This is a guest post by Nourish Alumnus, John-Paul Smith
C.S. Lewis notes in Mere Christianity, ¨When the most important things in our life happen we quite often do not know, at the moment, what is going on. It is often when one looks back that he realizes what has happened.¨
I didn’t know anything about social entrepreneurship before I attended the Nourish Summer Institute. I was a history major committed to pursuing public service in an old-fashioned way — by working with federally elected officials. I stumbled upon a post that a friend of a friend made in July on my college website inviting anyone to join her in Chapel Hill for the Institute in August. I responded with an interest in spending time in the southern part of heaven and a curiosity to learn more about an unfamiliar form of making a difference.
That doesn’t really matter to you, though. What matters to you is how Nourish might affect your life.
To start, imagine this:
Imagine being a twentysomething. You had a transformative experience as a college student. You found a group of friends you like, discovered a subject you love, maybe studied abroad, interned with a company, volunteered with a campaign, or conducted research with a favorite professor. Maybe you did all of them. Then you graduated. The first few months were amazing, then, slowly but surely, your world seemed to turn upside down. Your friends dispersed, your interest groups dissolved, and your life seemed to drift into foreign waters without much direction, which leads you to today.
Today you maintain your hunger to learn and lead. Your graduation speaker delivered a commencement speech no one should ever forget and you find yourself revisiting its transcript, maybe re-watching his or her speech online. The speaker asked you to be bold, to think different, to fight the good fight, to never give up, to put a dent in the world. There’s nothing else you’d rather do while supporting yourself and you have little doubt that you can. You’re just not sure how — and the commencement speaker didn’t exactly lay out a blueprint.
Originally, you thought the world was more clocklike than it is. You thought you could take it apart over a year or two and figure it out. You’re beginning to realize the world operates more like a cloud: it’s constantly moving, constantly evolving, understandable in one moment, elusive in another, many things to many people, and hardly paying attention to a thing you do. It makes you feel isolated. Like you’re lost in a haze and, perhaps, overlooked. Anxiety ensues. Your parents drive you crazy asking how the job search is going – and you’re starting to drive them crazy, especially if their house is once again your home. (Given that more than one-third of 25-29 year olds in the United States have moved back in with their parents, this is not unlikely.)
If you’re lucky and have a sense of direction, you may feel paralyzed by choice. You’re pulled between deciding to stay near home, make a difference locally, and save some money or to venture off, spread your wings, and explore a new place with the little money you have. You wonder if you should start a company, go to graduate school, relocate to the city nearby, to the coast across the country, to a different continent entirely, or maybe settle in with a company like Google or Goldman Sachs. All seem like good choices. But you wonder if any are the best choice. After all, this is your time to take a risk, to try something new.
Each option seems like it determines the rest of your life. Recognizing how volatile the world can be, you’re unsure which path to take or that any are as certain as they suggest. The more ambitious you are, the harder it is to commit to any of the current options. The less decisive you are, the more all of your dreams seem to slip away, slowly and painfully. Whatever the case, you wonder if school actually prepared you to succeed in the real world and you wonder if the world as it is actually wants you to live a significant life.
This story may not sound familiar to you as you finish school but it will. There are 50 million twentysomethings in the United States and the best bet is that many of them feel this way right now. What if they didn’t have to?
The famous screenwriter Robert McKee tells us that all great stories are told in conflict. They’re about characters who want something and overcome conflict to get it. This is true — especially for individuals who want to change the world. Real growth is not easy and no one avoids the discomfort of uncertainty. So there is that.
But a second and equally important point is that we emerge out of relationships. We become who we are largely in relationship to the people around us, the people they know, and the people they know. David Brooks echoes this in The Social Animal, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler in Connected, Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point, Daniel Goleman in Social Intelligence, Meg Jay in The Defining Decade, Tina Rosenberg in Join the Club, Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone and Charles Murray in Coming Apart. They all tell us pretty much the same thing: relationships matter. The Great Man Theory of history stands on weak ground. The reality is every story has a backstory, and every backstory is usually filled with a room full of people.
Nourish is a room full of people that changes your life and professional trajectory — if you allow it to.
I went into the Institute hardly knowing a person. I realize now that the choice to show up was one of the more important decisions I’ve ever made. I discovered a boss and mentor, future colleagues and friends, friend groups and roommates who are all nodes in the Nourish network and active participants in serving the public good wherever they are, however they do it.
It’s rare to be part of a peer group that gives itself permission to be bold and act different. That’s what you will find with Nourish — a social safety net and social launch pad with global reach and homespun warmth. I invite you to participate in the Nourish community and encourage you to stay actively engaged as you seek to fight a good fight and overcome conflict to put a dent in the world. We’re here for you. We will struggle with you. We won’t know where it leads but we’ll do our best and keep getting better. Wherever we end up, I hope it stuns us all.
– John-Paul Smith
Guest Post by Ohio State Nourish Alumnus Felipe Moreno
During the summer of 2010, I traveled to Peru with Nourish International in partnership with MOCHE. For 5 weeks, five other Ohio State students and I moved rocks, shoveled hard soil, and shaped rebar in order to build a water reservoir in Cerro Blanco, Peru. It was an immense undertaking to build the reservoir on the rocky hills of Cerro Blanco. I am proud to say that the reservoir now provides potable water to the people of Cerro Blanco. After my project with Nourish International, I left with a desire to work in international development in the future. In September of 2012, I began my service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay, an obscure South American country rarely visited by international tourists.
There most striking similarity that I have noticed between my experiences with Nourish International and Peace Corps Paraguay is an effort to include local residents in the development project. In Peru, our partner organization, MOCHE, Inc., included the residents of Cerro Blanco in every step of the project. The effort to get clean water in Cerro Blanco sprouted from a water committee that was started by a few residents in the 1990s. The idea existed but the community lacked resources and ways to acquire those resources. That is where MOCHE, Inc. and Nourish International found their role in Cerro Blanco.
My work with the Peace Corps is a little different but it includes grassroots efforts to solve environment problems in Tobati. I do environmental education in a few schools and have started a few gardens in those schools. In my work with schools, I try to not push my ideas on them but instead work with the teachers and administrators to decide where I’m most useful. With my youth group, I also let them decide what environmental problems we wanted to address. They chose trash so we did a few trash clean-ups. It isn’t the most glamorous project idea but it is what they want and what the community needs.
The inclusion of the local community is something that made my Nourish project successful and I try to practice the same thing here in Paraguay. Now in my final year of service, I look forward to working more closely with the local schools and youth to address their needs and build a more environment-friendly community.
– Felipe Moreno
Guest Post by UCLA Nourish Alumnus Amna Qamar
Life After Nourish? There is such a thing, y’all.
I was a member of Nourish at UCLA from 2008 to 2012 beginning as a general body member and graduating as Chapter Director. After graduation, I moved to Washington D.C. with the hopes of finding a job at a small non-profit implementing international development programs. In my mind, the perfect job would be to facilitate and implement the equivalent of Nourish’s summer projects. Instead I found myself working at the U.S. Office of Foreign Assistance Resources at the Department of State. The office is a joint State Department and USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) organization which manages funds used to finance both agencies’ foreign assistance programs. We help decide how slivers of the foreign assistance budget are spent and USAID missions and State Department bureau field offices implement the programs on the ground.
While the work I do on a daily basis does not resemble the work Nourish Chapters do, both organizations operate on the premise that well-designed aid is good. We see aid as a tool and a long-term investment. We recognize that if other countries and communities succeed, the United States succeeds. And we both believe that local organizations can be instrumental to deliver aid effectively. What stuck with me from Nourish may not be the same for every other member and I think that is the inherently remarkable thing about the organization–that it appeals to diverse interests and can lead its members to divergent paths. Do you want to pursue Nourish Project like work full time? Do you want to continue working in partnership with communities and implementing sustainable development programs? You can.
– Amna Qamar
Guest Post by University of Tennessee Nourish Alumnus Jen Smith
Social innovation refers to the creation of new ideas or strategies to solve a social problem. Social innovators or social entrepreneurs are individuals that work together to develop these innovative ideas and turn them into action. Nourish International engages students and empowers communities to make a lasting impact on extreme poverty and provides an avenue for students to learn from, reach out to and connect with an incredibly vast network of social innovators.
Nourish International served as the ideal induction into the world of social entrepreneurship and innovation for me. Prior to my experience with Nourish, I had never even heard of social innovation; I just wanted to make the world a better place. After my first Nourish Summer Institute, I discovered a community of like-minded students and professionals that supported and challenged each other. However, there was also a sense of urgency because we had work to do. I remember saying the Institute felt like going to Hogwarts: all those unique individuals in the same place not knowing what to expect but making magic happen.
So far, I have been to three Nourish Summer Institutes and each one seems to progress in awesomeness—from the events, to the speakers, to the goals set. My first Institute taught me about social innovation and introduced me to the Nourish community. At my second Institute, I learned about the StartingBloc Institute for Social Innovation and received encouragement and support to launch a small Ugandan jewelry sales Venture for my Chapter. My third Institute, I came back as a Nourish alumnus, StartingBloc Fellow, and small business owner because of the network that Nourish International introduced me to.
Nourish taught me that while innovation takes many forms and is made through a countless number of avenues, the network gained along the way is what makes amazing things happen. Nourish International, and particularly the Nourish Institute, unites students with an impressive collection of innovators, entrepreneurs, and various other ridiculous and crazy people to make nearly anything possible.
Here’s my challenge:
Reach out. Take advantage of the network. Go and make amazing things happen!
– Jen Smith
This month our blog series focuses on social entrepreneurship. We’ll discuss Nourish’s approach, Chapter Ventures, and the wider field.
At Nourish International, we believe in empowering students and communities to take action for sustainably ending poverty with the tools of education, intercultural understanding, business, and social enterprise. The tenants of social entrepreneurship are key components to our approach to Ventures and Projects. Learn more about our model here.
Today we ask our community, what does social entrepreneurship mean to you?
Nourish International Program Director, Sarah Miller Frazer says, “Social entrepreneurship uses market forces and business practices to create innovative solutions to societal problems.” Sarah believes that social enterprises can be for-profit, non-profit, or hybrid, but ultimately deliver results on a triple bottom line. Learn more about the Triple Bottom Line in this article from the Economist.
“Social entrepreneurs are mad scientists in the lab,” says Pamela Hartigan, director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University. “They’re harbingers of new ways of doing business (Forbes, 2013).”
Jennifer Smith, a Nourish alumnus from the University of Tennessee says, “Nourish taught me a new way to do business. Previously, I could not understand the personal benefit of running a non-profit, but I knew that the conventional capitalist business ethic was lacking something, as well. Nourish taught me how to form a business that aligns 100 percent with my values. I now know the basics of running a business, where I can benefit while employees, customers, the environment, and the world as a whole also benefit.”Drawing on her Nourish training and experience, Jennifer launched her own business: TradePrints selling handicrafts made by Grassroots Uganda.
Join the discussion! What does social entrepreneurship mean to you?
University of Texas, Hunger Lunch Venture
We love our alumni and are forever grateful for the contributions you make everyday. We are especially thankful for those members of the Rice’n Beans Club, the Alumni giving circle that gives $10 or more each month to support the Nourish Network.
Tommy and Sindhura Thekkekandam
Anna Marie Carr
We praise you for your amazing generosity and in this season of thankfulness would like to emphasize how grateful we are. You constantly support our organization as we work to give students the resources they need to change the world.
“I give to Nourish because I’ve seen first hand the change that students and communities can create together and I want to be a part of fostering more of that change.” – James Dillard
Last month, we learned how scary poverty can be. We learned how a terrible natural disaster can have devastating effects on impoverished areas across the world. However, we are proud of the entire Nourish community and all that we’ve done, and continue to do, to uplift communities living in poverty. It is the season of thankfulness and we would like to dedicate these next few posts to those in the Nourish community whom we are truly thankful for.
To our students— You go above and beyond everyday and dedicate your time to the Nourish mission and for that, we thank you.
To our International partners— Your connection to the community gives us the insight into all that we can do to help. We are thankful for your constant dedication and encouragement with our projects.
To our Board of Directors— Your wisdom, experience, and commitment gives us the support we need in order to fulfill our goals. For that, we thank you.
To our Dedicated Friends and Supporters— You give advice, donations, volunteer, and find any way to get involved to help nourish thrive, and for that we thank you.
In our world today 1.29 billion people live on less than $1.25, 884 million people lack access to clean water, 925 million people are malnourished, and 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. We are thankful for your help as we work to improve these statistics and create the possibility of a better world.
The holidays are approaching and we all know what that means: scurrying to buy all the right gifts, attending holiday parties, decorating the house and did we mention buying gifts? The holidays are the perfect time to give the very special gift of Nourish to your loved ones. Contributions equip communities with the tools they need to pull themselves out of poverty and shape students into lifelong leaders of change. In spirit of the holiday season, this month we will be featuring some of the generous individuals who decided to Give the Gift of Nourish.
Meet Kaitlin Gregg, a Nourish International Alumni Committee member and UC Davis Chapter Founder, and learn why she Gives the Gift of Nourish:
“I support Nourish International because Nourish has done so much for me personally! Nourish prepared me for a career in the nonprofit sector; every day in my job, I use the communications and management skills I gained while directing the Nourish chapter at UC Davis. Through Nourish, I learned how to lead a team in working to support a cause and developed valuable entrepreneurship skills. My involvement with Nourish is not only one of the most valuable experiences of my undergraduate career, but also one of the most memorable.
Nourish is providing leadership opportunities like these to students across the country. One student at a time, Nourish is effecting positive change. I support Nourish International because I believe in the Nourish movement and am excited to see it grow, one change-maker and one community at a time.”
Last month, we learned about some of the scary truths that people living in extreme poverty face every day. Whether it is a lack of clean water, food or shelter, issues like these remind us to be thankful of what we have and also motivate us to make an impact in the world. Those involved in Nourish have proven that they just can’t turn a blind eye to some of these frightening statistics.
With Thanksgiving coming up, we want to dedicate this month to those individuals and groups that we are thankful for: our partner organizations, students, alumni, supporters, board of directors and National Office team. We also want this series to be interactive. Nourish community, please comment on blog posts and give your thanks for the different members of the Nourish community!
This week we would like to thank our Alumni. These individuals continue to contribute back to our Chapters, current students and the Nourish movement. Their commitment to the Nourish community shines through at the Summer Institute every year, with 15+ Alumni mentors volunteering their time and bonding with current student leaders. Their support for the movement is evident through their financial support, whether it’s through the Rice’n’Beans giving circle or by hosting a Hunger Lunch with their friends. Their dedication is embodied by the Alumni Committee, a group of five alumni leaders who volunteer their time to lead the alumni community in supporting the movement.
We thank these individuals for their continued commitment to Nourish International. Students and general Nourish community, feel free to comment and say thank you to the Alumni Community!