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Guest blogger Elyse Berkowitz is an intern with the Case Foundation.
Walt Disney famously said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” In communities around the world, social innovators and entrepreneurs are doing just that—dreaming big and transforming their communities by turning obstacles into opportunities through creative approaches. A couple weeks ago, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Georgetown University, and the Society for International Development hosted a panel on social entrepreneurship which highlighted the accomplishments of social innovators and entrepreneurs.
The program focused on harnessing entrepreneurship as a catalyst for reducing poverty in the developing world. The social innovators who spoke from Synergos’ Arab World Social Innovators Program were inspirational and provided refreshing insight to entrepreneurship and innovation.
One such innovator is Ezzat Naem Guindy, the son of a garbage collector and founder of the Spirit of Youth Association for Environmental Service, who told the moving story of his mission to change the world. In Cairo, the Zabaleen, a garbage collecting community of Egyptian Christians, are struggling to survive and improve their community. Trash collection isn’t a particularly thrilling job, but it is the only one available to these poor and marginalized residents of Cairo. Guindy is using the occupation as a platform for social change to promote recycling and provide informal education to younger members of the Zabaleen. At the Recycling School, his program is transforming the Zabaleen community through education and economic opportunity.
The Zabaleen are now faced with a new challenge threatening their livelihood: the Egyptian government has slaughtered the nation’s pigs in an effort to curtail the spread of H1N1. The pigs consumed organic waste and were vital to the trash recycling process. Guindy and the Zabaleen, with help from Synergos, an organization working to reduce global poverty, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are working to address this issue and save the community’s main source of income. Innovators and entrepreneurs like Guindy are working to address community needs through creative solutions world-wide.
Sonal Shah, director of the White House Office of Social Innovation, also spoke on the panel, urging social entrepreneurs to harness big ideas to make a difference. She encouraged local leaders to become social innovators and entrepreneurs by taking big steps and developing creative solutions.
At the Case Foundation, we are getting creative to address social challenges and promote philanthropy, civic engagement, and innovative ideas. Check out some of the projects we’re supporting. How do you plan to get creative?