The Importance of Diasporas
Photo Creds: TheFuzzStone
We recently came across a diaspora analogy that we strongly resonated with. The analogy was coined by Kinglsey Aikins in his great TedTalk linked below: Diasporas are all stars, revolving around the sun, their home country. By reconnecting the “diaspora galaxy” together, truly incredible feats can be achieved.
The term diaspora derives from the Greek word “διασπορά” meaning “dispersion” or “scattering”. Historically, the term was used to refer to the Jews fleeing Babylone in the 6th century. It has since been generalized, and today a “diaspora” is generally used to describe any person living in a country other than their country of origin. According to the United Nations, approximately 272 million people today are part of a diaspora community. If diasporas made up a country, it would be the 5th most populous in the world.
Diaspora communities, and their inherent connection to their homeland, have always been an important shaper of world dynamics. In ancient times, trade networks were organized by diaspora communities abroad; indeed, especially in the area of trade, merchants needed people to trust and they found such people in merchands with shared backgrounds and cultures. As Harvard historian Philip Curtain states, “from the beginning of urban life, millennia ago, trade typically involved networks of co-ethnic merchants living among aliens. Greeks, Phoenicians, trans-Saharan traders, the Hanseatic League, Jews, Armenians, overseas Chinese, and the Dutch and British East India Companies organized much of world trade through such networks.” To use a more “pop-culture” example, the historical British show “Peaky Blinders” depicts the strength of diaspora communities in post-WW-1 England; Gypsies live with Gypsies, Chinese with Chinese and Jews with Jews. In the show’s most telling example of the diaspora’s international reach (SPOILER ALERT), an Italian character living in New York comes to England to avenge another Italian killed in England.
In recent decades, diasporas have continued to have a sustained impact on their country’s development, for better or for worse. India’s now flourishing IT industry was kickstarted by so-called “return migrants”, that bought new ideas and knowledge back home. The country of Israël was built entirely by the Jewish diaspora. Léopold Sédar Senghor, Senegal’s first president, or Edward Saïd, a renowned Palestinian intellectual, are examples of influential diaspora members that have had a real impact on their country’s political development. Irish-Americans were very involved in the lengthy and bloody “Troubles” their home country went through. Another contemporary example would be the involvement of the Somali diaspora in domestic Somali politics, which is subject to controversy depending on who you ask.
When talking about the influence diasporas have on their home countries, the first thing that comes to mind is remittances: money sent back home from the diaspora. Global remittance flows amount to more than $600 billion a year. Remittances make up more than 1/6th of Armenia, Haiti, and Jamaica’s GDP. Since we’ve already covered the power of remittances in an article you can access here, we will now talk about the other consequent ways diasporas can impact their country of origin. The term “diaspora political activism” has gained prominence in recent years, as the advent of the internet has allowed such initiatives to flourish. Diasporas from authoritarian regimes such as Eritrea or Syria have created their own media outlets to raise awareness about the problems their home countries face. Large diaspora communities such as Mexicans in the United States frequently lobby the US government to gain favorable immigration legislation. By spreading their culture and views in foreign countries, diasporas often participate in what Professor Joseph Nye coined “soft power”: the achievement of desired outcomes through attraction instead of coercion.
Diasporas’ attachment and involvement with their home country are resilient and counter-cyclical, a term we already used when talking about remittance flows. Indeed, stronger diaspora mobilization usually happens when their home country is going through severe turmoil. Once again, the Lebanese diaspora’s increased involvement following the horrific woes Lebanon has faced is a case in point. This argument should also be nuanced, as local political turmoil also leads to people leaving and thus becoming diasporas themselves. A relevant example would be the large exile of those same Lebanese people worldwide following the country’s violent civil war. Regardless, it is widely agreed that diasporas represent an incredibly stable, reliant, and resourceful group of people that home countries could definitely benefit from.
In the past couple of years, countries have started to understand the potential of their diasporas, but especially the potential of diaspora-homeland collaboration. Ireland held a large event aptly named “The Gathering” during which thousands of events were organized surrounding themes such as business, culture, music, arts… The events attracted more than 300,000 Irish men and women living abroad and was deemed a success. The West African country of Ghana is strongly pushing African-Americans of Ghanaian descent to come to Ghana and visit the place from which their ancestors were savagely removed from. In terms of economic involvement, Indonesia is setting up a diaspora bond, while Israel has an infrastructure bond, through which Jews worldwide can invest in Israeli infrastructure. Governments have also encouraged the creation of connected diaspora networks, a good example being ConnectJo, a Jordanian diaspora network of professionals supported by Jordanian King Abdullah II.
These initiatives mentioned above are useful and impactful, but GrowHome brings something different, revolutionary, and world-changing to the table: a platform allowing diasporas to help entrepreneurs back home. Entrepreneurs solve local problems and diasporas acquire intellectual and financial resources abroad: connecting both unleashes human capital and innovation on an unprecedented level. Through GrowHome, diasporas can connect with entrepreneurs back home, and from then on either collaborate, mentor, or fund those entrepreneurs. The platform is set up as a social media platform, so diasporas can see updates from what entrepreneurs post, a process we call “impact tracking”.
We are starting with diaspora-entrepreneur collaboration, but GrowHome’s vision is way larger than that. A couple of our long term goals include GrowHome Music, a platform connecting diasporas to artists back home, allowing diasporas to finance promising artists from their home countries. GrowHome Incubators would consist of building start-up incubators in marginalized communities such as refugee camps or slums, unleashing the dormant potentials of thousands of innovators in the making. GrowHome Infrastructure would seek to partner with construction professionals in the diaspora to undertake infrastructure projects back home, creating jobs locally, and boosting the economy. GrowHome Healthcare would bring medical professionals in the field back home to train local doctors while working with large healthcare companies to build adequate medical facilities.
We believe GrowHome can, and will, change the lives of millions. The GrowHome model is replicable to virtually every country on earth. You, as a diaspora, can use GrowHome to have an individual, efficient impact back home. Taken together, thousands of individual actions can lead to permanent change and development.
We want to change the world. We know you do too. Let’s do it together.