Diversity Can Be a Superpower for Social Change: Olive Oil Entrepreneur Atif Choudhury | The social enterprise magazine


Why is diversity important? For Atif Choudhury, the answer is obvious.

“I would firmly say that diversity of thought is the key to social innovation, and perhaps one of the things that profoundly changes the world. And that might be the only thing that really does,” he said.

Choudhury is the founder of Zaytoun, the world’s first fair trade olive oil company, and Diversity and Ability, a social enterprise that supports “individuals, organizations and social justice projects to create inclusive cultures where diversity is valued and people can thrive.

In his keynote speech at last month’s NatWest SE100 Awards, the social entrepreneur praised the finalists and winners for “recognizing where the power lies and where the voices of those in need of support can be…heard” . The real test now, he added, was to ensure that their organizations had “lasting power”. This meant convincing people in more comfortable situations of “the urgency of your work and how desperately needed it is”.

The lack of social capital that we faced as founders was the very thing that made it work

Innovations have sometimes happened because of, not in spite of, people’s lived experiences, Choudhury said, “as marginalized as they may sometimes feel.” At Zaytoun, for example, “the lack of social capital that we faced as founders was precisely what made it work”.

Many historical accounts suggest that the experience is not unique.

Thomas Edison, for example – “a diabetic, deaf and dyslexic man who didn’t like to spend a lot of time with people” – took many hours to invent the light bulb.

“Maybe because he didn’t find it easy to be around people, maybe it gave him the time, space and focus to do something that just wasn’t easy. to make it work,” Choudhury said. “Nevertheless, it worked and it changed the world.”

Talent and strength will be missed, unless we make it our job not to get excited when it’s famous – but to seek it when it’s quiet.

Anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman, inventor Alan Turing, boxer Muhammad Ali and climate activist Greta Thunberg – all influenced the course of history in part because of what made them “different”.

However, the most innovative thinkers often remain under the radar.

“People are erased all the time, and we will miss talent, strength, diversity of thought and differences, unless we try hard not to get excited when it’s famous – but to seek it out when it’s famous. It’s quiet, when it’s not famous,” Choudhury said.

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