At a moment of growing inequality and division, who is advancing the vanguard of economic and social progress to bolster our most vulnerable communities? Whose work is fostering the inclusive growth that ensures every individual thrives? Who will set the ambitious standards that mobilize whole industries, challenging their peers to reach new altitudes of social impact? 

In 2024, Impact Next — a new editorial flagship series from NationSwell — will spotlight the standard-bearing corporate social responsibility and impact leaders, entrepreneurs, experts, and philanthropists whose catalytic work has the potential to shape the landscape of progress amid urgent need for social and economic action.

For this installment, NationSwell interviewed Maggie Carter, Director of Social Impact at Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Greg Behrman, CEO and Founder, NationSwell: Maggie, was there an early or formative experience that brought you into this work?

Maggie Carter, Director of Social Impact, Amazon Web Services (AWS): 

It all started with my mom, who always led by example. She was always giving back. Whether it was volunteering in my school library or serving hot meals and donating blankets and clothes to the homeless in the DC metro area, she was always giving her own time and bringing the family along for the journey.

When I was in college, we led our first Recycling Awareness Week to kick off recycling on campus, and that experience of building and running a grassroots campaign is where I first got the bug to do something with a purpose, and throughout my career I was fortunate to find roles that combined that passion with sports.

When I was leaving the NBA, I knew that I wanted to get closer to program delivery on the nonprofit side. I made the transition to the UN Foundation and UNICEF, which combined my focus areas: children, education, and health. And from there, I was pitching AWS and Amazon on what a partnership would look like around disasters, emergencies, and innovation. The AWS team said, would you be willing to come build this from the ground up? That’s how I got to where I am today.

Behrman, NationSwell: At AWS, the products are part of the impact — they’re at the center of things. Can you speak to the philosophy behind that model?

Carter, AWS: For us, it’s very much about how our technology has the potential to transform the ways organizations are delivering their programs or services to impact their communities and their beneficiaries. We look at our role as co-building solutions with organizations and helping them to scale their impact.

For example, in Rwanda, they are leveraging secure messaging and AI on AWS to more effectively and rapidly identify symptoms in cancer patients and connect them to oncologists when their symptoms worsen. In Rwanda there’s just one oncologist to over 3,000 cancer patients on average — there’s a huge demand and low supply of doctors, and by using this messaging app, we’re helping those cancer patients that need more critical care receive it sooner.

We also co-built a solution with a small organization called Operation Barbecue Relief, whose mandate is to feed those impacted by a disaster, as well as the first responders to disaster. So we designed a solution with them called Project Smoke — an application to help track and monitor their food supplies so they can better manage resources and deploy them where they’re needed most. 

Behrman, NationSwell: Is there anything else that feels very important and differentiated that people should know about this work?

Carter, AWS: Each of these solutions is repeatable and scalable, they’re not band-aids. For us, it’s important to stay laser focused on the unique value proposition that the AWS cloud has when we’re engaging with organizations in our key priority areas — specifically around disaster response, health equity, and environmental equity.

Behrman, NationSwell: Is there an attribute or an approach or a philosophy that guides your leadership that has helped to make you effective?

Carter, AWS: I put high expectations on myself and I lead by example, so it’s about finding that balance where there’s a high bar but also empathy for what is going on. 

It’s always been in my DNA to be the fixer, the builder, so shifting that mindset to where I’m coaching and enabling my team and my leaders to identify that path forward themselves — that’s been a big learning for me in the last two to three years. 

I’ll also add that it’s been amazing to see employees rise to the occasion. Shifting to this approach really helps them build confidence in themselves to find that path forward — it equips them to be successful critical thinkers, here and beyond.

Behrman, NationSwell: Who are some of the peer leaders you really admire that you want to shine a spotlight on?

Carter, AWS: One who really stands out is Jacqueline Fuller, formerly at — she is at the bleeding edge, and I was fortunate to work with her and her team when I was at UNICEF USA on some pretty strategic partnerships around Zika and Syrian refugees. I want to also mention Leisha Ward at Target, Paul Poman at Unilever, and Kayleen Walters, the head of impact at Minecraft. 

And finally, my mentor, Kathy Behrens at the NBA. Throughout my career, since I worked for Kathy, I’ve always thought to myself, “what would KB do?” What she’s been able to do with the NBA over time, launching NBA Cares, shifting to the social justice initiative, launching the foundation in the last few years — it’s been amazing to see.

Behrman, NationSwell: Are there any resources — books, essays, poems, quotes — that have informed your leadership that you might recommend to other leaders?

Carter, AWS: I love stories of perseverance — those human interest stories where you see what somebody was able to achieve when everybody doubted them, especially in sports.

I particularly love “The ‘99ers” — the documentary follows the U.S. women’s national soccer team that won the World Cup in 1999. I remember watching it live and crying about how this was opening up opportunities for future generations of women moving forward. I think that team gave women and young girls confidence in themselves to be able to push boundaries, to push the envelope, to go where other girls haven’t been able to before.