Archive for February 18th, 2011

One Week, Two Great Initiatives

Logo by Khizra Munir. Thanks Khiz!

Ok, maybe I’m biased about one of the said “great” initiatives. Forgiveness, plis.

This past Tuesday, we – Jeremy Higgs, Maryam Jillani, and I – launched ThinkChange Pakistan, a blog that aims to track the social entrepreneurship and innovation space in Pakistan. It is the first spin-off of the ThinkChange brand from ThinkChange India, whose team were an enormous help in starting this initiative.

I have been working in the social entrepreneurship space in Pakistan for the past few years, and I eat, breathe, and sleep everything related to this industry. The term “social enterprise” refers to social mission-driven businesses that take market-based approaches to achieve social impact. Ultimately, social enterprises and entrepreneurship are providing innovative solutions to long-term development problems. Social entrepreneurs don’t just think about how to provide a service or commodity to low-income populations (also known as the “Bottom of the Pyramid“) in a vacuum, they think about how that service or commodity can fit into the market dynamics – how to create demand for a product that will ultimately alleviate poverty.

You may have noticed that I used a lot of jargon in the above paragraph. That is part of the problem. The social entrepreneurship space is small but growing in Pakistan, and there is therefore a need to raise awareness and demystify the terms and expectations associated with this industry. There is also a need to foster a sense of community among Pakistani social entrepreneurs and innovators, because collaborative and participatory approaches ensure that we are achieving the maximum amount of impact.

ThinkChange Pakistan will hopefully achieve that, providing case studies, interviews, contributions by Pakistani social entrepreneurs, and reports on the ever-changing dynamics of this global industry. This doesn’t mean CHUP is going anywhere. But TC-P is a blog that reflects much more of what I do in my work life and what I am extremely passionate about. Check it out.


Artwork by Zaina Anwar, Gawaahi.com

You should also visit Gawaahi, a new online initiative founded by two fabulous women (and friends) – Naveen Naqvi and Sana Saleem. Gawaahi aims to archive digital stories of abuse, survival and resistance. When I spoke to Naveen today, she told me about how the idea originated:

When it was first conceived, we were hoping to create a portal for NGOs that work with abused women. But then as we worked on it, the idea evolved. Calling it Gawaahi or “witnessing” made us think about the connotations of the word. To be so disempowered that you are nothing but a mere witness to your life. The power of the act of witnessing when we listen to someone’s story. The idea of the testimony. All of that and the circumstance of the floods, the madness that is taking hold in Pakistan made us want to expand Gawaahi. We wanted to include stories of flood survivors — how could we do stories of survival, and not include these incredibly resilient people, we thought. With public spaces shrinking, we wanted to create a space of resistance, where Pakistanis could celebrate their individual voices.

The website is beautiful. Gawaahi encapsulates the power of story-telling and imagery, a reminder of our interconnected humanity. The founders of the initiative hope it will provide a sense of empowerment for people to no longer see themselves as victims, but as survivors. Naveen added, “We hope it will be a space where Pakistanis can speak out for the kind of life they want, the kind of world in which they would like to live. It’s time for women and minorities to reclaim public space.” Kudos to Naveen and Sana, as well as all the people who were involved in launching this initiative.

Below is a digital story by blogger Mehreen Kasana produced for Gawaahi, which is fantastic:

My body, my country by Mehreen Kasana from Gawaahi.com on Vimeo.

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