Welcome to the new website of iCHai (innerCHANGE associates international, LLC). iCHai has been providing training and consulting services to organizations in many parts of the world for over 20 years. In 2006, we decided on a new direction into international development programs in Nicaragua where we have been operating for the last 10 years. We have now returned to re-build iCHai with renewed energy and inspiration and passion of how to address many of the challenges in this country and globally as a social entrepreneurship company. This new classification of a business is defined with a very broad definition that can include non-profit organizations that rely almost exclusively on donations and grants and for-profit companies that put their environmentally sustainable services and products in the front and at the center of their business mission. It can be defined as a new approach to harness business to make the world a better place. This is using business as a means of positive change.
iCHai is now poised and positioned with on the ground and grass roots experiences and lessons learned in order to advise, consult and train other organizations in socially and culturally resilient sustainability for organizational development and more known as corporate social responsibility (CSR). I will be writing from this website to give you suggestions on how you can develop an effective socially responsible practice to give you a strategic advantage in developing countries and throughout the world and make your investments and businesses stronger and your profitability more sustainable.
My hope is that we can begin to have a dialogue on this subject. I come from a Native American story-telling tradition, so much of what I’ll be sharing with you is through my own stories. This is the first in what will be a series of messages, based on actual experiences with many of the people I work with and with whom I have developed my perspectives on this key business strategy of socially responsible and resilient sustainability (SRRS).
As you can see from my short bio, I am an interculturalist by training, and I have lived and worked abroad with people from all across the world. In 2004, I traveled to Nicaragua to open a health clinic built by our local Rotary Club; the following year, I began planning a multi-year community development project, which I ran from 2006-2009, and I’ve been continuing work in Nicaragua ever since. In the second poorest country in Latin America (Haiti is the poorest), I have found companies that were skeptical about humanitarian work, and non-profit organizations reluctant to work with “for profit” companies. To me, a partnership between for profit companies and nonprofit organizations is not only possible but it is essential to have the most impact. In my work, I have been committed to engaging local and international stakeholders from both the private and public sectors; I have worked to create a cooperative approach to community development that would be both economically viable and socially beneficial.
In future articles, I’ll say a lot more about this essential partnership of the for-profit and non-profit sectors and how you can make it work for you in your business and investments. For now, let me tell you a little about this wonderful, little known, and often misunderstood country. Most people still imagine Nicaragua as the war-torn, violent place of the 1980s. When we began our work, this perception was one of our biggest challenges. To be economically viable and socially beneficial, we had to understand Nicaragua from the inside, through the local organizations and communities with which we were working. That’s just what we did and now we believe that what we have learned in how to do this in a culturally congruent way may be of help to many others in the world of social entrepreneurship companies.
Visit this website often for the next messages from me about the last 10 years of development work in Nicaragua. Here you can read messages from our growing group of iCHai associates with their updates on the specific work they bring to the service offerings of iCHai.
~Janet Foerster, M. Ed.
Founder of iCHai