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Ashoka U Exchange 2016: Inspiring encounters in Social Entrepreneurship

Dillard University Melton Fellow Oluseun Joaquin reports about her experience attending the 2016 Ashoka U Exchange in New Orleans

My passion for innovation and creativity coupled with my drive to make an impact both globally and locally made me highly interested in learning more about Social Entrepreneurship. Hence, once I heard about the 2016 Ashoka U Exchange in New Orleans, I applied for the Melton Opportunity and was one of two fellows selected to attend the conference.

During the Ashoka conference, I had the opportunity to meet Ashoka Fellow Morgan T. Dixon, founder of GirlTrek, which to me is the most inspiring health movement in the country. Learning about GirlTrek, which Dixon describes as “a national health movement that activates thousands of Black women to be change makers in their lives and communities — through walking”, I was inspired and motivated to work with the organization. In fact, Morgan realized my interest and connected me with the Directors of the Girls Trek in New Orleans. My plan is to mobilize students at Dillard University to participate in GirlTrek, and I hope to utilize this platform to empower and mentor the girls.

602In addition, I participated in a site visit to Café Reconcile which was a phenomenal experience. Café Reconcile is an organization focused on transforming the lives of young adults by encouraging personal growth and promoting entrepreneurship. Their nonprofit restaurant, “located in the severely distressed Central City neighborhood of New Orleans, serves as the primary training ground for students seeking to acquire skills in the food service industry,” according to the organization’s website.  Having the opportunity to hear testimonies from alums of the Café Reconcile program helped me gain a deeper understanding of social entrepreneurship. I was highly impressed with the mission of the organization.

The Ashoka conference was a great opportunity for me to learn about social entrepreneurship, design thinking and systems changing. Meeting Morgan Dixon and the Directors of the Girls Trek in New Orleans was an exceptional opportunity which I plan to leverage by working with the organization. Also, my visit to Café Reconcile made me realize the existence of several social enterprises making an impact in the city of New Orleans. These encounters inspired me to work with a social enterprise in order to attain more knowledge and experience to become a good social entrepreneur.