Social Enterprise

Through the Lens: One Entrepreneur Works to Solve a Devastating Problem

Through the Lens: One Entrepreneur Works to Solve a Devastating Problem
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Ever wonder what goes through the mind of a successful entrepreneur while he or she is still immersed in the project? I have. Often we ask the extraordinarily successful ones after they have achieved that success how they got there, but how we see something while we are immersed in it can be quite different from how we see it once we are somewhat removed from the situation. When we fail, we tell ourselves, it is often (at least in part) due to factors other than us, and when we succeed, we are persuaded that the reason is (again, in part) because of how awesome we are.

When I volunteered for the November 2013 kickoff of the Archimedes Project, which was featured in another article in Rock On Ink, I realized that I would have a unique opportunity to compare the “before and after” stories, so I talked with the project’s founder, Faith Wallace, before the event. Our conversation provided a compelling, inside view of how it all started from the perspective of a founder in the midst of the entrepreneurial journey. Eventually, this view can help us understand the project from the point of view of a founder telling a project’s story before she knows the outcome as well as when she has measurable results.   

“I never would have thought that my dreams for this project would have changed so much – or that that would be such a good thing,” Wallace told me. “The ultimate goal, ending cholera in Haiti, has remained the same, but how I dream of bringing people together to do that has changed drastically.”

Wallace began developing the Archimedes Project kickoff with the idea of a big conference with panels and keynotes and quickly found that she thought that large groups never get anything done.

“They talk a lot. They think a lot. Then they go back to their jobs, and the world moves forward barely an inch, if at all,” observed Wallace.

After many, many conversations the November event emerged: a small one, collaborative in nature and focused on a very specific output, an enterprise that will be created at the event by the people who attend.

Wallace is excited by the actionable nature of what she and the rest of her team are doing. If all goes as planned, their ideas will soon be tested in Haiti. The Archimedes Project model moves beyond creating awareness of the problem by pinpointing and then acting on a solution. Here, talk turns into action.

According to Wallace, what is needed is not new technology or ideas. It is figuring out how to leverage what we already have to make permanent change.

“If someone could take away only one idea or sentiment from the Archimedes Project, that would be it,” said Wallace. “How tragic it is that the tools to end this devastating problem exist, but people around the world haven’t properly mobilized to use them effectively to solve the problem. I want to change that.”

Wallace says that she has been repeatedly – and pleasantly – surprised by how often people use the word transformative when they talk about the Archimedes Project.  Wallace shares that perception and remains deeply hopeful because she and her team have gathered what she describes as “an amazing group of advisors who are incredibly excited about the project”—not only for a weekend but for the time it will take to see the project implemented.

“People are ready for a different way of doing business, and we are opening the door for that to happen.”

Acknowledging that implementing this social enterprise effectively will take time, Wallace says that some people have asked her what she hoped to get out of the November event in the immediate future.

“I want us, the Archimedes Project – to be a part of changing the conversation on water and sanitation from how difficult it is to how to make it happen. I want to see how we can work with local organizations and people from across sectors to come up with a new system that can make real change in the health and wellbeing of people in Haiti and across the world. There are a billion people who don’t have water and 2.5 billion who don’t have toilets in our world. There are also technology, ideas, and money in the world to help those people help themselves. I want to make a dent in doing that.”

With that in mind, people new to the project often ask how they can get involved. Here’s how:

The Archimedes Project will be posting videos, including final pitches, of its ideas throughout the process. You can join the Archimedes Project online at their blog or on Twitter @ArchGrp to discuss these ideas and pledge your own time, energy, talent, and funding as well as those of your organization. Much like the event, the Archimedes Project is looking for ideas and talent from different sectors and functions.

People interested in helping can also spread the word and join the Archimedes Project on Twitter and Facebook. You could also support the project financially or tell someone you think could. According to Wallace, this project is entirely bootstrapped, so every dollar makes a difference.

“Our greatest challenge now is time,” Wallace continued. It is for the project and more importantly, it is for all those who are affected by cholera and want to find a solution.

“I have been incredibly lucky to surround myself with wonderful, hardworking, and intelligent advisors and interns from the start,” said Wallace. “I am looking forward to seeing us create change and find a solution to the cholera problem in Haiti. Join us.”

Faith Wallace is the founder of the Archimedes Project, a social enterprise being developed in the hopes of eliminating cholera in Haiti. The project’s kickoff event was held November 1-3, 2013. It brought together people from several sectors to begin creating the social enterprise and trying to find a solution to this problem affecting the health and economy of people in Haiti. Wallace and I talked about the project before its inaugural event.

The Project has since been working on implementing its solution. Wallace announced via Twitter in February 2014 that she was “[thrilled] to have been invited to Clinton Global Initiative University to represent” the Archimedes Project. To find out how you can get involved, contact @ArchGrp.

To get in touch with or suggest a story for Rock On Ink, tweet @rockonink.

 

*Photo: Archimedes Project.

**This conversation has been edited for flow and clarity.

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