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Category Archives: Social Entrepreneurship

15 must read books for any social entrepreneur

  1. Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by CK Prahalad. (the title doesn’t do the book justice)
  2. The ethical corporation
  3. How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein
  4. Out of Poverty by Paul Polack
  5. Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets that Change the World by John
  6. Elkington and Pamela Hartigan
  7. Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism by Mohammed Yunnus
  8. The lorax – Dr. Seuss
  9. Blink – Gladwell
  10. The tipping point – Gladwell
  11. Wikinomics – Don Tapscott & Anthony Williams
  12. The world is flat – Thomas Freedman
  13. Real Magic – Wayne Dyer
  14. The fifth Discipline
  15. Purification of the Heart

Other recommended media

  1. ODE, UTNE, GOOD, Mother Jones (Magazines)
  2. Emmanuel’s Gift (Documentary)
  3. The Corporation (Documentary)

The Spirit of Social Ventures

Most people we know donate from the “Extra” money they have; give away “Excess” material goods.  Every now and again, we come across individuals who challenge us with extreme sacrifice. Two stories follow … “As if I ate” & “Three Cups of Tea”

جامع صغير في منطقة “فاتح” في اسطنبول واسم الجامع باللغة التركية هو ” صانكي يدم ” أي كأنني أكلت

في كتابه الشيق “روائع من التاريخ العثماني ” كتب الأستاذ الفاضل “أورخان محمد علي” .. قصة هذا الجامع .. فيقول أنه كان يعيش في منطقة “فاتح” شخص ورع اسمه خير الدين أفندي، كان صاحبنا هذا عندما يمشي في السوق ، وتتوق نفسه لشراء فاكهة ، “أو لحم ، أو حلوى ، يقول في نفسه : ” صانكي يدم” .. يعني كأنني أكلت” أو “افترض أنني أكلت”!! … ثم يضع ثمن ذلك الطعـام في صندوق له

مضت الأشهر والسنوات … وهو يكف نفسه عن لذائذ الأكل ….. ويكتفي بما يقيم أوده فقط ، وكانت النقود تزداد في صندوقه شيئا فشيئا ، حتى استطاع بهذا المبلغ القيام ببناء مسجد صغير في محلته ، ولما كان أهل المحلة يعرفون قصة هذا الشخص الورع الفقيــــر، وكيف استطاع أن يبني هذا المسجد , أطلقوا على الجامع اسم جامع : صانكي يدم

I recently read “Three Cups of Tea”, an inspiring account of Greg Mortenson, a night nurse and mountain climber. Greg wanted to build a school for a village in the mountains of Pakistan.  For six months, he slept in his car to save rent money; he kept his living expenses to the bare minimum to save every last penny to build the school.  Eventually, his efforts, coupled with the generosity of others who believed in his vision materialized.

Characteristics of a Social Entrepreneur – Humble

Picture 6A wonderful Arabic poem uses a metaphor to describe humble individuals; they appear like stalks of wheat, bending and weighted down by the abundance of the wheat grain they carry.  This is contrasted with the empty stalks that are blowing in the wind, raised high, due to their emptiness.

ملىء السنابل تنحني بتواضعٍ   والفارغاتُ رؤوسهن شوامخُ

In recent months, I’ve come across many social and environmental entrepreneurs in the Middle East and the US. Without exception, they were all rich in experience and knowledge in their field. Some traveled to places I only dream of, others read books I find intimidating. Some met heads of state, received numerous degrees, awards and honors from reputable institutions worldwide.  And without exception, they are all humble.

They are eager to learn about others rather than brag about their accomplishments. What I find encouraging is that social and environmental entrepreneurs are bringing a new face to business.  While not all men and women in mainstream business practice are lacking humility, traditionally corporate cultures, corporate structures and brand confidence advocated a degree of snobbery, or a pride in belonging to an establishment/organization. Overtime, people forget their individual worth and exhibit a strange sense of pride and snobbery for their association with their institutions.  I stress, this doesn’t no apply to all, but it is certainly present and more so in some industries than others.

The humility social and environmental entrepreneurs exhibit draws people to them. Collaborators, supporters, and recipients of their good work rally around them and spread the message of their work far and wide. They rarely need to self-promote or spend excessively on marketing and PR activities.  The next time you’re in the presence of one, observe!

Social Entrepreneurship and the Middle East – A Vision

Picture 14

Over the past eight years, I have read, listened to and watched material on Social Entrepreneurship.  The work of Mohamad Younis of Grameen Bank,  Jacqueline Novogratz of the Acumen fund and Bill Drayton of Ashoka inspired me.  I found that like countless others, their work focused on Africa, East Asia, South America, some work in Afghanistan, but the bulk of Arab nations in the Middle East were overlooked!

At first glance I thought perhaps we don’t have the extreme issues that nations face in Africa, India and the rest; no famine, natural disasters and rampant disease.  Social Entrepreneurs work to solve problems of marginalized communities, eradicate social and environmental problem areas, and work in a triple bottom line  model.  It turns out the Middle East, Arab / Non Arab nations, Christians, Muslims and all others have their fair share of  marginalized communities, social and environmental issues that are crying out to be addressed; and there’s a strong and growing population of positive change agents who are devoting their lives to solve them.

Our issues it turns out are of a different variety, maybe more subtle, no less alarming, and with far reaching consequences if left unaddressed.  We have the largest population under the age of 30, with bleak prospects for education and employment opportunities.  We have some of the highest rates of diabetes in the world, especially in children.  Some of our nations rank highest in carbon footprint, yet have the lowest fresh water supplies in the world. Deforestation is a critical problem, over-fishing, eroding coral reefs, use of pesticides in crops, polluted cities and much more. Our children don’t read, don’t interact with nature and when asked, many lack dreams and role models.

The encouraging fact is there are hundreds, if not thousands of social entrepreneurs who have been working and continue to work to address and solve these problems. Yet, until recently, they worked alone, and didn’t have the banner of Social Entrepreneurship to collaborate under. The term is slowly making its way into the media, university discussions, forums and state dialogues.  Organizations are beginning to pop-up to encourage collaboration, dialogue, experience exchanges. Some of the forerunners have received acclaim from international organizations, like Injaz-AlArab. Women, who are often the spotlight of the international media for their low employment rates, are among the leaders in their civic responsibility  and can do more given the training and collaboration tools.

I dream of the day when social entrepreneurship is taught at middle school level. When children are taken on field trips to show them role models in the field, where every university student is asked to give his or her idea of how to solve a problem, save a forest, educate a village, eradicate diabetes; a day when every business has a social bottom line and a community problem to solve.. where the media celebrates the social heroes  and governments write about them in school curricula. I dream of governments collaborating across boarders for cleaner air, higher fresh water tables and much more!

Benevolent Business

Benevolent Business

The term Social Entrepreneur is increasingly becoming synonymous with a modern-day super-hero, sans the streamlined spandex get-ups (thankfully). Social entrepreneurs emerge as people from all walks of life, yet there are common elements that earn them the recently-coined title. They are creative beings, ones who have become cognizant of the fact that they can make a difference in the world and are fueled by that belief to create positive change. Similar to other members in their family tree–political entrepreneurs, business entrepreneurs and the like–these figures are not afraid to transcend the status quo and tread the road less travelled by if they believe it will yield results.

Innovative ideas are their ambrosia, sheer doggedness their nectar. A heightened sense of awareness of social strife and system failure drives them to dissect the social infrastructure, identify problem sources and use their outside-of-the box approach to overcome resource restrictions and find viable solutions to the issues. Whereas business entrepreneurs’ concern lays largely in the business sector social entrepreneurs’ tackle the social and environmental realm. The myriad issues they take on include disease prevention and human rights issues.

Nowadays there is a growing industry that caters to the likes of such upstanding citizens. Renowned universities are implementing programs that provide prospective entrepreneurs with the necessary skills to see them off in their endeavors. The Skoll Foundation, launched in Oxford University in 2003 is dedicated to serving, “social entrepreneurs in their pursuit to achieve a more equitable, prosperous, sustainable world.”[1] Other institutions that support the burgeoning field of social enterprise include Harvard University, whose Catherine B. Foundation Fellowships are, “designed to equip individuals for national leadership positions that bring the real-world insights of management and entrepreneurship to bear on social problems.”[2]

But the initiatives do not end there. As Social entrepreneurs are increasingly making their voices heard, communities are doing their part to connect them to one another and the public at large in an effort to strengthen the cause. Networking companies are establishing liaisons between such public figures, allowing them to share their inspirational experiences, their avant-garde thoughts on current affairs, and their future aspirations., an online venture started by The Baraka Group, revolves around an incremental concept where, “Social entrepreneurship meets social networking.”[3] Our values-based company is an example of the community’s desire to spur this wondrous movement.

The world could do with more people like Muhammed Yunus who epitomizes the Social Entrepreneur. His initiative involved implementing a policy of micro-finance to poverty-stricken regions in Bangladesh, in order to encourage self-sufficiency and proper integration into the socio-economic structure. Jeff Skoll, a proponent of the movement who has carried out like-minded schemes, described the basis of his film-making industry, “Time and time again you see this outpouring from people once they’re made aware they can do something. That’s the principle that drives this company.” It is up to the global community to support social entrepreneurs in their cause to keep this going.

A whale shark – Up-close and Personal

To encounter a whale shark on a dive, is rare and special. To see two on the same day in two different dive sites is absolutely remarkable. It happened yesterday, on a trip with the students from JESS (Jumeirah English Speaking School – Dubai). Most members of the group of 15 middle and high schoolers were on their first dive after receiving their open water certification. They were bubbling with enthusiasm. The swam with the largest fish in the sea, and did it twice in one day.

The trip to the dive site was on an older, slower and air-condition free dhow. A few people felt sea sick, most were feeling the heat mixed with anxiety. Shortly after we ascended from our first, rather uneventful dive, a group from a distance lets out screams of joy. It was Dawn, the group organizer. She had been swimming since 1991 and never encountered a whale shark.

Immediately, everyone on board, jumped into the water with masks and snorkels and headed in her direction. There it was, what a sight!!! a huge fish, gliding gracefully in large circular patterns a few meters underneath the surface. We swam with it for a few minutes before it took a corner away from Lima Rock.

The second sight was Um-elnatt, a few miles away from the first location. Shortly after descending, Connel, our dive leader points overhead, there it was, accompanied by a dozen Remora fish. It took a turn and came towards me, the view of its mouth open for filter feeding on plankton was brilliant.

The largest fish in the sea does not pose any threat to humans. It is gentle and can be playful with divers. swimming along side it gave me a sense of serenity and peace and a great appreciation for nature and its creator. Yet millions of sharks, whale sharks among them, are being slaughtered by humans annually, some to be consumed, others out of unfounded fear generated from by the media and Hollywood.

It would be sad if the boys and girls from JESS grow up to find they can no longer swim with whale sharks because they are all gone!

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