Daphne Nederhorst Makes a World of Difference

Daphne Nederhorst of Sawa Global in a photo by Yukiko Onley


Linda Solomon: You’re executive director of Sawa. What does Sawa mean and what does it do that makes the world a better place?

Daphne Nederhorst: Sawa means “equal” in Swahili. We give recognition and a global voice to local grassroots leaders in the fifty poorest countries in the world that have never had the chance to tell their successes.

These individuals have no outside support and all on their own have made a significant difference in their communities, either for people living in extreme conditions or by protecting a fragile part of the environment.

Linda: What are the goals of Sawa Global?

Daphne: We want all people to have the basics: water, food, and shelter. We want all children to be protected from neglect and abuse and to be able to go to school. We want health for all, making sure we can reduce the major diseases like HIV and malaria.

Linda: What else?

Daphne: We want a green planet, the protection of our natural environment. We want equality for women.

Linda: You want a perfect world, but the world is imperfect. So, how are you going to go about perfecting it, given that?

Daphne: We say, ‘let’s find the people in the toughest places on earth and see what solutions they have found to solve the world’s urgent challenges because if they can do it, we can all do be heroes in our own communities and make a positive difference.'

Linda: How do you find these heroes and how do you help empower them?

Daphne: We have four steps. First, we find extraordinary individuals that often no one knows about. We have a network of over 250 SAWA videographers around the world that find the SAWA heroes and, once we find them, we have five categories of how we classify these heroes.

Linda: Please explain.

Daphne: The first is that they are from one of these 50 poorest countries. The second is that they have started that initiative on their own without outside support. The third is that they have had significant impact in one of our 5 Sawa themes. Fourth and fifth they are operating out of a nonreligious and nonpolitical basis.

Linda: Once you’ve found them, what do you do with them?

Daphne: We train local videographers in the fifty countries to document these heroes and to be proud of that they have solutions and positive solutions for their own countries that the world can learn from.

We partner the Sawa Heroes with a local videographer to document their success stories and innovations on video.

Also, we project the incredible leadership of the Sawa Heroes on our website so each hero gets a profile of their video story and the impact that they have achieved. But also on the profiles, there are simple takes on what they want from the world to help them grow. Those are non monetary asks. In this way we connect these heroes to their own Sawa mentors.

Linda: Sawa mentors?

Daphne: A Sawa mentor can be somebody with specific skills in a specific area, but it can also be any individual who knows how to do research on the internet. A Sawa mentor not only learns from the hero’s success, but connects them to a wider network from funding organizations to advisory boards. In this way, a success that may have been local begins to reverberate globally.

Linda: How may volunteers work for Sawa in Vancouver?

Daphne: We have twenty-one volunteers and every day, someone new signs on. We have film producers, graphic designers, leadership consultants. I call them the Sawa angels because they are the team that has made the Sawa dream come alive. They do everything from making video clips to graphics, to going to other countries and doing trainings. They are incredible people.

Linda: Who are some of these incredible Vancouverites?

Daphne: Charles Holmes is one of our advisers. He works with the Dalai Lama Centre of Peace and Education. His role is to connect us to strategic partners here and around the world. We have Joanna Buczkowska, she’s the managing director of the Centre of Sustainability and Social Innovation at the Sauder School of Business. The centre has taken Sawa Global on as their official project to make us the most financially sustainable social enterprise that ever existed.

Linda: What have they done?

Daphne: They’re hiring several MBA graduates to work with us and to develop income model. They will approach specific foundations and businesses to come on board and fund in what we are doing.

It’s a critical partnership. There is quite a lot of strategic thinking behind how all of this is going to grow and how this is going to allow us to give millions of heroes a voice.

Linda: Did you say millions of heroes?

Daphne: That’s the dream, to give millions of Sawa heroes a voice and connect millions of people around the world to work with them to solve some of the world’s urgent challenges.

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