4Basra is a social entrepreneurship project run by John Reynolds in partnership with a small European NGO which supports a children's hospital in the Iraqi city of Basra. John is a part-time freelance journalist based in Dublin, Ireland.
John has a background in sourcing, procurement and business development in the mobile telecoms sector across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. He hopes to leverage these skills in helping source a number of medicines and supplies for the hospital.
I was curious to know how a social entrepreneur could afford an office in Dublin 2?
John Reynolds: Well for one I share a room in a building with 2 others. Secondly we have a very kind and understanding landlord. Friends of the Earth Ireland, the Sustainable Water Action Network and Voice of Irish Concern for the Environment are also based in this building.
John Reynolds: Yes. I recruited our logo designer, Gudrun Hilmisdottir, a highly qualified freelance graphic designer who is based here in Dublin, through the CreativeIreland website. Eoghan Murray, our web designer was recruited through the FreelanceIreland website if I recall correctly. One approached me after reading the blog. She has just returned from Basra. And the other two approached me through my ad on Activelink.ie. Three are based in Dublin. The one hopeful who recently returned from Basra is based in the UK.
EirePreneur: So the net is invaluable to you!
John Reynolds: Yes, my take on it is that it shows the huge potential of the internet for finding and recruiting people, networking and making contacts. It is certainly invaluable.
As I'm saying to alot of people at the moment, we'll take all the help we can get. I cheekily asked a writer I know - whose creative writing seminar I attended a while back - if she would like to help, and it turned out she had raised a bit of money for a similar thing in Afghanistan. So I've recently been pleasantly surprised at the interest, enthusiasm of people and willingness to help.
EirePreneur: I've only started exploring Social Entrepreneurship myself of late so I'm trying to understand if its completely voluntary or do you have an income through 4Basra?
John Reynolds: No I don't have any income through 4Basra. It is entirely voluntary and I cover all admin and other expenses out of my own pocket. I did travel to meet our NGO partner and tried to cover some of the costs through an article for Village magazine - that is all I've done in that respect so far.
EirePreneur: Can I ask so what it is that motives you? Was it your research into Oxfam that encouraged you?
John Reynolds: It was a number of factors. Certainly researching the history of Oxfam Ireland was one. I was lucky to meet alot of staff and volunteers, right up to board members and the chief exec, and I was impressed by their professionalism and dedication, their enthusiasm and the camaraderie among the staff.
Secondly I read of the situation in Basra and about the difficulties in getting supplies for the Basra hospital on the BBC news website. I got thinking surely I can do something here to help somehow and so decided to try and get in touch with the NGO.
The last factor was that I had worked in business with some friends and felt I could offer or apply some of my business skills to an NGO. The business sector we worked in is very cut-throat and competitive and I was getting very fed up and disillusioned with putting in a lot of effort to secure one particular major contract and it falling through at the last hurdle due to barriers that were put in our way.
EirePreneur: What business was that, what is your background?
John Reynolds: I studied journalism at University in the UK, while at the same time trying to make headway in a business with some friends in the mobile telecoms sector, where my role was sourcing and business development. I'm now a part-time freelance journalist.
EirePreneur: What supports are available to you? Would 4Basra not be eligible for non-profit status allowing you to generate an income?
John Reynolds: There are a number of organisations I've looked at. One is Ashoka Ireland who give a fellowship grant. There is also Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. As far as the non-profit status and generating an income goes, it's very possible we might go down that route. I've taken advice about registering as a charity with non-profit status but it's too early to say when or if we'll do that at the moment.
EirePreneur: What is the current status of the project and can you tell me more about your future plans?
Secondly we have a long list of medicines I hope one volunteer will be pricing and trying to help us source. Thirdly we hope to generate some publicity with Oxfam Ireland on the issue of 'Patents Vs Patients' which is all about large pharmaceutical companies preventing the manufacture and cheaper production of generic drugs for illnesses such as HIV Aids and Leukaemia.
As regards fundraising plans our goals at the moment are the three I've mentioned - but there are a good few other ideas I have in the pipeline. On the fundraising, we will have a better idea when we've totted up the cost of the medicines I've just mentioned. When you consider that the Leukaemia drug Imatinib - we need 3,000 tablets for the hospital so they have anough for the next 3 - 6 months - which costs about €8,000 for that amount, you can see the huge task ahead of us.
John Reynolds: I think social entrepreneurship is becoming a growth area. The non-profit sector has had to adopt some of the entrepreneurial outlook and business skills from the corporate world in order to stay at the top of its game. As far as role models go for anyone thinking of doing this or contributing their own time and skills, there are a whole host to choose from: Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Bono, Anita Roddick, John O'Shea and various Irish entrepreneurs looked at by RTE earlier this year.
EirePreneur: Thanks for taking the time John, it's been great learning more about Social Entrepreneurship. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
John Reynolds: Yes - I welcome any ideas, contributions or offers of help from anyone reading!