Why Hannah Beavers Cares So Much About Collaboration, Connection & Sustainability
Written by Meg Seitz · Photography by Julia Fay
Hannah Beavers has an important job.
Yet, it’s a job which even she says she spends the majority of her time, energy, and attention trying to work her way out of. She means that in the best way ever.
As Director of Strategy and Business Development for Mama Hope, Beavers’ daily work is big work. She’s an important member of a dynamic team deeply involved in partnering with international leaders to support, build, and develop holistic communities. Beavers admits that that description sounds like your average non-profit organization. But, what’s different – really, what’s special – about Mama Hope is their sincere and driven focus on sustainability – not only environmental, but also social and economic. They want to help others not merely to survive, but more so to thrive – on their own. They want to build communities with and for people who can take-them-from-there, so to speak, because they have had the strong foundation and support from Mama Hope. In theory, they want to work their ways out of jobs in the best way ever.
Founded in 2006, Mama Hope is currently making a serious impact in 13 communities across eight countries. They celebrate a strong presence in Africa as well in countries including India and Guatemala.
Mama Hope is doing so well for a couple of key reasons. First, their earnest focus on listening; they don’t make any moves or decisions until they fully understand and can connect with what a respective community needs.
Secondly, they are uniquely aware of sustainability – making sure the people they’re working with in the community really own it, maintaining the beauty and integrity of the natural resources for that community, and generating income and sustainable, economic growth that that community can maintain and develop.
“I think we all have a deep sense of connectedness,” she said.
“So much of our future is determined by the family we’re born into, and I don’t think that’s just, so if we can reach out and connect with each other and help each other that helps me, too. I learn so much more about humanity and about how to be a better human being because of it.”
That ability to collaborate with and connect to a community and, in turn, create a lasting, sustainable impact is something that’s always mattered to Beavers.
“We moved around a lot when I was a kid, so I grew up internationally,” Beavers said. “I sensed early on that we were part of a global community, and we’re more similar than we’d like to admit – we can do incredible work if we work together.”
In 2009, while working in Finance for GE, she started an organization to support a woman she met while traveling in Tanzania. Though she was doing well balancing both her corporate life and her non-profit, Beavers was starting to feel concerned about whether she was building something that would last.
“I started to worry about the sustainability of the organization I started,” she admitted. “We were starting to grow, and I could see us growing more and ballooning in the future, but I realized that it wasn’t sustainable – if something happened to me, this would all fall apart.”
It was then that she met the Mama Hope team. When she saw the success they were experiencing generating income in communities, Beavers had an aha! moment – she needed to learn from them.
“What Mama Hope is doing in Charlotte is a fresh approach and really focused on sustainability.”
And that aha! moment led to another from both sides – the two organizations could help each other.
Beavers’ organization and Mama Hope informally partnered in 2014. They spent a year learning from and helping each other; both experienced the advantageous and positive results from working together. They saw the opportunity to connect more formally.
In the summer of 2015, Beavers joined the Mama Hope team full-time.
Now, they’re creating tremendous, sustainable success together.
“My favorite success story is when we introduced our micro-finance program in Tanzania,” Beaver recalled. “We were working with a woman who had three, little kids – a daughter and two sons; the sons were going to school, but the daughter wasn’t; this family was living in a mud house; her husband had left them; she was washing clothes to make money. We invited her to join our program because, quite frankly, someone else hadn’t shown up. Six or seven months later, she had moved her family out of her mud house into a new house, her daughter was back in school, and her husband had come back, but she told him she didn’t need him anymore. She’s a real boss lady now.”
As much as Beavers knows that micro-finance has shifted this one woman’s life, she knows its benefits extend beyond.
“When you have micro-finance, you can control and self-direct your own life,” she noted. “It’s cool to see the ripple effect in her life, but also in her kids’ lives.”
Although Mama Hope is based in San Francisco, their team operates virtually from all over the world. Beavers works from Charlotte – and to be even more precise – Hygge.
“I told Garrett that once I joined Hygge, I had a new lease on life,” she admitted with a laugh. “Because we’re all virtual, it feels so different not to have my team nearby. It’s nice to be in a community like Hygge with a different team – a team of [Hygge] coworkers here.”
There are added benefits, too – one that virtual workers, freelancers, and entrepreneurs know well. Beavers jokingly – albeit seriously – admitted that she has been able to take everything out of the car – and into a place of work. “I have my car back; we have the study in our house back, I can get actually get out of the house, and interact,” she said.
Beavers ability to get out of the house and interact will be to key to how Mama Hope develops one of its newest communities – Charlotte.
In 2016, Mama Hope launched a new program to pilot a U.S-based initiative right here in Charlotte’s Grier Heights neighborhood.
This new program – the first of its kind – is designed to support high school girls in the development of a youth entrepreneurship platform. The goal is to build a business out of it that has the potential generate income to support local youth.
“What Mama Hope is doing in Charlotte is a fresh approach and really focused on sustainability,” Beavers shared.
As much success as both Mama Hope and Beavers are experiencing, what’s all this really about for her?
“I think we all have a deep sense of connectedness,” she said. “So much of our future is determined by the family we’re born into, and I don’t think that’s just, so if we can reach out and connect with each other and help each other that helps me, too. I learn so much more about humanity and about how to be a better human being because of it.”
In that sense, I don’t think Hannah Beavers has an important job. I think has an important calling.
Meet the Author: Meg Seitz is the Founder and Managing Creative Partner of toth shop, an agency with one goal: Elevate your brand’s content through powerful writing, creativity, and strategy. She also serves as an Adjunct Professor with Queens University and Founding Partner of the children’s book series, “Bea is for Business”.
She’s an English major with an MBA, so she can talk Homer’s “The Odyssey” just as well as she can talk sunk costs – though she’d much prefer the former.
Meet the photographer: Hi, nice to meet you! I’m Julia. I’m my happiest self when my camera is in hand and I’m taking in this big beautiful world around me! People are my jam and the fact that this job brings so many wonderful people into my life is pretty special.
I grew up performing mostly in front of the camera! Singing, acting, comedy improv – anything on a stage or in front of a lens. The roles began to switch as I entered my freshman year of college and found a creative outlet through photography. My first “real” shoot was when an engaged friend of mine asked me to photograph her and her fiancé. Within moments of getting started, I knew that this was it. Telling peoples love stories, that is what I’m supposed to do! I shot my first wedding at nineteen, and well you know what they say..the rest is history! We’ve been together ever since 🙂