Social Ventures and the Maasai Tribe – Adventures from Africa
Based upon the response from “Cows on the Beach”, I thought that another story about Structuring Social Ventures in Africa would be appreciated. This story is about “Spending time with the Maasai”.
In the Summer of 2007, my wife and I were asked to assist a University with the structure of a social venture to promote college education among the Maasai Tribe of Kenya and Tanzania. The Maasai Tribe then asked us to assist them with the structuring of a tourism social enterprise. Since this was a grassroots, community-based social venture and I would never pass-up a trip to spend time with the Maasai People, my wife and I made the trek to Kenya and Tanzania.
Our Community Meetings (shown above) were on a mountaintop overlooking the Masai Mara National park in Kenya. The Wildebeest Migration was coming to an end but we witnessed hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, giraffe and gazelle followed by lions, hyena, cheetah and other predators. Of course, the views and the experience were amazing.
One story of note, Maasai Warriors are required to kill a lion on their own armed only with a traditional spear at age 16 to become a true Maasai Warrior. While showing a film that was created for the Maasai about the tourism social venture – we noticed that these people had never seen a movie before in their lives. The film was short but showed the typical indigenous safari viewing lodges, wildlife and scenery as an introduction to the tourism social venture. In one scene, there was a large picture of a beautiful lion lying in the bush. At the sight of the lion, one overly aggressive young warrior stood up and promptly threw his spear at the lion and through the movie screen. Have to say, that was one reaction that no one anticipated. Of course, after he saw the effects of the spear, he relaxed and everyone else went back to watching the movie. I have to say, spending time with the Maasai was one of the highlights of my life and certainly my career as a tax lawyer.
When structuring social ventures (especially when dealing with grassroots meetings with indigenous people) in Africa, it is important to understand the culture and mannerisms and social customs of the people you are working with. I always advise clients to “learn from the local people” and to “listen alot and speak less.” We have to be cognizant of the reality that we are trying to help these people but we are not supposed to westernize them. I hope that the social ventures that I have assisted with have supported the local people without changing them. Africa has amazing cultural heritage that should be preserved for as long as we can.
These two social ventures are on-going and the structures are simple in design but complex in operation and in real life experience. Real life experience can teach you more about social ventures and social entrepreneurship than an textbook or individual ever can.
Thanks for your support. Please contact me at Ray Dinning (757_ 232-2619.