Sebastian’s story of Social Change

For our most recent assignment in theory, our readings were focused around poverty, globalization, and social business – which is the concept of running a business with society as the benefactor in lieu of shareholders. We were tasked with creating a story, with conflict and resolution, that incorporated the the positions of the various authors and to depict it through drawing.

I have a personal story that intertwines with the readings, so I decided to make my presentation about a friend of our family named Sebastian and how he has helped promote social change. Below is a link to the slide deck, that will be the visual cues that go along with the story below.

Slide Deck

Meet Sebastian. My family has known Sebastian for almost ten years and consider him a dear friend. He lives in Rochester, NY, the town I grew up in and where my parents still reside. But although Sebastian lives there, Rochester is not his home. He is originally from a village in South Sudan called Mayen-Abun. When he was growing up, the Sudanese civil war broke out, and his village, along with many, many others were caught in the chaos from the war. He was forced out from his village, lucky to be alive, and had a long, arduous journey to safety. He was part of the group that would be called “The Lost Boys”, refugees from Sudan that had to march across the dessert to safety and run for their life for years. The civil war reportedly had 2 million casualties, some of which were Sebastian’s friends and family. 

Through international aide, and a bit of luck, Sebastian made it to Rochester, where he was able to educate himself and get a college degree. But his heart was still in Sudan, so in 2007, after the war had ended, he went back to his village. When he returned, he was saddened by the state of his village. Commonalities were scarce, like water and energy, and a few children were being taught school lessons under a tree. He was devoted to giving his villagers an opportunity to get educated, and found himself in the role of “social entrepreneur” so he founded a non-profit organization called Building Minds in South Sudan (BMISS). Contrary to a reading we had by Emily Pillotin, Sebastian knew he could serve his village better in America because of the available resources and proximity to donors. Through his fundraising, my family met Sebastian and helped him to meet one of the goals he had set for BMISS.

The Laima Micro-finance program was setup to help local women start a business by supplying them with a $500 loan that was to be repaid so future entrepreneurs could also have an opportunity. Sebastian wanted to  help grow a small economy and allow the community to teach each other how to prosper. I found quite quickly while doing our readings, that this business venture would be defined as a “social business”, for a few main factors, but the most important being that it was setup for social profit and not for monetary gain. The project so far has been successful, by initially starting with 3 loans, Sebastian has now helped start the 26th local woman start her own business. Not all  the business are successful, but some of the success stories are a small grocery store, a micro-brewery (smaller than you can imagine), and a restaurant that is opening it’s second location. This rung true to some of our other readings by supporting the notion that you should start small, and plan to scale up. I think multiplying by 9 is a pretty good growth rate. 

Through our readings, I was able to generate a few graphs to locate and define these projects. BMISS is clearly a non-profit, as it receives donations and has no intention of repayment, hence why it is charity. The Laima micro-finance falls in social business because it is a self-sustaining business model with a focus on social good. I was also able to identify Sebastian as a “social entrepreneur” because he is directly working to change the unbalanced equilibrium (the fact that the village has no running water or electricity shows the imbalance) in Mayen-Abun. I was also able to locate my family as activists because we are indirectly helping to make social change. 

In the end, I was able to create an interesting ecosystem of how social entrepreneurs, activists, businesses, and the community all intertwine. By building schools, Sebastian is creating an educated community that will one day be able to be recipients of a micro-finance loan. The business women provide jobs for the village and make common goods more accessible. I enjoyed all of this assignment and found it really helped put meaning to the actions of my family. If you are so inclined, please visit Sebastian at his website to learn more. BMISS.org