Joe Wheeler


Class of 2020

In addition to being intrinsically rewarding, being a student at the SPP gave me opportunities to explore different paths that would inform my career.

Joe is the North America Lead in Civic Engagement at WhatsApp. 

Joe Wheeler, MPA

After college, I lived in a yurt in Mongolia and taught English for two years. Joining the Peace Corps had been a dream since I was in high school. My geometry teacher had shared some of his experiences as a young Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya–how much he loved his students, learning Swahili, being immersed in a new environment–and that all sounded extraordinary to me.

When I got back to the US in 2013, I landed a recruitment position for Dropbox. A month earlier, I had been getting water from a well, chopping wood and regularly keeping a fire going to heat my home in negative 30-degree winter days; the juxtaposition of then working in a tech office with world-class amenities inspired me to think about how the company could have more impact through our staff, facilities, and products. I was fortunate to work alongside smart and talented people to launch Dropbox for Good: a program using volunteer time off, matching financial gifts, and product donations to support nonprofits. In my last couple years at Dropbox, I worked with leadership to roll out the Dropbox Foundation, supporting human rights organizations around the world.

In 2018, I learned about the SPP’s MPA in Social Impact through Caitlin Heising: who I met in a meeting and who would later become my course mate! It was the first degree of its kind I had heard of, and I hoped to couple my experience at Dropbox with more academic rigor. Which is ‘better’ between corporate social responsibility, grantmaking to nonprofits, and impact investment? How do you measure ‘doing good’? And furthermore, what (if any) should the interplay be between private companies, governments, and civil society? I was excited to dive into these questions at LSE.

I loved being a student again. I loved walking across the Tower Bridge on my way to campus. And in addition to being intrinsically rewarding, being a student at the SPP gave me opportunities to explore different paths that would inform my career. I got to research a Rwandan finance firm and pitch it to a group of investors at the ‘MIINT impact investing competition; while for my Capstone project, my team and I researched donation and investment preferences among family offices for a pooled United Nations’ fund supporting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As the MPA wrapped up, I began working for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on a newly formed digital transformation team. My role was to build partnerships that both supported UNDP’s internal efficiency, as well as the ability for government partners to use digital tools. This seemed especially worthwhile as COVID-19 was escalating and reliance on digital services ramped up for work, education, and healthcare. I’m currently working for WhatsApp on a social impact team with a similar goal to use messaging for public services like coordinating COVID-19 vaccine appointments, voting information, disaster response, and others. I’m grateful that the SPP helped put me on a path to do the work I’m doing today! 

Joe is happy to connect via LinkedIn.