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Hearts of Garnet

Their bottom line: Benefiting others

Like Swarthmore, Way-Ting Chen ’94 and Jennifer Li Shen ’94 are enhancing their social impact—by helping organizations maximize theirs.

“We do strategic business planning in the social sector,” Chen says of Blue Garnet, the LA-based consulting firm she and Shen co-founded in 2002. “So instead of focusing on the bottom line, our focus is on lasting social change: What impact are you going to make? How do you deliver it? And then how do you do it sustainably?”

“We love geeking out on social impact and thrive on being a team of pragmatic idealists,” says Shen. “People say we help put structure around ambiguity, and that’s true—we aren’t afraid of complexity.”

Even with high-profile clients such as the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, the James Irvine Foundation, and Time Warner, their partnership always feels personal for these true-blue College friends.

After graduating from Swarthmore, Chen and Shen were roommates in New York before moving to opposite coasts, going to business school, and landing at competing management-consulting firms. Yet both felt called to make a difference in their community, together. Blue Garnet was born, named with a nod to their beloved alma mater and its spirit of social responsibility.

“Garnet represents honesty, loyalty, and true friendship,” Chen says. “When we started the firm, a rare garnet was found in Madagascar that in certain lights looked blue or green. We loved that idea of transformation and change—it worked beautifully.”

The duo is proud that Blue Garnet resembles a “mini-Swarthmore” through its ethos, team of learners, and small-by-design environment, which reminds them of where they came from and where they still want to go.

“We started with this youthful optimism around changing the world,” Chen says. “Doing so takes patience and a long view—it requires changing pieces of it at a time. We’ve found our piece that we’re trying to change.”