Creating Social Impact Around the Globe

PROVO, Utah – Oct 06, 2021 – A day of work for BYU Marriott School of Business alum Tanner Clawson might look different than what most people assume someone in “business” does. Through the Ballard Center for Social Impact at BYU Marriott, Clawson’s career in business has led him across the globe, helping with projects that are solving pressing social issues.

Clawson’s experiences with the Ballard Center, where he was a student volunteer and leader for several years, were the highlight of his undergraduate career. While studying in the finance program, Clawson started as a mentor in the center’s Social Venture Academy (SVA), which provides student entrepreneurs from across disciplines with the coaching and seed funding required to launch socially innovative businesses. Clawson shares that his involvement with the SVA took him to places he never thought he’d go. “One of my first experiences was advising a team of environmental science students on a sustainable agriculture project in Haiti. I was able to contribute by helping them hone their investment pitch, which was incredibly rewarding,” says Clawson.

Because of the positive impact he experienced with the SVA, Clawson continues to be involved in social innovation at BYU Marriott even after graduating in 2017. He represented the school and the Ballard Center at a 2016 conference for Ashoka U, a nonprofit that focuses on building social innovation programs at universities. “I've always wanted to have a purpose-driven career, and the Ballard Center helped me make that a reality. I was an undergrad with a lot of ideas but searching for a tangible path to social entrepreneurship,” Clawson says. “The Ballard Center was critical in helping me find that path.”

Many of his formative learning experiences and early career successes can be traced back to the Ballard Center, says Clawson. One of his most impactful experiences came in 2016 with another startup backed by the Ballard Center. “We were conducting market research in hospitals in urban India, trying to better understand the issue of infant ventilator access,” says Clawson. “The cost of ventilators in the market is prohibitive for many public hospitals, and the result is many preventable newborn deaths.”

Clawson explains the project brought together doctors and engineers to design a more affordable and reliable ventilator for hospitals with insufficient resources. “The experience was incredibly humbling. Sitting in hospitals, seeing the problem firsthand, and learning from local leaders on the ground were moments that impacted me deeply and that I still think about often,” Clawson continues. Even years after his visit, Clawson remains involved in the project, recently helping the team form a new partnership in Zambia to assist local hospitals.

Building on his experience abroad on projects through the Ballard Center, Clawson is able to continue to pursue similar work in his career at Bain & Company, a management consulting company. Between 2018 and 2021, Clawson and his family lived in Johannesburg, South Africa, working for Bain & Company, where he was able to make a positive impact on local businesses.

“One of the highlights of my time at Bain was an agriculture development project that focused on empowering smallholder farmers,” says Clawson. “My team was advising a nonprofit addressing the barriers to growth that smallholder farmers face, such as lack of affordable financing. Lifting these barriers improves food security and reduces rural poverty, so it was a fulfilling effort to be a part of.”

After three years in South Africa, Clawson recently returned to the United States in order to further his goal that the Ballard Center instilled in him—solving the world’s most pressing social problems. This fall, he will attend Harvard Business School where he plans to pursue elective coursework in social entrepreneurship. “Specifically, I'm excited to study the intersection of technology and social issues during my time at Harvard,” Clawson shares.

Looking forward, Clawson is also interested in finding ways to help inspire the next generation of students to make a difference in the world. “In my personal journey, I owe a lot to friends and mentors. I would love to pay it forward to younger students, helping them as others did for me,” he says.

Tanner Clawson and wife Mara
Tanner Clawson and his wife Mara. Photo courtesy of Tanner Clawson.
Clawson at Ashoka U Exchange
Clawson at Ashoka U Exchange, hosted in 2016 by Tulane University, From left to right: Clawson, Todd Manwaring, Camden Robinson, Erik Hansen, Kelly Goddard. Photo courtesy of Tanner Clawson

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Emily Atwood