By Allie Wilkerson, 2018 MBA Candidate, Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business
“Give a man a fish; you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; you feed him for life.” After attending Lunch and Learn on October 19th with REBUILD Globally, one student used this familiar quote to summarize the organization’s model.
REBUILD Globally was founded by Julie Colombino and is a nonprofit organization fighting poverty through education and job training. Additionally, it has recently expanded its work to assist the refugees entering Haiti from the Dominican Republic. Isabel Walker, who shared with us at the Lunch and Learn, is a 2015 Crummer MBA graduate and now the Communications Manager at REBUILD Globally.
From its inception, REBUILD Globally has sought to rethink charity and disaster relief. Isabel shared that in many ways Haiti has become the catch-all for North America’s used goods, an effect that began with good intentions. However, this has contributed to crippling Haiti’s economy and keeping people in poverty. REBUILD Globally attempts to rethink this issue in three main ways: focusing on sustainable nonprofit models, empowering communities through employment, and giving the power of change back to the local communities.
One essential piece of its model is Deux Mains, an ethical fashion company. This company produces sandals, handbags, and jewelry. Haitians are given the opportunity to participate in paid job training where they learn to craft these items and then are able to find employment within the company. Through this program, individuals are able to earn a living wage bi-weekly which enables them to save, plan for the future, and send their children to school. Deux Mains was established as a Haitian entity, allowing its employees to participate in government programs such as health care and retirement benefits as well. In addition to employing impoverished Haitians, Deux Mains utilizes sustainable materials, primarily locally sourced leather and rubber tire found in plenty along the streets of Haiti. The designs are also very fashionable, in particular a pair of sandals designed by Kenneth Cole. The famous designer was so inspired by his tour of Deux Mains’ workshop that he sat down and sketched the shoe then and there. Overall, social enterprises like Deux Mains aim to offer responsible long term solutions to the challenge of poverty.
In addition to informing us about the work of REBUILD Globally, Isabel presented the group with several tips for leading change in our community. First, she reminded us that you don’t have be to a “social entrepreneur” to be a leader. Just as every movement needs a leader, every leader needs followers to actually get the movement off the ground. By being passionate and willing to contribute, you can be a part of creating change without having to found a social enterprise. Secondly, she pointed out that, in her experience, social enterprise became a way of living. Beyond her day to day work, it became a guiding force in her decision making and helped her established a consistent vision for her life. Finally, she shared that when working for an innovative social enterprise it is crucial to be flexible and willing to go above and beyond your job title to get the job done.
My biggest take away from the event was that when faced with crises as daunting as systemic poverty, we must have a long term mindset and be both innovative and responsible when creating solutions. Short term solutions often make us feel good but if they are not viable, sustainable solutions, we miss the opportunity to help truly create change. We must shift our focus in order to truly empower individuals to create change in their own communities.