Swarthmore Social Entrepreneurs

PEAC 049 Students of Lang Visiting Professor, Denise Crossan, Share their Stories

​Efua Asibon '16

The Problem

From our various interactions with students from public tertiary institutions, and from what we have read in the news, we have realized that students in these institutions do not have any resources for career guidance or for counseling. As a result of this, the culture in Ghana is to stay at home for the entire summer vacation (4 months), instead of doing an internship or working for some money. Owing to this, many students graduate without enough work experience and without clarity on the exact career path they want to choose and are generally ignorant about the job search procedure. The companies on the other hand are hesitant to employ such students because of the reasons we just mentioned and look elsewhere (private schools and foreign schools) for employees. This leaves a huge number of them unemployed, leading to economic inactivity, social vices, low-self esteem/mental health issues, a culture of underachievement and high welfare dependence. 

The DREAM initiative [a social enterprise Efua developed in Prof. Crossan's class] through its aims and objectives that have already been mentioned, will tackle the following roots of the problem: little work experience, little to no exposure to career options, ignorance of job search procedure and uptake of public university graduates by local jobs. 

The Social Enterprise Business

The DREAM network is a for profit enterprise aimed at increasing job uptake of university students. It hopes to provide professional career guidance to students in public Ghanaian Universities. The hope is that it will increase job uptake and it will further provide training resources for workers of African-based organizations. It was registered in Accra, Ghana on the 15th of November 2015 and will be in operation from July 2016. It is called DREAM because each letter stands for the different steps that the network hopes to use in achieving its social mission. The genesis of DREAM was when our founder, Efua Asibon realized that her cousins and friends who were in public Ghanaian Universities stayed at home the whole of summer as opposed to doing an internship or working for money. Whenever she spoke to them about her internship application process and her internship experiences, they were always fascinated. This came to her as a surprise and what shocked her more was the fact that some of them did not know what cover letters or CVs were. Efua’s research revealed that this was so because the Public Universities in Ghana did not have any career guidance facilities. She was moved to address this problem after her cousin remained jobless for three years after graduating from the University of Ghana. 

The Social Entrepreneur

Since childhood, Efua has been passionate about helping other people and giving people access to the opportunities that she has been blessed with. Her family is a strong Christian family and the underpinning value of Christianity is to love your neighbor as yourself. Her father passed away when she was 8 years old, but when he was alive, she remembers that he never passed by a beggar without giving him a penny or two. He also paid for her cousins, other family members and church members to start businesses or attend the best schools possible. Her mother is also a ‘Mother Theresa’. She loves to give and as a former teacher, she seeks to equip young people with all the necessary resources to become self-sufficient. Her older sister is also a go-getter and has always guided her in her academic and career choices. Owing to all these great influences in her life, she has grown to value the act of helping other people in any way she can.

Eileen Hou '16

The Problem

The social problem we are aiming to solve is art inequality. Emerging theater artists often face discrimination when they express to their peers, parents and others their interest in pursuing the goal to be an artist. Artists are often portrayed as being starving artists, often homeless and not being able to afford their rent or nd jobs. To a certain extent, this is true for many theater artists. But, artists should not be look down on or face discrimination for pursuing art just because they may not be successful in finding employment at all times. Along with discrimination, there is also a high barrier to entry for emerging theater artists and a lack of transparency for the recruitment process in the theater industry. I hope to address and alleviate these issues. 

The Social Enterprise Business

Art is a valuable part of our society since it allows for individual and group expression of ideas that shape our society and culture. To decrease discrimination against theater artists, I aim to create an online platform for emerging theater artists to share their work, connect with other emerging theater artists and find future employment opportunities. Our online platform will provide emerging theater artists with opportunities to find work, secure funding for their work, locate future collaborators and increase the amount of theater art created. We will also provide networking and educational events to foster the connections between artists. 

The Social Entrepreneur

As a special major in theater and dance, many of my skills are creative skills such as directing, acting and art direction. I grew with a family who loves entertainment and especially movies, so I was exposed to arts and performing arts from an early age. But it wasn’t until I went to college that I starting acting and directing shows. One experience that inspired this start up idea was my experience at the Edinburgh International Festival in August 2015. At the festival I met a wide range of artists from theater directors, producers, musicians, and actors to many other theater artists. Through my interactions with both emerging theater artists and well-known theater artists I came up with the idea of facilitating the festival like environment, but through an online platform.

Killian McGinnis '19

The Problem

Unemployment rates for women in El Salvador are high while education rates are low; in general, women are excluded from the nation’s skilled labor force or exist on its margins. A culture of machismo pervades Salvadoran society, restricting women’s reproductive rights in many ways, not least of which is pregnant women’s ability to choose the nature of their birthing process(es). This creates an especially saddening reality, as gang violence causes life in general to be devalued in El Salvador. 

The Social Enterprise Business

The Zoila Benavides Women’s Cooperative was created in response to a growing need within Salvadoran society of a strong physical, emotional and informational support network for Salvadoran women, especially those who are unemployed and expecting mothers. In order to regain agency for women and promote women’s rights in general, the Zoila Benavides Women’s Cooperative trains unemployed Salvadoran women as doulas, women who provide continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to women in the prenatal, labor/delivery, and postpartum periods. Because doulaing is a self-employing practice, a doula training and certification program would give unskilled women the resources to earn a living and provide for themselves and (in many cases) for their families. Additionally, doulas would serve as avenues for an opening of Salvadoran society and medical culture and a consequent empowering of women, especially with respect to birth practices and corporal autonomy. 

The Social Entrepreneur

I traveled to El Salvador for the first time in 2012 to learn about the nation’s history and to continue my church’s decades-long relationship of solidarity with the parish of Maria Madre de los Pobres in La Chacra, San Salvador. Moved by the realities of poverty, social isolation, and gender inequality in La Chacra and other communities, I returned to El Salvador in 2014 and 2015, and in the latter year I interned for the Indianapolis and Suchitoto-based organization Companion Community Development Alternatives. In that role I shadowed local doctors and midwives and was struck by how many pregnant women - especially teenage mothers - lack a continuous support network. This year at Swarthmore I was trained as a doula through the SwatDoulas club, and this project empowered to combine the skills I learned in training with my passion for social justice and gender equality in El Salvador.

​Omri Gal '19

The Problem

The core of our mission stems from the troubling effects standardized tests are having on students. Many academics and educational psychologists have recently observed a dramatic decrease in the creative abilities of American schoolchildren, leading them to coin the term ‘creative crises’. This crisis, which is only increasing in severity, is a direct result of awed educational policy, and the massive influence of testing companies on these policies. Schools are now judged and given funding according to student standardized test performance, ultimately resulting in a narrowing of school curriculum to include skills only relevant to the exams. As a result, students are discouraged from developing their creative skills, making them unable to approach their work, and by extension, the issues within their own lives, from multiple, creative perspectives. If this is the new American students, then who will be able to solve the pressing issues of the future? 

The Social Enterprise Business 

Young Social Entrepreneurs is an innovative higher education social enterprise located in Brooklyn, New York, developing high school students to become social innovation practitioners. 

The Social Entrepreneur

I grew up in, and with Brooklyn. My entire upbringing paralleled the spectacular development of Brooklyn, from a completely obscure and dull city, to a globally recognized brand name. I watched visionary entrepreneurs transform the city into a global cultural center, flourishing with individual artisanal and successful businesses. I attended a k-12 school in the heart of Brooklyn. Since the age of 3, surrounded by the same peers and teachers, many of whom I now consider family. Throughout those 12 incredible years, we were never graded, tested, nor held to any official strict requirements. As a result, we were all encouraged to develop rigorous, diverse, creative thinking abilities. I was within an environment where the relationships between students and teachers were centered on mutual development and respect, and where we were given ultimate and unlimited creative freedom to express and explore our ideas. I am currently a freshman at Swarthmore College, majoring in Psychology and Peace and Conflict Studies. I have a deep interest in entrepreneurship, and plan to pursue a career in the field after graduation.

​Sedinam Worlanyo '17

The Problem 

Using the framework of the problem tree analysis, we have identified our central problem also known as our wicked problem as the inability of Ghanaian local artisans to access the global marketplace. This stems from two issues: the historical stigma attached to African countries like Ghana and the lack of access due to minimal technological resources. YenAra intends to tackle the immediate root cause of minimal access to the global marketplace. This is a problem because it prevents Ghanaian artisans from expanding their market that globally consists of people with higher incomes. Additionally, the work of these artisans is therefore not fully appreciated. This results minimal access to consistent buyers in higher-income countries due to inadequate networks and resources. 

The Social Enterprise Business 

YenAra translated in Twi, a local language in Ghana means "our very own". YenAra supports Ghanaian artists to create wearable art, and then provides a space for this art to be showcased to a wider market. Our central mission is to partner with local artisans in Ghana who have demonstrated talent in creating products that weave in the story of the vibrancy and color of traditional Ghanaian life and fashion. Furthermore, we intend to get the work of these Ghanaian artisans to the global marketplace, train the Ghanaian artistic talent in entrepreneurial skills, and further hone the craftsmanship of these artisans. With that mission in mind, our social mission statement is “advancing the talent and productivity of Ghanaian local artisans in the global marketplace” 

The Social Entrepreneur 

Sedinam is a social entrepreneur that was raised in Ghana. She was part of a team that recently won a business and innovation competition called Swat Tank, where she pitched her current social enterprise idea. During the past two summers, Sedinam has worked at Swarthmore Admissions, been a Google Policy Fellow and worked at a software development firm in Ghana called DreamOval. Her personal experiences, activities and passions contributed to her enterprise idea of a social enterprise that tells the story of the beauty of the Ghanaian culture through our unique and functional African-inspired products such as backpacks by connecting local artisans to an international marketplace. Her ability to forge partnerships between various groups of people influences how YenAra serves as an international marketing and distribution outlet for these backpacks as well as supports local Ghanaian artisans and encourages their growth by supporting the sale of their products. Furthermore, the e-commerce site through which YenAra sells their products was born out of her computer science skills.