Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." CEI is committed to working with individuals and small groups at the grassroots level, and to connecting that work to resources, organizations, and individuals working effectively at a systemic level. Developing individual human capacity is core to this.
Why: For poverty to change, people’s relationships to poverty must change. Entrepreneurism can play a key role, but the poorest can’t afford to take the risks required of entrepreneurs. That’s why CEI invests in people within the community who understand the culture, are aware of what changes are required, and want to work for the betterment of the community as well as themselves, using principles of entrepreneurship.
What: Internal change agents are people who transform their communities from within. CEI provides training and works in partnership with them, using the 4-Phase Model of Entrepreneurism outlined by Tina Seeling, of Stanford University:
Who: Music teachers, businesswomen, goat farmers, agriculture technicians, filmmakers, bakers—anyone with the motivation and tools can become an internal change agent. CEI seeks out and invests in select individuals who show the potential to effect impacting change in their communities.
Why: Change can be stressful and create conflict. Conflict triggers strong emotions that can lead to unhealthy responses. That’s why CEI considers skill building in areas such as stress management, conflict resolution and mediation, active listening and compassionate understanding to be vital components of transformational development work.
What: Select leaders receive training and ongoing follow-up assistance, to help them develop skills in managing and resolving conflict, and in leading democratic dialogue. In time, these leaders become trainers within their own teams, creating an ever-widening group of community members developing common awareness and techniques to help them deal with the inevitable stresses of change. CEI provides ongoing coaching and support as the team applies their learning to real-life situations.
How: A new partnership among CEI, the University of Rhode Island, and Hope & Change for Haiti, will bring the first group of leaders to an in-depth training in Providence, RI. We are currently seeking additional partners to expand this work.
Why: Salman Rushdie’s has said, “Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their life, the power to re-tell it, deconstruct it, joke about it and change it as times change—truly are powerless because they cannot think new thoughts.” CEI agrees that changing our world must often start with changing our worldview.
What: A series of small group workshops built on the idea that every member has something to contribute and something to learn. People come together to understand problems in a spirit of shared community, where each voice is equally honored and respected. A companion program to Conflict Resolution, Learning Circles build trust and understanding through nonthreatening story-telling and sharing, building understanding and relationships that help prevent conflict from occurring. Together they set the stage for meaningful community transformation.
How: Participants reflectively examine their common stories, gain awareness of how assumptions may influence our joint work, and grow in understanding and trust of one another. Engaging in principles of entrepreneurship such as imagination, creativity, and innovation to reconsider and redesign our work, they reframe constraints, reconstruct objectives, redefine goals, and build stronger working relationships while at the same time coming to better understanding of themselves.