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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.

SeedEquity Ventures


This category includes articles about nonprofit organizations and NGOs that are actively working to accomplish a social mission. The work of foundations that primarily work as grantors to other nonprofits is covered in Philanthropy.

Social Entrepreneur Creates ‘Nobel Prize For Business’ Focused On Social Responsibility

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Per L. Saxegaard of Norway recognized years ago that there was no Nobel Prize for Business. The closest that one comes is the prize for Economics. Saxegaard decided not only to create a prize modeled on the Nobel Prizes, but to focus it on social responsibility, what he calls being “businessworthy.” (Disclosure: I recently wrote an unrelated piece for the Rotarian Magazine, affiliated with Rotary International, which is mentioned in this article.)

A former investment banker, Saxegaard founded the Business for Peace Foundation and assembled a team of past Nobel Laureates in Peace and Economics to serve as a the panel of judges. Ten years and dozens of winners later, the Business for Peace Awards are internationally recognized.

Past winners include Jeffrey R. Immelt, CEO of GE and Sir Richard Branson of Virgin. The 2016 winners included Tore Lærdal, founder of Lærdal Medical and and Dr Jennifer Nkuene Riria who launched a successful microfinance institution in Kenya.

Given his experience in assessing and recognizing socially responsible businessses, Saxegaard was invited to be a keynote speaker on Saturday, November 12, 2016 at the Rotary International at the United Nations Day event where eight businesses will receive the Rotary Responsible Business Award. I’ve also been invited to participate in the program that day.

The award recipients will include Coca Cola Beverages Pakistan and Mercantil Banco Universal. Six individuals will also be recognized. These include Juan Silva Beauperthuy, Queremos Graduarnos Program (We Want to Graduate), of Venezuela; Jean-Paul Faure, Le Trophée du Rotary, new business development program, of France; Suresh Goklaney, Jal Jeevan Centers, community water purification plants, of India; Annemarie Mostert, Sesego Cares, entrepreneurial, leadership and job training, of South Africa; Stephanie Woollard, Seven Women, Nepalese crafts, of Australia; and, Lawrence Wright, Launch Detroit, women-led small business support, of Michigan.

John Germ, President of Rotary International, explains the reason for recognizing these business leaders, “We want to lift up those entrepreneurs who leverage their skills to develop their local economies, serve their communities, and promote socially responsible business practices.”

He went on to explain his hope that these businesses will play a role in solving some of the world’s big problems. “Getting businesses of all kinds to invest, not only in profits, but in ethical and responsible practices is key to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Rotary stands with the United Nations in achieving the Global Goals and is committed to bringing together entrepreneurs, like this year’s outstanding Responsible Business honorees, to make an outsized impact on their communities.”

Saxegaard explains that the Business for Peace Foundation is a nonprofit that is funded by donations and sponsorships. For the awards program, he uses the same venue that the Nobel Prize uses, the City Hall of Oslo.

Saxegaard encourages business leaders to make the “businessworthy pledge”:

I am a business leader who knows that business cannot succeed in societies that fail. I will do my utmost to be businessworthy in all my efforts, and to tune my business to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. I call on my peers to do the same.

He says, “This year the businessworthy pledge was personally signed committing business leaders representing some USD $700 BN in sales to tune their business to the SDGs and be businessworthy. This is due to spark a global campaign rallying other business leaders to join and commit.”

He wants, he says, to “inspire business leaders to be businessworthy; ie., create value by improving society, acting responsibly.” He adds, “Not all profits are created equal.”

Per L. Saxegaard, Executive Chairman, courtesy of the Business for Peace Foundation

Per L. Saxegaard, Executive Chairman, courtesy of the Business for Peace Foundation

Saxesgaard offers three tips to help businesses become more businessworthy.

Business must contribute to accomplishing the SDGs.

Saxedgaard says, “The forces of technology, globalization and climate change are simultaneously accelerating in a non-linear way, posing demanding implications to society as well as changing the landscapes of business. Volatility and complexity are increasing. There is a need for business to adjust its maps.”

He notes that global political leaders signed on last year to support the accomplishment of the SDGs by 2030. He notes, “These goals are unrealistic if business does not engage and contribute actively. A businessworthy mindset and practice puts a name on the map adjustment needed for business to contribute to the SDGs.”

Business needs to focus on improving society.

Saxegaard says, “The increasing interdependence and complexity confronting business, forces a broadening of the business mindset that have dominated the last few decenniums. Transparency has become the new standard. Incumbent structures are increasingly being challenged. Consumers and society increase their influence as we become more and more interconnected. More than before there is a need for business to broaden its thinking and include stakeholder and society in its reflections when seeking to create value.”

He redefines the marketplace to shift the lens through which business leaders see the world. “Societal needs define markets and create opportunities for growth. Business thinking needs to focus on products and business models that help improve society. Being businessworthy coins this kind of mindset.”

Purpose is the language of the millennial generation.

“Purpose nourishes meaning. To attract the talents of tomorrow, business needs to have a purpose bigger than profit, to make money with a higher meaning. Money might motivate, but no amount can inspire. Being businessworthy coins business seeking to improve society while acting responsibly, helping solve problems that create value for both business and society,” Saxegaard concludes.

On Saturday, November 12, 2016 at 11:30 AM, live from the United Nations, Saxegaard will join me for a discussion about becoming more businessworthy. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

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

Traci Johnson Kicks Off Campaign for Autism Inclusion

Former model Traci Lynn Johnson, wife of Tiki Barber, is making a difference for the autism nonprofit KultureCity. She’s leading the new campaign to help everyone understand that even though those with autism may struggle to use words to express love, they still do.

Traci says, “KC is launching a new national campaign called Love Without Words. This campaign is designed to show that while people with autism sometimes have difficulty demonstrating love verbally, it does not mean that they are not capable of love.”

Traci Johnson, courtesy of Kulture City

Traci Johnson, courtesy of Kulture City

“We have launched this campaign with different celebrities, influencers and companies,” she continues. “In this campaign, we are having these celebrities and influencers show how they demonstrate love on a daily basis without using words. We then have a call to action to ask everyone that we are reaching how they, too, show love without words. And of course, there is also a donation aspect as well.”

Traci notes that people with autism are often poorly understood. “We often face the challenge of people not realizing that children (and adults) with autism are a lot like able-bodied individuals, as well. People often think that just because someone has autism means that they don’t have feelings or emotions. This could not be further from the truth.”

The misunderstandings people have, lead to conscious and sometimes unintended discrimination, she says. “We live in a world where there is still racism, bigotry and discrimination and these feelings often are directed towards people with disabilities, such as autism.”

Traci approaches the campaign with optimism. She says, “Our success would further the goal of inclusion and social/cultural acceptance for those with autism. This is important because while a cure, treatment or reason for why autism occurs would be phenomenal, society as a whole, needs to learn how to accept people with autism until such a time that treatment may exist, because autism is not going away.”

On Thursday, November 17, 2016 at noon Eastern, Traci will join me here for a live discussion about the new campaign and its potential for impacting families with members with autism. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Traci Johnson and Tiki Barber, courtesy of Kulture City

Traci Johnson and Tiki Barber, courtesy of Kulture City

More about Kulture City:

Twitter: @kulturecity

Kulture City is the fastest growing autism non-profit in the country. KC’s mission is to gain autism acceptance in every community throughout the world. KC is striving to accomplish this by pushing boundaries and by changing the culture that is considered normal.

Traci’s bio:

Twitter: @traciljohnson

Traci Johnson, is the wife of Tiki Barber, mother of two little girls, Brooklyn and Teagan, philanthropist and marketing consultant. She graduated from Mount Saint Mary College and attended New York University for her Master’s Degree in Journalism.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

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


Mother and Daughter Social Entrepreneurs March to Their Own Tunes

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

Last summer in Dallas, I met a remarkable mother and daughter pair of social entrepreneurs. While each heads in her own direction, both are having an impact.

Hannah Kerchner is a high school student who recognized the difficulty some students had in acquiring a band instrument and that many who were interested couldn’t join simply for lack of a few hundred dollars to buy or rent one.

Hannah says, “Around the United States there have been an increasing number of budget cuts in schools and an increasing number of low income families. Due to these cuts music programs have been cut of their funds sometimes completely. Student’s aren’t having the opportunity to be in band any more.”

Hannah launched Hannah’s Musical Hope to provide students with instruments. She explains, “To make sure every student has the opportunity to be in band Hannah’s Musical Hope provides instruments to low income students and schools. We take old instruments collecting dust in people’s attics, garages, or houses, refurbish them then donate them.”

Hannah’s impact goes beyond music. “Everything is run by high school students so that students also have the opportunity to make an impact in their community,” she notes.

Hannah says the biggest challenge she faces is in raising money. “The biggest challenge we face is fundraising. We have instruments, and we have people who need instruments but we don’t have the money to fix the instruments or grow the business.” She is running a crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo’s Generosity, but hasn’t made much progress.

Sadly, Hannah acknowledges that sometimes instruments aren’t the only thing preventing a school from running a band program. “If a school is trying to cut out their music program completely we can give them all the donations and instruments they need but if there is no support in the community or willingness by the school board then the music program will still be lost.”

Hannah remain optimistic. “If we are able to give all low income students and schools what they need then all students will have an equal opportunity to a full education. Music is really important in schools and has been proved to increase test scores and helps students learn better. If Hannah’s Musical Hope is successful, a happier, healthier, more responsible, and smarter society will be created.”

Hannah’s mother, Angela”Angie” Kerchner, MD, is a medical doctor who is launching a practice in holistic medicine that combines the best of traditional and alternative medicine she calls the Avalo Center for Integrative Health & Wellness.

She says doing medical school and residency with a young family wasn’t easy. “Without the strength and support of my family, I would not be where I am today.”

She quickly became disillusioned with the practice of medicine.

Angie says, “When I reached the end of my training, I realized there were limitations on my ability to care for patients the way I felt they wanted and deserved. Once I realized all that I had worked for was not what I had envisioned when I chose to become a doctor, I knew I had to push further, find a way to help physicians like myself practice medicine in a way that felt like we were really making a difference in the health of our communities.”

She explains the pressure she felt, saying, “The mainstream medical industry was pushing hard for me to enter a practice where I knew I would feel that I was cheated and would be cheating my patients. I couldn’t do it. I knew I needed to find another way to make a difference. That was how the plans for Avalo were born.”

Moving forward and overcoming her fears presented a big challenge, she says. “The biggest challenge to overcome was myself. Finding the courage to leave the safe space of fitting in with the conventional healthcare system and following the path that my heart led me toward was the hardest part of this journey. When my father passed away from cancer earlier this year, I finally knew I had no choice but to forge ahead. Settling for living and working within the confines of artificial boundaries is simply not option for me.”

Angie is no quitter. “I have overcome a lot of challenges in my life, and this one is no different. I simply refuse to give up until I know I have done absolutely everything in my power to conquer any hurdles that may lie ahead.”

Angie finds strength and motivation from her patients. “More than anyone or anything else, it is my patients that have given me the constant reminder that change is not only needed, but imperative. The interactions I have with the faces and stories of complete strangers are what truly keep me on the path toward making a difference. I won’t give up on Avalo, because doing so would be giving up on those patients.”

On Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 4:00 Eastern, Hannah and Angie will join me for a live discussion about their remarkable efforts to make the world better in their own ways. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Hannah Kerchner, courtesy of Hannah's Musical Hope

Hannah Kerchner, courtesy of Hannah’s Musical Hope

More about Hannah’s Musical Hope:

Twitter: @h_musical_hope

Hannah’s Musical Hope is focused on Keeping the Music playing. With large budget cuts in schools and an increasing number of low income families music programs are dying and student’s don’t have the opportunity to be in band. To solve the increasing problem we take used musical instruments, refurbish them, then donate them to low income students and schools. Hannah’s Musical Hope is a certified 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 2015. Everything is run by high school students so they can learn leadership, responsibility, how to run a business, and help their community.

More about the Avalo Center for Integrative Health & Wellness:

Twitter: @drangie_avalo

Avalo Center for Integrative Health & Wellness, Inc, is a start-up company working to solve some of the major issues plaguing healthcare in the U.S., including high cost and poor outcomes. We are working to fully integrate conventional family medicine together with holistic, preventive, healing and wellness practices under one roof so that patients can get well and stay well. We are doing this under a unique business model that we believe can lower healthcare costs for patients and companies, will provide for a strong relationship between patients & their doctors, and provide more access to personal care. Avalo is focused on making sure that the major stakeholders in health – patients & their physicians – are able to work together to meet health goals without barriers.

Hannah’s bio:

Twitter: @HKerchner

Hannah Kerchner is a high school student from Iowa. When she first joined the band in the 6th grade, Hannah played trumpet, which allowed her to learn with the same instrument her dad had received when he was in high school. A 3rd generation trumpet player, she instantly fell in love with both the instrument and music.

By the time she reached high school, Hannah had become more involved in band activities. Music had become an important part of her life. In her own words, band was more than a class or a hobby, “the members of the band are my friends, my team, and my family.” She also recognized that participation in band was what had kept her most interested in school. Hannah loves to learn. Unlike other classes, where an assignment is completed, playing trumpet gives Hannah a perpetual challenge. She can always take learning to a new level. For someone who loves to learn the way she does, band was the perfect class.

Hannah began to realize that some of her friends were not in band because of the cost. She then found out that schools had cut fine arts programs completely due to shrinking educational budgets, and many others (including her own school) were struggling. Some students were unable to take part in band due to the high cost of instruments, and dwindling music education budgets meant school rentals were also becoming more difficult than in the past. Knowing how much music had helped her do well in school and find her niche, she wanted to do something to help.

In May of 2015, Hannah attended an entrepreneurial conference. It was there that she learned how to start a business, and that no matter age or circumstances, everyone in the U.S. has the same opportunity. While at the conference, Hannah received an incredible amount of encouragement to follow her heart and live her dream.

Within a few months, Hannah was able to begin to see her goal become reality. Hannah’s Musical Hope was officially incorporated in her home state of Iowa in mid-2015. By August, instrument donations began to come in, and by late fall, Hannah completed the necessary steps to file for her non-profit organization status. It was a lot of work, but she kept working at it, refusing to give up on her goal.

Fundraisers and t-shirt sales helped pay the legal fees to send in the paperwork. Then, in July 2016, Hannah received official notice from the IRS that Hannah’s Musical Hope was officially granted 501(c)3 non-profit status.

Hannah is looking forward to continuing to grow Hannah’s Musical Hope to help her own community and others, as well. She & the team also hope to develop HMH chapters in other school districts so that other kids can learn about how to run a business, become leaders in their communities, and to see and hear the difference kids can make if they set their goals high.

Hannah is involved in West Branch High’s marching, concert, and jazz bands, and also enjoys playing in the band for Christopher Jive & The Uptown 45 Show Choir. In 2016, the show choir band, dubbed, “Nick & the Lemon Heads,” won Best Band Awards at three of their competitions. Hannah also participates in drama, works a part-time job in addition to running Hannah’s Musical Hope, and enjoys time with her family, friends, and her dog, Sirius. Keep an eye out for her upcoming first book, which is scheduled to be published later this year.

Dr. Angela Kerchner, MD.

Dr. Angela Kerchner, MD.

Angela’s bio:

Twitter: @drangiekerchner

Angela Kerchner M.D. is board certified in both family medicine and integrative holistic medicine. She is Founder & President of Avalo Center for Integrative Health and Wellness, Inc. After attending the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine, she completed her residency in family medicine at the University of Iowa’s Genesis Quad Cities Family Medicine Residency Program in Davenport, Iowa, leading to diplomacy from the American Board of Family Medicine. After residency Dr. Kerchner earned additional board certification through the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. In addition to her professional pursuits, Dr. Kerchner has been working on medical missions and education efforts in Haiti since the earthquake shook the nation in 2010. At home, while working extensively as an emergency room physician in underserved communities, Dr. Kerchner recognized the challenges that face both patients and physicians in the current healthcare system. Realizing the need for alternative practice models, she began attending business conferences to increase skills in entrepreneurship, leadership, and business communication leading up to the development of the plans for Avalo Canters. Outside of her professional life, Dr. Kerchner is married and is mom to three children, three dogs, and three cats. She enjoys art, literature, and travel. The family lives on a small farm in Iowa.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

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


Cancer Survivor, Sommelier Infuses New Venture With Purpose

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Kirsten Henry Fox is an executive sommelier and entrepreneur who survived breast cancer in 2014. The cancer scare inspired her newest venture, Uplift Gift, a company launched on October 1st that sends gift boxes, typically including just the right wine for the occasion, to people experiencing cancer or other challenge.

Fox says, “For our launch, we are offering two types of gift boxes: one without wine, one with wine. Each gift box contains the following: a soft, ivory pashmina, hand-crafted chocolates, gourmet tea sampler, velvety sipping cocoa, three essential oils and a custom, hand-written greeting card. Optionally, if desired and legal to ship into the distressed friend’s state, the customer can add a bottle of white or red wine.”

“The gift boxes we will be offering at our launch,” she says, “include items that personally were meaningful for me when I was going through the trauma of diagnosis of stage 2 breast cancer. These are similar to packages my friends brought to me.”

The package without wine costs $176 with shipping. The package with wine costs $205. She projects a 53 percent gross margin with these prices.

From the start, 5 percent of the sales price will go to charity. Initially, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation will be the beneficiary. Ultimately, Fox says, she’s solicit charity nominations from her vendors.

Over time, she says, she plans to add more gift boxes for more circumstances.

Kirsten Henry Fox, courtesy of Uplift Gift

Kirsten Henry Fox, courtesy of Uplift Gift

Fox is the author of The Profitable Wine List and is also the CEO and founder of the Culinary Wine Institute.

There’s a need, she says, for the Uplift Gift service. “When friends are going through life’s challenges – divorce, death, bad medical diagnosis, pet loss – women are compelled to do something to show they care, but often they don’t have the time or ideas as to what to do, especially when their friends live out of town. They ponder what to send that means a lot to show the depth of their feelings; their friend is struggling and needs more than a ‘typical’ gift. And finding words to say is sometimes even harder.”

Fox hopes that the carefully curated packages will give recipients comfort, not only because of the contents, but also from seeing the donation to a nonprofit.

She also sees that her venture is stepping into an emotionally difficult situation, raising the bar on customer service. “Both parties involved are in pain – the supportive friend needs a meaningful way to show her love; the distressed friend is dealing with a huge life challenge. We can’t screw up by over promising and under delivering. If we screw that up, we will have two hurting people hurting more.”

There are limitations inherent in her business model. The prices are not accessible to everyone. “These are not gift boxes for women who are trying to put food on the table or who are struggling to pay bills. We help them by funding non-profits,” she says.

Despite the challenges and limitations, Fox is confident that Uplift Gift can make a difference for women in distress. “Our success will mean that distressed women will feel their friends’ love when they need it most.”

Karyn Barsa, a recognized leader in social entrepreneurship who previously served as CEO of Investors’ Circle, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing together social entrepreneurs and accredited investors, sees the potential for Fox to make a big difference. Uplift Gift makes it easy to express support and affection, fundamental to the peace we seek throughout the world.”

On Thursday, October 6, 2016 at 3:00 Eastern, Fox will join me here for a live discussion about the launch of Uplift Gift and how she hopes to help women going through what she’s already been through. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

NET Effects Traders: Changing Lives. One Bag at a Time.

This is a guest post from Ardice Farrow, the Founder and Director of Net Effects Traders.

At the age of 63 I looked back on my amazing life. A life full of adventure, love and deep satisfaction. I looked forward into those “golden years” – the last third of my life and wondered to myself “What do I want to do with these years? What do I want my final legacy to be?”

I knew I wanted to be having the time of my life, I wanted another grand adventure and I knew that I wanted to contribute to women and children. I wanted to “Retire on Purpose”. I had no experience with nonprofits, social programs or teaching in the classroom but at the age of 63 there is little to lose and much to gain so I hopped on a plane to Cambodia after a short volunteer stint in Tanzania.

I did not expect to fall in love at this late stage in my life. But I did. Within weeks I was head over heels in love with Cambodia. Despite the wretched past of the Khmer Rouge and massive genocide and the generational poverty that grips most of the country the Cambodians are the most loving, generous, joy filled and funny folks I have ever met. I was further seduced by the warm tropical weather the drama and the romance of the torrid monsoon rains and the mighty moonlit Mekong River. I loved the food, the crazy traffic and I could wear flip flops every day.

I was soon hired by a large non-profit organization to create leadership programs for young adults, empowerment programs for impoverished moms and women working in small fair trade garment centers.

After two years of experiencing the power of Trade instead of Aid, trying to break the cycle of generational poverty, I had developed a huge affinity for the disenfranchised women of Cambodia. They had become my friends. I had sat in their humble homes – hundreds of make-shift shelters built on an old landfill with conditions that would appall most of us here in the West. I had shared the triumph of their children in school, the heartbreak of abusive husbands and not having enough food and helped those in the small garment centers build their confidence, self-respect and leadership skills.


Empowered by their growing skills as artisans and good wages I saw these capable women become confident, as collecting a fair wage led to more financial freedom and allowed them to make good decisions for their families and continue to educate themselves. My adventure had turned a corner. I was now an advocate to end generational poverty and provide structures for partnership instead philanthropy. I asked myself ‘What could I do to accelerate this process?’

And so Net Effects Traders was born. Net Effects Traders is a focused on creating fabulous fashion bags for western consumers made by artisans in Cambodia for whom I provide training and fair wage jobs. I also have the great good fortune of partnering with a Phnom Penh design and production team and a Cambodian business leader who had been training landmine and polio survivors, hearing impaired and impoverished mothers for over a decade.

These are incredibly wonderful and hardworking people would have been left to scavenge the streets at night for cans and bottles to sell just to feed their families or been found on a street corner, child in hand, begging for a few coins from passing cars.

Today the Net Effects collection features everything from wallet – clutch hybrids to durable beach totes and hip retro style messenger bags. We decided our colorful bags and totes should be “zero waste” made from repurposed industrial and agricultural netting found in Cambodia that would otherwise end up in the city dump. We also decided to give back further by donating portion of our proceeds to “Nothing But Nets”, the international organization that is distributing mosquito nets to impoverished families around the globe.

I now have the pleasure of promoting the notion of “Shopping for Change” and speaking to the life-altering impact consumers can have simply by becoming more and more conscious about the companies they buy from. One does not need to hop on a plane and fly across the globe to make a difference. But I’m glad I did.

Ardice Farrow

Ardice Farrow

About Ardice Farrow:

Ardice splits her time between Cambodia and Los Angeles, as Founder and Director of Net Effects Traders. Practicing Trade not Aid, Ardice advocates to impact and empower disenfranchised Cambodian women through training, fair wage jobs and great working conditions.

She Left a Student; She Returned an Activist

Everything changed when she got there.

Ann Cotton was studying in Cambridge. She wanted to know why so few girls were attending school in Zimbabwe. There were 7 boys for every girl in school. She’d repeatedly heard that parents didn’t want to send their girls to school.

Then, in 1991, she traveled to Zimbabwe.

When she talked to parents, she learned they did want to educate their girls. The problem was money. They didn’t have enough money to send all their children to school. Forced to choose, they sent their boys who had better prospects for work.

She returned to Cambridge an activist.

Ann Cotton

Ann Cotton

No one believed her. She had to go it alone. She held bake sales to raise the money to send 32 girls to school in Zimbabwe. The girls prospered and Ann grew the program.

She called her organization The Campaign for Female Education or CamFed. CamFed has now directly supported the education of 1.4 million children in five countries in Africa.

What if she had never gone?

Learn more on Forbes.

Never miss another story! Join Devin here!

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


1.1 Million Refugees Arrive in Germany; What Happens Next Will Inspire You

She thought the images weren’t fair.

When Anne Kjaer Reichert saw the photos in the media of some of the 1.1 million refugees arriving in Germany, she said,

“We need to stop talking about refugees and start talking with refugees instead.”

Anne met a refugee named Mohammad, who had been a programmer.

He explained that he couldn’t program because he didn’t have a computer.

She knew that 43,000 I.T. jobs were open in Germany.

So, she decided to launch the ReDI School of Digital Integration to teach them coding skills.

In one year, she launched her nonprofit school and has already trained dozens of students.

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan even visited the school and “geeked out” with students.

The program is working!

Her students even created an app called Bureaucrazy to help refugees navigate the bureaucracy.

Rotary’s John Hewko said, “If we don’t act now to build the conditions for peace, then events that undermine it will only increase.”

Learn more on Forbes.

Never miss another story! Join Devin here!

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


She Feared the Worst and Found It Was True

“We had to let them use us,” they said.

Celeste’s mind raced. What did they mean?

She feared the worst. The girls confirmed that they were being sexually exploited for access to feminine hygiene products.

The girls were ecstatic receiving their first reusable pads.

Celeste Mergens is the founder of Days for Girls, a nonprofit that provides washable, reusable sanitary pads to girls in the developing world.

Celeste says, “If you are sitting on a pile of leaves [for lack of a pad] how can you believe you have as much to contribute to your community as anyone else and that your voice counts?”

She’s learned that 2.6 million girls are not attending school in Kenya alone. Providing sanitary pads keeps girls in school and breaks cycles of poverty—in addition to reducing gender-based violence.

Having already reached 300,000 girls in 101 countries, her “audacious” goal is to reach every woman and girl in the world by 2022.

Learn more here.

Never miss another story! Join Devin here!

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


Entrepreneur Launches High Impact Nonprofit Without Giving Up Career

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

“Somebody ought to do something about that.” If you’re like me, you’ve said that–if only to yourself–on occasion. The most successful people in the world seem to be the ones who don’t. Instead, they do something.

Most of us aren’t willing to give up our careers to “do something” to solve a social problem, especially if there is no good answer to the partner question, “What’s in it for me?” Mellanie True Hills, a professional speaker who has earned the National Speakers Association’s Certified Speaking Professional designation, recognized a problem and created a nonprofit to address it without giving up her career.

Hills launched her nonprofit, American Foundation for Women’s Health, which in turn runs StopAfib.org, after having a near-death experience resulting from atrial fibrillation or “Afib.” StopAfib.org is a patient-to-patient organization that works to help those experiencing Afib to advocate for themselves with the healthcare community to get the best possible outcomes.

StopAfib.org operates on an annual budget of approximately $500,000, she says. The revenue comes from donations from individuals, corporations and foundations. With a small staff, the organization has been able to drive significant impact by partnering with other organizations and advocating at the national level. For instance, Hills was a driving force in the creating and national recognition of Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month.

Hills says she is on a mission. “My mission is to rid the world of strokes caused by atrial fibrillation through raising awareness of it and through educating and supporting those living with it.”

Mellanie True Hills, courtesy of StopAfib.org

Mellanie True Hills, courtesy of StopAfib.org

“Approximately 30 million people worldwide have atrial fibrillation (AF or afib), an irregular heartbeat that causes strokes, heart failure, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Afib-related strokes are twice as deadly as other strokes (because the clots are huge), and three times as deadly as other strokes in the first 30 days,” Hills says, highlighting the reasons that understanding Afib is so important.

Hills notes that there is another problem. “Many people may not even know that they have atrial fibrillation, especially the silent form of it. Thus, they may be time bombs walking around waiting to go off.” This makes awareness particularly important as people who don’t know they have Afib certainly aren’t getting the treatment they need.

Hills’ work began with the Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month she helped to create in 2007. Since then, StopAfib.org has organized or helped to organize conferences and roundtables on the topic to educate patients. She says, StopAfib.org convened the First National Atrial Fibrillation Health Policy Roundtable in Washington, DC, which brought together patient organizations, medical societies, government agencies, and payers to surface issues and work together to address them.”

The young organization has had outsized impacts by partnering with other organizations. She says, ”We have worked in conjunction with medical societies, such as the Heart Rhythm Society (electrophysiologists), the American College of Cardiology (cardiologists), and the American Heart Association (heart doctors), to get Congress to introduce Resolutions related to Atrial Fibrillation.”

The last effort brought an interesting connection with the world’s most famous romantic balladeer. “It was in conjunction with this that I had the opportunity to follow Barry Manilow in front of members of Congress to thank the Senate for passing the AF Resolution and to ask the House of Representatives to do so,” she says.

StopAfib.org has had an impact globally, not just in the U.S. Hills notes, “Globally, we have been part of the Action for Stroke Prevention Coalition of medical societies and patient organizations, working together around the globe to develop stroke crisis reports and work with policymakers to elevate atrial fibrillation and strokes on national health policy agendas in Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific.”

The organization, working with others, is focusing more attention on those who may have Afib and not know it. As part of an international effort called AF-Screen International, StopAfib.org has worked to poll 3,000 patients to better understand the problem. Hills admits the organization now faces a challenge: “tackling healthcare systems at the country level to get them to address this problem” by requiring and funding screenings.

Pegine Echevarria, a prominent member of the National Speakers Association and Hills’ professional colleague, says she has been successful because she is focused. She adds, “She is influencing those who serve in the StopAfib community through education, tireless advocacy and intense research. She is a powerful matriarch within the community, relentless, passionate and fierce in her mission.”

Linda Swindling, JD, CSP, professional speaker, author of several books, is also a professional colleague. She’s known Hills for over 20 years and so has seen StopAfib.org grow from its seeds with Hills in the hospital nearly a decade ago. She’s seen the impact her work has on individuals.

Swindling says, “Personally, I’ve seen the impact this vital information has had on friends and families. My father is a heart patient and I know how important great advice is. When one of my friends needed information quick on her own condition, Mellanie came to the rescue. She not only gave my friend tools, information and talking points, she got on the phone and discussed questions to talk over with my friend’s medical team. Interesting that this intelligent communication about the heart is created by someone whose brilliance is supported by her big heart.”

Hills sees her work as a way for her to save lives and help people avoid the tragic complications of strokes even when they are survived. “Through awareness, and getting people diagnosed and treated before they have a stroke, we can decrease the number of Afib-related strokes worldwide. That decreases overall healthcare costs in a time where healthcare resources are more and more precious; even more importantly, people with afib can continue to be productive members of society, and their family members are not relegated to being caretakers for stroke victims.”

On Wednesday, September 14, 2016 at 1:00 Eastern, Hills will join me here for a live discussion about her remarkable dual career and the impact she is having on the world through her nonprofit work. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Hilton Prize Winner Works to Eradicate Vaccine-Preventable Disease

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Improving public health in the developing world faces seemingly insurmountable odds. The Task Force for Global Health, or TFGH, is working to change those odds. Last month, CEO Dave Ross accepted on behalf of the organization a $2 million prize from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for its annual Humanitarian Prize.

“The Task Force is about compassion, collaboration, and smart solutions,” said Hilton Foundation CEO Peter Laugharn upon granting the award. “The organization and its partners roll up their sleeves and solve massive global health problems, and they do it without fanfare. This is an organization that, with its partners, is on track to help eliminate three diseases in the next decade. That is something we should all celebrate.”

Dave frames the problem this way: “People who live in extreme poverty survive on less than $1.25 a day and lack access to food, clean water, and basic health services, including immunizations and medicines. Because of their impoverished status, they also are preferentially targeted by infectious diseases that cause blindness, disfigurement, impaired cognition, stunted growth, paralysis, and even death.”

A boy helps Samuel Nicol (age unknown), who was blinded by river blindness, walk through the village of Gbonjeima, Sierra Leone, on Saturday, July 14, 2012. The Task Force for Global Health is working with partners to eliminate river blindness by 2025. Copyright: Olivier Asselin, courtesy of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases.

A boy helps Samuel Nicol (age unknown), who was blinded by river blindness, walk through the village of Gbonjeima, Sierra Leone, on Saturday, July 14, 2012. The Task Force for Global Health is working with partners to eliminate river blindness by 2025. Copyright: Olivier Asselin, courtesy of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases.

The TFGH is working to reduce the odds of preventable illnesses, ultimately working to reduce the odds to zero wherever possible.

“The Task Force for Global Health is working to improve the health of people most in need, primarily in developing countries,” Dave says. “The Task Force consists of programs focused on neglected tropical diseases, vaccines, field epidemiology, public health informatics, and health workforce development.”

The work isn’t easy and there is no guarantee of success. The obstacles that stand in the way seem too large to overcome.

Dave says, “The Task Force faces four types of challenges in its work. They include:

  1. Coordinating and managing complex disease control and elimination programs at significant scales;
  2. Maintaining these programs in countries with conflict and unrest;
  3. Addressing scientific challenges to disease control and elimination; and
  4. Keeping international attention and resources focused on addressing diseases of extreme poverty.”

Ultimately, the size of the problem is the biggest challenge, meaning that the organization needs help to achieve its mission.

“The massive scale of these problems represents the biggest challenge to The Task Force’s work and makes it impossible for us to address them alone. Collaboration is essential to solving global health problems that affect billions of people around the world,” Dave adds.

The benefits of success could tremendously outweigh the costs to get there, however. Once eradicated, a disease will never kill or maim another child.

“Disease eradication is often considered the holy grail of public health because its benefits extend to everyone, both current and future generations. In communities affected by these diseases, fear of the future has been replaced with hope for lives free of debilitating diseases and suffering. The humanitarian impact of The Task Force’s work extends beyond alleviating the burden of diseases that have plague humanity for millennia. Ending these diseases has long-term implications for the development of poor countries,” Dave concludes.

On Wednesday, September 14, 2016 at 3:00 Eastern, Dave will join me here for a live discussion about the Hilton Prize, the work of the TFGH and a future free of vaccine preventable disease. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Dave Ross, courtesy of the Task Force for Public Health

Dave Ross, courtesy of the Task Force for Global Health

More about the Task Force for Global Health:

Twitter: @TFGH

The Task Force for Global Health is an international, nonprofit organization that works to improve health of people most in need, primarily in developing countries. Founded in 1984 by global health pioneer Bill Foege, The Task Force consists of programs focused on neglected tropical diseases, vaccines, field epidemiology, public health informatics, and health workforce development. The Task Force works in partnership with ministries of health and hundreds of organizations, including major pharmaceutical companies that donate billions of dollars annually in essential medicines. Major funders include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, de Beaumont Foundation, U.S. Agency for International Development, Sightsavers, Pfizer, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, and GSK. The Task Force team consists of 120 scientists, program experts, logisticians, and other global health professionals. It is affiliated with Emory University, headquartered in Decatur, Georgia, and has regional offices in Guatemala and Ethiopia. The Task Force currently supports work in 151 countries.

Dave’s bio:

Dave Ross, ScD, is president and chief executive officer (CEO) of The Task Force for Global Health. In this role, Dr. Ross provides strategic direction to The Task Force and oversees seven programs focused on neglected tropical diseases, vaccines, field epidemiology, and public health informatics. He assumed leadership of The Task Force on May 1, 2016, after 16 years as director of The Task Force’s Public Health Informatics Institute (PHII) and its predecessor All Kids Count.

For more than 35 years, Dr. Ross has led collaborative programs to strengthen information capacity of public health systems in the United States and other countries. In addition to his non-profit experience, he has worked in the public and private sectors on both healthcare delivery and medical informatics.

Dr. Ross launched PHII in 2002 and spearheaded its growth to become internationally recognized in the field of public health informatics, a discipline that focuses on using information to improve health outcomes. Today, PHII has a $7.4-million annual budget with a diverse portfolio of domestic and international programs supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and top-tier national foundations. Most recently, PHII partnered with the Emory Global Health Institute on a major initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help understand and ultimately address the causes of death and serious illness for children under 5 in developing countries. This initiative will last at least 20 years and may commit more than $1 billion in funding to support improved disease surveillance.

Dr. Ross is a thought leader and one of the pioneers of public health informatics. He was founding director of CDC’s first national initiative to improve the information infrastructure of public health in the United States. Dr. Ross also has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals and frequently serves on national panels focused on public health informatics. He co-chaired “Data for Health,” a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative that is exploring how information and data on health can be harnessed to help people lead healthier lives. Before joining The Task Force, Dr. Ross held leadership, administrative, and corporate consultant roles with the U.S. Public Health Service, CDC, a private hospital system in Maryland, and one of the largest health information technology firms. Dr. Ross holds a doctor of science degree in operations research from The Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado.

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

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