Santiago Lefebvre, MBA’15J - Accelerating Global Positive Change

Santiago leans against a wall
Santiago Lefebvre, MBA’15J

"It is with great honour and humility that I accept the Force for Good award," said Santiago Lefebvre, MBA’15J, during his acceptance speech at the INSEAD Alumni Recognition Award ceremony in London in March 2023. Santiago continued: 

“During my year at INSEAD, I decided to work for the common good, to consider all this wonderful education as a new responsibility, and to use everything I learned to make the world a better place."  

With a background in finance and entrepreneurship within the tech industry, Santiago's transformative journey began in 2014 when he embarked on his INSEAD adventure with a clear purpose—to reshape his career and contribute significantly to positive global change.  

While at INSEAD, Santiago initiated TEDxINSEAD, creating a platform that nurtured groundbreaking ideas. Within this initiative, he crossed paths with exceptional entrepreneurs like Boyan Slat of Ocean Cleanup and Josephine Goube, a dedicated advocate for refugee causes. Their unwavering commitment to creating a better world resonated deeply with Santiago.

Amidst these inspiring encounters, Santiago couldn't ignore a glaring gap in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Passionate and innovative entrepreneurs lacked vital support, guidance, and networking opportunities. This realization fuelled his determination to address this issue: "How can we nurture this ecosystem and provide the necessary support?"

Inspired by the success of flagship events in various industries, such as CES in Las Vegas for technology and the Cannes Film Festival for cinema, Santiago, along with his partners Kevin Tayebaly (also INSEAD MBA’15J) and Rose-May Lucotte, envisioned a global hub for positive change, which they aptly named ChangeNOW. Santiago's commitment to making a significant impact grew stronger during COP 21 in Paris in December 2015 when he pledged to create the world's first global event bringing together stakeholders from all around the world, all dedicated to finding tangible solutions for our planet.

Santiago's bold vision bore fruit. In 2017, ChangeNOW gathered 2,000 participants, and it continued to grow exponentially, culminating in a staggering 28,000 attendees in 2020 and 35,000 in 2023.

ChangeNOW brings together thousands of changemakers worldwide, including entrepreneurs, investors, companies, policymakers, NGOs, thought leaders, media, and citizens. It supports initiatives aligned with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, addressing Climate, Biodiversity, Resources, and Inclusion. INSEAD proudly stands as a founding academic partner of ChangeNOW.

Year-round, ChangeNOW facilitates concrete actions to accelerate high-impact projects with the potential for systemic change, serving as a launchpad for countless impact stories.

One inspiring story features Alain-Richard Donwahi, the former Ivorian minister of forests and now President of the COP 15 of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, who used drones to reforest deforested areas and established an alliance with the Great Green Wall to rejuvenate Sahel region ecosystems—a partnership started at ChangeNOW. Another remarkable initiative is Swen Blue Ocean, a fund dedicated to ocean preservation, which totals over 100 million euros—originating from ChangeNOW.

Reflecting now on his journey and accolades from INSEAD for his commitment to driving change, Santiago underscores the pivotal role INSEAD played in preparing him to lead ChangeNOW. Two fundamental aspects of his INSEAD experience stand out: it equipped him with the self-awareness needed to navigate the colossal challenges of ChangeNOW and provided a global perspective and holistic approach essential for addressing the diverse global issues faced.

As he encourages current INSEAD students and fellow alumni who share his passion for making a positive impact, Santiago emphasizes: 

"Being a force for good doesn't require perfection. Action is the keystone, and there's no perfect moment. Summon the courage to act and transcend your comfort zones."

In a world facing crises from climate challenges to societal divisions, Santiago underscores the inadequacy of business-as-usual. ChangeNOW stands as proof that boundless possibilities emerge when individuals and organizations challenge established norms and embrace the responsibility of shaping a brighter future. 

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