Think Impact

*Note* The below blog post is a guest blog from our Facebook friend Kathrin. This content does not necessarily reflect the views of Better World Books (as our lawyers make sure we say). We love having guest bloggers and invite you to email if you are interested in covering a book or topic on the BWB Blog. Thank you, Kathrin!

On June 17th I embarked on my summer internship adventure with ThinkImpact! The Washington D.C. based organization and its Innovation Institute sends college students to villages in rural Kenya and South Africa to build social enterprises. As an MBA student with a focus on sustainable management (Presidio Graduate School) I’m very interested in using social enterprise as a catalyst for development and social change.

When I heard that ThinkImpact was looking for advisers to support their students during the program I immediately applied. I was accepted as an advisor for the South Africa side and started my journey with training in Washington D.C. After that I met my student team in Chicago at Northwestern University. This year ThinkImpact collaborated with Northwestern and their Global Engagement Summit Institute.

My team has been working now for almost seven weeks in Clare, a small village in the Mpumalanga district in South Africa. The Innovation Institute is divided in four phases: Immersion, Identity, Inspiration, and Innovation. We are using a variety of approaches such as asset-based community development and IDEO’s human- centered design method. The most important part of our work is to find community partners who help us develop the social enterprise and eventually take over the business.

The students in my group met many women in Clare who already have small businesses but who can’t find enough clients or customers since they usually work from home and just serve neighbors or friends. Together with these women we developed the idea of a consignment shop in the middle of Clare. By working together the women can pool resources, better advertise their products and learn from each other.

We called our group Ti Akeni (Shangaan for ‘Build Yourself’) and helped the women to identify a list of products they want to sell, developed a membership and management system, empowered the women for leadership roles and provided them with financial literacy skills. The students also wrote a long-term plan for Ti Akeni and connected the women with nearby safari lodges to sell their hand-made products to tourists.

In our last week in Clare we will establish an advisory board for Ti Akeni to ensure the sustainability and long-term success of the shop!

We wish Kathrin and this initiative all the best. We love hearing about how business can empower people and change the world. Thanks again Kathrin!

If you are interested in learning more about Social Enterprises, check our out SOCAP 2011 bookstore picks.  


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