Oglethorpe Alumna Creates Change in Costa Rica

Dawkins (in center with glasses) gathers with her group in Costa Rica

Kerri Dawkins`12, a sociology and urban leadership major, was a key participant and student teacher in the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation Service & Social Entrepreneurship Program Summer Institute in Huacas, Costa Rica. The institute teaches students to utilize social entrepreneurship principles to address social problems and create systemic change. Many regard social entrepreneurship as the new hope for alleviating seemingly intractable social ills because of its great successes in various forms around the world.

Dawkins and a group of dedicated students representing a dozen colleges and universities affiliated with the Sullivan Foundation commenced their summer experience with a rigorous study of social entrepreneurship, including designing a theory of change, developing marketing and fundraising strategies, and creating social business plans. Upon completing the coursework, the students began an internship in which they applied their newfound knowledge of entrepreneurial principles and developed social business plans for locally-owned small businesses in and around Huacas, Costa Rica. Participants also assisted a youth summer camp with CEPIA, a Costa Rican, non-governmental organization that promotes culture, health, sports, and education for impoverished children, teenagers and their families. The summer concluded with each student presenting their business plan to CEPIA, community partners and local residents.

“Oglethorpe University is dedicated to providing its students with opportunities to expand their learning experiences,” said Tamara Nash, executive director of the Center for Civic Engagement at Oglethorpe. “Our faculty encourages student participation and is actively involved in the efforts of the Sullivan Foundation. We believe that our students who learn, first-hand, the unique possibilities of Social Entrepreneurship and the practical applications of its principles will greatly benefit from their experience.”

The small businesses receiving assistance as a result of the students’ efforts included Harmonia Pura, a mobile spa operated by eight low-income women, and GuanArte, a group of women artisans launching their own business; and a start-up ecotourism company spearheaded by high school students. A fourth group of American students assisted CEPIA with generating support for a new integrated community center (CCI). The underlying goals of each project included empowering community members, alleviating poverty, and building a model for sustainable operations.

Dawkins worked directly with Harmonia Pura to help  create a business structure for their mobile spa venture.

Earlier this year, other Oglethorpe students participated in other opportunities provided by the foundation to learn about social entrepreneurship. And, in 2011, the foundation bestowed upon Oglethorpe University the honor of presenting two seniors with the annual prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan and Mary Mildred Sullivan Awards.

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