My second visit to Ghana: a lesson in gratitude

Editor’s Note: In October, Pencils of Promise and members of the CommonBond community, including CommonBond CEO & Co-Founder, David Klein, traveled to Ghana to see the impact their partnership is having on the ground. CommonBond is a leading online student lender providing lower rates, increased transparency and significant savings for members of its community. The company’s strong social mission — for every degree financed on its platform, it funds the education of a child in need — is the first “1-for-1” social mission in finance.

I recently went to Ghana for our second annual CommonBond “Impact in Action” trip. As with our first trip to Ghana last year (captured here), it was a special experience. It was an opportunity to see our Social Promise in action and witness firsthand its impact.

The way our Social Promise works is simple: f­or every degree funded on our platform, we fund the education of a child in need. Through our social mission, we’ve now funded the education of thousands of students globally, and we’ve partnered with the good folks at Pencils of Promise (PoP) to make it a reality. Many people don’t realize this, but it is the first (and only) “1-for-1” social mission in finance.

You only get to see your social mission in action — for the first time — once. For me, that was last year, but for the five CommonBond members and two CommonBond teammates who came with me this year, it was this trip. They got to see the thrilling sights of Ghana and hear the heartwarming sounds of children laughing and learning, for the first time. And it was something to see — the look on their faces, the appreciation in their voices.

Each year, coming back from Ghana, I find myself landing on one word that captures the essence of that particular trip. Last year, that word was sacrifice. This year, that word is gratitude.

  • The gratitude in the eyes of students now able to read because they each have access to 100 books on their e-readers, instead of only a few physical books in poor condition to share in class.
  • The gratitude on the faces of the community members now able to send their children to a school with a roof, so that learning continues even when it rains.
  • The gratitude in conversations with teachers who are now better teachers because of PoP’s Teacher Support program and whose pride has grown because they know it.
  • And yes, the gratitude among our CommonBond members who have gotten to see firsthand the impact of their student loans on education and development in communities around the world.

I was struck by my own feelings of gratitude. For my teammates in New York who work each day to build CommonBond into a for-profit enterprise — with purpose — that enables business to truly be a force for good. For the many thousands of CommonBond members who choose to take out loans with us — and drive social change, just by deciding to join the CommonBond community. With them, more and more schools are built and educations are funded. And I am grateful to the PoP team, who does phenomenal, exemplary work out in the field and brings our Social Promise to life in a methodical and sustainable way, driving lasting impact to the communities we serve.

In the weeks that have followed our trip, our Ghana group has continued to keep in touch. In that time, I have seen the trip inspire action. One of our members has already begun raising money in her community to build a Pencils of Promise classroom in Ghana. Another, an aspiring entrepreneur, plans to weave a social mission into the fabric of his burgeoning company.

At CommonBond, we have a strong social mission to do good in the world because it’s the right thing to do. What we’ve also learned is that it happens to be good for business too. For brand awareness, customer advocacy and for recruiting. We’ve learned not to shy away from this for fear of looking inauthentic, but to embrace it in the hopes of inspiring others to do the same — the more examples that people see of for-profit companies driving real social good, the more likely we are to live in a world in which having a strong social mission is the rule and not the exception. It’s the power of leverage…. social leverage.

To me, that’s meaningful. So, in the coming year, I commit to sharing our social story broadly, to bring it to life and inspire action from others, delivering more social good together than we could have even done alone.

David Klein is CEO and Co-Founder of CommonBond, a values-driven fintech company that is reimagining the student loan experience. Through data and technology, the company lowers the cost of student loans in the U.S., and at the same time, provides a better experience through personal customer service, a simple application process and a strong commitment to social good. CommonBond borrowers who refinance their student loans save more than $14,500, on average, over the life of their loans. To learn more, visit commonbond.co.