OHO Global Citizen of the Month: Aria Florant

“… I was really interested in women’s rights, so I went to Nepal.”

That’s the kind of person U Penn Wharton School Business Student and Stanford Race and Ethnicity Graduate, Aria Florant has always been. Even though I haven’t seen her for years speaking with her through our webcams for OHO about her current endeavours came naturally. It’s refreshing to see that Aria is the same passionate, driven young woman, who’s not afraid to discover just how she wants to experience life and how to improve it for others.

Aria’s passions for women’s empowerment and collaboration continue to morph. She now carries them into the business world, as a burgeoning social entrepreneur and participant in the 2014 Youth Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition (YCEC).

So how did all of these things culminate to become the conceptual prototype and 2014 YCEC entry, Goodlist?

Aria explains that it started before she left for Nepal when she was trying to find an organisation to work with. She says the information, especially on women’s organisations, was “extremely de-centralised.”

Being the proactive advocate that she is, Aria decided, “A sort of directory of women’s organisations,” was needed to help others in their own quest through the tangled corners of the web.

However Aria continues, “As I was travelling, I realised this directory could be way bigger… it could be some sort of platform where these organisations are able to get access to services they need, because I was hearing from them basically 3 things… professional development services, access to funders and markets, and real marketing expertise is needed.”

In Aria’s experience, a major difficulty for non-profits is figuring out long term strategies for improving the lives of marginalised people.

“I think there’s something inherently wrong with the fact that non-profits rely on outside resources because it creates this cycle of dependency,” she says.

Why does this matter?

According to Aria, it’s this dependency that adds to non-profits’ lack of urgency. So they’re not changing the causes of why people are in the positions that they’re in in the first place quickly enough.

This means opportunities of empowerment are currently being overlooked and potential solutions to improve programs and initiatives are not being seen through.

While Aria believes, “low income communities all over the world are valuable… and have the ability to create value that people in higher income communities want and need… the mechanisms of accountability are really lack- lustre.”

She’ adds, “I think that we can do a much, much, better job at measuring what we do and figuring out if it works, than what we currently do.”

So how do we achieve this?

Coming together through social enterprise.

Aria’s central driver and underlying passion for all projects is collaboration, “Bringing people who have not traditionally worked together, together to weave a system of social support that better reflects the complexity of the challenges that they are trying to solve.”

Currently, such organisations are too segregated and are finding it hard to get clients to transfer their success in one area of their life to all areas, because they’re not getting the same support from everywhere.

This means the desire for a silver bullet solution needs to stop.

While it is much simpler to envisage, it is Aria’s belief that the issues are much too complicated. More collaborative and holistic strategies are necessary to create any real lasting system; thus the reason for Goodlist.

Aria says, “I think it’s an incredible opportunity, that maybe we can create a technological tool or platform [for] these kinds of organisations … to start speaking to each other.”

When asked what she would like to achieve with Goodlist, she responds as originally “Aria”, as she possibly could and I can feel her smile radiate through the monitor, “I feel like I should just go big and say by the end of my two years in business school… best case scenario, is that I have a plan and funding to actually make it come to fruition.”

While the Youth Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition was merely an opportunity to articulate her ideas and give the concept some structure, she does hope, “… It’ll just stay alive, that it continues to be edited and iterated on…That I’ll be able to bring more people into the vision… and sometime in the next 7 years, it will become something. Even if it’s in a totally different form, it is still attacking the root issues of Women’s Empowerment and Collaboration.”

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