This post was originally produced for Forbes.
The achievement gap between affluent and poor students gets worse every summer as the less fortunate forget much of what they learned during the school year, a phenomenon known as the “summer slide.”
Karim Abouelnaga, the young social entrepreneur who launched Practice Makes Perfect, explains, “The achievement gap is damaging to our society at a basic level. In 2009, McKinsey & Company estimated that the gap was costing our economy $310-$525 billion in GDP each year, which is the equivalent of a permanent national recession. The achievement gap is likely to widen as our income gap widens.”
“Our nation’s summer school system is broken. It’s well-intentioned but, as currently conceived, it doesn’t work. In reality, summer school is punitive; it’s for students who failed to learn enough to be promoted. It’s taught by teachers, many of whom are burned out from the previous 10 months. They put low-performing students together in a class to struggle. Students are assigned worksheets for tests that don’t really matter. They’re not engaged. They merely “do their time” in hopes of getting promoted and the cycle will likely repeat next year,” he observes.
Practice Makes Perfect operates in New York City’s toughest schools, where Abouelnaga observes, “Fewer than half the students in summer school pass end-of-summer reading and math tests and yet they will be promoted anyway because the city’s promotion policy also factors in attendance and classwork.”
The Cornell-educated Abouelnaga is proud of the program he’s created to address the problems he’s observed.
“At Practice Makes Perfect, we have re-imagined the summer learning experience. We work closely with schools to operate summer school programs for them,” he says.
Abouelnaga outlines the program as follows:
“We’ve created a model where everyone wins,” he exults.
Abouelnaga has a grand vision, “Practice Makes Perfect has the potential to eliminate summer learning loss and narrow the achievement gap by two-thirds. More importantly, our nation can take a huge step forward in providing equal opportunities for children of all backgrounds. We want to re-write narratives and change social paradigms. No longer will your zip code or where you’re born be the reason why you do or do not attain a high-quality education.”
Abouelnaga is one of the remarkable social entrepreneurs just completing the Santa Clara University Global Social Benefit Institute at the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship.
On Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 5:00 Eastern, Abouelnaga will join me for a live discussion about the problems facing our low-income, urban students and the solutions that Practice Makes Perfect is deploying to solve them. 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 Practice makes Perfect:
Practice Makes Perfect (PMP) is a non-profit organization that provides an innovative summer learning program to struggling inner-city students. PMP’s unique “near-peer” model places K-8 students in small groups with higher achieving mentors from the same neighborhood who are four years older. PMP’s alternative to traditional summer school narrows the educational achievement gap among students in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. Results from Summer 2015 showed that students who have completed the PMP summer program show average gains of 2 months English Language Arts (ELA) and 6 months of Math proficiency.
Karim Abouelnaga is the founder & CEO of Practice Makes Perfect, which he founded at 18 while still a college student. He is the product of under-resourced New York City public schools, but benefited from mentors who helped lift him out of his neighborhood into Cornell University, where he received over $300,000 in scholarships and aid to make his college education possible. He founded the organization to “pay it forward,” to help students with a background similar to his who didn’t have the opportunities he had. Karim is an Echoing Green Fellow and Global Shaker and, at the age of 23, was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Education list in 2015.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
K-12 education in the United States just ain’t what it used to be. (Please pardon my use of the vernacular to emphasize the point.)
Sajan George, Founder and CEO of Matchbook Learning, explains, “Our nation’s K-12 public education system is in need of a turnaround. Children born in the bottom 25% income zip code have just a 9% chance of graduating from college. Our nation’s schools continue to slide against international peers. We once ranked at the top of the world in how we educated our next generation and now we are in the middle. We are failing both as a country and particularly our children of poverty. Our country needs a sustainable, scalable turnaround solution.”
George is leading revolution in education that he hopes will turn this disturbing trend around.
George describes the effort, “Matchbook combines the best in both public school turnaround expertise and blended learning expertise. Our principals are some of the country’s leading practitioners in engagements involving ‘lead turnaround partners,’ blended school design and implementation and coaching of master teachers.”
He emphasizes the use of technology and customization. “We have brought this tri-fold experience together to target school turnarounds with a customized blended model that blends face-to-face and virtual instruction in brick-and-mortar schools via a 1:1 computing environment, while coaching teachers to personalize instruction for the benefits of each and every child in their classroom.”
The focus is to enhance education at schools with most poverty, George says, noting, “Our unique and innovative blended turnaround school model is the first of its kind in the nation to be offered to schools with the highest poverty rates and needs.”
George hopes to expand the program, asking that we “encourage parents, funders and government officials to allow conditions for these kinds of 21st century models of school to proliferate based on results with the conditions necessary for rapid, sustainable scale.”
On Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 4:00 PM Eastern, George will join me for a live discussion about the problems facing K-12 education in the U.S. today and the Matchbook Learning solution. 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 Matchbook Learning:
Matchbook Learning is a national non-profit school turnaround management organizaiton. We courageously seek to turnaround some of our nation’s chronically failing K-12 public schools via our technology-enabled, personalized learning model of school. When we do, we believe that we will create powerful proof points that can transform the country.
Sajan founded and leads Matchbook Learning, a national nonprofit school management organization launched in 2011 to turnaround our nation’s bottom 5% of under performing public schools with a unique blended model of school that leverages both online technology and turnaround management skills. Matchbook Learning has launched three successful school turnarounds in Detroit, MI, one in Newark, NJ and has plans to continue to expand nationally. Prior to founding Matchbook Learning, CEO Sajan George was a Managing Director with Alvarez & Marsal (“A&M”) where he led the Firm’s Education Practice. In that role, he led a diverse group of talented turnaround professionals across the U.S. in running entire K-12 public school districts. Sajan and his team at A&M employed turnaround strategies across major urban cities with precedent setting reform efforts in St Louis (2004 – first ever district to contract out its entire management to a private management firm), to New Orleans (successful post-Katrina success in designing the reopening of several schools within days after the levees historically broke – 2005 & 2006) to New York City (well chronicled turnaround and Broad Prize winner for in 2007 under Joel Klein) to Detroit (2009 & 2010 – historic State takeover and appointment of Emergency Fiscal Manager) with numerous mid-tier cities in between. Prior to A&M, Sajan was a Senior Director in Arthur Andersen’s Corporate Restructuring Group wherein he led turnarounds of companies in crisis across a range of industries in Canada, Australia and the United States.
Hat tip to Tara Russell at Fathom for the introduction to George.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
“It’s a tough fact of life that women with disabilities face challenges many of us cannot even imagine. But the tragedy is that many of their most difficult challenges could be avoided,” says Richard Ellenson, CEO of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation.
Ellenson elaborates, “Women with cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities receive basic healthcare services that are widely and persistently inadequate, inconsistent, and substandard. In fact, many physically disabled women experience life-threatening crises, and endure life-draining experiences, directly related to deficient medical care. All women deserve recognition and delivery of optimal healthcare; for women with disabilities, efforts aimed at improving their particular requirements for optimal healthcare delivery is urgently needed, deserved, and long overdue.”
To address this crisis, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation has launched its “Transforming Healthcare for Women with Disabilities” initiative.
Ellenson explains, “CPF, with the extraordinary support of 100 Women in Hedge Funds, has put together an innovative collaboration with four leading medical institutions – Columbia, UCLA, Harvard, and Northwestern – to create an organic team approach to addressing this issue.”
“We will spend our first year developing a model, and our second putting that model in place in a beta test. We will then spend that second year refining and evolving our approaches. Eventually, all the institutions will implement these new protocols and begin to share the work nationwide,” he adds.
Ellenson shared his vision for the future that will result from the current effort, “The success of this project will empower women with cerebral palsy to expect the same standard of healthcare received by us all. And give physicians the knowledge to finally deliver it. While women with cerebral palsy are the focus of this project, the outcomes will benefit many more women with physical disabilities including stroke, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis.”
On Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at noon Eastern, Ellenson will join me for a live discussion about the new initiative, including further discussion of the problems facing women with disabilities and what he hopes CPF can do to alleviate those problems. 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 Cerebral Palsy Foundation:
The Cerebral Palsy Foundation is a 60 year old organization whose Chairman Emeritus is Paul A. Volcker. Our mission is to transform lives for people with cerebral palsy today – through research innovation and collaboration.
Our collaborative networks bring together great thinkers in science, research, and technology who work actively with us developing solutions to the most pressing problems faced by people with cerebral palsy and related disabilities.
CPF plays an instrumental role in a wide variety of initiatives – from improving basic healthcare to adapting new technologies which provide advanced access for gaming and therapies, to funding translational research and clinical application which allow individuals to leverages the enormous advances being made in the sciences.
The Cerebral Palsy Foundation is guided by a deep commitment to delivering innovations that can change lives today. We are driven not only by vision, but by experience. More than half of our Board members have children or family members with CP, or have the condition.
Richard Ellenson brings enormous vision and energy to his role as CEO of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation. In his first year there, he has launched major initiatives that have helped evolve the Foundation and ready it for significant growth in its work and profile.
Prior to leading CPF, Richard was founder and CEO of two assistive technology companies (Blink Twice and Panther Technologies) which helped transform and reimagine the field of assistive technology. Said Alan Brightman, Founder of Apple AAPL +0.86% Computer’s Worldwide Disability Solutions Group and now Vice President for Global Accessibility at Yahoo YHOO +3.23%, “The mass market mentality Richard Ellenson brought to this market was unprecedented in the history of assistive technology.”
Prior to this work, he was an advertising executive who created memorable campaigns for brands such as American Express AXP +1.32% and Remy Martin, and who penned the classic line, “It’s Not TV. It’s HBO.”
Richard has worked tirelessly to create awareness about people with disabilities and to share stories about their vibrant lives. He and his son have been featured as ABC World News People of the Year, on CNBC’s Squawk Box , in a New York Times Sunday Magazine cover story, and as a feature on ESPN’s E:60.
Richard has been honored with many awards in the field, has served on several Advisory Councils and has also been the recipient of two NIH grants. Richard is a graduate of Cornell and holds an MBA from The Wharton School. He lives in New York City with his wife Lora, Director of Gynecologic Pathology at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Cornell, and with his two very special children, Thomas and Taite.
Three years ago, I wrote the book, Your Mark on the World. In the book, I profile a host of ordinary people who were doing remarkable things for good. One of the subjects of the book was a group of my students at South China University of Technology where I was teaching when I wrote the book.
The chapter I wrote about this group is included in this post below. I’ve asked one of the students, Niu Chongran, or Adrian, to join me on Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 6:00 Eastern. We’ll talk about his experience with the service project described in the book (and below) and his experiences since. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
Learning to Make a Difference
Niu Chongran, or Adrian, got his first real taste of volunteering in China as a student last year at South China University of Technology when his teacher assigned the students to form groups and do some form of volunteer work as a way to develop managerial skills and experience.
Chongran was the leader of a group of freshmen that also included Lu Xiaoliang or Dandelion, Liu Shiqin, Feng Yucheng or Jack, and Zhang Jiahui or Ana.
(Long before college, most Chinese students choose an English name to facilitate their study of English. Chinese given names are often chosen based on their meaning and may not necessarily be names in the English sense of the word. Hence, when Chinese students choose English names they don’t feel constrained to use a traditional name, but may choose any English word that resonates with them by virtue of its sound or its meaning.)
The students in the class were initially bewildered by the assignment, but most ultimately caught the vision of volunteering and worked hard to plan, organize and execute a project that would leave someone or something better off.
Chongran’s group decided to coordinate their efforts through the Guangzhou Volunteer Union, an only-in-China sort of organization. The GVU as it is commonly known is a government organized non-governmental organization or GO-NGO.
Going back to the Cultural Revolution in China from 1966 to 1976, the strident form of communism practiced at the time devastated the economy and left citizens in fear of their government; no one volunteered to do community service of any sort in this environment. The idea of selfless sacrifice of time and resources for strangers and the less fortunate was inadvertently obliterated by the effort to govern the people specifically for the common good.
The government created the GVU to promote volunteering in the community in 2002; volunteering had sprung to life in the 1990s in Guangzhou, but the government hoped to accelerate the development of volunteering by providing funding to advance the cause. Their primary activity is to train people in the basic aspects of volunteering, that is, why it should be done and how one might find time to help other people.
Their focus is on helping the elderly, especially those who have no living children. Each year they help to coordinate 15,000 volunteers in making 70,000 contacts with almost 17,000 seniors either in person or by phone.
After completing a basic course in volunteering, people can opt for more advanced training that teaches them to better appreciate the needs of seniors and to learn how to assess their situation and identify opportunities to help.
The most common problem identified by the GVU among seniors is severe depression; seniors often report contemplating suicide. The effort appears to be effective; no known suicides have been reported among the seniors in the program.
In one case, Feng Xian or Cherry, a Vice President of GVU with responsibility for coordinating the meetings of the Board of Directors, reported proudly that one of their volunteers had found a woman who was despondent and thinking about suicide. Not only did the program visits help to improve her mood, but as her mood improved, she joined the volunteers and is now among the most active in visiting other senior citizens.
Chongran’s group got involved with the 2011 effort to make and deliver scarves to the senior citizens. Chongran and his team hoped to knit five scarves—one from each member of the group, but ultimately the boys in the group were unable to pull it off. The girls came through, each knitting a scarf (though one of the three scarves was not in the end viewed as being an acceptable gift, leaving two) to be given to seniors.
Left to right: Lu Xiaoliang “Dandelion,” Feng Yucheng “Jack,” Niu Chongran “Adrian,” Zhang Jiahui “Ana,” and Liu Shiqin (front). Photo courtesy of Niu Chongran “Adrian.”
Via email, Chongran told me in his excellent English as a second language, “There’s differences between weaving a scarf for senior and buying a scarf for senior, because most of us don’t know how to weave the scarf and we took time to learn and weave, eventually when the scarf was finished by our own hand, we have already weaved our love inside, that’s enough to inspire everyone’s potential of being love.”
Through the GVU, the five student volunteers identified a very elderly woman who lived with the elderly wife of her nephew, who wasn’t entirely out of the picture but who did not live full time with his wife and aunt. Each of the elderly women received a scarf and a thoughtful visit from the group.
Jiahui noted afterward, “From that project, I not only knew more about life in Guangzhou but also got shocked by what the volunteers did. There were shower devices installed by volunteers also a specially made telephone for the old, buttons of which are quite big to make it easier for the old to read. By marking words like help on the button, the old lady could call for help with ease.” She added a note that represents the sentiments of her group, “I think we should not only focus on the material abundance, but give them more company.”
The students spent several hours with the senior ladies, having already spent countless hours learning how to knit and then knitting them beautiful scarves for them. One can only guess at the impact the visit had on the seniors, but I don’t have to guess at the impact on the students.
Shiqin caught the vision of the project and how it benefits not only the seniors, but also the volunteers. She noted, “I think being a volunteer is not only helping others but also helping ourselves to grow; it’s those efforts that help us realize our responsibilities to contribute to the society and provides us with a source of satisfaction and fulfillment. And I will continue to do these right things.”
Chongran is organizing an ongoing effort to follow up on the project and plans to broadly recruit students to join him formally in the fall; he already has several committed. When the entering freshmen arrive on campus next fall, one of the activities will be a day for students to join clubs. One of the options will be Chongran’s student club for caring for senior citizens.
Yucheng commented, “For me this is an unforgettable experience… From this I learned that we can help people and we should help people who need. I can never forget the smile in the old lady’s face.”
Our supporter, Mike Schwager, is a PR pro who specializes in helping people and organizations, especially those doing good in the world, to share their stories for maximum media exposure. He’s sharing his three key for promoting your story with Your Mark on the World readers today.
1. Be Persuasive: Pitching a story to an editor or reporter has some basic tenets for a persuasive publicist. First, always tell the truth. Second, know your outlet before you call or email. Third, have the right attitude: See the journalist as a peer in communications. Believe in your story. Believe in yourself.
2. Be Creative: Creative formatting tips: First, use news to make news. Remember “relevance,” “impact,” “timeliness” and “novelty.” Second, seasonal tie-ins. Once, eight weeks before Christmas, we convinced the manufacturer to designate a Holiday Consumer Affairs Specialist who could talk about “everything you wanted to know about mailing gifts for the holidays.” We booked this specialist on literally dozens of top all-news stations in major markets around the country. Third, products are newsworthy when they Are evolutionary or revolutionary. I’ve booked many products that were a next step up in technology on shows like Today or Good Morning America.
3. Humanize Your On-Air Appearance: First, humanize yourself and your organization. People don’t want to hear cold statistics or facts; make more use of anecdotes. Second, a smile is worth a thousand words, and remember to smile when appropriate. Also, use the first name of your interviewer, or opponent. When you transmit a smile, or use someone’s first name, you’re energizing the empathetic cord between you and your audience. You become more likable. As you’re talking to an interviewer, think of someone you’ve been close to who you love and care about. The interviewer will feel that positive emotion. (I learned that from Walter Cronkite in the men’s bathroom at CBS).
On Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 1:00 Eastern, Mike will join me for a live discussion about pitching your story to the media. 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 Worldlink Media Consultants:
Media Relations and Communications Services: Speech Writing (for CEOs, government officials [US and overseas], and celebrities); Op-Ed page writing; TV interview training (by phone and in-person); Publicity [primarily for non-profit and humanitarian organizations, authors, and leading-edge thinkers]; Video Production; Reputation Repair; Creative Consulting.
Mike Schwager’s communications career began at CBS, for Network Radio News, and as a writer for CBS Audience Services. For the latter, Mike explained CBS policy to viewers and shareholders. From CBS he moved to the large public relations agency, Burson-Marsteller, where he served as a broadcast media specialist, promoting the Fortune 500. From Burson, Mike became partner at Michael Klepper Associates, where he promoted China as PR Director of The Exhibition of the People’s Republic of China; and managed accounts for The Louisiana World’s Fair; Father Flanagan’s Boystown; Kelloggs; The government of Canada; Data General; Polaroid; and Automatic Data Processing (ADP).
At his own agencies, The Media Relations Group, and later, Worldlink Media Consultants, Mike’s client roster included: The United States-Mexican Development Corporation; IBM; Harvey Mackay’s “Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive” (which he turned into a mega best-seller); Inc. Magazine Publisher Wilson Harrell’s “For Entrepreneurs Only” (Wilson dedicated his chapter on public relations to Mike); John Robbins’ “Diet For A New America;” Cleve Stevens’ “The Best In Us;” Opportunity International; CURE International; World Vision; Darcy O’Brien’s “The Hidden Pope;” The Mentors Channel and The WellBe (digital bracelet that measures stress); Jack Nadel’s “The Evolution of an Entrepreneur”); and Bob Lenz’s “Dignity Revolution: Standing Up For The Value Of Every Person.”
Mike is presently about to launch a publicity campaign with breakthrough information on mental disease for renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Clancy McKenzie, M.D., Founder/Director of The Alternative American Psychiatric Association and author of “Delayed Posttraumatic Stress Disorders From Infancy” and “Babies Need Mothers: How Mothers Can Prevent Mental Illness In Their Children.”
Mike’s public relations websites are at: www.mediamavens.com, and www.TVtraining.tv. He maintains two spiritual/humanitarian sites at: www.Enrichment.com, and www.EnrichOurWorld.net. Mike is also host of a spiritual/humanitarian Internet radio show, The Enrichment Hour, on WSRadio.com.
He can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. He is based in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. His phone is: 954-423-4414.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
In 2009, Two American brothers with exceptional abilities and the brightest futures risked it all to create a social venture specifically designed to help the people of one of the Western Hemisphere’s most challenged countries, Honduras. Their toy block company Tegu is having an impact there and beyond.
Will Haughey, Chief Blockhead of Tegu, the company they founded, says they are working to address “poverty and unemployment in Honduras and Central America,” adding that “unemployment [is] well north of 30% and poverty rates [are] above 65%.”
Haughey notes that they found there really was no entrepreneurial or creative segment in the economy, so they created one.
“[We] started a manufacturing business in Honduras connected to a design business based in the USA. Tegu, short for Tegucigalpa, uses Central American hardwoods in the production of a premium quality magnetic wooden building system. The more blocks we sell, the more people we put to work,” he explains.
“Tegu Blocks are inherently educational and make a wonderful gift. The best thing we can do for Honduras is sell blocks as many places as possible all over the world. Schools are a great fit as well,” he concludes.
On Thursday, September 10 at 2:00 PM, Haughey and his brother Chris, the Head Elf, will join me here for a live discussion about the business and its impact in Honduras. 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 Tegu:
Founded by two brothers, Chris and Will Haughey, Tegu is a vertically-integrated premium toy company with a manufacturing facility in Honduras and sales and marketing office in Connecticut. Tegu debuted in the fall of 2009 and has sold over 500,000 units of its patented magnetic wooden blocks (“Tegu Blocks”) and has employed and trained more than 200 craftsmen and craftswomen in Honduras. Beyond their online distribution on Tegu.com and Amazon.com, Tegu Blocks are now sold throughout the world in mainstream and specialty retail and educational channels. Tegu has formal distributor relationships outside the USA in Asia and Europe. Founders and co-owners Chris and Will Haughey, the company’s most senior executives, developed and implemented Tegu’s strategy to reduce poverty, develop human capital, and support sustainable forestry in Honduras. Chris conceived the idea of Tegu based on his first-hand experience of Honduras and its social and environmental challenges. He left his career as a management consultant to devote himself full time to the development of the company in early 2007 and relocated with his family to Honduras in 2009 to establish the factory. Today, he is responsible for Tegu’s hiring of low-income Hondurans, the career development and training programs to grow their human capital, and Tegu’s sourcing program that contributes to reforestation and the reduction of illegal logging in Central America. He personally visits each of Tegu’s wood suppliers as part of on-site verification of their forestry practices. Will left behind his career in investment banking and finance in 2008 to lead the effort to raise Tegu’s capital and develop its consumer-facing brand. He has been Tegu’s fundraising champion in the United States, convincing socially-minded strategic investors to bet on a manufacturing firm that would have a major social and environmental impact in Honduras. Now he is the face of Tegu and its social return to the major international brands that support Tegu as its customers. Chris invested the entirety of his life savings – including his modest retirement savings – to provide Tegu with necessary seed capital, and Will invested over half of his life savings to take the company through to a viable product concept when he joined his brother full-time in the business.
Will Haughey’s bio:
Will Haughey is Co-Founder and Chief Blockhead of Tegu. Will oversees Tegu’s commercial activities including global marketing, sales, distribution and product development. Earning a BS in Business Administration from Indiana University, Will concentrated in Finance and International studies. Upon graduation, he joined the Healthcare Investment Banking practice of Goldman, Sachs & Co., in New York. Following two years of mergers and financing work, Will joined Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, managing investments in the public and private markets. Will joined forces in May 2008 with brother, Chris Haughey, to form Tegu. Will is based at Tegu’s US headquarters in Darien, Connecticut.
Chris Haughey’s bio:
Chris Haughey is Co-Founder & Head Elf of Tegu. In preparation for Tegu’s launch in 2009, Chris moved to Honduras in order to establish and grow the Company’s privately owned factory. Chris oversees Tegu’s engineering, sourcing, production and supply chain activities and is deeply involved in Tegu’s innovation initiatives globally. He spent three years with The Boston Consulting Group in their Los Angeles practice and prior to that worked for a year in Mexico City with university students. Chris holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. Chris operates at Tegu’s Honduras factory.
Mary French is a on a crusade to improve literacy around the world. Partnering with organizations like Rotary International for help, Mary French has collected and distributed 25 million dictionaries, mostly to third graders in every state in the U.S. and in other countries around the world.
“The problem is that children do not have access to dictionaries with more than 32,000 words in school. In order to be functionally literate a person must know more than 5,000 words to be able to read instructions or hear them and understand them to complete a task,” Mary explains, adding, “A dictionary is a reliable resource that makes a person self-reliant and able to think independently.”
Mary is making remarkable progress with the Dictionary Project. She notes, “To solve the problem of illiteracy we partner with people who want to put dictionaries into the hands of students where they live by giving them their own personal dictionary. Since the project began we have donated over 25,000,000 dictionaries to people in all fifty states and around the world.”
Mary has a remarkable vision of the future she’d like to create. “We would like to have more people involved to ensure that everyone will be able to enjoy the benefits of owning a dictionary so that they will be able to use the English language effectively. To solve the problem of illiteracy in every community children need to be encouraged to spend more time reading and less time watching television. By learning new words people are able to form associations with other people and create more connections to enrich their lives and make this country a better place to live for all.”
On Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 3:00 Eastern, Mary will join me for a live discussion about her inspiring work. 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 Dictionary Project:
The Dictionary Project is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization that raises money to provide dictionaries to everyone to ensure that they will be able to enjoy the benefits of owning a dictionary.
Mary has a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in English from Charleston Southern University. She has been the Director of the Dictionary Project since 1995 when the organization began, founded by Mary and her late husband Arno French. She has written and published ‘The Best Dictionary for Students’, ‘A Student’s Dictionary & Gazetteer’, ‘A Student’s Dictionary & Gazetteer, Canadian Edition and ‘A Student’s Dictionary & Gazetteer, Caribbean Edition’, and with the help of Siddarth and Karan Rai, ‘A Student’s Dictionary & Animal Gazetteer’. Mary and Arno were terrible spellers. The dictionaries were a reliable and accurate aid to help them spell words correctly and expand their frame of reference. The Dictionary Project was created to provide that opportunity to all of the children in South Carolina; a state that ranked 47th in the nation in education. Improving education is a difficult challenge. South Carolina is now 42nd in the nation in education in part because of the Dictionary Project.
Your Mark on the World sponsor Gate Global Impact is trying to change the way impact investing is done, giving ready access to deals and investment opportunities to more people than ever before.
Joseph Latona, Managing Director for GGI, says, “GGI is working to centralize the fragmented Impact investing sector. Many people have heard about Impact investing, but then do not know where to find these investments or even a place to find information on what an impact company or fund looks like.”
“GGI mission is to provide a centralized regulatory compliant market place that allows investors to source Impact investments and providing Companies the ability to connect with like minded investors to raise capital,” Joseph concludes.
On Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 1:00 Eastern, Joseph will join me for a live discussion about the progress GGI is making toward is goal of fundamentally disrupting the impact investing space. 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 Constellation Fin Tech:
CFT is a disruptive Financial services company that applies its core technology infrastructure to facilitate private and unregistered securities transactions in a regulatory compliant manor. Two main subsidiaries are GATE Global Impact, and ShareNett. GGI is our impact investing solution, allowing Investors to source both primary and secondary investments that in addition to the possibility of a financial rate of return they also provide a social or environmental rate of return. GGI provides companies and for profit social organizations a utility to raise capital and connect with cause focused investors. ShareNett is our Family office and High Net Worth invitation only platform. Built by a family office (Raptor our majority owner) for family offices that allows members the ability to connect and co-invest in member originated deal flow.
Mr. Latona has spent the past 15 years in the financial services industry with a background in trading Fixed income, derivative securities and architecting technology systems. Mr. Latona is a Managing Partner and oversees the day to day operations of Constellation Fin Tech LLC, that operates the subsidiaries Gate Global Impact Inc, ShareNett LLC and Vision Quest Securities ( Member FINRA, SIPC) In 2010 Mr. Latona and his partner Vincent Molinari Co-founded Gate Global Impact Inc, (GGI) leveraging there collective industry experience and personal passions to bring visibility to the emerging socially responsibly and environmental investing sector.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Damian Miller wants to transform emerging market economies from fossil-fuel dependent to self-reliant on clean solar energy.
Miller isn’t just a dreamer; he’s making it happen. As the founder and CEO of Orb Energy he’s quickly scaling up his business in India and recently launched in Kenya. He is also a recent recipient of the SAP Social Entrepreneur Fellowship in collaboration with Acumen.
He explains Orb’s mission as follows:
Our company’s mission is to make solar energy affordable, accessible, and hassle-free to millions of customers looking for a better energy alternative. To do this, we first design and manufacture our own products for superior quality and cost. Then to deliver and install them to our customers in the right way, we have set up our own branch network – which is totally unique in the the solar market in India. This network is key to gaining customer trust, and effectively providing after-sales service. Finally we team up with banks for financing, but we are now looking at ways of bring this critical activity in-house to make it more streamlined.
Miller is also looking for help, he notes, “We are looking for investors, who believe in and share our mission for emerging market economies. Emerging markets are where the bulk of future greenhouse gas emissions will come from, and where there is an enormous opportunity – based on the prevailing solar resource and still emerging infrastructure – for solar to gain an early foothold. We hope that others will join us, so that we can strengthen and accelerate our activities.”
On Thursday, September 3, 2015 at noon Eastern, Miller will join me live from India for a live discussion here about his work. 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 Orb Energy:
Orb Energy is a leading provider of solar energy solutions in India. We sell, install, and service solar systems for electricity and hot water, and we are vertically integrated with our own R&D and manufacturing plant in India. We have 140 branches in 8 states of India, of which about 50% are franchised. We have also recently entered Kenya with a new subsidiary there.
More about the SAP Social Entrepreneur Fellowship in collaboration with Acumen:
Acumen and SAP, global business software leader, have collaborated to create the SAP Social Entrepreneur Fellowship to accelerate the growth of social enterprises serving the poor in East Africa and India. Leveraging Acumen’s 14 years of investing in early-stage social enterprises and SAP’s global business and innovation expertise, this unique collaboration will bring together emerging and established CEOs committed to building sustainable, socially driven businesses, creating a more inclusive global economy, and expanding opportunities for the poor to lead lives of dignity and possibility.
Damian Miller is the CEO of Orb Energy, and a leading expert on solar energy in emerging markets. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge (Trinity College), where he was based at the Judge Business School. His dissertation addressed the role of entrepreneurs in the diffusion of solar photovoltaic technology when solar markets were still in their infancy. After finishing his Ph.D. in 1998, he put his research findings into practice, joining Shell Solar and becoming its Director of Rural Operations. Here he established solar subsidiaries in India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, and Indonesia. He also implemented a large-scale solar project in China, and managed joint ventures in Morocco and South Africa. During this time he worked closely with multilateral and bilateral development agencies and emerging market governments to help grow local solar markets, overseeing the connection of more than 125,000 solar homes. At the end of 2006, he set-up Orb Energy in India with his co-founder NP Ramesh. In 8 years, Orb has become one of India’s leading providers of solar energy solutions, selling, installing, and servicing solar systems across multiple states in India, with ambitious plans for further expansion. He has lived, worked and traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa, and currently resides in Bangalore, India.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Tim Stay, one of Utah’s leading tech entrepreneurs and executives, recently launched a new venture with successful entrepreneur Joseph Grenny. They’ve chosen several ex-convicts to run the new business, The Other Side Academy.
This may not be such an odd choice. You see, the new venture, modeled closely on Delancey Street Foundation, is a nonprofit that will work to really rehabilitate convicts.
Stay explained to me recently that our prisons “provide criminals with a masters degree in criminology” rather than rehabilitating them.”
He elaborates, “The problem is that there is a portion of the criminal population that doesn’t get better by doing time. Many of them are repeat offenders, spending their lives in and out of jail and prison. They usually have substance abuse problems and many times find themselves unable to secure or keep a job and eventually wind up on the streets, being involved in criminal activity, and going back to jail. And this cycle continues at great expense to taxpayers. These people are living lives of increasingly destructive behaviors to themselves, to their families, and to society.”
He says that TOSA, as everyone involved in The Other Side Academy quickly abbreviates, will “provide a two-year live-in educational program for ex-convicts, drug abusers, homeless and others that have hit rock bottom that teaches our participants how to live successful, productive lives free from crime and substance abuse.”
Dave Durocher, TOSA’s managing director, explains further, “Our mission is to address the issues of drug addiction and criminality and improve the dismal record of the rehabilitative community when it comes to addressing the issues of relapse and recitivism. We belive that a long term “theraputic community” approach is what works best. While there are mixed and often conflicting statistics in this regard we know from first hand experience that it can work.”
Durocher and his colleagues Alan Fahringer and Lola Zagey, know first hand, “We know this because [we] have over 25 combined years residing in arguably the most succesful theraputic community in the world, Delancey Street, which is the model we are replicating with a few twists that we believe can make The Other Side Academy even more succesful.”
Having already raised $750,000, Stay has a wish list for the next several months. “In the next 3 months, we are moving into our new facility in Salt Lake City and we will be launching several of our businesses so we can become self-reliant.”
“We need financial contributions to cover the start-up costs of the facility and of the new businesses. We need in-kind contributions of cars, trucks, construction tools, warehouse space, and housing supplies such as beds and dressers. We need volunteer help with things such as business plans, web design, marketing, graphics. We need champions to help spread the message through social media and with their friends,” he concludes.
On Thursday, September 3, 2015 at 4:00 Eastern, Durocher, Fahringer and Zagey will join me here for a live discussion about TOSA and their plans to create a program that will truly change lives. 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 Other Side Academy:
We provide on-the-job vocational training, education, and basic life skills along with long-term residential housing to former drug/alcohol abusers, homeless and others who have hit rock bottom. Our organization is run by graduates of the program and we are a mutual self-help organization. That means that healing occurs when we can have “Each One Teach One” and that when A helps B, A gets better. We run our own businesses so we can be self-reliant and not dependent on Government money and so we can offer the program at no cost to those that join us. Participants obtain a minimum of high school equivalency and gain the job and life skills needed to return to various communities as decent, law abiding individuals.
Managing Director Dave Durocher was arrested for the first time at the age of 13 years old. By the time he was 38, he had been to prison four times for a total of 15 years. When he was given the option to go to Delancey, he was facing 29 years in prison. Dave pleaded guilty of his crimes and went to Delancey in Los Angeles. Dave was at Delancey Street for 8 years and became the Managing Director of their 250 person Los Angeles facility for 5 of those years. Dave is articulate, humble, tenacious, interpersonally skilled, a good manager and a good public speaker. He was able to double revenues in their Training School businesses while he was there and when he left, he had tripled their earnings from when he had took over the facility. Dave has helped countless others regain their dignity, their families and their lives before he moved on to enjoy his own success as the person he had become. Now Dave is embarking on the next chapter of his new life; to help create a place, much like the one he credits with saving his life, only better. A place people can come to learn about integrity, honesty, hard work and self-respect. All the things that protect those inclined from falling prey to their addictions so as not to become the kind of person Dave was, but rather the kind of person he is today.
Alan began using marijuana and other drugs in his early teens. He spent his adult life as a “functioning addict” until he was introduced to methamphetamine. That began a thirteen year downward spiral of multiple arrests, lost marriages, lost careers and eventually homelessness. Alan’s troubles culminated in his being arrested three times in a span of eleven months for manufacturing meth. Facing many years in prison, Alan says he was rescued from himself by an empathetic Judge who allowed him to go to Delancey Street instead of prison. That most fortunate occurrence, as he calls it, saved his life, he says. He stayed two years as required by his plea bargain and another four years voluntarily to help others experience the redemption and renewal he had found. While at Delancey Street Alan worked in Corporate Development, Finance. Retail Sales and eventually found his niche in Community Relations. Alan was responsible for advocating Delancey Street as a sentencing alternative to the Judicial and Legal communities. He was a natural. He is articulate, persuasive and living proof that the process can work. Alan has done speaking engagements throughout New Mexico and southern California enthusiastically advocating for just the type of therapeutic community that he will now help foster in Salt Lake City at The Other Side Academy. “I’m so blessed. I get to help build a place just like the one that saved my life. What could possibly be more gratifying than that?”
Lola has always dreamed of making a difference in the world. Her progress was stopped dead in its tracks twenty years ago when she developed an all-consuming addiction to heroin. This new path took Lola down to a place where all drug dependent people go… to rehabs, jails, and prisons. She was stuck in hopeless desperation and after being arrested one more time, she knew she had to try something different. Lola had heard about Delancy Street Foundation and wondered if the judge would give her a chance to try this program. The judges quickly agreed to two years in Delancy Street or do five years in prison. He gave Lola a stern warning. He said he would offer this deal to her but he recommended she do the prison time. He has seen addicts like Lola before and at this point, he believed she would fail the program and end up in prison anyway. Lola had a different idea. With gratitude for this opportunity, Lola excelled at Delancy Street. She worked her way up to the finance department where she learned skills in accounting, auditing, and bookkeeping with an emphasis in rehabilitation management. Lola’s two year sentence in Delancy Street turned into a five year life changing stay. Once graduated, Lola quickly found work in the medical field as well as property management and the sky was the limit. The only thing missing was her desire to help other addicts still suffering. Enter The Other Side Academy. Now Lola can live her dream of making a difference in the world.