The Social Impact of Business

Meet David, SLE’s Business Manager.

The first time I heard about SLE a few months before I submitted my application, I hadn’t the slightest idea that one day I would be part of the fast-growing team that is leading growth, awareness of, and engagement with globally underrepresented cultures and languages at American college campuses. At the time, I was not able to realize the shared significance that the mission of SLE has with my own aspirations of being involved in the social-impact field of the business world.

My enthusiasm for business began to develop during my gap year before college. With the partnership of three entrepreneurial colleagues, I was humbled to see an idea undergo a spectacular metamorphosis into a tangible reality.  We were able to form a brand of trendy t-shirts designed with the aim of recognizing and promoting the shared identities of the Kenyan people in a tribalist country through the slogan: “I REP.” But to be frank, this was not the value proposition that appealed to us as entrepreneurs. Our motivations were set on delivering a product to the market that would be comfortably afforded and would, in effect, create financial profit. This financial gain as a result of our successful business plan was the value that we sought. However, it was during our opening sale at my former high school that my eyes were opened to a whole new stumblr_inline_mwxku7gtdl1s7s0qtide of our venture.  We witnessed the high school students become astounded by the fact that the t-shirts they were purchasing had been a set of intangible ideas in our heads only months ago, and these had been transformed into an actual sellable product. The socially inclusive concept of the “I REP” slogan inspired the students to gain confidence and initiative in developing their own ideas that would address social issues on a community-wide level. It was pleasingly surprising to conclude that I gained more satisfaction out of the transformative benefit our business concept had on the minds and motivations of the high school students we interacted with, rather than the financial gain obtained.

This experience led me to discover another aspect of the business world, the world where the value proposition is NOT deriving some form of financial gain, but is in fact creating a scalable and transformational social benefit that accrues to a significant segment of society.Entering university and consequently business school in my sophomore year, I came to rationalize and appreciate the importance and possibilities of adopting such a value proposition. I resolved to get involved in initiatives that adopted this value proposition of social impact.

So why SLE?

Well forgive my repetition, but for the sake of impression, SLE does aim to create scalable and transformational social benefit. This I respected and admired, but it was only when I found a life-changing quote while browsing on the SLE website that I committed to be involved with its mission. The quote by Nelson Mandela read:

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

The importance of learning languages in the business world has been stressed for a long time given the international sphere that it is now defined by. However, recent studies have shown that in the future it will not be essential to learn underrepresented and under-spoken languages to increase business acumen and efficiency. Dominant languages such as English are predicted to continue growing as the languages of global business[1].  In spite of this study, the principle Nelson Mandela highlighted stood fast in my mind; that one’s own language goes to his or her heart. Social-impact business has taken an international sphere with the developed working with the developing. The aspect of creating impact and transformational benefit involves coming into contact with the heart of the individual, the heart of a community, and the heart of its culture; which is its language.When my mother prays earnestly, she prays in her mother-tongue (ekeGusii) because it is closest to her heart.  The point of impact is at the heart, and if language is a means of doing this, then I want to be involved.

[1] Clark, D.  English-The Language of Global Business?,http://www.forbes.com/sites/dorieclark/2012/10/26/english-the-language-of-global-business/

 


tumblr_inline_mwxl8j2m6e1s7s0qtDavid is a sophomore concentrating in Finance and Global Sustainability at the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business and minoring in International Studies. He hopes to use his diversified business experience to contribute towards SLE’s financial sustainability. Read more!