The HESE Program defines successful, sustainable projects as those largely determined by local people, with outsiders playing only a limited role. This is because external actors, while well-intentioned, may fail to understand the community dynamics and identify the most significant barriers to realizing the ventures. To mitigate this problem, HESE students begin by identifying the sticky information that relates to the societal context of the problem. They do so in collaboration with appropriate partners to overcome impediments in a systematic fashion. The focus is on finding an optimal distribution of time, money, and sweat to be shared by the communities and partnering organizations. This equity is critical to achieving project sustainability. Sustainability, as we have come to understand it, refers to the notion that a project should be technologically appropriate, environmentally benign, socially acceptable, and economically sustainable. The program brings together students and faculty from every college across campus. It seeks the convergence of the tripartite university missions of teaching, research, and outreach by educating globally engaged, social problem solvers; creating sustainable value for developing communities; and generating and disseminating knowledge and lessons learned.
Building long-term relationships with multi-sectoral partners and leveraging indigenous knowledge to foster developmental entrepreneurship form the foundation of all our initiatives. While we practice the pedagogy of service learning to further the social ventures, we are not comfortable with using the word “service.” The focus of the program is not to “serve” anyone but to build equitable reciprocal relationships with diverse partners and work shoulder-to-shoulder with them to develop technologies and launch entrepreneurial ventures that prioritize the social returns while being economically sustainable. There is a growing recognition among students and faculty that they typically gain more from their engagement than what they give back to the partnering entities. Empathy, equity and ecosystems form the cornerstones of our philosophy of entrepreneurial engagement.This sentiment is captured by a quote from Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy, the founder of the Aravind Eye Hospital in India:
“When we grow in spiritual consciousness, we identify ourselves with all there is in the world.
Then there can be no exploitation. It is ourselves we are helping. It is ourselves we are healing.”
Think about your personal philosophy of engagement? Why are you participating in these ventures? What is the value? Be prepared to discuss.