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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: August 2016

1.1 Million Refugees Arrive In Germany; This Entrepreneur Goes To Work

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Anne Kjaer Riechert, a young, Danish entrepreneur living in Germany saw the flood of refugees arriving in 2015 and did something about it. [Unrelated to this story, I have written about polio eradication for the Rotarian magazine.]

Riechert, a past Rotary Peace Fellow, moved to Berlin in 2012 to set up the Berlin Peace Innovation Lab in collaboration with Stanford University. When she observed what ultimately became 1.1 million asylum seekers, mostly from Syria, she saw an opportunity. ”Currently, there are 43,000 open jobs in IT in Germany,” she says.

John Hewko, general secretary of Rotary International, who spent much of his career in Europe, commenting on the refugee situation there, says, “If we don’t act now to build the conditions for sustainable peace, then the likelihood of events that undermine it, such as profound social instability, a lack of integration of migrant populations into their new host countries, and failures of national governance will only increase.”

So, she created a coding school called ReDI School of Digital Integration to train refugees to fill some of those jobs. Partnering with German companies, including Daimler AG, she is providing training in coding languages “like Ruby on Rails, CSS, HTML, Python” along with “skills like entrepreneurship and business intelligence,” she says.

Michael Vormittag, Retail Digitalization at Daimler AG, says, “I am convinced of the great work ReDI is doing. That’s why we work together. I think that a cooperation like ours is highly beneficial for both sides.”

“On one hand we provide the refugees with industry-insights and work-experience which will support their future professional career. On the other hand they are highly motivated and offer new perspectives with their diverse background and fresh ideas. I believe that this diversity drives innovation and with the integrated working-approach real integration can be achieved,” he says.

The nonprofit school raises money any way it can, through partnerships with companies, who, like Daimler, may provide help in several ways, including providing mentors and trainers and sponsorships for the school. Reichert says they have also used crowdfunding. “In the future we hope to also add funding from foundations and public funding,” she adds.

Anne Riechert, photo by Loulou d’Aki

Anne Riechert, photo by Loulou d’Aki

The operations are just six months old. The school has two co-founders, five part-time employees and 40+ volunteers. The school has enrolled 42 students in the first cohort, 35 of whom graduated. Another 60 were enrolled in 10 summer school courses and another series will begin in October.

Reichert says she hopes to expand to two or three more cities in Germany in 2017.

The students, she says, are mostly from Syria and many are in their early twenties, having completed a year or two of college before being forced from their homes.

Completing the trip from Syria to Germany proves they are “resourceful in body, mind and soul,” she says of the struggle. Once they arrive, they often wait 12 to 16 months to get permanent papers allowing them to work. She sees an opportunity to use that time for productive training so that they not only learn some skills but connect with people as well.

The education is transferable. “IT is also a skill you can use anywhere on the globe,” she says. Hence, she equips the participating refugees for success, even if they aren’t ultimately allowed to stay.

The courses, typically taught three times per week for a total of eight hours, use a project approach intended to benefit more than just the students themselves. “The classes are all project based learning, meaning that the students are working to build their own projects as part of the class. One group is, for instance, building a web-based app called ‘Bureaucrazy’ to help newcomers in Germany better navigate the bureaucratic paperwork. Another group built a website and started a catering service where illiterate Syrian women cook for company events.”

She adds, “All our classes happen Face-to-Face, because we believe getting a job in Germany is ’50% what you know’ and ’50% who you know.’”

Anne Riechert on stage at TEDx, courtesy of ReDI School of Digital Integration

Anne Riechert on stage at TEDx, courtesy of ReDI School of Digital Integration

The scale of the problem with millions of refugees in Europe is daunting. “We would like to expand into other parts of Germany and Europe to be able to provide many more asylum seekers the opportunity to take part in our classes. In order to expand, we need to find the right local partners–refugee homes, companies and volunteers–and to secure enough funding for us to be able to coordinate all the volunteers and partners,” she says.

It is clear the realities she faces weigh on her. “Applying for funding takes a lot of time, and since we are a small team that has to coordinate 100+ students and volunteers and secure a high quality delivery of content, it is hard to find the time to sit down and write grant proposals. As a relatively new organization, we are also still young and untested in comparison to other players helping refugees.”

“But I hope our agile processes, innovative approach, speed and quality of delivery will attract the right kind of partners,” with characteristic entrepreneurial optimism.

Riechert has a four-point vision of the future:

  1. On a individual level I hope to help as many asylum seekers as possible get well settled in to their new host countries and ensure that they get a good job and through that can become financially independent.
  2. On a national level I hope that our students can be role models to inspire other asylum seekers to pursue education and good careers.
  3. On a global level I hope that our students can help build technical solutions that will help all the refugees that are stuck in UNCHR camps or live as illegal refugees.
  4. On a political level I hope that we can change the way people look upon refugees – from somebody to be afraid of – into someone to welcome with open arms, interest and compassion.

Hewko says, “Anne’s efforts to integrate refugees into the European tech economy is an example of how Rotary Peace Fellows and Rotary members are striving to create sustainable peace throughout the world.”

On Thursday, August 11, 2016 at noon Eastern, Riechert will join me here for a live discussion about her work in Germany to educated and welcome refugees into the European economy. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Activist from Former Soviet Block Educates Children, Families on Healthy Diets


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

This changemaker raised in the former Czechoslovakia, Iva Dior, became an activist as a small child. Today, in the United States, the singer and activist continues to advocate for change, working primarily to educate children and families on good nutrition.

She explains how she got her start. “I got to know families who were desperate to change their lifestyle, but didn’t know where to start. I took them shopping, shared a few recipes and realized there’s away to do this on a budget. It’s the moms and dads who needed to feel empowered to change their families’ eating habits.”

Along the way, Iva has faced significant challenges. “Having been raised in communist Czechoslovakia, one of the greatest challenges has been always going against the current. I never quite fit in, because I saw challenges and I wanted to solve them. Being a dreamer and a changemaker wasn’t encouraged, yet I felt my purpose was to live a purpose-driven life.”

She credits her grandfather for her success, even though she never met him. “My grandfather Otto, whom I never got to meet, but who’s presence I feel daily in my life is my hero. He was a community leader and an activist during the Soviet occupation during Prague Spring of 1968. I seem to have inherited his altruistic, activist and working-to-make-the-world-a-better-place gene.”

Iva Dior

Iva Dior

On Thursday, August 4, 2016 at 4:00 Eastern, Iva will join me here for a live discussion about her interesting life experiences and her work helping kids and families eat a more healthy diet. 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 Kaleidoscope:

Providing hands-on experience with the full spectrum of ingredients that provide a health-filled diet and lifestyle to children and adults who, because of budget constraints or lack of exposure, may not know how to realistically incorporate them into their life.

Iva’s bio:

As a child, Iva Dior, putting up posters for demonstrations during the Velvet Revolution in communist Czechoslovakia, was already a rebel. Coming from a family of activists, she was never quite satisfied with the status quo even if it meant getting in trouble at school for wearing a jacket with “NATO” imprinted on it, or opening the forbidden topic of religion.

In addition to being a mother of three, a singer, and a leader in the Refugee Action Network of Utah, Iva’s passion is providing and educating others on healthy, vibrant food. Seeing the health crisis affecting the children in this country, Iva has developed free, hands-on experiences with the full spectrum of ingredients that provide a health-filled diet and lifestyle to children and adults who, because of budget constraints or lack of exposure, may not know how to realistically incorporate them into their lives. Iva has partnered with Kid Labs, an organization that champions for others and takes on unique social challenges, led by a 7-year-old superhero Chase and his side-kick John, his dad. With Kid Labs, Iva contributes her vision and passion through creating fun, hands-on classes at local health food stores and community kitchens for parents and their children called “Rainbow On A Budget”.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

Emmy Winner Works to Close ‘Word Gap’ Among Disadvantaged Children


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

Emmy Award winner Shane DeRolf has launched an effort he calls the Big Word Club to help disadvantaged children catch up with their more affluent peers.

Shane says, “A child’s vocabulary at age 5 is the single best predictor of his or her success in school and in life yet by the time they enter kindergarten, children from lower to middle socioeconomic families will know 400-700 fewer words than their wealthier classmates. This is called the ‘word gap’ and without effective intervention (i.e. improving their vocabularies at a young age), the word gap only gets wider as the child gets older.”

The real problem, he says, comes later. “Left unchecked, the word gap evolves into the ‘achievement gap,’ impacting the child’s academic and earning potential for the rest of his or her life.”

Until now, there hasn’t been an efficient way to address the problem, he says. “Though much research has been done about the causes of the Word Gap, until Big Word Club, no low-cost and scalable intervention existed. If we are going to improve the vocabularies of millions of children in America–and we need to–we need to provide busy parents and teachers with better tools to teach vocabulary to media-savvy kids in fast, fun and effective ways.”

“Big Word Club uses books, songs, animation and dance to help preschool and elementary school kids learn one new ‘big‘ word every day of the school year–in less than one minute a day! Big Word Club makes it easy for parents and teachers to improve their kids’ vocabularies and because Big Word Club is fun and entertaining, kids love learning,” Shane says.

No different than any startup, Big Word Club faces some challenges, he says. “Like many start-ups, funding is a challenge. We are a for-profit company and until revenues start coming in, we must fundraise and fundraising is hard and time-consuming. Another challenge is because we’re a start-up, we lack market awareness, although thanks to people like you, Devin, that challenge gets a little smaller every day.”

Shane DeRolf, courtesy of Big Word Club

Shane DeRolf, courtesy of Big Word Club

As with all solutions, there are limits to the impact of any single intervention. Shane acknowledges, “Bridging the word gap in America is a big problem and there is no silver bullet or one solution. For starters, I believe it will require more, and better, public and private partnerships. It will require parents and caregivers talking more to their infants and toddlers before they get to preschool. This will require inspiring behavioral change at the family level–which is a very difficult thing to do. But to be successful, we must find ways to do that. Change is difficult. And usually painful.”

“Those of us committed to bridging the word gap must make it as easy and painless as possible for parents, teachers and caregivers to help improve their kids vocabularies. In other words, we need to make our solutions fast, fun and effective for parents, teachers, caregivers and most of all–for kids,” he notes.

He adds, “E.D Hirsch, Jr. wrote, ‘Simply put, knowing more words makes you smarter.’ We want to help make children smarter and better position them for success in school and in life by improving their vocabularies.”

Shane believes Big Word Club can make a big difference. “If Big Word Club can help preschool and elementary school children learn one new word every day of the school year, they will learn 180 new words every year. Given the word gap is only 400-700 words, Big Word Club is poised to make a serious dent in the word gap. And if we can do that, it will be a great thing–for those kids, their future and our country.”

On Thursday, August 4, 2016 at 1:00 Eastern, Shane will join me here for a live discussion about Big Word Club and how he plans to close the word gap. 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 Big Word Club:

Twitter: @BigWordClub

Big Word Club is a multimodal digital learning program that uses books, songs, animation and dance to teach kids one new “BIG” word every day of the school year—in less than 1 minute a day!

Shane’s bio:

Twitter: @ShaneDeRolf

Big Word Club founder and CEO, Shane DeRolf, is an 11 time Emmy-award winning writer and producer of children’s television and animation. The former president of Random House Entertainment, Shane is the author of “The Crayon Box That Talked” which has sold over two million copies worldwide. He has created and produced three original children’s television series for network and public television and his animated music videos have received over 80 million views on YouTube.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

Shhh! Don’t Tell Starbucks The Future Is Coming On A Bicycle Wearing Blue Hair

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Maria De La Croix may one day prove to be the biggest mistake Starbucks SBUX -1.56% ever made. You see, the blue-haired young woman applied for a job as a barista with the global leader in high-end coffee shops and was turned down, she says, because her hair was “too blue.”

Lest anyone at Starbucks feel bad about the decision, no one could have guessed what would happen next. Suffice it to say, there is a mic drop coming.

With the help of some friends, De La Croix built a solar powered coffee shop on a bicycle and completely reinvented the coffee shop business. She calls her company Wheelys Cafe.

Her stores on wheels cost just $5,900, on which she makes a profit margin of 50 percent, she says. The shop is the key. By mass producing the bike-based shops, the company has reduced the production costs to about $3,000.

Wheelys 4 cafe on a bicycle, courtesy of Wheelys

Wheelys 4 cafe on a bicycle, courtesy of Wheelys

The company also developed an app De La Croix compares to the Uber app, allowing the shop owner to charge customers and order supplies. The company makes 5 percent on every transaction. She explains, “We are running a test version in Stockholm. A café with a $12,000 turnover generates $600 per month to Wheelys through a 5% charge on the app, and through supplying coffee. The important thing is that both the app and the supplies are cheaper than independent competitors. This means that even non-Wheelys cafés who join our integrated system would benefit.”

In addition, the company is launching a coffee subscription program as a third revenue stream. The Wheelys franchise owners will share in the profits on the subscriptions so the company won’t be competing with its distribution partners, she says.

De La Croix is on a mission. “Wheelys is empowering young global entrepreneurs,” she says. While Starbucks doesn’t sell franchises, she estimates that it costs about $800,000 to open a store. At $5,900 per store, a whole new group of entrepreneurs can now participate in the global economy in a meaningful way.

Not only is the business addressing a fundamental social justice issue by empowering people of limited means, the stores sell organic items and power themselves with the sun.

“We are aiming to break the hegemony of the industrial fast food chains, and pave the way for an organic revolution. Helping us to do this is young hungry eco entrepreneurs from all over the world,” she says.

While not yet profitable, Wheelys is off to the races; check out this growth reported by the company:

  • Wheelys has doubled in size every 6 months.
  • In 2014, the company was founded in Malmö, sells 20 cafés.
  • In 2015, Wheelys 2 is launched. The company Raises $100,000 on Indiegogo.
  • In May 2015, the company is accepted at Y Combinator.
  • In July 2015, Wheelys 3 is launched.  The company raises $250,000 on Indiegogo.
  • In November 2015, the company moves HQ office to Stockholm.
  • In December 2015, Wheelys has 150 cafés in 40+ countries.
  • In January 2016, the company opens office in Shanghai
  • In February 2016, Wheelys closes a seed round of $2.5 million.
  • In March 2016, Wheelys 4 launched on Indiegogo, raises $650,000.
  • In May 2016, the company reports having 500+ cafés in 60+ countries.
  • In June 2016, the company is selling 2 cafés a day.

Mic drop.

Maria De La Croix, courtesy of Wheelys

Maria De La Croix, courtesy of Wheelys

 

Aaron Harris, a partner with Y Combinator, says, “I met Maria and the rest of the Wheelys team when they applied for Y Combinator. I remember reading their application and thinking ‘This is a totally crazy and possibly incredible idea. I’ve got to meet this team.’”

He still feels the same way. “I think the business is amazing and hugely innovative. I lived in NYC for a long time, so the idea of a coffee cart isn’t that new. What’s novel is the way that the team has approached building a worldwide community of entrepreneurs bound up in a logistics network and incredible brand.”

Justin Waldron, fo-founder of Zynga, met De La Croix through Y Combinator and invested. He says, “I became interested when I heard their vision for lowering the cost of starting a highly profitable business for anyone who wants to be their own boss. What ultimately convinced me is that Maria and the rest of the team behind Wheely’s have a long history of creating movements and rallying a group of people behind a cause. Like the greatest companies, Wheely’s is both a business and a movement toward a better future.”

Being rejected by Starbucks created lasting motivation for De La Croix. In response to a question she gave an answer that cries out for a sarcastic, “Don’t hold back; tell me how you really feel.”

The problem today is that starting a café business (or ANY business) has become so expensive and complicated that the only really profitable cafés and shops today are global mega-brand behemoths that have descended upon our cities like a swarm of locusts.

In her own words, she shares the founding story for Wheelys:

Two years ago, I was turned down from a job at Starbucks for having to blue hair. I had no money for rent, so together with a few friends we built a café on wheels with our own hands. Instead of spending a lot on a storefront, we focused on making the freshest and best coffee, close to were the customers are. We wanted to avoid having a boss, spending hours at a desk or inside a dusty warehouse. But meeting friendly people, selling coffee in the sun. This was the beginning of Wheelys.

Wheelys gives shop owners flexibility and opportunity. Because the shops are on wheels, shop owners can move to different locations during the day, allowing them to be where the opportunities are best.

The menu sounds almost decadent–not what you would expect to buy off of a bicycle. It includes Turkish coffee, sweet tangerine juice, organic berries and raw chocolate.

By not buying real estate and eliminating the need for an electricity source by using solar power, the cost of a shop has been made affordable for millions of ordinary people.

The modern processes and global community of owners create a new sort of entrepreneurship. “Starting a business can be lonely and complicated. We don’t think it needs to be. [We make it easy by] removing complicated POS-systems, and paper work with our Über-like app for charging customers and keeping track of supplies. Wheelys is a community of 400+ entrepreneurs from all around the world, sharing ideas with each other every day.”

The new venture faces challenges–a lot of challenges, De La Croix admits. Shipping 200 kilogram crates with an entire cafe inside to more than 60 different countries around the world has been a big challenge, but one that has been overcome. She identifies opening a warehouse in China as another big one.

In addition, for a small business to deal with technical challenges on the other side of the planet creates unusual challenges for her. Another problem that seems likely to grow, especially after watching Uber’s experiences, is fighting with local politicians about street vending regulations.

De La Croix remains optimistic despite the problems, “The challenges have been many, and more will occur. I’m happy to have such a strong and helpful community of Wheelers around the world.”

She also sees some limitations to the business model. While $5,900 is a modest amount for entrepreneurs in the developed world, for many in the developing world it is still far out of reach.

Weather is also a challenge. She highlights the fact that it is “still difficult to be out selling for 8 hours in 45+ degree centigrade” heat. It would be similarly difficult when the weather is below freezing and, as in Sweden, sunlight is limited in the winter.

De La Croix has a vision for the change she hopes to bring. “We are not 100 percent perfect, not even 50 percent. We are a small company, and can’t force the world to produce ecological steel for our bikes. But, while the unemployment around the world increases, we empower young global entrepreneurs, giving people who did not have a job before a new chance, giving hungry entrepreneurs a helping hand to start their business.”

On Thursday, August 4, 2016 at 2:00 Eastern, De La Croix will join me for a live discussion about Wheelys progress to date and her vision for the future. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

 

Work, Play, Give

This is a guest post from Rebecca Morgan, CSP, CMC

For many of us, our heart is tugged when we hear of impoverished people’s plight. We send money to organizations helping these folks and it relieves our concern somewhat.

Yet some of us decide to do more. We’re drawn to go to the country to visit the organizations and their constituents to see how we can help.

Such is the case with the non-profit on whose board I serve, Together We Can Change the World (www.twcctw.org). Begun in 2010 by two professional speakers, Scott Friedman and Jana Stanfield, TWCCTW focuses on seven Southeast Asian countries. Scott and Jana invited other globally based colleagues to join their visits.

Twice a year we visit some of our projects in Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. We work with groups focused on assisting women and children in improving their education and health.

In Siem Reap, Cambodia, we focus on the Future for Khmer Children (FKC) (http://khmerchild.co) This privately operated school provides approximately 235 impoverished children from the surrounding local villages with education to augment what which they receive in the local government schools. FKC focuses on language skills, math, computer technology, music, and employable job skills including sewing.

TWCCTW funded the newly constructed Art Berg Technology Center and recently built a second state-of-the-art technology classroom and is funding an advanced computer instructor. Autodesk sponsored one of their US-based instructors to train the instructor and advanced students so they can start a social business by selling their services to local businesses.

Additionally, we fund wells in the villages where the FKC students live. If the families don’t have a well, they have to buy and transport water for bathing, cooking and drinking. For $400, we can fund a well that serves 1-4 families. This enables them not only to have clean water steps from their home, but they can grow a garden and have chickens to augment their meals. Some sell extra eggs and vegetables to supplement their income. With each well, we provide a water filter and an Iron Fish which the villager uses when boiling water to combat anemia, thus giving them more energy and better quality life.

TWCCTW is different in that we don’t only visit and support projects. We also bring our unique skills and talents to the area. Since the majority of our travelers are professional speakers, trainers, consultants and authors, we produce a public seminar in the major cities we visit. We all speak for no compensation. The proceeds go to the projects we serve in that country. We also provide speeches and seminars for sponsor hotels – they get a word-class presenter for their staff and/or customers, we get our lodging covered in that city. The hotel staff can also accompany us on our project visits and stay involved in between our visits.

In addition to our travelers paying their own airfare and expenses, they are required to raise $1500 in donations which goes to the groups we serve.

Why do we do it? Why take two weeks from busy schedules, plus raise funds and pay one’s own expenses?

Because we want to give back at a higher level –- contributing our professional gifts. While most of us are involved in charity work in our own countries, the experiences we have with the groups we serve are like no other. We see how the people live. We see how the kids are educated. We see their struggles that aren’t a concern at home. We appreciate their appreciation for our contributions. We play with the kids. We laugh. We sing. We dance.

In fact, I’ve had to relearn childhood activities I hadn’t thought about in decades. On my first trip, Scott led a group of kids in a rousing rendition of Hokey Pokey. On our next stop, we were at a large school and each of our volunteers was assigned a different classroom to play with the kids. Upon entering the classroom of 50 First Graders, I realized I had no idea how to lead the Hokey Pokey. I thought I would always be a follower so didn’t pay that close attention to what Scott did. Luckily, even though the kids didn’t speak any English, they figured out what I was trying to do and we had a great time.

I have many, many touching stories of the kids, their parents, the teachers and school leaders. The business people who come to our public workshops have shared wise insights. The hotel staff go out of their way to give us experiences we cherish – including going to a Cambodian wedding, a private dinner with the hotel management on the beach, an in-room foot massage at check in, and cookies customized with each of our book covers.

But sometimes the most memorable experiences are hearing the stories of the women and children at the group homes or schools. There are the three little girls, age 6-9, rescued after their fathers sold them as house girls. They now live in a loving group home where the 70 teenaged girls have taught them enough they can go to school.

Or the battered women’s shelter where abused pregnant women and new mothers escape being beaten by their partners. They can live there with their children for up to two years and receive free childcare while they go to school to learn to be economically independent.

Or the HIV center which cares for those infected, gives them jobs, and in-patient medical care for those too sick to work.

We’ve been fortunate to connect groups that can benefit from each other. We introduced an anti-trafficking group in Laos to a caring organization in Northern Thailand so now women and children who escape trafficking have a safe house until their passports and papers are reinstated, enabling them to then go home.

I call these trips my Work, Play, Give adventures. The lesson is you can contribute to others’ live with a simple click of a donate button or by giving two weeks of your best self. You’ll probably discover, as I have, that you get back more than you give.

About Rebecca Morgan:

Rebecca Morgan, CSP, CMC, specializes in creating innovative solutions for workplace effectiveness challenges. She’s appeared on 60 Minutes, Oprah, the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, Forbes.com and USA Today. Rebecca is the bestselling author of 26 books. For information on her services, books, and resources: http://www.RebeccaMorgan.com/.

Place-based Education, Entrepreneurship and Investing for an “Impact Economy”

This is a guest post from Laurie Lane-Zucker, the Founder and CEO of the Impact Entrepreneur.

A little over twenty years ago, Dr. John Elder and I coined the term “place-based education” to give a name to the pedagogical model we were developing at The Orion Society with funding from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

In my introduction to the Orion book, Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities (Sobel, 2004), I frame place-based education in these terms:

“In an increasingly globalized world, there are often pressures for communities and regions to subordinate themselves to the dominant economic models and to devalue their local cultural identity, traditions and history in preference to a flashily marketed homogeneity. Furthermore, at a time when industrial pollution, biodiversity/habitat loss, and aquifer depletion are becoming widespread and acute, such pressures often exacerbate the problems by encouraging unsustainable patterns of consumption and land use, and by weakening familial and community relationships that are deeply tied to the local environment. A process of disintegration occurs as basic connections to the land fray and communities become less resilient and less able to deal with the dislocations that globalization and ecological deterioration bring about. A community’s health — human and more-than-human — suffers.

“Author, farmer and conservationist Wendell Berry describes disconnections that are now familiar to many of us.

We are involved now in a profound failure of imagination. Most of us cannot imagine the wheat beyond the bread, or the farmer beyond the wheat, or the farm beyond the farmer, or the history beyond the farm. Most people cannot imagine the forest and the forest economy that produced their houses and furniture and paper; or the landscapes, the streams and the weather that fill their pitchers and bathtubs and swimming pools with water. Most people appear to assume that when they have paid their money for these things they have entirely met their obligations.

“The path to a sustainable existence must start with a fundamental reimagining of the ethical, economic, political and spiritual foundations upon which society is based, and that this process needs to occur within the context of a deep local knowledge of place. The solutions to many of our ecological problems lie in an approach that celebrates, empowers and nurtures the cultural, artistic, historical and spiritual resources of each local community and region, and champions their ability to bring those resources to bear on the healing of nature and community.

“Schools and other educational institutions can and should play a central role in this process, but for the most part they do not. Indeed, they have often contributed to the problem by educating young people to be, in David Orr’s words, ‘mobile, rootless and autistic toward their places.’ A significant transformation of education might begin with the effort to learn how events and processes close to home relate to regional, national, and global forces and events, leading to a new understanding of ecological stewardship and community. This, I believe, supports the propagation of an enlightened localism — a local/global dialectic that is sensitive to broader ecological and social relationships at the same time as it strengthens and deepens peoples sense of community and land.

“Place-based education might be characterized as the pedagogy of community, the reintegration of the individual into her homeground and the restoration of the essential links between a person and her place. Place-based education challenges the meaning of education by asking seemingly simple questions: Where am I? What is the nature of this place? What sustains this community? It often employs a process of re-storying, whereby students are asked to respond creatively to stories of their homeground so that, in time, they are able to position themselves, imaginatively and actually, within the continuum of nature and culture in that place. The become part of the community, rather than a passive observer of it.”

A couple years after I wrote these words about place-based education, I became immersed in the newly launched B Corporation and impact investing worlds, as the founder of one of the first, “founding” B Corps and the recipient of some of the first (and, in the case of Mission Markets, the first) impact investments under that new blended value, triple bottom line rubric.

A few years after that, I coined the term “impact entrepreneur” and established a LinkedIn group and, more recently, a consulting company by that name. The virtual global network, now with 12,000 members in 200 countries, has been anything but “place-based”. At least until now. Over the last six months, I and three other (thankfully quite brilliant)team members have been working on plans for a new Impact Entrepreneur Center and replicable model for “place-based economic development.” While inspired by the growing impact entrepreneurship and impact investing movement, it also shares many of the same motivations and principals of place-based education. Here is how we describe this new model in our just-completed Business Plan:

“As the impact (entrepreneurship and investing) movement has risen and begun to coalesce, the ground has become fertile for the next great shift forward. This shift will require the fusion of conscious consumerism, impact investing, social entrepreneurship, new legal frameworks and financial tools, expanded entrepreneurship education, cross-sector collaboration, and the incubation and acceleration of impact enterprises, region by region. Place-based economic development of this kind will both trigger and integrate the creation of positive economic, social and environmental value coincident with the launch, acceleration and development of impact enterprises. The Impact Entrepreneur Center will be one of the world’s first large-scale attempts at this integration, and will help define what an “impact economy” could be and how it might function.”

We believe that in a world of growing social inequities and severe ecological distress, the development of regional, place- based impact economies fueled by triple bottom line contextual thinking and social and environmental innovation will provide the most sensible and practical path toward creating a resilient and prosperous future for local communities as well as global humanity.

Our place-based, impact economymodel, which will be designed to be replicable in other regions around the United States and the world, will be incubated in our home region of Berkshire County, Massachusetts. The IEC, according to our business strategy, “plans to lay the groundwork for the concept of an impact economy in the Berkshires by gathering data and cultivating the thought leadership on this concept; designing, developing and delivering curricula for middle school students to adults (think Place-based Education 2.0) that will enhance the understanding of impact economies and provide technology and tools to grow impact enterprises in Berkshire County (and beyond); and recruiting, retaining and scaling regional enterprises that intend to grow using the triple bottom line approach to business development.”

Place-based education, entrepreneurship and investing is the next wave of the impact movement. The Impact Entrepreneur Center is committed to making that wave tidal and universal.

Laurie Lane-Zucker

Laurie Lane-Zucker

About Laurie Lane-Zucker:

Twitter: @laurieLZ

Laurie Lane-Zucker is Founder and CEO of the Impact Entrepreneur, a global network of entrepreneurs, investors, scholars and students of social and environmental innovation; a consulting company (LLC) that works “between the seams” of the network; and the newly launched nonprofit Impact Entrepreneur Center for Social and Environmental Innovation.

The Untold Facts Of Volunteering For Street Children In India

This is a guest post from Dronacharya Dave.

Before we begin unfolding the facts about volunteering for street children in India, let’s talk a little about volunteering abroad as a whole (for those who aren’t aware of it). In the last over a decade or so, the popularity of volunteering abroad during a gap year has shot up immensely. College and high school students, especially, are inclined towards such volunteers, to get international hands on experience and exposing to a different culture. And there are several volunteer organizations who help and provide placements to interested volunteers under the desired project.

The majority of these volunteer trips are offered in underdeveloped and developing countries. India, on the other hand, is one of the most popular volunteering destination abroad.

After speaking to several past volunteers to India and volunteer organizations providing placements in India, it was clear that it is the street children volunteer program in India that is most popular.

And, below are some of the major, common, factors that corroborate this claim;

It Shows You A Different Shade of Yourself

For many volunteers, this was more than just a plain simple volunteer trip. It was an eye opener for them. Doing volunteer work with children is no less than a challenge, and those who doubted their capabilities, soon realized how much they had it in them. Discovering the strength in keeping patient, helping others in need, adjusting with situations and resources; all this was a new shade of themselves.

It Makes You Retrospect Your Own Life Issues

The street children volunteer program is dedicated for the welfare and development of underprivileged kids. These children come from poor family backgrounds who, either, are orphans or have been left alone on streets to beg, as their parents couldn’t afford their upbringing. The mental and physical struggle that these children may have gone through, before getting to these shelter homes, is way beyond the problems we thought were the biggest of our lives. I mean, not having sleepers to wear in scorching heat is certainly a greater issue than not getting extra mayo with your cheese burger.

It Redefines The Word “Happiness” For You

And yet, these children seems to be the happiest lot amongst all. Despite the pains, the loses, the struggle they had to face, these kids manage to find joy in life. While doing volunteer work in India, volunteers get to spend a significant amount of time with the children at the placement. It gives them the opportunity to not just interact with the kids on a personal level, but also get to understand their story and learn a lot from them; especially, how to be happy even when life is not being fair to you.

It Changes Your Perception Towards The World

There is no denial to the fact that traveling is one of the most effective ways to learn something new and get rejuvenated. However, there are several different kinds of traveling, each giving a different perspective of this world. There is adventure travel that shows the daring side of the world, there is leisure travel that shows the luxuries of the world, there is holiday travel that shows you different culture and traditions in the world, and so on. Volunteer travel, on the other hand, is one way of traveling abroad that shows you all the elements of other travel types under one umbrella. Add local living to that, and it change the entire scenario altogether. The way you use to look at the world changes a lot. Something that may not be explained in words but can only be experienced.

It Introduces You To The Real India

Saving the best for the last you would say; indeed! The incredible country of India has been on the top of the bucket list of a number of travelers from across the globe. Those who’ve had the opportunity to visit this land of culture and traditions, couldn’t get enough of it in one visit. And, those who still have it in their ‘to-do’ list, can’t wait to actually see the things they’ve only been listening thus far. Volunteering for street children in India lets you, not only witness but, live a typical Indian lifestyle. Visiting the narrow lanes of old city areas, living in a local host family accommodation, learning to cook typical Indian food using typical Indian spices, etc. India is a lot more than just the Taj Mahal. Do it, to believe it.

Keeping apprehensions about something without experiencing or even taking a chance to try experience it, is nothing but falling prey to someone else’s perceptions; i count myself in that as well. So, it is only when you volunteer for street children in India yourself that you’ll understand the importance of it.

Dave

About Dronacharya Dave:

Dronacharya holds a bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering and has industry experience of more than fours years. Started with IT firm, he is now an ardent traveler and volunteer, and likes to share his travel experiences with the world. He writes for several travel and news, and volunteering websites. You can find latest updates, facts, and everything related to volunteering abroad in his articles.

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