All posts by AdRF

To Profit From the Entrepreneurial Zeitgeist We Must Look Beyond Financial Gain

Entrepreneurs are often perceived as the heroes of our age and widely championed as the answer to the economic doom and gloom. At a time when the vast majority of headlines portend long-term financial drudgery, success stories stand in sharp contrast, proving that it is possible to turn a great idea into a billion-dollar business.

Entrepreneurs often provide a focal point for our own aspirations. To some, they give hope that one day they may stumble across an idea that will make them rich beyond their wildest dreams. But what if you aspire to more than material wealth alone? What if you seek to address an injustice, challenge misconceptions, or overcome cultural disharmony?

The same entrepreneurial spirit that is helping to create some of the largest companies in the world today, can also help us to address social challenges that are prevalent during times of financial hardship. It is a belief that many people share. Social entrepreneurship, the practice of pursuing innovative solutions to social issues through business acumen, is becoming one of the fastest growing sectors worldwide.

According to the State of Social Enterprise Survey 2013, there are 70,000 social enterprises in the UK alone, employing around one million people. The sector’s contribution to the economy has been valued at around £18.5 billion. What’s more, it is a growing sector with 38 per cent of social enterprises increasing turnover last year compared with 29 per cent of standard SMEs.

One of the areas that social entrepreneurs are tackling is to promote better collaboration between disparate communities. Cross-religious antipathy continues to be one of the most divisive forces in the world, often leading to geopolitical instability and violence. Throughout history, relations between Jews and Muslims have either been strained or enjoyed appeasement. Political tensions in the 20th century, particularly in the Middle East, have driven a wedge between the two, creating pressure in communities across the globe. These communities have effectively become hostages of a conflict often far away from home. Where politics and traditional diplomacy between community leaders have widely failed to impact at a grass-roots level, a more business driven approach could provide a renewed source of hope.

In response, a unique initiative that is challenging the traditional boundaries of interfaith dialogue and creating a new model for conflict resolution has emerged. Over the next fortnight in Cambridge, UK, the Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship will bring together social entrepreneurs from across North America and Europe, harnessing the power of social business to bridge the cultural divide between Jews and Muslims. The Fellowship serves a dual purpose: it provides social entrepreneurs with guidance on the fundamentals of growing successful enterprises, while also deepening understanding and fostering collaboration between both communities. Fellows will attend tutorials on identity politics, religious diasporas or the Arab-Israeli conflict one day, and revenue generation or business innovation the next.

The Fellowship aims to develop a network of professional entrepreneurs who not only have the tools to develop sustainable businesses that deliver a measurable social impact, but are committed to improving relations between the Jewish and Muslim communities. One of this year’s fellows is heading the Muslim Enterprise Development Service (MEDS), a community based economic development Organisation based in Liverpool, UK. Another is the founding director of Fair Trade Judaica (FTJ), a nonprofit dedicated to building a fair trade movement in the US Jewish community

Social entrepreneurs have the power to overcome some of the greatest challenges faced by modern society. Only by applying an innovative and free-thinking approach to deep rooted problems can we seek to change the world around us. In doing so, we can build a new model for collaboration and conflict resolution, that can go far beyond the Jewish and Muslim divide.

We need to think big. We are living in the age of the entrepreneur; the spirit of the time presents us with a formidable opportunity to expand our view of what entrepreneurship means and what it can achieve.

Firoz Ladak,
Executive Director of the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations

AdRF at Cambridge University! Meet the new 2013 class!

“Social entrepreneurs can bridge the Muslim-Jewish divide,” says Firoz Ladak, Executive Director of the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation 

Social entrepreneurs from Europe and North America gather in Cambridge to help usher in a new era of cross-cultural collaboration and create a revolutionary model for conflict resolution.

Monday 19th August 2013, Cambridge: The Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship 2013 will launch today, bringing together the brightest social entrepreneurs from across Europe and North America to develop a new model for conflict resolution by harnessing the power of social entrepreneurship.

“We want to create a network of entrepreneurs who not only have the tools to develop successful businesses that deliver sustainable social impact, but are committed to improving relations between the Jewish and Muslim communities,” said Firoz Ladak, Executive Director, Edmond de Rothschild Foundation. “The Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship bridges the gap between business and the charity sector, providing entrepreneurs with the freedom and financial rigour to explore innovative ways to drive social change. We are building a community of culturally enlightened entrepreneurs who can truly change the world. This practical approach sets a new standard for conflict resolution ”.

 The Edmond de Rothschild Foundation runs this program in partnership with Judge Business School and Kings College, Cambridge. The Fellowship opens its doors to individuals looking to improve society through a business-driven approach. It provides social entrepreneurs with guidance on the fundamentals of growing successful enterprises, while also fostering inter-faith collaboration between the Jewish and Muslim communities.

Through an intensive two-week program at Cambridge University, the program helps change-makers to develop their organization and strengthen their social impact. It achieves this through a combination of theoretical teaching, tailored coaching and peer-to-peer learning. But this unique initiative goes beyond business education.  It gathers participants mainly from Jewish and Muslim communities and trains them to navigate across cultural differences with input from the humanities and experiential dialogue.

Since its creation in 2009, the Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship has developed a community of nearly 100 exceptional leaders across the world.  All demonstrate an outstanding track record and a commitment to social change by promoting impactful innovation with a business-driven approach: from counselling British women living in fear of honour killings, to improving cancer care for young adult patients or training elderly people as teachers in local schools.

Each year the Fellowship receives more than 500 applications to take part in the course. In 2013, applicants were whittled down to 23 selected individuals. This year’s intake includes representatives from France, Switzerland, the UK, Canada and the US. A full list of 2013 Fellows can be viewed here:


The Fellowship is open to anyone working for social change and interested in cross-cultural dialogue from North America and Europe. It will continue to expand its geographical and community outreach.

Ariane de Rothschild, said: “By learning and doing together, the Fellows will share an extraordinary life experience. It is my hope that they join our vision and become ambassadors of social impact and dialogue, particularly among Muslim and Jewish communities.”      

Intercultural work is no longer all talk

Intercultural work has developed greatly over the past years. We are well beyond just “dialogue”.

Most people would probably agree that trying to establish better relationships between people of different faiths and beliefs is very desirable, in particular in today’s multifaith, multiethnic society. We have all seen what happens when those relationships are not working, with everything from inter-communal tensions to religious and far-right extremism rising to the surface. But fewer people have any concrete suggestions about how to actually go about improving the relationships. Intercultural work is a vital part of the solution, if it is done right.

The days when intercultural work was all talk are long gone. Many organisations and projects now place emphasis on generating shared action between people from different communities – at all levels of society.

Dialogue in the classical sense is still important, and we obviously want to see more religious and community leaders involved in intercultural initiatives – but we will not stop there. It is not uncommon to find projects working with teachers and pupils, with artists, social entrepreneurs (like ADR), doctors and lawyers and other professionals, political leaders, university students, etc. It is also important to try to involve as many different people as we can from the religious to the non-religious.

While opportunities to meet people from other cultures are increasingly common, meaningful learning doesn’t always follow and they don’t necessarily bring about positive shifts in attitudes and real social change.
Instead of going the well-trodden route of sloganising the promotion of intercultural harmony, it is essential to act in order to bring about the wider change we need to see. Good intercultural engagement often begins by increasing people’s understanding of what others are like – by not just teaching the facts about what they believe, but instead by creating opportunities to meet and explore questions together. Single events often lead to positive changes in attitude. Yet, they have proven in many cases to be less effective over the longer term and are more likely to reinforce

stereotypes because they don’t allow enough time to truly understand other people’s stories. Sustained programming, on the other hand, provides an opportunity to develop deeper relationships based on trust.

To create a successful encounter, it is essential to use a neutral or shared space to serve as a “safe space”. Within this framework, the participants develop ground rules. Maintaining this environment will enable the participants from each of the groups to cultivate feelings of respect and understanding.

Intercultural work, at its best, allows people to break through their old prejudices and get to know something of the actual person behind the stereotype. This is above all a humanising process, where people discover similarities with those they previously saw as fundamentally different to themselves. And even when there are substantial differences of opinion, people often discover that these are not real obstacles to co-operating and getting to know each other. And they are certainly not a reason for hostility.

If done well, we will see attitudinal change, but it is a long process to really extend these changes into communities and society at large.
This type of work – call it intercultural, inter-communal, inter-faith or whatever you wish – should really be part of the culture of each country. If we want to see a real improvement in community relations it’s not enough to just wait for things to get better. Interaction between faiths and cultures has to be actively encouraged and facilitated at the outset – until it becomes a natural part of everyday life. The cost of doing nothing is too high.
We don’t pretend that intercultural work is a panacea for all of society’s ills. There are tensions and problems between communities that can’t be solved by more inter-cultural understanding. But by getting over the negative attitudes that keep us divided, we are in a better position to work together to deal with the real issues at hand.
Promoting understanding and co-operation between our diverse communities is a crucial step towards building a more united society, free from hate and intolerance. That is why intercultural work is needed today more than ever.


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