Five Faith-Based Innovators You Need to Know About

by Leith Greenslade

In her article, A Leap of …Entrepreneurship? Finding a Place for Faith in Social Innovation, Rebecca McQuigg Rigal argues that there is plenty of room for faith in social entrepreneurship. We agree! In addition to the several organizations listed in Ms McQuigg Rigal’s article, we want to add the voices of a new generation of Jewish social entrepreneurs who are driving social change in some of the most fragile countries on earth. These are five faith-based social innovators that are making a major contribution to the debate:

  • Laura Stachel, Founder and Executive Director of We Care Solar, making childbirth safer by solar powering maternity clinics in Africa and Asia;
  • Melissa Kushner, Founder and Executive Director of Goods for Good, helping communities in Malawi start their own businesses so they can support local children orphaned by AIDS;
  • Sivan Borowich, Founder and Executive Director of Innovation Africa, introducing Israeli technology to African villages to power schools, medical clinics and provide clean water;
  • Catherine Lieber Shimony, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Global Goods Partners, paying living wages to women artisans in Africa, Asia and Central America and selling their crafts online; and
  • Jessica Beckerman, Founder and Co-Executive Director of Project Muso, training women in Mali to become local community health workers to reduce child mortality.

These women all report that it was their faith that inspired them to step up and address some of the most challenging social problems of our time and their entrepreneurial spirit that led them to create and lead their own organizations. But despite being driven by faith, their work is still largely ignored by the faith-based philanthropic community. We hope that this will change because faith-based social innovation requires faith-based donor support. In 2012, the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York was the first Jewish donor organization to invest in the five women and when we added up the impact of our $103,000 investment, we discovered, to our amazement, that 7500 women, 8,000 children and thousands of families would benefit. This is largely because donor dollars go much further in developing countries but it is also because these women are social entrepreneurs and their technologies and operations are extremely cost-effective. Think how much will be achieved when more faith-based donors get behind the new wave of faith-based social entrepreneurs.

Leith Greenslade is Co-Chair, Isha Koach, A global project of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York