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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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Devin D. Thorpe
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Monthly Archives: October 2015

A Bagel Store Against Gender-Based Violence

This post was originally published on Dive in Social. If you enjoy this content like our Facebook Page, join our closed discussion group and get our weekly newsletter featuring the best of Dive in Social.

Speaking about human trafficking is somehow surreal. It feels like talking about horror movies, but it is a sad reality for thousands of people. According to a UN report published last year, from 2010 and 2012, 510 human trafficking routes around the world and victims from 152 countries. The document also shows that 49% of those victims are women, and when girls are included numbers reach 70%. More staggering data? 53% of victims suffer from sexual harassment and 40% experienced forced labour or working conditions analogue to slavery. It sounds like a thriller, but these are the facts against which Serbian NGO Atina has fought for more than a decade. Besides offering support to victims of human trafficking, Atina also supports women who are victims of other gender-based violence.

In 2015, entrepreneurship became an ally of the association’s cause. After joining a congress on business and third sector, the non-profit decided to get roll up its sleeves and open a bagel shop. “We used to receive support from funds, associations and governments, but we cannot rely entirely on that”, Marijana Savić tells us. She is director at the NGO and also manages Bagel Бејгл (or Bagel Bagel), a name that mixes latin and cyrillic alphabets.

That was how the idea of opening a social business came to life. According to Marijana, despite having started an economic activity recently (the official opening was in last April), running Atina was never too far from managing a business. “When you are raising funds, you need a plan, in the end, you are offering a service by speaking about a cause”, she explains. The NGO’s values also support the idea of it having an economic activity. “We want to support women so that they become economically independent, otherwise it is useless to work on their recovering and then get them back to risk exposure, to the same environment and circumstances where they had suffered before”, she ponders.

In the bagel store, besides having their profit directed to the institution, there is training for the work in the kitchen, catering service and in-store client service. “Our final goal is creating an atmosphere and a community that can include, offer alternatives to victims of gender-based violence and offering significant mechanisms to these people. We need to promote economic empowerment, she reaffirms.

During our chat, Marijana needed several breaks so that she could assist customers, answer questions and pick up the phone. Good sign for business. “Several people don’t know that we are a social business, sometimes the cause itself is not enough to sell the product. Some people come to eat and it is important to have a high quality product. Many come, like it, and when they get to know it is a bonus. Ah! And you gotta try it!”, Marijana warns us.

We tried. And, having come for the cause, we bet that high quality product plus important cause is the recipe for success. The expansion plan involves a bigger store and broadening the catering service, besides, of course, giving more opportunities to victims of gender-based violence.

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What is Impact Investing? Impact Investing 101

There is a lot of talk these days about impact investing, but relatively few people actually know what it is or how to do it. With the help of Your Mark on the World Center sponsor Gate Global Impact’s CEO Vince Molinari, we’ll explain impact investing basics.

Vince offers answers to the following three basic questions:

1. What is impact investing?

Impact investing is a progressive new investment philosophy whereby an investor proactively seeks to place capital in businesses that generate financial returns from organizations committed
to societal, sustainable and/or environmental goals. The growth of IMPACT INVESTING is borne out by global trends in macro/micro socioeconomics, Next-Gen behavioral finance, and ubiquitous social media that continues to drive participants and awareness to this movement.

2. What financial returns can investors expect from an impact investment?

One of the most common questions about impact investing is what sorts of returns investors can expect. Vince answers, “Profit is not a dirty word, profit creates sustainability, and sustainability creates systemic change. Impact investing returns vary widely. Some investors are willing to give up part of their standard return expectations for the sake of high societal impact. Others are focusing on opportunities to earn market returns, recognizing that not only does solving societal problems create the potential for market returns, the very act of solving the problem may reduce the risk of the investment. Investors can earn high returns while creating impact.”

3. How does an impact investment actually create societal good?

Impact investing creates social good in much the same way that philanthropy does. The money is spent to fund a project that has a social benefit attached. Rather than donate the money, however, the investor asks for the money back. For instance, an investor could fund the construction of a school and ask for the money to be paid back over time in the form of a mortgage. The market for impact investments runs from large scale infrastructure projects to small investments in social enterprises that are serving social needs and providing employment in the developing world.

Vince recently authored “Africa Is the New Frontier of Impact Investing” for Ventureburn, where you can learn more about Vince’s take on impact investing.

On Thursday, October 29, 2015 at noon Eastern, Vince will join me for a discussion about impact investing. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.


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

More about Constellation Fin Tech:

Twitter: @GateImpact

Constellation Fin Tech is an innovative and disruptive financial technology software platform company with focus platform launches on impact investing and family offices.

Vince Molinari

Vince’s bio:

Twitter: @VinceMolinari

Vincent Molinari is the co-founder and CEO of GATE Global Impact, a leading electronic marketplace platform that’s helping the world’s leading organizations standardize and accelerate impact investing.

Vincent is an active speaker on issues related to capital markets and early-stage companies, and he regularly speaks at events around the world. He’s been invited to testify before the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services and the Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises. Vincent has also testified before the Securities and Exchange Commission Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies regarding secondary market liquidity. He regularly consults with members of Congress and regulatory agencies on these issues.

Vincent is a managing partner at Constellation Fin Tech and a founding board member and former co-chair of the Crowdfund Intermediary Regulatory Advocates, a self-regulating association that works with governmental and quasi-governmental entities to establish crowdfunding industry standards and best practices. Vincent is also a co-founder of the Crowdfunding Professional Association, a leading trade organization for the crowdfunding industry, and sits on the board of CF50, a global think tank of 50 of the leading minds from academia, policy, and industry.

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Devin D. Thorpe

Filmmaker Focuses Lens On Nobel Peace Prize Winner Yunus

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Filmmaker Holly Mosher is a remarkable social entrepreneur herself, focusing her lens on a variety of social issues. Recently, I saw her film about arguably the greatest social entrepreneur on the planet, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus. I saw the film, Bonsai People, and met her at the 2015 Parliament of World Religions held in Salt Lake City.

The film title comes from Yunus’s observation that people who live in poverty are not deficient people, but like a bonsai tree, they are planted in confining circumstances that prevent them from reaching their potential.

Mosher explains, “When millions of people were starving from the famine in Bangladesh, Muhammad Yunus was inspired to try to do something to help. What he ended up creating was a microcredit program that enabled people to start their own income generating activities and get on their feet. But while working with the poorest of the poor, he saw that just like they lack access to financial services they also lack access to so many things we all take for granted: education, healthcare, nutrition, alternative energy, technology, etc. So he’s gone on to create 60+ social businesses all aimed at helping the poor.”

“I read about his work and was inspired to make a film that showed his vision and how his work affects those on the ground in rural Bangladesh. By creating the film, I’m able to help inspire those around the world to join the social business movement and help solve local problems in their own communities. They will see how he always looks to get to the root of the problem and come up with a business solution that really creates empowerment and change,” Mosher continued.

Mosher hopes not only that people will see the film, but also that they will be motivated to act. “The more people that see the film, the more that will be inspired to join the new social business movement. The film has been used as a tool in many of the social enterprise programs that are starting to pop up at universities across the country, so that people can more deeply understand how the most successful social entrepreneur has taken this business model and created sustainable businesses in seemingly every sector. If he can do it in Bangladesh, we can recreate this model around the globe.”

On Thursday, October 29, 2015 at 1:00 Eastern, Mosher will join me for a live discussion about Yunus and the film. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Holly Mosher filming, courtesy of Holly Mosher

Holly Mosher filming, courtesy of Holly Mosher

More about Holly Mosher:

Twitter: @filmsforchange @bonsaimovie

Holly Mosher is an award winning filmmaker and honors graduate from NYU, creating films inspiring positive change. Holly had her directorial debut with the award-winning Hummingbird, an emotionally compelling, award-winning documentary about two non-profits in Brazil that work with street children and women who suffer domestic violence. She then produced two films on healthcare – Money Talks: Profits Before Patient Safety and Side Effects, starring Katherine Heigl. She co-produced Maybe Baby, about single women trying to get pregnant. She executive produced Vanishing of the Bees, narrated by Ellen Page and Free For All, about election issues and Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes, a film about the influence of money in politics. Her latest directorial project was Bonsai People – The Vision of Muhammad Yunus, which follows the work of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus from microcredit to social business.

 

Students Create App for Dumb Phones to Help Illiterate Read to Their Kids

Michael Custer and a team of students at Jiaotong University in Shanghai, inspired by the Hult Prize, saw a problem and created a solution for it.

As Michael explains, “The problem is illiteracy. Across the developing world, millions and millions of people remain illiterate. The UN estimates there to be 900 million illiterate people worldwide and a third of this population lives in India, where 289 million Indian adults are illiterate.”

“Illiteracy is not just a problem for the individual though, it also creates tremendous problems for the next generation. Academic research has repeatedly proved the inter-generational transmission of illiteracy and its close link to poverty. The worst part is, that for young children, the best way to develop the skills necessary for future literacy is to be read to during their early years (ages 6 and under), a task that is literally impossible for illiterate parents,” he continued.

Their solution, called teleStory, is as simple as it is brilliant.

Combining modern cloud telephony and mobile phones, teleStory has created a system that empowers illiterate parents to read to their children for the first time. To accomplish this, we first buy and record the audio for local children’s books. This audio is then uploaded to our cloud. We then partner with ngos already operating in the early childhood space in India and establish our libraries or book distribution centers. Parents then take a book from one of these libraries and give teleStory’s number a missed call. When the parents receive a call back they will be prompted to enter the ID of the book they took. The ID and our phone number will be on a label on the front or back cover of the book. Once they enter the ID the audio that corresponds to the words will play page by page. To go to the next page the parent presses one and to repeat a page the parent presses two.

Michael says the team has a big goal. “Our goal is to intervene in a child’s early years – the year’s most important to brain development- and break the illiteracy cycle, a key step towards ending the poverty cycle. The inability to read traps a person in poverty, drastically holding back one’s economic potential.”

On Thursday, October 29, 2015 at 11:00 AM, Michael will join me from China for a live discussion about their novel program and their experience competing for the Hult Prize. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.


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

More about teleStory:

Twitter: @tele_story

teleStory is an app for dumb phones that empowers illiterate parents to read to their children for the first time. To reach our end users, teleStory partners with NGOs already operating in the early childhood education space to establish community libraries. Parents take a book from the library and give a missed call to teleStory’s number. When they receive the call back, they enter the book’s ID and the corresponding audio plays. Parents can press 1 to go to the next page and 2 to repeat and throughout the story we program in games and questions designed to create parent-child interaction. Presently, teleStory operates in India and China, reaching over 1500 children in four different languages. In rural China, children are listening to teleStory for over an hour a night and in the slums of Mumbai, neighborhood children rush to gather around the nearest teleStory user’s phone for the nightly story.

Michael Custer, courtesy of teleStory

Michael Custer, courtesy of teleStory

Michael’s bio:

Michael is an avid traveler, ice hockey player and passionate about economic development. He completed his undergraduate studies at NYU, graduating cum laude with a degree in International Relations, and minors in Africana Studies and French. After his undergraduate studies, he spent two years abroad working as an Education Consultant. The first year in Dubai and the second year in Shenzhen, China. Michael Founded teleStory while completing his masters degree in Shanghai at Shanghai Jiaotong University.

Remember to “join the cavalry” by subscribing to our content here.

Devin D. Thorpe

Toyo Tires Presents Meals on Wheels America with Donations and Tires To Help Reach Seniors During Harsh Winter Conditions

This is a guest post from Julie Sediq, senior manager of marketing communications at Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp.

Last year the Boston area set a record for the most snow in a year. One storm in Detroit meanwhile was the third worst on record with over 16 inches of snow and at points during the winter, snow covered more than half the nation. As a company that makes tires, safe and effective travel in this weather is important to us and it’s even more important if your job is to deliver meals to the home bound elderly.

That’s why we are proud to partner with Meals on Wheels America to help deliver meals to local communities around the nation. We have committed to help the programs be successful in showing up and assisting with the safe and reliable delivery of critical meals and safety checks on homebound seniors across the nation.

Meals on Wheels America is a community-based service that provides fresh, nutritious meals delivered directly to the homes of seniors and individuals with disabilities. In addition to regularly providing healthy foods, caring staff and volunteers provide social connections that helps meal recipients remain living independently in their own homes. In some communities Meals on Wheels is expected to deliver as many as 90,000 meals in the upcoming year.

In October, Toyo Tires started making $5,000 cash grants and equipping 14 local programs with a new set of tires so drivers can safely make those important deliveries this winter. Most of the vehicles will be equipped with a set of Toyo Celsius variable-conditions tires–a just introduced tire that has better ice and snow traction than the all-season tires that are found on so many cars. They are especially helpful in communities where drivers face tough winter conditions. The grants will help the local programs prepare and deliver more meals, offset equipment costs and expand programs.

Here’s what some of the programs have said:

“Funding from Toyo Tires would allow Metro Meals on Wheels and member programs to continue to serve our mission to assure every senior in the Twin Cities who needs a meal receives one. Specifically, this funding would help to fund the food, assembly and delivery of 10,000 Blizzard Box’s for 5,000 seniors in the Twin Cities. This opportunity also opens up 80 volunteer spots to assemble boxes and make deliveries to those in need. Often times the daily delivery over lunch hour is hard for working professionals to commit to, this opportunity gives those who want to give back a one-time opportunity to do so.”

– Metro Meals on Wheels–Minneapolis, MN

“Being able to keep a vehicle on the road meals that 80 seniors will receive their MOW delivery each day.”

– Kit Clark Senior Services–Dorchester/Boston, MA

“By using this gift to offset the equipment repair costs outlined above, we will not need to pull out that money away from our food funding. For the $5,000 that will continue be available to us for food expense, we will be able to provide food delivery for four days of approximately 225 meals for seniors, per day.”

– Burlington Meals on Wheels–Burlington, VT

So far Toyo Tires has made donations and delivered tires to Meals on Wheels America affiliates in Detroit MI, Boulder CO, Kansas City MO, Salt Lake City UT, Green Bay WI,  Waukegan IL, Philadelphia PA, Burlington VT, Hartford CT, Dorchester MA, Providence RI, Scarborough ME, Holyoke MA, and Minneapolis MN. We hope to expand the program next year.

About Julie Sediq:

Julie Sediq is senior manager of marketing communications at Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp. She manages public relations, advertising, promotions and social media for the company.

 

Dobra Torba: Women Rediscover Their Talents With Good Bags In Serbia

This post was originally published on Dive in Social. If you enjoy this content like our Facebook Page, join our closed discussion group and get our weekly newsletter featuring the best of Dive in Social.

Beautiful, practical and as strong as the women that make them. This is how Dobra Torba (serbian for “good bag”) defines itself. The project was born with support from Smart Kolektiv and the organization’s project manager, Ivana Stancic, is one of the social business’s initiators. Her current work is organizing its operations, especially building bridges between buyers and the women who sew the bags, but she ensures that her intention is “having all the process handed over to the women from the sewing associations”. Therefore, there is work of identifying leaderships so that the business manages to be run without her supervision.

dobra1

Dobra Torba currently relies on 5 women who activate their network of sewers in their communities for each order placed to and forwarded by Ivana. “Virtually all of them already had sewing machines at home and are excellent professionals, from the time when Serbia had a huge textile hub (in former Yugoslavia)”, she explains.

The associations support women who unite themselves to find a way of living a better life. They are women above 55, form Serbia’s rural areas, who otherwise rely on the low pensions paid by the government, partly due to the gender pay gap, and who are out of the groups favored in job offers. Enter Dobra Torba. According to Ivana, for each bag sold, you can see a tangible result in these women’s lives. Nowadays, all the profit raised is used to pay the sewers.

The empowering work of the good bags go beyond giving more money to the workers so that they can afford a more dignified life. By choosing to work with these women’s associations, the initiative also works as a role model.

“Other initiatives are arising, they are organizing themselves and willing to form new social businesses. Our work comes to show them what they are able to”, Ivana ponders

The main challenge faced by the brand is reaching prices competitive enough, comparing to chinese goods. The bags are usually bought for events or corporate branding activities by companies and governmental organs. “But it is impossible to reach their prices, when our goal is offering a fair pay and respect everyone in the value chain”, Ivana comments. The solution found was using the experience of many women in the associations to develop a unique model. The good bags are foldable and have slide fastener. Also, a new model is under development, smaller and more simple, so that the brand has an entrance product, more competitive with chinese prices.

dobra2

As next steps, Ivana tells us that there will be training to women who want to join the initiative but don’t know how to sew. “We want to think also in other similar programs, we realized that the model is amazing, so we are starting other small, local initiatives that allow us to include more women in the production process”, she concludes.

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How A Stack Of Dirty Diapers Inspired A Business

This post was originally published on Dive in Social. If you enjoy this content like our Facebook Page, join our closed discussion group and get our weekly newsletter featuring the best of Dive in Social.

Leia em Português

Sonja Dakić lives in a suburb in Belgrade where waste collection service runs only twice a week. Sometimes, when the rain comes or there is a holiday, you can’t expect it to run more than once in seven days. She and her husband always tried to have a sustainable life style, separating waste and composting, but the eco-friendly status changed seven years ago, when her daughter was born. Each wee, the stack of used diapers raised and Sonja couldn’t believe “how such a small person managed to cause such a big impact”. Buying diapers and contributing to the trash pile was not something she was into, so, she found out about reusable cloth diapers as the perfect alternative.

“Problem was finding them in Serbia. We would find them on the internet, but there was no delivery in the country. I had to mobilize all my network to try and get some diapers, then my daughter would grow beyond their size and I thought: what now?”, she tells us. The search seemed endless, then Sonja’s husband made the suggestion of producing them locally, since Serbia used to have a textile industry hub.

Although Sonja assures the entrepreneurial spirit was not one of her strengths, she decided to get hands on: in a partnership with a friend who had a shop for toddlers’ items, they started producing Daj Daj Diapers out of some savings she and Violeta Makovic, her partner, had.

“The best thing for us was that we didn’t know what would come next, so we decided to take one step at a time. If we knew, we might have given up”

The dual bought the machinery and the raw material. When they had to find skilled labour, the best choice was relying on the experience of the 50+ women who used to work in textile factories in former Yugoslavia — common narrative that we saw here and here. “They were searching for work, couldn’t position themselves in the job market and had previous experience, exactly what we needed”, she tells excited. She tells about the seamstresses’ reaction when they are consulted, because back in the days, the production process was not so open for opinions. “In the beginning, they got astonished, but they are very important for us. We have to respect their knowledge, because they are the ones who make our product, it would be nonsense not consulting the ones who bring our ideas to 3D, she explains. Nowadays, they are 3 seamstresses and the plan is hiring two more in the following months.

Sonja tells that, although she hires women from vulnerable groups and having a strong ecologic drive, it was only in the middle of their path that they found out that would be called social entrepreneurship. “Someone had to tell us”, she says between giggles. The brand grew, managed to find an interesting loan with Erste Bank — an Austrian bank that is very close to innovative and social initiatives in the Balkans — and Sonja spoke in TEDx Vienna last year.

For someone who allegedly didn’t have any tact for business in the beginning, Sonja runs Daj Daj very well: the loan is almost settled and the company has reached break even point. Now, the work is towards increasing the production scale and expand to new markets. The partners are in a program run by Impact Hub Belgrade to explore Central European markets, especially Germany.

Disposable vs reusable

But, is washing diapers really worth it? Isn’t spending more water and more energy the same as producing trash? Not necessarily. A research held in 2010 by Portuguese National Association for Nature Conservation in Quercos assures that the amount of water spent is not significantly higher when you go for cloth diapers. One can expect one ton of trash in two years using disposable diapers.

dajdaj (1 of 1)

In Daj Daj’s case, Sonja assures that parents who choose cloth diapers also save money. “Our sum shows that a child will use 20 diapers in a two-years time. They are adjustable, so they follow the baby’s growth. And if washed in the right way, they can be used by two or three toddlers, she teaches us. There is also the idea of collecting diapers already used and giving them to low income families, but the donation rate is still not enough to do so.

She highlights that, inside the company, there is still room to explain new moms the advantages and how to use the diapers and there is a work os support to mothers. Breastfeeding support group and issues related to maternal leave are also in the agenda. “In the end, it is good to have the feedback, our product is not only ecological, but also help children in some other ways. Some moms come to us with a smile in their face, because they have finally found diapers that are non-alergenic, for instance”, she recalls.

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CSR, Say Cheese!

Here’s how your Funds could create nutritious Cheese, help Autistic children, save the livestock people of Rajasthan (India) and their Camels.

PROJECT BY: Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan & Camel Charisma

ABOUT: LPPS is an NGO that supports traditional livestock keepers in Rajasthan, and indirectly all over India.

WORKING SINCE: 1996

THE CONCEPT IN A NUTSHELL: Introducing Camel Cheese to India – this Project aims to develop Camel Cheese into a value added product that creates income for Camel breeders, provides economic incentives for conserving the Camel, and provides therapeutic support to autistic children. Some studies have proved that camel milk is a health tonic, especially useful for Diabetes patients and autistic children.

WHY THIS PROJECT IS GOOD FOR THE WORLD: The benefits of this project relate to camel breeders in Rajasthan (who currently have no income from their camels) and to consumers who get access to a healthy product that provides the nutritional and health benefits of camel milk in a less perishable form.

FUNDS REQUIRED: $80,000/INR 50 Lakh, for three years

WATCH HOW CAMELS BRING HOPE TO THE PEOPLE OF RAJASTHAN:

A QUICK OVERVIEW OF THE OPERATIONAL STRATEGY: The project will encompass the following steps:

  1. Development of a premium Camel Cheese product that suits the Indian palate
  2. Training of members of Camel breeding families in Cheese production
  3. Development of a Marketing Strategy
  4. Promotion of the product, through linkages with Hotels, Chefs and Specialty Shops in the Metros

SOME FACTS AND FIGURES

Duration of Project with Proposed Funding requirement: 3 years

Number of people who will benefit from the Project: 500 Camel breeding families and potentially thousands of autistic children

Area of operation and direct impact: All of Rajasthan

LEARN MORE ABOUT WHY THE LIVESTOCK PEOPLE NEED YOU:

Want to Fund this Project?

Write to us at editor@csrlive.in and we will assist you with the process. 

 

A Tragedy The World Will Celebrate

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

One day soon, perhaps in the next 90 to 180 days, a toddler in Pakistan or Afghanistan, let’s call her Aisha, will be stricken with a fever and will develop a permanent paralysis, probably in the legs; before long Aisha will be diagnosed with polio. What will make her case different from the millions of polio cases before it, will be that it will never happen again.

Friday, Rotary and UNICEF, held their annual World Polio Day to celebrate the progress being made in the global effort to eradicate the disease that once killed 2,400 people in a single year in New York City alone.

While this disease could not be eradicated without an effective vaccine and much credit is appropriately due Jonas Salk, credit must also be given to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the team of organizations that has been working to end polio since the mid-1980s. Their goal has been to deliver the vaccine to every child on the planet, ensuring that the poorest of the poor in the most remote villages on the planet are provided with the life- and limb-protecting vaccine.

Anthony Lake, UNICEF CEO; John Hewko, Rotary International General Secretary. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Anthony Lake, UNICEF CEO; John Hewko, Rotary International General Secretary. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

The partners in this effort, Rotary, UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have worked since Rotary and UNICEF launched the effort back in 1988. At the time, approximately 350,000 people were diagnosed with polio every year.

So far in 2015, only 51 children have been diagnosed with polio, just a bit more than one case per week. This is almost 7 times fewer than we saw just last year when 356 cases were observed, about seven per week.

As the weather cools, the virus struggles to infect more children. So, it is hoped that this winter, inoculation efforts can snuff the virus out. With the world focused intently on the eradication of polio, every case is scrutinized.

Dr. John Sever, Vice Chair of Rotary’s International Polio Plus Committee and a former colleague of Dr. Salk, explained to me at the event that the genetic tracking of the disease suggest that despite the low numbers, a few strains of the virus continue to circulate independently in Pakistan and Afghanistan. A focused effort will be required this winter to bring an end to polio.

The battle is expensive, tallying over $10 billion since the 1980s. Rotary has, according to General Secretary John Hewko, contributed $1.5 billion to fight against polio. The Gates Foundation has become the primary private funder of the fight, but Rotary continues to raise money for the effort with a two-for-one match from the Gates Foundation. Rotary’s International Polio Plus Chair Mike McGovern made a plea for more donations to end the event.

Mia Farrow, a polio survivor herself and mother of an adopted son with polio, delivered a video message at the event. She was the first of the evening to note that eradicating polio will yield a $50 billion dividend.

The infrastructure put in place to fight polio has already been deployed in the cause of other diseases, most notably the Ebola epidemic. In addition, the work has improved access to routine immunizations for other diseases as well.

The effort has not been without opposition. In fact, as Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s CEO reminded the global, live-streamed audience, polio warriors are “risking—and sometimes losing—their own lives in the effort” to save other lives. Dozens of health workers have been murdered in recent years, mostly in Pakistan, specifically because they were providing polio vaccines. Lake called the workers “heroes.”

Noting how close we now are to eradicating polio, invoking a football metaphor, Lake said, “When the goal line is this close, we cross it.”

Jeffery Kluger of Time Magazine, who acted as the moderator for the evening’s event, reminded the audience of the 1916 polio epidemic in New York that cost 2,400 children their lives. The live audience sitting in New York was particularly struck by this statistic.

Kluger then asked the CDC’s John Vertefeuille to explain the roles played by the two polio vaccines over the years. Salk’s vaccine, an inactivated virus, is injected and is now used throughout the developed world. It provides immunity to all three types of polio virus (1, 2 and 3, as they are unimaginatively known). The Sabin vaccine, developed a few years later, is a live, attenuated virus that is delivered orally. The Sabin vaccine is also a trivalent version, but in recent years a bivalent version (omitting the type 2 virus) has been developed and used with great success. The type 2 wild polio virus was eradicated in 1999.

Vertefeuille explained that the developing world is now incorporating the Salk vaccine, commonly referred to as the IPV, which is injected, into their routine immunization programs. This is a critical step in the final eradication of the disease as the bivalent oral vaccine, on rare occasion leads to children becoming ill and spreading the disease. This less virulent form of the disease does leave some patients paralyzed. Hence, the need to switch to the IPV, which cannot lead to a circulating virus.

Jeffrey Kluger, Editor at Large, TIME; Dr. Jennifer Bremer, The Doctors. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Jeffrey Kluger, Editor at Large, TIME; Dr. Jennifer Bremer, The Doctors. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Dr. Jennifer Bremer of the television show The Doctors, took a few moments on stage to plead with parents in the United States to continue to have their children vaccinated. She explained the principle of herd immunity that comes from having a threshold proportion of a population immunized. For polio, she said, the threshold is about 80 to 85 percent. When the threshold isn’t met, the risk of an outbreak grows, she explained. She suggested that the reasons people don’t have their children vaccinated is due to misinformation or a lack of information. She concluded by saying, “Everyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated.”

Jeffrey Kluger, TIME, with actor Archie Panjabi, Rotary Polio Ambassador. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Jeffrey Kluger, TIME, with actor Archie Panjabi, Rotary Polio Ambassador. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Near the end of the program, Kluger shared the story of being approached by his then nine-year-old daughter as he was doing research on polio. She saw the image of a young girl suffering from the paralyzing effects of polio and asked him if she could catch the disease. Knowing she had been properly immunized, he was grateful, he says, to be able to say in four simple words, “No, honey, you can’t.”

Tragically, our “Aisha” will contract polio within the next unknown number of months. At first, no one will take particular note of her case as the global surveillance teams monitor weekly data coming in from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the rest of the world, but no other cases will come. It will take years to certify the world as truly polio free. As time without polio increases, Aisha will, ironically, become a celebrated symbol of the eradication of this disease.

Soon, if not this winter then next, every parent on the planet will be able to answer their children’s inquiries about contracting polio just as Kluger did his, with the simple four-word response, “No, honey, you can’t.”

This Solution To Poverty In Slums Needs To Be Rapidly Replicated

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

The townships in South Africa are some of the largest slums in the world.

“The odds are stacked against children growing up in Port Elizabeth’s townships. Abject poverty, particularly amongst the country’s black population, is pervasive,” explains Jacob Lief, Co-founder and CEO of Ubuntu Education Fund, which works to solve problems associated with poverty in Port Elizabeth’s townships.

Lief sees the extreme gap between rich and poor in South Africa as a root of the problem, noting that South Africa is the 2nd most unequal country in the world–without noting which country is worse. “This widening gap between the haves and the have-nots permeates society. While the elite receive quality private healthcare, South Africa’s poor are forced to rely on public clinics. Plagued by shortfalls of doctors, service interruptions, and infrastructure backlogs, these facilities cannot fully address the country’s HIV/AIDS and TB crises,” Lief says.

Education isn’t a panacea, he says. “Facing these economic and medical barriers, many South Africans believe that education has the potential to act as a great equalizer. Yet the education system is equally fraught with challenges. Children growing up in Port Elizabeth’s townships lack access to quality healthcare and education, and face unstable homes everyday.”

So Ubuntu has developed a unique cradle to career program to support 2,000 children in the townships that Lief calls the Ubuntu Model, “a strategy that has received international acclaim from Bill Clinton to the World Economic Forum.”

The model has four tenets, he says:

  • A comprehensive, cradle to career pathway out of poverty that encompasses sustained household stability services (home assessments, child protection services, and psychosocial counseling), life-saving healthcare (HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis programs, sexual and reproductive support, primary and preventative medicine, and nutritional consultations), as well as dynamic educational programs (from early childhood education to university scholarships and job readiness training)
  • Depth rather than breadth of impact by continuously improving program quality to meet the ever-changing needs of clients
  • Localized, grassroots development contextualized to mitigate the specific challenges that Port Elizabeth’s townships face
  • Sustainable investments in community leadership, capacity, and infrastructure

The results of the program are impressive.

Lief exults, “Ubuntu’s impact is transformative– from HIV-positive mothers giving birth to healthy, HIV-negative babies, to vocational-tracked youth in our Ubuntu Pathways (UP) program securing employment. Within just four years of joining Ubuntu, 82% of clients are on-track towards stable health and employment.”

“An independent study conducted by McKinsey & Company found that every $1 invested in an Ubuntu child will yield $8.70 in real lifetime earnings for that individual. Ubuntu graduates will contribute $195,000 to society, while their peers will cost society $9,000. Ubuntu graduates attain successes that few in their community ever realize and, in doing so, they are redefining what the world believes to be possible in disadvantaged communities,” he enthusiastically continues.

It seems daunting to consider expanding such an intensive program to other communities, but this is exactly what Lief hopes to see. “The Ubuntu Model is a blueprint for sustainable grassroots development– one that should be replicated and contextualized for communities across the world.”

On Thursday, October 22, 2015 at 2:00 Eastern, Lief will join me for a live discussion about the program and its impact in Port Elizabeth. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Ubuntu Education Fund:

Twitter: @ubuntufund

Founded in 1999, Ubuntu Education Fund (www.ubuntufund.org) is guided by a simple, all-encompassing, yet radical mission: to help raise Port Elizabeth’s orphaned and vulnerable children by giving them what all children deserve—everything. Ignoring traditional development models, Ubuntu redefined the theory of “going to scale”, choosing to focus on the depth rather than breadth of our impact. Our holistic cradle to career model provides children with comprehensive household stability, health, and educational services, enabling them to break cycles of disenfranchisement and inequality. The success of our model is unprecedented, and we are currently transforming the lives of 2,000 children and their families.

Lief’s bio:

Twitter: @ubuntujakes

Jacob Lief is Co-Founder and CEO of Ubuntu Education Fund, a non-profit organization that takes vulnerable children in Port Elizabeth, South Africa from cradle to career. Nuancing traditional development models, Ubuntu redefined the theory of “going to scale”; rather than expanding geographically, they focus on the depth rather than breadth of their programs within a community of 400,000 people. Ubuntu’s programs form an integrated system of medical, health, educational and social services, ensuring that a child who is either orphaned or vulnerable could succeed in the world of higher education and employment. Ubuntu’s child-centred approach highlights the difference between merely touching a child’s life versus fundamentally changing it. In 2009, Jacob was selected as an Aspen Institute Global Fellow and, in 2010, he was recognized by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader. In 2012, he joined the Clinton Global Initiative Advisory Committee. He is currently a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. Jacob has authored a book, I Am Because You Are, focused on his journey in South Africa and the creation of Ubuntu Education Fund, published by Rodale Inc. in May 2015.

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