Discerning My Vocation: the Influence of Entrepreneurship
Tuesday, Apr. 1, 2014
This period of study has both furthered an area of academic interest for me, and challenged me to thoughtfully consider how I will integrate what I have learned into my vocational path. Coming into this class, I was interested in alternative development models, but also skeptical of how beneficial business (what I now would more appropriately call social entrepreneurship) could be in advancing development. It has also been a period of careful consideration in my next steps after graduating this year. I am confident that this period of study has helped inform this decision, and will continue to inform my vocation as I bring together my intellectual interests, my career choices, and my motivations.
Most concretely, this time has given me a true appreciation for the role of social entrepreneurs in the development process. Having come from a period of NGO work, I was interested in alternative methods of development and economic engagement. At the same time, the only private or NGO operations I had witnessed had been quite negative – profit was put over the people they supposedly served. I was skeptical as to the change that one individual could make, no matter how motivated, talented, or financially endowed.
Reading the various accounts put forth in the Power of Unreasonable People was important in my understanding and initial inquiry into models of social entrepreneurship; it was the first time I began to understand how the private sector could manipulate its business models to serve a social purpose with such clarity. It was on the platform put forth by this book that I was able to appreciate the individual research and case studies that I carried out. Having the opportunity to research cases – especially the personal motivations driving Kiva and the organizational aspects of Juhudi Kilimo – afforded me the opportunity to put all of the pieces together and recognize how these organizations do put the people at the center of their model. I began to appreciate their ability to bring about real change that addresses many of the issues I had encountered with the international aid and development paradigm.
In retrospect, these cases were the very forms of alternative development that I had been trying to grasp; prior to this class, I wouldn’t have expected to find them in various forms of social entrepreneurship. Perhaps even more surprising to me has been the ability of many organizations, such as Kiva, to harness the innovation environment of Silicon Valley to great effect in promoting development in developing countries so far from where the organizations were founded. They successfully bridged this gap between a place of vast creativity and resources and areas most in need of these services. For me personally, these case studies have had a larger impact than I anticipated – they will certainly follow me outside of the classroom upon graduation. In thinking about development, I was approaching it solely in terms of government capacity and high-level organizations. There has been a fundamental shift in how I approach this overwhelming idea of ‘development,’ in large part due to engaging with these cases. I do plan to spend my life working in the field of aid and development – at the level of institutions and government. I plan to work at this level because of the resources this sector encompasses, and how much good could come from these resources if properly aligned with the real needs of those they aim to serve.
I greatly appreciate the changes that took place for me during this period of study. This class – the ideas presented in it, the motivations, and the need to thoughtfully consider my path in light of my learning – disrupted many ideas I was settled on. It has undoubtedly informed it in ways that will make it more rewarding for me personally, and most importantly, more beneficial for those I intend to serve.