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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.

Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Monthly Archives: October 2014

Polio Survivor Thrives At AIG, As Ironman Triathlete

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Minda Dentler is a Director of Operations at AIG Multinational. She is also an elite athlete who competes in Ironman triathlons of 143 miles. And she’s a polio survivor and spokesperson for Rotary International.

Nearly 30 years ago, Rotary began its effort to immunize every child in the world against polio. Its goal to eradicate polio is well within sight.

Dentler tells me that, “On World Polio Day, Rotary is streaming a live, worldwide event that begins at 6:30 p.m. CT on October 24th. Tune in at endpolionow.org. The event will feature a global status update on the fight to end polio, the challenges that remain, and how private citizens, corporations, and non-profits can join in the historic final push.”

“I’ll be sharing my polio story and viewers will learn how we can end this disease forever,” she says.

She will be joined, she says, by the following people at the event:

  • Season 5 winner of NBC’s singing competition “The Voice,” Tessanne Chin
  • Musician Ziggy Marley, who will play a song dedicated to World Polio Day from location on-tour
  • Dr. James Alexander, senior medical epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Bernadette Hendrickx from Sanofi Pasteur, the largest manufacturer of polio vaccine and World Polio Day event co-sponsor
  • TIME Magazine science and technology editor Jeffrey Kluger.
  • Rotary International General Secretary John Hewko, Rotary Foundation Vice-Chair Michael McGovern.

On Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 2:00 PM Eastern, Dentler will join me here for a live discussion about ending polio. Tune in here then to watch the interview live.

[At the time of the interview, I will insert a video player here. Bookmark this page and come back then to watch the interview live. Replays will be available here thereafter.]

More about Rotary International:

Rotary International is a volunteer service organization that brings together a global network of professionals and community leaders to help tackle the world’s most pressing challenges. Rotary’s chief role is fundraising, advocacy, awareness raising and mobilizing volunteers. Ending polio is Rotary’s top goal.

Dentler’s bio:

Minda Dentler is currently a Director of Operations at AIG Multinational. Minda received a BA in Management Information Systems from the University of Washington and an MBA in Finance and Marketing from Baruch College – City University of New York.

Outside of work, Minda is a passionate advocate for polio eradication, the disease that has impacted her. Minda is also an accomplished endurance athlete. In 2013, Minda became the first female wheelchair athlete to complete the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. In 2014, Minda was nominated for an ESPN ESPY Award Nominee for Best Female Athlete with a Disability. Through Minda’s achievements as an endurance athlete and her speaking engagements, she inspires people to set and achieve their goals.

Minda has been invited by Rotary International to share her polio story on World Polio Day, a worldwide live streaming event on Oct 24th.

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OPIC, Global Partnerships Bring Depth Of Experience To Impact Investing

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Infrastructure to support global impact investing is maturing, improving the viability of the model.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Federal Government’s development finance institution, and Global Partnerships, a nonprofit investing in Latin America for over twenty years, are two examples of mature players in the impact investing space.

Elizabeth L. Littlefield, CEO and President of OPIC explains that, “Private capital is essential in development, and business can serve as a force for good in having a positive impact.” She adds, “OPIC has worked to create tools to address market gaps and support impact investors. These include established partnerships with private lenders, risk-mitigation for private investors to enter emerging sectors and regions, and innovative tagging to categorize our investments for impact.”

Rick Beckett, CEO and President of Global Partnerships, said, “Over the past 20 years, GP has achieved a double bottom line of social and financial return, making over $130 million impact investments in over 70 partners, touching 2.6 million lives.” Global Partnerships leverages charitable dollars to fuel its investing, explains Beckett. “Philanthropy is key to our success. It funds the research on initiatives and catalyzes our learning and progress.”

OPIC has partnered with Global Partnerships to address “large-scale global challenges,” according to Beckett. “Our partners deliver sustainable solutions to help their “clients” earn a stable income, save money and time, increase productivity, and have access to affordable health care.”

On October 22, 2014 at 5:30 PM Eastern, Littlefield and Beckett will join me here for a live discussion about impact investing. Tune in then to watch the interview live.

[At the time of the interview, I will insert a video player here. Bookmark this page and come back then to watch the interview live. Replays will be available here thereafter.]

More about OPIC:

OPIC is the U.S. Government’s development finance institution. It mobilizes private capital to help solve critical development challenges and in doing so, advances U.S. foreign policy. Because OPIC works with the U.S. private sector, it helps U.S. businesses gain footholds in emerging markets, catalyzing revenues, jobs and growth opportunities both at home and abroad. OPIC achieves its mission by providing investors with financing, guarantees, political risk insurance, and support for private equity investment funds.

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Littlefield’s bio:

Elizabeth L. Littlefield was appointed by President Obama as the President and CEO of OPIC, an Under Secretary level position. OPIC, as the US Government’s Development Finance Institution, manages an $18 bn portfolio of financing and insurance to support private investment in sustainable economic development, especially in the world’s poorest countries. Under Littlefield’s leadership, OPIC’s annual commitments to renewable resources projects grew ten-fold in three years to $1.5 bn, while generating increasing income for the U.S. federal budget.

From 2000 until 2010 Ms. Littlefield was CEO of CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor), a policy and research center housed at the World Bank dedicated to advancing poor people’s access to financial services. Prior to joining CGAP in 1999, Ms. Littlefield was JP Morgan’s Managing Director in charge of capital markets and financing in emerging Europe, Middle East and Africa, among other positions.

More about Global Partnerships:

Founded in 1994, Global Partnerships (GP) is a 501©3 nonprofit impact investor whose mission is to expand opportunity for people living in poverty. We pioneer and invest in sustainable solutions that help impoverished people earn a living and improve their lives.

Global Partnerships currently invests in a portfolio of 46 microfinance institutions (MFIs), social businesses and cooperatives in 11 countries in Latin America and Caribbean. We are staffed by a team of 28 employees in offices in Seattle, Washington and Managua, Nicaragua. Our investments are focused around four impact areas: health services, rural livelihoods, green technology and microentrepreneurship. Across these impact areas, women currently comprise a majority (77%) of the people our partners serve. Through our partners, we continue our commitment to empowering women to improve their lives and the lives of their families.

Since our inception, GP has invested $132.7 million in 73 partner organizations who now bring sustainable solutions that help their clients save time & money, increase productivity, access affordable healthcare, and earn a stable income.

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Rick Beckett with client, Adele

Beckett’s bio:

Rick Beckett is the president and CEO of Global Partnerships and has led the organization’s strategic expansion as a social investor since 2006. Prior to joining Global Partnerships, Rick was managing director of a $112 million private equity fund investing in middle-market companies and early stage ventures. Rick spent 10 years at McKinsey & Company where he served financial institution and healthcare clients on strategy and performance. He specialized in helping not-for-profit organizations achieve superior results in competitive markets. While at McKinsey, Rick co-authored the bestselling book Real Change Leaders: How You Can Create Growth And Performance At Your Company. He holds a B.A. with distinction in economics from Stanford University, and an M.B.A. as an Arjay Miller Scholar from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Rick has served on the boards of directors of numerous privately held portfolio companies and not-for-profit organizations, including Direct Relief International and The Initiative for Global Development.

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Award Winner Empowers World’s Poorest Laborers

One of the highlights at this year’s SOCAP was the presentation of the Gratitude Awards from the Gratitude Network; Labor Link from Good World Solutions won the Community Development Award.

Heather Franzese, Executive Director of Good World Solutions, explains the underpinnings of Labor Link, “There are nearly 7 billion mobile subscriptions globally. That’s nearly one for every person on the planet. Bangladesh has only 8% internet penetration and 70% mobile penetration, so the most vulnerable workers are not online. Labor Link is trying to reach them directly through their phones, or the phone of a friend or family member.”

Key employment opportunities in the developing world can be hazardous. “Manufacturing contributes 15% of economic output in India and 31% in China. What are conditions like for those workers? With mobile, now we can ask them directly,” adds Heather.

“Workers trust Labor Link more than in-person interviews for sensitive information on topics like sexual harassment, unpaid wages, and locked exits that prevent them from leaving the factory,” she concludes.

On Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 7:00 PM Eastern, Heather will join me here for a live discussion about her inspiring work. Tune in here then to watch the interview live.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

More about Good World Solutions:

Good World Solutions, the nonprofit social enterprise behind Labor Link, develops innovative technology solutions to serve millions of vulnerable workers, farmers and artisans in global supply chains. The award-winning Labor Link platform aims to give voice to 1 million workers by 2018 and has been recognized by Ethical Corporation’s Responsible Business Awards, Ashoka Changemakers, GSMA Global Mobile Awards, the Global Social Benefit Institute at Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society, and the Gratitude Network. By increasing transparency in global supply chains, Good World Solutions drives systemic change in company buying practices and catalyzes economic empowerment for the people that make popular consumer products.

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Heather’s bio:

A Purpose Economy 100 (PE100) global changemaker, Heather Franzese has been working for 15 years to improve the lives of vulnerable workers in global supply chains. She leads Good World Solutions, an award-winning social enterprise that leverages mobile technology to connect workers to the companies that buy their products. Since 2010, the organization’s Labor Link platform has reached over 130,000 workers, farmers and artisans in 16 countries, including China, India, Bangladesh and Brazil.

Previously, Heather launched the Fair Trade Certified™ Apparel & Linens program in the US, a new way for consumers to vote with their dollars for an alternative to sweatshops. Heather brings together industry experience managing CSR for Columbia Sportswear Company’s licensed and collegiate categories, a fundraising track record of $4 million in social impact philanthropy, and field experience working with small-scale farmers in Peace Corps Mali. She sits on Etsy’s Manufacturing Advisory Board and holds a Masters in Economic Development from Harvard Kennedy School.

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Devin D. Thorpe

Entrepreneur Seeks To Clean Water For 200 Million In India, Bangladesh

One of the highlights at this year’s SOCAP was the presentation of the Gratitude Awards from the Gratitude NetworkDrinkWell won the award for Health.

DrinkWell founder and CEO Mihaj Chowdhury explained why he established the company in Bangladesh, “In water, the more your value chain relies on out-of-country parties, the less likely your product will succeed. By creating a value chain that enables locals to make a margin each step of the way, you can ensure a cash-efficient, scalable business.

Minhaj continued, “The best way to crack the problem of distribution in rural regions is to co-opt existing distribution channels. When locals see an immediate opportunity to radically improve their earning ability and standard of living by adopting your product, you can have a practical conversation about eradicating intractable issues such as the arsenic water crisis.”

“Whenever possible, we need to treat customers at the Base of Pyramid the same way we treat customers in the West – by appealing to aspirations of beauty, happiness, and prosperity alongside long-term improved health outcomes. Only then will consumers be willing to part with their hard-earned dollars for something they can otherwise access for free,” Minhaj concluded.

On Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 1:00 PM Eastern, Minhaj will join me for a live discussion about DrinkWell. Tune in here then to watch the interview live.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

More about DrinkWell:

200 million people across Bangladesh and India are at risk of arsenic and fluoride poisoning due to contaminated groundwater, a crisis the World Health Organization calls “the largest mass poisoning in human history” as 1 in 5 deaths in Bangladesh alone occur due to this crisis. UNICEF anticipates a $13.1 billion loss in GDP due to the arsenic crisis over the next 20 years. Drinkwell transforms this crisis into entrepreneurial opportunity by blending proprietary, locally-sourced technology with a franchise business model that co-opts existing rural distribution channels.Building off 200 successful deployments across India, Laos, and Cambodia, Drinkwell’s technology delivers sixty times more water, requires little to no electricity, and reduces waste by six orders of magnitude compared to current best practice Reverse Osmosis. Drinkwell leverages the entrepreneurial spirit within communities to support local franchisees, thereby creating jobs, generating income, improving health outcomes, and ensuring a healthier, profitable future.

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Minhaj’s bio:

Minhaj Chowdhury is the CEO of Drinkwell, a social enterprise eradicating the arsenic water crisis by blending novel water purification technology with a micro-franchise business model. As a Bangladeshi-American, Minhaj is passionate about solving a crisis that results in one out of every five deaths in Bangladesh alone. As a Public Health major at Johns Hopkins, Minhaj spent a summer in rural Bangladesh distributing 100 household water filters only to find 3 still in use 2 years later. He returned as a Fulbright Fellow with BRAC, the largest NGO in the world, to understand why water projects continue to fail and found a lack of job creation and paying customers as critical barriers to sustainability. His research has been presented to the Bangladesh Secretary of Health, UNICEF, and NGO officials, and serves as the inspiration behind Drinkwell. Minhaj is a 2014 Echoing Green Fellow and has won numerous prizes and awards for his work in Bangladesh from organizations such as the State Department, TiE, and South by Southwest.

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Take a moment to watch this incredible video to get a little perspective on violence and children around the world.

A Polio Survivor Appreciates Work Done By Rotary International

Guest post from Alem Mumuni, Ghanaian Paralympian cyclist, founder of the Alem Foundation and Rotary spokesperson fighting polio.

Having overcome all challenges despite the physical, political, social and cultural situations and today I am a paralympian, farmer, professional footballer and an ambassador for polio and persons with disabilities.

Born in 1983 into a peasant family living in Garu Upper East region of Ghana, I contracted polio in 1985 when polio outbreaks were common with approximately 350,000 to 400,000 cases being reported yearly. That year rotary embarked the eradication of polio in the world.

Today my sincere thanks goes to Rotary International, the founder of Rotary (Paul Harris, and Bill and Melinda Gates foundation for their efforts and hard work, the world is now near 100 percent polio free (except Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan ). I am happier than one can think of just because sooner than later children from deprived communities like mine, not even the indigent will suffer from this very 110% preventable contagious disease. Apart from natural causes, the next generations will not crawl for 8 years like I did just because of negligence or ignorance.

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Alem Mumuni

However, there is still more to do for the victims. So much advocacy and lobbying has been done over the years, yet the socio-economic, cultural, and political situations of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in general have not improved in any significant way. We have been left out far too long. Right from the family level, our education is sacrificed for the so-called “able children.”

Again, we compete on an uneven ground, we being already disadvantaged. This normally reminds me of the question, how can PWDs withstand the inequitable competition in an environment full of institutional, attitudinal, and environmental barriers?

Besides, the erroneous societal equation of disability with inability ill persons expressed in various local dialects, addition to the attitudinal, institutional, and environmental inaccessibility to education, training, information, and employment constitute a body of discrimination against and sometimes an exclusion of PWDs from profitable human ventures.

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Moreover, people who should know better discriminate.

Bear in mind that the world suffers a lot not because of the violence of the bad people but because of the silence of the good people.

Notwithstanding, I believe that education is the biggest tool to eradicating poverty, improve disability equality and beat diseases like polio, hence, I call on the world to have a second thought of provision of education for all. For example, in Ghana the positive effects of education has consistently correlated to better quality of life. Precisely, access to better education and health services has contributed to increase literacy rates, higher income per capita, higher life expectancy but most importantly eradication of diseases like polio.

Again, no doubt that when PWDs are empowered, it will help them gain the requisite psychological re-adjustments to function meaningfully in the society rather than as ’social parasites,’ hence restoring the human dignity of PWDs. 

In fact, the prejudiced, stigmatized, marginalized, and discriminated against will rise to the pinnacle of life as an international ethical leader and that requires some efforts, determination and courage. By doing so, the future of PWDs, which looks grim, will eventually reach where those who have socio-economic and political means will be.

Finally, as a survivor, I believe that God has empowered me to be an ambassador for the next generation.

With the deepest gratitude, I wish to thank all Rotarians and concern citizens a happy 32nd Anniversary, coming into the lives of all children in the world. Your journey and support to end this very preventable disease lit a burning fire within my desire. I have walked in the presence of your greatness and honour you all.

When you believe in others and give them a positive reputation to uphold, you can help them become better than they think are.

Thank you

Alem Mumuni – Founder (Alem Foundation)

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Hult Prize Finalist Trains Bees To Diagnose Disease (Really!)

Hult Prize finalist Bee Healthy is looking to revolutionize medical diagnostics by training bees to smell chemical indicators of disease.

Founder Tobias Hortsmann explains that “Every disease leaves a unique "footprint” of chemical biomarkers on a persons breath.“ He adds, ”Bees are 10,000 times more sensitive to chemicals in the air than humans.“

He notes that, "Bees can be trained to react to certain biomarkers that are indicative for a disease. They would stick out their tongue when they identify a certain biomarker on a persons breath.”

More remarkable, perhaps, than that bees’ sense of smell is that, according to Tobias, “Training a bee takes around 10 minutes and works like the typical classical conditioning (pavlovian conditioning).”

On Thursday, October 23, 2014, Tobias will join me for a live discussion about Bee Healthy. Obviously, you don’t want to miss this one!

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes

More about Bee Healthy:

Bee Healthy is using bees to revolutionize disease detection.

Bee Healthy is an innovative solution to disease screening. The team will harness the power of bees´ olfactory system to screen diseases such as diabetes, cancer and tuberculosis on a person’s breath. This is a cheap, easy and on the spot solution to disease screening, which can otherwise be costly and time intense. Bee Healthy will sell subscriptions of devices with trained bees to organizations that conduct disease screening. This allows existing organizations to drastically increase their outreach and to screen for various diseases at the same time.

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Tobias’ bio:

Tobias Horstmann (German) spent a year after graduating high school in Mexico-City working as an educator and street worker with Street Children. This experience left its marks on his future plans, which have since consisted of tackling social and environmental issues through changes in business. To achieve this, Tobias pursued an international management education and earned a BSc from both the European School of Business in Germany and ICADE in Spain. To be proactive and to gain practical experience, Tobias worked both in the corporate world at Google and in the social entrepreneurship sector at Ashoka. In addition to this, Tobias co-founded a sustainable development conference. Currently, Tobias is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Development at HEC Paris.

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Social Entrepreneur Completes Seed Round Via Crowdfunding

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Imperative, a social enterprise seeking to help millennials find their purpose, recently completed its seed round using the investment crowdfunding site Onevest. We’ve previously covered both Imperative, founded by Aaron Hurst, author of The Purpose Economy, and Onevest.

Arthur Woods, Chief Operating Officer of Imperative, explained the deal terms for the seed round, “We did a convertible note of $750k capped at $5 million and set to convert upon a series A raise in 2015.”

Woods also noted that their success in this round leaves them thinking about future fundraising via crowdfunding, “Our positive experience on OneVest certainly leaves us inclined to leverage crowdfunding in our future investment rounds. It’s helped us foster new relationships, gain greater visibility and hit our fundraising goals earlier.”

Shahab Kaviani, Chief Marketing Officer of Onevest, which is the product of a combination of RockThePost (crowdfunding site) and CoFoundersLab (matchmaking for founders), explains the significance of deal for other social entrepreneurs, “Imperative is more than just a promising startup, with a unique vision. Imperative is a startup whose founders have unlocked all that Onevest offers to founders who take advantage of what we offer. Through a partnership with Onevest, Imperative was able to build their startup team, then go on to raise capital to scale their startup as they gained traction; all in one place.” He added, “Onevest is helping entrepreneurs with the two most difficult hurdles in venture formation – talent and capital.”

Kaviani went on, “We have more than 15,000 investors on our platform, and our investors are keen are various aspects of the companies their looking to invest in, including industries, location, and the types of founders running the business. It appears our investor base reflects the growing interest in amongst investors in general who are seeking socially responsible businesses. We don’t have hard figures, but we’re noticing more investors asking about businesses who operate on a double-bottom-line.”

Woods explained what this transaction enables Imperative to do, “The funding we’ve raised in this round, largely thanks to our presence on Onevest, will enable us to expand our technical team, accelerate the build of our platform and successfully deliver it to over 10 corporate clients by the end of Q1. Imperative is already generating revenue and growing quarter over quarter.”

Imperative is working to help everyone, especially millennials, to identify their purpose, “Imperative offers a series of self discovery experiences that help people understand what drives them, what they value and where they are at their best at work. With these new insights we enable people to personalize and enhance the way they manage their work, build their professional identities and engage other people in their work.”

Kaviani explained the vision for Onevest, “Our vision for Onevest is to build a brand built on trust, by delivering on our promise to founders, and being transparent with as much data as possible, to equip investors to navigate this emerging asset class with care. Building on top of our foundation of trust we may then execute on our vision, which is to be the place where where entrepreneurs and investors can access talent and capital to transform ideas into successful companies.” He concluded, “Onevest will reshape the private equity industry by democratizing access to early stage investing capital.”

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Bayview Youth Prepared For Career In High Fashion

Bayview Youth Prepared For Career In High Fashion

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