In the Kono District of Sierra Leone – a community with an 80-year history of diamond mining – 1 in 23 women die in childbirth and nearly 20% of children never reach their fifth birthday. In this month’s issue of O magazine, local social entrepreneur and Bull City Forward Fellow, Rachel Lichte, is featured for her work to stem the tide of suffering and exploitation through her social venture, Clarity Project. Frustrated with contemporary diamond mining practices, which have garnered a controversial reputation a la “conflict diamonds,” Rachel chose to engage and uplift diamond mining communities through a social venture, Clarity Project – a for profit, multinational company that delivers customers fairly sourced jewelry. They promise an equal measure of elegance and ethics. When Bull City Forward selected Rachel as a Forward Fellow last year, it was based on her desire to scale a social venture that added value to the consumer’s demand for jewels by creating sustainable incomes for local miners, implementing international standards for fair-trade, eco-friendly sourcing, and giving back to the communities in which they operated. “Our demand for diamonds and jewels has overshadowed our duty for fairness and justice. We believe that the communities – families, the environment, and economies – should benefit from the resources they produce. Instead, they have suffered.” Proceeds from Clarity Project’s sales have not only provided living wages for dozens of local miners, but also increased the safety and sanitation standards at mining sites and supported the development of two schools – a practice Rachel insists is readily scalable, given the margins available in this market. Through the Forward Fellowship, Rachel received funding, key introductions, and training that helped her scale her venture. Her sponsor, Vivisum Partners – a local market research firm – was keen on Rachel and Clarity Project specifically because it disrupted the current trends of questionable commerce. CEO, Dan Callahan, commented that “From the minute that we met Rachel, we knew that we wanted to sponsor her Forward Fellowship. Her unique combination of business acumen and philanthropic passion embody the Forward Fellows mission.” Bull City Forward Executive Director, Keeva Kase, commented that “visionary confidence coupled with on the ground competence moves the world. Rachel has both. Yet, it is her commitment to human dignity that captured our attention…and Oprah’s!” Bull City Forward envisions Durham and the Triangle region as the best place in the world for people who want to improve the world. Through their Forward Fellowship, Innovation Challenges, and Community Impact initiatives, they aim to increase the creation and scale of social ventures in the region.

Ellen Hart is a Senior Associate Consultant at Vivisum Partners. She specializes in in-depth qualitative research in healthcare and nonprofit fields.

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