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Often, it seems business frameworks are used at the expense of human rights in the world. It only takes examples like Standing Rock, Rana Plazaor Apple’s conflict minerals to see business in opposition to global justice. Our team - Onur Aksu, Chelsea Racelis, and Malgorzata Zurowska - was challenged with the question: How can we use business approaches to support human rights and social justice? 

With Humanity in Action Poland as our output phase organization, our team was tasked with developing a new, sustainable revenue stream that would bring the values of human rights and diversity to more people. It was a unique challenge, especially while our peers’ had tasks such as “How do we combat hate speech on the Internet?” or, “How can we reduce stigma toward the LGBTQ+ community?” We had something very tangible to work with, yet lots of room for creativity. 

In our design thinking workshop earlier in the fellowship, we learned the value of entertaining “crazy ideas” - putting out all of our thoughts in the beginning and judging their feasibility, relevance, or effectiveness later. To begin, our team grabbed any business frameworks we knew, such as core competencies analysis and social enterprise models, and took a shot at applying them to Humanity in Action Poland. Indeed, this is how we arrived at our concept: a social justice and human rights subscription box. 

For the first two days of having this idea in our heads, it was more of an inside joke than anything else; something we had thrown onto the brainstorming board for laughs; something that was too far-fetched and beyond our dreams. When we pitched it to the HIA staff, we were honestly shocked at how much they loved it. Over the week and a half that followed, the idea of a subscription box only grew more real. Currently referred to as the “HumanityBox,” this subscription box would contain items, educational resources, and inspiration related to a specific theme each month, such as LGBTQ+ pride, women’s rights, or environmental justice. Part of the proceeds from every box would go to a HIA Senior Fellow/HIA alumni or/and an organization fighting for that month’s cause. It became obvious to us that this initially silly idea aligned so strongly with HIA’s mission of human rights and social justice education, its ability to connect activists across backgrounds and passions, and its strong conviction to foster innovation. 

Our group was unique in many ways; none of us had worked with a team like this from three different countries, with three different academic backgrounds, and three different working styles. Throughout the process, we used that diversity as a strength. We cannot really say exactly what made our group work, but we know we had fun with each other. Our advice to next year’s fellows is this: 

Balance doing something you’re excited about with doing something that is helpful and feasible for the organization you’re working with. 

Retain a mindset of “How could we make that work?” rather than “Here is why it won’t work.” 

Give yourself space to entertain ideas that seem ridiculous; ideas first, criticism later! 

The output phase is something unique to the Warsaw fellowship, and it is just one of the many things that make the fellowship special. It kept us grounded, reminding us that praxis must follow theory. We are better activists because of this opportunity to apply our skills and knowledge to making a tangible difference.

By Onur Aksu, Chelsea Racelis and Małgorzata Żurowska, participants of the 2018 Humanity in Action Warsaw Fellowship.


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