The first coalition of the new Merrimack Valley YMCA Social Entrepreneurship Institute enjoyed a 10-day trip to India this winter, where participants became immersed in communities that rely on sheer entrepreneurship and innovation to survive.
The trip was the culmination of last year’s formation of the Social Entrepreneurship Institute, an initiative designed to create a space for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship aimed at increasing the organization’s impact within the communities it serves.
For nine months, the Merrimack Valley YMCA equipped the institute’s first group, comprised of executives, program directors, board members, development staff and community volunteers from the organization, with the knowledge, skills, resources and connections necessary to weave social entrepreneurship into the programs and initiatives of the local YMCA.
Then in February, the group traveled to India to allow the members to gain a deeper perspective of how social entrepreneurship is working in other parts of the world.
The Merrimack Valley group toured New Delhi YMCA programs, including a community center located in a slum, a self-help group that encourages women to save and enable micro-lending to individuals in need, a counseling center and an international school and special education training center that generated income for the YMCA’s social service programs. The trip also included a visit to the Merrimack Valley YMCA’s partner facility, the Madurai YMCA.
Ali Beauchamp, business manager for the Lawrence YMCA, said in a release that the trip was “very inspiring and empowering.”
“The impact of the YMCA projects in the communities in India opened my eyes and allowed me to look for opportunities to collaborate with others on solutions to issues that affect our communities,” she said in the release. “We should look inside our community and see where there is a need and how we can contribute to the cause in a self-sustaining way.”
Since returning from India, the group’s members have begun to implement their own social enterprise projects in the local communities in hopes of using the YMCA platform to create positive change within the Merrimack Valley. Anyone interested in learning more about the Social Enterprise projects can contact Stephen Ives, president and chief executive officer of the Merrimack Valley YMCA, at firstname.lastname@example.org.