Late August 2009, Mr. Sonesh Shah, one of the founders of Ekya, invited me to a late summer picnic in Skokie, IL with some of the group’s supporters and friends. I enjoyed watching people play volleyball, enjoyed Indian sweets and talked about innovative projects in India and other countries to alleviate poverty including the idea of supporting social entrepreneurs.
On the surface, Ekya seems to be one of many idealistic nonprofit organizations who wanted to change the world. However, they are not your average organization. They are composed of mostly 30 and under Indian American professionals who are dedicated to help alleviate poverty in India. Sonesh commented,
“We want to help the people that are making a difference in the world”
Ekya recently supported the work of a social entrepreneur, Vinaykumar G and the Village Store. So what is a social entrepreneur? A social entrepreneur is someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change.
Vinaykumar G and The Village Store stands as a wonderful example of a social enterprise. Vinaykumar G presents a unique business concept aimed at linking the artisan community with real, sustainable markets throughout India and abroad. Vinaykumar G, the entrepreneur who started the business has created a method to provide income-generating opportunities for the artisan poor.
I commend Ekya for doing this! Individual donors and groups like Ekya are leading the way for innovative ways to sustain change. Large foundations like Ashoka, Echoing Green and others should not be the only source of support by innovative social entrepreneurs like Vinaykumar G.
I think supporting social entrepreneurs is an important way to promote sustainable change in India and in other developing countries. This seems to be a valuable lesson that could easily be adapted by other countries including the Philippines and my work with the Global Coalition for Humanitarian Efforts-Philippines.
It seems hard to fathom for the Philippines to think about long term sustainability as the country is currently digging itself out of the mud and debris after catastrophic rains, floods and mudslides that the country recently went through which puts Hurricane Katrina to shame.
Despite all the recent floods, now is the better time to invest in long term sustainability rather than later including finding and funding social entrepreneurs like Vinaykumar G. Many other organizations are supporting social entrepreneurs including the Association for India’s Development (AID). This Sat, Oct 31, 2009, I’m going to promote supporting social entrepreneurs as an important component for social change when I speak at the upcoming conference on sustainability by the India Development Coalition of America (IDCA)
All of us should follow Ekya’s lead in supporting social entrepreneurs like Vinaykumar G; they are an important key to long-term sustainability and change to stop the cycle of poverty in the Third World.