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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.
Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014
Having the opportunity to meet the Dalai Lama truly was an experience of a lifetime. For a man so world renowned, he interacted with all those around him with incredible humility and patience. Despite an audience of thousands of people clinging to every word he spoke and eagerly soaking in his message of compassion and peace, Hi s Holiness presented himself in a way that made you feel as if he was speaking directly to you.
Following his presentation I was given the opportunity to meet him personally as part of a group of students selected to represent Santa Clara University. Anxiously awaiting his arrival, I wondered what he would be like without the stage, the microphone and thousands of people. Regardless of what I was expecting, he was simply normal. The Dalai Lama was refreshingly and humbly normal. Despite his religious, political and cultural significance, he interacted with the group of students as if we were equals. He shared a special message with us, reminding us that it is our generation that must act to spread compassion and peace to all parts of the world.
This compassion, he emphasized, can best be achieved through education. The knowledge we gain through education creates understanding between cultures and society, destroying barriers that prevent the spread of compassion. Feeling empowered, I eagerly shook his hand before leaving. Much to my surprise His Holiness took his hand and reached up to my face. His finger landed on a small stud in my nose and he broke out into a lively chuckle. He then walked away, surrounded by security, leaving our group in laughter. I think I’ll be leaving that stud in for a while.
Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014
Kolkata, India and the social enterprises I worked with there, Anudip and iMerit are alive, engaged, genuine, and passionate and that is how I want to live my life. I want to be engaged with my society, genuine in my interactions with others, and confident and consistent in my beliefs.
I did not hold these lofty goals when I applied to the Global Social Benefit Fellowship. I was simply excited for the opportunity to go abroad and continue to work on my skills as a filmmaker. These goals were developed in the research and reading in the preparatory fellowship classes and then reinforced in my experiences in Kolkata.
The classes taught me about the different theories of development, social entrepreneurship, and the great need for innovation and technology in service to humanity. Anudip and iMerit showed me why all that information matters.
I saw what earning triple an average family income looks like, and how economic empowerment of women in conservative communities can change perspectives. It was a synthesis of idea and action. I think many educational institutions strive for, but Santa Clara achieved. The Global Social Benefit Fellowship showed me a way of life radically different from the one I was living, and then gave me the opportunity to enact it.
Everything I did within GSBF was highly structured. I had brilliant and exceptional mentors throughout the entire experience helping me both define, realize and execute my research plan. It will not always be so. So, as I enter what college seniors scarily term "Real Life," I intend to do my best to take the education that Anudip, iMerit, and GSBF gave me and continue to act upon it outside of the supportive academic system.