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Students Take on Social Entrepreneurship Early On

May 14th, 2013Business, Education, Finance, National pic

By Adam S. Poswolsky

If extreme poverty is going to be eradicated in our lifetime, all sectors of society, especially young people, need to be mobilized.

Nourish International, a social venture started in 2003 by a student at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, get this.  That’s why it engages students on college campuses to use social entrepreneurship to empower community partners in the developing world.

Nourish puts students in the driver seat to take action by running social ventures at their chapters, while contributing investment in sustainable development projects around the world. They have a national office that provides resources, programs and trainings for students to start their own entrepreneurial ventures.  The students select the ventures to run, the students select the partner organizations, and the students see the projects through implementation by going to work alongside their partners abroad during the summer.

“Fortunately for the field, many amazing student organizations are now working in grassroots community development,” explains Allie Treske, chief operating officer for Nourish International.  “Nourish is unique in that it takes student leadership seriously.  Two college students serve on our board of directors, and co-lead our student advisory board, a nationwide group of student leaders who have a serious stake in the future of this organization.”

The focus on student leadership is paying off, as Nourish has already raised over $350,000 in partner communities in 25 countries around the world since 2004, and will expand from 28 to 45 campus chapters by the end of the year, with a goal of reaching 100 campuses over the next five years.

The Nourish chapter at the University of Texas-Austin raised over $5,000 through their Hunger Lunch program, in which they partner with a local food truck, Naan Stop, and sell Indian food on campus. Proceeds from the student-led venture went towards an educational initiative that supports technology infrastructure including computers through DJMV, a nonprofit community partner that works to improve living conditions of poor and marginalized people in Odisha, India.

Nourish selects their projects based on partnerships with established organizations on the ground, ensuring they are meeting the needs of the community members, providing the resources that they want and need.  “This enables a group of students who otherwise wouldn’t really know how to go about doing development work, how to actually make an impact in helping the poor,” says John McCreary, a University of Texas-Austin graduate, and former student board member.

Other organizations are also empowering students to create global change.  GlobeMed matches students with grassroots organizations to address health disparities.  FaceAids has raised $2.5 million to fight AIDS by building a movement of young leaders, with 230 student chapters focused on global health equity.

Like Nourish, FeelGood incorporates student social entrepreneurship, by having students run non-profit delis specializing in grilled cheese sandwiches, and investing 100% of the proceeds in partner organizations eradicating global hunger.  FeelGood was started in 2004 by Kristen Walter and Talis Apud, then students at the University of Texas-Austin, and now has chapters at universities across the country.

Nourish projects allow students to learn social entrepreneurship skills,but also receive hands-on field experience working in community development. Students at Ohio State University partnered with the Global Health Network, a nonprofit primary health organization focusing on maternal and child health, to build the capacity of health workers in Oyam, Uganda. After six weeks, the students taught sexual and reproductive health education to local youth, constructed latrines, and visited the homes of new and expecting mothers. The students were also involved counseling and testing over 700 women and their spouses as part of an outreach program for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Some organizations are working to ensure young people get passionate about eradicating poverty before they even go to college.  Global Citizen Year sends high school graduates to work on service learning projects in Senegal, Brazil, and Ecuador for up to eight months for an impactful gap year before college.

“By living with a family in a single community, our Fellows remain in one place long enough to learn the local language and customs, and to develop the trust and relationships which help them understand why people are poor, and what actually works (and doesn’t) in addressing the root causes of poverty,” explains founder Abby Falik.  “In contrast to classroom based study of poverty, this learning comes through first-hand observation and experience.”

Organizations like Global Citizen Year and Nourish have demonstrated that the personal experience of working in grassroots development keeps young people passionate about poverty eradication, long after they graduate college.

(Photo Courtesy of Subject)

One Response

  1. Peggy says:

    It’s so true! Students and youth are the key to eradicating poverty and hunger, not just through learning about issues in the classroom, but by taking action in creating sustainable change themselves. Their talent, passion and determination is contagious and powerful! It’s also so crucial to look at issues holistically, and not as a one-solution problem.

    Thank you, Adam for your support and beautiful articulation on the power of youth getting involved first-hand. If you have any questions, you can reach me at