As a cofounder of a social enterprise in Lahore, the question I get asked most often is “why Pakistan?” And it’s a great question, not because the answers are unclear, but because there are so many to choose from.

Why Pakistan? Building bridges

Yesterday, the fellows in our Career-Prep Fellowship at Amal Academy organized a small birthday party after their session. Huddled around the two birthday cakes, the party reached its peak when one of the fellows (Gohar) erupted into a Punjabi rap song.

Why Pakistan? Learning what lies beyond the single story

And of course, investing in Pakistan creates a profound opportunity for investors to better understand Pakistan, as the the misunderstandings exist both ways. It goes without saying that the single story from Pakistan that Americans are familiar with is one of extremism, violence, and corruption. And, as written by Chimamanda Ngozi,

the consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.

What happens when we learn how similar we are rather than how different we are? What happens when we move beyond the single story? In the words of Mary Lou Kownacki:

There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their [actual] story.

Pakistan is an incredibly diverse place, with not just one single story, but nearly 200M stories. Perhaps the best way to begin understanding those stories is to become a small part of them.

Why Pakistan? The return on investment of a candle

During Gohar’s unexpected performance, I quietly thought about how this song sounded just like those I used to hear from students I taught business to in East Harlem or the students I taught job skills to in East Palo Alto.

Zoya during an activity in the Amal Career-Prep Fellowship

Why Pakistan? An emerging ecosystem

Pakistan is the 6th most populated country in the world, the 3rd largest English speaking country, and has had the second best performing stock exchange. And perhaps most exciting: there is a growing ecosystem of impact investors, incubators/accelerators, and of course entrepreneurs.

Working in Pakistan turned out to be one of the best moves we made.

Echoing Green is another investor that has also helped move the space forward, investing in two ventures that are based in Pakistan and another 3 entrepreneurs with significant operations in the country.

Jacqueline Novogratz with the Amal Fellows in Lahore

Why Pakistan? Scaling it up

And yet while there is incredibly exciting progress being made in the ecosystem, Pakistan is a huge market and there is tremendous need for investors and partners to help take the ecosystem to the next level.

Why Pakistan? A brighter world

In 2015, Forbes published a powerful article saying that Pakistan could be the next Colombian success story, with a very important cautionary note:

In order to participate in the upside of the Pakistan story, the United States will need to view Pakistan not as a problem to be solved but as a potential partner.

The article goes on to say that Pakistan continues to “suffer from a terrible country brand that has not caught up with [the positive] realities on the ground,” which includes “action against terrorism, political stability and a new development story.”

An Iftar (opening of the fast) celebration during Ramadan with the Amal Fellows in Lahore

“it is common to take a dog for a walk, it is less common to take a dream for a walk” || @amalacademy + @understory cofounder | nature novel in progress

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