Idea Lab 1: Inspire! with Tiffany Persons

Founder of Shine On Sierra Leone encourages students to "follow their bliss"

Speaker Tiffany Persons at the KIPJ Theater podium.

Photo Credit: Erik Quiocho

The Center for Peace and Commerce's 2014-2015 Idea Labs series kicked off with a compelling discussion with Tiffany Persons, founder of Shine On Sierra Leone. The event was a part of Changemaker Fest 2014 and was co-sponsored by the Changemaker Hub.  In her speech, Persons described her journey as a social entrepreneur, beginning with a trip to a village in Sierra Leone.  After falling in love with the community, Persons was compelled to use her resources to try to make life better for the people she met there.  So began Shine On Sierra Leone, a non-profit organization that is focused on building capacity and empowering individuals to create their own futures.  

While Persons spoke eloquently about the organization's many successes, she also touched on some of the struggles she has encountered as a social entrepreneur.  She described the disconnect between the positive way that people saw her work and how she, herself, felt about it.  Persons came to recognize that the relationship between her as the "donor" and the community as the "beneficiaries" was unhealthy and unsustainable.  As a result, she decided to shift the foundation of Shine on Sierra Leone from a "charity" to a "partnership".  Though this shift was not easy for the community at first, Persons persisted in her desire to create a truly collaborative process, and has seen great success as a result.  

Persons also encouraged students to "follow their bliss" when creating their social ventures.  In her discussion with Interim Director of the Center for Peace and Commerce, Grace Michel, Persons emphasized the importance of the internal state of the social entrepreneur to the success of a venture.  Espousing her belief that thoughts create realities, Persons advised students to look inward to locate their passions and skills, and then to explore how those skills can help them change the world. 

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