Social entrepreneur, global poverty ambassador and TedX speaker, Caleb Meakins enjoys a challenge. The brainchild behind ‘my40days’, a set of 40 challenges that took him way out of his comfort zone on a daily basis, Caleb pushes himself through fear and into the opportunities that the unknown brings. ‘The ability to face fear and be unafraid of failure is central to being a successful entrepreneur’ he explains.
Born in Ethiopia, Caleb moved to the UK when he was eight, but has always felt deeply connected to the land of his birth. ‘Being at international school in Ethiopia exposed me to many different cultures; they were enjoyable and formative years I had there.’ Thrust into a less diverse London community at a young age represented a challenging transition for Caleb and his sisters. ‘Many people hadn’t been exposed to or lived in another country’ he explains, ‘but we learned very quickly to adapt.’
As a successful mixed-race representative, Caleb was often asked to speak to Ethiopian communities in London, many of whom were grappling with their mixed-race identities. Inspired by his father, he completed a degree in Civil Engineering which equipped him with the skills he needed to add tangible value. ‘I always felt part Ethiopian and part British’ he explains, ‘and I just couldn’t shake off the desire to come back to Ethiopia.’
While there are both opportunities and challenges for diasporas in Ethiopia, Caleb is now encouraging people to return as entrepreneurs. He established the Ethiopian Entrepreneurs Association in 2014, with an aim to ‘inspire enterprise, fuel a culture of entrepreneurship and connect investors to investment opportunities within Ethiopia’ and now splits his time between Addis Ababa and London. His initiatives in Ethiopia continue to go from strength to strength. ‘So many people want to play a part in seeing the country grow’ he explains, ‘and I’m helping show them how they can come back and invest.’
So how does Caleb view FIGT? ‘FIGT is full of great resources’ he explains, ‘and what really excites me is that this is a group of people that really understand cross-cultural dynamics.’ He continues, ‘Culture is the collective progression of the human mind and these days it is more about connections and networks, and less about political powers. We have the opportunity now to create content across these networks and use it as transformative information.’
Caleb believes that as global citizens, our position within and across cultures enables us to drive positive social change and embrace the opportunities that challenge brings. ‘You learn to make your environment work’ he explains. ‘If my family had known a network or community like FIGT it would have been very valuable; it is full of great resources and I can see the value.’
He concludes, ‘wherever we come from, it’s about how we leverage what we have and become key players in the direction that society is going. Society will always change and who will lead that change? It’s normally the people who have a vision for it that actually make that difference.’
- Ginny Philps