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Be more social

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The time is certainly right in T&T for us to be MORE social. According to the Social Progress Index Report 2017, social progress is defined as the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives and create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential.

The Social Progress Index measures 50 indicators of social and environmental outcomes to create a clearer picture of what life is really like for everyday people. The index divides the indicators across three broad dimensions of social progress: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing and Opportunity.

Elements of the Social Progress Index are marked with a blue dot where the country performs comparatively well, a red dot where it performs relatively poorly, a yellow dot where its performance is average for its peer group and a grey dot when there isn’t sufficient data to make a judgment.

According to this report, under the Basic Human Needs dimension, T&T had red dots in the sub-sections of Nutrition and Basic Medical Care, Undernourishment, Water and Sanitation, Shelter and Personal Safety. Under the dimension of Foundations of Wellbeing, the red dots appeared in the sub-sections of Health and Wellness and Environmental Quality. Opportunity dimension had the red dot associated with sub-sections of Personal Rights, Personal Freedom and Choice and Access to Advanced Education. What were the positives? The yellow dot appeared in the dimension of Opportunity associated with the sub-section of Tolerance and Inclusion.

This report presents a gloomy picture of life in T&T. However, the data is positive in that it indicates the time is right for us to be MORE social. There is a cry at this time for MORE entrepreneurial approaches to social problems. The time is NOW for us to be MORE social as social entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs are needed to develop new models for our country if we are to improve the quality of lives for our citizens.

We have always had social entrepreneurs in T&T. However, the new name is important in that it implies a blurring of sector boundaries. In addition to innovative not-for-profit ventures, social entrepreneurship can include social purpose business ventures, and hybrid organisations mixing not-for-profit and for-profit elements, such as homeless shelters that start businesses to train and employ their residents. The new language helps to broaden the playing field. Social entrepreneurs look for the most effective methods of serving their social missions.

If we look closer within our country, I am sure we can recognise our social entrepreneurs. For instance, there is The Butterfly Project founded by the visionary leader Asiya Mohammed. I had the opportunity to interview her (one of many social entrepreneurs in our country) in 2015 on her work to help improve the lives of domestic violence and sexually abused victims. Her project was born from her travels in Africa and seeing the potential of women employment through teaching them a skill. She has always been fascinated by jewelry and art, whether collecting street art in South Africa, purchasing paintings of Arabic calligraphy in Egypt, or buying wooden jewelry in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In 2014, she founded the Butterfly Project, which sells jewelry and art, all designed and hand-crafted by survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Each piece is sold with the survivor’s anonymous story and a portion of proceeds is used to provide her with a monthly income and free retraining. Through a battery of volunteer lawyers, the project also offers legal aid advise to women who are victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Three jewelry lines have been launched thus far from the work of the women. Asiya has found ways to commercialise the jewelry and art. Whether or not the jewelry or art is sold, she absorbs the risk of the project by paying cash to the women. She has been invited to export the model to Africa and other countries.

Do we have more social entrepreneurs tacking different social problems facing our country? I am sure we do. However, it is my view that we need MORE social entrepreneurs if we are to provide a better quality of live for this present generation and for our future generation.

Let us be MORE social – it’s definitely good!

Nirmala Maharaj is a doctoral candidate at the UWI-Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business. Her research is in social entrepreneurship. Contact her at 689-6539 or e-mail [email protected]


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