Changing the World Isn’t Easy: Advice for Social Entrepreneurs

A version of this article was originally published on Wamda. Thanks, Nina for the edits!

Inclusive capitalism, disruptive innovations, triple bottom line, scalability… My head is abuzz with catchy expressions after spending the past weekend at the 13th Social Enterprise Conference* at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.
The crowd of 1,500 young, passionate (and caffeinated) attendees bounced around the hallways between panel discussions, hands-on workshops, and the much-anticipated Pitch for Change Competition. The excitement and entrepreneurial spirit were palpable. When meeting someone, the question was not the usual “What do you do?” with which East-Coasters usually strike up conversations, but rather, “What’s your idea?”

Change the F*ing World

Daniel Epstein of Unreasonable Institute set the tone of the conference by opening the keynote address with a reminder of what unites all attendees: a deep desire to Change the F*ing World (take note of the newest acronym on the block: CTFW). He was joined on stage by Kavita Shukla of Fenugreen, Lauren Bush of FEED, and Taylor Conroy of Destroy Normal – three young social entrepreneurs making an impact.
One of the topics discussed was fundraising. Taylor’s advice: the most effective way to raise funds for your project is to reach out to people you personally know, ask for little (microgiving), show them the tangible impact of their gift, and finally, acknowledge them (a little recognition never hurts). Lauren’s FEED Project which has sold over half a million bags, providing 60 million meals in the process, perfectly illustrates the last two points: every FEEDbag features a printed number on it that indicates how many children are being fed by your purchase.

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Microfinance Duel: SKS’ Akula gives advice and admits Muhammad Yunus was right

I spent the past weekend at the great 13th Social Enterprise Conference at Harvard University (you can find my impression of the conference here). Of the two-day gathering, one moment was particularly interesting: ex-chairman of SKS Microfinance gave a humbling talk about failure during Saturday night’s networking reception.

Akula during the Social Enterprise Conference 2012  |  Photo cred: @RxFogarty  |  Check Rob’s beautiful work at www.dearworld.me

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Young Activists, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Rebel Leader Discuss What is Next for Arab Awakening

This post originally appeared on Wamda.com

The Arab World’s overdue awakening is now irreversible and unstoppable. This was the feeling that dominated the 5th Harvard Arab Weekend (HAW), which took place this weekend across Harvard University. Under the theme Arab (R)evolution: What’s Next?, the weekend brought together more than 600 participants in what is the largest pan-Arab conference in North America. In place of the usual royals and government figures, this year’s conference showcased opposition figures, rebel leaders, and young activists – in whose hands lies the future of the region.

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Atlas of Economic Complexity: Mapping Paths to Growth

It is finally out!*
Ricardo Hausmann and Cesar Hidalgo’s latest baby is out and is downloadable here.
The Atlas measures the diversity of productive knowledge of 128 countries, and determines their growth potential accordingly. The top 10 countries are *drum roll* (extract from the press release):

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Liberians Go to the Polls


Tomorrow morning Liberians go to the polls for the second time since the end of the civil war in 2003.

16 presidential candidates are running for the executive post. But the two main contenders are Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and William Tubman (both Harvard graduates). (eh, couldn’t resist plugging that in). Senatorial and legislative seats are also up for grabs in this election.

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Arab Youth Diaspora: Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom

Time Magazine Cover - Feb 2011

Last week the founders of Arab Development Initiative (@ADInitiative), a student initiative out of McGill, came and pitched their project at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
The idea is simple: connect Arab students among themselves at the Envision Arabia Summit and facilitate the creation of a network of youth interested in challenging development issues in the Arab world.

Another initiative specific to Egypt is happening later this year in Cambridge: Egypt NEGMA (@EgyptNegma). (Negma means “star” in Egyptian Arabic). This conference will bring together social entrepreneurs who would compete for seed funding to implement their project in Egypt.

And then of course there is the Harvard Arab Weekend happening in November across Harvard University (more on that one later!)

Whatever comes out of these initiatives, one thing is undeniable: after years of apathy, the revolution(s) have made us miss home and long for being part of the change.