Breaking Borders

Our class discussion today centered around the topic of social change initiatives within different business models. Within a social entrepreneurship, there is a mission for long-term sustainable change, while companies with corporate social responsibility (CSR) make short-term initiatives to see development within a target community. Ethics have a role in how a proactive leader in a company takes on these initiatives, looking at the value chain of an organization and its fair practices through the supply chain, such as employment and distribution. I found this topic to be very interesting as we could apply it to our site visit at Everyday Café, as it was a social enterprise looking to make Homewood a community that feels like a neighborhood. Another interesting piece was based on Porter’s thesis that companies should transition from CSR2 to CSR3, or shared value, meaning a company needs to partner with the government and other non-profit organization in order to really see an impact and gain a reputation.


Then we had a visit from Dr. Eliada Griffin, who was actually a Pitt alum that had a lot to say about social entrepreneurship. She has a focus on South Africa, as she saw how even though people were not risk takers originally, it then increased as people were proactive and restless with the government. She highlighted how there was a need in social enterprises for transformative systemic change as there needs to be a restructuring in order to make a sustainable impact. There is a bigger picture than just social change, even looking at a fair value chain, and how there is never really a point when you meet the definition, but rather an opportunity to keep pushing the boundaries for a greater core of social, environmental, and more positive change.

She then shifted the conversation towards poverty. At first, I pictured poverty in a very narrow sense, looking at the economic conditions. Yet, what I realized today, was that poverty covers a widespread scale. It could mean less community, a limited amount of education and resources, poor living conditions, disparity, an absence of basic human needs, a powerless feeling, and unfreedoms from an environment that inhibits one’s fullest potential. This also made me look at freedoms and the reality of unfreedoms in a new way, as it can be anything from political freedoms, social opportunities, or even protective security. This led to the question, “how can we be innovative to make a systemic change?” which was a new way to look at innovation, too. I always feel like I am not a creative enough person to take on innovation, but realizing that innovation can be as simple as changing your mindset and restructuring your life, makes me realize how powerful this concept really is.

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She brought in some interesting examples of how social enterprises around the world are taking a restructuring approach in order to make transformative systemic change. For example, in South Africa, 18 Gangster Museum is a museum focussed on the transition of people into gangs on the route to jail. The museum also exhibits the opposite path, of one taking the high road. By having this site as a tourist destination, it is also a reminder for youth in the area of the choice they have to avoid a destructive life and form a positive community. The unfreedom of inner loneliness is a direct tie to why someone would feel compelled to join a gang, but educating on how a community can be achieved elsewhere is important and effective means for making change.

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Changing gears, our next guest speaker spoke about career development as we prepare for our trip to Ireland and work collaboratively on our final project. The main point I learned from the talk was about the importance of transferable skills. In terms of communication, the United States is a very low context culture, meaning we are explicit in what we say. Yet, when traveling to Ireland, there are more implicit contexts that will need to be understood, despite the fact that they speak English. We were reminded why this blog is so important as further our careers and resumes, but it also allows for us to channel our communication and other skills, as it doesn’t just include speaking and listening. Looking at my strengths, I also know myself to be restorative, or a problem solver, which means the transferable skills of things like communication and flexibility will be key to helping develop my strength.

Finally, Dr. Ray Jones joined us for an investigation into our personalities, using a True Colors Test. Personally, I was labeled “gold,” which implies that I am an organized planner. This helped us understand each other’s personalities, especially with examples from celebrities, in order to understand how we may work together in a group setting and even how to be innovative in social entrepreneurship. For example, while gold and orange colors may often show conflicting personas, they can actually form a very productive team with a responsible and competitive combination. In fact, my top two colors were gold and orange, which I can use to my advantage to make a transformative difference in my community. The orange in me is driven to make change, just like a social entrepreneur would seek to do, showing potential to work alongside my organization skills of gold to get things done. As we begin our research papers, it was recommended to always have a point person that can be in charge of a specific part of a project so that it can stay on-track and efficient, too.

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Overall, I found today’s speakers to be very inspiring as we uncover ways to make an impact on our complex environment and I hope I can continue to use these skills and advice as we work on our projects and venture to another part of the world.