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Thinking Big to Create Change Around the World by Kelsey Lovell

Thinking Big to Create Change Around the World by Kelsey Lovell

Nageeb Sumar Sumar ’97 feels as though he’s won the birth lottery. As a first-generation immigrant and member of the Ismaili Muslim community, the STS alumnus knows that being born in Canada means he has been afforded many opportunities that others around the world have not.

“Being a first-generation immigrant and knowing the places where my parents came from and the levels of poverty and need there, I think that’s what kind of drew me to my current work.”

Nageeb is the Deputy Director of Philanthropic Partnerships at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Washington, D.C. The husband and father of three daughters has always considered himself an advocate of certain issues and has embraced the opportunity to fulfill this task while working at the Foundation.

“We’ve never been at a point in human history where we’ve seen so much progress in terms of peoples’ lives being improved. It’s fantastic to see so much momentum around the world,” he said.

Nageeb and his team are tasked with trying to shift the norm in terms of the giving behaviours of donors in the US, China, India and the Middle East. As an example, they are part of an effort to convince the world’s billionaires to voluntarily pledge to give away half their wealth over their lifetime. So far, 168 billionaires from 21 countries around the world have taken this Giving Pledge.

Another facet of Nageeb’s role with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is discovering how to stimulate philanthropy by creating the right policies and incentives while also enabling people to make informed choices when it comes to charitable giving. As part of his work, Nageeb and his team played a role in promoting Giving Tuesday, a movement that sees the Tuesday following Black Friday and American Thanksgiving being a day of charitable giving.

“We try to unpack what being an effective giver means and create the tools so that people can be more informed and intentional with their giving,” he said.

After attending STS from Grades 4 to 12, Nageeb graduated in 1997. The small class sizes and relationships he formed while at the School made a lasting impact on him, while the diverse programs and co-curricular activities, such as outdoor education, athletics and drama, provided balance to his life.

“We were really afforded the opportunity to do so many things and to become well-rounded people that contribute to society,” Nageeb said. 

After STS, Nageeb graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York where he majored in economics and urban studies. He then went on to Queen’s University and completed a Master’s degree in international finance where he completed a thesis on microfinance, or giving small loans to some of the world’s poorest people and business owners who have no collateral and have difficulty obtaining loans from a traditional bank.

“Having a global-oriented mindset has been the biggest thing I drew from STS, and that has continued into the work I do,” explained Nageeb.

Along with that, the nurturing, supportive community that allowed risk-taking, exposure to global trends, communities and diversity all led Nageeb to where he is today. “Without that, I don’t think I would have had the confidence or ability to embrace change and think really big.”