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Portland State University Study

Dr. Jeanne Enders of Portland State University’s School of Business reports on her experience studying the work of Community Friends for an international case study competition.

In the late summer and fall of 2010, a group of us from the School of Business at Portland State University began writing a case based upon the activities of Community Friends from the time of the tsunami until 2010.

In late October, we entered this case into an international competition, The oikos Case Writing Competition ( in the social entrepreneurship track. While we didn’t win the competition, we learned a great deal about the plight of women in Sri Lanka, the beauty of multi-national partnerships, the power of women’s collectives, philosophies of project ownership, the tea industry, carbon offsets and most importantly, we learned in detail about Community Friends.

Our team: Toby Roberts, undergraduate honors student, marketing major; Caroline Lewis, Masters of Business Administration graduate student; Dr. Jeanne Enders; and Alia Long, Masters of International Management graduate student.

Some of the key issues that surfaced in our case include the following:

1.) Project Identification and Ownership – the school lunch program emerged when teachers identified the problem. Ownership of the program shifted over time from a Community Friends/parent & teacher partnership to a government/parent & teacher partnership. Is this a generalizable model or is it sometimes best for outsiders to define and hang onto a project? Under what conditions is one method preferred over another and why?

2.) Microfinance vs. Microequity Models for the Collectives – why was microfinance rejected as an option for Community Friends at a specific juncture? Community Friends had the financing in place but decided to develop a microequity program instead. What does this mean and what are advantages and disadvantages of each model?

3.) Sustainability of Programs in Volatile Times and Places – Community Friends faced huge challenges by trying to operate in Ulla, a war-torn and difficult-to-reach region hit especially hard by the tsunami. Why do many social business initiatives avoid such places and what were some of the costs and benefits – tangible and intangible – to targeting such a region? What ultimately happened to the projects there? How are disaster relief organizations different from social entrepreneurship programs?

4.) Unintended Consequences or Surprises – The most surprising development in the Community Friends story, in our opinion, is the realization that upon purchasing a tea estate, Community Friends was suddenly made responsible for a group of people who for generations lived and worked on the estate and who depend completely upon the success of the estate. Are there other potential unintended consequences or likely surprises? How should one respond to such developments?

5.) Long-Term Environmental Protection vs. Short-Term Economic Pressure – The pressure of needing to support the village on the tea estate makes it challenging to transition the estate from a traditional farming method to an organic method of agriculture, or a more diverse agriculture. Transaction or transition costs take on more than just a “business meaning” when you are responsible for a group of vulnerable workers.

6.) Financial Models for Revenue Generation in Long-Term Social Enterprise – What profit-formula or revenue generation scheme is best-suited to Community Friends? Carbon offsets offer their own set of challenges but fit the values of Community Friends. How do we create an entrepreneurial spirit in the tea estate workers AND the college students recruited to sell offsets? Does the Community Friends staff need to be “motivation experts”? Also, are there other revenue generation models at this stage in Community Friends’ development that are being overlooked?


We are so very grateful for the opportunity to work on this project. In addition to the written portion of the case, this project included creating a video ( The potential of the women’s collective and the tea estate as tools for social and economic improvement offer such hope for the role business can play in changing the world. We hope, at the very least, to use this case in classrooms to surface conversations about social business.


Jeanne Enders, PhD




Meet up in Ulla!

When we first visited Sri Lanka, in January 2005 just after the tsunami, Carsten Henningsen carried hand drawn artwork created by Janet Reynoldson’s second and third graders. We had been strangers, but soon the artwork and letters were traveling back and forth between Portland and Eastern Sri Lanka and it wasn’t long before we considered each other friends.


Here is one such friend, Ruwanthi, holding up a letter from the States.
The letter she is holding reads as follows:

“Dear Miss Ruwanthi Kalpana and friends.

I am feeling sad because I read your letters and my eyes filled up with tears. I am very sorry for your losses. All of my hopes go to you. Maybe we could be pen pals. Do you know what that is? It’s when you only keep in contact by writing. That’s the “pen” part. I am very happy you survived and your sisters too. Did it hurt when you got tangled in the tree? What grade are you in? My dad is a friend of Carsten. I absolutely love the drawings you guys sent to us. How old are you? Because we probably won’t meet this is what I look like. I have short brown hair, brown eyes, dark pink lips and long eye lashes. What do you look like? What happened to your sisters? I am 9 years old, 10 next February. I will always help you in your troubles.

All hopes,
Rebecca Memminger Goodfriend”

During her eighth grade year at the Arbor School in Portland, Rebecca and all her classmates worked on yearlong study projects of their own choosing. Rebecca decided to do a photo essay on the topic of displacement in Sri Lanka and its impact on children. With the war in the area around Ulla over, it suddenly became possible for our whole family to travel somewhat freely together. So, we made plans to travel to Ulla and, it being so close to Christmas 2009, this happened to put us in Ulla for the fifth year anniversary of the tsunami.

Ruwanthi and her sister had both stayed close to Community Friends, since they had asked to join the first micro-enterprise that we formed in Ulla. This was the rice flour collective. Of course the war made it very difficult for us to communicate with Ulla between 2007 and 2009, so when we arrived for the family visit not much was known.

That first day in Ulla was exciting for all of us. I set out to look in on the collectives with Deva and Seevali, while Rebecca journeyed out with her sister Raela and mother Kathleen. These were her first moments shooting pictures around the community. After hearing the initial reports from the collectives, the three of us asked about some of the young entrepreneurs, so we could get some first hand accounts of how the program was working. One of the school kids volunteered to walk us around the village and show us where each person lived. As fate would have it, the first house that we visited was Ruwanthi’s. And who should we meet there but Rebecca, Raela and Kathleen!

Picture 074

The two of them had found each other on their own and within a few short minutes made all the connections back to 2005. Ruwanthi was able to find Rebecca’s original letter which she showed to my amazed daughter. Somehow, the dream we had when we conceived of Community Friends, that we would build long term, direct relationships, with people whose names we know and vice versa, was suddenly realized before our eyes.


Thank you Rebecca and Ruwanthi – we are so proud of both of you!

Jay Goodfriend




School Donations Help with Flood

We received donations to assist our friends at the Cambodian language school who suffered from a flood in October. 2009 was a tough year. First the school was threatened because the landlord for the school property was about to sell it and force the school to close.


Through generous donations, we were able to purchase the land and give it to the school so that the school could continue, hopefully forever. Then the flood came and closed the school for several days. Food was scarce during this time. Community Friends received additional donations to buy food and also bicycles for the children.


The director of the school, Cha Cha, is an amazing man who founded the school to assist the poorest of the poor children in the area. He teaches them English and Japanese so that one day they can more easily find employment in the city through the tourist industry. Cha Cha supports the school out of his own pocket from working as a part-time tour guide. Cha Cha sent these photos after the children received the bicycles and food.



Carsten Henningsen




School Flooded

It has been difficult to travel to Siem Reap recently due to the flood caused by the typhoon on the 28th Sept from Vietnam. The typhoon went through Cambodia. The whole country has been badly effected, especially the provinces bordering the Tonle Sap lake including Siem Reap. Up to now, the water level has gone down about 30cm. The rice crop now is submerged.

Cambodia Flood 09

People are worried that their crop might be ruined, and they will not have enough food to eat the following year.

Cambodia Flood 09 2

The school has been closed for 7 days now. I don’t know when I can begin teaching again because the village and the school are still under the water. In the photos, you can see some of my students who are in need for help. They hope that someone can help them overcome their obstacles.

Thank you for any help,

Cha Cha
School Director




School Saved


The language school in rural Cambodia was threatened with closure when the landlord put the school property up for sale. A generous donor from the USA came forward and made a gift to Community Friends which allowed the school’s founder to purchase the property on behalf of the school. The children celebrated for days when they heard the news that the school would continue.

Carsten Henningsen




School Lunch in Post-Tsunami Village

Although the 27-year war in Sri Lanka in now over, it has not been safe to visit Ulla village where our relief efforts first began. We hope to reconnect with the village later this year.

Community Friends’ work began in the village of Ulla, in the Arugam Bay region of Sri Lanka. In the weeks following the tsunami, our co-founders Carsten Henningsen, Deva Ratnakara, Seevali Ratnakara, Dr. Thilina Karunathilake and Jeeva Maddumage led a group of volunteers to Ulla. Carrying food, medicine, water-purification equipment, hundreds of battery-less flashlights, and stacks of artwork sent as well-wishes by school children in Portland, Oregon, they were among the first people to reach this remote village with tangible help.

Since those early days, Community Friends’ interaction with the community has been accomplished through the village school, its teachers and principal. Funds raised by Community Friends helped pay for new school uniforms, new school books, and other critical items needed to get the school functioning.

Almost immediately after getting to know the community in Ulla, it became apparent that there was an urgent need to properly feed the 100 or so children coming to the village school each day. In fact, we learned that this need predated the tsunami, serving as an indication of just how significantly the community was suffering and how inadequate the local economy was in supporting the basic needs of the families living there. So it became immediately clear what was needed in Ulla.

We developed a program with several goals in mind:

1) feed all the children in the community,
2) maximize school attendance,
3) encourage community involvement in the Program,
4) maximize the nutritional content of these lunches,
5) achieve self-administration of the Program.

Working together with the parents and community educators, we developed a School Lunch Program. 50,000 hot meals were served by parent volunteers in the first two years since of the program. And we are very satisfied in saying that school attendance has increased by over 25% since this Program began.

The village and local government have taken over this Program and are able to continue this important work without additional assistance from Community Friends.

Jay Goodfriend




New friends in Cambodia

Community Friends has a new friend in Cambodia. We have made a small grant to a school that promotes bilingual literacy to school-age children. Multi-lingualism is a profound enabler of self-sufficiency and in the context of Cambodia, an outstanding alternative for young people who are looking for a better path forward. The school serves the poorest of children and graduates have gone on to find jobs in the tourism and hotel industry. The school teaches English as well as Japanese.


The school’s founder writes, “I have 176 students in total and I teach 3 classes. I have 24 orphans whose parents died of HIV, landmine, and the last battle between Khmer Rough and Government during 1995-98. The orphans live with relatives and with a lot of dificulties. Students keep complaining about their family situations that turn them to work on the farm instead of school. As a result, students with potentials have to give up study. As you know, books and clothing are basic needs for children. My objective is to provide those needs for them as much as I can so that they can have equal opportunities to access to education. I don’t want my potential children to end up uneducated. That would be a great loss for the country.”

When I first found the school, they had no books, paper or pens. Some children were unable to attend because their families could not even afford clothes. Community Friends purchased T-shirts so that even the poorest children could attend. We also provided school supplies, helped secure two computers and purchased bicycles. The children were thrilled.


The school’s fouder writes, “Yesterday and the day before yesterday I spent some time buying Tshirts, books, pens, 5 bicycles, teaching tools and uniforms for the children. We had a wonderful time together. We sang our favourite songs and danced together in circle. We laughed joyfully. The children were suprised to receive such gifts from you. Now they use new uniforms to go to school. They say million thanks to you, and they also want to have your address, because they wish to send you some letters and drawings, so I will send those to you as soon as they finish their work. Anyway,on behalf of the children I wish to extend my gratitude to you for the wonderful cause of the children here.”

Carsten Henningsen