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Social Entrepreneurship

What is Social Entrepreneurship?

Social entrepreneurship is about applying business principles to some of the world's toughest problems. Through the establishment of social entrepreneurship ventures we have the potential to create viable solutions to social problems, create accountability and sustainability, create livelihoods for the poor, and facilitate change and bring hope to needy peoples. Social entrepreneurship is a means by which we can help disadvantaged people deal with change and a channel through which hope can be offered.


One outlet for my growing work on Social Entrepreneurship is the OU WaTER Center. I have joined this great group of researchers in helping them create viable and sustainable solutions for safe drinking water for peoples in developing countries. For more information on the OU WaTER Center, check them out on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/OU-WaTER-Center/248324025221672?ref=hl




Ethiopia - July 8-21, 2012

A team of researchers from the OU WaTER Center have been working on the fluoride problem in Ethiopia now for four years. As a part of this inter-disciplinary team, Jim Chamberlain (WaTER Research Engineer) and Lowell Busenitz (OU College of Business) took off for Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia on Sunday to begin their 2-week sojourn. Their primary interests are in understanding the small business and entrepreneurship potential in Ethiopia, especially as it might allow for a sustainable market for the introduction and adoption of sustainable fluoride mitigation technologies. Our assumption is that social entrepreneurship will play a key role in bringing safe drinking water to Ethiopia and to many other developing countries. In addition to meeting with key players in Ethiopia's water future - Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, government ministries, etc. - they will be visiting villages in the affected areas, hoping to understand what makes a small business work in these locales.

The Fluoride Problem: Over two million people worldwide are impacted by unsafe drinking water. Fluoride is one problem that many people face such as in the central Rift Valley of Ethiopia. Fluoride is an element that is beneficial for preventing tooth decay at low levels, but causes discoloration of teeth and skeletal deformation and brittling at very high levels as is found here. While many treatment methods exist for the removal of fluoride, there is still lacking a set of mitigation options that are inexpensive, readily available, easy to maintain and effective. Our researchers are working on these sustainable solutions. The OU WaTER Center team is currently working on designing and testing techniques finished that filter our fluoride.


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One of numerous meetings that we had to better understand life and the economics of Ethiopians.

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This is looking outside the window of our hotel room in Addis Ababa. Less than 100 yards away is a shanty town then a high-rise business building behind it. Up on the hill in the upper left side is where a high ranking government official lives. In so many ways, it seems that Ethiopia is a land of contrast.

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Some great Ethiopian food complete with ingera (a crepe-like bread)! Ingera is made from the teff, a grain that is specific to Ethiopia and it is gluten-free!

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A herd of sheep being directed through the streets of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia.



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We were treated to some freshly roasted coffee from Ethiopian coffee beans! Ethiopians are very hospitable. They also seem softer spoken and more gentle then Americans.

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Dr. Dave Sabatini and Dr. Jim Chamberlain and Teshome Lemma at one of our numerous meetings with NGO representatives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.



Ethiopia - July 19, 2012 - On to Meki

On July 19, 2012, the OU WaTER Center team traveled to Meki, a mid-size town of about 50,000 people in the heart of the Rift Valley, where fluoride levels in water can be as high as 23 mg/l. Levels above 3 mg/l will manifest in dental fluorosis (mottling of teeth) and above 8 mg/l can result in skeletal crippling and weakening of joints. Laura Brunson and Anne Kroeger were already working in Meki. For the past 3 weeks, Laura had been conducting experiments in a makeshift lab on the effectiveness of various configurations of bone char and fish char. Her column studies will offer important input to the choice of most appropriate technology for various affected communities. Anne is a medical anthropologist who was assessing and measuring the presentation of symptoms and pains of villagers affected by years of drinking fluoride-impacted waters. Her work will have many implications, including assessment of health impacts, frequency of fluorosis occurrence, and awareness of the connection between the fluoride and symptomatic expressions.


In addition to visiting several fluoride treatment installations - using bone char and Nalgonda technologies - Lowell and Jim sought out small business owners and micro-financiers to better understand the business environment and climate for entrepreneurship. The team stayed at a Guest House run by the Catholic Diocese of Meki, staffed by a group of Catholic priests and lay staff. Lowell's room was right next door to the Bishop's quarters!

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Walking back from a meeting on the streets of Meki, Ethiopia.

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We wanted to go see a bone char water treatment facility but due to the heavy rains, we were not able to drive through these streets. On to Plan B - a cart pulled by two donkeys owned by a local farmer!


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Gig'em Jim!!!

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Now we are rolling and having fun!

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We made it to the water treatment facility on the strength of eight legs and two wheels! The big tank behind us uses bone char to filter out fluoride. Local villagers come and buy the filtered water filling their containers from the spigots.


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A "Community-based" water source for the locals.

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Bone Char: These animal bones have been charred in a big oven for days are now ready to be ground. The resulting ground bone char is one way of filtering out the high levels of fluoride in much of the ground water in the Rift Valley of Ethiopia and other countries as well.


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This tank is part of a Nalgonda technique for removing fluoride in the Rift Valley.

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Boomer Sooner! I came across this boy wearing this OU sweat shirt in the town of Meki! I was wearing my OU hat at the same time but at first, he did not seem to understand the connection. Within a few seconds of my camera coming out, his friends quickly gathered around and helped him display his wonderful Sooner colors!

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Sanitation: A form used in making concrete slabs for arborloos (pit latrines)

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Actual slabs for arborloos. Now they need a business plan to figure out how to get this into the villages and homes that need sanitation without being dependent on donations and grants from governments, NGOs, and generous individuals. A new social entrepreneurship opportunity anyone?


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This picture seems to illustrate that the donated toilet model is not sustainable.

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A new stove design that is much more efficient than an open flame.

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Ethiopian's have a wonderful taste for color as illustrated here.


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The fresh fruit that we saw growing on trees (and got to sample) was amazing!

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A different way of farming to say the least: "Dorothy, are we still in Kansas?" Probably NOT!



For more information on the OU WaTER Center, check them out on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/OU-WaTER-Center/248324025221672?ref=hl