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“[A] technology social enterprise with a social mission is the enterprise that makes sense because it creates investment assets that attract and generate wealth, provides high reward opportunities for subordinated groups – like women and minorities, it can scale ideas that disrupt the established order in any given industry, and thrives from cross disciplinary and innovative problem solving.”

R. Bong Vergara

In this episode our guest R. Bong Vergara describes how he utilizes innovation and social enterprise to build sustainable social impact and build wealth for impoverished communities. He weaves social and physical sciences perspectives to challenge conventional approaches and invites both social workers and citizens alike to move from being a technology consumer to a technological innovator.

R. Bong Vergara

R. Bong Vergara, MSW, MA, is an adjunct assistant professor at University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. He formerly taught at UCLA and The California Endowment Health Exchange Academy. He primarily teaches courses in policy practice and applies social work solutions in the overlap between human and planetary health. He earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from UCLA. He is currently a doctoral student at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Mr. Vergara developed and ran the “Safety Net of the Future” Initiative that served as the overarching initiative for a consortium of twenty-four health centers in Orange County, CA, earning him membership in then Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez’s (D-47) Health Reform Advisory Task Force. He has published a number of policy briefs and agency reports on community health and presented briefings before national convenings and conferences, including the Subcommittee on Populations of the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics.

Interviewer: Gokul Mandayam, PhD

Show Notes

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1 comment
  • In the past I had conceptualized organizations that engage in social work practice or the promotion of social equity as being solely nonprofits. I had always thought that to be truly doing social work the activities would be altruistic and not seek profit through delivery of services. I see now that there are many models of service delivery and that each have their advantages. I also had never understood climate change as a social work problem. The way that Mr. Vergara explained the effects of climate change on human health as well as human enterprise was eye-opening for me. I always believed that climate change was an environmental health issue. I knew that environmental changes could affect the health of communities, but I never made the connection that intervention aimed at environmental sustainability would be empowering to communities that do not have the support of a large government or established human aid resources. In a time when large corporations are exploiting natural resources to the detriment of their surrounding communities, it is refreshing to hear about organizations that are working to promote equity and create innovative solutions that allow small or marginalized communities to thrive.
    One thing I really wanted to highlight from this interview was how well the organization implemented trauma informed care in their services by allowing communities to take part in decision-making and problem identification so that the solutions offered by the organization are relevant and necessary for the community being served. I have always been of the mind that people should be allowed to decide for themselves what their most pressing issues are rather than being told by some outside agency with no concept of how a particular community functions socially. Also, I think it is worth noting that one of the individuals Mr. Vergara spoke about from southern California, while she didn’t possess a skill set that some might think is necessary to engage in the kinds of work she was doing with local farmers, what she did have was intimate knowledge of the problem these farmers were faced with and therefore was better equipped to help search for solutions. Understanding the target community or the key problem can be invaluable when trying to engage in social change and innovation.

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