Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Brown Bag Reflection - Feminist Social Entrepreneurism

Yesterday’s Brown Bag’s (11/12/13) topic was about feminism and social entrepreneurism. The panelists included Viktor Mak ‘15, Caitie Barrett ‘14, and Ariel Sherry ’15 who all are involved with the Thought Into Action (TIA) program at Colgate.

Viktor Mak spoke about the initiative that he started called “Vern Clothing.” The organization sells products made within a particular region and markets them towards a larger international audience through a website. The products that are sold are by artisans (who tend to be women) and ten percent of the profits are donated back to education programs within that particular community. His start-up began when he went to Guatemala the summer after his first year at Colgate. While he was there he set-up a website and taught the local women how to sell their products to a larger international audience through the website. However, when he returned the following summer, he found that the website had been fairly neglected with a few structural problems within the site. Thus, during his second summer, he fixed the website and further established the legitimacy of the program. Check out the Vern Website!

Caitie Barrett shared with us her evolution of her idea and gave us some insight into the difficulties of implementing an idea. During her time in Kenya a few years ago, Caitie wanted to start a pen pal system with the girls in the orphanage she worked at and girls in the United States (specifically in central New York). She realized the value in getting to know people different from oneself which is often difficult to number reasons, most notably financial limitations. Thus, creating this pan pal system would allow girls to get to know each other personally without the burden of travel. However, Caitie ran into some difficulties with the administration within the Kenyan orphanage and a lack of support for the project. Thus, her project took a turn and now she is started “Hello From Here” which still tries to connect girls and young women from the United States and around the world (specifically Kenya). Although she hasn’t fully implemented her idea, the goal is to start Skype sessions in which students from Kenyan University will be able to communicate with students from the United States.

Ariel Sherry spoke about her idea to improve the general welfare of the elderly through a program called “Age Together.” With taking Professor Loe’s “Sociology of the Life Course” in conjunction with her desire to work with the elderly, Ariel realized that many communities within the United States, including Madison County, are not elder friendly. According to Professor Loe’s research many elders feel isolated and undervalued which contributes to a decrease in general welfare and life satisfaction. This is the problem Ariel is trying to solve though her start-up. Going forward she is going to assess communities on a continuum of how elder-friendly they are. Through interactions with the elders in that particular community, Ariel will then approach the community leaders and give them suggestions of programs that have worked in other communities to make it a more elder-friendly environment. She hopes that her programing will “make changes that promote positive aging and can even make it a more enticing place for people to live and grow old.”

Overall it was a very interesting Brown Bag that touched upon both the challenges and the benefits of social entrepreneurism.

Want to learn more about TIA? Visit their website!
Want to watch the Brown Bag? Watch it on YouTube!

- Michelle Van Veen ‘14

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