As a lifelong entrepreneur, I have a passion for building sustainable solutions. I view the resources that I endow One Earth Future with as “venture capital,” to be used to help create solutions that are valued by institutions other than our own. By helping humanity create new systems to solve emerging problems, it is possible to achieve self-perpetuating, systemic change over the long term. This reflects our view of the evolution of governance, where a new idea is tested, its value is proven, and it becomes widely adopted and scaled.
2016 was a year where we began to see this dream come to fruition. Our Shuraako program’s mission is to connect Somali entrepreneurs with capital. Lending $1.1 million from the Arsenault Family Foundation to Somali entrepreneurs has created 502 gross permanent jobs. Because our Somali partners repay the loans, this system is economically sustainable. After three years, several large loans have been paid back in full, and we are expecting a very low default rate of less than 5%. Shuraako’s proof of concept has resulted in new investors wishing to invest in Somalia, furthering its resilience, prosperity, and stability.
We have achieved this kind of impact by coordinating the private sector, civil society, and local and national governments, which all contribute to “peace through governance.” Our strategy remains focused on building other multi-sector governance networks. We do this by listening to local voices (our stakeholders) and designing OEF programs to fit within their context and goals.
This strategy is further illustrated by the three new programs launched in 2016. Shared Resources works to elevate community voices in the broader natural resource governance framework, converting a bilateral relationship between the private sector and national government into a true governance network. PASO Colombia’s goal of sustainable reintegration of FARC ex-combatants is buttressed by strong local communities and civil society, as well as a proactive business sector. Thus PASO Colombia promotes network governance as a broker, matching the needs of ex-combatants with resources. Our Secure Future is also working to connect stakeholders with the right resources through promoting committed action to turn policy into practice, strengthening networks of women peacebuilders, and amplifying women’s voices.
Two milestones—systemic impact and enhanced focus—show that OEF is ready to move from its entrepreneurial phase to a more institutionalized phase. It is time to shift our focus toward building a solid foundation of leadership, processes, partnerships, and accountability. Successfully executing this transition will allow us to grow aggressively and efficiently.
Leading this charge is our new president, Larry Sampler. Larry understands the complexity of creating sustainable peace. He helped build the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s mission monitoring the Dayton Peace Accords in the former Yugoslavia, planned and executed the Emergency Loya Jirga in Afghanistan, and ran USAID’s Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, leading the U.S. Government’s two largest aid missions, both in the context of armed conflict.
Larry brings leadership, discipline, and excitement to OEF. As a great manager, he knows how to build and sustain high-performing teams to achieve even the most ambitious missions. Larry will step in and coordinate a series of fiercely independent and exciting programs, along with ambitious employees seeking to change the world now.
As OEF moves into its next stage of institutional development, my role will be to ensure that the entrepreneurialism of OEF remains a part of its DNA. I will lead the development of new initiatives, an inherently entrepreneurial endeavor. The Board and I will allocate the growing resources of OEF based on evidence of systemic impact. Perhaps most importantly, I will ensure that individuals who embody the entrepreneur's passion, commitment, hard work, and persistence always have a place, as well as a path, in this growing organization.
OEF’s current trajectory has already exceeded even my unreasonable expectations. Combining the best of my entrepreneurialism with Larry’s ability to build a strong, focused, and disciplined institution, and adding in our diverse, talented, and dynamic team, is a potent recipe for success. I’m excited to see how OEF can build on the systemic impact of 2016.
Marcel Arsenault, Founder