Jake Harriman

Founder, Nuru International and Founder, More Perfect Union
Jake Harriman
  • Former Marine who completed four tours of duty in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia
  • Honored as a White House “Champion of Change,” and a Dalai Lama “Unsung Hero of Compassion”
  • Incredible stories filled with lessons for empowering leaders and developing new solutions to old problems

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Jake Harriman is the founder and former CEO of Nuru International, a US-based social venture with a mission to eradicate extreme poverty in some of the most fragile regions of the world. He was inspired to found Nuru after being faced with the effects of extreme poverty in war-torn regions of the world during four tours of duty in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. There, Harriman witnessed the most severe levels of poverty and developed a deeply-held belief that many 21st century ills including violent extremism can only be eradicated through a strategy that includes ending extreme poverty. After founding Nuru, he and his team grew the venture over the next twelve years to become one of the premier organizations at the nexus of security and development – empowering more than 130,000 people with lasting meaningful choices to permanently climb out of extreme poverty in some of the toughest places in the world.

Harriman has now turned his attention to helping protect the American Democratic experiment. In 2020, he founded More Perfect Union to disrupt and reform the current political system, heal our divided nation, and give the government back to the American people. Key early components of his plan include creating a reform-minded fulcrum of five new Members in the U.S. Senate, building a nationwide movement for unity and reform, and passing new legislation to reform the electoral system and structural rules and norms of Congress.

A decorated combat veteran and Stanford University Graduate School of Business alum, Harriman has been honored as a White House as a “Champion of Change,” selected as a Dalai Lama “Unsung Hero of Compassion,” and featured in profile pieces by Forbes, The Huffington Post, ABC News, and more. Exclusively represented by Leading Authorities speakers bureau, he is a graduate of the Presidential Leadership Scholars Class of 2015 and discusses his inspiring journey to found Nuru, as well as strategies to equip leaders to take charge of their own destinies and communities and unlock innovative approaches to age-old problems.

Born in rural West Virginia, Harriman attended the US Naval Academy before serving seven and a half years as an Infantry and Force Recon Platoon Commander in the Marine Corps. He led four operational deployments, including counter-terror operations in the Horn of Africa and two tours of combat in Iraq. Harriman’s experiences in combat convinced him that the “War on Terror” would not be won on the battlefield alone—and that the coordinates of someone’s birth place should not dictate the opportunities they are presented with throughout the course of their life. Jake left military life to enroll at Stanford where, with the assistance of roughly 30 peers and professors, investments from Silicon Valley, and donations from around the world, he moved to Kenya and founded Nuru International.

From 2017 to 2019, Harriman helped draft, introduce, and work to pass groundbreaking new legislation called the Global Fragility Act of 2019, which will equip America with new authorities and resources to prevent conflict and stabilize some of the most fragile regions of the world that pose a growing threat to US and global security.

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Speaker Video

Jake Harriman: The Origin Story

Jake Harriman: You Can Be a Difference Maker

Empowering Individuals to Solve Problems

Jake Harriman: The New Front Lines | TEDxBYU

Jake Harriman on Making a Difference

You Never Stop Serving

TEDx Talk

Building Great Leaders: How To Unlock Hidden Potential. While developing and deploying Nuru International, Jake Harriman was faced with the monumental task of not only recruiting fellow Marines to join his ranks but also identify and training local leaders in war-torn part of Africa to take up his cause and continue Nuru’s work after the NGO’s physical exit from the region.

Having crafted a model for Nuru’s success that is “fundamentally based on building leaders to innovate past the challenges they will experience”—coupled with his impressive experience as a Presidential Leadership Scholar—Harriman is able to discuss in moving detail how to inspire and equip the leaders of tomorrow. He shares stories that are equal parts heart-breaking, gripping, and hilarious to illustrate the importance of strong leadership in war and business. In particular, Harriman focuses on how to identify and nurture the unique qualities that make a leader, why it’s better to invest in leaders than infrastructure, plus how to unlock potential within your current ranks.

Servant Leadership: Put Yourself Last To Finish First. How does a leader become someone their team wants to follow? According to Jake Harriman, by practicing the principles of servant leadership. With this practical, hands-on talk, he explains how to become a servant leader as well as the bottom-line benefits to servant leadership—including learning implementable solutions to existing problems from those you lead, creating an engaged culture with less lost time, and developing a resilient staff who is willing and able to withstand seismic shifts.

Fail Fast, Learn Fast: Innovation Under Pressure. When Harriman launched Nuru International, it was the first organization of its kind: a fusion of the best aspects of NGOs paired with a staff of combat veterans with experience operating in war zones. With this talk, he tells stories of the early days of Nuru and the challenges he faced, including being robbed, a malaria diagnosis, a black widow spider bite, an earthquake, and being struck by lightning—all in one week. With a motto of “fail fast, learn fast,” Nuru became an agile organization that is now a major success story soon heading into new global territories with the backing of the White House. He shares the lessons learned along the way about innovating past unforeseen challenges and continuously adapting to new environments.

Why America Must Lead. Having witnessed conflict, violence, and desperation in the third world firsthand, Harriman has come to passionately believe that America must lead the global effort to eradicate extreme poverty. With this talk, he explains his experiences abroad and the life-changing moments that brought him to this conclusion. He discusses the effects of extreme poverty, including forced indoctrinations into radical terror groups, and outlines why, from a national security perspective, America must lead the international effort to eradicate extreme poverty. 

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