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The mission of the Your Mark on the World Center is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.

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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Scooting To Sustainability (And Fun!)

Guest post from Michael Keating, CEO of Scoot Networks.

I have lived in cities my whole life and as soon as I was old enough to go places by myself, I have faced the same frustrating tradeoff: Save money or save time. Getting around the city, you can’t do both. Buses and bikes will get you there cheaply, eventually. Taxis and cars will get you there fast but are expensive. Why hasn’t someone invented a mode of transportation that is both fast and cheap?

As an environmentalist, that tradeoff is doubly frustrating. Living in the city is good for the planet. It puts everything you need close together in a way that lowers your impact while raising your quality of life. Except, of course, when you are in a hurry, and who in the city isn’t in a hurry? Taxis and cars are bad for the planet, and worse in congested city centers. So why isn’t there a mode of transportation that is both fast and green?

That’s why I created Scoot: an all-electric, on-demand, one-way personal vehicle you can use for $5. Our little, electric, Vespa-like scooters will zip you across town just as fast as a taxi but don’t cost much more than the bus. Conveniently, you can drop them off near your destination and not have to worry about bringing them back. With a top speed of only 30 MPH, they do not require a motorcycle license to ride, so we offer lessons to all new riders. And being battery powered, they have no local emissions and get the equivalent of 600 MPG, making them more efficient than most forms of mass transit. 

Scoot is unique: 

  • As a fast, cheap, green way to get around;
  • As an electric vehicle company that anyone can afford to use;
  • As a cleantech company that doesn’t require hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies; 
  • As a solution to climate change that people are clamoring for not because it saves the planet, but because it’s FUN. 

That uniqueness requires a unique way of growing the business. Initial funding came from angel investors who believed in our mission of making cities greener, better places to live and we built a mini version of the service in San Francisco: 36 scooters, 12 locations, over 1000 members, and enough revenue to support that small fleet. 

Then we attracted investors like the venture firm Maveron (founded by Howard Schultz of Starbucks) who believed in the size of the market and our brand. Urban transportation is a trillion dollar industry and our riders love Scoot and what we stand for. 

Now we are turning to the crowd to grow the business, knowing that we have proven Scoot will be huge and our best investors will be the people who want to see a service like Scoot in the cities where they live. Thanks to new rules and tools for crowdfunding, we are able to accept new investments of just a few thousand dollars, making it possible for a much larger group of people to support and benefit from the growth of Scoot. For details on that, or to participate, click here http://seedinvest.com/scoot.networks.

If a fun, affordable, electric vehicle service can be crowdfunded to profitability, how many more of the world’s biggest problems are solvable if people band together around the right solutions? At Scoot, we are optimistic. 

Entrepreneur Shares Inspiration For Launch Of Oliberté

Guest post from Elinor Fish of Oliberté.

In recent years, the “buy-one, give one” model of business has gained substantial traction among young entrepreneurs looking for a business model that makes a cool, high-demand product while contributing to the global good.

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Canadian Tal Dehtiar was one such entrepreneur, that is, until he discovered the truth about who truly benefits such a business model.

With ink still wet on his MBA diploma, the ambitious 24-year-old set out into the world to apply his skills ambition to the international business community. However, before long, he discovered that most of the opportunities he was offered benefited big corporations and did little to effect social change in the developing nations in which they operated.

He saw how the $1 trillion that developed countries have given African countries since 1960 have proven ineffective, as were many of the international aid strategies supposed to help emerging economies. In fact, many African nations are worse off now then they were 50 years ago.

Drawing from his experience in international business garnered as founder of MBA Without Borders, an international charity that matches business professionals with volunteer opportunities at small businesses in developing countries, Tal founded Oliberté in 2009 using a business model centered around a new kind of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Rather than social responsibility being a business “add-on” for the sake of feel-good marketing, Oliberté has “baked in” its formula for effective social change that address the root cause of poverty.

“Oliberté isn’t about charity, but rather about creating stable jobs,” he says. “The last thing I want is for someone to buy our shoes out of pity. Rather, they should buy them because they’re stylish and well-made. “By prioritizing job creation and integrating local cultures and skillsets into our manufacturing process, we’ve developed a unique product: handcrafted leather footwear made using traditional African methods.”

Earlier this year, Oliberté partnered with Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit organization that has been working to bring better working conditions to the fashion industry, to evaluate it’s year-old manufacturing facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which employs 70 men and women.

The audit examined 255 different standards, including employee access to good wages, maternity leave policies, safe working conditions, strict anti-child-labor regulations, equal-opportunity employment, the right to form a workers’ union, weekly doctor visits, employee handbooks, equipment safety checks and environmental stewardship. After the process was complete, Oliberté was deemed maker of the world’s first Fair Trade CertifiedTM footwear.

“We are using business and fashion to empower people in Ethiopia and across Africa and demonstrate the potential of the materials, craftsmanship and knowledge already in place,” says Tal. “Instead of continuing to inundate Africa with aid that hasn’t improving the standard of living, we are showing that Africa is ripe for economic investment.”

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Tal’s expects the fast-growing footwear brand to support growth of an industry that could create upwards of a million new jobs across Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025.

Learn more about Oliberté’s mission, values and its products at www.oliberte.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/oliberte and on Twitter @oliberte.

Ballistic Donates $2 Million Of Product To Volunteer Firefighters

Guest post from Kristen Mondshein.

Ballistic Case Company has a simple philosophy, Engineered Protection. Their dedicated team of engineers is passionate about one thing:  perfecting protection. Through innovative design, durable materials, and 20+ years of experience, Ballistic delivers protective solutions for every lifestyle.

In the past years Ballistic has recognized that such popular protective smartphone cases have served to be an integral tool for firefighters. Considering their rugged lifestyle, the Ballistic models have served a role of keeping their phones out of harm’s way. Because of this need, Ballistic made a decision this holiday season to donate two million dollars’ worth of protective cases to volunteer firefighters across the country.

In order to reach as many people as possible, they partnered with the National Volunteer Fire Council to help spread the word. This initiative has become a mass spread of awareness for volunteer firefighters needs for supplies and fundraising.

Nearly 70% of all firefighters are volunteers. These courageous firefighters and their stations play a critical role in keeping our communities safe. In partnership with the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), the Ballistic Case Company had originally kicked off this initiative to donate one million dollars’ worth of protective smartphone cases to volunteers throughout the country. In one day, the one million dollars’ worth of cases was not only reached, but exceeded, because of the explosive response from men and women across the country. Now Ballistic is determined to donate a total of two million dollars’ worth of protective smartphone cases.

Volunteer firefighters can sign up to receive free cases at Facebook.com/BallisticCases. There, you can also do your part to say “Thanks a Million More” by nominating a local volunteer firefighter and their station, sharing your story, or by simply leaving a thank you message.

Bookmarking The Future

Guest post from Natacha Maheshe of Angels for Angels.

Children are our future. Yet there are many kids who can’t even dream about the future because they weren’t lucky enough to be born in the right places; they don’t have what they need to be the future. Only through education can kids realize their potential, and books are a big part to any education. However, there are many kids who don’t have access to books.

If not having books weren’t enough, when those unfortunate kids have the chance to finally read books, those books often tell a story they can’t relate to. This is especially true for children in East Africa, who starve for knowledge, yet have very limited access to books.

Mikel Samaniego, President of Angels for Angels, during a trip to Kenya and Uganda in 2010, recognized the need for a book that African kids could relate to.  He also saw the opportunity to create a story that local kids could read to learn about other cultures and places around the world. So he decided to write Joseph and the Paw Paw Tree, an empowering story that teaches kids to believe in themselves, and work hard to achieve their dreams. The story takes place in a rural African village, where Joseph lives with his father, sister, and brother. In the story Joseph’s father gives Joseph and his siblings papaya (paw paw) seeds to plant and tells them that for these seeds to turn into trees that bear fruit, “it takes hard work every day, and no matter what, you have to believe in yourself.”

“The future of Africa is education.  The first step to an education is to learn how to read.  Kids need books to learn how to read”, says Mikel who has also helped create a library with donated books in Kenya.

Joseph and the Paw Paw Tree will have a huge social impact. With each book sold, one book will be donated to a child in East Africa.  While American kids can learn about cultures far away, East African kids get a story that is relevant to their lives.

Mikel and his friends took the first edition of the book to Kenya and Uganda to see if kids over there would even like it.  And they loved it. Now he believes that his nieces and nephews will love the book, too. He hopes it will spur some conversations about other cultures and why the world is different at a young age, and hopefully through it all, he can make a difference.

They launched their Indiegogo campaign to raise enough money to send books to those kids in the villages of Kenya and Uganda. Books cost a lot of money, and now they need a village of support to reach their campaign goal.  It will take a village to make sure that every kid in those villages has a chance to be the future.

For more information about the book and how you can make a difference in a kid’s life, check:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-coolest-children-s-book-ever

Book website: www.a4abooks.com

Free Crowdfunding Training In Utah From The Author Of Crowdfunding For Social Good

Hosted by the Utah Nonprofits Association (UNA), in December and January, I will be traveling around Utah providing training (free to UNA members) targeted at helping nonprofits raise more money through crowdfunding.

For organizations looking to score big at Love UT Give UT organized by the Community Foundation of Utah for the benefit of Utah nonprofits on March 20, 2013 these trainings are perfect. We’ll review best practices to raise money, how to use personal and organization networks, social media and traditional media to maximize the amount of money you raise through Love UT Give UT or any other crowdfunding campaign you may organize yourself.

The training will draw on the stories and lessons of my book, Crowdfunding for Social Good. Participants will receive a free download of the book.

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The training is open to anyone. It is free to UNA members; the charge for others is $50. 

Here’s the schedule (click a date to get location particulars and to register): 

Visit the UNA calendar for updates.

The training is made possible through a grant from American Express.

The Lab In Sandy Utah To Provide Collaboration And Co-working Space For Social Entrepreneurs

Heidi Twitchell is part of a team of local people organizing a collaboration space in Sandy, Utah that will be called The Lab. 

Heidi introduced the space to me this way, “ We’re turning his warehouse in Sandy into a hub of artistic expression, social entrepreneurship, innovative learning, global collaboration and sustainable solutions through the arts, sciences & technology.”

On Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 4:00 Eastern, Heidi will join me for a live discussion about the launch of The Lab.

Here’s a bit more about Heidi from her Linkedin profile:

I started off my life as a professional television and film actress. After over ten years, I shifted focus to my education and then to my ten-year teaching career. In 2011, I left the classroom to dedicate my time and resources to the betterment of education.

Teaching students through the visual and performing arts is the (proven) most effective approach to teaching and learning available today. Comprehensive arts programs involve the integration of visual and performing arts into curricular instruction, artist in residencies and experiences in the arts outside of school. The social, emotional and academic benefits of such programs are powerful and too many to list- yet still the arts are undervalued and sparsely existent in schools.

Global Forum Puts Dialogue on International Interreligious and Intercultural Education Agenda

KAICIID brings together the world’s policy makers, thought leaders and experts on Education and Religion in Vienna

VIENNA, AUSTRIA – November 14, 2013 -Five hundred experts, policy makers and religious leaders working in the fields of education and religion will meet at a high-level forum on interreligious and intercultural education in Vienna, Austria, on 18 and 19 November 2013. Participants from 90 countries are expected to attend the KAICIID Global Forum on The Image of the Other.  This is KAICIID’s flagship programme and a multiyear initiative exploring how “Others” – people of different religious or cultural backgrounds – are depicted in the spheres of education, media and the Internet.  In its first year, the programme has, through four regional workshops, highlighted and strengthened interreligious and intercultural education as a means of promoting mutual understanding in a spirit of dialogue. 

The KAICIID Global Forum, which is designed as a multi-track, large-scale dialogue and working meeting, where attendees will discuss and address the global challenges of finding ways to responsibly educate people so they are better able to understand and relate to those of other religions and cultures, is the culmination of these workshops.

KAICIID Secretary General Faisal Bin Muaammar said: “Our world today is made up of increasingly diverse communities and societies, and the universal lessons of coexistence and understanding are more important than ever before. It is only through educating ourselves and others, learning about ourselves and those we share our world with, that we may begin to relate to each other through our commonalities rather than our differences. Dialogue needs to be an integral part of the creation of learning materials, and the learning process itself.

Our work this year has been aimed at promoting this dialogue, and we are excited to welcome to Vienna our partners with whom we collaborated so successfully across four regional workshops.  We are privileged to have these distinguished professionals with us as we continue to evaluate and showcase the findings of our work on a global scale.”

The aim of the Forum is to highlight best practices in Education from all over the world – pinpointing effective training models and exploring ways to disseminate them trans-regionally. Also taken into account will be resources to facilitate cooperation across disciplines and build lasting networks for an integrated approach to advance the fields of interreligious and intercultural education.

The Forum will feature discussions, roundtables, workshops, and dialogue among government representatives, experts, field specialists and religious leaders. Topics under discussion include interreligious education in universities and seminaries, engaging leading international youth organisations and the role of intergovernmental organisations in shaping our world.  The Forum will also offer training and seminars to enhance the capacity of field practitioners to advance their work.

In the last year, KAICIID has taken an energetic approach to exploring the fields of interreligious and intercultural education.  This Global Forum is the culmination of a series of four regional conferences the Dialogue Centre has hosted since May 2013 in Vienna, Austria; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; New Delhi, India; and Buenos Aires, Argentina.  The workshop participants shared their experiences in interreligious and intercultural education, and presented examples of methods and approaches that were proving effective in their regions. In each case, they also discussed region-specific challenges in the field of interreligious and intercultural education, and proposed recommendations to address them.   These recommendations will be shared at the Forum.

Not only did the regional conferences bring together a range of distinguished experts, but each was also made distinct by the varied countries of origin and diverse professional profiles of the participants.  The first of the year’s workshops, held in Vienna, Austria, featured representatives from the field of intercultural and interreligious education from research institutions, intergovernmental bodies, educational establishments, religious organisations, civil society and policy makers; as well as ambassadors from the founding states.

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, over 10 countries were represented among the conference delegates who took part.  The penultimate workshop in New Delhi, India, saw KAICIID host participants from all over the country, as well as from across the Gulf, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.  Buenos Aires, Argentina, was the final location for the four-part conference series.   Here 27 participants from 10 countries – Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Bolivia, Honduras, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Uruguay – took part.

The Forum will conclude on 19 November 2013 with the announcement of international cooperative agreements. These cooperative agreements will play an important part in the development of KAICIID’s work in the future.

Making a Sustainable Mark on the World

Guest post by Emily Capito.

I’m of the mindset that non-profits can and should be run like a business…in most ways. The main difference is of course that rather than only producing financial results, a nonprofit truly needs to be guided by their mission. That being said, organizations, whether non-profit, for-profit, or triple bottom line, are only as good as their leaders. 

If an executive in chief is pretty miserable at initiating positive change and maintaining high morale, there is no amount of passionate effort by lower level employees that will compensate for that. 

Organizations thrive or fail by their leaders. 

I find it interesting then that the vast majority of the non-profits I work with put direct mission fulfillment ahead of leadership development. I have also observed that the grantmakers and contracts that fund non-profit work follow suit. A fantastic article by Linda Wood from The Center for Effective Philanthropy highlights this disconnect.

In contrast, for-profits place leadership on a pedestal.

Executives are rigorously vetted based on performance and there is stiff competition for the best and the brightest. Accountability for the results of hundreds or thousands of employees rests on the shoulders of one and those executives know that they will be quickly sacrificed should they fail. 

When faced with putting dollars toward one more bed in the domestic violence shelter or increasing the capacity of the executive in chief, the decision is obviously emotional. A new wave of for-profit organizations are taking on tough social problems while producing returns, garnering the attention of would-be non-profit donors.

Which is why non-profit leaders need to budget and make time for leadership development FIRST.

But that’s a difficult stance to take.

The vast majority of high impact non-profit organizations are small. They aren’t the United Way or the Red Cross, organizations which certainly place enormous expectations on the top and compensate accordingly. The real work that is changing lives in your community every day is driven by executives motivated by mission, not by cash. 

Can you guess the priorities of such a CEO when it comes down to hiring a mentor versus helping one more family? 

Which is why grantmakers and donors need to prioritize the long-term benefits of restricted funding for leadership development. 

It’s estimated that less than 2 percent of grant dollars target non-profit leadership. The research is widely available; there are affordable and evidence-based leadership development activities that produce a long-term return on investment. 

Much like giving to an endowment that will provide permanent funding resources for the mission, growing the leadership capabilities of executive teams and up-and-coming leaders drives sustainable innovation, efficiency, and growth that further the mission greater than a temporary influx of cash.

If you’re a non-profit leader, create and prioritize leadership development activities at the beginning of your fiscal year. Look for and go after leadership capacity development grants like those from the Forbes Funds or request corporate sponsorship to send your executive team to leadership training. Communicate the need for further capacity funding and leadership programs to multiply your impact as an organization. 

If you’re not involved with a non-profit, consider targeting your giving to increase organizational capacity long-term rather than only funding band-aid services.

While your local food bank absolutely needs your immediate donations, their leadership team has the potential to develop stronger, more efficient, and more innovative ways to feed the hungry year after year. Give them that opportunity. 

As a former non-profit leader, we needed the unrestricted gifts to do the day-to-day work, but as my leadership ability grew, so did our ability to stretch those dollars. You can have both an immediate and sustainable impact.

Don’t just give the fish, help the organizations you’re passionate about build bigger boats and cast wider nets so that they can do more good for decades to come. 

Social Entrepreneurs Seek To Save Lives Through Fashion

FIGS saves lives through fashion. 

Not a bad start, is it? Trina Spear and Heather Hasson, social entrepreneurs in Southern California, identified both a market opportunity and a related critical need. It seems that health care professionals don’t like their scrubs; they want something a bit more fashionable. At the same time, in much of the developing world medical professionals don’t have access to clean scrubs–resulting in higher disease and infection rates.

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Enter FIGS–Fashion Inspires Global Sophistication–providing fashion-forward scrubs for sale in the developed world and donating scrubs to medical professionals who lack them in the developing world.

On Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 6:00 PM Eastern, Trina and Heather will join me live to discuss their business and their social impact. Tune in here:

More about Trina and Heather:

Trina Spear has come a long way from sleeping in her cubicle all night while working in investment banking. Although it may not have been all that glamorous, it did help her figure out all the caffeine options available – she has settled on Diet Coke. After working in finance, Trina is thrilled to be making a positive impact on the world. When she is not on the tennis court or running around hospitals, you can find her cuddled up in front of a good reality TV show – with her FIGS scrubs on, of course!

Heather Hasson has spent her career in fashion building companies from the ground up, where she has poured all of her passion and energy into every detail of her work. She has always focused on giving back and supporting those who dedicate themselves to others. She has traveled to over 65 countries coming face to face with those in need and will not sleep until every healthcare provider around the world is outfitted in clean scrubs. When she is not riding camels in Egypt or hanging out in factories in Portugal, you may be able to find her drinking gallons of coconut juice or riding her bike along Venice Beach.

The Story of an Unlikely Food Entrepreneur

Guest post from Lisa Curtis of Kuli Kuli.

I never thought I would start a food company. I’d always liked food, but then again who doesn’t? It wasn’t until I lived in a country where having a meal wasn’t a given that I began to really think about food.

The strangest thing about living in Niger was that people were constantly giving me food. It didn’t seem to make sense. Here I was in one of the poorest, most malnourished countries in the world receiving an opulent Peace Corps salary of $75 per month (double the country average). Shouldn’t I be giving them food?

And then one night I did in an event that I’ll never forget. I was sitting around the campfire with my tea group – a hilarious group of young Nigerien men who drank sugary sweet tea boiled over a small coal fire. This qualified as nightlife in a village with no electricity. I have to say that I enjoyed it far more than any bar in San Francisco.

My friend Ilya had just finished telling a story that had everyone doubled over in laughter when a small form entered into the light of our small fire and promptly collapsed. Chaos ensued with all of the men crowding around the child that had just entered our circle.

Ilya restored order, speaking in rapid Hausa. I didn’t catch much but I gathered that the boy was extremely malnourished. The men brainstormed, trying to figure out where to get food but all of the women had put out their fires and none of the shops were open this late.

No one kept ready-to-eat food on hand. No one, that is, except for me.  

“Laila, kina da kuli-kuli?” Ilya realized this and asked me if I had any kuli-kuli, a form of lightly fried peanut balls that I ate constantly to get protein.

“I, ina tsammani.” I think so, I told him. I ran back towards my little mud home. Crap. I’d eaten all the kuli-kuli the day before…I spied a box on my floor with a white letter shining under the light of my flashlight.

It was a letter from my mom, describing how she’d managed to lose twenty pounds through her new diet. At the end of the letter, she’d expressed concern that I was looking too skinny in the two pictures I’d managed to post on Facebook. Hence she’d sent me a plethora of nutrition bars.

I grabbed as many as I could carry and ran back towards the tea circle, stuffing the brightly wrapped bars into Ilya’s arms.

That was three years ago. Now I’m back in the U.S. and am the founder of a mission-driven company called Kuli Kuli. We sell gluten-free nutrition bars made with moringa, a superfood sourced from women’s cooperatives in West Africa. Moringa is one the most nutritious plants in the world and grows naturally in many parts of the world that suffer from malnutrition. Our goal is to enable more women to grow moringa; use it to nourish their families and communities and then sell a portion of their harvest to us in order to turning growing moringa into a sustainable livelihood. We want to ensure that no child ever collapses from malnutrition again.

Starting a food company is hard! As my team and I quickly discovered, its nearly impossible to do everything yourself and once you grow to the level of having a co-manufacturer, distributor and a retailer (like Whole Foods), all of those entities take a big chunk of the profits, leaving you with little to work with.

It’s hard but its not impossible. We’ve had an incredible outpouring of support from people who believe in our vision and have pre-sold over 9,000 Kuli Kuli Moringa Superfood Bars. Our manufacturing run of 18,000 bars will be completed at the end of the week and then we’ll be launching with Whole Foods shortly after that.

I never thought I would start a food company, but I’m so glad that I did!

Lisa Curtis began working on Kuli Kuli while in the Peace Corps in Niger, West Africa. As a volunteer in her village’s health center, she gained a first-hand understanding of the common nutritional challenges faced in West African villages and how moringa can play a role in helping to address a few of those challenges. Prior to that, Lisa served as the Communications Director at Mosaic, worked in the White House and at the United Nations Environment Programme. To learn more about Kuli Kuli or to purchase our bars, please visit www.kulikulibar.com. Follow Lisa on Twitter @LisaCurtis.

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