A group of SECorps interns in Ecuador pose with a group of children in Pulingui, Ecuador during the 2014 SE Corps Program. In this photo, the interns were visiting a local school to collect data and information regarding access to clean water. Much of the work that intern groups focus on involves creating access to products and services for marginalized populations.
Photo: Camilo Maldonado

Yesterday was Election Day here in the United States so it seems an appropriate time to launch our November campaign around our core value of “Inclusivity”. As our followers know, in September we were excited to launch #ProjectEmpowerment, a social media campaign that highlights the core values that inspire our work at Social Entrepreneur Corps. Our core values shape the way that we approach empowerment in all aspects of our work. They guide everything from our internal team dynamics to how we engage with our collaborators to how we co-create social innovations with our community friends and partners. So, let’s get going today and share what Inclusivity means to us and why it is so critical to our view of social entrepreneurial success.

Inclusivity is both a means and an ends. On a big picture basis, democratic elections are symbolic of this. In a democracy each person in society is included in the process of choosing leadership, and by extension a stated governing philosophy, through “one person, one vote”. I say symbolic because in practice we all know that, due to Super PAC’s, corruption, voter suppression laws etc, our practice of democracy is not perfect. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” So, democracy is, at its heart, aspirational in the same way that the core values of Social Entrepreneurship Corps are aspirational. Democracy is imperfect and a work in progress, just like social entrepreneurship. Democracy aspires to have inclusive elections (the means) so that the laws that govern us are fair and just for both the majority and minority (the ends). And we know that, if we fail at building inclusive representation and rules, we can find ourselves going down the rabbit hole. The consequences of a lack of inclusivity are dire.

Claire Kaptinski (Duke University) an SECorps intern this past summer in Guatemala, double checks an eye-glass prescription of a client during a community access campaign. We believe everyone deserves access to quality eye care services and invite everyone to participate in our community well-being campaigns.
Photo: Elena Laswick

From a social entrepreneurship perspective, a clear goal (the end) is inclusivity. The premise behind the need for a social entrepreneurial approach is that the current system isn’t working. We work to create social innovations with and for marginalized, impoverished, and vulnerable populations who are currently being excluded in some way. By excluded I mean that they are not afforded access to dignified opportunities to become empowered to achieve their goals and aspirations. To be clear, this is not about managing outcomes. That is impossible. It is about co-creating systems and processes that create dignified opportunities that have, to date, been suboptimal or non-existent. What individuals and communities do with these opportunities is up to them, as it should be. However, no one can say with a straight face that children from low income families in many inner cities in the US have as dignified of an opportunity for educational success as their wealthy counterparts in the suburbs. This is not about fault-it is about facts. So are we going to try to do something about it or not? We say ‘let’s try’. Do low income women in rural India have access to dignified forms of credit for their businesses? Do autistic young adults have dignified opportunities for employment? Do rural Haitians have dignified opportunities to vision care? Inclusivity is about working with people who, through no fault of their own, are currently excluded in some way so that they can become more included in creating a better world for themselves, their families and their communities. And we would contend that this effort creates a better world for all of us! This is simple to say but as we know, really hard to do. We use a social entrepreneurial approach and simply do the best that we can with what we have.

Inclusivity is no less important as a means. Without being inclusive in our means we won’t have inclusive ends. This is critical in two key facets of our work; problem diagnosis and solutions design. As David Bornstein says “Social entrepreneurs identify resources where people only see problems. They view the villagers as the solution, not the passive beneficiary. They begin with the assumption of competence and unleash resources in the communities they’re serving.” As such, those affected by a problem/challenge must be 100% included in the diagnostic process. This

An SECorps student from the University of Maryland conducts stove surveys in the Dominican Republic, ensuring inclusivity of the poorest sectors in the survey.
Photo: Dan Malin

seems obvious but is one of the greatest failures we see in our field. We need to have a “co-diagnostic” process or we end up continually addressing only symptoms or the entirely wrong problem. It is this understanding that has driven so much of the human-centered design movement. This goes the same for the solution. Solutions must be co-designed to include all stakeholders in the creative process or they will surely fail. Moreover, this is not just about design but is just as important for implementation. Participation (inclusivity) fosters a sense of ownership. When people have been involved in the process of problem diagnosis and solution design they are much more likely to “own” the implementation because it is “theirs”. Two notes of caution here though. Inclusivity does not mean everyone is involved at all times in the decision making process. That is impractical, leads to “too many cooks”, and is paralyzing. Inclusivity should never be seen as a substitute for leadership. Leaders know when to build inclusivity into the process and when not to. But the overall process in and of itself must be based on fostering the most optimal amount of inclusivity as possible. And secondarily, we cannot confuse inclusivity with being overly deferential. By this I mean we have a tendency to be hands off and say “Only those affected should decide because I am an outsider”. Everyone adds value to the process. Don’t let a desire to be inclusive subvert your ability to add value. Social entrepreneurship is based on the idea that everyone brings something to the table and can be part of both the diagnostic and solutions team. There are many other ways that inclusivity is so critical when it comes to building sustainable partnerships and in scaling social innovations, however I will leave those for another day.

Intern Paul H. from Kennesaw State University attends students during a school vision campaign. Children are often excluded from access to dignified health care for financial reasons, making SECorps' work in schools especially impactful. Photo: Elena Laswick

Intern Paul H. from Kennesaw State University attends students during a school vision campaign. Children are often excluded from access to dignified health care for financial reasons, making SECorps’ work in schools especially impactful. Photo: Elena Laswick

To conclude, our goal is to co-build inclusivity where it is lacking and to do so in a way that is inclusive. And you don’t get one without the other. Here at Social Entrepreneur Corps we work with students and professional teams to do just this. We include participants in all phases of problem diagnosis. Participants work with our team to engage with community members to understand their needs, wants, limitations and opportunities. We work to get past real needs to felt wants. And we analyze the current systems to find out where the gaps and breakdowns might be that are creating a lack of access to dignified opportunities for inclusivity. In addition, we include participants in the solution design process. Participants work as consultants with everyone involved and are tasked with creating social innovation solutions (deliverables) upon departure. We then take those ideas as an organization and embed them in our work with communities moving forward. It is our goal at Social Entrepreneur Corps to include the leaders of tomorrow (our participants) in innovating inclusive social impact solutions based on intentional diagnosis. Through this, they learn how to become the types of leaders they aspire to be and help individuals, families and communities in Guatemala, Ecuador, The Dominican Republic and Nicaragua achieve their own dreams and aspirations. This is inclusivity squared!

If you are interested in participating in inclusive social entrepreneurship we would love to have you. Apply now and change your world while you change the world.