amazon facebook_32 gplus_32 linkedin_32 pinterest_32 tumblr_32 twitter_32 website_32 youtube_32 email_32 rss_32

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

Philanthropy

This category includes stories about philanthropy, typically covering the generosity of individuals, families, groups of individuals and foundations (nonprofits primarily in the business of funding other nonprofits.

A Bagel Store Against Gender-Based Violence

This post was originally published on Dive in Social. If you enjoy this content like our Facebook Page, join our closed discussion group and get our weekly newsletter featuring the best of Dive in Social.

Speaking about human trafficking is somehow surreal. It feels like talking about horror movies, but it is a sad reality for thousands of people. According to a UN report published last year, from 2010 and 2012, 510 human trafficking routes around the world and victims from 152 countries. The document also shows that 49% of those victims are women, and when girls are included numbers reach 70%. More staggering data? 53% of victims suffer from sexual harassment and 40% experienced forced labour or working conditions analogue to slavery. It sounds like a thriller, but these are the facts against which Serbian NGO Atina has fought for more than a decade. Besides offering support to victims of human trafficking, Atina also supports women who are victims of other gender-based violence.

In 2015, entrepreneurship became an ally of the association’s cause. After joining a congress on business and third sector, the non-profit decided to get roll up its sleeves and open a bagel shop. “We used to receive support from funds, associations and governments, but we cannot rely entirely on that”, Marijana Savić tells us. She is director at the NGO and also manages Bagel Бејгл (or Bagel Bagel), a name that mixes latin and cyrillic alphabets.

That was how the idea of opening a social business came to life. According to Marijana, despite having started an economic activity recently (the official opening was in last April), running Atina was never too far from managing a business. “When you are raising funds, you need a plan, in the end, you are offering a service by speaking about a cause”, she explains. The NGO’s values also support the idea of it having an economic activity. “We want to support women so that they become economically independent, otherwise it is useless to work on their recovering and then get them back to risk exposure, to the same environment and circumstances where they had suffered before”, she ponders.

In the bagel store, besides having their profit directed to the institution, there is training for the work in the kitchen, catering service and in-store client service. “Our final goal is creating an atmosphere and a community that can include, offer alternatives to victims of gender-based violence and offering significant mechanisms to these people. We need to promote economic empowerment, she reaffirms.

During our chat, Marijana needed several breaks so that she could assist customers, answer questions and pick up the phone. Good sign for business. “Several people don’t know that we are a social business, sometimes the cause itself is not enough to sell the product. Some people come to eat and it is important to have a high quality product. Many come, like it, and when they get to know it is a bonus. Ah! And you gotta try it!”, Marijana warns us.

We tried. And, having come for the cause, we bet that high quality product plus important cause is the recipe for success. The expansion plan involves a bigger store and broadening the catering service, besides, of course, giving more opportunities to victims of gender-based violence.

Like our content? Share it with your friends, join our closed Facebook group and get our free weekly newsletter.

Filmmaker Focuses Lens On Nobel Peace Prize Winner Yunus

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Filmmaker Holly Mosher is a remarkable social entrepreneur herself, focusing her lens on a variety of social issues. Recently, I saw her film about arguably the greatest social entrepreneur on the planet, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus. I saw the film, Bonsai People, and met her at the 2015 Parliament of World Religions held in Salt Lake City.

The film title comes from Yunus’s observation that people who live in poverty are not deficient people, but like a bonsai tree, they are planted in confining circumstances that prevent them from reaching their potential.

Mosher explains, “When millions of people were starving from the famine in Bangladesh, Muhammad Yunus was inspired to try to do something to help. What he ended up creating was a microcredit program that enabled people to start their own income generating activities and get on their feet. But while working with the poorest of the poor, he saw that just like they lack access to financial services they also lack access to so many things we all take for granted: education, healthcare, nutrition, alternative energy, technology, etc. So he’s gone on to create 60+ social businesses all aimed at helping the poor.”

“I read about his work and was inspired to make a film that showed his vision and how his work affects those on the ground in rural Bangladesh. By creating the film, I’m able to help inspire those around the world to join the social business movement and help solve local problems in their own communities. They will see how he always looks to get to the root of the problem and come up with a business solution that really creates empowerment and change,” Mosher continued.

Mosher hopes not only that people will see the film, but also that they will be motivated to act. “The more people that see the film, the more that will be inspired to join the new social business movement. The film has been used as a tool in many of the social enterprise programs that are starting to pop up at universities across the country, so that people can more deeply understand how the most successful social entrepreneur has taken this business model and created sustainable businesses in seemingly every sector. If he can do it in Bangladesh, we can recreate this model around the globe.”

On Thursday, October 29, 2015 at 1:00 Eastern, Mosher will join me for a live discussion about Yunus and the film. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Holly Mosher filming, courtesy of Holly Mosher

Holly Mosher filming, courtesy of Holly Mosher

More about Holly Mosher:

Twitter: @filmsforchange @bonsaimovie

Holly Mosher is an award winning filmmaker and honors graduate from NYU, creating films inspiring positive change. Holly had her directorial debut with the award-winning Hummingbird, an emotionally compelling, award-winning documentary about two non-profits in Brazil that work with street children and women who suffer domestic violence. She then produced two films on healthcare – Money Talks: Profits Before Patient Safety and Side Effects, starring Katherine Heigl. She co-produced Maybe Baby, about single women trying to get pregnant. She executive produced Vanishing of the Bees, narrated by Ellen Page and Free For All, about election issues and Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes, a film about the influence of money in politics. Her latest directorial project was Bonsai People – The Vision of Muhammad Yunus, which follows the work of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus from microcredit to social business.

 

Toyo Tires Presents Meals on Wheels America with Donations and Tires To Help Reach Seniors During Harsh Winter Conditions

This is a guest post from Julie Sediq, senior manager of marketing communications at Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp.

Last year the Boston area set a record for the most snow in a year. One storm in Detroit meanwhile was the third worst on record with over 16 inches of snow and at points during the winter, snow covered more than half the nation. As a company that makes tires, safe and effective travel in this weather is important to us and it’s even more important if your job is to deliver meals to the home bound elderly.

That’s why we are proud to partner with Meals on Wheels America to help deliver meals to local communities around the nation. We have committed to help the programs be successful in showing up and assisting with the safe and reliable delivery of critical meals and safety checks on homebound seniors across the nation.

Meals on Wheels America is a community-based service that provides fresh, nutritious meals delivered directly to the homes of seniors and individuals with disabilities. In addition to regularly providing healthy foods, caring staff and volunteers provide social connections that helps meal recipients remain living independently in their own homes. In some communities Meals on Wheels is expected to deliver as many as 90,000 meals in the upcoming year.

In October, Toyo Tires started making $5,000 cash grants and equipping 14 local programs with a new set of tires so drivers can safely make those important deliveries this winter. Most of the vehicles will be equipped with a set of Toyo Celsius variable-conditions tires–a just introduced tire that has better ice and snow traction than the all-season tires that are found on so many cars. They are especially helpful in communities where drivers face tough winter conditions. The grants will help the local programs prepare and deliver more meals, offset equipment costs and expand programs.

Here’s what some of the programs have said:

“Funding from Toyo Tires would allow Metro Meals on Wheels and member programs to continue to serve our mission to assure every senior in the Twin Cities who needs a meal receives one. Specifically, this funding would help to fund the food, assembly and delivery of 10,000 Blizzard Box’s for 5,000 seniors in the Twin Cities. This opportunity also opens up 80 volunteer spots to assemble boxes and make deliveries to those in need. Often times the daily delivery over lunch hour is hard for working professionals to commit to, this opportunity gives those who want to give back a one-time opportunity to do so.”

– Metro Meals on Wheels–Minneapolis, MN

“Being able to keep a vehicle on the road meals that 80 seniors will receive their MOW delivery each day.”

– Kit Clark Senior Services–Dorchester/Boston, MA

“By using this gift to offset the equipment repair costs outlined above, we will not need to pull out that money away from our food funding. For the $5,000 that will continue be available to us for food expense, we will be able to provide food delivery for four days of approximately 225 meals for seniors, per day.”

– Burlington Meals on Wheels–Burlington, VT

So far Toyo Tires has made donations and delivered tires to Meals on Wheels America affiliates in Detroit MI, Boulder CO, Kansas City MO, Salt Lake City UT, Green Bay WI,  Waukegan IL, Philadelphia PA, Burlington VT, Hartford CT, Dorchester MA, Providence RI, Scarborough ME, Holyoke MA, and Minneapolis MN. We hope to expand the program next year.

About Julie Sediq:

Julie Sediq is senior manager of marketing communications at Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp. She manages public relations, advertising, promotions and social media for the company.

 

A Tragedy The World Will Celebrate

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

One day soon, perhaps in the next 90 to 180 days, a toddler in Pakistan or Afghanistan, let’s call her Aisha, will be stricken with a fever and will develop a permanent paralysis, probably in the legs; before long Aisha will be diagnosed with polio. What will make her case different from the millions of polio cases before it, will be that it will never happen again.

Friday, Rotary and UNICEF, held their annual World Polio Day to celebrate the progress being made in the global effort to eradicate the disease that once killed 2,400 people in a single year in New York City alone.

While this disease could not be eradicated without an effective vaccine and much credit is appropriately due Jonas Salk, credit must also be given to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the team of organizations that has been working to end polio since the mid-1980s. Their goal has been to deliver the vaccine to every child on the planet, ensuring that the poorest of the poor in the most remote villages on the planet are provided with the life- and limb-protecting vaccine.

Anthony Lake, UNICEF CEO; John Hewko, Rotary International General Secretary. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Anthony Lake, UNICEF CEO; John Hewko, Rotary International General Secretary. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

The partners in this effort, Rotary, UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have worked since Rotary and UNICEF launched the effort back in 1988. At the time, approximately 350,000 people were diagnosed with polio every year.

So far in 2015, only 51 children have been diagnosed with polio, just a bit more than one case per week. This is almost 7 times fewer than we saw just last year when 356 cases were observed, about seven per week.

As the weather cools, the virus struggles to infect more children. So, it is hoped that this winter, inoculation efforts can snuff the virus out. With the world focused intently on the eradication of polio, every case is scrutinized.

Dr. John Sever, Vice Chair of Rotary’s International Polio Plus Committee and a former colleague of Dr. Salk, explained to me at the event that the genetic tracking of the disease suggest that despite the low numbers, a few strains of the virus continue to circulate independently in Pakistan and Afghanistan. A focused effort will be required this winter to bring an end to polio.

The battle is expensive, tallying over $10 billion since the 1980s. Rotary has, according to General Secretary John Hewko, contributed $1.5 billion to fight against polio. The Gates Foundation has become the primary private funder of the fight, but Rotary continues to raise money for the effort with a two-for-one match from the Gates Foundation. Rotary’s International Polio Plus Chair Mike McGovern made a plea for more donations to end the event.

Mia Farrow, a polio survivor herself and mother of an adopted son with polio, delivered a video message at the event. She was the first of the evening to note that eradicating polio will yield a $50 billion dividend.

The infrastructure put in place to fight polio has already been deployed in the cause of other diseases, most notably the Ebola epidemic. In addition, the work has improved access to routine immunizations for other diseases as well.

The effort has not been without opposition. In fact, as Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s CEO reminded the global, live-streamed audience, polio warriors are “risking—and sometimes losing—their own lives in the effort” to save other lives. Dozens of health workers have been murdered in recent years, mostly in Pakistan, specifically because they were providing polio vaccines. Lake called the workers “heroes.”

Noting how close we now are to eradicating polio, invoking a football metaphor, Lake said, “When the goal line is this close, we cross it.”

Jeffery Kluger of Time Magazine, who acted as the moderator for the evening’s event, reminded the audience of the 1916 polio epidemic in New York that cost 2,400 children their lives. The live audience sitting in New York was particularly struck by this statistic.

Kluger then asked the CDC’s John Vertefeuille to explain the roles played by the two polio vaccines over the years. Salk’s vaccine, an inactivated virus, is injected and is now used throughout the developed world. It provides immunity to all three types of polio virus (1, 2 and 3, as they are unimaginatively known). The Sabin vaccine, developed a few years later, is a live, attenuated virus that is delivered orally. The Sabin vaccine is also a trivalent version, but in recent years a bivalent version (omitting the type 2 virus) has been developed and used with great success. The type 2 wild polio virus was eradicated in 1999.

Vertefeuille explained that the developing world is now incorporating the Salk vaccine, commonly referred to as the IPV, which is injected, into their routine immunization programs. This is a critical step in the final eradication of the disease as the bivalent oral vaccine, on rare occasion leads to children becoming ill and spreading the disease. This less virulent form of the disease does leave some patients paralyzed. Hence, the need to switch to the IPV, which cannot lead to a circulating virus.

Jeffrey Kluger, Editor at Large, TIME; Dr. Jennifer Bremer, The Doctors. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Jeffrey Kluger, Editor at Large, TIME; Dr. Jennifer Bremer, The Doctors. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Dr. Jennifer Bremer of the television show The Doctors, took a few moments on stage to plead with parents in the United States to continue to have their children vaccinated. She explained the principle of herd immunity that comes from having a threshold proportion of a population immunized. For polio, she said, the threshold is about 80 to 85 percent. When the threshold isn’t met, the risk of an outbreak grows, she explained. She suggested that the reasons people don’t have their children vaccinated is due to misinformation or a lack of information. She concluded by saying, “Everyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated.”

Jeffrey Kluger, TIME, with actor Archie Panjabi, Rotary Polio Ambassador. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Jeffrey Kluger, TIME, with actor Archie Panjabi, Rotary Polio Ambassador. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Near the end of the program, Kluger shared the story of being approached by his then nine-year-old daughter as he was doing research on polio. She saw the image of a young girl suffering from the paralyzing effects of polio and asked him if she could catch the disease. Knowing she had been properly immunized, he was grateful, he says, to be able to say in four simple words, “No, honey, you can’t.”

Tragically, our “Aisha” will contract polio within the next unknown number of months. At first, no one will take particular note of her case as the global surveillance teams monitor weekly data coming in from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the rest of the world, but no other cases will come. It will take years to certify the world as truly polio free. As time without polio increases, Aisha will, ironically, become a celebrated symbol of the eradication of this disease.

Soon, if not this winter then next, every parent on the planet will be able to answer their children’s inquiries about contracting polio just as Kluger did his, with the simple four-word response, “No, honey, you can’t.”

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.

The Benefits of a CSR Program

This is a guest post from Sean Bergin, Co-Founder and President of APTelecom

Any company can earn a profit. However, not everything about running a business should be for-profit. There’s more to life than just work and there’s more to work than just business. That’s why it’s essential for businesses to implement a strong Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program. A CSR program allows businesses to give back and do social good for a cause dedicated to its founder’s personal beliefs. The charity for a CSR program should be selected on the idea of it aligning with the company’s overall mission. By showing its passion for something other than a bottom line, a company can use a CSR program to show its customers and employees its human side while also raising funds and awareness for a good cause.

Some ‘Scrooge’ entrepreneurs may not like the idea of a CSR program, as they might feel like it takes away time spent on earning new business and improving company revenue. A business owner might also feel like it is difficult to maintain the overall company vision when he/she has to spend time focused on a CSR program. It’s actually the opposite on both counts. A Verizon and Campbell Soup study called Project ROI proved that CSR programs can increase revenue up to 20%. The same study also went on to conclude that CSR programs increase shareholder value and improve employee productivity. A study by Nielsen found that 67% of consumers prefer to work for socially responsible companies and 55% will pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact. The ‘Scrooges’ of the world, have it wrong; they are actually hurting their business and bottom line by not having a CSR program.

Sean Bergin

Sean Bergin

When we started APTelecom, we decided to make supporting charitable program and our commitment to CSR a foundation of our company’s vision. Our aim is to continue to support charities that are in our neighborhood. This means a continued focus on assisting programs operating in emerging markets in which we operate, such as SE Asia, Africa and Latin America. We consider this a double win. We are able to receive the opportunity to support worthy causes in markets with socio-economic challenges, which ties to our core business of assisting the telecommunications industry establish new submarine cables into countries lacking access to these capabilities. While the challenges faced by each developing country in the markets in which APTelecom operate are largely determined by its local cultural, political, and economic conditions, APTelecom has found that enabling Internet access always has a profound & positive impact.

In line with this vision, APTelecom recently continued its mission by supporting underprivileged youth in several international markets. Most recently, APTelecom provided donations and ongoing support to Friends-International, whose mission is to save lives and build futures of the most marginalized youth and children in Southeast Asia. With a strong focus on doing business in emerging markets, APTelecom has a genuine desire to support charities as a way of acknowledging the support that we have received from these markets as we have grown.

We have seen the benefits of a CSR program firsthand, and have recommended that all of our customers, partners, and vendors follow suit and implement a program that is meaningful to their principle owners and values. It is part of our responsibility as business owners to lead the way on improving the way of life for those not as fortunate. With the holiday season coming up, now is a great chance to organize the foundation of CSR program and help others while also improving your bottom line, customer base, and employee morale. What’s their not to like?

About Sean Bergin:

Sean Bergin is based in APTelecom’s Asian headquarters in Cambodia and has been instrumental in building APTelecom into a globally recognized leader in telecom and fiber consulting, elevating it from a start-up business to an award-winning global organization which has generated over US $195 million in sales for clients.

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.

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.

 

Vacation Time Giving | Finding Today’s Lost Einsteins

This is a guest post from Michael Vo, a former engineering director at Tesla.

The premise is pretty simple… Most extrapolations had Einstein’s IQ at 160. The probability of having a IQ of 160+ is about one in 11,307. Now with over a billion people living in poverty today, the simple math estimates that there are well over 88,000 potential Einsteins out there, struggling to find their next meal for themselves and their family. Understandably that a certain population reading this will make the argument that through some way of natural selection, this group of impoverished people do not have the same probability of having such a high IQ. Or, even if there were 88,000 potential Einsteins, their impact to humanity would be minimal as there’s still an abundance of genius in the world. Well, we’ll walk through why the former assertion is wrong and the latter thinking is mathematically incorrect.

For those who think that people in poverty do not have the capacity to be intelligent or have children with that potential, here’s a quick sanity check;

  • For most of us that migrated to the US or had parents that migrated, ask this question — if your parents hadn’t made the move, would you have the same opportunities you have today? Some of the most influential people of our era migrated from distressed countries, and regions all over the world. What if they weren’t presented the opportunity to escape the harsh conditions? Would they still be working to solve some of humanity’s toughest challenges today or would working at a fruit stand be their calling?
  • Einstein’s parents weren’t geniuses. In fact most ‘geniuses’ had rather ordinary parents and to compound the point, also had ‘normal’ children. Nature tends to level the playing field with such ironies.

Now to the population that don’t see the significance. Imagine a world without Einstein. His work has had an immense impact on our everyday lives ranging from today’s TV’s, digital cameras,

GPS, nuclear energy, and even the alarm clock. Yes…your alarm clock! Now would other intelligent people eventually come to the same solutions, maybe… but on what time

scale? How behind would humanity be today? With 88,000 more potential Einsteins out there, imagine the impact they would have working to solve today’s biggest issues on healthcare, poverty, energy and education. Believing that 1/7th of our intelligent resources being wasted away has little impact is not only naive, but also foolish. While it can be argued that 88,000 may not be absolute or precise, it can’t be argued that the impact is not significant or perhaps even catastrophic.

The question now becomes what can we do to ensure that ALL Einsteins out there have the same opportunities to do future GREAT things? Where do the resources come from to solve this 1 Billion | 88k problem? Before we roll up our sleeves, let’s look at the current landscape..

  1. Philanthropy and charitable giving has been stagnant at 2% of US GDP since the ’70s.
  2. Philanthropy and the charity space as a whole, lack innovation and technology that excites and inspires.
  3. Last year, there was $52.4 BILLION worth of unused vacation time in just the US.

Yes, these are staggering and sobering points, however, they also lead us to the solution. With philanthropy and charitable giving stagnant at 2% GDP, how do we find new buckets of money to move that needle to 3%, 4% or even higher? Yes! Ding ding ding! Imagine, if we were able to take just 1% of the $52.4 billion of unused vacation time every year and funnel that to charities around the world that does impactful work. That would mean, an additional half a billion dollars a year going towards feeding the hungry, providing education to the underprivileged, give hope to climate change, perhaps even medical research to cure cancer. And of course, the underlying technology that integrates, make the user experience wonderful and fulfilling. we2o was spawned to help expedite this vision, solve those two fundamental equations, 1. funnel new buckets of money to facilitate charities and 2. innovate on technology necessary to bring philanthropy to equal footing to all other industries. we2o helps unify charities, companies and donors through a social giving community. The platform allows employees to use vacation and salary to support the charities they truly care about. How many Einsteins would we be able to find if everyone donated just an hour of their time across the world? Finding all 88k right away would be unrealistic, but starting with 500 or even 1000 would be great progress for humanity. The question then no longer is ‘how many Einsteins lost’ but rather ‘What’s An Hour?’

Michael Vo

Michael Vo

About Michael Vo:

Michael Vo, a former engineering director at Tesla who is passionate about technology and now focuses on bringing technology disruption to philanthropy.

Matchbook Learning Claims Solution To Struggling Public Schools

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

K-12 education in the United States just ain’t what it used to be. (Please pardon my use of the vernacular to emphasize the point.)

Sajan George, Founder and CEO of Matchbook Learning, explains, “Our nation’s K-12 public education system is in need of a turnaround. Children born in the bottom 25% income zip code have just a 9% chance of graduating from college. Our nation’s schools continue to slide against international peers. We once ranked at the top of the world in how we educated our next generation and now we are in the middle. We are failing both as a country and particularly our children of poverty. Our country needs a sustainable, scalable turnaround solution.”

George is leading revolution in education that he hopes will turn this disturbing trend around.

George describes the effort, “Matchbook combines the best in both public school turnaround expertise and blended learning expertise. Our principals are some of the country’s leading practitioners in engagements involving ‘lead turnaround partners,’ blended school design and implementation and coaching of master teachers.”

He emphasizes the use of technology and customization. “We have brought this tri-fold experience together to target school turnarounds with a customized blended model that blends face-to-face and virtual instruction in brick-and-mortar schools via a 1:1 computing environment, while coaching teachers to personalize instruction for the benefits of each and every child in their classroom.”

The focus is to enhance education at schools with most poverty, George says, noting, “Our unique and innovative blended turnaround school model is the first of its kind in the nation to be offered to schools with the highest poverty rates and needs.”

George hopes to expand the program, asking that we “encourage parents, funders and government officials to allow conditions for these kinds of 21st century models of school to proliferate based on results with the conditions necessary for rapid, sustainable scale.”

On Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 4:00 PM Eastern, George will join me for a live discussion about the problems facing K-12 education in the U.S. today and the Matchbook Learning solution. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Matchbook Learning:

Twitter: @matchbooklearn

Matchbook Learning is a national non-profit school turnaround management organizaiton. We courageously seek to turnaround some of our nation’s chronically failing K-12 public schools via our technology-enabled, personalized learning model of school. When we do, we believe that we will create powerful proof points that can transform the country.

George’s bio:

Sajan founded and leads Matchbook Learning, a national nonprofit school management organization launched in 2011 to turnaround our nation’s bottom 5% of under performing public schools with a unique blended model of school that leverages both online technology and turnaround management skills. Matchbook Learning has launched three successful school turnarounds in Detroit, MI, one in Newark, NJ and has plans to continue to expand nationally. Prior to founding Matchbook Learning, CEO Sajan George was a Managing Director with Alvarez & Marsal (“A&M”) where he led the Firm’s Education Practice. In that role, he led a diverse group of talented turnaround professionals across the U.S. in running entire K-12 public school districts. Sajan and his team at A&M employed turnaround strategies across major urban cities with precedent setting reform efforts in St Louis (2004 – first ever district to contract out its entire management to a private management firm), to New Orleans (successful post-Katrina success in designing the reopening of several schools within days after the levees historically broke – 2005 & 2006) to New York City (well chronicled turnaround and Broad Prize winner for in 2007 under Joel Klein) to Detroit (2009 & 2010 – historic State takeover and appointment of Emergency Fiscal Manager) with numerous mid-tier cities in between. Prior to A&M, Sajan was a Senior Director in Arthur Andersen’s Corporate Restructuring Group wherein he led turnarounds of companies in crisis across a range of industries in Canada, Australia and the United States.

Hat tip to Tara Russell at Fathom for the introduction to George.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!
Subscribe to news from YourMarkOnTheWorld.com
* = required field
Content I want: