From the Director

S. Bryn Austin, ScD

Of late, I’ve found myself intrigued by social entrepreneurs. How are their strategies for the business world similar to the ideas and perspectives of public health that STRIPED draws from? Initially, it seemed to me, we have nothing in common in terms of the focus on consumer markets, which is the sine qua non of social entrepreneurial endeavors. Still, I wanted to learn more, so I picked up Rippling: How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Throughout the World by Beverly Schwartz and was more than a little surprised by just how much we share. Schwartz writes that social entrepreneurs:

  • “Confront difficult issues and actively pursue a more just, secure, and sustainable world”;
  • “Strive to create an “action accelerator for an alternative future”;
  • “Must understand and often alter the social system that creates and sustains the problems in the first place…. Looking upstream toward solving the root cause of a problem is far more sustainable than looking downstream and trying to put a patch on an outcome.”

All of these qualities could just as easily describe STRIPED. And the funny thing is that the more we look upstream for solutions, the more we find ourselves face to face with the same consumer markets that social entrepreneurs have set their sights on. For us, these include the markets for diet pills, laxatives, supplements, cosmetic surgery, “fitness,” fashion, media, and many more. Our quest for upstream targets has inspired many interwoven STRIPED projects:

  • Our legal research study on what states must do to better protect youth from weight-loss and musclebuilding dietary supplements led directly to our new bill in Massachusetts’ State Legislature (p. 3)
  • Our recent practicum on motivating corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the supplements industry was the basis for our new teaching case on CSR skills that every public health student needs (p. 4)
  • Our recent legal study uncovering ways that U.S. occupational health laws could and should be applied to the fashion industry inspired our planned policy evaluation of a new French law to protect the health and safety of fashion models (p. 2)

So the truth is STRIPED does aim for major overhaul of the consumer world, even if we are not selling products like many social entrepreneurs. But our most profound common goal? A more just, secure, and sustainable world.

With gratitude,
S. Bryn Austin, ScD