How does love fit into the picture?
How does love fit into the picture? avatar

In the rich discussion about social entrepreneurship there is a key issue which I feel is many times left unmentioned or just vaguely stated: what is the role played by our spiritual being, our life force, in this field – on the social entrepreneur as well as on the rest of stakeholders, the rest of society. It is evident that a strong spiritual motivation is present in the mind and private sphere of most of these initiatives, but we do not seem to be able to put it on the table for discussion, to learn more about how it operates. We usually stay on the “means” field: processes, scale, measurable impact. We get trapped in the world of words, of rationality, and tend to ignore the side of the brain (what was it? the right side?) that Pedro Tarak mentioned in the closing panel of the World Leaders Forum in Buenos Aires that we should pay more attention to: the intuitive and creative side.

I was impressed by the BMW Foundation’s highlight, from the previous Mumbai forum, of Ghandi’s phrase: “be the change you want to see in the world”. This catches precisely what I mean: we speak about bringing about change, but how hard do we try ourselves and how well prepared are we to bring about change for others? Change in what? In the sphere of actions, I think there is no doubt: social enterprises have a huge potential to bring about practical improvements in the quality of life of millions. But is this the only level in which we ought to operate? Is this alone what will bring about profound and durable change, the kind of change that will help humanity take a more decisive leap forward in its evolution as a spiritual being? Maybe, but I wonder: I think humanity has always, always, had the means to solve basic issues like poverty. More so in the last centuries, when we have achieved impressive technological breakthroughs. But what we have never been able to do is to solve our insufficient capacity to sacrifice for others, to love others more, to forget more about ourselves, our egos. Our tools are more sophisticated now, but we use them in basically the same way. As I heard once from a friend: “the problem is in the hearts and minds of people”. Maybe it is time we try harder to learn about the link between these two spheres, “the hardware and the software”, the real spiritual intent of our actions, and its implications.

Some disciplines of science (for example neuroscience and quantum physics) have been telling us in the last decades that reality might just not be as we thought it was. Not even time and space appear as certainties any more. Science ends up using words that used to belong to the fields of philosophy or religion, at a time when we could be going through a new “Copernican revolution”, a change of paradigm, the center of which is how the human mind is affecting, and creating, reality, and how the outside is not different from the inside, but part of a whole, a unity. What implications does this have on social entrepreneurship? I think it should get us ecstatic: we really have the power to do whatever we can imagine. It is just a question of getting enough people to firmly believe in something for that something to become real. See if not how “real” was the impressive economic growth the world experienced for many years, and how “real” is now the crisis. And in between, what has “really” changed? “Real” was the immense power of now fallen dictators in the Middle East (as Hobbes said, “Ilusion of power is power”). What is the fortune of an unhappy millionaire “really” worth for him or her? In the end, we live in a world of perceptions. But are they our innate, deepest perceptions, or are we nothing but still blindfolded beings, disconnected from our own internal wisdom?

I used the word “love” in the title because I think it conveys the idea of forgetting about oneself. In fact, when one is in love, does one care about profit or personal gain? Scale? Measuring anything? I think not. On the contrary, one feels inspired to give, to give oneself and even all of one’s possessions. To act intuitively, free of the defined. It is known that in the history of humankind many people have done quite “crazy” things motivated by love. Crazy according to who’s standards? So what if we could bring some of that “crazy” motivation into social enterprise, and in fact into all of our human acts.

The first thing I can think of is in the uselessness of so much expenditure in the military, worldwide, but from the most evident we can then move on to the least and most difficult: what is the intimate motivation of my own acts? Am I doing the best I can, as a being that in the very end “will leave no more trace than a stone, thrown into a river, leaves on the surface of the water”? What is my purpose in life? What am I here to do? We tend to give our individual selves too much importance, when individuality might, after all, end up being nothing but an erroneous – or only a very partially valid – point of view.

I am under the impression that social entrepreneurs have the opportunity to bequeath to society, besides new ideas and business models, the legacy of a motivation for action based on the love for others; a motivation rooted in a profound existential meaning and purpose that can permeate to the leaders of the rest of the spheres of society – and from there to all.

Fill in the Blank
Fill in the Blank avatar

The Young Leaders Forum was about “social _________.”
a. inclusion
b. cohesion
c. innovation
d. collaboration
e. regeneration
f. entrepreneurship
g. responsibility
h. all of the above

In my first post I shared anxiety about being naive of policies and economics. However, after three days with talented and gracious participants, my anxiousness has subsided. It wasn’t due to receiving a crash course in economic theory, or a primer on Latin American policy (though some of the sessions came close). Rather, it was a realization that we had shared values expressed through a diverse set of skills, interests and experiences. This is a testament to the selection process of the folks at BMW Stiftung. They know how to throw a great party!*

During the forum I started jotting themes in no particular order:
- fair working conditions
- access to education
- access to healthcare
- eco-reciprocal development aka, sustainability
- empowerment and equality for women
- collaboration between sectors
- access to capital
- art and design as development
- clean water and food sources
- access to mobility
- inclusive business models
- entrepreneurship

I also began noting principles:
- access, not restrictions
- sufficiency, not poverty
- quality, not inferiority or cheapness
- options, not limits
- shared, not autonomous

To my more conservative friends, these might look like a call to socialism. But I attribute that to political rhetoric of our current events. Seeing inequities first-hand, and understanding the connectivity of the global marketplace, will broaden your perspective. In that spirit I’ve highlighted these concepts so that we can begin applying them to affect the aforementioned global themes. You might try them as filters or as springboards for new ideas.

On a final note, I’d like to emphasize the collaborative spirt of the Forum. I heard someone say, “this is not a battle between public sector and civil society,” and I might add to this “…nor commerce”.  The cooperation of these three bodies stands out to me as a key point of view. In the U.S. we are in a polarized gridlock because of a lack of partnership between these groups. The sentiment of the Forum makes the battle back home seem even more vulgar, but it also gives me hope and optimism as I reflect upon the inspiring work being done around the globe to improve this condition.

Thank you BMW Stiftung for the opportunity to share my thoughts during the Forum. It was a pleasure.

*BMW throws a great party too!

Once a rockstar
Once a rockstar avatar

By Gudrun Dometeit
You seldom get so many hugs and kisses, make so many appointments, arrangements on one day. The third World Young Leader Forum in Buenos Aires has ended and a lot of us said goodbye already. Some are heading for another country-tour, some for flying back home, others will just relax a little bit here in town from three days of very, very intensive discussions, socializing and communicating.
Being a participant of all three world meetings of the BMW-Foundation, I might compare: Every meeting had really its own specifics. On Hawaii in 2005 the focus was more on fun and teamworking , in Mumbai 2009 we concentrated vey much on the country itself which was exciting and exotic to most of us. Here in Buenos Aires I felt maybe for the first time a real intensification and deepening of relations, because I met so many people I got to know years ago. And it was also hard and concentrated work.
Although – a lot of topics we just touched and they might be even a bit disappointment among some of the presenters of social initiatives. On saturday for example I joined the workshop of “Gaia”, an organization, situated in Bogota, which helps indigenious people in the amazonas-region to administer and preserve their land. In order to preserve more parts of the rainforest “Gaia” would like to scale-up the protected area from 20 to 100 million hectares. What they need is: more funds, communication/PR and a real project management. We tried our best to give some ideas concerning a firm internal structure, a marketing-strategy and fund-raising but it could be just a beginning within the short time available.
What I really appreciated was to see a lot of Young leaders among the 200 participants coming from smaller countries like Slovenia or from the Middle East like Egypt and Libanon or Arab countries like Kuwait. To include open-minded young people especially from the Middle East in our network makes ever more sense looking at the tense situation in the region, especially in Egypt now. One of those Young Leaders is Amani Eltunsi, founder of a “Girls-Only-Radio-Station” in Kairo. During the forum she received frightening phone-calls from Egypt informing her about the new massive demonstrations in the capital. She took part in the demonstrations on the Tharir-Place from the beginning and wrote a book about it. She told me that she already as a young girl refused to wear a veil, and that she had been isolated for this.
Thanks a lot to Markus Hipp and his team to give us the chance to have all these different experiences!! And of course I am especially grateful that they helped me to realize my most secret dreams – to become a rockstar … yesterday evening in the Puesto Viejo Polo-Club …


Innovation in Health care and dancing into the night
By Shikha Sharma
A short bus ride in the morning took us to Universidad Catolica Argentina , the morning air was wonderfully fresh and invigorating …at the University sitting in a huge hall we heard the social collaborative efforts happening in Buenos Aires …..and post that we got an opportunity to play peer consultants to a company trying to bring innovation in the healthcare practice in Buenos Aires ….which was ….the right to dignified and loving death ..
In Buenos Aires the terminally ill and others who have a measured lifespan are taken to the hospital
In last 100 days of their life , where in the cold environment of the hospital room , surrounded by ticking gadgets and unknown faces they spend their last days .. This company is trying to bring the concept of staying home in the last days with the family and yet getting the best of the medical care by visiting Nurses  and Doctors .the Challenges they are facing are immense , firstly they provide this service completely free , so the entire cost of the service is being borne by the entrepreneurs themselves …..the patients love this service , the family is so happy that they offer small donations but the larger concept is still struggling to get the Goverment attention , despite the fact that the it Brings a Huge saving to public funds . Which are in any case at a precarious low ..
Our group had a good mix of Doctors and people in the Medical Industy , so many charts were made and plans were drawn up ……..
For the evening we donned our BMW  white T shirts and were off to watch Polo .
Polo we learnt had originated in India and brought by the British to Argentina . The eveing was spent in jiving away well into the midnight ……..There was a live professional rock band and surprise of the evening was ……well our very own BMW Forum Rock Band , our rock stars from the forum came complete with bandanas , masks and all , and I personally loved the improvised Guitars …..

Michael’s Walk
Michael’s Walk avatar

My fellows and I spent today with Chi Nguyen (also a YL) who is on the advisory board for Jane’s Walk. Jane’s Walk is a non-profit organization that honors the late urbanist, Jane Jacobs, and her legacy of considering the human experience in urban planning. Now in its third year after going global, Jane’s Walk helps organize free walking tours guided by passionate locals. The big idea is to connect people with their neighbors, neighborhoods and interests with the hope that this awareness brings transformation to the participants and the community.

As Jane’s Walk is more broadly adopted challenges have emerged: should the program be the same everywhere? How can technology be better utilized to further the mission? How can new revenue streams sustain the organization? We spent the better part of the day discussing the questions from a global perspective and then committed to follow-on work relevant to each participants expertise.

In the spirit of Jane’s Walk, and “on the street” observation, here are a few photos from neighborhoods I visited this week on “Michael’s Walk”. Can you identity them?

Missing avatar

By Gudrun Dometeit
Just a short notice after a day with excited and sometimes contraversary discussions: I missed again Anas Dharweesh from Damascus, who was supposed to introduce Shabab, an organization for youth employability in Syria. Unfortunately he didn’t get a visa for Argentina – among several other invited participants of the Forum. More than others he might have used our network, contacts and communication – if we look at the political situation in Syria these days!

Looking for an Excellent Investment?
Looking for an Excellent Investment? avatar

By Yasemin Sirali

Yesterday I held a Marketplace Session about how to “globalize” the Mother Child Education Foundation’s know-how. ACEV (, as we abbreviate in Turkish, is an Istanbul-based NGO that develops and implements face-to-face and distant-learning early childhood education and parent training programs for the socioeconomically disadvantaged, runs awareness raising campaigns and lobbies for stronger policies to enhance development opportunities in the early years of children. Albeit not being implied in the title, one of the important programs ACEV has developed is to support fathers, whose role as first educators of their children is just as important as that of mothers.

Why early childhood? Majority of brain development takes place in the first 60 months of an individual’s life making initial years the most formative ones. Proper stimulation in early years translates to better cognitive, social, emotional and physical development, higher academic aptitude and increased lifetime earnings. Therefore, investment in early years is a sound one for parents, philanthropists, development fund managers and governments: every dollar invested in this period returns to the economy as 7 dollars.  To make the most of this opportunity for providing fair chances and elimination of inequalities, James Heckman, Nobel laureate in economics, recommends revising the MDGs to focus on early childhood:

The aforementioned education programs of ACEV have been scientifically developed, evaluated for impact, and “exported” to 12 countries in Europe, Middle East and South America.  They have reached nearly 700.000 beneficiaries since 1993 and recognized through numerous awards by international development actors such as UNESCO and WISE Network of the Qatar Foundation. ACEV has also been contributing to research and advocacy on global platforms through partnerships forged with Harvard and Yale Universities.

As of the end of 2011, organizations from 18 additional countries had requested the programs and were in search of funding. Receiving requests is exciting but identifying the right partners who have the managerial, financial and training capacity to pilot and sustain the implementation of programs in countries other than Turkey is challenging. This leaves me with questions around whether to take a more proactive approach to expanding ACEV’s footprint, whom to transfer this knowledge to in different countries, and under what terms and conditions.

Joining the Marketplace were Isabel Costa, Omar Faruk, Yury Vybornov, Boris Hajos, Ulf Baecker, and Nicholas Hall who graciously offered their networks in the UK, Libya, Russia and Croatia for establishing sound partnerships and mobilizing funds. Ulf and Nick’s insights into the differencebetween globalization versus internationalization, need to develop organizational capacity to manage expansion, and a shift from reactive to proactive method of transferring know-how were also invaluable. Many thanks to all six of you!

Young Leaders interested in contributing to the cause or finding out more about ACEV are welcome to reach me at

Dialogue in the dark …..
Dialogue in the dark ….. avatar

By Shikha Sharma 

The day started on a promising note by a presentation on Argentina after the elections , Sergio Berensztein President of Poliarquia Consultations was refreshingly candid about the political affairs, ( Argentina definitely has right to free speech ! ) populism in Politics seems to be an age old practice and while the long term cost may not be cheerful , yet it seems to be the practice in Democracies the world over . Few in the audience felt that perhaps looking at the Political aspirations and people’s sentiments , perhaps it was a catch 22 situation . The session had several moments of spontaneous laughter( I guess politics touches a chord everywhere ) 
This was followed by the site visits . the site visits were fun and it was interesting to see how people come up with innovation under limitations both financial or otherwise . What the participants saw was jewelry made from buttons to , empowering youth through art , to call centers which employs people with mobility disabilities ……
My visit began with entering a pitch dark room , ( I couldn’t even see my hand right in front of my face ! ) we were led by a person with visual disability through a track leading us to experience the traffic , a boat ride , a cafeteria , and a sort of a jungle . The experience of our group is as follows – ‘I feel loss of control ‘ , ‘ I don’t fear death anymore ‘ , I am feeling suffocated ‘, I am feeling a sense of respect from the visually challenged . 
The experience helped us to “see ” a lot of things within us 
This experience is available through an exhibition called ” Dialogue in the Dark “ 
Which is showcasing in different countries .

No impresario any more
No impresario any more avatar

by Gudrun Dometeit
One word before I start describing what we have done on the second day of our World Young Leaders Forum in Buenos Aires: Although travelling a lot I have never been to South America before. If I am honest – I always preferred Asia, North America or any other place in the world. I am not an exception: Most of the other young leaders I was talking to also weren’t very much interested in the continent. But I am sure a lot of us will change their mind after this World Forum. And one of the reasons for this are the Argentinians we met here: Passionate in what they are doing, very (self)critical and always with a sense of humour towards the weaknesses of their country. Like Sergio Berensztein, an analyst from Buenos Aires, who gave us in the morning a very frank overview of Argentinas political system (“They lie about everything.” and “Corruption is part of the game.” )
Afterwards we started our on-site visits in Buenos Aires. I joined for a trip with Julian Massaldi, one of the founders of La Base, an organization which gives micro-loans to companies with a “democratic structure”. In fact they are supporting around 40 cooperatives, where decisions are made by assemblies. The money for the foundation is mainly coming from individual donations. We visited “MacBody”, one of the cooperatives, in a residential area in the northern part of the town. The company is producing clothes for children and once had 300 employees. In 2007 it went bancrupt, but 40 employees decided to continue, try to use the brand-name and to preserve the rest of the working-places. They went through another crisis in 2009 and had to cut the number of employees again. Now there are 22 people left – sewing and cutting in huge halls with posters of Christina Kirchner on the walls.
This sounds not like a real business-success-story but something else was interesting: The workers obviously enjoyed being entrepreneurs although nobody got a special training for it. “We don’t want an impresario any more, we don’t want to take orders from somebody else.” – these were the sentences we’ve heard. One said, that the self-managed way of working strengthened him as a human being. By the way: Everybody gets the same wage.
It’s an experiment and I am not sure if this will be a sustainable model. In order to make cooperatives like MacBody more competitive also in the future and more attractive for others we have been discussing different ideas: asking practioners to give management training, trying to initiate a long-term strategy, cooperating with universities etc.

Second Report from the Northwest Trip: Salta to Jujuy Province
Second Report from the Northwest Trip: Salta to Jujuy Province avatar

Second Report from the Northwest Trip

 by Nandani Lynton

Salta to Jujuy Province

San Salvador, the capital of Jujuy province, is a non-touristic town that gives a good view of local life in the Northwest. Like most towns we have seen it is built around a main square of trees and flowerbeds surrounding a hero’s statue, with the town hall on one side and the cathedral on the other. Narrow streets are lined with two and three storey buildings, some modern, many painted in different bright colours, and some in adobe. The sidewalks are full; people are out and about.

The street in San Salvador that houses the Fundacion Prosecto Ser clinic

Here we visited two NGOs. The first is Fundacion Prosecto Ser, which provides low cost health care. There is a free health system in Argentina but the waits at hospitals to see a doctor are long, often an entire day. The alternative is to visit a private doctor, but they in turn are expensive. So Prosecto Ser runs low cost clinics with doctors who volunteer their time. Patients pay the equivalent of €3 for an annual membership and then €1 to see a dentist, €3.50 to see a gynaecologist and so on. The clinic is small and clean. The income covers the costs of the clinic and (old) medical devices, which means that Prosecto Sec is self-sustaining.

A break for coffee to digest the NGO visits

The second NGO, ProYungas works to support biodiversity in the Yungas region in Salta and Jujuy provinces. In 2002 the Yungas, an area with various belts of forest, grasslands, lagoons and lakes, that are crucial as water reservoirs for local towns, was declared a UNESCO biosphere. Initially funded by the French foundation FFEM, ProYungas now has 3 offices and works to maintain the cultural and natural heritage of the region, especially focusing on biodiversity. This is tricky, as the agricultural industry, mostly soy or sugar plantations and logging, owns 80% of the land in the Yungas. The area has national, provincial, municipal, private, and other jurisdictions so the Foundation mediates between them and is proud of facilitating many cross-sector dialogues.

ProYungas’ motto is consensus over conflict, so they seek non-confrontative and non-militant methods, cooperating with other NGOs and local and indigenous communities.

The offices of ProYungas where we had an impressive presentation

ProYungas is financed through large international projects, through projects with companies such as Ledesma, a local sugar company, or multinationals such as Shell – that are related to the preservation of land and nature, and finally through local sponsorship for tiny projects. There is little government funding but recently there was some money allocated to protecting land. They are currently creating a product quality certification called Produktos Yungas, testifying to sustainable production of local textiles, honey, woods, and so on. Carrefour, for example, will be carrying firewood with this sustainability stamp. They are also working together with the European organizations Alliance and Planfinance that give microcredits to small producers. In addition, ProYungas publishes guides to biological and cultural diversity of the Yungas areas that are used in schools.

Other projects include mapping and managing the region spanning Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay. ProYungas also manages the Provincial Park Portrero de Yala where it researches, puts up signage, builds fences to keep cattle of the indigenous populations out of some areas and takes an educational program into the schools. The park has boars, ocelots, pumas and rich birdlife but most of the animals are hard to spot. Conservation is difficult to make sustainable, hence attempts at money generators like the Produktos Yungos sustainable production certificate. Such a project costs Pesos 500,000 (about €100,000) for three years. ProYungas is now working to establish co-operations with organizations in France and Brazil for the long-term management of protected areas.

We left the NGO visits impressed with their commitment to the local communities but wondering what their existence says about civil society or the lack of it in Argentina. With a per capita GDP over USD 14,000, Argentina is richer than Turkey and has natural resources so why don’t they finance the maintenance of their forests? Part of the answer from the NGOs is the need to develop awareness of sustainability and the value of their environmental riches among the general population and government. These are some issues we expect will be discussed at the Forum in the coming days in Buenos Aires.

The trip was completed with a dinner and cultural performance in Salta – dinner for many being the grilled steaks to which we have become accustomed accompanied by impressive Gaucho dancing and a band. We turned up for the flight to Buenos Aires and the Forum lacking sleep but definitely full of impressions and memories.

Nandani Lynton