Skoll Foundation Opens Window into Social Entrepreneurship Potential

Thank you to people who return to Sweet Entertainment for a read, or are stopping in for the first time. I have been busy preparing the last of the details on the installation proposal, and now, that everything is set for the March 11 showing, I’ve been focused on filming and getting ready.

I have missed though the chance to write.

A quick note today, a new video released by the University of Oxford’s Skoll Center for Social Entrepreneurship gives an excellent peek into what a movement of social entrepreneurship can do to transform poverty and powerlessness into sustainability that allows for participation in the economic system, and, ultimately, holding one’s own.

I have long admired the Skoll Center’s dedication to support action change films that point the way forward. The Center breathes financial life into documentaries about social entrepreneurs, and the change they bring about in the world.

When I lived and worked in Mexico, on an assignment for the CBC, we visited small business owners who had been helped by then-governor Vicente Fox’s micro-lending program, which had shown successful results.

We visited a boot maker who had been able to expand, and with a small workforce, meet growing demand for his boots. We spent the afternoon with a group of women who set up small micro businesses, which produced enough to give their families a fighting chance, and, to repay their loans for financing new members to the group. Learning about the impact of micro-lending makes it real easy to see why this approach is so positive. As the video reveals, some people’s lives can be changed with just a $27 loan.

I found the Skoll video particularly inspiring right now, as we begin to wade further into unknown financial waters. I believe that the movement of social entrepreneurship described in the video is more vital than ever because micro-lending and local actions impact people today, and, do not require the hands of people who have only financial gain in mind without consideration of the entire economic ecosystem.

I suppose the time in between first seeing the power of micro-lending, and, now, some ten years later, in the ways the world has changed, it’s even more important that micro-lending become a part of global attempts to eradicate poverty. I believe our country can benefit from this movement too.

In the U.S., we are fortunate for the Small Business Administration, and the many incubator programs. I attended a 16-week management training course at the Renaissance Business Center that helped me put into place the business plan that lead to Sweet Entertainment. San Francisco is lucky to have a force supporting small business growth through the Mayor’s Office of Community Development. Many resources exist in the United States, where so few options often exist in developing countries.

The Skoll clip strikes a hopeful cord, in pointing to the growing number of Social Entrepreneurship MBA programs developing around the country due to increasing interest by younger people to seek out hybrid business opportunities.

I find this trend extremely encouraging. I wonder myself, what would it have been like to for me 25 years ago when I found myself an ‘outsider’ insider in my own business school until I was accepted into the USC Entrepreneur Program. As great a home, I was still searching, eventually taking art and film  classes on the side, working for the school newspaper as a photographer.

Perhaps the defining moment that pushed me in the direction of entrepreneurship was a discussion in a business class about office cubicles. It was the 90’s and they were the rage. Already, signs of office, and a general fatigue, with the cost-benefit approach to life was evident in our society. What I did not understand was, why, in business school, we were promoting the notion of offices filled with cubicles, little boxes with no privacy, little stations from which to watch and be watched. It didn’t make any sense to me that productivity would increase if people were treated like lab rats.

I learned in business school that wheels were in motion for a whole new, fast world ahead on the horizon. It was called globalization.

Globalization did make sense to me. Well, sorta. What I liked about globalization was, in a strange way, the very same thing that concerned me.

The idea was that each country would specialize in what it was best at, thereby leaving each country with a form of unique trade power. I found myself thinking that, overall, such a theory left countries vulnerable, dependent on trade to get even basics. Despite the claims that the honed specialty would bring the cash needed to be able to buy basics from other countries, any slip up in the plan seemed fatal.

What swayed me in a direction I might not normally travel was the opening. The exchange. The global door that made it o.k. to engage in the rest of the world, to connect, which to me, seemed so very positive. When NAFTA came along, I saw how my own rich heritage suddenly fit into the world.

It was globalization that made it possible to do the unthinkable – to leave my life and path as a graduating law student, to move to Mexico City to study, and, eventually, work in Mexico City. Those were some of the toughest, and some of the best, years of my life.

Globalization proved rich in deep ways for our world.

Until the fateful September, when the doors were shut, and suddenly, the global connection was seen as something much less than a connection, economic, or, otherwise, with the world. The wave was suddenly sent the other direction, leaving many people vulnerable, as most people’s lives, in direct and indirect ways, had been influenced by globalization for a decade.

Now, so many years later, I think that perhaps this shift in entrepreneurial thinking, the shift of business training, will help our world re-flower, it’s an offer of new life where so many feel only hopelessness and their lives as inconsequential.

The world needs the empowering social entrepreneurship movement, to become sustainable, by bringing back into the marketplace millions now excluded. In fact, perhaps, to shift the paradigm of business all together.

It’s vital that, overall, we start opening the channels again, building on former roadways of communication, and most importantly, having the courage to remember the many positives that came from opening ourselves to each other.

We have all – individuals, governments, leaders – been blindsided when the door on globalization suddenly shut.Millions of people have been trapped in between opening and closing ourselves to the global world.

We now must have courage to open the doors and windows, dust off the soot, polish up our diplomatic abilities, and shake hands in agreement to start building links again.

Social Entrepreneurs are partners by creating positive change with small actions that can impact an entire globe.


(Thanks to 2plus2equals10 for sharing the video!)

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