It was in this time that I first realized the magnificently diverse array of people IDEX had assembled. Right away it struck me when I encountered a spectrum of knowledge about social entrepreneurship. With some I held riveting conversations on the merits of micro-finance, the players in the field and the industry’s relative performance in different countries. With others I explained the difference between a traditional NGO, a social enterprise and a regular for-profit business. Both were exhilarating. It was wonderful to be able to talk with individuals who share my knowledge and passion for the social enterprise space, and it was equally wonderful to meet people with a humanitarian heart eager to find a way to do development better and eager to see if the burgeoning social enterprise movement could be the mechanism.
As more fellows trickled into the hotel and I asked the usual questions—Where are you from?—What is your background?—What were you doing before you came to IDEX?—I came to appreciate the diverse array even more. IDEX Fellows come from every field imaginable; you have software engineers, adolescent education specialists, manufacturing managers, natural resource developers, healthcare professionals, community organizers, video producers, psychologists, philosophers and of course development experts. Still, I am certain I have overlooked a dozen or more professions. This rich variety of backgrounds and wealth of experience is an invaluable resource. We can, and indeed do, turn to each other for guidance and perspective in our new jobs and Indian environments.
After such an introduction it should come as no surprise that debates continued to emerge throughout the conference itself. IDEX pitted us against each other, forcing fellows to take a stand on the role of aid in development, the ethicality of explicitly for-profit social enterprises targeting the ultra-poor, the sustainability of charity based organizations, etc. In so doing IDEX revealed unexpected divides. Encountering such divergent opinions among respected colleagues compels one to reevaluate one’s thoughts in a very healthy way.
I am excited and elated to be sharing six months with my co-fellows. In addition to the experience of living and working in India, IDEX has positioned us all to learn extravagantly from one another. In six months’ time none of us will be the same, and for that we should be exceptionally grateful.
This post is part of a series required by IDEX. You can read posts on the same themes by the other wonderful IDEX Fellows on our collective blog CommonThreadX.