By Ingrid Schwab, Regional Grants Officer, Rotary Grants
We often receive questions about how to best engage the local community in Rotarian-led service projects. One way in which Rotarians can provide service to others is by prioritizing inclusivity in their humanitarian projects. Inclusivity gives an opportunity for all individuals and groups (especially marginalized populations) to have a voice and to actively participate in the local culture and economy. Rather than making assumptions about what needs may exist within a community or the best way to address them, consider instead integrating yourself in the community and taking the time to speak with and listen to all populations. This can include not only meeting with established leadership but also visiting different families at their homes and holding a general assembly meeting open to all community members. It is important to ask about needs while also taking note of existing community strengths through asset mapping and storytelling.
For Rotarians interested in grant or service projects, establishing and operating a social business is a good opportunity to put inclusivity into practice. A social business addresses a need within a community by selling local products and reinvesting the profits into the business itself. While a social business can be privately owned, its value on inclusivity should ensure that profits are used towards a public benefit and prosperity is shared among all members of the community.
Kalpeshkumar L. Gupta and Sujo Thomas provide a good example of social business and inclusivity in their 2013 case study of Mirakle Couriers, a courier agency that employs low-income deaf adults in Mumbai. The founders of the for-profit company saw an opportunity to help the deaf become self-sufficient in a sustainable way through employment. They took the time to understand deaf culture in Mumbai and address their social exclusion through employment, income generation and human connection, and have seen incredible results in self-reliance and independence.
How to establish a successful social business will vary depending on the needs and dynamics of a particular community, but placing a value on inclusivity from the start can help everyone feel they benefit and have a voice. To consider supporting social business and inclusivity through a grant project, please visit Grant Activities for more information and resources.
 Gupta, Kalpeshkumar and Sujo Thomas. “Social Inclusion and Social Entrepreneurship Case Study of Mirakle Courier, Mumbai.” 10th Biennial Conference on Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India, Gandhinagar. 20-22 February 2013.