Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mixing business and...Peace Corps?

Far from Wall Street, suits and exorbitant pay checks, I am working in business.

First, I will redefine business. Forget about CEOs and corporations, and try to follow me back to the basics. A mother of four has a dream and needs to make a living to support her children. Creating a business that draws on local resources, like coffee beans, grows the local economy on multiple levels while simultaneously celebrating and honoring a traditional icon of Costa Rica- café.

A business doesn't have to be complicated. An output, a product, a coffee bean necklace in exchange for money- money that can be used to grow the business, feed the family and buy school supplies. Simplicity is crucial, and in many cases keeping all levels of the business understandable to the masses can help keep it away from trouble.

Last month I started my new role as Volunteer Coordinator for the Community Economic Development group in the Peace Corps. The group of 20 trainees is diverse, and filled with solid business experience. Each session I prepare is a challenge; how can I enrich their knowledge and build on their own experiences, while keeping it engaging and preparing them for two years working in business in rural Costa Rica?

Yesterday I led two sessions- basic business administration, and business coaching (or coaching skills in general). Looking out at the group: a certified real-estate agent, two ex-Bloomberg employees, multiple master degrees, a PhD and numerous business and economic degrees, I was struck by how strong our group was- and how together this group will have a huge impact on the community economic development of Costa Rica.

Expectations may need to be adjusted, as there will be no quick solutions and no large rewards. But the new group knows this, and they really do seem eager to begin their service. Each and every one of them is a business man or business woman, but free of the negative stereotypes. This is business for the community, business for the people, and business for the common good.