Being an Indo-Canadian civil engineer by education and an entrepreneur by heart, I always had a passion for solving the most complex problems using a Systems Thinking approach. This was further inspired when I had the opportunity to meet the Noble prize laureate, Prof. Mohammad Yunus. His social business model resonated with my personal values because it was based on a very humanistic approach to development. His belief that we as humans have unlimited potential, all we need is the environment in which it can flourish was something I personally believed in.
The traditional approach to solve these challenges has been through the charity and AID model which was developed in the West after the World War was no longer effective and did not serve the people in the developing world, especially in the Asian context ( because our cultural values that are very different and are 1000s of year old).
I came face to face with this fact when I came to Cambodia first time in 2013 and it rattled my mind which led to the journey of exploring the path of true “sustainable development”. I realized how modern economic models bring prosperity to emerging market countries, but lead to growing inequalities in the distribution of wealth. I learned the following facts in Cambodia –
- 70% of the population is deprived of economic opportunities.
- 46% lack fair employment and wages.
- 50% lack access to basic services.
- 75% of children drop out in grade 9 and start to work in the factories.
Efforts to solve these problems often follow a short-term approach:
- They lack the potential and resources for high impact and sustainability.
- They fail to install local capacities to support communities at risk of social and economic exclusion over the long term. 80% of development efforts are in the cities where 20 % of Cambodians live.
Root causes for these challenges are mainly due to –
- Shortage of opportunities in rural areas
- Lack of know-how as most of the intellectuals were killed during the Khmer Rouge
- Access to the market – hence subjected to exploration by the middlemen.
With the help of some talented mentors and some incredible people in the villages who shared the same values, we developed a holistic model that is self-organizing, natural, agile, and simple.
Our Sustainable Community