This summer I, along with sixteen other FSU students, had the unique and incredible opportunity to live and study in Bali, Indonesia. For one month, we immersed ourselves in the rich and carefully preserved culture as well as the field of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship. However, this was not simply a study-abroad trip; it was a journey. It was a journey of self-reflection as I grow into the change-maker I hope to become, one of incredible first-hand learning in the field, and one of exposure to the issues I wish to someday make an impact in. While there, we had the chance to learn from Bali’s leaders of social innovation themselves. People who are catalysts of positive change in their communities and the world spoke intimately with us about their triumphs and disappointments and of what it takes to ignite change and empower communities. We were welcomed into family complexes, the boats of local fishermen, the royal palace, sacred temples, and so many more sites that brought an incredible context to what we had been studying in the classroom for so long.
FSU students partnered with students from Ganesha University of Education to conduct basic research on local problems and outline social innovation models for addressing them.
Through the interconnected lenses of education, leadership, and gender empowerment, we focused on the wicked problems of poverty and economic development, the environment and sustainable development, as well as community and global health within the content of the greater Balinese community. As someone who wishes to work with other cultures as a part of my future career, being exposed to how issues are addressed in a very different culture than my own was a priceless experience. We were welcomed by organizations from across the social entrepreneurship spectrum, from non-governmental organizations and domestic high-impact nonprofits, to social enterprises and socially-responsible businesses. Many of the sites we visited were community-based organizations and to be able to have conversations about social innovation and entrepreneurship with local leaders represented a remarkable set of encounters that I would not have imagined for myself a year ago. We visited local women’s centers, fair-trade cooperatives, award-winning educational institutions and social enterprises, a world-renowned environmental restoration project, and many more holistic and elegant models that empower vulnerable populations and address complex problems. We also interviewed a diverse set of community stakeholders, which allowed us to learn more about the issues and strategies from multiple perspectives. The impact we saw in 30 short days was enough inspiration for a lifetime of public service.
Gaby and her fellow students prepared a Balinese meal as part of an immersive case study at East Bali Cashews, a social enterprise that empowers families in rural communities living in the rain shadow of Mount Agung.
It could have been easy to become disheartened at times; after all, we are fighting and witnessing the effects of entrenched, unjust, and multidimensional social issues. However, one of my key takeaways from my experience in Bali is that we must find it within ourselves to believe we have the power to make a positive difference. Throughout all of the social and environmental issues we discussed with leaders in the field and the locals experiencing them, the one thing each person left with us is that there is no perfect time to begin. Change will only come when we decide to take the first step. As social innovators, we must be bold enough to believe in the future we hope to create yet be humble enough to understand that most change happens slowly and, as such, we must remain steadfast. Complex social issues defy simple, straightforward solutions; they demand a deep understanding, our best ideas, a willingness to collaborate, and a long-term commitment. The Bali Immersion experience added an entirely unique and comprehensive layer to my undergraduate education, and I cannot imagine my time at Florida State without it.
Ana (Gaby) is graduating this semester with a B.A degree in International Affairs and a minor in Social Entrepreneurship. She aims to continue her education at Florida State University through the Masters of Public Administration program in the Spring.
The feature image is of FSU students at Kopernik. Students visited Kopernik, a hybrid social enterprise/nonprofit working to address the challenges of people living in “last mile” communities in Eastern Indonesia.