Meet a Social Entrepreneur

Daphne Nederhorst is the Founder of Sawa World, a nonprofit based in Vancouver and dedicated to eliminating extreme poverty with a new approach. Sawa (meaning ‘equal’ in Swahili) is about to celebrate its fifth anniversary so I asked Daphne to reflect on her experience.

What does Sawa World do that is different from traditional nonprofits?

Sawa looks beyond traditional charity and foreign aid to local leaders who have found their own innovative solutions to alleviating extreme poverty in their communities. We disseminate these solutions to others living in extreme poverty to create impacts at a wider scale. We train vulnerable local youth as community reporters in video production and presentation skills. They document and share local successes, supporting their replication to other communities in need. For example, one Sawa Leader developed a method of simple sustainable agriculture for local income development. John Mutamba has now improved the lives of over 17,000 people, mainly single mothers with AIDS, living in dire poverty in Uganda. His efforts have been shared through local gatherings, as short videos in kibandas, in the local press, and on radio and television across the country.

To what do you attribute your success over the past five years?

I think the most important factor is that we have a clear bold vision of the results we want to see in the world. We are exploring ways to create a global change in mindset about “international development” in governments, corporations, academic and social-sector systems. People in the poorest countries have much to teach the world – they already have many solutions to their own challenges. What we can do is learn from their successes and promote their achievements more broadly for increased impact.

How is Sawa World working toward this big vision?

I am an Ashoka Fellow and have benefited from being part of their global network of changemakers, giving me opportunities to meet world leaders and learn from other innovators. We are also connecting to build strategic partnerships all around the world and across sectors. We are for example partnered with universities here in Canada and in our target countries. One of the ways they are investing in Sawa World is through internship programs. Two MBA students from Simon Fraser University will travel to Uganda this year to learn about our approach and participate in local successes.

We are also linked with a wide range of global corporations such as Western Union, who hire our trained youth reporters for video assignments and support our efforts with in-kind donations. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream has recently hired us to develop videos for their Join Our Core Competition campaign. And we are part of a wide network of social enterprises where ideas, strategies, challenges and successes are shared.

What about the Sawa organization?

Sawa is made up of a very committed and empowered team both paid and volunteer, both in Canada and abroad. In our young vibrant culture, we are continuously testing and innovating, trying new things on a daily basis to learn from our experiences and refine our approach. One example was our difficult decision to scale down to only one country so we could assess how our model was truly making an impact. With this focus, in six months we had reached almost five million people in extreme poverty with solutions from within Uganda and we are now ready to expand to other surrounding countries.

How do you see the future of Sawa World and organizations like yours?

We are part of a major transformation in society where social entrepreneurs and their organizations, like Sawa World, are taking action to change the world and to change our minds about how that happens. We are calling on individuals, businesses, governments, and other nonprofits to join with us in support of local leadership and solutions from within. With that in mind, I invite your readers to a unique offer: sign up for a free two hour consultation with me to learn the ins and outs of being a successful social entrepreneur and/or how to engage your organization in meaningful local or global impact. We also have an upcoming Innovation Tour in Uganda where you can learn from Sawa World’s innovative model first hand. Or you can can support a Sawa Leader and spread local solutions. The main thing is to engage! Call Daphne at 778-888-7292 to find out more about social business.