The Global Story Project: Capturing Tradition in Sri Lanka

6/24/15 – This guest blog post is written by the Global Story Project, a Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA student start-up that documents stories from cultures that Global Story Project Logoare at risk of being destroyed or altered due to colonization, westernization and globalization. The Global Story Project is conducting field work this summer in Sri Lanka and South Africa.

Far away from where we stand now in sweaty Sri Lanka, we’ve spent the past 6 months developing ideas and building what’s evolved into the Global Story Project.

We’re candidates in the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program at Colorado State University where our studies focus on building entrepreneurial skills and ventures that aspire to achieve positive social impact. Our passions: sustainable ways of living, peace building, and the type of knowledge you can only gain from experience. The Global Story Project was seeded from a deep respect for culture and the knowledge that westernization and colonization has been a catalyst for the destruction of cultural values, identities and ways of life.

In her book EcoVillages, Karen Liften proposes that these intentional communities geared towards forging sustainable ways of living hold some of the answers for the future. She proposes a simple solution: sharing “.. skills, stories, ideas and dreams amongst others, [so that] we can apply these lessons in our homes and communities.”

This is where The Global Story Project comes in, creating a space where all of this can be shared and simultaneously preserved through digital documentation, to be celebrated for generations to come.

Co-founders Bianca and Taylor exploring with a coordinator from Sarvodaya

Co-founders Bianca and Taylor exploring with a coordinator from Sarvodaya

It’s important to us that our project creates a full value cycle, so selecting to work with strong partners is crucial. A series of emails and skype calls put us in touch with Sarvodaya, Sri Lanka’s largest organization with an impressive resume of peace building accolades and successful community development programs. Sarvodaya has been in operation for the last 50 years and its network extends to 15,000 Sri Lankan villages.

Directing the unit for international programs is Bandula, a short man in his mid 40s with a cracking sense of humor and an affinity for providing excellent hospitality. Within the space of a moment we felt strongly welcomed; we were greeted over the phone upon our arrival and the next morning with a hug. He is just one of the inspiring characters we’ve had the pleasure of meeting since our arrival.

Sarvodaya is built around Buddhist and Ghandian principles, and they work tirelessly to achieve the strategic goals of consciousness, economics, and power. They believe that working with ‘who’ is just as important as working in alignment with the ‘why.’

A traditional healer in the Kurunegala District

A traditional healer in the Kurunegala District

There are a number of reasons why working in partnerships is necessary – particularly for us as graduate students.

  1. Building long lasting impact. Partnering with organizations with a proven track record of developing and implementing programs in their home country means that work and impactful program development can be continued long after we’ve left.
  2. Logistical support. Working in a foreign country comes with additional challenges and a lack of knowledge about the local context (not to mention language) can mean that getting off the ground can be a slow process. Working through Sarvodaya has helped us to connect with their network, arrange logistics in country and achieve a working productivity that we wouldn’t have otherwise.
  3. Building strong relationships is necessary to connect with the people who we’re hoping to listen to. Sarvodaya are a deeply trusted organization in Sri Lanka, and by association we’re able to facilitate a relationship that would otherwise take decades to build.

We’re excited to be embarking on this adventure with Sarvodaya, gleaning lessons learned from their long-standing community development programs and developing a documentation project for the future. We’ll be on the ground through the end of June providing insights and stories from the people we meet along the way. Stay tuned to follow our progress on our Facebook page.

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