SEEing Israel as a Social Enterprise
By Polyana Ferreira de Oliveira
S.E.E. Israel for me was a sort of Godsend. I had already made plans to go to Israel the week of the conference to visit the sites, get to know the culture, and visit a friend who lives in Jerusalem. When she told me she wasn’t going to be there, I was heart broken… Until, she told me about a conference her fellowship was putting together that had everything to do with my company. And… it was taking place the week I was planning on going to Israel. Godsend, am I right?
The event was full of tours that were extremely emotional and surreal for me, someone who has studied the Bible and carries a Christian faith close to heart.
But although that’s one of the reasons all the participants had wanted to go to Israel, we discovered soon after, it wouldn’t be these tours we’d go home gushing to our friends and family about.
It would be the lectures, workshops, dinner conversations, and entertaining bus rides we’d tell them about. It’d be the friendships formed and the ideas that inspired us we’d take on that plane leaving Ben-Gurion airport, and not necessarily Stars of David necklaces for our aunts and kippah’s for our balding buddies.
And it would be the passion in the projects we saw in Israel, the warm welcome and hospitality we received, and the desire to make a difference in our own countries that we would spend the many hours on the plane home contemplating and smiling whimsically while gazing above the clouds.
Alas, now that I’m home, there’s no more daydreaming about saving the world. One thing that I certainly learned and which inspired me the most at the S.E.E. Israel conference was that making a difference is possible.
And it can start with helping one single family get back on their feet from problems with debt; by making one child feel welcome at a new school; or by enabling a deaf-blind person to fulfill his dream as an actor.
At first, when I got there, I thought, “These other participants have projects that are so much better than mine.” But after being there and listening to these stories and hearing about these projects, I discovered that to be social, you don’t need to be an NGO, you don’t need to have an utopic project, and you certainly don’t need to be perfect to promote social good.
That’s not how to be successful in a social project, per se. I learned being a social entrepreneur isn’t very different from being a run of the mill entrepreneur, which is what I thought I was before landing in Israel. When I opened my business, I knew that I would be successful because I was doing what I do best with my skill set, and what I love to do.
With a social enterprise, or turning a business social, it’s all a matter of just taking these abilities, this love, and applying it to those who need it the most. And of course encouraging others to believe in your project, be it a volunteer, a government official, or an investor.
Thank you for helping me to see this in a clearer light through all of your talks and inspirational lectures! Toda!
Polyana Ferreira de Oliveira is Managing Director at My Destination São Paulo, an online guide for tourists and expats in the Brazilian state. She hopes to use her profits from the company and convert it to low cost English classes for service and tourism professionals who wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn on their own salaries and time schedules with the classes offered today in order to ameliorate their own professional capabilities.