Last night I listened to an agronomist friend tell a story of an acquaintance of his who provides consultancy help to the filbert (hazelnut) industry in Turkey. My friend Dave graduated from Oregon State University and is also an expert in modern techniques of hazelnut production.
Turkey produces about 75% of the world’s filbert crop. The industry is historic and still very much tied to the 400,000 family farms which grow filberts the same way they have for centuries. These farmers have not learned modern techniques of pruning, composting, irrigation, fertilizing, hedging and nursery use. However many of these families are open to foreign experts sharing their knowledge.
In one region where the farms are small, the people very poor and there is much suffering this hazelnut expert began to share techniques in culturally appropriate ways and things began to change. The farmers devoted their efforts toward the better methodologies they were learning and their crops began to produce a higher yield and a higher quality. Life began to improve.
One day Dave was visiting this hazelnut consultant friend. They were talking about how they could make an even greater difference in the hazelnut industry of the area. At a certain moment the consultant said to Dave, “See that little girl over there?” as he pointed to a young girl working in the field. The father of the girl had said to him a few days earlier, “I now don’t have to sell my girl to the human trafficking people of this area, because I have a job which now sustains my family.”
This consultant did not see himself as a social entrepreneur. He did not come to Turkey to grow a social enterprise industry. He simply wanted to use his expertise to help people. It is pretty simple really. He was blessed with a skill, an experience, and an ability; and he realized it could be used to help people in a world of poverty. The net result was profitability, changed lives, and the ability to avoid losing one’s daughter to the human trafficking industry. The next step is to start a consulting business and provide even more expertise and more help to this hurting area.
Jim Clifton in his book The Coming Jobs War affirms a simple business principle, “Innovation has no value until it creates something a customer wants…what customers at any level really want is somebody who deeply understands their needs and becomes a trusted partner or advisor.” (pages 84, 121). The thesis of Clifton’s book is that leaders of countries and cities should focus on creating good jobs because as jobs go, so does the fate of nations. Jobs bring prosperity, peace, and human development – but long-term unemployment ruins lives, cities, and countries.
In Christian terms, we call it “what Jesus would do”. Jesus determined what the customer needed – blind men, hungry people, hurting people, sick men – and he understood their need and addressed those needs. He is our model for 21st century decisions which bring jobs, prosperity and development; and thus we can address even further social needs such as human trafficking of children.
IBEC promotes social entrepreneurship, but sometimes we simply say “we are about job creation” whether as a social entrepreneur or not. Job creation has so many by-product results for the good of the poor, and it is “what Jesus would do”.
Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures