Durreen Shahnaz, a global leader of social impact and impact investing, is the founder of Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) and IIX Foundation. Over the past three decades, her mission has been to build a more inclusive, sustainable world by transforming financial markets and bringing underserved women to the forefront of capital markets. Shahnaz’s work has helped thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, governments and impact stakeholders around the world to play a role in sustainable development and women’s empowerment.

Shahnaz has built a track record with a career spanning the globe, starting out in finance at Morgan Stanley (New York) and Grameen Bank (Bangladesh), moving into media Hearst Magazines International (New York), and then research and education at the National University of Singapore. As a pioneer in social impact, Shahnaz has led IIX to create the world’s first social stock exchange, the largest crowdfunding platform for impact investing (Impact Partners) and innovative financial structures such as the Women’s Livelihood Bond series. Shahnaz developed industry benchmarks such as Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS), the generally accepted performance metrics for impact investors and is launching IIX Values, a technology-driven impact measurement and management platform.

As an academic, Shahnaz created and spearheaded the Program for Social Innovation and Change at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at NUS and created a proprietary Impact Assessment methodology that is now the most widely used impact methodology in Asia. Shahnaz advised and supported the development of Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS) of the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN).

Additionally, she founded, grew and sold oneNest (New York) – an impact enterprise and online marketplace for handmade goods. oneNest was sold to Novica United, working in association with the National Geographic Society. Through these roles, Shahnaz has broken down walls and built bridges in order to connect the backstreets of underserved communities to the Wall Streets of the world and in 2021 she was recognized by Forbes as one of the 50 women over the age of 50 changing the world through politics, education, law and social entrepreneurship.

For her work innovative finance and gender lens investing, Shahnaz was recognized in 2020 by UN Women with a WEP award for leadership action and commitment to advancing gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. Shahnaz was recognized in 2021 by Forbes as one of the 50 women over the age of 50 changing the world. She currently serves/has served on the advisory board for UNDP, United Nations ESCAP, G20 Steering Committee for Impact Investing and was also an appointed member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council.

Shahnaz is the recipient of the 2019 Sustainability Superwoman Award from CSRWorks, the 2017 Oslo Business for Peace Award, often referred to as the ‘Nobel Prize for Business’, the 2017 Global Steering Group for Impact Investment Impact Market Builder of the Year award, the 2016 Asia Game Changer Award, in addition to the prestigious 2014 Joseph Wharton Social Impact Award given by the Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania. She has been a program advisor to the Clinton Global Initiative, a 2010 TED fellow, a TED speaker. in 2021, she made Forbes 50 over 50 – investment list.

Shahnaz is also the author of The Defiant Optimist™ – Daring to Fight Global Inequality, Reinvent Finance, and Invest in Women, her highly anticipated debut book on the subject of inclusion and equity and enabling finance for the 99%.

Web Banner White The Defiant Optimist™ Book Cover Front Launching in Summer 2023 Sharing Power with Millions of Women Global inequality is growing. Financial markets disenfranchise women, the 99 percent, and the planet itself. But what if we found the source of power and turned it inside out? What if we could share this power with women across the world whose voices often go unheard? And what if you could play a part in making it happen?
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Praise for The Defiant Optimist™

Slide Adam Grant
#1 New York Times best-selling author of THINK AGAIN and host of the TED podcast Re: Thinking
An inspiring read by a passionate trailblazer. Durreen Shahnaz shares her remarkable experiences with challenging the status quo, beating the odds, and fuelling change.
Slide Dr. Judith Rodin
Former President of the Rockefeller Foundation and Former President of the University of Pennsylvania
In this book, Durreen Shahnaz details her boundary-pushing experiences with candor, wisdom, and vivid storytelling. Documenting her journey from war-torn Bangladesh to the pinnacle of the financial markets, Durreen effectively weaves in the importance of finance in sustainable development and women empowerment. As President of the Rockefeller Foundation, which supported some of her groundbreaking early work in impact investing, I have seen the driving force of her passion and her intellect. This same passion flows through The Defiant Optimist™, inspiring women and girls and reminding them of the power they behold if they only dare to dream. She is a wonderful role model for girls and women everywhere.
Slide Antony Bugg-Levine
Co-Founder, Global Impact Investment Network
This book is a rare looking glass into what ‘impact investing’ really means on the ground, bridging the back streets to the Wall Streets of the world. Few are armed with the tenacity Durreen has, and even fewer go on to chart exceptional paths in creating impact for those the financial system leaves behind. I’m proud to have been a fellow pioneer in the movement, and this book reminds us that a revolutionary change starts from a small step. Let that step be “The Defiant Optimist™” and it will inspire you for miles to come.
Slide Ms. Claire Chiang
Co-founder, Banyan Tree Holdings
Read it and be inspired to make your journey of inclusion and sustainability. This book by Durreen Shahnaz is the silver lining to the challenging climate we live in today — be it vis-a-vis the environment, society, or economy and a reminder that within all of us, there is a defiant optimist who can make a change. There is an instant connection to her through her captivating stories and deep insights; this is the firestarter for our own journeys we never knew we needed. As a woman entrepreneur committed to creating sustainable and responsible growth for the company, I could relate to the struggles Durreen went through, and how one needs to persevere in our business journey in co-creating for the Greater Good. I applaud her vision, mission, and courage.
Slide Jed Emerson
Global Lead Impact Investing, Tiedemann Advisors
There are few in our field who have been as steadfast and engaged in advancing a vision of finance with justice as has Durreen Shahnaz. The opportunity to learn from her journey and lessons in activism and financial innovation is not to be missed!
Slide Kathleen McCartney
President of Smith College
Durreen Shahnaz’s poignant account of her life’s journey, especially the courageous steps she has taken on her career path, highlight three key lessons: promoting women’s education and empowerment; advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion; and summoning the courage to identify sources of power. This memoir will inspire college students to embrace what Shahnaz calls the “defiant optimist” mindset, as they strive to create better futures for themselves and for the world.
Slide Professor Muhammad Yunus
Founder, Grameen Bank – Nobel Prize Winner, 2006
As the world pushes for gender equality and women’s representation in the global financial system, Durreen Shahnaz is one of the few who has rolled up her sleeves and done the work of lifting women up. With its compelling and intricate details, this book journeys the becoming of the defiant optimist and how it is with this spirit that Shahnaz goes on to change a system that works only for the 1%. It was touching for me to see how Grameen played a role in it all. The book is timely, necessary, and most importantly, empowering for all who want to create change, however small.
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