Joy in Togo

August 23, 2017

 

Founded in 1997, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is one of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara University. The centers embody the University’s mission to unite students and faculty with Silicon Valley leaders to address significant public issues. Miller Center accelerates global, innovation-based entrepreneurship in service to humanity.

(Image courtesy of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Post by: Keith Douglass Warner OFM, Director of Education and Action Research)

 

This July, in partnership with a local Jesuit social ministry center in Togo, Miller Center co-sponsored the largest ever GSBI Boost workshop, providing training for 30 West African social entrepreneurs. This was the first Boost ever delivered in French, and the largest ever set of participants. It fulfilled a multi-year dream for a Jesuit friend of mine, Fr. Bossou Constant SJ, and was made possible with the inspiring leadership of a fantastic GSBI mentor, Jose Flahaux. Although I had a trivial role at the workshop, I was blessed to witness the joy of these two good colleagues in the field. Bossou is a native of Benin, with a Togolese mother. Benin and Togo are two of the smallest countries in West Africa, and few Americans can find them on the map. After trying to explain African geography, he resorts to explaining that he is from Nigeria. Numerous times I have heard Bossou say: “Driven by the idea to serve, I have always dreamed of positively impacting the world. And that is what got me into engineering, becoming a Jesuit, and lately, promoting social entrepreneurship.” He came to Santa Clara University to pursue a Masters in Computer Engineering, but quickly discovered Miller Center, and last year, became a Jesuit In Residence. He describes this experience as integrating all three of these dreams. He pulled on many Jesuit colleagues to help him organize a GSBI Boost in Liberia, and in Togo. In these two countries, plus Benin, Bossou and other Jesuits also organized social enterprise training sessions for local pastoral agents.

Almost all of the roughly 30 enterprises represented had a clear social mission, and my perception is a majority brought an earned income model, or the potential for that. About one-third were agriculture or food-system related, one-third focused on IT training or education, and the rest were miscellaneous.

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