Peace Corps Volunteers are Natural Social Entrepreneurs
Note: Following is a guest post from Aaron Williams, Director of the Peace Corps. If you didn't catch it, check out the great guest post about Laura Kutner, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala on Earth Day last week.
Earlier this week, I attended "A New Beginning: Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship" with representatives from over fifty countries. I was honored to present on a panel of leaders in the field of social entrepreneurship from Egypt, France, Indonesia and the United States. As a commitment to continue the work forged at the Summit, I am also proud to announce that Peace Corps will be increasing the number of opportunities for Americans to serve in our 18 predominantly Muslim host countries by 20% over the next two years.
Social entrepreneurship is a concept Peace Corps Volunteers embrace every day in our 76 host countries around the world. Although each Volunteer has a unique experience, all value the power of community and cooperation to create grassroots change. You would be hard pressed to find a Volunteer, whether with Peace Corps or another organization, ever utter the words, “I did it alone.”
The social entrepreneurship panel led by the White House’s Sonal Shah emphasized the fact that social entrepreneurs, like business entrepreneurs, are vital components of strong economies and societies. Social entrepreneurship unifies business principles and social ventures by empowering people to organize and create social change in their communities. It fosters sustainable grassroots development, addresses specific challenges and increases capacity building in local communities around the globe.
The commitment to work with entrepreneurs around the world, including those in predominantly Muslim countries, was a major component of President Obama’s historic speech in Cairo. Today, over 1,800 Americans serve as Peace Corps Volunteers in 18 predominantly Muslim host countries and, in the last seven months, Peace Corps has added two new Muslim majority host countries, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. Since the inception of the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 44,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in predominantly Muslim nations.
Peace Corps Volunteers work at the community level on pressing issues including teacher shortages, food security, income generation, environmental challenges and youth engagement. Our Volunteers are adaptive and, through hands-on experience, identify what actions must be taken to support local communities and foster the sustainability of community projects.
Peace Corps is a people-to-people exchange of ideas, languages and a commitment to creating a stronger community. Find out more about opportunities to serve by visiting PeaceCorps.gov.
Aaron Williams is Director of the Peace Corps and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic from 1967-1970.