We’d like to introduce you to a Frenchman who has given up his well paying job, first world luxuries, and comforts of being at home to travel the world for one full year. This self funded journey is not a holiday but an adventure to learn about social issues and social ventures world over. Arnaud Blanchet is travelling across the developing world, visiting 20 countries, from Nepal to Vietnam, Argentina to Palestine and this is just the beginning. At the end of his one year of extensive travel and exploring, Arnaud plans to start his own social venture not in France but in one of the countries he visited, dedicating his entire remaining life to address the social issue that moved him the most.
Arnaud Blanchet, Finance and Strategy expert by profession and the CFO at his last job in France, gave up all and decided to explore social businesses after reading the book, “80 Men to Change the World”. Written by two french guys the book is a portrait of people who are committed to changing the world through social businesses. The book opened Arnaud’s eyes to the world of social enterprises and people who are inventing solutions to solve the world’s greatest problems. Interested to learn more, Arnaud decided to travel the world, to see for himself the various issues and to meet the people in the field and eventually to identify a business opportunity towards which he could dedicate his life.
Arnaud kicked off his world tour with Skoll Forum at Oxford on March 28, 2011. Skoll Forum is a gathering of social entrepreneurs from around the world. Currently Arnaud is in Brazil and to-date has completed visiting Nepal, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, California, Colombia and have met over 60 enterpreneurs. His future travels include Argentina, Middle East, East and South Africa.
I met Arnuad when he was visiting San Francisco in July and was so moved by his commitment that I contacted him again recently, while he was in Brazil. I was eager to know his views on social problems across different countries and how people are solving it.
Arnaud’s Observations After Traveling Half the World
Lots of people are committed to solving social problems, more than ever.
Issues are more on less similar across developing countries – survival, health, education, sanitation etc with certain countries having their own unique problems for instance in Colombia a lot of focus on preserving the tribes living in the forests and maintaing bio diversity.
The key differences between social entrepreneurs in developing countries vs developed countries, is that the majority in the developing countries are the ones who have suffered the problems themselves and would like to do something about it. While in California and UK, social entrepreneurs have seen the problem from far and are moved to take action. However ventures run by latter are far more professional in their conduct and think scale and replication.
In few places social entrepreneurship has really taken off such as India, California while in other countries such as Vietnam it is still struggling to get legal and social recognition.
In Universities, social entrepreneurship is now gaining mainstream focus. Villgro in India is working with IIT Madras to include a program on social business. University in Saigoan, Vietnam offers social business course. Other well known Universities which offers training in social entrepreneurship are Said Business School,UK and INSEAD,France.
Though Arnaud has not yet made firm plans as to what he’ll like to do but he has identified 3 areas that he is really interested in – water management, waste management and agriculture and would pick one of these to either start his own or to help an existing social enterprise scale.
We’ll report back on what Arnaud is up to after he ends his trip in South Africa in May 2012. For now if you have any message for this Frenchman, please share them in the comments below.
You can also visit his blog where he is documenting his travel.