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Tackling Social Issues Through a Shared Value Approach

February 19, 2020

A focus on community social enterprise helps organizations like peopleCare succeed in a very authentic way: one that aligns with our Values.

Above and Beyond the Win-Win: Tackling Social Issues Through a Shared Value Approach

Brent Gingerich is a Social Entrepreneur, Impact-Investor, Chairman and CEO of peopleCare

On day four of a MEDA-led delegation to Myanmar, myself, my wife Heather and our teen daughters are speeding along in a small boat entering the village of Linn Kin. A row of women farmers wave in greeting from the terraces lining the canals. It’s their story we’ve come to hear – and to see first-hand the many ways that MEDA‘s approach to social enterprise is making a huge difference in their community.

Brent & Heather Gingerich and their two daughters in a canoe in Myanmar

When the boat docks, we are greeted with enthusiasm, and large, colourful flowers. Over the next few hours, we learn about MEDA’s work with this group of women to improve the quality and yield of their crops through better agriculture practices, training, subsidized equipment and access to the marketplace. It’s how MEDA operates, empowering entrepreneurs – particularly women and youth – through community partnerships, change management and sound business practices.

peopleCare CEO Brent Gingerich holding a flower next to a Myanmar resident

It’s also no small thing that MEDA initiatives target women. Research shows that when women in regions with low socio-economic circumstances have greater access to money and status, they send their kids to school, which in turn raises the entire community’s economic prospects. Since peopleCare’s workforce is predominately women, our partnership with MEDA is a natural fit.

Group of Myanmar residents waving from a balcony

This was the first of several social enterprises that our family would hear about over the course of the trip, and exactly the kind of experience we wanted our daughters to have – one that deepened their appreciation for the opportunities that all of us enjoy, and sometimes take for granted, in Canada.

The seeds of this trip were sown years ago when I took a gap year after high school. My best friend and I were eager to find out what the “University of the World” had to offer. After volunteering at the same orphanage in Bangladesh from which his parents had adopted him, we backpacked and hosteled through other countries like Nepal and Thailand. The experience had the single biggest impact on my outlook and philosophy on giving back: what it means and why it’s important.

If you’ve never travelled to a developing country, it’s hard to fully grasp the reality facing most who live there. Unlike in Canada, where we can almost always count on some type of help when we need it, in the least economically developed countries of the world, there is literally no social safety net. And the reason why is that there’s no economic tax base to fund social programs. Connecting those dots sparked my interest in the idea of applying business principles to the task of solving social issues.

Myanmar resident working in a field

Whether you make cars, roast coffee or provide care to seniors, the private sector has a growing role to play in tackling social challenges – especially through a shared value approach. The concept is extremely powerful: it means understanding, valuing and actively looking to increase the benefits the entire community derives from every link in your business. A focus on community social enterprise helps organizations like peopleCare succeed in a very authentic way: one that aligns with our Values.

As our morning in Linn Kin wound down, the group reflected on how they would keep the momentum of this project going in the next 1,2 or 5 years and share what they learned with neighbouring villages. My promise to them was to return to Canada and keep working to raise the bar in changing the world of senior living through a shared value approach. To continue investing for social impact in our local communities and, through MEDA, around the world. And to encourage others to consider how they might do the same.

Beyond Ourselves is peopleCare’s commitment to being a force for positive change in our local communities and abroad.

This article was originally posted on LinkedIn – Feb 13, 2020