I am reading Getting to Maybe by Westley, Zimmerman & Patton (more on this book later) in which they reference the work of social innovator Muhammad Yunus, Head of the Economics Department at Chittagong University in Bangladesh. In 1974 Bangladesh was experiencing a famine but “the university grounds were an oasis”. Yanus wrote, “if a university is a repository of knowledge then some of this knowledge should spill over to the neighbouring communities. A university should not be an island where academics reach out at higher and higher levels of knowledge without sharing any of their findings”.
Theorizing that credit is a human right, he pioneered micro-credit giving small loans to groups of crafts people, many of the women. This process took a number of years of reflection and analysis following engaging many of the stakeholders involved before he took action. What do we learn from this social innovator? He is passionate but he questions. He acts in the face of uncertainty. His success was built on relationships. His success took time. Lessons for social innovation enabled by knowledge mobilization.
I am writing this on vacation in Barbados and I am struck by how all the guests at this lovely resort (see picture below) are white and all the staff are black and I realize this is not unique to the Caribbean. Next time you attend a conference observe how many of the university participants are of European descent and how many people serving you dinner are not and then use that as your opportunity to start your own reflection.
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