LISA ROBINSON SPADER
Have you ever come across an old stack of report cards from your childhood years? I did once, and it was fun to read all the comments I received from teachers in elementary school. Invariably there was a comment like, “She certainly is a day-dreamer…” I think that was their nice way of saying they had trouble getting me to pay attention in class! I may have my head in the clouds, but I was smart enough to recruit amazing people to this venture who keep my feet on the ground.
I was born a dreamer, but dreams are very much influenced by our environment. Both my parents had a strong impact on my life in very different ways. My mother was born in 1929 – the start of The Great Depression. For those who were busy day-dreaming during their history classes, this was a prolonged period of extreme economic suffering in the U.S. before we had government programs to help those who were hardest hit. She was also born an “illegitimate” child to a 16-year-old mother in the conservative Midwest. At that time such children were shunned, and none of the other children in town were allowed to speak to her. She didn’t know why she was rejected; just knew she was “different” in some way. Both because of her great poverty and also because of the pain of social rejection, she became something of a crusader for those who were marginalized due to poverty and prejudice. Whether it was fighting for Civil Rights, promoting better treatment for homosexuals, or providing opportunities for low-income children, she was always working to make the world a kinder place. She nutured in me a compassionate heart.
My father was a brilliant man who loved to take risks. One of his favorite expressions was, “If I knew I could do it, it wouldn’t be any fun!” He was an out-of-box thinker that Stanford Business School described as a “Serial Innovator Extraordinaire.” With a great sense of humor, he explains, “I was never handicapped by experience. Not knowing how things ‘had always been done’ freed me to move in new directions.” Actually he typically did know how things had always been done, but he preferred to design things from scratch anyway. I have worked with non-profits for some time, and I know how they typically work. Rather than tweak things here and there, I decided to design a non-profit from scratch. I agree with my father – it is much more fun that way! He developed in me a nonconforming mind.
Although Global Pearls is a decidedly secular organization, I am a devout Christian, and this most definitely motivates my work. God created and cherishes each and every person on the face of this earth, and he wants us to love and care for ALL others – especially the poorest, most vulnerable people no matter where they live, what language they speak, what religion they practice… God instilled in me a global soul.
I received a B.A. in Geography from Dartmouth College and an M.A. in Economics from Harvard University with concentrations in International Economics and Economic Development. I then had a 16-year career with Intel Corporation. I enjoyed my work at Intel and loved the wonderful people I worked with (two of whom are my co-founders), but eventually decided to leave Intel to spend more time on development work.
Working with non-profits operating in developing countries was a very satisfying experience, and I learned much about what works and doesn’t work. My goal is not only to achieve, dollar for dollar, the greatest impact possible abroad, but to do so in a way that is rewarding and meaningful for our supporters. Why should my co-founders and I have all the fun???