This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Lululemon (Nasdaq: LULU) CEO Laurent Potdevin recently joined with other employees of the apparel firm to build something completely different: a house.
Working with the nonprofit organization Giveback Homes, Potdevin helped fund the construction a home for a needy family in Nicaragua.
He shared his experience with me:
In the process of selling my home in Manhattan Beach, I was introduced to Giveback Homes through my real estate agents, Brigitte Pratt and Colleen Cole. They are both Giveback Homes Realtors and informed me that they would be donating from the transaction of selling my home to build a home for a family in Nicaragua.
I asked how much they were planning on donating and matched their donation. Between both of our donations we were able to build an entire home for a deserving family in Central America.
One of my favorite things about Giveback Homes is that they work to make sure their Realtors and clients feel a connection with the people they are helping. With every home built, the Realtors who donated to make that home possible receive a summary and photos of the family they helped and in some cases, the Realtors will join Giveback Homes team members to physically build the home.
The home we built was for Gladys and her family. Gladys was abandoned as a child. She’s now married with two children and works as a tortilla maker, her husband sells bread on the street and their combined monthly income is $200.
Before we built Gladys’ first home, she was living in a makeshift shack with dirt floors and walls made of wood scraps. When it rained, the floors in the house would turn to mud. It was my honor to help build her dream home; her first real home. Gladys is a hard worker, self-taught entrepreneur and a fighter. She fights every single day to give her children the life she wished she had, the life all children deserve; a safe place to call home and parents that love them.
I’m so thankful to my philanthropic real estate agents for introducing me to this wonderful organization. Buying and selling homes through these philanthropic agents is an easy sell in my opinion.
On Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 3:00 PM Eastern, Potdevin will join me for a live discussion of about his experiences helping to build this home. 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 Lululemon:
lululemon athletica inc (NASDAQ: LULU) is a yoga-inspired athletic apparel com pay with products that create transformational experiences for people to live happy, healthy, fun lives. Setting the bar in technical fabrics and functional designs, lululemon works with yogis and athletes in local communities for continuous research and product feedback.
What We Do: Elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness. Our purpose gets us out of bed in the morning. Elevating the world from mediocrity to greatness is about holding ourselves and others to our highest possibility. This is our promise to the world.
How We Do It: Our products create transformational experiences for people to live happy, healthy, fun lives.
Our mission os how we live into our purpose. The products and transformational experiences we create aren’t limited to Luon–we design technical gear, throw kick-ass events and support our people with the intention of brining happiness, health and fun to our communities.
Lululemon on Youtube.
Laurent Potdevin, CEO, brings more than 25 years in the retail industry to this role and a deep understanding of premium brands, athletic apparel, technical products, innovation and best-in-class customer experience.
Laurent previously served as President of TOMS Shoes, where he built a world-class management team, led global expansion, and broadened the company’s strong cultural identity. Prior to TOMS, Laurent spent five years as President and CEO, at Burton Snowboards where the business grew significantly under his leadership, expanding across product categories and creating international scale by always focusing on providing the best consumer experience.
Laurent first gained experience in premium, luxury brands through his tenure at LVMH where he identified the potential of the Berlutti footwear brand early on and then became Director of North American Operations for the company’s premier Louis Vuitton brand where he was integral in optimizing the brand’s North American supply chain.
As an avid snowboarder, you can find Mr. Potdevin carving it up on the mountain during the winter and on catching waves on his surfboard in the summer.
More about Giveback Homes:
Giveback Homes is a trusted network of real estate professionals dedicated to creating social change through the act of buying or selling a home. By simply choosing to work with a Giveback Homes real estate agent, mortgage broker, home builder or interior designer, you will help build a home for a family in need. People want to work with people who are doing good, and we are making it easy to find them.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Ty Walrod is the visionary behind Bright Funds, a platform designed to allow employers and other leaders to organize giving groups to giving funds.
The fund manager, often an employer, chooses nonprofits to include in a “fund” and then encourages employees and/or other followers to donate to the fund to have focused, strategic impact.
Walrod explains, “We built Bright Funds with a focus on the three key principles: make giving easy — easier than sending a tweet; make giving effective — by helping people give strategically to the best nonprofits in the world; and make giving engaging — by connecting donors to the causes they care about and showing them the impact of their donations.”
“Employees expect more from their employers today than ever before. In partnering with leading companies, Bright Funds has a tremendous opportunity to do good – we align companies with the passions and cares of their employees and empower both to make a positive impact in the world,” Walrod concludes.
On Thursday, June 25, 2015 at noon Eastern, Walrod will join me for a live discussion about Bright Funds and how you can use them to increase your impact. 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 Bright Funds:
San Francisco-based Bright Funds helps leading companies and their employees change the world through impactful social good programs, and in doing so, make their businesses more successful. Bright Funds enables employee donors to choose their cause and give to individual non-profits or exclusively available “Funds” comprised of multiple nonprofits. In one platform, Bright Funds brings together the power of research, the reliability of a trusted financial service, and the convenience of centralized contributions and company reporting. Employees, recruits, customers, and investors and worthy causes appreciate companies that use Bright Funds for employee-empowered giving.
Ty is the co-founder and CEO of Bright Funds, the company that enables employee-empowered workplace giving. Prior to Bright Funds, Ty co-founded and built OutServe into a national organization supporting LGBT equality in the US military. He previously worked for Deloitte , with the partnership’s venture capital, private equity and technology clients, followed by his work as the lead business analyst for Coverity.
Ty is also the co-founder and a board member of Startup and Tech Mixer, a bay area professional networking organization, and a board member of Sustainable Silicon Valley, an organization dedicated to a healthy environment, a vibrant economy, and a socially equitable Silicon Valley community. He is an avid runner and mountaineer.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
“UNFPA Kenya is working hard with all partners to support the Government of Kenya and the First Lady of Kenya’s clarion call, ‘no woman should die giving life,’” explains UNFPA Representative to Kenya, Siddharth (Sid) Chatterjee.
Chatterjee explains the charge he received when he took on his new role just over a year ago, “The Executive Director of UNFPA Undersecretary General Dr Babatunde Osotimehin’s marching orders to me when taking up my role as UNFPA Kenya was, ‘support the Government to bring to an end the unacceptably high maternal deaths, end FGM and child marraige. Change the game.’”
The context, Chatterjee notes, is sobering. “Sexual and gender based violence [SGBV] continues to be a challenge in Kenya. According to Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) in 2014, 41% of women have experienced violence. This is unacceptable. The Government of Kenya has made efforts to prevent and respond to violence by adopting policies and enacting legislation such as the sexual offences Act (2007), the FGM Act (2011) and the National Policy on Prevention and Response to GBV. A comprehensive response to SGBV needs to be multi-sectoral. These will include community education/dialogue, media campaign, advocacy forums with policy makers/legislators as well as psychosocial support, clinical, legal and security services.”
In the face of such a daunting challenge, Chatterjee strikes a distinctly optimistic tone, “Our world is home to 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24, and Dr Babatunde Osotimehin the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says, “Never before have there been so many young people. Never again is there likely to be such potential for economic and social progress.’”
“Kenya has one of the most youthful populations in the world with about 60 percent of the population aged below 24 years. A demographic dividend and through the countering violent extremism summit Kenya is going to host, she can change the narrative, by putting the spotlight on youth,” Chatterjee adds.
Chatterjee notes that achieving the country’s goals for women will require government leadership and collaboration among all development partners to create an integrated, long-term program that actively involves young people. “Let’s put youth at the center of the narrative. Kenya can serve as a model for transmuting its youth into a demographic dividend which other nations can emulate,” he says.
On Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 11:00 Eastern, Chatterjee will join me for a live discussion about the UNFPA efforts to end FGM, child marriage and sexual and gender-based violence in Kenya. 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 the UNFPA:
UNFPA is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. The Executive Director of UNFPA globally is Dr Babatunde Osotimehin. UNFPA works in more than 150 countries and territories that are home to the vast majority of the world’s people.
In Kenya UNFPA is working with the Government of Kenya to:
- Reduce the unacceptably high maternal deaths.
- End harmful traditional practices like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage.
- Advance the demographic dividend Kenya is blessed with by helping young people fulfill their potential and specifically invest in adolescent girls. Kenya has around 13.7 million young people out of a population size of nearly 43 million.
Siddharth Chatterjee (Sid) has been the UNFPA Representative to Kenya with effect from 10 April 2014.
Before joining UNFPA, he was the Chief Diplomat and Head of Strategic Partnerships and Resource Mobilization at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) based in Geneva since June 2011.
Before joining IFRC, he was Regional Director for the Middle East, Europe and Central Asian Republics at the United Nations Office for Project Services. He also served as Chief of Staff to the Special Representative of the Secretary General for the UN Mission in Iraq. He has served in leadership positions in UNICEF Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan(Darfur), Indonesia and with the UN Peace Keeping Operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iraqi Kurdistan.
Before joining the UN in January 1997, he was a career officer in the Special Forces of the Indian Army.
He has written extensively on a range of humanitarian and social issues in a variety of journals such as CNN, Al Jazeera, Forbes, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Reuters, the
Global Observatory, the Inter Press Service as well as some mainstream Indian journals. He is considered a strong advocate by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to end the scourge of polio was a key note speaker on child soldiers at a TED x event in Spain.
He has a Master in Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, USA and a Bachelor of Sciences from the National Defense Academy in India.
Sid is married and they have a son.
This is a guest post from Ruth Lande Shuman, Founder/President of Publicolor
I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s happening in Baltimore and other cities around our country. The perils of poverty and marginalization are clearly exacting a heavy price, one we have to confront with innovation. At Publicolor, the New York City-based non-profit I founded in 1996, our long-term continuum of programs addresses many of the effects of poverty and dis-empowerment: single-parent households, neglect, and physical and emotional abuse, as well as an absence of after-school programs, role models, belief in education and effective goal-setting. Publicolor empowers struggling students by developing their focus and determination, thereby eliminating hopelessness and anger. Our unique applied-learning model gives students ownership over their projects from beginning to end, fostering a sense of agency and the ability to become their own best advocates. Having witnessed the success of Publicolor over the past 19 years, I can’t help but wonder what cities like Baltimore would be like if Publicolor existed in them. Only by leveling the playing field and encouraging education will we ensure that everyone in our country has a chance to thrive. This is what our country needs most.
As one of the few industrial designers today using design for social change, I am especially interested in the psychological effects of color and environment. Publicolor’s work is grounded in research, and confirms that when one changes an environment, one changes attitudes and behavior. Even in New York City’s outer boroughs, home to some of New York City’s most at-risk communities, anyone walking into a typical public school will notice the oppressive, prison-like interiors: the walls are peeling, cracked, and often littered with graffiti, and the hallways are lifeless with their gray, beige, and off-white tones.
I founded Publicolor to combat the alarmingly high dropout rates in New York City’s poorest neighborhoods. Last year, more than 26,000 students failed to graduate on time, and more than 8,000 dropped out of school. Publicolor focuses on the most disconnected and lowest-performing students in our city’s struggling middle and high schools, and engages them in their education by empowering them to transform their dreary schools with warm colors. The result is a student-centric environment where design underscores the importance of education, and where all feel welcomed and energized.
Our programs distinguish themselves by being long-term intensive interventions, a reflection of my belief that meaningful change only happens over a number of years. Typically, Publicolor students begin with our organization in middle school, and progress through the continuum of design-based programs until they graduate high school. Many students stay involved with Publicolor through college; some return to the organization as volunteers and even employees . Currently, 14 of 41 staff members are Publicolor alumni.
This process begins with Paint Club, where middle-school grade students are taught to think critically and creatively about the relationship between color and their environment. Paint Club is just the beginning of these students’ journey with Publicolor. We stay with them long after their initiation into the program, offering an opportunity for training and tutoring at least three days a week over multiple years. One of the most impactful programs is Summer Design Studio – deliberately held at Pratt Institute to help our students feel comfortable in a college setting – a seven-week math and literacy immersion program taught through the scaffold of product design, and an effective antidote to summer learning loss.
Publicolor’s innovative applied learning model works with spectacular results: despite a focus on high-risk students from struggling schools, 100% of Publicolor’s students stayed in school, 100% of Publicolor’s students matriculated on time from 8th to 9th grade and 9th to 10th grade, 97% of our high school seniors graduated on time vs. 68% citywide, and 94% of our high school graduates enrolled in college vs. 51% of their peers from the same schools. Publicolor was recognized with the 2014 National Arts + Humanities Youth Program Award at The White House, and won a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator. Since 1996, we’ve transformed 172 inner-city schools and 205 under-resourced community facilities. We’ve impacted 969,000 students and their parents, and affected almost one million community residents. More importantly, we stay with our students through college. Over a period of 7 to 10 years, Publicolor’s average investment per student is $31,542. This investment ensures that our students, who were once at risk of dropping out, graduate high school on time and matriculate in college or a post-secondary accreditation program. Publicolor’s investment helps students secure the maximum financial aid support and scholarships they deserve as well as catalyzes the investment that colleges will make in them totaling an average of $320,000 per student by the time they graduate. Furthermore, in 2014, MIT economists found that college graduates will earn approximately $500,000 more over their lifetime than a high school graduate. This means that Publicolor’s initial investment of $31,542 yields a return of $820,000 in the form of support from other federal and private agencies and future wages that would be forfeited but for our original support. This is an astounding return on investment of 2600%.
Even with our success, we still have needs. We need more corporate volunteers to paint alongside and mentor our students. We need contributions to help with staff and materials , and business partners to help us reach greater audiences. I invite you to visit us at www.publicolor.org, learn about the many ways you can leave your mark on Publicolor’s world.
About Ruth Lande Shuman
Ruth Lande Shuman is an award-winning industrial designer and the Founder/President of Publicolor.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Last week, I took my wife to a small resort town called Puerto Peñasco or Rocky Point at the north end of the Gulf of California or Sea of Cortez in Mexico. Before this year, I’d never heard of this place and had frankly never been curious about it. We weren’t there to relax on the beach sipping umbrella drinks. Instead, we were there with 750 other people affiliated with Rotary Clubs in Utah to spend a week doing service and holding a conference.
The planning and execution of the 55 service projects completed last week was 100 percent volunteer. It is difficult even to communicate the scope of what was accomplished; I’m sure that despite being there and seeking to learn all that went on during the week, I can’t begin to report on all that was done.
Here’s a quick sampling of what we did:
The event was led by Michael Wells, a dentist from Tooele, Utah who serves as the volunteer “District Governor” for the Rotary District that encompasses Utah. Wells said repeatedly in the days leading up to the event, “I get chills just thinking about it.” Clearly, his passion was vital in creating an unprecedented district event.
Jerry Summerhays, a past district governor, was charged with organizing the service projects. He made several trips to Puerto Peñasco in preparation for the big week—all on his own dime. After the event, he noted, “The many project sites were picked because of needs identified by Puerto Penasco Rotarians. Each of the project sites was delegated to a club or family. The needs were so overwhelming that we know how much good we did. What was more than expected was the satisfaction, the emotion expressed by those performing the service. Whether eight years old or 18, or 80 those performing the service felt like they owned their project, and were so delighted.”
Floyd Hatch is the President Elect for the Salt Lake Club; he was tasked with organizing the construction of the piñata factory expansion. He recruited his children and grandchildren along with other members of the club to help with the project.
Hatch said, “I still cannot believe our progress. In 4 short days, we doubled the floor space of the factory, roofed it with a much better roof that its existing [roof], rolled out insulation, and initiated dry wall. One of my daughters [Courtney Hatch], a high school art teacher chose colors that I wouldn’t dream of and we painted the structure pink with turquoise highlights. It stands out, even in Mexico!”
“We left behind additional drywall, interior painting, electrical, and flooring, but we gave those beautiful kids and young adults a place to go and be creative while they earn some money on their own. What a feeling we had as a bunch of professionals left that little structure for the last time. We did it! We took what seemed like an enormous challenge and finished it on time,” Hatch concluded.
Marcus Wathen, the general contractor who was recruited to volunteer to lead the piñata factory construction project, explained how he felt after completing the project, “What I enjoyed most about helping with the project was letting others have a hands on experience and in some cases doing a lot of different skills for the first time and working outside their comfort zone. Like when Courtney said she didn’t know how to drill the bottom plate and when the last hole was drilled, she was wanting to drill more. And when I measured for the roof sheeting and sent the measurement down for Russ to cut the plywood. Then, the next day, Russ was doing the measuring on the other side of the roof and you and Floyd were the masters of the saw. Seriously, we all contributed our own talents, sweat, leadership and time to build something that will benefit others.”
There are eight lessons I learned or was reminded of last week as I participated in this effort. Here they are:
This is a guest post from Michael Day, a combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps.
War is unforgiving and unforgettable. To those that carry the weight of traumatic memories of it, life is often unmanageable. PTSD is a mental health condition that causes the brain to take a traumatic memory of war and ask the recipient to endure a perpetually endless cycle of horror. With the re-experiencing of traumatic memories comes a host of symptoms such as hyper vigilance, insomnia, isolation, and numbness that are both debilitating and traumatic themselves. A veteran with PTSD, without proper treatment, will be forever stuck in a traumatic memory, a cycle that may very well end his or her life prematurely.
Film Director Minos Papas and myself have taken to the task of creating a short film that will deliver the experience of PTSD symptoms directly to a viewer, while introducing a brilliant narrative that we hope will help fill a void in the film world. For far too long we, as a society, have been exposed to the water downed Hollywood attempts at the portrayal of PTSD. We owe our veterans and our civilian population an honest look. Minos and I are making our mark on the world by providing a tool that can be used by civilians, veterans, and organizations alike. It will serve two vital purposes.
First, the film will introduce civilians to the symptoms of PTSD and help them to understand the challenges facing the post 9/11 generation of veterans. It is important that civilians not connected to war veterans understand their experience. For those who are directly related to a veteran, it may serve as a tool to begin the conversation they never knew how to have.
Second, veterans are often unaware of how their traumatic memories affect them and how the world sees the manifestation of the memories in their actions. Our intention is that veterans and their families may recognize the symptoms of PTSD in the film, and possibly seek help or advice. We want to help veterans and their families recognize PTSD and find a therapeutic way to identify with the main character in the film. Storytelling through film can be therapeutic, and we hope to introduce the real challenges of PTSD into our cultural vocabulary.
PTSD is a stigma. It’s very mention results in immediate pre-conceived notions. We can only reduce the effects of the stigma that bares witness to the veteran population in the form of substance abuse, homelessness, domestic violence, and suicide when we truly understand the symptoms of the illness, portray what it looks like from the eyes of a veteran, and change the dialog that takes place between a civilian and a veteran. Tango seeks to accomplish this.
About Michael Day:
Michael Day is a combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps and now works as a writer, producer, shooter, and consultant for Cyprian Films NY. @WarriorWriterNY
This is a guest post from Laurel Mintz, CEO of Elevate My Brand
Often I hear people say that they wish they could do more, they wish they can make a meaningful contribution to society. They might say something “Maybe I should quit and work for a nonprofit.” Another popular one is “I just want a job where I can make a difference.” If you find yourself agreeing then I have a little secret for you, a little secret that can change your whole perspective and help you make a difference. You might have not heard this before, or maybe you heard it a bunch of times but it didn’t stick. Either way, here is the secret: Your very existence is meaningful and a huge contribution to society. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist or invent an anti-pollution machine to help save the world. It’s the choices you make in everyday that are an inspiration to your personal network.
When I started my business, I didn’t have a goal of beating statistics (only 30% of private companies are women-owned). I wasn’t looking to be a role model or to help nonprofits with their goals. After graduating college, my father became ill and I stepped in to run the family business for two years. We had 40 employees across a handful of furniture stores. I didn’t have time to think about what I was doing, there were families depending on me, including my own. It was the quickest crash course in business management ever. I am happy to say my father made a full recovery after two years and I was able to go back to pursuing my dreams.
What I discovered is that my dreams changed and I decided to start my own business. I started networking and utilized my relationships with local retail shops to begin business and marketing consulting. A good portion of my clients are nonprofits with missions that I respect and admire. I didn’t specifically outreached to them but I have always been authentic to myself and expressive about my interests. I researched organizations I wanted to work with and started outreaching. I began working with organizations such as Girls in Tech Women Empowered because I was passionate about their causes. Things grew organically and in 2014 I received the Los Angeles Business Journal Women Making a Difference Award.
We all have unlimited potential in our lives, but often we get distracted by trying to fit ourselves into a certain mold. You don’t need to quit your job to make a difference, if you start acting on your passions, you’ll find that they will come to you. Sometimes we don’t realize how important it is to convey the type of energy and values that we want to attract in life. The world is your mirror and the energy you put out into the world is what you get back. Start by believing in yourself and you’ll be surprised to discover how infectious that energy is. You don’t become a role model by wanting to be one, you become one by doing what you’re truly passionate about.
About Laurel Mintz:
Laurel Mintz is CEO of Elevate My Brand, a digital marketing and live events firm. Visit www.elevatemybrand.com to learn more.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
The report suggests that volunteerism is a critical piece in moving forward to address global problems like the Millennium Development Goals and the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals.
The report’s author, Amanda Mukwashi, the Chief of the Volunteer Knowledge and Innovation Section at United Nations Volunteers, says, “The Sustainable Development Goals will only succeed in tackling poverty and inequality if they take on board the needs of all citizens. Volunteers can be catalysts for a much fairer and more equal world – if they’re invited to the table.”
The report itself notes, “Volunteerism is a force for harnessing the power of peoples’ voice and participation to influence governance, and enhanced voice and participation are associated with more responsive and accountable governments.”
Mukwashi adds, “Volunteers are playing a vital role in making governments more accountable and responsive to their citizens – and helping women and marginalized groups have a say in decisions that affect their lives.”
“Too many governments are failing to acknowledge – and leverage – the immense potential of volunteers to help them chart a more successful development path,” Mukwashi adds.
On Friday, June 5, 2015 at 3:00 Eastern, Mukwashi will join me for a live discussion about the report. 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 United Nations Volunteers:
The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is the UN organization that contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide.
Volunteerism is a powerful means of engaging people in tackling development challenges, and it can transform the pace and nature of development. Volunteerism benefits both society at large and the individual volunteer by strengthening trust, solidarity and reciprocity among citizens, and by purposefully creating opportunities for participation.
UNV contributes to peace and development by advocating for recognition of volunteers, working with partners to integrate volunteerism into development programming, and mobilizing an increasing number and diversity of volunteers, including experienced UN Volunteers, throughout the world. UNV embraces volunteerism as universal and inclusive, and recognizes volunteerism in its diversity as well as the values that sustain it: free will, commitment, engagement and solidarity.
Based in Bonn, Germany, UNV is active in around 130 countries every year. UNV, with Field Units in 86 countries, is represented worldwide through the offices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and reports to the UNDP Executive Board.
Amanda Mukwashi joined the United Nations Volunteer (UNV) programme in December of 2012 where she currently works as Chief, of the Volunteer Knowledge and Innovation Section (VKIS). She holds a first degree in law from the University of Zambia and a postgraduate master’s degree in International Economic Law from the University of Warwick, UK. Ms. Mukwashi has pursued a career in International Development, working towards the eradication of poverty and combating inequalities and injustices, in both the public and voluntary sector. As Women in Business Coordinator, she worked for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), leading the work on women’s rights and trade in the region. She was instrumental in setting up the department in COMESA that now works to further economic empowerment for women in trade in Eastern and Southern Africa region and the Federation of Women in Business in Eastern and Southern Africa which is now based in Malawi. Having gained significant experience on the policy level and on the need to develop women’s capacity in decision making, Ms. Mukwashi joined a UNFPA supported programme in Zambia on Gender, Population and Development. Moving to the United Kingdom in 1998, she continued her work on women’s rights addressing issues of relative poverty and the marginalization of women from ethnic minorities in the UK. This was important in building her understanding of inequalities and exclusion within communities and countries that are developed. In 2002, she joined Skillshare International, an international NGO working in Africa and South Asia on issues relating to social, economic and political justice. In her role as a member of the senior leadership team, Ms. Mukwashi championed the organization’s social change agenda leading on re-positioning the organization to engage with social transformation beyond individual and organizational capacity development. There she advocated for gender issues, which led to the adoption of gender as a key thematic area for all the work of the organization. In 2011, Ms. Mukwashi joined VSO as Director of Policy where she took on the responsibilities for (i) monitoring and evaluation; (ii) research and global advocacy; and (iii) programme effectiveness and innovation as well as partnerships for development. She has been an active member of the Akina Mama wa Afrika Board, a pan-African women’s rights organization that was set up by young African women in the diaspora, to be led by African women and for African women to advocate for and improve women’s capacities for leadership and decision. Ms. Mukwashi has in the past also contributed her time as a board member of Bond (British Overseas NGOs in Development Network) and several other boards that further the cause of gender justice. Lastly, it is worth mentioning that outside of her work life, Amanda has also contributed to training and building the capacity of young African women in leadership.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Ben Hecht, CEO of Living Cities, is an impact investor whose passion makes him more of a crusader than a financier. (Disclosure: a former client has an application for a loan pending with Living Cities.)
Consider his statement to me, “Unless we ferociously change course, the majority of our citizens in 2040 will be less educated, less prosperous, and less free than our current majority, due to decades of dysfunctional systems, disinvestment, mass incarceration, and disenfranchisement of people and communities of color.”
Advocating a wholistic, collective approach to addressing urban problems, Hecht says, “A new type of urban practice aimed at dramatically improving the economic well-being of low-income people faster will require all players – individuals, business, philanthropy, government, nonprofits, and academia – to focus on their part of the solution and build permanent capacity that can insure we get increasingly better results over time.”
Hecht is calling for an radical acceleration to problem solving, “For too long we have been satisfied with incremental change for society’s most pressing issues, but it is time to look at the denominator and face how much progress still has to be made for these problems to be eradicated.”
“There is increasingly a growing awareness that inequality of income, wealth and access to opportunity, accentuated along racial lines, is one of the key social issues of our time.If left unresolved it presents a serious threat to our society, our economy and our democracy,” Hecht notes.
Living Cities is striving to play a central role in accelerating change. Hecht said, “Living Cities is on a course to do more than just imagining what’s possible. We want to work with a coalition of the willing to make the possibilities reality. In May, we took the conversation offline, convening over 100 folks in our networks—from our member institutions, to grantees, to our staff, to our social media followers, to a diversity of other thought leaders, dreamers and doers in such diverse fields as civic tech, impact investing, philanthropy, business, the financial sector, social entrepreneurship, government, and philanthropy—to participate in an active process of co-design.”
Two key opportunities were identified at the summit.
“One challenge we discussed at the summit was the need to create urgency without catastrophes, such as the bankruptcy in Detroit or Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, to achieve systemic instead of episodic change,” Hecht said.
“Another was that public sector leadership, resources, and talent can and must be fostered, unlocked, and optimized in order to achieve dramatically better results for low income people. Along similar lines, it was clear that there is a need for an investment in talent across the social sector generally,” Hecht concluded.
On Friday, June 5, 2015 at noon Eastern, Hecht will join me for a live discussion about the programs that Living Cities is undertaking to make a difference in America’s inner cities. 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 Living Cities:
Living Cities harnesses the collective power of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions to develop and scale new approaches for creating opportunities for low-income people and improving the cities where they live. Its investments, research, networks, and convenings catalyze fresh thinking and combine support for innovative, local approaches with real-time sharing of learning to accelerate adoption in more places.
Mr. Hecht was appointed President & CEO of Living Cities in July, 2007. Since that time, the organization has adopted a broad, integrative agenda that harnesses the collective knowledge of its 22 member foundations and financial institutions to benefit low income people and the cities where they live. Living Cities deploys a unique blend of more than $140 million in grants, loans and influence to re-engineer obsolete public systems and connect low-income people and underinvested places to opportunity.
Prior to joining Living Cities, Mr. Hecht co-founded One Economy Corporation, a non-profit organization focused on connecting low-income people to the economic mainstream through innovative, online content and increased broadband access. Immediately before One Economy, Mr. Hecht was Senior Vice President at the Enterprise Foundation.
Mr. Hecht received his JD from Georgetown University Law Center and his CPA from the State of Maryland. For 10 years, he taught at Georgetown University Law Center and built the premier housing and community development clinical program in the country. Ben is currently Chairman of EveryoneOn, a national initiative founded by the Federal Communications Commission to connect low-income Americans to digital opportunity. He also sits on the National Advisory Board for StriveTogether and Duke University’s Center for Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) Advisory Council.