Think Globally, Act Locally

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In India, the Deshpande Center for Social Entrepreneurship turned the social innovation technology model on its head five years ago. Through supply-chain and engineering methods, the Center tackled the global issue of hunger on a local scale. They developed a system to provide daily hot meals to poor Indian schoolchildren for only 12 cents each. By bringing the for-profit discipline to the compassion of a non-profit, the service provided 85,000 affordable, locally sourced meals. Now, the program has been scaled to feed 1.3 million kids a day across India.

This idea to pioneer new models to solve global problems, perfect them by partnering with local leadership and spread them to other parts of the world is the foundation of the Deshpande Center's Social Innovation Sandbox. In the Boston area, the Merrimack Valley Sandbox promotes social entrepreneurship and leadership in Lowell and Lawrence, by funding more than 600 student and youth entrepreneurs, working with more than 300 adult entrepreneurs, and partnering with 30 community organizations. The Center's founder, Desh Deshpande, enthralled and inspired me with these stories as he eloquently spoke about the potential for innovation and social entrepreneurship to meet commercial and social needs both locally and globally during Wheelock College's inaugural international conference on Global Challenges and Opportunities Facing Children, Youth and Families this past June.

Eight hundred plus professionals--representing 5 continents from over 40 countries in the fields of health, education and human rights attended the Conference to discuss the challenges facing global society today and to collaborate on possible solutions. Plenary speakers, such as Desh Deshpande and Cherie Blair, Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, urged attendees to engage, stay connected and above all to remain hopeful as we work together across continents to ensure a brighter future for children, youth and families.

During her keynote address, Cherie Blair shared how cross-specialty international partnerships have developed innovative and long-term solutions to an array of complex, global issues such as widespread poverty, discrimination, violence against women, and corruption. Blair's foundation has worked in 70 countries in South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, to develop programs that build confidence, capability and capital in women. She cited an example of how her Foundation partnered with a phone company in India. They developed a mobile application to allow women to sell dried goods more efficiently via text message orders rather than spending a day traveling door-to-door.
"Now is the time to seize the opportunity to make a collaborative impact. Now we must work together to develop long lasting solutions to these problems," she said. "Big challenges require big solutions, and we cannot effectively address them alone."

As the four days of the Conference came to a close, agent for social change and Founder of Katalyst LLC, Kevin Carroll, reminded us how to fuse together thinking globally and acting locally or as he stated, how to create a "glocal attitude." It is critical that participants remain engaged as global citizens and advocates for education, health and human rights after the conference by bringing the ideas, discussions and dialogue back to their communities. We must continue to exchange best practices for improving the lives of children and families globally. As Cherie Blair voiced "If we're going to truly solve the problems of the world we've got to share our information whenever we can and strategically include one another in or efforts."

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