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 The mission of the "Your Mark on the World Center" is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.
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Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

More about teleStory:

Twitter: @tele_story

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

Michael Custer, courtesy of teleStory

Michael Custer, courtesy of teleStory

Michael’s bio:

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

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

Devin D. Thorpe

This Solution To Poverty In Slums Needs To Be Rapidly Replicated

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

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

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

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

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

The model has four tenets, he says:

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

The results of the program are impressive.

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

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

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

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

More about Ubuntu Education Fund:

Twitter: @ubuntufund

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

Lief’s bio:

Twitter: @ubuntujakes

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

Student Venture Seeks To Remake Slums To Support Education

“One hundred and twelve million children lack access to high-quality, reliable, affordable early childhood education [ECE]. It’s a fundamental injustice that caps their potential and robs children of the futures they deserve,” says SOMOS Managing Director, Anne Friedman.

SOMOS was recently recognized as a Hult Prize finalist at the Clinton Global Initiative.

Anne explains further, “Children who don’t receive high quality ECE in the first 5 years of life suffer from depressed educational and health outcomes, starting school about 2 years behind and never catching up. Even family stability decades later is affected by the education a young child receives. The problem is that potential is distributed equally but opportunity is not. Millions of children born into poverty are never given a fair chance to succeed and are then condemned for their failure in adulthood. It’s a tragic violation of the human right to dignity, life, and the pursuit of potential.”

SOMOS is a student-led social venture that was created to address the problem of unequal access to ECE.

Anne describes the effort, saying, “We’re giving parents the tools and support they need to change their children’s lives. First, healthy childhood development is predicated on high-quality interaction with a loving adult. For many and complicated reasons, the norms around parenting in situations of urban poverty often lead to suboptimal outcomes for kids. They simply don’t get as much developmentally beneficial interaction as their more affluent peers. But that’s easily changed! Give parents simple, fun suggestions for how to integrate their child’s education into their daily lives and they do it!”

“We deliver world class, age appropriate educational curricula directly to their mobile phone. We do it in small groups of parents so they can provide advice and support to each other. Not only are the benefits of peer-to-peer learning proven and significant, we believe having a community of support that follows a child for a lifetime is critical to changing his life trajectory. Many of the benefits of most of the world’s best early childhood education programs are lost before 3rd grade. We wanted to make sure they last and we think community is the way to make that happen,” she continued.

Anne shared the SOMOS vision of the future with me:

Call to mind your vision of a “slum.” Maybe it’s the favelas of Brazil, the townships of South Africa, the barrios of Mexico City, or the housing projects of Chicago. Imagine the kids growing up there and what their lives must be like. Now, imagine that every single one of them graduates high school prepared for college and/or jobs with dignity that allow them to provide for their families. Imagine their parents woven together into a safety net that doesn’t allow any of their children to fall through the cracks. That’s what we want to build. We want to connect parents with each other, and the resources they need, to turn their “slums” into safe-havens, to give themselves and their kids the futures they deserve.

On Thursday, October 22, 2015 at 1:00 Eastern, Anne will join me for a live discussion about SOMOS and its plans to alter the educational paths of millions of children living in urban poverty. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

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

More about SOMOS:

Twitter: @wearesomos

SOMOS is an interactive social media company building virtual “villages” of resources and support around low-income parents in developing nations to empower them to become their children’s best teachers. Disparities in education before they even start school put 112 million children growing up in poverty at a permanent disadvantage, resulting in decreased health and educational outcomes, even family stability decades later. All this can be solved if parents have the tools and support they need to educate their kids. In small groups–“villages”–we deliver world class educational curricula that turns parents’ daily routine into brain building activities for their kids.

Anne Friedman with her niece Olivia

Anne Friedman with her niece Olivia

Anne’s bio:

Twitter: @annekiehl

Anne Friedman earned BA’s in Political Science and Sociology from Stanford University, graduating with honors and the Firestone Medal for Excellence in undergraduate research based on her statistical analysis of the factors that influenced voter disenfranchisement in the 2004 presidential election. From there, she moved to Washington, DC to craft media and messaging strategies as Associate Director of the political consulting firm run by Donna Brazile. Wanting broader exposure to clients working on different social issues, Anne struck out on her own to found Bold Ink Communications, a communications consulting firm helping outstanding individuals and organizations to frame and communicate their brands. Over the course of five years, Anne built the business from the ground-up, eventually serving internationally-known celebrities including an Academy Award winning actor, a billionaire on the Forbes’ list, and one of the women nominated to replace President Jackson on the $20 bill. As much as she loved her clients and her work, Anne’s dream had always been to start a social enterprise so she applied to business schools and enrolled at ESADE in Barcelona to pursue an MBA. Upon graduation, she and four classmates founded SOMOS.

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

Devin D. Thorpe

Rotary International Leader, Corporate CEO, Challenges All To Respect Religious Traditions

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

As I visit with social entrepreneurs around the world, I often find that religion is a motivating factor for their desire to do something that matters. Although rarely discussed, taking religion out of social entrepreneurship would, for some at least, rob it of its heart and soul. [It has been my honor to speak at a few Rotary District Conferences at discounted fees, but I’ve not been paid by Rotary International.]

Of course, many people approach social entrepreneurship from a purely secular point of view, including some who are religious, but that does not negate the influence of religion for others.

This week, I am attending the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions here in Salt Lake City, a gathering of 10,000 religious people looking to advance world peace, many through some form of social entrepreneurship.

K.R. Ravindran, President of Rotary International, a global organization with 34,000 clubs and 1.2 million members, most of whom are business and community leaders, will speak at the conference. He shared excerpts from his speech with me in advance.

Highlighting the importance of respect, he said, “ In Rotary, every religion is respected, every tradition is welcomed, and every conviction is honored, for in Rotary, we join in friendship and we are bonded by our dedication to service. ”

Rotary’s motto is “Service above self.” In a thought that is highly relevant for social entrepreneurs, Ravindran connects that motto to religion in his remarks, noting, “Service gives people a way to come together and a reason to work together for the common good, regardless of their differences. Charity and serving those with the greatest needs are ideas common to every religion, which is what Rotary is all about.”

Thirty years ago, Rotary took on the challenge of eradicating polio. At that time, there were about 350,000 cases of polio each year. In 2014, there were just 356 cases, reflecting a 99.9 percent reduction. The eradication of polio now appears certain within this decade.

Of this effort, Ravindran says, “Rotary’s decades-long fight to end polio is perhaps the greatest example of a project that has united every Rotary member around the world in pursuit of a single, shared goal”

On Friday, October 16, 2015 at noon Eastern, Ravindran will join me here for a live discussion about the role of religion in business and social entreprneurship. 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 Rotary International:

Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.2 million members of more than 34,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work improves lives at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world.

K. R. Rivindran, President of Rotary International, courtesy of Rotary International

K. R. Rivindran, President of Rotary International, courtesy of Rotary International

Ravindran’s bio:

K.R. Ravindran is CEO and founder of Printcare PLC, a publicly listed printing, packaging, and digital media solutions company. It is arguably the world’s largest supplier of tea bag packaging, catering to nearly every major tea brand, with manufacturing facilities in Sri Lanka and India. Printcare is the winner of national and international awards of excellence. Ravindran has been a featured speaker at several international print and packaging forums.

Ravindran also serves on the board of several other companies in Sri Lanka and India and charitable trusts, including the MJF (Dilmah) Charitable Foundation. He is the founding president of the Rotary-sponsored Sri Lanka Anti Narcotics Association, the largest such agency in Sri Lanka. During the country’s civil war, Ravindran was involved in the business community efforts to find peaceful solutions to the conflict and was a featured speaker at the United Nations-sponsored peace conference in New York for the Sri Lankan diaspora in 2002.

A third generation Rotarian and a member himself since the age of 21, Ravindran has served on the Rotary International Board of Directors and The Rotary Foundation Board of Trustees and as RI treasurer.

As his country’s national PolioPlus chair, Ravindran headed a joint task force of the Sri Lankan government, UNICEF, and Rotary and worked closely with UNICEF to successfully negotiate a ceasefire with the northern militants during National Immunization Days. Aided by Rotary’s efforts, Sri Lanka reported its last case of polio in 1994.

He also chaired the Schools Reawakening project, in which Rotary District 3220 raised more than $12 million to rebuild over 20 tsunami-devastated schools to benefit 14,000 children. He continues to play a role in his club’s project to build a cancer prevention and early detection center in Sri Lanka. Once completed, it will be the only dedicated national facility to offer comprehensive screening and early detection services.

Ravindran is a recipient of The Rotary Foundation’s Citation for Meritorious Service, Distinguished Service Award, and Service Award for a Polio-Free World.

He and Vanathy have been married since 1975, and they have two children and a recently born grandchild.

Student Entrepreneurs Try Pre-K Education Via Cell Phone

Ulixes Hawili, with a team of student entrepreneurs from the University of Tampa, has created a company called Tembo Education, a 2015 Hult Prize finalist,  to provide a proven curriculum of training to African parents to help their children prepare for school.

Ulixes, the Chief Intelligence Officer of Tembo, explains, “The problem is the lack of early childhood education in developing countries across the world. Millions of children are not afforded an opportunity to a high quality education and we believe that advanced economies are morally inclined to confront issues of this magnitude, even if it means making tremendous sacrifices.”

Noting that 86 percent of the population in sub-Saharan African have access to a mobile device, Ulixes says, “We are providing a high quality curriculum and training to parents across sub-Saharan Africa through mobile phones, effectively providing them with something that they do not have through something that they do.”

“Providing access to a quality early childhood education in developing countries will lay the foundation for economic development by catalyzing the acquisition of human capital, boosting relative incomes, and opening the door to foreign investment in the region,” Ulixes concludes.

On Wednesday, October 14, 2015 at 4:00 Eastern, Ulixes will join me for a live discussion about the the Hult Prize competition and the company he’s helped to create. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.


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

Tembo is raising money to accelerate its growth via GoFundMe.

More about Tembo Education:

Twitter: @TemboEducation

Our solution uses a high-quality, evidence-based curriculum to train and employ home educators (members of the urban slum community) to teach parents via SMS text messages. The parents then educate their children in their own homes. We assess the learning process through a quiz via SMS text. For educating their child and answering the quiz correctly, the parent is rewarded with free airtime (minutes and texts).

We require parents and home educators to use our telecom partner to access the curriculum. Therefore, we increase the market share of the telecom. In our Nigerian pilot study, we have increased the market share of MTN by 33%, Globacom by 93%, and Etisalat by 92%.

We expedite the economic development of the country by not only educating millions of children, but also by creating employment opportunities, generating revenue for the telecoms, and opening the doors to foreign investors.

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

Devin D. Thorpe

Student Entrepreneurs Create ‘Talking Stickers’ To Prep Kids For School

Jamie Austin and Aisha Bukhari co-founded Attollo SE Inc. as graduate students at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. Attollo was selected as a finalist for the 2015 Hult Prize competition, awarded last month at the Clinton Global Initiative.

Jamie explains, “Young children from underprivileged families do not develop the vocabulary they need for success in primary school. The extent that the vocabulary of these children is behind their more privileged peers has been termed the vocabulary gap.”

Aisha notes that over 100 million under-privileged kids are not ready for primary school, adding, “A key reason less-privileged children are not primary school ready and drop out of school later in life is that they are unable to understand and communicate with the world around them. They lack the quantity and variety of words needed to develop meaning and understanding of words. They lack the vocabulary needed to succeed.”

A solution, Jaimie explains, is Attollo’s product: Talking Stickers. You can see a demo here:

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

“Talking Stickers, which is comprised of an electronic device called ollo that can scan stickers, record and play-back audio in any language or dialect, helps parents deliver educational content from our partner educational organizations to their children. Talking Stickers also enables children to learn in unstructured ways through exploration of their world and environment,” Jamie says.

Aisha adds, “Since stickers can be placed on anything, Talking Stickers transform common household items into educational toys. Talking Stickers follow proven, culturally relevant, early learning curriculum to deliver the best education for every child in their home. In essence, Talking Stickers is a teaching tool, empowering parents to talk, sing and read to their children in a playful manner and build their vocabulary.”

Aisha explains their passion, saying, “We believe that literacy is a fundamental human right.”

“Language development is just the beginning. We envision Talking Stickers as a tool to communicate information about health, nutrition and all areas of early childhood development. Millions of parents struggle with correct usage of child products (medicine, nutrition supplements etc) because they are unable to read. Talking Stickers solve this problem by providing audio instructions enabling parents to correctly use child products,” Aisha concludes.

Jamie adds, “We aim to help underprivileged children below the age of 6 to develop their vocabulary skills, making them ready for primary school. This will help them to succeed in school and will increase their chances to get a good job and lift their family out of poverty.”

On Wednesday, October 14, 2015 at 2:00 Eastern, Aisha and Jamie will join me for a live discussion about the Hult Prize competition and their remarkable technology. 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 Attollo SE Inc.:

Twitter: @attolloSE

Attollo provides an affordable and playful way for parents to develop their child’s vocabulary at home. We do it through our innovation – talking stickers – which is comprised of a low-cost hand-held electronic device, named ollo, that can scan stickers, record and play-back audio in any language or dialect.

Co-founders Peter Cinat, Aisha Bukhari, Jamie Austin, Lak Chinta, courtesy of Ottollo

Co-founders Peter Cinat, Aisha Bukhari, Jamie Austin, Lak Chinta, courtesy of Attollo

Austin’s bio:

Twitter: @jamieWaustin

Jamie has a PhD in neuroscience and a MBA from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. He as worked as a health educator in a developing country and a project manager for Canada’s largest hospital network. Jamie is a co-founder of Attollo and currently manages the development and production of educational content and the measurement of learning outcomes.

Bukhari’s bio:

Twitter: @bukhariAisha

Aisha is a Co Founder of Attollo SE Inc and an Action Canada Fellow (2-15-2016). She is an engineer and a social entrepreneur. She enjoys work that involves creating a positive social impact, leading change and developing integrative solutions. She is passionate about energy, innovation and social justice. Prior to co founding Attollo, she was working at Toronto Hydro where she spent six years leading development and implementation of innovative smart grid solutions. A career highlight includes leading the utility aspect of a consortium-based Community Energy Storage project – the first of its kind in North America. Aisha has also been an active participant in shaping the energy storage policy and framework in Ontario. She also served on the advisory board for Women in Renewable Energy, a non-profit organization. Aisha has a Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toronto, a Masters degree in Electric Power Engineering from the University of Waterloo and is a recent graduate of the part-time Morning MBA program from the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.

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

Devin D. Thorpe

Student Entrepreneurs Win Hult Prize With Radical Early Childhood Education Model

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Juan Diego Prudot was successful at a very young age. With the abundant opportunities afforded those of means, he has chosen the path of a social entrepreneur in an effort to improve early childhood education around the world.

Prudot sees the problem this way, “Over 100 million children under the age of six are living in underserved communities and do not have access to quality early childhood education. This situation leads to children being unprepared to enter primary school and with a weaker social and emotional foundation, thus making it more challenging for the youth to thrive and become productive members of society.”

Prudot led the formation of a team of student entrepreneurs in Taiwan, where he attends business school at National Chengchi University. The team launched IMPCT, which operates Playcares.com, and competed in and won the 2015 Hult Prize competition at the Clinton Global Initiative last month.

Prudot explains the business, which provides infrastructure for women in the developing world to provide bona fide educational services rather than mere daycare, saying, “We are building a bridge between people that want and are able to become part of a solution with hardworking communities that only need an opportunity. Playcares.com is not only a financial inclusion mechanism to empower women to run Playcares, but it is also a way to generate awareness of how quality early childhood education will break the poverty cycle.”

“By 2020 we aim to allow 10 million children to have access to the type of early education that will change their life trajectory in a positive way. Additionally, by attracting millions of people to participate in Playcares.com we will set the precedent that investing in and empowering people from underserved communities is not only the best way to make an impact but an exceptional investment opportunity,” Prudot asserts.

On Wednesday, October 14, 2015 at noon Eastern, Prudot will join me here for a live discussion about winning the Hult Prize and the company he helped found. 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 IMPCT:

Twitter: @impctdotco

The need for both parents to work has driven informal daycares to spring up in underserved communities around the world. These daycares are small businesses where women stay home and keep between 4 and 8 children in their living rooms. The daily fee for this service depends on the area they operate in and is typically 25% of parents’ daily wage.

IMPCT found an opportunity to increase the scale and quality of these businesses with a product called IMPCT Playcare. A Playcare is a small childcare franchise, owned and operated by a local entrepreneur, which includes a purpose-built classroom, training to deliver a play-based Montessori learning curriculum, and ongoing support to make sure the children’s development is on track. Each Playcare provides 20 nearby families affordable and accessible early education opportunities for their children.

With this model, IMPCT created a unique investment opportunity with both social and financial return. Through the Playcares.com website people can participate and track their investments as well as receive real-time updates of the lives it has changed. This is radical financial inclusion; this is a better way to do good.

Juan Diego Prudot, courtesy of IMPCT

Juan Diego Prudot, courtesy of IMPCT

Prudot’s bio:

Juan Diego Prudot is a software engineer turned social entrepreneur from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He grew up in a home where he learned the habit of working hard from his father and the qualities of empathy and compassion from his mother. The former, singlehandedly coded a complete banking software suite while the latter provided a never-ending supply of love and encouragement. At age 19, he started working for his family’s business, SAF Soluciones, where he led a major technology change that allowed them to become the number one financial software producer in Honduras.

In 2013, looking to learn Mandarin Chinese and enhance his management skills, Juan Diego enrolled in Taiwan’s top MBA program at National Chengchi University. While studying there, he effectively led multicultural teams and developed meaningful relationships that allowed him to learn about the Hult Prize Challenge. He assembled IMPCT, the team that in September 2015 won the Hult Prize and US$1 Million to provide quality early childhood education to millions of children living in poverty. The winning model includes a web platform, playcares.com, for which Juan Diego, as CTO of IMPCT, is leading a development team from Taiwan.

Author: To Do More Good, ‘Focus On Impact’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Wendy Lipton-Dibner, the bestselling author who has just seen her latest book, Focus on Impact, published has focused her career on helping people put results and outcomes ahead of financial returns with the reassurance that by focusing on impact, the money will come.

When Lipton-Dibner talks about “impact,” she’s using the word in a more traditional sense, meaning non-financial outcomes and results rather than its use in social enterprise circles with a focus on social good.

That said, her focus on traditional impact is highly relevant for the socially conscious–and her message is good news for social entrepreneurs. As we focus on impact, she says, success will come.

In preparing for this piece, I asked Lipton-Dibner for three tips to help social entrepreneurs have more impact. Here’s what she shared:

  1. Best practice isn’t always smart practice. If your business goal is to make a lasting and profitable impact, traditional business models won’t get you there. Research of over 1000 multi-national enterprises, hospitals, private practices, non-profit organizations and small businesses has shown the more people focus on increasing profitability, the more money they end up spending to make up for problems they caused by focusing on money. The answer:  Focus On Impact in every area of business from visualization to execution, internally and externally.
  2. Capitalize on the social shift. Gone are the days when we trust the words of the CEO who reassures us his/her products and services are best in class. Consumers have learned the hard way that just because we say we can help them, doesn’t mean we will. They’ve learned to trust shoppers more than sellers. They’ve become cynical, skeptical and cautious. The traditional “voice of authority” has shifted from business to consumer and this social shift has created the “Era of Sampling” – a try-before-you-buy economy in which impact is the new global currency. Now is the time to take control over the shape of your impact, the size of your impact and the rewards you reap as a result of your impact.
  3. Maximize your unique impact. You’ve been impacting people since the first moment you kicked inside your mother’s womb. Every since that moment you’ve impacted hundreds – perhaps thousands of lives – simply by interacting with people and bringing your unique combination of DNA, social experiences, education, skills, perspective and personality to the world. In business, your unique impact carries an extraordinary opportunity. Every email, every post, every tweet, the simple act of answering your phone, leading a meeting or talking to a stranger – everything you do and everything you don’t do has an impact on someone else. The secret is to define your unique impact and strategically infuse it into your marketing, products and services to create the one-of-a-kind, measurable impact that will set you apart as the go-to in your industry.

On Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 6:00 PM Eastern, Lipton-Dibner will join me here for a live discussion about her insights for having more 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 Professional Impact:

Professional Impact, Inc. is an international training and consulting firm, specializing in helping experts, executives and entrepreneurs maximize and capitalize on the unique impact they bring to people’s lives through one-of-a-kind messaging, products and services. Since 1983 we’ve had the privilege of serving hundreds of thousands of people in corporate, healthcare, small business, non-profit and entrepreneurial industries through in-house training and consulting, international bestselling books, live events, online training programs, world-class speaking engagements and media interviews. Our mission is to make an impact on people’s lives so they, in turn, can make an impact on every life they touch.

Lipton-Dibner’s bio:

Twitter: @impactexpert

Wendy Lipton-Dibner, M.A. is the world’s leading authority on business development through impact strategy. President of Professional Impact, Inc. and founder of The Action Movement™, Wendy is internationally-recognized for her unparalleled ability to help clients grow profitable businesses by maximizing and capitalizing on the impact they bring to people’s lives through their message, products and services.

Christian Organization Works To Restore Peace In Violent Honduras

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Honduras may have the highest murder rate in the world. The Christian organization called the Association for a More Just Society (AJS) is working there exclusively to help restore peace to a traumatized population.

Co-founder Dr. Kurt Alan Ver Beek explains the situation, “Honduras’s violence is widely reported on. It’s been listed as having the highest or one of the highest homicide rates in the world for the last several years. Honduras’s systems of laws and justice are very weak, they are applied unfairly (the poor are neglected), and they suffer from endemic corruption. As an example, an AJS study in 2014 found that 96 percent of homicides in Honduras never result in a guilty conviction. With such an ineffective system, what’s to stop the violence?”

“As a result, drug traffickers have flocked to Honduras as a haven for their illicit activities and have aggravated the situation,” he adds.

And these issues are just the tip of the iceberg Ver Beek describes. “At the same time, public services offered by the Honduran government have been hemorrhaging resources to corruption.”

AJS has programs to address peace and public security on one hand and corruption on the other.

Ver Beek describes three of the peace and public security initiatives:

  1. Violence prevention programs in dangerous neighborhoods that work with 350 especially at-risk youth and their families
  2. Teams of investigators, lawyers, and psychologists who solve homicides (84 arrests in 2014) and sexual abuse cases (17 arrests in 2014) in poor neighborhoods — helping to amend the broken bonds of trust that perpetuate violence
  3. Investigations and data-driven advocacy that inform public policy — helping to reduce the national homicide rate by more than 20 percent in the last three years

Similarly, he lists five anti-corruption initiatives:

  1. A watchdog journalism team
  2. Social auditing of the public health and education systems (brought accountability that kept public schools open for more than the government-mandated 200 days, instead of the 125 days of class they had been averaging)
  3. A legal team that helps investigate and report cases of corruption (helped bring 13 government officials to trial related to corruption in the public medication warehouse)
  4. Land rights reform (125 corruption cases reported)
  5. In-depth investigations into five government divisions (part of an agreement between the Honduran government, Transparency International, and AJS)

Ver Beek reports that real progress is being made. “Based on our experience uncovering and working to reform the medication purchasing system, in March of 2014, an independent trust became responsible for the buying and distribution of pharmaceuticals to state-run hospitals. Purchases made by the trust are handled by the United Nations Office for Project Services with technical assistance from the Pan American Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund. AJS and other civil society groups are providing independent oversight of the trust, plus the delivery of medications. AJS is now seen as a Honduran civil society leader in reforming the public health system and dislodging corruption from it.”

On Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 4:00 Eastern, Ver Beek will join me here for a live discussion about the dangerous and important work of AJS 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 the Association for a More Just Society:

Twitter: @ajs_us

AJS is a Honduran NGO that is focused on issues of anti-corruption and anti-violence in Honduras. Honduras continuously has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, and the police/justice system is broken to the extent that there is a 96% probability that a murder will never reach a guilty conviction. This is the reality that AJS is working to change — and the dangerous context in which the organization is operating. The range of AJS’s projects is significant, however the efforts that have received the most international attention involve teams of AJS investigators, lawyers, and psychologists who help to ensure convictions in homicide and child sexual abuse cases. As an example of these efforts, AJS has faithfully worked in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Tegucigalpa — and has witnessed a drop of more than 75% in the neighborhood’s homicide rate. AJS also operates an investigative journalism website, runs a corruption report hotline, performs extensive corruption investigations, does policy advocacy, and organizes social audits of the public health and education systems. AJS is a Christian organization, and its staff is made up of about 100 brave Hondurans dedicated to making Honduras’s system of laws and government work properly to do justice for the poor. This work involves certain risk, and in 2006 an AJS lawyer was assassinated on his way to court. It should also be noted that AJS is the Honduran chapter of Transparency International.

Dr. Ver Beek’s bio:

Dr. Kurt Alan Ver Beek has lived and worked on development and justice issues in Central America for more than 25 years. Kurt directs Calvin College’s Justice Studies semester in Honduras and has conducted research on the role of faith in development, the effects of short-term missions, and the impact of the maquila industry on Honduras. He is also a co-founder and board member of the Association for a More Just Society (AJS), a Christian justice organization with a specific focus on Honduras. By standing up for victims of violence, labor and land rights abuse, and government corruption in Honduras, organizations around the world, including Transparency International and the United Nations, are increasingly recognizing AJS as a pioneer in achieving justice for the poor. In addition to fighting against drastic crime in Honduran neighborhoods, AJS works towards peace and public security reforms on a national level.

Kurt received his B.A. in sociology from Calvin College, his M.A. in human resource development from Azusa Pacific University, and his Ph.D. in development sociology from Cornell University. Kurt and his wife, JoAnn Van Engen, are originally from the Midwest, but have made Honduras their home since 1988. In 2001, they moved to one of the poorest communities in the capital city of Honduras. Living there has greatly influenced their understanding of how corruption and violence affect the most vulnerable.

 

Closed Loop Fund Closes 3 Deals; Founder To Comment On NYT Op-Ed Touting Death Of Recycling

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Closed Loop Fund, an impact investment fund, recently closed its first three deals, providing financing for municipal waste.

Rob Kaplan, Managing Director, explains the reason for the fund’s existence, “Lack of infrastructure is one of the greatest barriers to more recycling in the country. The Fund plans to invest $100 million in the U.S. recycling infrastructure by 2020. The Fund invests in the form of zero-interest loans to cities and low interest loans to recycling companies, to prove that recycling business models are financially sustainable now into the future.”

Kaplan described the recent transactions, saying, “On Sept. 24, Closed Loop Fund, an impact investment fund that makes below-market loans for recycling infrastructure, including household recycling carts, facilities, and technologies, announced its first three investments to bolster recycling infrastructure and reduce the over $5 billion dollars spent by cities annually on landfills.”

“The initial capital includes $7.8 million from Closed Loop Fund, which helped to unlock an additional investment of $17 million from other public and private co-investors, totaling $24.8 million. All three investments demonstrate replicable economic and environmental returns that recycling can bring to communities across the United States. This is the first of over $500 million the fund expects to unlock to invest in American recycling over the next five years,” Kaplan concluded.

Sunday’s New York Times included an op-ed by John Tierney that seemed almost to be an obituary for recycling under the headline, “The Reign of Recycling.” The piece argues that the environmental impact of recycling is modest when properly calculated.

On Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 2:00 Eastern, Kaplan will join me for a live discussion about these recently completed deals and we’ll get his take on the death of recycling as well. 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 Closed Loop Fund:

Twitter: @Loopfund

Founded in 2014, Closed Loop Fund is a social impact investment fund that provides cities access to the capital required to build comprehensive recycling programs. Closed Loop Fund aims to invest $100 million by 2020 with the goal to create economic value for cities by increasing recycling rates in communities across America. Closed Loop Fund brings together the world’s largest consumer product, retail financial companies committed to finding a national solution to divert waste from landfills into the recycling stream in order to be used in the manufacturing supply chain. Key supporters include 3M, Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies, Keurig Green Mountain, PepsiCo, Pepsico Foundation, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation. For more information, visit www.closedloopfund.com.

Kaplan’s bio:

Twitter: @robbyk

Rob Kaplan proves that creating business value and passion for protecting the environment can peacefully co-exist. As Managing Director of the Closed Loop Fund, an innovative platform for impact investing, sustainability, and the circular economy, Rob oversees strategy and new business model development, as well as day-to-day operations. The Fund aims to scale recycling through zero interest loans to cities and investments in waste companies.

Prior to joining the Fund, Rob served as Director of Sustainability for Walmart Stores, Inc. where he was responsible for packaging, customer engagement, and integration with the Consumables business, including personal care and household cleaning. Rob led the creation of the Sustainability Leaders shop on Walmart.com to help consumers make responsible purchasing decisions online, built a unique collaborative initiative with competitors called the Beauty & Personal Care Innovation Accelerator, and cofounded The Closed Loop Fund. Rob previously led Walmart’s cross-functional efforts to eliminate 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas from the supply chain.

Rob’s career has always been fueled by his passion for sustainability and social issues. Before joining Walmart, he helped lead corporate responsibility and brand strategy for Brown-Forman Corporation, which produces and markets spirit brands such as Jack Daniel’s. Rob developed marketing strategies to engage consumers, improve social and environmental performance, and advance business objectives.

Rob received his MBA from the Haas School where he studied marketing, corporate responsibility, and social entrepreneurship. Prior to graduate school, Rob was State Communications Director for Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California and a political consultant for M&R Strategic Services in Washington, DC. Rob received his undergraduate degree in political communication from the George Washington University where he learned that perception is reality. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children.

 

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