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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.
Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Social Entrepreneurship

This category includes articles about social entrepreneurs, typically about businesses with a for-profit model with a social mission embedded into the fabric of the business.

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.

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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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about teleStory:

Twitter: @tele_story

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

Michael Custer, courtesy of teleStory

Michael Custer, courtesy of teleStory

Michael’s bio:

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

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Devin D. Thorpe

Dobra Torba: Women Rediscover Their Talents With Good Bags In Serbia

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.

Beautiful, practical and as strong as the women that make them. This is how Dobra Torba (serbian for “good bag”) defines itself. The project was born with support from Smart Kolektiv and the organization’s project manager, Ivana Stancic, is one of the social business’s initiators. Her current work is organizing its operations, especially building bridges between buyers and the women who sew the bags, but she ensures that her intention is “having all the process handed over to the women from the sewing associations”. Therefore, there is work of identifying leaderships so that the business manages to be run without her supervision.


Dobra Torba currently relies on 5 women who activate their network of sewers in their communities for each order placed to and forwarded by Ivana. “Virtually all of them already had sewing machines at home and are excellent professionals, from the time when Serbia had a huge textile hub (in former Yugoslavia)”, she explains.

The associations support women who unite themselves to find a way of living a better life. They are women above 55, form Serbia’s rural areas, who otherwise rely on the low pensions paid by the government, partly due to the gender pay gap, and who are out of the groups favored in job offers. Enter Dobra Torba. According to Ivana, for each bag sold, you can see a tangible result in these women’s lives. Nowadays, all the profit raised is used to pay the sewers.

The empowering work of the good bags go beyond giving more money to the workers so that they can afford a more dignified life. By choosing to work with these women’s associations, the initiative also works as a role model.

“Other initiatives are arising, they are organizing themselves and willing to form new social businesses. Our work comes to show them what they are able to”, Ivana ponders

The main challenge faced by the brand is reaching prices competitive enough, comparing to chinese goods. The bags are usually bought for events or corporate branding activities by companies and governmental organs. “But it is impossible to reach their prices, when our goal is offering a fair pay and respect everyone in the value chain”, Ivana comments. The solution found was using the experience of many women in the associations to develop a unique model. The good bags are foldable and have slide fastener. Also, a new model is under development, smaller and more simple, so that the brand has an entrance product, more competitive with chinese prices.


As next steps, Ivana tells us that there will be training to women who want to join the initiative but don’t know how to sew. “We want to think also in other similar programs, we realized that the model is amazing, so we are starting other small, local initiatives that allow us to include more women in the production process”, she concludes.

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How A Stack Of Dirty Diapers Inspired A Business

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.

Leia em Português

Sonja Dakić lives in a suburb in Belgrade where waste collection service runs only twice a week. Sometimes, when the rain comes or there is a holiday, you can’t expect it to run more than once in seven days. She and her husband always tried to have a sustainable life style, separating waste and composting, but the eco-friendly status changed seven years ago, when her daughter was born. Each wee, the stack of used diapers raised and Sonja couldn’t believe “how such a small person managed to cause such a big impact”. Buying diapers and contributing to the trash pile was not something she was into, so, she found out about reusable cloth diapers as the perfect alternative.

“Problem was finding them in Serbia. We would find them on the internet, but there was no delivery in the country. I had to mobilize all my network to try and get some diapers, then my daughter would grow beyond their size and I thought: what now?”, she tells us. The search seemed endless, then Sonja’s husband made the suggestion of producing them locally, since Serbia used to have a textile industry hub.

Although Sonja assures the entrepreneurial spirit was not one of her strengths, she decided to get hands on: in a partnership with a friend who had a shop for toddlers’ items, they started producing Daj Daj Diapers out of some savings she and Violeta Makovic, her partner, had.

“The best thing for us was that we didn’t know what would come next, so we decided to take one step at a time. If we knew, we might have given up”

The dual bought the machinery and the raw material. When they had to find skilled labour, the best choice was relying on the experience of the 50+ women who used to work in textile factories in former Yugoslavia — common narrative that we saw here and here. “They were searching for work, couldn’t position themselves in the job market and had previous experience, exactly what we needed”, she tells excited. She tells about the seamstresses’ reaction when they are consulted, because back in the days, the production process was not so open for opinions. “In the beginning, they got astonished, but they are very important for us. We have to respect their knowledge, because they are the ones who make our product, it would be nonsense not consulting the ones who bring our ideas to 3D, she explains. Nowadays, they are 3 seamstresses and the plan is hiring two more in the following months.

Sonja tells that, although she hires women from vulnerable groups and having a strong ecologic drive, it was only in the middle of their path that they found out that would be called social entrepreneurship. “Someone had to tell us”, she says between giggles. The brand grew, managed to find an interesting loan with Erste Bank — an Austrian bank that is very close to innovative and social initiatives in the Balkans — and Sonja spoke in TEDx Vienna last year.

For someone who allegedly didn’t have any tact for business in the beginning, Sonja runs Daj Daj very well: the loan is almost settled and the company has reached break even point. Now, the work is towards increasing the production scale and expand to new markets. The partners are in a program run by Impact Hub Belgrade to explore Central European markets, especially Germany.

Disposable vs reusable

But, is washing diapers really worth it? Isn’t spending more water and more energy the same as producing trash? Not necessarily. A research held in 2010 by Portuguese National Association for Nature Conservation in Quercos assures that the amount of water spent is not significantly higher when you go for cloth diapers. One can expect one ton of trash in two years using disposable diapers.

dajdaj (1 of 1)

In Daj Daj’s case, Sonja assures that parents who choose cloth diapers also save money. “Our sum shows that a child will use 20 diapers in a two-years time. They are adjustable, so they follow the baby’s growth. And if washed in the right way, they can be used by two or three toddlers, she teaches us. There is also the idea of collecting diapers already used and giving them to low income families, but the donation rate is still not enough to do so.

She highlights that, inside the company, there is still room to explain new moms the advantages and how to use the diapers and there is a work os support to mothers. Breastfeeding support group and issues related to maternal leave are also in the agenda. “In the end, it is good to have the feedback, our product is not only ecological, but also help children in some other ways. Some moms come to us with a smile in their face, because they have finally found diapers that are non-alergenic, for instance”, she recalls.

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Student Venture Seeks To Remake Slums To Support Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anne shared the SOMOS vision of the future with me:

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

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

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

More about SOMOS:

Twitter: @wearesomos

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

Anne Friedman with her niece Olivia

Anne Friedman with her niece Olivia

Anne’s bio:

Twitter: @annekiehl

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

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Devin D. Thorpe

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

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Friday, October 16, 2015 at noon Eastern, Ravindran will join me here for a live discussion about the role of religion in business and social entreprneurship. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Rotary International:

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

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

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

Ravindran’s bio:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Student Entrepreneurs Try Pre-K Education Via Cell Phone

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tembo is raising money to accelerate its growth via GoFundMe.

More about Tembo Education:

Twitter: @TemboEducation

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

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

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

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Devin D. Thorpe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Wednesday, October 14, 2015 at 2:00 Eastern, Aisha and Jamie will join me for a live discussion about the Hult Prize competition and their remarkable technology. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Attollo SE Inc.:

Twitter: @attolloSE

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

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

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

Austin’s bio:

Twitter: @jamieWaustin

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

Bukhari’s bio:

Twitter: @bukhariAisha

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

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Devin D. Thorpe

Student Entrepreneurs Win Hult Prize With Radical Early Childhood Education Model

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

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

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

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

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

On Wednesday, October 14, 2015 at noon Eastern, Prudot will join me here for a live discussion about winning the Hult Prize and the company he helped found. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about IMPCT:

Twitter: @impctdotco

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

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

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

Juan Diego Prudot, courtesy of IMPCT

Juan Diego Prudot, courtesy of IMPCT

Prudot’s bio:

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

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

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