills and experience to deliver amazing results every day. All members (8 out of 10 are under 35 years old) have advanced degrees from top ten international graduate programs. Our team includes country managers in Lima, Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro, as well as business development managers in Madrid, Boston and NYC. Our board of advisors include 12 nationalities, with representatives of academia, investment banking, international development, leadership development, sustainability and impact investment. Notable names include: Carl Muñana from IADB IIC, Valerina Merino from Skoll Foundation, and experts such as Dr. Tom Cummings, Mark Wade, and Siegfried Hoenle.
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Ashoka newsletter

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Managing Partner

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

I have been involved in entrepreneurial endeavors as an employee, a founder, a partner, and/or an advisor for over 12 years. Some examples included joining a start-up media group, and opening and running my own coffee shop in Mexico City. Advising start ups such as TREBENE, Play Africa Children's Museum, Eduze, and enke: Make your Mark in South Africa; Elisa Sedanoui Foundation in London/Luxor; and Leoteca and Apadrina un Olivo in Madrid, Spain. Upon completing my MBA at IE Business School in Madrid, I joined and invested Emzingo, becoming a managing partner. Since then, I have helped Emzingo manage over 100 social projects; assist 65 nonprofits, social enterprises, and community-based organizations in South Africa, Peru, and Brazil. Personally I have provided more than 600 hours of specialized leadership training and mentoring.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

We are members of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, and we are a certified B Corporation. Belonging to these two networks allows us to amplify our message and reach. Similarly, we collaborate with corporate volunteering organizations such as Fundación Hazloposible (Spain) and Three hands (UK), training institutions such as Amani Insitute (Brazil,) CREA Mujeres Emprendedoras (Mexico,) and Unreasonable Insitute in Boulder, Co.

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