About the Defiant Optimist Series

Defiant Optimist™ is a virtual series that features purpose-driven leaders who have made a real difference in communities- regardless of the circumstances.

Join Professor Durreen Shahnaz in a conversation that brings together the voices and stories of some of the world’s most motivated and bold thinkers who are making finance and businesses work for the 99%.

Don’t miss out on these defiant optimists who are:

  • …using finance to create a world where no woman has to die giving life
  • …securing economic freedom for millions of women in India
  • …bringing awareness about diversity and inclusion to the financial sector

Get your annual membership today and make your mark in this decade of action.

A portion of this series is done in partnership with MarketAxess.

Special Guests

Dr. Hongjoo Hahm
Deputy Executive Secretary,

Annie Chen
Founder & Chair,
RS Group

Anita Bhatia
Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director,
UN Women

Mauricio Claver-Carone
Inter-American Development Bank

Stephen Liberatore
Head of ESG / Impact – Global Fixed Income,

Reema Nanavaty
Director, Rural and Economic Development,

Dorri McWhorter
Chief Executive Officer,
YWCA Metropolitan Group


Dr. Gillian Marcelle
Managing Member,
Resilience Capital Ventures

Dr. Mary-Ann Etiebet
Lead & Executive Director,
Merck for Mothers

Nick O'Donohoe-31-website hi-res

Nick O’Donohoe
Chief Executive Officer,
CDC Group plc

More special guests coming soon!

Annual Memberships Available

Hear the advice, stories, and words of wisdom and take the first step in becoming a leader for change. Learn from industry experts and chart your path to becoming a Defiant Optimist today!

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Join Us for an Unforgettable Series

Discover what it really means to follow your own path and remain steadfast in your pursuit. Become driven to work with a purpose and leverage key insights to further your personal and professional goals. Find strength in your own capabilities and feel emboldened to question the conventional.


World-class special guests:
Hear the inspiring stories of change-makers from around the globe


Get inspired:
Understand how you can make a real impact in the lives of others


Grow your network:
Connect with other professionals and stay up-to-date on industry trends

Choose your journey (1)

Get recognized:
Attend all sessions and earn a digital credential as a Defiant Optimist


About the Host

Durreen Shahnaz, a global leader of social impact and impact investing, is the founder of Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) and IIX Foundation. Over the past three decades, her mission has been to build a more inclusive, sustainable world by transforming financial markets and bringing underserved women to the forefront of capital markets. Drawing on a rich career as an investment banker, development worker, researcher, educator, and serial social entrepreneur, Shahnaz’s work has helped thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, governments and impact stakeholders around the world to play a role in sustainable development and women’s empowerment.


What is the Defiant Optimist series?

Defiant Optimist™is the IIX Institute’s new online web series featuring Professor Durreen and other purpose-driven leaders who have made a real difference in communities – regardless of the circumstances. You can tune into these conversations that bring some of the world’s boldest and most motivated thinkers together.

Who can attend?

The Defiant Optimist™series is meant for everyone who wants to learn how to make finance work for the 99%. This is an opportunity for you to discover what it really means to follow your own path and find strength in your own capabilities.

How long is the event run for?

Each webinar in the Defiant Optimist™series will run for an hour and includes a Q&A session. Professor Durreen Shahnaz and our special guests will share an array of perspectives that will ignite purpose and inspire action.

How can I attend?

You can purchase single-session tickets as well as annual memberships on Eventbrite.

What are the benefits of annual membership?

With an annual membership, you can unlock exclusive benefits including:

  • Admission to all Defiant Optimist™ sessions
  • Quarterly networking events
  • Defiant Optimist™ digital credential
  • Discounts on future courses at the IIX Institute
  • 2x virtual event passes for friends and colleagues

I am a student and/or a member of the IIX Institute alumni network. Am I eligible for a discount?

Yes, all students and alumni of the IIX Institute are eligible for discounts when purchasing annual membership.

I am an IIX Institute alumni. Am I eligible for a discount?

Yes, all alumni of the IIX Institute are eligible for discounts when purchasing annual membership. Simply select the appropriate category when checking out.

I purchased a ticket but missed the session. What do I do?

You are eligible to receive a recording of the session shortly after the event has ended.

How can I contact the IIX Institute team?

Feel free to contact or contact us at +65 6221 7051 for more information.