What is Entrepreneurship?

June 16, 2009

Entrepreneurship is really hard to define, since for each one this word has a different meaning. Is it all about willing to start something? Is it about putting ideas in action?

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My Internship

June 16, 2009

Marcia Tiro, Development Intern in Cote d’Ivoire

Marcia , 20, joined AIESEC at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, where she majored in Natural Sciences. As an active member at the local and regional level, she took on many roles before becoming a participant to the Exchange Program and leaving for Cote d’Ivoire for a development based internship in the domain of HIV/AIDS.

Marcia shares her experience as an AIESEC Intern here.

SustainabilityAs I contemplate on the first month of my internship in West Africa I have realized that in developing countries such as Cote d’Ivoire the key to helping prevent the expansion of viruses and diseases (from a sustainable point of view) such as HIV/AIDS is education, especially education of the younger population. That is why the ASK (Answers, Solutions, Keys) program is so effective and is needed in HIV/AIDS infected areas (such as Cote d’Ivoire). The purpose of the program (when well organized) is to educate high school and university students on topics not only surrounding HIV/AIDS, but sexual education, self-esteem and self-growth (topics that shape your personal actions and thoughts). This causes a domino effect, as when one individual is educated they will spread the word to 5 of their friends, etc. Being a part of the ASK program in Abidjan and seeing the keen faces of the students at the sessions (who I must add are not there out of force but out of personal choice) melts my heart. Education really can be applied around the world, it may not have such a huge impact as it does on developing countries but it does work.

However in cases where you are educating larger “communities” and villages, you need a different approach than to come in with your ideologies of development and education of “this is HIV/AIDS and this is what you need to do to stop the epidemic”. Fortunately during my internship, I have also been given the opportunity to work in a non for profit NGO based in Abidjan called Le Soutien (www.lesoutien.org) and it is through this organization that I have learned that the most effective way to spread education and help in the domain of HIV/AIDS is to go straight to the source (the children and especially the orphans affected and infected by HIV/AIDS, and also women empowerment). The non-for-profit focuses on providing resources for orphans and vulnerable children affected and infected by HIV/AIDS (OVC) .

Picture 1Once a week, the children come to the office for a day of activities (eating, learning, counseling) and are able to receive medicines (if needed). The focus is on family and community and providing a support network for the children to develop in a positive environment without discrimination. Home visits to the homes of the OVCs are also done. Another project they are working on is called Project NUNSSEU (The child is the future) this is a project based in Danane (Village in the North of Cote D’Ivoire) for a period of 3 years (10 villages each year). The counselors in the Le Soutien office in Danane travel to each village and help to mobilize the village. Since women are the heart of the household (with out women you cannot have children), Le Soutien focuses on women empowerment and provides womens groups with land so that they can make money and feed their children. Since the village sees this positive impact that the organization does then they can trust the organization and are able to be mobilized on topics such as HIV/AIDS.

Through this whole experience, I have found that short-term development internships really are about learning and experiencing, a lot of self-growth. And the only way that we can really “make a difference” and create a “sustainable environment” is to bring back what we have learned to the same domain back home. We need to share our stories with others and exchange our new networks with each other to create a large global circle.


My Internship

June 15, 2009

Luca Nizzola, Citizenship Coordinator at Microsoft

Luca joined AIESEC in 2005 in the local committee of Geneva, Switzerland, in the last year of his studies in international relations. Initiall joining only for an internship, he quickly realized that AIESEC offered much more than that. After 2 months as team leader for the external relations team,  Luca was elected Vice President External Relations in his local committee. One year later, he was elected at the same position but this time in the national commitee. After that,  he left for Sao Paulo, Brazil, to organize the AIESEC International Congress with a team of 55 individuals from all over the world. He concluded his AIESEC Experience with what he wanted to do when he joined the organization : an internship. Luca is currently working as an intern in Brussels, Belgium, for Microsoft in CSR initiatives.

SustainabilityTell us about your internship…

I’m assisting my managers in reaching out to goverment leaders in the European Union institutions to make them aware of Microsoft CSR initiatives mainly in the area of environment, e-health and education. What I love about my internship with Microsoft is that I learn a lot about how such a huge company is functionning and dealing with such topics. Besides, as a graduate in international relation, I enjoy getting to know the EU institutions and sometimes participate in some meetings due to my internship.

I was very surprised and impressed by the work Microsoft is doing all over the world mainly through its departments of Citizenship and Community Affairs. Microsoft is working closely with NGOs and foundations to enable them to perform through different initiatives such as software donations, support to apply for international grants, IT skills building and more. On environment, Microsoft is investing a substantial amount of its 9 billions dollars budget in Research and Development to develop more energy efficient softwares and operating systems like the upcoming Windows 7. I was for instance very impressed by a prototype that Microsoft Research has produced. It’s a USB stick called Somniloquy that once introduced in your computer augment network interfaces while your computer is at sleep and can reduce energy consumption between 60 and 80 % !

What was AIESEC’s role in attracting your interest in CSR and sustainability?

I had never heard of CSR until the moment I joined AIESEC. At that time, CSR was chosen globally as one of the 5 main topics that AIESEC wanted to work with, mainly to enable members to develop leadership skills in a specific topic that can impact the world today. AIESEC in my country and abroad organized plenty of seminars and conferences where CSR was one of the topic of discussion and where business leaders, academics and NGOs were sharing their views on the topic. This helped me a lot to discover and understand what CSR means and what businesses are doing today in that area.

n507571342_2656476_2477105How did your involvement in AIESEC build your interest in CSR and sustainability?

As local and then national Vice President External Relations, I was the one who was responsible for engaging companies in AIESEC activities. I had to find ways to involve them in our internship program but also in our national conferences and other projects. Thanks to AIESEC I had the immense privilege to interact regularly in my mid twenties with business leaders all over my country. And that’s by working closely with them that I could have a glimpse of their business activities, CSR being one of them. I discovered that companies in Switzerland were much more active than I thought in this area and were running many interesting and meaningful programs. The more closely I worked with them, the more aware and interested I became about CSR.

How is AIESEC curreny making an impact in CSR and sustainability?

It is making an impact by providing a platform for people to develop through leadership roles, international internships and its learning environment, the so called AIESEC Experience. Very often people join AIESEC with a very vague idea of what they want to achieve in life or more simply, where they would like to work after university. What is so great about AIESEC is that it helps you, without noticing it at first, develop crucial skills, understanding and knowledge of the world around us. During my time in AIESEC, I was surrounded by like-minded people all over the world that became eager to do something with their life. Some people wanted to improve education in their coutries, other started their own business or NGO while others currently work in CSR branches of well-known corporations. AIESEC not only provided them with key competencies to improve the state of the world, it provided them with a set of values that will hopefully guide their life and their work in the future. When some of the AIESEC alumni will work for a SME or a multinational company later on, I hope that not only the competencies gained but mostly their values and their mindset will impact their colleagues, their partners, their business and their community at large. At least, the potential is there. That’s for me how AIESEC is making an impact in CSR and sustainability.


Consume Less, Help the Environment

June 10, 2009

The Freecycle Network

by Fabio Palves
sustainabilitylogo1In march 1989, the Exxon Valdez struck a reef off the coast of Alaska, resulting in the largest oil spill in US history. Initially viewed as an ecological disaster, this catastrophe did wonders to raise environmental awareness among average Americans. As television images of oil-choked sea otters and dying shorebirds were beamed across the country, pop environmentalism grew into a national craze.

Instead of conserving more ant consuming less, however, many Americans sought to save the Earth by purchasing “environmental” products. Energy efficient home appliances flew of the shelves, health-food sales boomed, and reusable canvas shopping bags became vogue in strip malls. Credit card companies began to earmark a small percentage of profits for conservation groups, thus encouraging consumers to “help the environment” by striking off an idealistic shopping binges.

exxonSuch shopping sprees and health food purchases did very little to improve the state of the planet, of course – but most people managed to feel a little better about the situation without having to make any serious lifestyle changes.

Of course, it is extremely complicated to make our society to suddenly changes its lifestyle. We can’t pressure companies and government for great changes if we don’t do something about it. If we keep buying more and more things, industry is going to keep its mass production and any effort to improve our environment will prove to be not effective.

And when I say society, I really mean everybody, including aiesecers. Just think about the things you have and the things you bought the last month. Were they really essential? Did they have to be brand new to serve its porpoise? Did you buy anything to replace an old one? What did you do with the old item?

I want to point you all to a global movement that might help dealing with finding things you need and disposing of things you don’t need or don’t want anymore. It’s called Freecycle!

freecycleThe Freecycle Network is made up of 4,751 groups with 6,761,000 members across the globe. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer (them’s good people). Membership is free.

It’s a very simple movement, that can create a lot of positive impact. Instead of buying something new that you need for some reason, you might find in the Freecycle Network  someone offering it for free, but used of course. And if you, have something that you don’t need anymore, and want to get ride of it, instead of throwing in the garbage, you can offer it on Freecycle and anyone in need of it can have it for free.

No need for new products, no need to spend any money. You can get things you need without spending any money and help the environment! How cool is that!

Sources

Potts, Rolf – Vagabonding, An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

www.freecycle.org

More to see about it: www.storyofstuff.com


The Role of Youth in Sustainable Development

June 5, 2009

Sustainable Development Projects in Africa

by Koba Tchegoun Adebo

The latest bulletin from the World Bank on the fight against food crisis shows a funding level of 732.8 million dollars out of 866 million in total for projects in 30 countries. It shows an effort being made, but we still have to question how it is being used, and where are the beneficiaries?

sustainabilitylogo1Increasingly, the different approaches and business models are silent as to the effectiveness of development programs and policies in Africa. Faced with this intensification of public awareness, capacity building of development actors at the base is needed.

Today, a project of the fight against hunger in Africa is most of the time to purchase rolling stock, pay bills, travel expenses and other primes; this state of affairs leads me to emphasize the role of positive change so that African youth are aware of the voice of development.

Finally, we young scholars and researchers in Africa have a need for truth in the history of the development of our continent…

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From Guest Blogger Koba Tchegoun Adebo, President of AIESEC in Senegal

Koba Tchegoun AdeboRead more about Tchegoun here

Tchegoun will be sharing his perspectives on Sustainability during the rest of this week in a series of Guest Posts.


A Call for Change

June 4, 2009

New Paradigms, New Challenges

by Koba Tchegoun Adebo

How will the world change? Far from fatalism or pessimism, I addressed the problems of the world and particularly Africa.

sustainabilitylogo1One solution is the word “CHANGE”. This word has become essential in all areas, activities, sectors and social strata of the population worldwide. A sweeping socio economic, political and financial, environmental and religious upheaval reveals a need for change. This change implies a new paradigm, which in turn leads to new challenges.

However we must not overlook pockets of resistance to change where they come; change is not everyone’s business. Often those for whom change is most beneficial refuse to pay the cost, but after a while they are slowed by the collateral damage generated by the new paradigms.

Take the institutions or the international community who know what must be done to have a world of justice and tolerance, where the lowest is protected, yet still don’t do enough. A look at the state of our planet, the air we breathe, pandemics and epidemics that threaten us (climate change, AIDS, malaria, H5N1, H1N1 and so on. …), the successive crises experienced by our planet : food crisis, energy crisis or oil crisis, financial crisis…

What now needs to change? How? Where? When? And with whom?

I open the debate and I would like to have your opinions, suggestions and ideas on the matter.

“Any knowledge shared is not destructive for the future”

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From Guest Blogger Koba Tchegoun Adebo, President of AIESEC in Senegal

Koba Tchegoun AdeboI am Koba Tchegoun Adebo and I was born in Benin, to a teacher father and an international trader mother. I grew up in a family of three children of which I am the youngest. I was a student in Economic Policy Analysis and Evaluation of Projects at the University of Dakar Senegal. Since I was young, I learned resilience and open-mindedness from my father. I am equitable and respectful of human values. I believe that only sustainable entrepreneurship can save our world against all the crises we are facing. My core values are boldness and challenge, perseverance and humility in sharing knowledge and recognising merit.

Tchegoun will be sharing his perspectives on Sustainability during the rest of this week in a series of Guest Posts.