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The intersection of a movement and metrics

The intersection of a movement and metrics

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I am very happy to report a successful Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) Boost in Yaoundé, Cameroon! The Boost was organized on the campus of the Université Catholique d’Afrique Central (UCAC), in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on July 20-22. Local Jesuits animated a local team of excellent professionals. There were 30 social entrepreneurs representing 29 enterprises, drawn primarily from Yaoundé (the political capital) and Douala (the commercial capital on the coast). Of the 30, three-quarters of the participants are under 36 years old, and 17 of the 30 were women. Ten of the 29 enterprises have a focus on serving women, mostly providing other women entrepreneurs IT support and training. Several others worked with women farmers and artisans. There was also a strong emphasis on IT and creating local innovation centers. There is a strong interest in forming local support groups according to geography and interest. Fr. Bossou (one of our Jesuit partners), as well as local mentors, plan to visit these support groups, for reinforcement of key ideas. These groups will identify a representative, who will serve as a liaison with the local team of mentors. 

This group of social entrepreneurs was well educated, with many of them having completed BA degrees. There was a strong focus on creating employment, especially for youth. Cameroonians are much more forward than most Rwandans or Beninois, and the women are quite spirited. They are unafraid of speaking their minds. Bossou reminded me that we are next door to Nigeria and that explains some of the cultural dynamics. There is indeed a social enterprise movement here, but the principle of social impact, and the ideas about social impact measurement, appear to be new. I think that our GSBI Boost, with the ongoing efforts of the local team, will continue to resonate here after we leave. Despite Cameroon being a Francophone nation, most of the participants can read English and speak it with only some difficulty. Some are perfectly fluent in both languages. Many expressed interest in networking with the global social enterprise movement through Miller Center and our newsletter, and some expressed interest in applying. You can see photos from the Boost here.

This GSBI Boost was able to take advantage of the university’s resources. The four excellent Cameroon mentors are alumni of UCAC. They are the best cadre of mentors I have met in Africa. These four would bring great value to our programs, were they our mentors. Fr. Chris Ngolele, SJ (STL@JST/SCU 2016) pulled together an excellent team. Ivan Djossa is a tenured faculty in the management and social sciences school, and was so excited by the GSBI methodology that he was bouncing off the walls. He wants to integrate our methodology into the teaching he does, and to train his students to do action research with the SEs. I will continue this knowledge exchange by extending our action research materials to help Djossa start his own action research program. Aurel Tayou runs a local women rising IT incubator. She recruited several other women entrepreneurs, including one who will be in an accelerator in the Bay Area this fall. Yves and Krystal were also mentors. 

Jose Flahaux, as usual, was the star. He radiates enthusiasm while holding the bar very high. He draws out the best from these groups, and has a good time doing it. On this trip, I have learned a lot more about him, and appreciate his cross-cultural skills. Bossou is ever the fixer, and an essential teammate in helping us to navigate the vagaries of Africa. 

Here are a couple of innovations we developed for this GSBI Boost:

  • Jose got the participants to share one word in public each day, and then created a word cloud. You can see those, here. These allow you to get a sense of the emotional tenor of the sessions. 

  • Several of the social entrepreneurs (SEs) did not get the memo about bringing a computer, so Ivan Djossa gathered seven of his MBA students, who assisted the SEs with their own computers. This helped the SEs, and stimulated enthusiastic conversations among the students. 

  • Working with the local team, we developed a plan that requires each participant to submit their Pitch Deck and Financial Model to the local team and then to us before they can receive their certificate. This delayed certificate distribution is meant to help motivate the SEs to continue relations with the local team and Miller Center. This will not yield 100% of the deliverables, but this will also allow us to follow up, and communicate with them, and potentially report their impact. 

  • The local mentors are organizing regional support sub-groups with mentors acting as liaisons. Bossou will follow up with those in Douala, and the local mentors will follow up in Youndé and other locales. 

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On the Monday afterwards, Jose and I had dinner with Manka Agwafo a Cameroonian-American social entrepreneur in GSBI Online. She is a visionary, determined, warm, wonderful social entrepreneur trying to make the West African agrofood system more humane, sustainable and just. We gave her a bit of feedback on her deck for her upcoming pitch. She explained some of the difficulty we have observed with Cameroonian SEs articulating a clear sense of social impact and metrics. Manka is terrific person, and we want to see her succeed in her mission. I have introduced her to a few more resources for her mission. 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Keith Douglass Warner, OFM, PhD directs Miller Center’s education, fellowship, grants and action research activities. He directs the Global Social Benefit Fellowship, which provides a comprehensive program of mentored, field-based study and research for SCU juniors within the Center’s worldwide network of social entrepreneurs. With Thane Kreiner, PhD, he designed the fellowship and wrote the grant that funds it.

Closer To Being Free: Rebuilding Lives of Human Trafficking Survivors

Closer To Being Free: Rebuilding Lives of Human Trafficking Survivors

Fifteen of us sat in a circle on the cool marble floor, drawing birds and flowers.  The girls ranged in age from a tiny seven-year-old named Jasminda with uncanny artistic abilities, to twenty-year old Rishi, who just started college and probably should have been studying, but she just couldn’t resist joining in the fun.

Leela stood alone in the corner, silently watching.  She looked about 16.  She wrapped her arms around her body, seeming cold despite the warm temperature. Her eyes were impossible to read.   Angry, afraid, yearning to join the group, depressed or completely detached?  I couldn’t tell.   She is in a safe place now, at the shelter for trafficking survivors built by Her Future Coalition last year near Darjeeling, India.  But until recently Leela was living a nightmare. Her existence is very hard to even imagine – used every night by 15-20 men on a filthy mattress without even a sheet. She was an outcast judged by passers-by on the street, betrayed by her family, controlled with physical violence, or worse, with shame. Shame is a tool her traffickers used with great skill, knowing it can be even more powerful than physical torture.

Leela had been rescued very recently.  She still showed physical and emotional signs of trauma and was not going to trust easily again.  The risk of hoping and being disappointed is too high.  But we have been in this situation before, many times with wounded girls like Leela who seemed impossible to reach.  At first, I despaired of them ever recovering.  But they did.  With love and time, their spirits came back into their bodies and they began building a new life.

I inched backwards until I was sitting near Leela’s feet.  Not looking her directly in the eye (too threatening), I gave her a sideways glance, inviting her to sit and draw with me.  She shook her head.  A younger girl came over and we drew together for a few minutes.  Eventually, Leela got tired of standing, or maybe it felt culturally inappropriate to remain looming over me, an adult.  She sat beside me, still unsmiling and remote.  We made the briefest eye contact.  I pushed across a piece of paper, and then my pencil. I gently pointed to an image in a book that I wanted to copy for the mural we planned to paint on the shelter wall.  She shook her head no.  I shrugged, that’s okay, no pressure.

But a few minutes later, Leela bit her lips, pushed the hair out her eyes, and began to draw.  She did so brilliantly - an exquisitely detailed peacock, a garden of flowers.  The others were called for lunch and the project came to an end.  Leela stayed on the floor, drawing for hours until we lost the light.

The next morning she was waiting at the shelter door when we arrived, eager to begin painting the mural.  On our last day, she cried the hardest of anyone.  But I know she will be okay.  She is a survivor.  She found the courage to come out of her isolation to sit on the floor with a stranger and draw a peacock.  Next she will learn a trade.  Perhaps she will choose to learn how to make jewelry and go through our two-year goldsmith training.  She could join the jewelry team at our sister organization, Relevée, and earn a good salary as a professional jeweler and designer. For now, it is enough for her to begin believing that not everyone is out to hurt or use her, that life can be sweet again.

-Sarah Symons, Executive Director of Her Future Coalition and Co-Founder of Relevée

“As we work to dismantle trafficking networks and help survivors rebuild their lives, we must also address the underlying forces that push so many into bondage. We must develop economies that create legitimate jobs, build a global sense of justice that says no child should ever be exploited, and empower our daughters and sons with the same chances to pursue their dreams. This month, I call on every nation, every community, and every individual to fight human trafficking wherever it exists. Let us declare as one that slavery has no place in our world, and let us finally restore to all people the most basic rights of freedom, dignity, and justice.”

-Barack Obama, 2013

 

Sarah Symons is the Founder and Executive Director of Her Future Coalition, an international nonprofit helping survivors of gender violence to rebuild their lives, and Co-Founder/CIO of Relevée, a social impact fine jewelry business participating in Miller Center's GSBI® Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins cohort..

Over the past ten years, Sarah and her team have helped over 2500 women and children in India, Nepal, Cambodia and Thailand to build safe, independent futures through innovative shelter, education and employment programs.

Previously, Sarah worked as a composer of TV music and as a recording artist. 

Her book, This is No Ordinary Joy, is available on Amazon.com