How you can become a Defiant Optimist™

As Defiant Optimists, we:

  • Dare to imagine a better world and improve the lives of those around us, whether in our local community or on a global scale.
  • Stay pragmatic about achieving a goal that is for the greater good, even if it takes countless tries to get there.
  • Demand respect – for ourselves and for others who cannot gain it for themselves. If someone respects you, they give you power; that becomes power within you and you become empowered to take action.
  • Ask ourselves, who else will we fail if we can’t push forward?
  • Refuse to take no for an answer. A no is never really a no as long as you dig hard enough to find that morsel of information that may turn it into a yes.
  • Believe in ourselves and command the attention of others. We must be loud, angry, and determined, and focus our effort on what we know is right.

  • Create our own village. Seek out like-minded people, build alliances with them, and embrace their assistance. We need champions on our side to change the course of an organization and system.

  • Be generous without expecting returns. In life, return and value comes in many different ways, shapes, and forms.

  • Remould the structures around us to make them more inclusive and are courageous, and willing to work hard for this change.

  • Acknowledge the personal qualities and wins that brought us here

  • Are determined to share power and opportunities with others to empower them.
An invitation

“The world still needs plenty more Defiant Optimists™...”

Professor Shahnaz’s life journey and work with Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) are rooted in the belief that everyone, regardless of where you are from or what you do, is capable of becoming agents of positive change. This is an invitation to embark on your own path to becoming a Defiant Optimist™.


Join the global movement to address the gender wage gap.

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Join our mailing list and tell us what makes you a Defiant Optimist™ at heart. Selected submissions will be personally hand-picked by Professor Durreen Shahnaz to be published on her site.

Durren Shahnaz

Timeline of her journey

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  • Born in Bangladesh, grew up in Philippines

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  • Started career as first Bangladeshi woman investment banker on Wall Street

    With a desire to use finance for a better world, Prof. Shahnaz made a dive into working with the most underserved of micro-businesses with Grameen Bank.

  • After witnessing the struggles of borrowers, she created OneNest to empower micro-entrepreneurs with access to the global market.

    Taught Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore where she continued with her writings on sustainable development.

  • Her writings led her to meeting with the Rockefeller Foundation, which gave her the inspiration and foundational support for Durreen to take on a leadership role for impact investing in Asia.

    At the height of the global financial crisis in 2009, Durreen conceptualized the world’s first social stock exchange with IIX to support impact enterprises scale successfully and move impact investing to the mainstream of finance.

  • A year after IIX’s founding, its sister entity IIX Foundation, was set-up to empower to further echo this mission

    As a recognition of IIX’s work globally, Durreen was awarded the prestigious Joseph Wharton Social Impact award in 2014, the Asia Society’s Asia Game Changer Awards in 2016 and the Oslo Business for Peace Award in 2017.

    Present day, IIX’s footprint now extends to XXX countries and XXX beneficiaries.