CulturallyOurs Social Entrepreneurship Collective Humanity Cambodia

Entrepreneurial Lessons From The Field Cambodia

CulturallyOurs Social Entrepreneurship Collective Humanity Cambodia

As we continue on with Season 02 of CulturallyOurs, we are in awe of each and every entrepreneur we have spoke with via the podcast and even connected with via our ‘Entrepreneurial Lessons In The Field‘ series. If Season 02 has taught us anything, it is that entrepreneurship takes on many different forms – be it product, service, for profit, non-for-profit, social and even community based business projects.

Earlier in the season we shared a narrative from India with Dastkar, a social enterprise and a movement that was established as a way to help local artisans, artisans and crafts to make quality goods and products and market them directly without a middleman.

Today we are so thrilled to be chatting with Eliane McKellips, a humanitarian and travel photographer based in Houston, Texas. Eliane shares with us a narrative around her work in social entrepreneurship with Collective Humanity, a nonprofit organization empowering women to rise above extreme poverty through the creation of dignified economic opportunities.

We asked Elaine what does social entrepreneurship mean to her and how does she see social entrepreneurship impacting community and people.
CulturallyOurs Social Entrepreneurship Collective Humanity CambodiaFrom Elaine,

In a small village about an hour outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia, there’s a community of women that are building a future for themselves, their families, and their communities. Collective Humanity, an Austin-based nonprofit, works with a group of artisan women who hand weave blankets on the most beautiful and intricate looms. Collective creates demand for the products, generating a sustainable income, and reinvesting profits in skill training and empowerment programs.

Building trust in these remote communities is not easy – it takes time, but with every visit to the weaving village, a little bit more of that wall comes down. In Cambodia, as with many developing countries, women have been historically marginalized. But these women are breaking down those barriers. They are leading their families and encouraging their children to dream bigger.

Collective was founded in 2016, so it’s a relatively new nonprofit, but I’m excited to watch it grow. Collective listens to the needs of the women and the community they are partnering with rather than assuming to know what they need/want, and I think that’s a large part of why it’s a sustainable business model. A big part of the narratives I was documenting was the history of the country itself and everything its people have had to endure. From 1975 to 1979, an estimated 1.5-3 million Cambodian citizens were brutally murdered in a genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge Regime. They targeted any professionals or intellectuals in an attempt to return Cambodia to its agricultural roots. Anyone who had received an education, who spoke another language, who worked for the government, and even those who wore glasses were executed. As a result, it’s as if someone hit the reset button on the country as a whole. The country and its people are still recovering. Learning the history of what these people have witnessed and endured is a crucial step. We will never be able to fully understand it, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
CulturallyOurs Social Entrepreneurship Collective Humanity Cambodia
As a result of Collective’s partnership with this community, the women have been able to rely on a more consistent income for their families. They no longer have to worry about choosing one child over another to send to school – they can send them all. Collective is in the process of learning more about the community’s needs, such as access to water, health and nutrition.These images are from my second trip to the weaving community. I visited for the first time in October 2017, and again in August 2018.
CulturallyOurs Social Entrepreneurship Collective Humanity Cambodia
Social entrepreneurship in places such as Cambodia is much more than just ‘giving back’. I think it’s a concept that must go deeper than that. Too often we step into other cultures and try to simplify the issue or assume that we know what they need – this idea that they need to be ‘fixed’ or that their way of life should be more like ours. But humanitarian work is not simple. It is complex and dynamic. Social entrepreneurship that has the potential to create sustainable change has to accept that fact and be willing to pivot and grow as a result.
CulturallyOurs Social Entrepreneurship Collective Humanity Cambodia
Collective is unique in the fact that they aren’t just helping these communities, but rather they are becoming part of them.

{Photos and words by Elaine McKellips, Website: Elaine McKellips; Instagram: @elainemckellips}


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