Book – Ripples from the Zambezi by Ernesto Sirolli

Front Cover

Title: Ripples from the Zambezi: Passion, Entrepreneurship and the Rebirth of Local Economies

Author: Ernesto Sirolli

Published: 2009

Pages: 176 pages (paperback)

I’ve been reading a few books in my free time… Unfortunately I skip around too much, and when I get a new one I want to read it right away… but I finally finished one of them.  Although this book seems to be all about economics and microfinance I thought it was fascinating and eye opening.

Brief Summary –  Ripples from the Zambezi is all about Enterprise Facilitation.  This sounds like a fancy business word that means nothing but it actually makes a lot of sense.  Basically what it means is that people who want to start a small business sometimes need help in one way or another getting resources for funding, or zoning or finding markets or whatever.  And the job of a facilitator is just to be available to people who have a passion but need help turning it into a business.

Detailed Summary – Ernesto Sirolli is an Italian who first started his work on this subject in a small town in Australia who had an economy that was down in the dumps.  His work in this town created businesses and jobs and livelihoods for some of the most unlikely of people.  He has trained others to do the same, and has worked in other cities, all of which had successful results.  Perhaps more governments and city councillors should get behind this idea instead of just simply providing loans or tax breaks, perhaps some business owners need something else, like training, partners or business advice.

One interesting passage talks about how most people are not equally skilled at making a product, selling a product, and making a sustainable business financially.  That is why it is important to have business partners with different skill sets.  Because although one person can try to do everything, when they get stressed they will default to what they actually like or what they are actually good at, with the rest falling to the wayside.  This is nothing to be ashamed of, and it makes it important to know your own strengths and weaknesses before embarking on an adventure.

Final Thoughts – I think the hardest part about facilitation is that you only work with people who are motivated.  You don’t tell people what they ought to be doing, instead you wait for people who are excited to come to you and tell you why it’s a good idea.  Then, if it makes sense, you help them get in touch with the right people to make it a reality.  I find sometimes this is hard… even in everyday life.  We want to help our family member who has drug problems, or think that we can change our boyfriend, or help our friend to never be late again.  But really the person needs to want to change their situation for anything to happen, and it’s not the facilitator’s job to motivate.  That means even if after 3 months of help the person with the project just gives up, the facilitator can’t be mad or sad or try to change their mind, they simply must move on.  Sometimes this lesson is hard to learn when you care a lot…  But maybe that’s just me, maybe some people are better at letting people make their own mistakes.

Overall I think it’s a great book, especially for those interested in small business.  It’s written anecdotally so it’s a quick read, and well worth it.


About Amanda

Hi, I’m Amanda! Originally from Ottawa, Canada, I am currently living with my partner (Steve) in Sucre, Bolivia for the next year. I work in the unique space between industrial design and international development – but what does that even mean? I’m passionate about working WITH marginalized communities in a way that utilizes design to improve the lives of different types of people around the world. I have worked, studied, traveled, and researched on every continent (except Antarctica), and most recently I lived in Ghana, Bangladesh and Nepal. I love exploring new cultures and learning more about myself along the way.
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