Immersive journeys to help leaders make more impact in the world.

Journeys for Change blog

January 04th 2016 03:01

Journeys for Change announces Celia Hodson as new CEO

We are delighted to announce that Celia Hodson has been appointed CEO of Journeys for Change, effective from 4 January 2016.

Celia brings a wealth of experience of leading change, both strategic and operational as COO and CEO in medium size to multinational enterprise in the UK and Australia. Her previous roles include CEO of the School for Social Entrepreneurs Australia, Founder of The Eastern Enterprise Hub, Deputy Chief Executive at Social Enterprise UK, Chief Executive Officer at Cambridge Co-operative Development Agency and Chief Executive of Choose Suffolk. She has also held numerous board positions with UK based non-profits and social enterprises.

Celia says “My love affair with Journeys for Change started quite some time ago when I was a participant in one of the very early journeys to India. There were a couple of unexpected side effects that came out of the experience for me. One was that I was filled with a refreshed zeal for my working life, a sense of bravery and a feeling that I no longer wanted to sit back and let others ask the burning questions. Vivian Greene said ‘Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning how to dance in the rain.’

She goes on “But the biggest change was that following my first journey, not only did I set up a social enterprise in the UK but, seven years on, I return to Journeys for Change to take up this fabulous role as the new CEO and to lead its incredible team. How scary is that? Taking over where co-founders Richard and Pooja left off is no small ask, but I’m ready and up for the challenge. I’m committed to supporting a passionate community of established and aspiring leaders that have the skills, confidence and networks to build an inspiring alumni that together, will make a global impact.”

Celia is taking the helm from Richard Alderson, co-founder and Director, who is moving to a board role with the organisation.

Richard says: “I’m thrilled to welcome Celia as our new CEO. Not only does she bring outstanding leadership skills, but she also shares the values that we hold so dear at Journeys for Change – a belief in the power of bringing diverse leaders together, of experiential learning, and of challenging experiences in different contexts. She is the ideal person to take the work Pooja and I started to the next level, and to work with our remarkable team, alumni and hosts across the world.”

Pooja Warier, co-founder and advisor says “I am excited about Celia coming on board as CEO. I am confident that with her at the helm, Journeys for Change will continue to offer transformational experiences for individuals around the globe. Together with Richard, I look forward to working with her and taking the organisation to the next level.”

February 02nd 2014 23:02

An overview of impact incubators and accelerators in Brazil

Although 54% of Brazilians report having the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to start a new venture, 36% are afraid of failing. The fact is that one in every four new ventures does not survive beyond its first two years.

Now consider businesses involving innovation: in their products or services, in their processes, in their consumer markets, in their technology, in their supply chains or in their distribution. Not only do they face the same risks for overall business survival as a traditional business, they also face the challenge of entering or creating a market. This is the case with social ventures, wherein entrepreneurs are rethinking products and services in order to change social realities.

Given the challenges social entrepreneurs face, it has become common for them to seek the support of incubators and accelerators. To meet this high demand, many incubators and have become specialized in supporting social businesses. In Brazil, they are called impact incubators and impact accelerators.

Traditional business incubators and accelerators

Traditionally in Brazil, “incubation” refers to the support given by universities, the government and non-profits to early-stage companies. This support is given for their work in a niche market, on research and development and/or because they lack experience in business management.

Conversely, “accelerators” are related to the world of tech start-ups. Tech startups tend to need less research and fewer financial resources to get started, so the profile of accelerators is different. While many incubators are subsidized by the Brazilian government, accelerators tend to be for-profit companies running with the resources of private capital. Whereas incubators support ventures for one to three years, accelerators support ventures for around three months. And while incubation programs are usually free of cost for entrepreneurs, accelerators request interest or direct private equity.

Social business incubators and accelerators

Unlike the world of traditional business startups, in the world of social businesses, incubators and accelerators play very similar roles.

Many impact accelerators, although not focused on tech start-ups, have adopted the accelerator model in order to gain dynamism in growing social businesses. Like traditional accelerators, they look for scalable models that can grow very quickly, resulting in a much bigger social impact.

Also like traditional accelerators, they tend not to ask for business plans–a good idea can be enough. The most important thing is to take the idea to the market/community, get feedback and then go back to improve the business model. This bypasses the risk of spending several months working on a complex business plan based on false pre-conceptions which fails when it finally reaches the market.

In addition to developing ideas and models, impact accelerators also play the role of a traditional incubator by stimulating sector development. This requires some level of investment in recruitment and mobilization that the tech start-up accelerators usually do not need to spendas they are a part of an already existing market.

The impact incubators have also utilized typical elements of accelerators like the “mentorship” programs: working with renowned executives or entrepreneurs with market exposure, consultants and coaches.

The most common services offered by both impact incubators and accelerators are:

  • Evaluation of the business model: Analysis and reflection on whether the venture’s business model is making the best use of the market opportunities and whether it is ready to fulfill its potential.
  • Management support: Finances, accounting, legal, HR, marketing, fundraising, quality, etc.
  • Tech support: Ideation, design, prototyping, testing, etc.
  • Networks: Access to partners, people, proper supply chain, distributors, peer entrepreneurs and, mainly, investors.
  • Coaching & mentorship: Access to market experts through workshops; direct coaching with executives and successful entrepreneurs.

Besides supporting already existing social enterprises, Artemisia also is focused on training new social entrepreneurs through programs like Usina de Ideias.

This text was originally posted on the blog “Mercado de Impacto,”an initiative by Brazilians Cristina Yoshida and Guilherme Ralisch. Its purpose is to spread the word abou tsocial business and to help budding social entrepreneurs in undertaking their ideas in Brazil. Journeys for Change will visit Artemisia, a leading accelerator incubator on our trip to Brazil in May 2014. Join us!

December 06th 2013 00:12

Infusing Compassion with Technology—Rosie Walford on Jaipur Foot

Jaipur Foot provides provides free and affordable artificial limbs and other rehabilitation aids to amputees and disabled people. This enables the physical, economic, and social rehabilitation of physically challenged people living in poverty. Rosie Walford is a leadership coach, psychologist, branding expert, and journalist based out of New Zealand.
 
 
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A moving last visit
As we step through the gates of Jaipur Foot, I don’t know quite where to look. We’re surrounded by amputees, not in shiny wheelchairs, but at ground level on shortened legs, on crutches, or even being carried in by strong friends. In the shade of a tree, one man is re-bandaging the end of his thigh with a grubby rag. 
 
This hospital is not only our last visit on our Journey for Change, but the most moving. The very poor and handicapped turn up without appointment or prior consultation, knowing that they’ll be fitted with a prosthetic leg and foot (or a hand-driven wheelchair if a limb won’t work). One day later, those who hobbled in can literally walk out, absolutely free of charge.  
 
This year, an astounding twenty six thousand people were fitted with the Jaipur Foot – and each one cost just $45, instead of the usual $8,000. We meet with the founder, Shri DR Mehta, to find out how this life-changing care for the penniless can possibly work. 
 
 
A peculiar business model
Silver haired Mr. Mehta is surprisingly jovial in his Nehru jacket and Ronnie Barker specs. He waves a model foot around as he speaks. We grill him on his business model – why not ask beneficiaries to pay just 10% of the foot’s cost? Or why not charge those who can pay? 
 
Mehta explains that of India’s 10 million handicapped, the vast majority are the extremely poor – they are the ones who work down mines and travel between carriages on trains. They don’t have 40 cents, let along $4 to their name. Means testing would only raise tiny sums, and would compromise the powerful appeal of this place. As a totally free service, word has spread without publicity and the poor stream in from far and wide. 
And in 39 years, funding has never dried up. Guffawing at the words of consultants who called his model unsustainable, Mr Metha has discovered that as long as the care is free the proposition is pure, the call to compassion rings true, and private donations continue to flow. 
 
 
Affordable and effective design
I loved touring the limb-fitting labs, with their shelves of toes, foot shaped moulds, doll-pink thighs being sculpted, and at every opportunity, technicians who would roll up their trousers to show us their own prosthetic limbs. 
 
We saw how the Jaipur Foot can be so much cheaper than any other prosthetic. It’s hand assembled using expensive carbon fibre only where flexibility is most needed, around the toes. The leg material is – literally – gutter pipe, unbelievably strong and cheap. Though patient measurements are precise, the tailored moulding of each limb uses really low-tech plaster and cloth – materials you might find in a school art room. 
 
But that’s not to say the Jaipur Foot is crude. Mr Mehta partners both with Stanford (to design the self-lubricating Jaipur Knee, which replicates the natural joint’s many movements for $20) and with MIT (on the development of a low-cost hand). A cutting edge, hyper-technical gait analysis research facility opened this month. The enormous number of patients make this a world-class research lab for universities, at the same time as it’s a model of low-cost innovation.
 
 
Coming from far and wide
Stepping outside, Mr Mehta took us amongst the ranks of bedraggled new arrivals, who tell us they’ve come from the four corners of India, from Bangladesh and Pakistan. Seeing their extreme handicaps and meagre resources, it’s clearly a godsend that the hospital has overturned usual medical process so that it can complete the whole manufacture and fitting in one visit. Such journeys couldn’t be made twice. One man – a teacher before he lost his legs – spontaneously launched into a tear-jerking speech on behalf of all present. It ended by thanking Mr Mehta for ‘returning to us the glory of life’. 
 
We agreed afterwards that though fully funded by donations and grants, Jaipur Foot was nonetheless, astounding social innovation in action. It had brought about new technologies which made limbs available to the poorest in vast numbers; with process innovation, it had eliminated the need for separate consultation visits; there were self-funding collaborations of considerable mutuality with global research faculties; high-value employment for the handicapped had been created too. 
 
Closing the day with feast, dance, and drums
This would have been enough for a day, but the Journeys for Change team continued the stream of wonder. Hipster shopping-lovers from Offroad India led us on a speed-shopping tour of both stylish showrooms and everyday street markets, then, on a dim streetcorner, we were bundled into some rough open jeeps. We rumbled our way out of Jaipur then up and up through some unlit ruins to the imposing sandstone portal of Amber Fort. Though it’s closed at night, we were ushered through the ethereal courtyard and up to a quadrant in the ramparts, which was tented overhead and exquisitely lit with candles just for us. Cocktails in hand, we moved into a latticed marble hall which was built in the 1590’s by Rajput commanders, and ate an exceptionally delicious feast fit for a Rajput. 
 
Even this wasn’t the end. After dinner we trundled down from the fort and along a dusty track to a large white house. In a hidden vaulted room out the back, a troupe of musicians were waiting. They mixed the stirring wails of Sufi song with driving percussion and sinuous saxophone. Was it the trancey rhythm, the spiritual lineage of the singer, or the smell of rose petals scattered on the floor? Something got our entire group up and dancing ecstatically before our day was done. 
 
January 03rd 2013 07:01

Embracing the Complexities of Development

Eunice Poon works in product research and development with Epson Canada. She is also a part-time MBA student at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto, Canada, where she is majoring in non-profit management.
 
 
Entering a whole new world
Structured chaos – those were the two words that came to mind when I sat on the bus trying to sum up my experience of Dharavi, one of the biggest slums in Asia. Going into the tour, I was expecting to see a large group of people living in a state of chaos and anarchy within an unimaginably tight area. Instead, what I saw was a conglomerate of industries and a structured community hidden behind the narrow alleys and lines of sheet metal shanties. 
 
 
Seeing the unexpected
Walking down the streets of the commercial part of Dharavi, I was amazed by how many things were going on around me. On one end of the street sat a man whose job it is to crush plastic bottles into tiny pieces for recycling. A few blocks away was a pile of metal scraps waiting to be turned into auto parts. Further down the street, there was a shop with three men working on embroidery. The variety of micro industries seemed out-of-place in a slum, yet nonetheless, striking. 
 
 
Resilience vs. complacency
While at a plastic pellet manufacturing shop, we had a chance to talk to one of the workers who had migrated to Dharavi from a village ten years ago. He told us that he thought this was the best job for him considering his background. That triggered a thought in me. By building a city within a city, the residents of Dharavi have demonstrated their resilience. At the same time, it seems odd that what was supposed to be a temporary housing area has now turned into a permanent community. This experience has made me more aware of the complexity and the tension between development and re-development.
 
 
A self-sustaining model
At the end of our tour, we had the opportunity to visit Reality Gives, a non-profit run by the tour company, Reality Tours. There, we met residents of Dharavi whose lives had been touched by the Reality Group. I find it inspiring and encouraging that the founders have created a financially sustainable way to run the tours, while donating 80% of their profits to doing charitable work for the Dharavi community.
 
 
How this has changed me
I came back feeling tremendously grateful to have seen Dharavi from this lens. This experience has changed my understanding of what it is like to live in a slum and has given me a new sense of connectedness with the people of Dharavi. 
January 01st 2013 03:01

Fueled By Gratitude

Andrea Schubiner is a first year MBA student at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. There, she is an active member of the Net Impact Group, Emerging Markets Group, and the Dean’s Student Admissions Committee. Prior to business school, Andrea worked for L’Oreal as a marketing brand manager.
 
 
Not your typical New Years
Huddled around a campfire, staring up at a black starry sky, our cohort found ourselves ringing in the New Year in the most unique way. Far from the hustle and bustle of chaotic Mumbai, our group was deep in the mountains, camping out in the rural village of Purushwadi. Instead of indulging in the typical New Years Eve celebrations of nice dinners and fancy parties, we were warming up by a fire as a deep orange, almost full moon slowly rose overhead. We were listening to a one of a kind campfire story. It was the inspiring tale of Inir Pinheiro, founder of Grassroutes Journeys and our gracious host for the evening. 
 
 
Experiencing incredible generosity
Inir began his story by affirming the simple truth that people in developing countries are often incredibly welcoming to strangers and almost always ask for nothing in return. We had learned this reality all too well in the hours before when we were welcomed into the homes of three different villagers, all of whom cooked delicious feasts for us in their rustic one room homes. With little more than a few pots and pans and some clothing hanging in a corner, these families welcomed us with open arms to sit on their floors and eat the meals they’d cooked for us. We could barely speak with them due to the language barrier, and yet the families were so kind and heartening. 
 
Experiencing this generosity was a driving factor for Inir to begin Grassroutes Journeys and it was easy to understand why. In these villages where people have few possessions and work feverishly hard each day to provide food for their families, they are willing to welcome and help complete strangers. Such a humane and compassionate gesture has somehow become so foreign to us in more developed countries. It was completely humbling. 
 
 
 
A way to say thank you
As it has for Inir, this generosity has drawn me to enter the social sector. Being part of a social venture is the only way I can think of to somehow repay the millions of people out there who although I may not have met them yet, would offer me a seat in their house if I ever stumbled their way. Working for a social venture is my pay-it-forward attempt to thank the giving people who live in poverty each day. 
 
The difficult road to social impact
The road of finding a social impact solution that is successful is a long and difficult one. Inir shared with us the harsh truth that in order to make your dreams come true, you must make sacrifices. You may lose some things in your battle to succeed, and you will probably fail a few times along the way. You may even be your own biggest challenge by questioning yourself and holding yourself back. In addition, others may push you down. Despite these hardships, with determination, persistence, and strong motivation, your dreams can come true and your venture can become a reality. 
 
 
Sense of possibility
This truth made me appreciate even more everything that the founders of the social enterprises we have visited have put into their ventures in order for them to have an impact. It has been inspiring to understand not only what all these people have accomplished, but also what they have had to give up in order to get there. It is almost daunting how much risk and sacrifice must be taken in order to follow your dreams. Yet, as the fire raged on, the stars glistened overhead, and 2012 morphed into a new year, the promise of hope seemed to be all around as we sat in Purushwadi living Inir’s dream.  
 
A few hours later watching the sunrise above the mountains, this hope and inspiration felt even stronger than around the fire. As the blazing red ball crept out of the morning fog and let its rays shine across the lush valley, I felt the sense that anything is possible. I felt proud that our group of ten had set forth not to spend the typical New Years Eve partying in comfortable surroundings, but to be here in rural India dedicated to changing the world. As we sat and welcomed the first daylight of 2013, I couldn’t help but feel possibility, optimism, and assurance in the wind. We may have long paths ahead of us, but we are all certainly on the right journey to ensure change. 
 
 
 
December 31st 2012 06:12

Contrasts & Core Value Discovery

Mighael’s passion is to actively and constructively contribute to a better and balanced world that is able to provide all of its inhabitants with a satisfactory quality of life. He has a master’s degree in Sustainable Energy Technology from Delft University of Technology and is currently reading for a Masters in Management degree at London Business School.  

 

Tour from a local

After yesterday’s packed day with two company visits and loads of impressions, this day allowed for individual programs and reflection. With no planned activities in the morning, everybody could decide themselves what to do. After a nice evening with some drinks in a local bar, I decided to take it easy and have some extra sleep to overcome my jetlag. I was not the only one taking a relaxed morning and I was glad to see that I could join Manish at the breakfast table. He originally comes from Bangalore and was certainly the one to trust for a great tour around town.

A land of contrasts

Manish took five of us to the shopping area of Bangalore. The morning was relaxed and peaceful, but the early afternoon quickly became hectic and full of contrasts. As a true Indian, our fellow participant took us along all kinds of busy streets and exotic shops in a very fast pace. This being my first time outside of Europe, the number of new impressions is overwhelming. Cars and bikes are zigzagging over the streets, litter is being burnt next to a crossroad, and cows are eating trash like they just don’t care. The contrasts are just so big. First you are seeing beautiful fabrics, yaw dropping craftwork, and delicious foods. Then you see a little kid playing in the sand of the construction site where he is living because his father works there. And just when you think you start to understand the Indian life, you almost get run over by the cars, because green light for pedestrians apparently also means that all other traffic starts driving. This was certainly an impressive morning.

Discovering core values

After the morning it was time to join the rest of the group for the afternoon reflection session. The bus took us to the botanical garden, where many families spent their free Sunday afternoon. With the help of some yoga exercises and armed with a cloud of citronella, we were ready to explore our inner selves. We were discovering our core values on a shady grass field and used these values to find out what we liked and disliked about the two social enterprises we had visited the day before. I felt like a strange bunch of tourists, being photographed like a touristic attraction by locals and waved at by a passing class of school children. After concluding the session, we ended our day with a great dinner at a downtown restaurant and for some with some drinks at the bar. Afterwards, the hotel was waiting for us to prepare for a very short night’s sleep before we flew to Mumbai!

 
December 29th 2012 22:12

Eyes Wide Open

Erinne Browne is a second year MBA student at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. She has a background in organizational strategy and human resources and has worked with numerous social organisations including Habitat for Humanity.

 
 
Looking for my place in social enterprise
Upon the start of this journey, I knew that I wanted to work in the social enterprise sector but didn’t know where. I came not only to learn about innovation taking place in India to improve the livelihoods of individuals at the base of the pyramid; but also to see where I fit into this story of making a difference in poverty alleviation. During the kick-off of our journey, I was primed by the Journeys for Change team to approach this experience with an open mind and to be aware of moments in the journey when I felt inspired and energized. These, they told me, would give me hints for my future. 
 
Impressed by revenue & replicability
On our first day, we visited Industree Crafts and SELCO. Industree improves the livelihoods of rural artisans and other rural workers by distributing and marketing their products to the mass market. SELCO provides solar lighting systems to the poor, which gives them additional hours of productivity in their homes, to run their small businesses, and to further their education. I was inspired by the way these organizations are providing value to the poor while generating revenue. I was also impressed that their solutions are being replicated throughout India and in other regions worldwide. Entrepreneurs, governments, and NGOs are learning from and collaborating with the leaders of Industree and SELCO to leverage the unique insights of these impressive organisations.
 
 
Probing for success factors
The idea of scaling a business or replicating a business model is particularly interesting to me as I have seen so many great ideas from entrepreneurs fail to grow due to lack of resources, or grow with a diminished impact on the population they were meant to serve. What type of leader and team does it take to create an organization that can scale or replicate? To generate profits, help the poor, and serve the highest number of people?
 
 
Focus on slow growth
The leaders of both Industree and SELCO are focused on slow growth, which is contrary to what other companies that make a profit typically strive to do. Their strategy is to make change the right way, ensuring that their models work before pushing for additional revenue opportunities. 
 
Hints of a possible future
Approaching this journey like a sponge to soak in everything, seek more information, and reflect on my own reactions to what I see will make this a meaningful experience. I'm already becoming really interested in incubating market-based solutions for the poor, working across geographic boundaries to share solutions that are modified for the local culture, and collaborating across industries. I am learning a lot, not just about the social enterprise space, but also about myself as I hone in on the right career opportunities for me to use my skills and my MBA to contribute to society.
 
 
 
December 28th 2012 21:12

Consumer Data for Competitive Advantage

Bernice Wong is a 2014 MBA Candidate at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. Focused on scaling social enterprises through venture capital and strategic advisory, Bernice also has a passion for sustainable apparel.

Stepping into Bangalore 

It’s the end of day one and I feel as if I’ve just visited the house of the most gracious and engaging host. Bangalore has opened her doors to us and charmed us with her candor, dynamism, and incredible heart for people. I, for one, have been won over. One of key contributors to the day’s success has been the amazing social entrepreneurs that we have had the privilege to meet. Amidst a rainbow of natural fiber crafts at Mother Earth and surrounded by solar powered lamps at SELCO, we were inspired by the organizations’ missions, innovative business models, and stories of success.

Focus on the end consumer

While we covered the smorgasbord of social enterprise hot topics, including the role of systems-thinking, hybrid models, democratization of markets, and local vs. global solutions; one of the most striking findings for me was the social enterprises’ focus on the end-consumer. Visiting IndusTree/Mother Earth, I was incredibly impressed at the organization’s reverence for market dynamics. For an organization of $3M USD in sales last year, the understanding of the end-customer and alignment of the business to meet consumer needs was impressive.

Gone is the notion that social businesses push products into the market with their fingers crossed, hoping that someone will purchase. Successful social enterprises, much like their corporate counterparts, employ sophisticated and rigorous market-analytics to drive their businesses.

Empowering social enterprises through market data

This learning reminded me of the incredible power that we hold as consumers. Through our purchase choices, we signal to the market how valuable a product is. We determine the market value of a company’s social mission. Like many, I would say that I would happily support more socially responsible businesses. However, my purchases don’t always reflect this. Why? I have a whole host of reasons. The product didn’t quite fit my needs or style or, the list goes on. In the past, the story would end there. However, after seeing the use of consumer data at IndusTree, I would like to propose an alternative. Let us share our preferences and feedback with those organizations that we would like to support. Let us empower social enterprises with valuable market data so that they can be more competitive.

So, the next time you turn away a product despite wanting to support its mission, why not send a note to the organization telling them how they could better meet your needs. This is not a guarantee that change will happen. In my experience working in the consumer products space and based on our learning from the social entrepreneurs today, however, consumer data is an invaluable source of competitive advantage. Let us be active and engaged consumers. Let us use not only our dollars but our data to empower social enterprises and equip them to succeed!

December 28th 2012 14:12

Ready to Launch

Luzerne McAlister is a first year student at NYU Stern School of Business. There he is a Consortium Fellow and scholarship recipient. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania—Wharton and worked for the past six years at Accenture.
 
 
Excited to explore a new definition of business success
During the first two weeks of the semester, the first year MBA candidates at NYU Stern go through an experience called “Launch.” This includes many events and activities that help us learn about and engage one another, as well as opportunities to hear from phenomenal speakers about, well…the world. Throughout these two weeks, one of the major themes I heard was the idea that due to recent historical events in business that threw the world into states of panic and uncertainty, as well as the global realization that more than ever we cannot think in silos, the world of business is adding another level of complexity to the question, “What is business success?” The response: A successful business should not only do well, it should also do good.
This simple phrase of doing well by doing good has stuck with me. It is a far departure from my undergraduate business school days a mere seven years ago, where the criteria for success was squarely placed on bottom line results that only benefitted shareholders; the method for achieving that success was based purely on competitive action. Now, as MBA students, we are challenged to understand the complexity of every action, to consider not just shareholders, but also all other stakeholders, and to figure out ways to collaborate with others in order to not only compete better, but also provide true value in the world. So how the heck do you do that? That is my question. That is why I’m here...well, it’s one of the reasons!
 
 
 
Preparing to enter a complex land
Once upon a time in a far, far away place, there existed the mystical land of India….Ok, so it’s not once upon a time, and for me it’s only two plane rides away, and I actually know a lot of people who are from or still live here, but for me India is one the most far, far away lands that I could think of both physically and otherwise. Already within the last three or four days prior to arrival I went through a period of hesitation, preparation, and then excited anticipation about my upcoming trip. The reason for this is, because upon mention that I would be traveling to India everyone and their mothers had something to offer about what I might encounter – and the advice had a polarizing effect.
“There’s a lot of dust, it’s so crowded, you can’t drink the water, and you will experience bowel moments like never before, BUT I love India and I’m so excited for you.” Wait, what?! “Be sure to get all of your injections, medications, and if you’re in crowded areas guard your belongings against pickpockets, BUT you are going to have a blast.” Huh?! I know India is a place that has so many infrastructure issues, and that even those visiting briefly can find it to be a challenge. Yet, at the same time, India is the most culturally diverse country in the world—with beautiful landscapes and architecture, a rich history going back many of thousands of years B.C., and a people that seem to have a very helpful and friendly disposition. So naturally, I felt a sense of hesitation given all of the warnings, and I did my best to prepare physically and otherwise; but now that I’m here, and I cannot wait to see where this experience takes me.
 
 
Landing with purpose
I have carved out a mantra for myself that helps me define every action or decision I am taking over my two years as an MBA student. It is “Exploration, Inspiration, Learning, and Impact.” As my flight descended down towards the Bangalore airport, I took the opportunity to reflect on what the heck was about to happen and I just smiled, because I knew that I was doing what I set out to do – seek change and be changed. And so while I am dead tired from my plane ride and really ready for a nap, I am also so very excited to get out and explore India, to meet the other student participants whose brilliant bios have already humbled me, to meet the staff who have dedicated their lives to showing people how to do both good and well, and to learn and be inspired by those who are currently doing just that. 
 
 
December 05th 2012 13:12

Achieving Scale While Retaining Your Value System—Jeremy Higgs on Jaipur Rugs

One of the leading manufacturers of handmade carpets, Jaipur Rugs is changing the carpeting industry from one that’s exploitative to one that improves the lives of its weavers. All this while providing the highest quality products.
Jeremy Higgs is Executive Officer at the Network of Organisations Working for People with Disabilities, Pakistan (NOWPDP). His experience spans from renewable energy to serving as President of the Pakistan chapter of AIESEC
 
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Stories from the founder
I arrived late to the journey and was thrown right into our field visit to Jaipur Rugs — the largest exporter in India of hand-knotted rugs. On the 2-hour journey to one of the villages that Jaipur Rugs works in, we were given an introduction to the work of Jaipur Rugs, and then had the unique opportunity to hear from the founder, NK Chaudhary, about his 30-year journey of building the organisation. It all started with his realisation that carpet weavers were being exploited by the traditional system.
 
 
Inspiring artisans
In our visit we gained exposure to the amazing work of the organisation. This included meeting artisans and quality supervisors that have been able to refine their craft and increase and stablise their income.  
 
 
Two key takeaways
What struck me about the organisation was two things.
Firstly, despite being primarily a for-profit organisation (with an India-based for-profit, US-based for-profit and an India-based non-profit), Jaipur Rugs has focused on providing better opportunities, income, and work for carpet weavers, using a business approach. Coming from a development sector perspective, it's inspiring to see businesses that so effectively merge social impact with their work, and do so at massive scale.
 
 
Secondly, the organisation, as it has grown, has faced challenges in instilling the founder's values into employees, as well as finding new, passionate staff to meet its growing needs. It was clear that in a small organisation, where each employee is able to interact with the founder and visionary, this is relatively easy. When an organisation reaches the size of Jaipur Rugs (350 people), and is looking at succession planning, this becomes more difficult.
 
 
I will never forget meeting such an inspiring social entrepreneur and seeing such incredible work at scale.