Nicolás Fund for Education Explores Social Entrepreneurship

Joshua Rystedt Blog, International, Partner Leave a Comment

[spacer height=”20px”]Social entrepreneurship occurs when individuals and companies develop, fund and implement innovative solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues.

[spacer height=”20px”]One example of a social entrepreneur is 2006 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammed Yunis, the man that popularized the micro-lending concept in India to provide small loans to poor women to start small businesses.

His objective was to help poor people escape from poverty by providing loans on terms they could understand and manage, and by teaching them a few sound financial principles so they could better manage their finances.

Social entrepreneurs must have a good understanding of how a problem impacts people, particularly the marginalized and poor, in order to develop creative solutions and identify available resources to solve those problems.[spacer height=”20px”]

[spacer height=”20px”]Unlike traditional businesses, the goal is not profit making but instead to provide solutions that benefit society. If there are any profits, those are usually reinvested to expand the business to serve more people. Businesses must be designed to be financially and ecologically sustainable, however.

Global organizations have developed to support and encourage innovation and leadership through social entrepreneurship.

[spacer height=”20px”]These organizations offer technological and business consulting expertise to create comprehensive, well researched, successful small business plans. These organizations can provide start-up capital, promote networking, collaboration, and partnerships and assist with media communications to tell the story effectively, to teach and to promote greater impact.

In November, NFE Vice Chair Kathy Riper, NFE Treasurer Lolo Levy and her sister Sara Wells and team member Dave McKnew met with Andy Lieberman  to learn more about social entrepreneurship opportunities in Guatemala.

[spacer height=”20px”]Mr. Lieberman is employed by Santa Clara University in California, which has a commitment to a more humane, just and sustainable world. Santa Clara University operates the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. The Miller Center’s mission is to find innovate uses of technology for social benefit and is based in Silicon Valley. They assist organizations with ideas and working technology (such as water filtration for rural Guatemala or ultra low-cost solar panels or solar candles for villages where there is no access to electricity) and they help create an innovative business model to make the business sustainable and able to be scaled up so it reaches more people.

One business model that would make the technology affordable to villagers would be a micro-lending program that creates a “lease to own” for families to purchase technology.

The Miller Center has created Global Social Benefit Institute, which is a training program for social entrepreneurs.

[spacer height=”20px”]They help create effective and functional social impact model business plans.

Most programs are mentor-driven by volunteer mentors from Silicon Valley’s technology businesses who want to “give back”. Sometimes mentors are in-country and sometimes mentoring takes place via Skype with the assistance of an interpreter.

Another example of a social entrepreneurial cultivator group is Alterna, Central America’s premier center for social entrepreneurship and innovation. Alterna was formed in 2010 in Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala. Alterna’s work is focused on cultivating local social entrepreneurs, incubating social ventures, and fostering and strengthening the social entrepreneurship environment.

Another such organization in Guatemala is Asociacion Ajb’atz Enlace Quiche (Enlace definition). This non-profit’s goal is to encourage indigenous peoples to reach their full potential through innovative applications of information and communication technology. Mr. Lieberman is working with Enlace Quiche.

NFE is exploring the possibility of partnerships with social entrepreneurship organizations such as those mentioned above that might work with our students and help our graduates create ground-breaking businesses addressing the social, economic and environmental needs of the Ixil region.

[spacer height=”20px”]Perhaps one day, a Nicolás Christian School graduate might even identify a sustainable business to convert those polluting diesel tuk-tuk engines in the Ixil to a battery or solar power!

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