When you ask a school-going kid about his future aspirations, the most expected reply is either to be a doctor or an engineer.
I, too, always aspired to pursue a career in medicine. I used to think that medicine is the best way to heal woeful souls. Correct as this widely held notion is, I have come to realize that there are other ‘professions’ that provide one the privilege of pulling the underprivileged from the depths of misery and suffering.
Counsellors, psychologists and sociologists are considered to be very humane as they facilitate individuals and communities to deal with adversity. However, as destiny took to me to a business school, I stumbled across the phrase ‘social entrepreneurship’ and realized this exceptional and highly impactful way of changing lives in downtrodden communities.
For those who frown upon hearing the name social entrepreneurship, it involves using business techniques to solve social problems. Increasing the return on investments or profits is the sole agenda of a conventional entrepreneur, who undergoes gruelling work schedules to do so. On the other hand, a social entrepreneur is driven by the wild passion to increase the return on investment or benefits to society.
A social entrepreneur is an innovator, believer, visionary and change-maker. He or she is a keen observer and is adamant to take on societal problems as a challenge through social ventures. Unfortunately, the dilemma in many developing countries is that scores of people, particularly students, lack enough knowledge about entrepreneurship, let alone social entrepreneurship. Universities in developing countries are producing job-seekers and not job-givers.
In countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India and Nepal, there is not enough effort to promote social entrepreneurship. Business graduates are encouraged to join multinationals or banks. What adds insult to injury is the disapproval of parents to let their child pursue this career that impacts lives of millions through innovative ideas. However, some adamant youth in developing countries are courageous enough to deny traditional career paths and channel their creative ideas into action for the good of humanity. For social entrepreneurs, every problem or adversity is an opportunity.
As soon as she found out that rural hospitals in Pakistan use dangerous kerosene lamps to deliver babies, leading to deaths of hundreds of babies, Pakistan’s Fiza Farhan, CEO of Buksh Foundation, launched a project called ‘light a million lives’ which looks to spread the use of much safer solar lamps through an ingenious micro-financing scheme. So far 150 villages have been electrified and 37,000 households now have clean light.
On the other hand, the problem of sanitation in India means 49.8 per cent of Indians defecate in the open. It required courage to deal with this ‘dirty business’. India’s Namita Banka took up the challenge and set 100 per cent eco-friendly bio-toilets which help treat human waste using bacterial culture, which eliminates the need for its disposal and treatment. Banka Bioloo is installing bio-toilets and 750-litre bio-tanks in public schools and individual households in rural areas of Andhra Pradesh, funded by an NGO.
With United Nations’ ‘He for She’ campaign going in full swing, Bangladesh’s Saif Rashid social venture JITA proved that there exist men who depict their real character by empowering women. Currently JITA is serving the Bangladeshi rural community by empowering around 3000 impoverished women working as sales ladies, creating more than 100 local entrepreneurs.
And yes, Jeff Mendelsohn created New Leaf in 1998 to use recycled waste paper and environment-friendly bleach to create high-quality stock that is largely used to print magazines.
These are some of the most inspiring examples of social entrepreneurs from developing countries. The purpose of sharing these is to instil in youth, particularly business graduates, the know-how that business techniques can have a far-reaching social impact to uplift impoverished communities. Be it social problems, cultural or even environmental problems, social entrepreneurs know the art of dealing with them quite smartly.
It would not be wrong to say that in today’s world, where we are prone to critical challenges, social entrepreneurs are providing hope to beat all odds and face adversity only to overcome it! Fortunately, there are organizations like Acumen, Schwab Foundation and Skoll Foundation that fund social entrepreneur innovative idea and help establish a social venture. Organizations like these also provide mentorship to social entrepreneurs to help build not only sustainable, but also scalable social ventures so that their impact is far-reaching.
If something in your community or country has been a long-standing problem and needs to be changed, take it as an opportunity to impact millions of lives through ‘out of the box’ solution. Be an agent of positive change!
I hail from Pakistan, Karachi, and am studying at Karachi University Business School. I have also worked as a free-lance writer for a local company, Brainees.
The global challenges related to quality education, poverty, illiteracy, extremism and exploitation of resources is a concern for me. I want to mobilize mentors to enlighten the youth of Pakistan about the value of critical thinking. The future of Pakistani children can be changed through empathy and volunteerism in underprivileged areas.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
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