Improving the lives of others through business is a concept I see come to fruition as I read business proposals at the YSB office. During this process I become more convinced that international development organizations should veer toward this path as opposed to giving foreign aid. It my eyes, these social entrepreneurs are killing two birds with one stone. Attacking a social problem that governments cannot wrap their hand around, i.e. waste management, and creating jobs that can lift people out of poverty.
My role as a social business consultant intern is to conduct due diligence for the businesses that petition for funding from YSB. As I learned from the FMS training, “you must trust but verify.” I verify general assumptions and figures to ensure that social impact will occur.
Haiti is constantly and consistently labeled as the “poorest country in the Western Hemisphere” in the media and that automatically leaves a picture in your mind, and subconsciously you think there would be no way you would visit that country. But let me assure you, in every poor country there are many many people that live very very well. As you are driving past the Porches, Toyota Land Cruisers, Honda CRVs on the streets of Petion Ville, you can find your malls, fancy Lebanese restaurants, chic boutiques, bakeries, book stores, banks (with ATMS), and 2-story grocery stores with brands you can find in the States.
This past weekend I went to Club Indigo, formally known as Club Med. This beautiful resort was donned with two pools, a buffet with gourmet foods, volleyball nets, jet skis and boats, and multiple buildings with room suites. Among the guests were Haitians, the French, Dominicans and Brazilian UN soldiers who work under the name of MINUSTAH (the UN’s stabilization mission in the country) .
I concede that Haiti has a long way to go in terms of development across sectors. As of late, its sectors are finally receiving investment. Since the 2010 earthquake, one of Haiti’s largest investments came in the form of telecommunications through a partnership between Natcom, a subsidiary of the Vietnamese army, and the Haitian government. Haiti is now the driving force in the mobile phone growth rate in the Caribbean. As I pass my one month mark in Haiti, I can attest that where there is a need for development in a country, there is a market for social business.