The Invisible Students
by Fernande Raine | February 14th, 2022
Social entrepreneurs live on Inshallah. Inshallah is, as Abdullah Shihipar so brilliantly described, a term invoked to express hope that — God willing — there might be a better tomorrow.
Every morning, social entrepreneurs get up with a sense of urgency and agency, as well as with the understanding that it is not entirely in our hands whether or not we will succeed. We realize that there is a larger force of goodness and justice, which for some is Divine, that needs to manifest itself in order for our vision to become a reality. We live with a sense of hope that even as we navigate the many rejections that are par for the course (and cheer one another up with memes and cartoons), we should never stop believing.
For the most part, this is a joyful existence. We get to spend our days envisioning a world not as it is, but as it could be. We find collaborators, investors and partners who feel the same urgency, see the future we see, and together, we dream, we plan, we map a path towards realizing our shared goal.
But there are moments that are more than tough. When funders don’t even bother to answer your email. When they say they are open to meeting and at best grant you 15 minutes on the phone to pitch your vision. When they don’t read the documents you sent in advance. When they ask you to send proposals, which you obviously craft with great care, and then they don’t even bother to click on the link to open them before sending you a form rejection. Did you know we can see if you open the document? When they tell you that they are still (or again) in a strategic re-evaluation and will holding off on giving grants for a few quarters.
It is in those moments that you feel in every fiber of your body the words of Elie Wiesel that “The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference.” Indifference is far worse than judgment. We can deal with someone saying “we don’t agree”, or “we don’t think your plan will work”, but the message that “we can’t be bothered to even listen” is the one that hurts.
It is in those moments you realize that in order for hope and innovation to thrive, we all need in some way to be a part of one another’s “Inshallah”. One of the most powerful and democratic lines in the bible is “God has no hands but our hands.” Indeed, whether or not you believe in God, the power of hope and goodness has no chance to be felt if not through us–our hearts, hands and voices. If every day, the dreamers and innovators get up with a hope in this power, it is our job as members of that community to do whatever small part we can to make it manifest.
So what does this mean?
If you are an entrepreneur, help other dreamers navigate the path with hope and love. Be proactive and seek out those who could benefit from your experience.
If you are a foundation, shift some of the time and money you invest in internal strategy reviews, or political machinations, to listening to the people who are innovating on the ground with a sense of genuine curiosity. Communicate with them in a way that acknowledges their dignity. Remember that your grantees are your partners, and we owe our partners the same kind of compassion and trust that we seek.
If you are a philanthropist, find ways — even if at a much smaller scale than MacKenzie Scott –to just show up and be generous with trust and love.
If you are a community member, find a way to be inspired by someone’s vision. And realize that with your hands, your mind and your voice, you can be a changemaker who contributes to manifesting the power of Inshallah.
I believe that there will be a better tomorrow. For all of our children’s future, we must do our part to make it so.