Social Innovation Around the World

Social Innovation Around the World

From Matthew Johnsen

From January-May 2016, I will travel around the world to do research for a book about how emerging social businesses solve local and global problems. My trip will take me to Africa, Europe, South Asia, and Australia.

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Update #8

over 5 years ago

#DoYouIndi
I am going on a quest beginning in January 2016. It is a quest to discover solutions to some of the problems our current structures have created. A quest to find ways that we might reverse the damage that human beings have unwittingly done to our great planet.

I will travel about 30,000 miles in 135 days -- or about 6,000 miles a month. In some places along my route, I will stay for a few weeks or as long as a month. In other places, I may stay only a few days.

I hope to do some good along the way. In Africa, I hope to help a university establish a Center for Social Innovation which can provide support for developing social enterprises in Uganda. In Bangladesh, I hope to learn more on the ground about the work of Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus and the various Grameen companies that he and his colleagues have started as social businesses. In the Philippines, I hope to learn more about the work of Tony Melota and Gawad Kalinga, which has dedicated itself to lifting millions out of poverty.

Along the way, I will visit social enterprises, meet social entrepreneurs, and give some speeches. I will also reconnect with students along the way to share some of what I am learning (this includes students at the University where I teach.) More than this,, I hope to make some difference as I travel. In this, I trust the wisdom of several whose words have inspired me.

Loretta Gizartis says: "If someone listens, or stretches out a hand, or whispers a kind word of encouragement, or attempts to understand, extraordinary things begin to happen." On my quest, I will do my best to listen, to stretch out my hand, to offer encouragement, and to try to understand what I am seeing and learning. I know that I will be challenged in many ways. I will not always be able to speak the same language as those around me. I will not have the same understanding of culture. My words my be taken for more or less than I intend. But I feel as though my mission is becoming clearer: To be a witness of those who are doing good, to encourage that good, and to provide a record of it so that others may be inspired by it as well.

The words of two others inspire me. W.H. Auden said "we are all here on earth to help others; what on earth others are here for, I don't know."
Desmond Tutu urges us to "do your little bit of good where you are; its those bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." In Worcester, Massachusetts and Central Massachusetts, I hope to provide opportunities to help people focus on innovative ways of solving the very real problems that surround us.

I enter this quest convinced that there are answers to the problems faced by our communities, and our society. By seeking answers to these problems, I hope to play a small role in their solutions.

Thanks for your support along the way.

More Info

I live and work in Worcester, Massachusetts and am interested in learning more about and in supporting emerging solutions to the world's most difficult social and environmental problems.  I will share what I find in my worldwide research in a book that has a tentative title:  Enterprising Visions: How social enterprise is changing the world: A Personal Exploration.

Your support will help fund my travel and my research.  I hope to be in a position to share what I am learning along the way with audiences in the countries that I am visiting, and with high school and university classrooms back in the US that I will link with via Skype.

I have worked in higher education for 20 years, and am enthusiastic in helping a new generation of citizens learn about approaches that can create a world that is fair and equitable, and which leads to sustainable futures. In addition to work related to social enterprise and social innovation, I have many published works related to mental health services, disability, the effects of child maltreatment.

I am working to establish an itinerary that allows me to see social businesses and social enterprises on four continents during this trip.  While I am in Africa, I will be working for one month to help establish a Center for Social Innovation in Kampala, Uganda.  The places I will visit will include some places that are not normally considered tourist destinations, but which have particular significance in getting a view of how social businesses and social enterprises are working in parts of the world where they are most needed.  In addition to traveling around Europe, I expect to spend time in Turkey, India, Bangladesh, Thailand and the Philippines.

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Matthew Johnsen posted a new update:
over 5 years ago

Update #8

#DoYouIndi
I am going on a quest beginning in January 2016. It is a quest to discover solutions to some of the problems our current structures have created. A quest to find ways that we might reverse the damage that human beings have unwittingly done to our great planet.

I will travel about 30,000 miles in 135 days -- or about 6,000 miles a month. In some places along my route, I will stay for a few weeks or as long as a month. In other places, I may stay only a few days.

I hope to do some good along the way. In Africa, I hope to help a university establish a Center for Social Innovation which can provide support for developing social enterprises in Uganda. In Bangladesh, I hope to learn more on the ground about the work of Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus and the various Grameen companies that he and his colleagues have started as social businesses. In the Philippines, I hope to learn more about the work of Tony Melota and Gawad Kalinga, which has dedicated itself to lifting millions out of poverty.

Along the way, I will visit social enterprises, meet social entrepreneurs, and give some speeches. I will also reconnect with students along the way to share some of what I am learning (this includes students at the University where I teach.) More than this,, I hope to make some difference as I travel. In this, I trust the wisdom of several whose words have inspired me.

Loretta Gizartis says: "If someone listens, or stretches out a hand, or whispers a kind word of encouragement, or attempts to understand, extraordinary things begin to happen." On my quest, I will do my best to listen, to stretch out my hand, to offer encouragement, and to try to understand what I am seeing and learning. I know that I will be challenged in many ways. I will not always be able to speak the same language as those around me. I will not have the same understanding of culture. My words my be taken for more or less than I intend. But I feel as though my mission is becoming clearer: To be a witness of those who are doing good, to encourage that good, and to provide a record of it so that others may be inspired by it as well.

The words of two others inspire me. W.H. Auden said "we are all here on earth to help others; what on earth others are here for, I don't know."
Desmond Tutu urges us to "do your little bit of good where you are; its those bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." In Worcester, Massachusetts and Central Massachusetts, I hope to provide opportunities to help people focus on innovative ways of solving the very real problems that surround us.

I enter this quest convinced that there are answers to the problems faced by our communities, and our society. By seeking answers to these problems, I hope to play a small role in their solutions.

Thanks for your support along the way.

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Matthew Johnsen posted a new update:
over 5 years ago

Update #7

Today, I will write something about my motives for wanting to travel around the world. Certainly, the book that I will write describing my encounters with people who are making the world a better place to be is one place to start. Having an opportunity to meet and interact with some of the people who have made the world a better place for millions of people, and learning about their motives and experiences is very important. But truthfully, there are other motives, and other sites I hope to see and experience in the almost 5 months that I will be traveling.

I will certainly see things that I have not yet encountered, including some sites that have only been a part of my dreams or pictures in a book for me. On the second day of my journey, I will see the Pyramids and a few days later the ancient tombs of Egyptian kings. I will see animals in the wild in Eastern Africa that I have only seen before in zoos. I will experience the bazaars of Istanbul and the beauty of the Taj Mahal in India. And honestly, the opportunity to experience these things must be acknowledged as a part of my motivation.

But I am also drawn to this journey on other fronts as well. I feel as though there are lessons in other places that may help our own society overcome the difficult problems we find ourselves in.

Mahatma Gandhi said that there are seven things that would destroy us: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice, and Politics without principle. In this post, I will not go into a detailed explanation of this except to say that I take Gandhi's words to heart. I believe that his analysis is correct. I also believe that the excesses he warns of are at the core of many of the problems our society faces.

It is in this context that I see that the mission of my journey is to celebrate responsibility: To celebrate sustainable approaches that focus on solving problems at the core. Acts of giving, acts of forgiveness, sacrifice and altruism all point to a nobility and excellence of spirit and character that I believe is at the core of human beings. It is this excellence that we seek to draw out in ourselves and that we seek to inspire in those around us.

Each of us has a choice about what we wish to nurture in our lives. Nurturing love, generosity, hospitality, wisdom, friendship, care and concern: These are important things to make room for in our hearts. Similarly, each of us has a choice about what we wish to nurture in our collective futures. I want to encourage commerce with morality, science with humanity, knowledge with character, and politics with principle.

I look forward to this trip both for the opportunity to experience the sites and sounds of the world, but also for the opportunity to enter into new communities with others and better understand my place in the world.

I will depart on the first leg of my journey on January 5, 2016. Wish me well!

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Matthew Johnsen posted a new update:
over 5 years ago

Update #6

In a little less than 4 months, I will begin the first leg of my journey in Africa. I will spend about 10 days in Egypt and then about a month in East Africa, working out of Kampala, Uganda as my headquarters. I have been pleased to make arrangements with African colleagues to help make my time as productive as possible, learning about African social enterprises and social entrepreneurs, but also spreading a powerful message about how importance of social enterprise can be in creating economic progress and solving critical problems. This combination of learning and sharing should make this a powerful experience.

After my first month and a half in Africa, I will spend about the same amount of time crisscrossing Europe investigating social businesses and social innovation Over the last few months I have participated in online discussions with a number of European social entrepreneurs, and have developed ties that will be fruitful in networking about these ideas and investigating what is going on in a limited number of countries (about 6 countries). .

The final part of my journey will include Turkey, India, Bangladesh, Thailand and the Philippines and will also last about 45 days. This will be a particularly important and meaningful part of the journey. I will travel to the home of the Yunus's Grameen businesses, and will look at the impact that these models can have in countries that have such great needs. In the Philippines, I will spend time learning firsthand about the work of Gawad Kalinga, and visit what Tony Meloto calls the "Silicon Valley of social enterprise."

My current plans have me returning at the very end of the spring semester (around mid-May 2016) if all goes according to plan. I am looking for support to help with the journey. I plan to share the findings from my journey as I go, and to bring them together into a book that documents what I have learned and experienced.

Along those lines, I am pleased to announce that in a few weeks, my new book will be published, and I look forward to sharing that as I go along. I have been working on a book that introduces social enterprise. It's called "Liberating Enterprise: The Benefits of Social Enterprises as They Invite a Better World." (More about this book in another post)

If you would like to support this important journey to learn more about social innovation across the world-- either by lending your emotional support, or by sharing in the currency of your choice, I would be most appreciative. .I am not kidding about your emotional support--your thoughts and well-wishes will certainly help keep me in good standing as I make what will likely be a pretty arduous journey. Thanks so much to each of you who have supported these efforts so far!

More later,

Matt

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Matthew Johnsen posted a new update:
almost 6 years ago

Update #5

It is just a little more than 6 months until I depart on my six-month journey. I have just crossed the 15% point, and am grateful to each of my friends and colleagues who are supporting this journey.

I am teaching a course right now on Social Entrepreneurship, and engaged in another international classroom learning about Social Entrepreneurship, and it continues to strike me how little we know about the very exciting kinds of new enterprises that are sprouting up across the world. These organizational forms move beyond an economy predicated on a few big winners and many losers, and move toward economies that assume that every person should be fairly treated. Businesses can be designed in such a way that they not only make money, but work to resolve some fundamental social or environmental problem.

I am struck by the need to move beyond conventional thinking -- but also with the great possibilities still left for us to discover. I am looking forward to traveling to different parts of the world to see and hear, with my own eyes and ears, the discoveries that are being made by social enterprises and social businesses about how we might achieve more together.

Thanks for your support in this effort!

Matt

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Matthew Johnsen posted a new update:
almost 6 years ago

Update #4

I have made it more that 10% of the way to my goal in funding the trip to explore social innovation around the world. Thanks for your support!

On Tuesday night, I sat with a group of students from Worcester State University, and as part of the class we watched "Bonsai People: The Vision of Muhammad Yunus" by Holly Mosher. This movie tells the story of the work of Muhammad Yunus, who as an economics professor at a University in Bangladesh realized that his training in classical economic theory was not enough to help the poor women he encountered out of poverty. These women were trapped in a cycle of exploitation -- working very hard every day, but moving more deeply into poverty with every day. His solution, to fund small loans (microloans) which could help these women establish themselves as "entrepreneurs". He sees each person as a potential entrepreneur. He went on to develop social businesses that addressed many other problems including healthcare, communication, nutrition. He and the Bank he founded (the Grameen Bank) won the Nobel peace prize, and he is one of a very few people to also win the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

The movie opens the eyes of those who see it: with small amounts of money, great change can be possible. There is much more than the money that is being provided -- a framework of community and mutual support, some habits of success. The level of poverty is astounding, but the journey toward hope and new life is heartwarming.

As part of my trip, I plan to go to Bangladesh and witness the Grameen businesses with my own eyes. Bangladesh is not on the itineraries of most people traveling the world, but for me, it will represent, I believe, an essential stop on my journey to learn more about social innovation around the world.

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Matthew Johnsen posted a new update:
almost 6 years ago

Update #3

What are Social Enterprises?

Great thanks to all donors and supporters of my upcoming journey. It is an effort to learn more about social enterprises across the world. Social enterprises are reshaping the world in profound ways by joining a social mission with sustainable business model. Some folks reading this might not know much about these kinds of social enterprises and social entrepreneurship..

Social entrepreneurship is located in the space between for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations. While non-profit organizations are most interested in the social impact their services have on their service recipients, and for-profit businesses are traditionally interested in the bottom-line of maximizing profit, social enterprises typically create ways of generating income to address a larger social good. In doing so, the more successful, the business, the greater the positive impact on society.

As one example, "Savers" sells used clothing and other household articles. It is a business that, in addition to generating income from these sales, donates money to a non-profit for each donation it receives, and simultaneously reduces waste in land-fills and promotes recycling. The sale of goods creates several social benefits simultaneously.

Another example, TOMS shoes donates a pair of shoes to someone who needs them for every pair of shoes sold. The more shoes TOMS sells, the greater the social benefit!

Organizations which meet profit and social bottom lines are social enterprises. Sometimes there are two (revenue and social benefit), or even three "bottom lines" (revenue, social benefit and environmental benefit), each important in assessing the beneficial impact of the social enterprise.

These organizations are a part of creating more just, economically sustainable societies around the world, creating new jobs, and raising people out of poverty through their own efforts. I am excited to be able to learn more about these organizations around the world and to be able to support these kinds of organizations in my own community.

Matt Johnsen

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Matthew Johnsen posted a new update:
almost 6 years ago

Update #2

Thanks to all who have supported my effort so far. I am encouraged by every supporter and every donor to the effort so far.

Yesterday I had an opportunity to meet with a delegation from Gawad Kalinga, from the Philippines, at an event at Assumption College (in Worcester MA). Gawad Kalinga is an impressive effort organized in 2003, with an audacious goal of ending poverty for 5 million families by 2024. It strives to build resilient and empowered communities (so far 2400 of them!), nurturing seeds of sustainability through the development of social businesses and social enterprises, and to change the face of the Philippines, by working with communities tp provide housing that is owned by community members to replace slums and squatting around the country. It is not just about working at the micro level - but also at the macro level.

I was greatly impressed by the great work of this movement -- and the impressive vision of the leaders of this movement, especially its founder Tony Meloto, and Frank Chiu who heads the GK Enchanted Farm. (Tony is the man with the white hair in the picture). So far, they have reached over one million people -- and they continue to grow the effort. They have created the GK Enchanted Farm with a vision of having it become the future Silicon Valley of social enterprise and social business in the world. They hope to nurture 5000 social businesses to will create jobs, economic, and social benefit across the Philippines.

I had a chance to talk with Tony about how important it is to create a better world for our grandchildren -- and their grandchildren by creating more socially responsible business models. They invited me to add the Philippines to my itinerary during my trip, and I will try to spend at least a week learning about their efforts in May or June of 2016.

I am impressed by what can be done by people of good will and vision who refuse to accept the current state of affairs as inevitable. Vision propels reality -- and expanding our vision of what is possible creates new opportunities -- and new realities. I feel particularly fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn more about this life changing and life expanding effort. For more information about Gawad Kalinga, here is their website: http://www.gk1world.com/home

Thanks again!!

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Matthew Johnsen posted a new update:
about 6 years ago

Update #1

It has been great to begin this campaign Social Innovation Around the World, which is bringing the reality of this trip closer with every day. An example of the kind of organizations that I will be writing about is the Akola Project which has joined women in Uganda and the US. I will be spending about a month in Uganda.

Operating as a non-profit and a social business, the Akola Project has empowered women through vocational training, employment opportunities, educational programs, and given them the means to earn and save money. High-quality fashion and home-good products made by the women of the Akola Project have been sold in over 220 boutiques throughout the United States. By providing sustainable skills and reliable income for women, the Akola Project has lifted over 1,400 women and children out of extreme poverty.

Akola is creating social benefits -- and eradicating poverty in a part of Uganda, while doing it in a way that creates a sustainable social business. Describing ways of addressing social and environmental challenges by using the power of the marketplace is the task of the book that I am writing.

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