It is a busy time of the year. The Greater Impact Foundation fiscal year ends this month, so it is the time we look back and reflect. At the same time, the pursuit of new opportunity does not abate. As such, we find ourselves contemplating the challenges our partners, current and future, face in their effort to positively impacts those in greatest need. That, in turn, always leads to contemplation of just what it is that drives such entrepreneurs. For GIF, identifying those traits is the most important criteria we consider when funding any enterprise. We know if we could distill the essence of great talent and bottle it like a fine wine our job would be so much easier. That is difficult to do, but the exercise informs us. It helps us create a profile of the ideal partner. That, in turn, helps us identify the next wave of talent we might consider funding in the coming year.
Talent comes in many forms, so I was struck by the story of a young entrepreneur and what drives his behavior. His story told here is typical of great talent working in this space. I am shamelessly plagiarizing from the Global Citizen newsletter because in its own way it epitomizes the kind of talent we search for.
“Erick Ochieng; a young man aged 33 years old coming from the slopes of the Nandi Escarpment, a famous land formation adjacent to the Great Rift Valley in Western Part of Kenya. [He] lives along the Lake Victoria basin in a tiny village dominated by the Luo ethnic group, the third largest tribe in Kenya.
This region has an equal share of challenges and opportunities. It is blessed with a combined 650 miles of sugar belt, the largest in Africa. The sugar belt is suitable for large-scale sugarcane production, but the region also produces other crops including maize, sorghum, groundnuts, and various vegetables.
In the midst of these great opportunities, [those that live there] also have [their] share of challenges. This region is among the poorest in Kenya. There is one rainfall season lasting barely two months, and the rest of the year is dry. Rainy seasons are characterized by heavy flooding, a perennial occurrence which makes the rains more a disaster than a blessing to the farmers. During the rainy season, buildings are destroyed, properties are swept off, and the crop fields turn into temporary lakes. The region is also malaria-prone, and has the largest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in Kenya.
When asked what inspires him to work to reverse the poverty in what is an extremely challenging environment, Erick shares this simple story of a hummingbird by Wangari Maathai, his inspiration to struggle onwards.
A fire is consuming a forest and all the animals feel too overpowered to do anything except the small hummingbird. One drop at a time, it takes water in its beak and puts it on the fire while the larger animals watch helplessly and tell the hummingbird it is too weak and small to put out the fire. Undiscouraged, the hummingbird turns to them and says, “I am doing the best I can!”
This, to Eric is his greatest inspiration. Like Wangari Maathai, he believes in little impacts at a time and he believe that little grassroots people can change the world. He believes that if all of us can be like the humming bird, then, however insignificant we seem in the eyes of other people, we are destined for greatness! As Maathai says, “...I certainly don’t want to be like the animals watching the planet goes down the drain. I will be a humming bird; I will do the best I can.”
So, Eric may appear to be somewhat romantic, but results count. His are impressive.
Being a global citizen means identifying yourself with and being part of the emerging world community with shared values. It involves having a sense of responsibility and willingness to act in actualizing global values without necessarily abandoning your real identities, such as allegiances to countries, ethnicities and political ideologies; identities which give meaning to our lives and will continue to help shape who we are. A global citizen sees beyond the world's political borders and takes advantage of global diversity to seek solutions to the challenges facing our planet. They live a life that recognizes the world as a complex web of connections and interdependence in which individual choices and actions have repercussions for people and communities locally and beyond.”
These are the attributes of talent that fits the Greater Impact Foundation perfectly.