by Craig Juntunen
As I walked back to the bus with the volunteers to celebrate in the joyful ritual of our version of an after party, I had a real spring in my step. Tonight produced its own “wow factor” and, in the words of Samar, “We smashed it tonight.”
The film again was shown to a very full house and the energy and interest during the Q&A Town Hall was vibrant. The first question was, “How do we change this? What is the plan?”
I explained that we make the greatest impact in the shortest period of time by utilizing a two-tiered strategy. Social activists attempt to create change through indirect action, by influencing others—governments, NGOs—to take action. In a historical context, social activism has yielded substantial improvements to existing attitudes, beliefs and behaviors and produced profound social transformation. The film provides the visual evidence of a problem and by exposing the issue, a movement is forming to make these kids’ lives matter and become a priority. Our first step is our movement, and we are well on our way to creating the energy to disrupt the status quo.
All of us connected to this movement desire to make a significant impact and change volumes of lives over time. Many of us realize to do so, we will have to take a radical approach to solve the problem.
Years ago, I was on CNN talking about how the dysfunctional system of adoption is damaging and in some cases destroying kids. It was probably the first time I had said we need to start looking at this problem in entrepreneurial terms, not bureaucratic terms. Social entrepreneurship can be defined as recognizing a social problem and using entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage that social issue to achieve a desired social change.
Social entrepreneurship recognizes the critical first step is identifying the “customer”. In this case, at-risk children are the “customer”. We must acknowledge that what we are currently doing to join at-risk children with a family is not working. So it is clear that once we have exposed the issue through our movement, we will have an opportunity to take bold action to start seeking better ways to serve the “customer”. We make the biggest impact in kids’ lives if we examine solutions from the perspective of serving the “customer” (at-risk children) on a larger scale. Any social entrepreneurial effort must be devoted to the exploration of new ideas and concepts, and open to working with different people and supporting unconventional ideas. Both Ends Burning can incorporate this approach after the Step Forward For Orphans March through our work with the Summit of Nations meeting, and conducting country explorations intended to facilitate cross-border knowledge sharing of current best practices and best opportunities for real process reform.
All entrepreneurs constantly hear why ideas won’t work. We have heard why none of this can work from the day I founded Both Ends Burning. The landscape every entrepreneur navigates is filled with negativity and the constant resistant force of negativity. Every better way always faces fierce resistance, yet somehow the resistance breaks up and a better way becomes the new way. Tonight, SLC fueled my growing sense of optimism because I don’t see how the energy and determination of this group of people could be denied and they are fed up with the old way and recognize a new way is the only way.
Next stop, Denver.