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A life-changing year

Literary Landscapes is a monthly column by Indra Wussow, a writer, translator and director of the Sylt Foundation.

2017 was a year of hard work and difficulties as we endeavoured to realise many important projects for the Sylt Foundation. It felt like we were lacking something to make our work a true success. ‘Transformation & Identity, Trauma & Reconciliation’ was designed as a long-term project to connect different artistic approaches to our histories and our transformations in the seven countries of Cambodia, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Israel, Myanmar and South Africa. Even though we hosted major workshops in Yangon and Phnom Penh and travelled with international writers to Chile, that year it became clear that something more substantial was needed in order for us to dive deeper into the shifting social parameters, to further scrutinise the enormous role historic events still played in the societies that we visited and from which we came.

Literary Landscapes Indra WussowWe wanted to collaborate more closely with communities but, aside from the limited experience that we had through workshops in partner NGOs like Soweto Kliptown Youth (SKY), we had not yet managed to establish a sustainable programme.
     South African artist Hannelie Coetzee told me about the Social Entrepreneurship Programme at the Gordon Institute for Business Science (GIBS) in Johannesburg, where she had been a student some years ago. I was immediately hooked, I applied in January and by February I was sitting in my first lectures.
     It was a mind-blowing experience. As the field of social entrepreneurship matures, more university researchers should, and will, turn their attention to the systematic, quantitative work necessary to move beyond anecdotes and case studies. When done well, these observations can lead to more productive interactions between academia and practice. We were an amazing class of 70 highly motivated and knowledgeable people from different parts of the industry and the perfect interface between academia and practice.
     I cannot tell what struck me more during this year: that I learnt so many new things that were on one hand very practical yet had an academic substance that I really enjoyed, or my new fellow students from whom I learnt a million things during the course of the year.
     Social entrepreneurship is clearly favouring mission-driven interventions and is about empathy. Empathy is a powerful emotion, allowing us to understand other people, their position, and their needs. For anyone looking to start a social enterprise, empathy is vital. To make a difference, you need to understand the communities you will be working in and how your efforts will impact them. And it was this empathy that was vital to our relationships as students. We became a big family – a family of elective affinities with big hearts and minds. 

To read more about how Indra Wussow plans to integrate new values into her arts projects in a financially viable way, purchase the February 2018 issue of Creative Feel magazine, or continue supporting our role in the South African arts and culture sector by subscribing to our monthly magazine from only R180.00 per year.

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