Spotlight Story

Noemi Danao ’04: A Global Citizen Does Well by Doing Good

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Noemi Danao’s passport reflects her frequent travel from her current hometown of Quito, Ecuador, to countries throughout Latin America and Europe. At the head of business development for the Dutch social enterprise SNV, Danao uses her business acumen to help private sector firms, government institutions, NGOs and community-based organizations link low-income producers and consumers to formal markets.

What drives you in your work?

I am the head of business development for SNV in Latin America, a Dutch social enterprise focused on advancing inclusive development. Specifically, we work with private sector firms, government institutions, NGOs and community-based organizations to link low-income producers and consumers (what is known as the “Base of the Pyramid” or the “Majority Markets” segment) to formal markets, whether as producers or consumers of goods and services.  I am responsible for partnership building and fundraising in collaboration with our five country-based offices across Latin America. Our main source of funding comes from large bi- and multilateral institutions, such as the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB), European Commission, USAID, World Bank and foundations in both the U.S. (Ford Foundation) and Europe, and consulting contracts with private firms.

It is a very globally oriented position that requires me to be in ongoing contact with colleagues, partners and potential funders everywhere. A typical day may start off with a conference call to our head office in The Hague, at least three video or Skype calls with colleagues in Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua or Peru, an in-person meeting with the IDB or USAID, and lots of e-mails scattered across many countries. I also travel quite a bit across Latin America, to the U.S. and to Europe.

Where has your career taken you, and where is it headed?

I love working internationally, and have been in Latin America for more than 15 years. I think whatever I do always has to contribute to some broader societal good. That said, I don’t think this can only happen through not-for-profits: the private sector has a role that goes beyond corporate social responsibility. According to the IFC (International Financial Corporation, part of the World Bank Group) there are approximately four billion people in the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) segment, which represents a $5 trillion market. Connecting the BoP to a company’s core business, whether by sourcing coffee or sustainably harvested wood from local cooperatives, helping build a network of women distributors for goods and services in poor neighborhoods, or increasing grape exports by developing the capacity of small-scale producers, can be a win-win situation for both the company and those they are working with. I am open to working on the private sector side of this. I am also interested in working in other parts of the world.

How has your UC Davis MBA experience helped shape your success?

By giving me a better sense of how firms operate, and how to analyze an organization – whether for- or not-for-profit – and not only look at their mission and impact but also their financials.

What is the most amazing or interesting thing that’s happened to you since graduating?

Going back overseas. My husband and I met and married in Nicaragua and our son (now age 14) was born there. We lived there for nine years. We moved back to the U.S., had our daughter (age 11), bought a house in Davis, got jobs, went to graduate school and pretty much settled in. After we both finished graduate school, we knew that we wanted to again live and work abroad. So we did, in Costa Rica, Nicaragua again and now Ecuador. It has been amazing to do this as a family, and to see our kids thrive as true global citizens.

Your favorite Graduate School of Management memory? 

Parking my bike outside the GSM and having to accommodate the bike trailer so other students could also park. I had to drop the kids off at daycare before classes! 

How do you support and participate in the School now?

I give annually to the GSM. I would love to engage more, but the distance and moving around makes it difficult. I would be happy to talk to students about careers overseas, particularly in the international development sphere.

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