Richenda Van Leeuwen joined the Aspen Institute as Executive Director of the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) in September. She is an ambassador for equitable and inclusive economic development and brings a breadth of knowledge and experience to leading the work of ANDE—a global network that supports the success of small and growing businesses (SGBs) around the world. She spoke with the Institute’s President and CEO, Dan Porterfield, about the importance of ANDE’s work and the impact of investing in SGBs as a method of changemaking.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Dan: Tell us about your background and how it led you to the Aspen Institute and to ANDE.

Richenda: I’ve had a long career that’s really focused on the interaction between business and social good. Having been a former CEO of a micro-enterprise development organization that focused on helping women start and operate enterprises and small businesses, my interests are in thinking about how the private sector can support and maximize social good. 

The Aspen Institute is a venerable institution with an amazing track record of high-quality programming and global reach. There are so many areas where we can see the interplay between the global and domestic crossroads. The Institute has been the home of ANDE since it was founded in 2009 and I was drawn to this opportunity.

Dan: Say a little more about how you developed your understanding that business can and must serve the social good.

Richenda: I have worked throughout my career in humanitarian programs on an international level. When you’re providing solutions to communities without sustainable models, it is difficult to give the help that is needed. By helping people with entrepreneurial ambitions and by cultivating a capacity to build small businesses, you are creating a permanent infrastructure to develop the goods and services they need.

Read the full article about helping small businesses by Daniel Porterfield at The Aspen Institute.