In an educational and inspiring podcast on Nick Night’s The Profit Ability Show, Pierre Mainguy describes his journey from being an Los Angeles finance student engaged in venture capitalism to leading an international development NGO, Community First, in Cambodia.
As a business man, Mainguy has always found it rewarding to create new revenue within the economy. When a discussion with co-founder John Waley highlighted that his work, in a location such as Cambodia, could make drastic changes to someone’s life, he travelled to the country’s capital Phnom Penh. While conducting interviews there, the social trauma that had been caused by years of conflict and civil war became apparent, leaving local people stripped of their livelihoods. A whole new supply chain needed to be rebuilt. Mainguy believes “if given opportunity to change people’s live, it is our moral duty to do it.”
And there, with a “small grant of 10,000 dollars”, he began his journey.
Community First went on to introduce aquaponics into Cambodia. Aquaponics works on the basis of a symbiotic ecosystem between plants and fish. Such a system is perfect in Cambodia, a country prone to drought and flood as it uses only 10% of the water required by regular agriculture while producing three times the yield.
The driving force behind this venture is social innovation or “the process of developing and deploying effective solutions to challenging and often systemic social and environmental issues in support of social progress.” (Stanford Graduate School of Business)
Mainguy goes on to emphasize that in order to address social development from an economic viewpoint, as well as ecological viewpoint, young women’s education is crucial. For example, Community First started by setting up seamstresses programs, but recognized that for the women to fully benefit from this scheme they also needed basic business and financial skills such as the ability to calculate a break-even point.
Many challenges have arisen throughout their endeavours, but their creative approach in tackling these is a great illustration of how social innovation requires enthusiasm, persistence, and thinking outside of the box. For instance, the issue of off-grid rural electricity generation was remedied with solar panels. Another great innovation implemented by Community First was replacing the expensive and heavy gravel growing medium with the rice husk; a widely available waste product. This drive in overcoming challenges is truly something to inspire each of us in our endeavours. As Mainguy says, “Whether it’s first, second, third world; it’s all one world. On an emotional level, it's all the same concerns.”
If you want to see social innovation in action, please check out the Community First Facebook page and Instagram. We hope you too feel inspired to look at how your skills can be applied to create lasting social change!
To listen to the whole podcast you can follow the link here.