Solving the Same Problems in a New Context

June 27, 2019


By: Rafaela Mendes, Amani Social Innovation Management Fellow in Bengaluru

Prior to joining Amani’s Social Innovation Management Program in India,  I worked in Brazil with a network of political leaders focused on creating better cities for people to live.  So, I had many meetings with amazing people, some of them even younger than me, who were doing marvelous work to solve all sorts of social issues. After each meeting I had this feeling that all of the solutions had already been created. I was stuck. What should my contribution to make people’s lives better be? How can I create a new solution for old problems? Maybe, I am just not a creative person? Feeling the pressure and being in a hurry to create change, I started to look for articles, workshops or courses to understand how can I improve myself in order to be the social entrepreneur I want to be.

One day, I was scrolling down my Facebook feed when I saw an article about the educational trends for professionals in the social impact sector. In the article, one of the experts, Julia Melo, the Brazilian Country Manager at Amani Institute, was talking about how the key to social impact is the constant exercise to seek understanding about the causes which move us from our comfort zone.

This quote caught my attention, so I started to research Amani Institute and was excited to see that applications for their Social Innovation Management Program were open. But, the Brazilian class was filled and I had to choose between doing Immersion phase in India or waiting for the next class in Brazil.

So I jumped (I was in a hurry, I couldn’t wait) into this experience in Bangalore, India. I hoped to find tools that could help me to understand my role as a social entrepreneur and finally be a catalyst agent of the change I want to see my home country, Brazil.

It’s been exactly three months that I’ve been in Bangalore. The journey until now has been  filled with exciting classes, the most diverse experiences shared among 19 people from 3 different continents around the globe, curiosity to continue learning more about this city and country, but, also I was facing difficulty in this journey to understand myself, what I want to do for myself and for the others around me.

Part of my brain was still in Brazil, and I had a hard time understanding how an experience in such a different place, like India could help me learn how to make a difference in my own country.

But, one day, doing one of the readings for the Social Innovation class, I read this quote in the book “The Ten Faces of Innovation” by Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman: “No matter where you’re from or how patriotic you may be, I hope you’re willing to concede that there are more new ideas outside your country “.

This statement challenged me in two ways. First, I was looking for solutions as a final product, ignoring the journey that I must go through in order to find a new idea, and then I remembered what Julia said  “to produce social impact you need a deep understanding about the problem”. And second, I found myself physically far away from the problems that I faced every day, with this possibility to zoom out from my daily life in order to see the bigger picture of the social issues and possible solutions.

I put myself in the place of the foreigner of my own country to see beyond my deepest assumptions, beyond the thoughts I considered to be right or wrong, to make associations that I never did before.

Of course, it is not easy to put everything you know aside and start thinking like a beginner in your own country and culture. But, one of the hundreds of lessons I learned in the Social Innovation Management Program is that people don’t have a special kind of enlightenment, but a process to see old problems with new perspectives, and then find new solutions.

Are you looking to gain the skills you need to solve social issues in emerging markets? Applications are open for our Social Innovation Management Program in Bengaluru, Sao Paulo, and Nairobi.