Jake Harriman

Founder, Nuru International
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 CEO of Nuru International, a US-based social venture that empowers individuals living in remote and rural areas to combat extreme poverty in their communities.

Jake 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, Jake witnessed the most severe levels of poverty and developed a deeply-held belief that many 21st century ills including terrorism and occupation can only be eradicated by ending extreme poverty. A Bronze Star-recipient 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, equipping leaders to take charge of their own destinies and communities, and unlocking 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 Special Operations Platoon Commander in the Marine Corps. He led four operational deployments, including counter-terror operations in the Horn of Africa and two tours of Iraq. Jake’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.

Nuru operates in the poorest districts of Kenya and Ethiopia and focuses on four major areas of need: hunger, economic shocks, preventable diseases, and quality education. Based on thorough research of the successes and failures of the last 50 years of international aid relief, Nuru’s programs have to date enabled and empowered over 130,000 people to lift themselves out of extreme poverty through programs aimed at increasing crop yield, introducing entrepreneurs to new markets and capital, and counseling local leaders on modern educational and medicinal advancements. Nuru’s ultimate goal is to create a thorough roadmap to eradicating poverty that can be shared with NGOs worldwide. Nuru’s latest project is in far northeast Nigeria in former Islamic State West Africa Province and Boko Haram caliphate territory.

From 2017 to 2019, Jake 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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