Charles Maisel is an eclectic man. Though trained in economics, the Cape Town native has conceived and implemented projects such as building Roman-style roads across South Africa, an interactive initiative to prevent domestic violence, and funding traditional stick-fighting tournaments—which he describes as “more violent than cage fighting” and, also, “really cool.”
“I’ve always been an innovator, a creator. I’d consider myself more of a social artist rather than a social entrepreneur,” he said in an interview with the Good Men Project.
Whatever Maisel’s raison d’etre, his work speaks for itself. Through his company Innovation Shack, his projects have won awards and fellowships the world over, including the U.N. Agfund, the Echoing Green, and the Impumulelo awards. (He was even named Men’s Health’s Best Man of the Year.)
His past projects have included, among many others, the following:
- The Broccoli Project, which helps people donate to nonprofits and other causes, but allows donators to track their donations from beginning to end. According to the website, “At best this cuts out, and at worst it brings into sharp focus, poor performance, inefficiencies, bad administration, and corruption.” Not sure how broccoli factors in, but we support it.
- The Men at the Side of the Road Project, which matches skilled workers with employers in seven cities. It hopes to bridge the gap between the growing economy and the unemployed.
- The 5 in 6 Project (which we wrote about a couple weeks ago) highlighted the five good men for every one man guilty of domestic violence. The initiative included an ad campaign and a call for people to nominate the “good men” in their communities. While other projects try to empower women or confront abusers, the 5 in 6 Project engaged nonviolent men as collaborators in homes and communities across the country.
We caught up with Charles (and one of his sons) on the phone today from his home in Cape Town:
Tell us a little about yourself
I’m a born-and-bred South African, but I’ve traveled the world. I’m a surfer. I’m a mountain climber, I have a family: married with two boys, 11 and 7. I traveled the world to get inspired, but I’ve never really left Cape Town.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I call it “seeing the leaves.” I get the phrase from a wine farmer who had far too many leaves on his vines and not enough fruit. I thought of the solution: why don’t you make dolmade [a stuffed vegetable dish]? It changed his whole business. I have a particular gift for seeing what’s staring people in the face all the time.
What makes a good man?
Let me ask my 7-year-old. C’mon. [Muffled child’s voice.] According to him, a good man is a man who does things for other people. And I completely agree! I think he takes after his dad. There’s no such thing as a perfect man; he doesn’t exist.
I also believe in mentorship. I’ve helped many young men in their careers and lives. I wish that more men would do that. Mentor and spend the time to mentor. I do it because I didn’t have it when I was young.
Are you a good man?