Ten years ago I set out on a journey across the globe to interview social entrepreneurs about their life stories. I travelled for 11 months, across 17 countries, interviewing nearly 200 people. I took hundreds of photos, travelled thousands of miles, laughed, cried and learned so much about the world, myself, and what it takes follow through on a dream- mine and theirs.
That journey became ‘One Wild Life’, a book published by The Collins Press in 2009, which in turn, has travelled the globe. The stories of these change makers have reached school children, policy makers, presidents, educators and fellow entrepreneurs, among others, as the book made it’s way to people who themselves have a deep longing to make a difference. I still get emails from readers across the world who have been moved or touched by the stories in the book. This has to be one of the best feelings in the world!
So ten years on, I am curious to revisit these stories– Where are these people now? What lessons have they learned? What has changed? And what advice or insights can they offer to us as we collectively embark on a new phase of history, challenge and opportunity.
And so, I am in the process of tracking down as many of the interviewees as possible. This time it’s a little different though. I’ve sent them some questions, to which they are offering replies. Over the coming months I’ll be sharing the interviews weekly and at the end will be looking for patterns, themes and trends.
Ten years seems like nothing and forever all in one. So much has happened, so much change, so much learning, and yet the lessons from that journey are still living in me, unfolding each day at a time. The past is never really past, just a work in progress.
And so I hope you’ll join me in this current iteration of the investigation! (#onewildlife10)
Dr. Taddy Blecher
Maharishi Institute, South Africa
What are some of your highlights of the past 10 years?
We have held three graduation ceremonies and shortly the fourth for the Maharishi Institute, and each one is an amazingly happy celebration of achievement, success despite the odds and incredibly proud moments when parents embrace the first graduate in their family. This makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Over the past 10 years we have partnered with some incredible companies and people, and the relationships that have developed have been phenomenal. So many people truly believe in what we are doing and are willing to partner with us on the journey that it makes the trip very exciting.
A recent highlight is we have passed the ‘tipping point’ threshold from a quantum physics point of view to make Johannesburg ‘Invincible’. This is a theoretical basis which requires a group of advanced TM (transcendental meditation) practitioners. So for the population of 4.5 million people in Johannesburg, we have seen it going from the ‘murder capital’ of the world 10-years ago, to not in the top ‘50 murder cities’ in the world.
Also in development:
- We have an MOU with the Department of Basic Education to provide technical support to the initiative of introducing a project-based entrepreneurship curriculum into all schools in the country.
- The target over the next 15-years is to ultimately reach 12 million children per annum across 27,000 different schools. This has emerged from work I was asked to under the auspices of the former Deputy President to Chair a National Government Task Team in the Human Resources Development Council (HRDC) on Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship.
What have been some of the challenges of the past 10 years? What would you have done differently?
Overall its been a total joy! Every challenge has turned out to be a blessing!
There is ALWAYS a solution.
Funding is always a challenge and is becoming less of a day to day concern as we approach and manage to achieve sustainability. Aiming towards becoming self-sustainable is incredibly hard-work but I know that it will be worth it when we achieve it.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?
Just keep going! You are so on the right track! ☺
What do you see as some of today’s global challenges and what opportunities do you see?
With the increase in digital access, there are a lot of opportunities opening to impact people. At the same time, digital access can lose the high-touch human approach, which is one of the factors that makes MI work better than a public university.
We need a more enlightened approach to education that facilitates human Evolution at a great speed, alongside the technological revolution taking place.
Over the last 10 year the field of social entrepreneurship has evolved and got better known and supported. What would you say is the next stage of growth for the field and what are some of the main questions or challenges which it faces?
It is true, and its largely thanks to the work of the Skoll Foundation and other great organisations like Ashoka, Echoing Green, Aspen and others also playing a great role.
The next phase is for Social Entrepreneurs to support each other more, and I am a co-founder and on the global board of an initiative called Tendrel a global organisation for Social Entrepreneurs to support each other using YPO Forum methodology. Its one year old and we are in 9 cities in the world already with over 100 members. It will grow to thousands in over 50-cities.
Also, the next phase is system change on two levels: 1) working with and transforming government policy and implementation practice; 2) Creating a tipping point in cities, states, countries, continents and globally in collective consciousness
Some research I’m interested in is how social entrepreneurs can actually be the best partners and supporters of each others’ work. SE’s can also work together enrolling key eco-system players to bring greater levels of systems change.
Another trend is the big push towards ‘merged models’ which are more financially sustainable.
Why do you continue to do what you do? And how do you sustain yourself in the process?
As an organisation we have a vision to create 100,000 future leaders for Southern Africa, so while we have reached more than 15,000 to date, we have a long way to go. Knowing that the future of these young people and their families are changed forever through employment, studies, and personal mastery, is a very strong motivating factor.
What advice would you share with others setting out on their own entrepreneurial path?
When you know what you really want to do with your life, then ‘jump off a cliff’. You have to just do it. Anything less is not worthy of who you are and what you were born to do.
Anything else you’d like to add?
A bit more info about Maharishi Institute- to give you a better understanding
We offer University access opportunities to unemployed young people who either couldn’t afford university, or 70% of whom don’t have the school-leaving results to be allowed into University
We provide: education, books and study materials, a daily meal, work experience, counselling, job placement on graduation
The Institute offers Consciousness-Based Education, a loving, holistic student-centred approach to learning that starts with developing the inner Consciousness of every student twice daily with Transcendental Meditation and the advanced TM Sidhis programme. Our cost of this Education package is one-quarter currently of public institutions
“Learn and Earn” ensures that students work while studying to earn a stipend, and pay ‘it forward’ on their fees account; it also ensures that on graduation students have work experience making them highly marketable
“Pay it forward” is an agreement between all students and MII whereby all students commit to funding another student once they have started working to ensure that someone else (the student can nominate a family member or anyone else) is able to have the same opportunity they did. In this way the funds are not lost and always keep re-cycling, so if you sponsor one student, in time that becomes two, then three, and so on.
We are working to become the first self-funding University programmes in the world for historically disadvantaged youth, where the institution can sustain itself without any funding from government or from the students’ tuition fees which is the traditional two income sources for a University
** All photos courtesy of The Maharishi Institute. Photographer credit unknown.
Thank you so much Taddy- it is so brilliant to learn more about you work, impact, ideas and vision.
And yes, there is always a solution, and yes to more enlightened approaches to education, as that feeds into all growth, change and development. Onwards.
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Tune in next week for another interview in the One Wild Life + 10 series.