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Building social businesses in Bali

July 5, 2012

A frantic itin­erary and a litany of seem­ingly insur­mount­able lan­guage bar­riers made travel and study in Bali appear nearly impos­sible. But thanks espe­cially to the wel­coming embrace of the Bali­nese people, more than two dozen North­eastern stu­dents on a Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions pro­gram to the Indone­sian island expe­ri­enced the impor­tant role social entre­pre­neur­ship and the arts play in bridging mas­sive cul­tural divides and building strong futures.

“There may be no sky­scrapers, wide roads and high- ranking jobs, but the Bali­nese people are happy with what they have,” said Mar­garita Lim­caoco, a third- year human ser­vices and inter­na­tional affairs com­bined major.

Bali­nese people, she added, live in a “rich community- based cul­ture where everyone wants to show you how to dance, what to wear, what to eat, how to say some­thing in Bahasa and who to talk to.”

Denise Horn, an assis­tant pro­fessor of inter­na­tional affairs in the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties, led the six- week Bali Dia­logue, her sev­enth. The pro­gram focused on social entre­pre­neur­ship, in which stu­dents con­ducted field research and pre­sented busi­ness plans to the community.

Stu­dents, who also took daily classes, trav­eled with Horn to meet with gov­ern­ment offi­cials, museum cura­tors, leaders of non­govern­mental orga­ni­za­tions and a healer, whose work hap­pened to be fea­tured in the pop­ular memoir “Eat Pray Love.” Stu­dents also spent time every day with mem­bers of the com­mu­nity, who were eager to share their per­sonal expe­ri­ences with the North­eastern group.

“We were so over­whelmed by people greeting us with smiles and going out of their way to help us and con­verse with us that it made us want to rethink about the way we invested in our own rela­tion­ships,” Lim­caoco said.

Half the time, stu­dents, worked on cre­ating busi­ness plans that could be adopted by the com­mu­nity to improve areas such as tourism, sus­tain­ability and edu­ca­tion. That focus fits into Horn’s own research: As a polit­ical sci­en­tist, she studies the impact of social busi­nesses on democ­racy and civic engagement.

“The stu­dents had to go out into the com­mu­nity, do field research, find out what the prob­lems were and then find a solu­tion that was inno­v­a­tive and would be sus­tain­able,” Horn said.. “They had to iden­tify some­thing that would work with these com­mu­ni­ties, not just push some­thing that might work back at home

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