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Dignity: Celebrating the Sprit of Entrepreneurship

abstract:I sit across the bistro table talking with Raseel Sehmi, the Vancouver Chapter Chair of ACUMEN. Acumen is a nonprofit organization founded by Jaqueline Novogratz in order to change the way the world thinks and deals with poverty. Acumen claims to have impacted 100 million lives "with dignity, not dependence." Raseel is telling me about her Vancouver Chapter's activities and the upcoming fundraiser in Vancouver on May 15th, 7-11pm at the trendy Electric Owl, 928 Main Street called Dignity.

The afternoon sun streams brightly through the window effectively blinding Raseel whose iridescent eyeshadow is not the only dazzling feature of this confident and composed international-based beauty. We shift the positions of our chairs so she can more easily answer my questions about how she got to be one of Vancouver's hardest working disciples of social awareness using entrepreneurial initiative.

"It's not enough to work at our 9-5 jobs," says Raseel. "Young people like myself who've been educated abroad and who've traveled the world are incredibly aware that their lives need to incorporate a greater purpose in order to find fulfillment. We probably spend as much time working for not-for-profit initiatives and various causes in our free time, as we spend at our full time jobs."

This is in keeping with my reading on Gen Y or the Millennials, as this age group is referred. A joint study by AMP Agency & COS about this demographic (born 1979-2001) had this to say:

The Millennial Generation is by far the most analyzed, most marketed to and most intriguing generation to date. It is a generation that is comprised of individuals who are extremely ambitious and not only have high expectations for themselves, but also for those around them including their friends, families, communities and brands. It is also a generation that has been shaped by tragic world events such as 9/11 and natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. The result is a group that has developed a strong social conscience amplified by technology.

When I ask Raseel how she came to live in Vancouver when her Facebook and LinkedIn profile mentions Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda, India, Myanmar and London England, she answers that her parents were diplomats and she moved with her family regularly to postings around the globe. Her parents presently live in Mumbai Maharashtra, India. She came here after completing her graduate studies at SOAS (The School of Oriental and African Studies, London University). [Disclosure: Raseel and my daughter were classmates at SOAS] She currently works at Vancouver's hot social media company,


May 05, 2013
— HootSuite, in their Solution Partner Program, which is designed for agencies and consultants looking to demonstrate social leadership and offering social media services. Perfect. Before that she worked with the Aga Khan Foundation, The BC Council for International Cooperation, the United Nations Development Program and on and on. Keep in mind that Reseel is under 35.

Intrigued by Raseel's description of the workshops she's organized for ACUMEN I go the website to find a cool mix of courses. Each are about empowering people to effect change. They also each have an established learning partner organization. Some courses are group-based and self-led programs, such as Storytelling for Change, Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation and Lean for Social Impact. This last course descriptor goes:

Lean LaunchPad draws on the latest thinking in Silicon Valley on how to build companies that maximize customer value while minimizing wasted effort. In an environment where the majority of startups fail, lean principles aim to give startups a better chance of success by helping entrepreneurs learn more quickly what works and discard what doesn’t.

ACUMEN also supports a Salon and Dinner series with a Student Competition.

What I love about meeting Raseel and hearing about ACUMEN and DIGNITY are the success stories. In a world where we are flooded with push mobile news updates, multi-channel soundbytes, and global digital media coverage of world crises, conflict and corruption, people like Raseel are making connections and finding ways to create change for a better world. And while that doesn't alter the fact that Gen Y is about a decade behind their parents on the milestones such as: completing their educations, getting married or deciding on a life partner, jumping into a mortgage or starting a family — they may just be the first generation to actually do more good in the world than any before.

Getting in touch with Raseel Sehmi

  • @jhiniworks and
  • @Van4Acumen
  • Register for Dignity 2013 here.



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