AI + BI + CI x DI = Empowering, enriching and impacting society and environmental wellbein

Posted Date : June 07, 2019

Female leadership in social entrepreneurship

The norm is that there are leaders and there are followers; there are speakers and there are listeners; there is clergy and there is laity. The existing status quo of many of the countries are the strong and active group that dictate terms of the journey and the very week passive group that follow them most often they are the majority that are taken for granted. Not only in Sri Lanka, this is what people are accustomed to in most of the countries across the globe.

What we have seen and observed in Sri Lanka is the failure of this strong active group, be it political leaders, business leaders or religious leaders, to enrich and empower the passive citizens, employees and the laity, but for last 70 years have exposed the people of the country to ever-evolving uncertainties, chaos, and disasters that impact the day-to-day life of people.

Interdependency on each other

What is needed is to build a strong Sri Lankan society where people are interdependent on each other, whilst keeping their respective ethnic, religious, cultural and any other identities. The leaders that try to take advantage by creating strong independent groups around them based on ethnic, religious and cultural background are only doing so for short-term political survival and not in the interest of the wellbeing of the people around them.

In a society like Sri Lanka, where diversity of ethnic, religious and cultural identities are paramount and visible, the initiatives demarcate segmented identities based on ethnicity, religion and culture would lead towards the fragmentation of Sri Lankan society but rather take advantage of the strengths and the uniqueness of the diversity to add value to Sri Lankan identity.

There are significant learnings, skills that salient to each of the ethnic, religious and cultural segments of our society, that could best put to drive advantage for economic value creation, which is otherwise not available to many nations which more driven by ultra-nationalistic approaches.

The dynamics of economic frontier

In the dynamic process of the economic frontier advancing, there is not much room for divisive initiatives that can surface to progress one particular ethnic, religious or cultural segment of society. A pure business and entrepreneur sense most often is the compelling drive for success in business and success as an entrepreneur surpasses the ethnic, religious and cultural objectives and barriers, though some try to propagate and promote business success based on ethnic, religious and cultural basis for short-term gains. This kind of ethnic, religious and cultural-based business agenda however is not long-term viable and sustainable in the global market place though some try to drive advantage based on that.

In a modern and evolving atmosphere, society is so intricately connected and depends on each other not only for thriving as an entity but even to survive as an entity.

I would showcase one simple thing based on some of the issues faced recently by the country and a number of new challenges that have surfaced as a result.

For example, there is strong lobbying to boycott Muslim business entities and shops. But what these people who advocate that have failed to see is that there are a number of small-time Sinhalese, Tamil or any other ethnic group traders, farmers and entrepreneurs who supply to these Muslim eating houses; in turn demand to buy vegetables, fish, etc., from Sinhala, Tamil, and other ethnic group farmers/vendors will cease.

For instance, if all the Sinhala people are encouraged to stop eating from Muslim eating houses, in turn demand to by vegetable and fish, etc., from Sinhala farmers and fish vendors will cease. Therefore these people will not have a place to sell their products and supply and value chains will be affected due to this breakdown. This I took as most micro of the possible cause and effect of a boycott advocacy by foolish and short-sighted individuals with vested interests only.

Economic ecosystem creation

In the business and entrepreneur ecosystem creation, one has to recognise the existence of a diversity of businesses and entrepreneurs of different shapes and sizes as well as diversity of different products and services. The strong structure of this ecosystem is vital for business viability, survival, continuity and thriving for any type of business or an entrepreneur from micro to small and medium even to corporate entities.

It is economic interdependency of each other, by individuals, segments, groups, societies and business entities that will enrich individuals of nation and business entities of the nation. At any given time if society will try to subvert this and tamper to gain short-sighted advantage using ethnicity, religion or culture, that party will herald disaster for long-term economic sustainability of that nation.

Having gone through a 30-year-long ethnic conflict and come out of it to create a resilient and vibrant nation, it cannot be simply passed onto some political parties or individuals that may not have the right vision for the country now. The country also for 70 years has witnessed and gone through self-styled political agendas, engagements and leadership, which now as greatly acknowledged by the people of the country failed to deliver economic enrichment, social value and cultural heritage to the people of Sri Lanka.

The Rwandan story and recommendation of site visit to Rwanda

Today Rwanda is one of the fastest growing countries in all frontiers, economic, social and cultural, in the African continent. The story of Rwanda is remarkable and unprecedented in modern history.

Genocide in Rwanda was very well known; the conflict between the Hutu ethnic community and the Tutsi ethnic community ended with Hutu extremists killing estimated one million Tusi which began in 1994.

The current visionary leader President Paul Kagame pioneered this transformation to Rwanda, today there is no identity in Rwanda based on ethnicity but every citizen as Rwandan, it is indeed taboo to identify and showcase your ethnicity whether you are a Hutu or Tutsi.

I had the opportunity of visiting this country in the year 2016, when I was invited to speak at leading conference on youth entrepreneur empowerment, and I witnessed this awesome transformation. My recommendation is the President, Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader and the all ethnic and religious leaders be sent to Rwanda for one week’s study and understand from Paul Kagame thus unique, economic, social and cultural transformation.

Be responsible and accountable for nation building

It is in this context that the country needs all key stakeholders, whether individual citizens, respective societies and business entities, to be responsible for Sri Lanka’s wellbeing as a nation and begin to identify areas where they need to be accountable for change, development and transformation to benefit the people Sri Lanka and move progressively forward as nation. There is a strong conviction that the world has become a bad place not because of bad people doing bad things, but rather because when bad people do bad things good people keep their silence and be passive and their inaction has made it so. There is no way in this background after many setbacks to Sri Lanka as a nation to continue to facilitate the existence of active and passive groups.

You can never be a good leader if you have not been a good follower, the same way you cannot be good speaker if you have not been a good listener, you cannot be good teacher if you have not been a good student and vice versa. We need leaders who are willing to follow and we need followers who are willing to lead. We need speakers who are willing to listen and listeners who can speak. We need teachers who are willing to learn and we need students who are willing to teach.

Let’s shed our ethnic, religious and cultural identities aside for a moment and look at being more innovative in economic value creation. Let’s identify many challenging social and environment issues that threaten our own survival as human beings.

Let’s be individually and collectively responsible to fathom and understand all issues connected to rising challenges in society and in the environment and be accountable individually and collectively to come up with innovative and creative solutions that would address each of these challenges. Thereafter take the lead role in progressively build partnerships and collaborations with other stakeholders to facilitate resources that would require to deliver the results to impact society and the environment for positively.

[The writer is the Founder and Chairman of Lanka Impact Investing Network Ltd. (LIIN), the first Sri Lankan impact investing fund. He is also the co-founder of Ath Pavura TV reality show, Sri Lanka’s most successful TV reality show for social entrepreneurs and impact investors. Chandula is one of the most respected senior bankers in the country, with lead expertise on development and retail banking. He serves in boards of a number of international and Sri Lankan financial institutions.]