UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Not so fast—building resilience in place : BRAC (Bangladesh) and the rise of social enterprise in the world's largest non-governmental nonprofit organization Koerner, Jacqueline Laura


Against a backdrop of accelerating globalization, poverty in the Global South has declined over the past thirty years. However, a singular focus on short-term economic gain has advanced socio-economic-environmental injustices, as evidenced by the growing income inequality gap, greater job insecurity, and environmental degradation. To address these issues, government, businesses, and civil society need to find scalable approaches that are inclusive of the broader needs of society and the environment. This study is ‘solution-seeking’. It examines one non-profit organization (NPO), BRAC, founded and headquartered in Dhaka, Bangladesh. BRAC fosters locally based and globally significant ways to achieve durable economic, environmental, and social initiatives. Its work is accomplished through both charitable programs and revenue generating mission-aligned social enterprises operated from within the NPO. This research investigates qualities of resilience and place in BRAC. In reviewing literatures that engage with resilience, I observed that most resilience literature is directed at social-ecological systems and place as a local-scale, community phenomenon; there is scant mention of social-economic place linked to cross-scale interactions. Through two separate case studies, I examine how BRAC: • Uses place to build organizational resilience and greater resilience in the lives of its clients; • Engages in cross-scale interaction; • Employs both slow and fast variables in its work in pursuit of transformation toward more inclusion. My research demonstrates that for BRAC place matters. This is not quaint, nostalgic localism but essential and difficult work to create lives of dignity in a globalized world. ii My research findings indicate that attending to slower variables in resilience building in BRAC is more challenging today due to the pressure of market-based enterprise activities and the need to reduce dependence on aid and philanthropy. My research further shows that operating social enterprises within charitable NPO offers a strong platform for continuously including the most marginalized. In order to do this, BRAC needs to promote risk taking and experimentation in its enterprises just as it does in its development programs. Building inclusive social enterprises is challenging work that takes time and significant donor support to be inclusive, scalable, and sustainable over time.

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