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Social Innovation: A New Look At Empowering Those Who Need It Most.

Social empowerment is possible.

Photo of Emerimana Daniel Christian
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“When it comes to making bags, I consider myself as a creative designer and all this is because of the interest and the love I have for my job. In addition to that I have been taught how—so loving my job is what enables me to be a creative designer.”

While many people have developed negative understanding that there are unsolvable problems; but I don’t think so. The only problem that cannot be solved; is the problem that does not exist. The first step to the solution is to identify the problem. Once the problem is identified; many possible solutions appears. With the initiative of participating in this current challenge, I had a chance to watch New Heroes Video by (https://www.youtube.com/watch?). From this video, I realized that all social problems that face the world today can be solved only by improving creativity in our thinking, innovating positive ideas and believing in human prospective. The problem is that some people and ideologies maintain the position that poor societies have to rely on their governments’ help or wait for humanitarian institutions to come to their rescue. I strongly agree with Redford in the New Heroes Video that there is no need to wait for the government and great international institutions to help poor people, instead; we need to come together and believe in the power of the human potential to help make the world a better place to live.

Every human being is gifted with potentials that can help in improving his or her life. Some people do recognize their potential and are able to use it to various levels. Some use it to the fullest but others only use the small piece of it because of various barriers. In a small research that I conducted in my community on the matter, I met one lady that has been able to use the least of her potential. Her name is Annonciata Mukangarambe. She is a refugee. In a short interview with her she revealed to me that she is a small tailor who is able to provide for seven family members. With her sewing machine, she makes bags that she sells and get money to pay school fees for her five children in a good private school and responds to all their basic needs such as clothing, food and medication. Sometimes customers decrease and the money becomes a problem. In such cases she borrow some money from the neighbors, buy clothing materials that she sells back to customers. She uses then the little gained profit to support family needs. She likes her job but for her, her dream is not yet attained, her wish is to be a self-reliable woman by owning a sewing room with modern sewing machines, with a cloth material shop, and sewing class so that she can teach other women to learn tailoring. And also she desires to have a big market for her products.

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(On the first picture Annonciata is doing a final touch to her bags, on the second picture, she is in a complete design of African Kitenge and a bag from the same material)

Annonciata is one example from many women and men in marginalized societies that are struggling to make a difference. Marginalization is the main obstacle to their prosperity. This means that they are not able to make any difference all alone; they need support to transform their positive ideas into reality. Try to imagine with me how Annonciata could have developed in her career, if she could have been able to attend a cloth design school? The idea of believing in the human potential clarifies the fact that we need the help from all kinds of people in our communities so that we can be successful entrepreneurs. In other words, I would argue that we can use the power of communities to financially empower those who need it most but not only giving them access to funds; but most importantly by helping them with the knowledge of creating generating activities.

Another point is that people need to learn from their experiences or what they witnessed; because this is part of the facts that enabled New Heroes to create businesses which changed the lives of many people. On my side, as I do some self-reflection on how to change my community using my life experiences, one question that comes again and again in my mind is: “Do I have experiences that would help me to be a successful change agent in my community?” The answer is yes. In fact, my life has been a needed assessment that I had to pass through. With my enduring, like Kailash in New Heroes who thought that It was difficult for some communities to be changed by themselves. All I learned was that I could not change my history of endurance all alone, that is why I had to make a good use of (and appreciate) any opportunity from people with a good heart around me. I cannot imagine how my life could have been be today without them. As one of the guys in the New Heroes Video who points out that: “I was one of the change but I didn’t know how.” The kindness of my environment surrounding towards me—really helped me to realize that being kind to others is one of the most precious things that a person should have. The same way, among those communities who need it most, I believe that there are some community members who are the change but they don’t know where to start. That is why I strongly argue that there is a big need to empower people in poor communities, in, at least, making them be aware of their potentials and helping them be able to change their communities.

In closing, I would argue that the power of the communities can be used to empower those who need it most by teaching them how to be creative and designer thinkers; and as well as engaging them to do things that help them to be financially stable. According to Annociata, even if she doesn’t consider herself as a successful person—due to her daily life’s challenges as a refugee; but at least she has skills which can help her to start a new life everywhere she can go. In other words, it is realistic to argue that people need to be taught on how to be self-helper. This doesn’t acquire someone to have a degree level in a certain field of study. The reality is that we are all design thinkers but the problem is that we are unaware of such reality. Annociata argues that: “When it comes to making bags, I consider myself as a creative designer and all this is because of the interest and the love I have for my job. In addition to that I have been taught how—so loving my job is what enables to be a creative designer.”

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Photo of Shane Zhao

Inspiring reflections Emerimana! Your point about helping people realize their full potential has definitely been an important part of the discussions around financial empowerment. We're curious to learn more about the story of Annonciata in your post. How might your community help her attain her dream of owning a sewing room and become a financially independent woman? Are there any community programs or financial services in the community to help entrepreneurs like Annonciata take the next step?

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Also here's a helpful Tip: to activate links in your post, hit the Edit Contribution button at the top of your post . Scroll down to your Full Description field. Select the text you'd like to link, hit the link icon in the Rich Text Editor at the top of this field and enter your link. That way everyone will be able to check it out easily, straight from your post.

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Photo of Emerimana Daniel Christian

In a discussion with her today she revealed to me that she is a member of a saving group called: “SANDUKU YA NYUMBANI.” Literary translated as “home bank”. It is a group of 15 people (13 women and 2 men). According to annociata, this group came to being after realizing how difficult it was—for her together with her colleague—to get her children to a good school. Then they came up with an idea of homebanking system whereby the minimum amount of money that one saves is 500 kenya shillings equivalent to $ 5.4197 per month. One can save the amount of money she can afford to and after when a member get a problem that needs money she ask for a loan from the savings. For example if you have saved 10.000ksh (or $108.39) with them, you are eligible to have a loan of the double of your savings which means that you are entitled to take 20.000ksh or $216.78.
Contary to other communities, kakuma refugee community seems to have less power when it comes to empower those who need it most. This is because of the income generating activities which are very limited and as well as the market which is not large. Annociata mentioned that she has been trying to save so that she can own a sewing room but with the family that she has to provide for; she is loosing hope on reaching my dream. “For me to be financially independent; I need a sewing room with a modern sewing machines and with my savings in the homebanking; I cannot get the loan that will enable me to buy even a single modern sewing machine.” She said. According to Annociata, apart from SANDUKU YA NYUMBANI or homebanking; there is no any other community program or financial services in the community to help entrepreneurs like her take her to the next step.

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