This is my first foray into fundraising, and it’s a bit different to the usual “run 10km for charity”, so bear with me. In three weeks time I’ll be travelling to Gaza with startup founder and all-round amazing woman Elizabeth Shassere, where we will be volunteering as startup mentors & coaches for local tech entrepreneurs. Our hosts, Gaza Sky Geeks, view international mentors’ time to be a considerable donation: we bring knowledge and expertise to a region has extremely limited resources, and thus can play a small but important part in helping to shape the next generation of entrepreneurial business leaders in the Middle East.
Elizabeth and I are fundraising to help cover the costs of our trip; you can read more here: https://www.gofundme.com/gaza-sky-geeks
I can appreciate that it’s not exactly easy to wrap your head around funding someone’s volunteering trip *anywhere*, least of all to a place that is high up on the Foreign Office’s list of countries that they categorically advise against all travel to… so we’ve provided more information on our fundraising page about the reasons we’re choosing to volunteer for Gaza Sky Geeks. But I also wanted to add in a personal note here, to give a bit more context to why this matters to me.
1. Having spent 3+ years running a non-profit organisation and a social enterprise in Peru, I’ve seen first-hand the difference that volunteering can make to the success and sustainability of an organisation. Yes, sustainability, despite regular volunteer turnover. If a non-profit or social enterprise has strong leadership and a solid operational baseline, then it can only benefit from the new ideas, knowhow, and energy that volunteers bring. Many of our volunteers in Peru fundraised for their trip, and the impact that they had through their work was tangible and long-lasting. Gaza Sky Geeks has developed a strong and impactful programme, and has the operational systems & processes in place, so I’m confident that mine and Elizabeth’s time will be put to extremely good use, and ultimately contribute toward the positive impact of the programme.
2. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m passionate about social justice and equality… so where does tech and entrepreneurship fit in? For me, technology is only useful as an enabler — I am pretty inept when it comes to tech, much to the amusement of my colleagues and friends in this industry, but put that tech to good use, and suddenly a mission-driven entrepreneur or organisation can exponentially increase their reach and impact. And entrepreneurship? The whole reason I wanted to work in this sector was because a key part of any successful social enterprise is generating revenue, and if you don’t have the business acumen and know-how to do so, you’re at the mercy of restricted grant funding. Entrepreneurship, especially the lean startup variety, is such a vital skill for anyone, but it is particularly relevant and impactful in communities that are hampered by limited resources… i.e. the sorts of communities that I was working in in Peru. Two words that I dislike intensely are “development” and “empowerment” (that’s for another blog post…), but promoting entrepreneurship and facilitating skills transfer has a tangible and long-lasting impact in driving economic growth, decreasing inequality, and promoting positive change. This is what excites me about the opportunity to go to Gaza.
If you’ve read this far then you’re a hero.
Originally published at lauraihbennett.com on August 10, 2016.