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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.

What Will Fix Haiti? These Amazing People!

After four days in Haiti, I’ve seen some amazing things and met some of the most amazing people I’ve found anywhere.

It is late and I just posted today’s Forbes post about HELP, an organization that is helping to ensure that the very brightest, underprivileged kids get the opportunity to go to college. They encourage them to stay in Haiti to make the country better rather than to leave the country. By training them as leaders and turning them loose in Haiti, they hope to change the country’s fortunes and future. Read the story here.

Today’s story will be amazing. I could hardly believe was I was seeing. I met a 28-year-old running the country’s largest plastic recycling business. This one young entrepreneur is responsible for ensuring that there is almost no plastic garbage on the streets of Port-au-Prince.

Francois Benoit, photo by Devin Thorpe.

Francois Benoit standing in the middle of his rooftop farm, photo by Devin Thorpe.

Then, I met Francios Benoit, the former ambassador to the United States who spent 30 years in exile. Past 70, he’s now an entrepreneur with a plan to remake Haiti’s agricultural industry. There’s much more to the story, but let me tease you with the fact that he has a farm (it would be an insult to call it a garden) on his roof!

In addition, I met the team from EGI–Entrepreneurship, Growth, Innovation–to learn about the challenges and opportunities they see in fostering economic growth through formal entrepreneurship.

It’s past midnight and I’ve got another full day tomorrow! See you then!

These Social Entrepreneurs Risked Their Lives To Produce Charcoal In Haiti

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

This is the first of a series of reports from Haiti.

This is the second in a series of articles from Haiti.

To tell the story of the social venture Carbon Roots, we have to go back to the Haiti earthquake.

Lyle Sorensen is an orthopedic surgeon who came to Haiti to volunteer for a month immediately following the January 12, 2010 earthquake.

While here, he was a presented with a rare case of tuberculosis of the spine, something he could not treat in Haiti. He reached out to colleagues and friends in the U.S. for help and Julia Helstrom Coupet, whose husband Mendel Coupet is Haitian, made arrangements to treat the boy, Netus Madiode, in Philadelphia. He had two major surgeries and was essentially cured. Once a paraplegic, the boy was able to play soccer again. While the boy was being treated, Lyle visited Philadelphia from Seattle and his son, Eric Sorensen, who was living in New York joined them.

The younger Sorensen had been doing some research on “biochar” a sort of soil amendment made from charcoal made from agricultural waste. Coupet was very excited about the implications of using biochar in Haiti and invited Eric to come down and visit his family in a remote village in the central part of Haiti.

Sorensen and his partners Hannah Erickson, who last year also became his wife, and Ryan Delaney, went to Haiti later that year for their first visit. They were successful in producing some biochar and even in showing the locals that the biochar increased crop yields. They set up a nonprofit entity to help fund their work and continued working with regular visits to get Haitians to use the charcoal as a soil amendment.

Ryan Delaney and Eric Sorensen of Carbon Roots near Cap Haitien, Haiti. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Ryan Delaney and Eric Sorensen of Carbon Roots near Cap Haitien, Haiti. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Following the earthquake, a cholera epidemic broke out. Approximately 700,000 people got cholera and 9,000 people died. Sorensen got sick while visiting a remote village in central Haiti. After five days of severe diarrhea, he and Delaney hiked out, got back in their car and drove to Port-au-Prince to a hospital where he was diagnosed with cholera and treated.

Delaney, reflecting on nearly six years of work in Haiti, told me yesterday that the biggest lesson he’s learned is to “learn to think like a Haitian.” He’s referring to the insights that the founders were slow to accept.

The locals kept asking if they couldn’t burn the charcoal made from the agricultural waste instead of using it as a fertilizer. For many months, the trio persisted in their efforts to get Haitians excited about this plentiful fertilizer that would also be carbon negative.

Ultimately, they saw the light. They began to appreciate that the vast majority of Haitians cooked with charcoal, meaning that this is a huge business. So, with a pivot as big as the market, the three founders shifted from producing biochar to producing charcoal made from agricultural waste.

To get excited about this, the trio of founders began to appreciate some significant environmental benefits to their charcoal. First and foremost, they wouldn’t be cutting down trees. Deforestation in Haiti is such a problem that making charcoal from wood is illegal, despite the fact that the entire country uses wood-based charcoal to cook every meal.

Deforestation isn’t an abstract concept in Haiti, they tell me. Given that deforestation contributes to landslides that kill people, Haitians view deforestation as real and present danger.

By using agricultural waste, they realized they could do a lot to protect the most critical aspect of Haiti’s environment.

They moved the base of operations from the agricultural region in the more remote center of the country, to Cap Haitien, the largest city on the northern coast of Haiti and formed the company, Carbon Roots. Delaney moved permanently to Haiti at this point. Sorensen continues to spend about 25 percent of his time in Haiti.

Shortly after the move, Delaney was invited by a social enterprise in Cusco, Peru to come do some consulting. Although he realized he was not feeling well when he got on the plane, he left Cap Haitien for Port-au-Prince bound for Miami, then on to Lima and finally to Cusco. By the time he arrived, he was delirious with fever. He checked into his hotel but quickly recognized he would need some medication. He stumbled into a hospital hoping to get some medication for malaria, thinking that was what he had. They quickly diagnosed him with Typhoid and admitted him with a fever of 104.5. Before he recovered, he developed pneumonia and spent five days in the hospital there, for which he was charged $400, after being told, it would be “kind of expensive,” he says. He noted that he’s glad he went to Cusco because he’s sure he got better treatment there than he could have received in Haiti.

Charcoal production at Carbon Roots. (Note that the material being burned to produce charcoal would be burned in any event.) Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Charcoal production at Carbon Roots. (Note that the material being burned to produce charcoal would be burned in any event.) Photo by Devin Thorpe.

In Cap Haitien, they began making charcoal at scale. Today, the company produces five tons of charcoal every day in 200 small kilns, converted barrels. They are the largest producer of charcoal in the country and likely the only one producing legal charcoal. They sell the product under the brand name Chabon Boul,

Customers tell them that their charcoal is better than other charcoal on the market, that it lights faster, lasts longer and burns more evenly.

Last year, MIT did in-home testing of their charcoal and noted that it is much cleaner burning, with 29 percent less CO2 and 39 percent less particulate matter than wood-based charcoal. They, too, noted that it is more thermally efficient.

It also works well in modern, clean-burning cookstoves.

To date, Carbon Roots has survived almost entirely off grants. They received early, small grants from Arizona State University where Delaney earned a master’s degree in sustainability. The also received a grant from Halloran Philanthropies.

Much of their money has come from US AID’s DIV program for Development Innovation Ventures. The program provides grants in three stages up to $150,000, $1.5 million and $15 million respectively.

Sorensen and Delaney would like to quickly triple their capacity. To do so, they want to buy and install some much more sophisticated and expensive production equipment. They say they need $800,000 to $900,000 for the equipment, which will come from Viet Nam.

The new technology would have significantly lower emissions than their current production process. To create charcoal you create a controlled burn of the material, carefully managing the oxygen to prevent a full burn. The partially burned material, which can be burned again, is charcoal. The fully burned material is ash, they explained.

A local Haitian demonstrates how to make charcoal from wood. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

A local Haitian demonstrates how to make charcoal from wood. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

The new equipment will capture and use the waste heat to dry the raw agricultural waste before it is burned and then will essentially bake the briquettes to harden them, a process that takes days on drying racks today. The new process will also allow them to produce some electricity that will power some of their equipment.

One of the goals the founders have is to create employment for Haitians. They now have 50 permanent employees on working on production. In addition, they employee about 45 workers as day laborers. Finally, they have about 30 women engaged in their new retail distribution system.

Sorensen reminded me, however, that while their goal is to create employment, “this isn’t a jobs program. We have to be efficient.” They are serious about creating jobs for locals. The two are the only expats on the team; all of the other employees are local hires.

Their new retail distribution model will help them employ more people. The model will create what they will call boutiques where women will come in the morning to get charcoal to sell. They will take the charcoal on consignment and will borrow a wheel barrow from the boutique. They will leave their national ID card as collateral. Some women work a route, delivering the charcoal. Others stake out a spot in their neighborhood where passersby will purchase the charcoal. In either case, they return the wheel barrow to the shop at the end of the day and pay for the charcoal they took in the morning. Typically, the women will pocket $13 for a day’s work. With about 70 percent of Haitians living on less than $2 and 50 percent living on less than $1, the profit represents good wages—especially given that they don’t need to buy any inventory up front.

Carbon Roots was selected as part of the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) at Santa Clara University I’ve written about here. Sorensen credits the experience with helping them to put the final pieces together.

Within eight years, the founders hope to have about 25 percent of the charcoal market in Haiti, a market of about $300 million annually. They are excited about the environmental impact that will have on the countryside.

These guys exemplify a “do whatever it takes” attitude. Given the risks they’ve taken, the sacrifices they’ve made in their personal situations, the opportunity costs they refuse to think about, I must say, Delaney and Sorensen are some of the most impressive entrepreneurs I’ve ever met.

Young Social Entrepreneurs May Want To Check Here For Impact Opportunities

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

This is the first of a series of reports from Haiti.

This is the second in a series of articles from Haiti.

Jude V.P. Tranquille, age 29, and living in Port-au-Prince visited Washington, DC for RYLA North America Conference, a meeting for members of Rotaract, a youth group associated with Rotary International. While there, he made a connection that would not only change his life but that has the potential to help infinitely more.

Tranquille met Jan Holz, a young man who splits time between the U.S. and Germany, something that is relatively easy when you work for Lufthansa. Tranquille expressed his desire to create some sustainable progress in Haiti, having been frustrated by the futility of much of the earthquake relief that focused on handouts that needed to be repeated in order to work. When he gave people food following the quake, he noted, they were hungry the very next day.

Jude Tranquille. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Jude Tranquille. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Holz got the picture and quickly they came up with the idea of hosting an entrepreneurship camp for young entrepreneurs. Jann solicited support from Lufthansa and HelpAlliance a nonprofit created by Lufthansa employees. Tanquille brought Devoted Servants, his own nonprofit. Together, they recruited help from the Rotary Club of Wall Street and the Rotary Club de Delmas-Aeroporte, among other supporters and sponsors.

In the summer of 2014, they held their first two-week camp for 28 young entrepreneurs. For 2015, they found 34 entrepreneurs, many of whom had heard about the camp from people who attended the first one. The second camp ran for three weeks rather than two and attracted a crop of somewhat more serious entrepreneurs, many of whom already had small businesses they were working to launch.

During my visit, I caught up with three of the founders of Novac, an ambitious group of young people planning to conquer the world, starting with backbacks. The three are Smiff Lormier, Peterson Figaro and Napoleon Rodolpho.

Peterson Figaro, Smiff Lormier and Napoleon Rodolpho. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

Peterson Figaro, Smiff Lormier and Napoleon Rodolpho. Photo by Devin Thorpe.

They credited the camp with helping them to find key partners, including an embroiderer to sew their logo onto the backpacks and a workshop with dozens of sewing machines where they can produce their orders renting the shop by the day, radically reducing their capital requirements.

Prior to the camp, the three had done a round of fundraising, selling shares in their nascent business founded in March. After describing their round in basic terms and doing some quick calculations they reported that they had raised $2,000. They’ve already produced hundreds of backpacks and are negotiating an order to produce special backpacks for drones that could yield a gross profit of $5,000. In Haiti, their business is starting to get real.

Another pair of entrepreneurs that participated in the conference, was Diego Desulme and Jenny JeanJacque, founders of A-Tech (and newly engaged to be married). A-Tech is a social enterprise, focusing on helping young Haitians explore the opportunities available in the 21st Century by increasing computer literacy.

The A-Tech strategy is to publish booklets that provide training on how to use computers, so students can affordably prepare for their limited time in front of computers, which few can afford. Even in schools, access to computers is limited.

The books include some advertising that covered the printing costs. The books were then sold to other young entrepreneurs in bundles all around Haiti and were then resold to students eager to learn how to use computers.

The first year program was so successful that Lufthansa not only signed up to support the second year, but funded the production of a documentary film of the second year camp. The film was screened by the Rotary Club of Wall Street for visiting Rotarians and dignitaries from around the world last week at the Rotary UN Day and was apparently a hit with the audience.

Rotarians from around the world were involved in the Entrepreneurship Camp. Dominique Bazin, a Rotary Assistant Governor, provided local support in Port-au-Prince. Jack Guy Lafontant, President-elect for the Rotary Club de Petion-ville was also engaged. Susanne Gellert worked on the project on behalf of the Rotary Club of Wall Street.

Young social entrepreneurs may wish to check out the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards or RYLA, where they may make international connections that may help them find exciting opportunities for impact.

Could This Photo Be The Metaphor That Explains Haiti’s Problems?

Yesterday, I spent the day working on a story I just posted to Forbes about young social entrepreneurs finding impact opportunities around the world through Rotary’s Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA).

As research for the story, I met with some young entrepreneurs who had been trained at an entrepreneurship camp organized by Rotoractors (young Rotarians).

The entrepreneurs make backpacks. Nice ones. They took me into the shop where they rent space to produce the bags.  Check out what I found.

Photo by Devin Thorpe

Photo by Devin Thorpe

Here’s another photo of the same machine, the first of about twenty in the shop.

Photo by Devin Thorpe

Photo by Devin Thorpe

In case your eyes are playing tricks on you, let me explain what you are seeing. These are manual sewing machines that are still in use. Built 100 years ago or more, I imagine, they are still used. Perhaps they serve only as backups for times when the power is out or only for light duty tasks. The backpacks, my young entrepreneurs explained, are not produced on these machines.

This struck me as a tragic metaphor for the challenges facing the country. In a place where 100 year old technology still has utility, a century’s opportunities appear to have largely passed it by.

My trip has also been filled with inspiring visits with people who are working hard to help Haiti catch up with the 21st century. It is more opportunity than problem. Ten million people are waiting and ready to join the rest of us in the year 2015. I’m convinced a clever group of entrepreneurs are the key to activating this population and helping them to join us at a much higher level of prosperity.

Turns Out, I probably Won’t Die in Haiti

Well, I wasn’t bored on my first full day in Haiti.

During the night, I recognized that I’d come down with something. So quickly after I arrived, I concluded that it probably wasn’t serious and so continued with my plans.

The day took me to Cap Haitien on the northern coast of Haiti, where I connected with two great social entrepreneurs who are working to end the deforestation here. The country is about 2 percent forest today. In 1920, it was approximately 60 percent forest. All of it is gone as a result of charcoal. These guys make charcoal from ag waste–no trees are harmed.

Eco-friendly charcoal fresh off the machine. Photo by Devin ThorpeA

Eco-friendly charcoal fresh off the machine. Photo by Devin Thorpe

As we visited, they shared horror stories with me. Eric Sorensen got cholera and Ryan Delaney got typhoid. Obviously, both survived. You can read their full story in Forbes here.

By the time we finished our visit, however, I was pretty convinced that I was going to die from whatever was ailing me. Twenty-four hours later and a good night sleep, I’m pretty confident that I’ll live to fly home on Saturday.

So, I woke this morning feeling much better and spent the day with mostly young, ambitious local entrepreneurs who are just trying to make a go of a business in Haiti. With support from the local Rotary Club and the Rotary Club of Wall Street, dozens of entrepreneurs have received training that we all hope will allow them to become successful.

Tomorrow, I’ll post a more complete report on the entrepreneurs I met today. One thing that is becoming clear to me here is that lighting that entrepreneurial flame will be critical to growing this economy. As I visit with people, it often feels as if the world has conspired against Haiti to bring it to ruin.

This evening, I attended the Rotary Club de Petion-Ville meeting where I met a great gastroenterology. I was very pleased to get his card. Just in case.


Reporting from Haiti

Today, I arrived in Haiti. This week, I’ll be reporting from here on my observations about the country.

Let’s be clear, I don’t expect to understand, much less figure out how to solve, the country’s many woes, but I do hope to identify people, entrepreneurs, and organizations that are making a difference here.

Haiti is widely recognized to be the poorest country  in the Western Hemisphere. That abstraction didn’t prepare me for my arrival in Port-au-Prince. My ride from the airport, which struck me as adequate, but inferior to many I’ve visited in the developing world, to the guest house I booked on Airbnb, allowed me to see that this may be the poorest country I’ve every visited. (My past visits in the developing world include struggling countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America over the last four decades.)

The people I’ve encountered here in my first few hours, are all delightful. In all my travels, I’ve never encountered such a friendly passport control officer. I greeted him in bad French and he responded in French asking me if I spoke French. I couldn’t even answer that simply question. He switched to English, which was flawless, and was quite forgiving.

Damage from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

The country of just over 10 million people was, of course, devastated by the earthquake centered here in Port-au-Prince.  Some 200,000 people died as a result of the quake–an almost unfathomable number. To put it into perspective, it would be as if every person in Salt Lake City suddenly died. My home town is the political center of a large metropolitan area with about 2 million people living in it, much as there are about 2 million people living in Port-au-Prince.

Stay tuned here this week for reports on the social entrepreneurs and nonprofits that I’ll profile. I hope that seeing their work will give me hope for the future of the country and provide models for this work elsewhere. After the quake, the mantra here was “build back better.” Lacking the perspective of a pre-quake visit, I nonetheless hope to get some sense of whether that is in fact happening six years on.


Seattle-Based Fledge Hatches 39 Social Ventures Or ‘Fledglings’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Michael “Luni” Libes is the social entrepreneurs’ social entrepreneur. He created Fledge, an accelerator for social entrepreneurs that has now helped to create over $10 million in total funding for it ventures since its founding in 2012.

The problem, as Luni sees it, is all wrapped up in opportunity. “The trouble is, the problems of the world continue to expand, while the majority of the money, infrastructure, and power lie in the for-profit sector. If only businesses solved the important problems of the world, their success would lead to profits, scaling up those solutions, then more profits, more scaling, and so on, in a virtuous, self-sustaining cycle.”

Luni boasts, “Thirty-nine ’fledglings’ have graduated from the six Fledge programs run over the last three years. Companies such as Evrnu, making cotton recyclable; BURN Manufacturing and Obamastove, manufacturing clean cookstoves in Africa; Distributed Energy Management, conserving energy through financial management; Ensibuuko, modernizing the savings and credit co-ops of East Africa; Seeder, matching green builders with green building suppliers; East Africa Fruit, aggregating and distributing fruits and vegetables in Tanzania, Deehubs, at the corner of free speech and social media; Shift Labs, designing medical devices for the developing world, and dozens of others.”

You can see a full list at

Luni explains, “Each of these companies received an investment from Fledge, plus 10 weeks of intense training, guidance, and mentorship. Since graduating from Fledge, these companies have raised more than $10 million in follow-on funding, earned millions in total revenues, and created over 300 jobs, all while saving lives, saving trees, cleaning the environment, and alleviating poverty.”

“By proving it possible to do good by doing business, Fledge will not only help hundreds of startups get started, and not only provide a return to our investors, but we will showcase a model that others can copy, so that hundreds of thousands of other entrepreneurs can join this new model of business,” he concludes.

On Thursday, November 5, 2015 at 3:00 Eastern, Luni will join me here for a live discussion about Fledge and the fledglings it has incubated and hatched. 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 Fledge:

Twitter: @FledgeLLC

Fledge is the conscious company accelerator, educating, guiding, and mentoring mission-driven for-profit startups from around the world.

Michael ‘Luni’ Libes, courtesy of Fledge

Michael ‘Luni’ Libes, courtesy of Fledge

Luni’s bio:

Twitter: @Lunarmobiscuit

Luni is a 20+ year serial entrepreneur, most recently founder of Fledge, the conscious company accelerator, and the Entrepreneur in Residence at Pinchot University. Luni is the author of The Next Step series of guidebooks on entrepreneurship, and The Pinchot Impact Index, outlining a technique for measuring impact across a portfolio of companies.

Venture Philanthropist Has Innovative Plan To Move ‘America Forward’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Social innovator Lexi Barrett is helping to lead a non-partisan effort at New Profit, a venture philanthropy fund, called America Forward focused on supporting results-oriented organizations working in education, workforce development and poverty alleviation.

Barrett, who has spent most of her career in government service, says, “Although the impact of our sector, and our New Profit Portfolio and America Forward Coalition Members in particular, is impressive—millions of communities and individuals go unserved each year and the problems we seek to solve are even greater. And while the federal government ought to be learning from and expanding these efforts, in too many cases government is getting in the way by creating unnecessary barriers, stifling innovation, and investing in programs that do not work.”

Barrett hopes to change that. She says, “America Forward is turning the page from an era of unprecedented gridlock to one of unprecedented problem solving.”

She adds, “The organizations that America Forward works with recognize that policy change is an essential part of scaling the solutions that they are advancing on the ground, and have come together as a Coalition to advance a policy agenda that champions social innovation.”

Barrett reports that the formal launch of the effort last month included the release of a briefing book called Moving America Forward: Innovators Lead the Way to Unlocking America’s Potential. She explains, “This book offers transformational policy ideas shaped by the experience of social innovators who are solving problems in their communities every day. These policy ideas are framed around five challenges for the next President, including government that works, education for the future, ‘market-able’ America, first jobs, and second chances.”

America Forward is hoping to get the attention of presidential candidates and policymakers. Barrett says the solutions to America’s biggest problems are apparent. “To scale the results we are seeing everyday on the ground in communities across the country, it is imperative that we activate America’s problem solvers. We envision a government that identifies innovative solutions, invests in what works, and engages everyone to solve our nation’s problems. By doing these things, we believe that together we can move America forward,” she concludes.

On Thursday, November 5, 2015 at noon Eastern, Barrett will join me for a live discussion about America Forward and the solutions that she sees to some of America’s biggest challenges. 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 America Forward:

Twitter: @america_forward

America Forward is a nonpartisan policy initiative of New Profit, a national venture philanthropy fund that seeks to break down the barriers between all people and opportunity in America. America Forward unites social innovators with policymakers to advance a public policy agenda that champions innovative and effective solutions to our country’s most pressing social problems. We lead a Coalition of more than 70 social innovators who foster innovation, identify more efficient and effective solutions, reward results, and catalyze cross-sector partnerships. Our Coalition members are achieving measurable outcomes in more than 14,500 communities across the country every day, touching the lives of nearly 8 million Americans each year. Since 2007, America Forward’s community of innovators has played a leading role in driving the national dialogue on social innovation and advocating for lasting policy change. America Forward played a critical role in the creation of a federal tiered-evidence fund aimed at scaling high-impact organizations and significantly leveraging federal dollars; our community influenced the creation of the White House Office of Social Innovation; and we continue to advocate for the inclusion of provisions focused on outcomes in key pieces of federal legislation. Together, we have leveraged $1.5 billion for social innovation and have driven millions of federal resources toward programs that are achieving measurable results for those who need them most. America Forward believes that our nation’s social innovators can lead the way to unlocking America’s potential — and help move all of America forward.

Lexi Barrett, courtesy of New Profit

Lexi Barrett, courtesy of New Profit

Barrett’s bio:

Twitter: @lexibarrettAF

As Policy Director for America Forward, Lexi focuses on developing and implementing federal policy initiatives that accelerate social innovation, leading policy communications strategies, and supporting the education policy work of the America Forward Coalition. Before joining America Forward at New Profit, Lexi spent nine years in federal service. She served for six years on Capitol Hill as legislative assistant to Senator Richard Durbin, working on a variety of education, national service, and early childhood policy issues. Lexi also worked as a policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Education in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. Most recently, Lexi served as a Senior Policy Advisor on Education at the White House on the Domestic Policy Council, helping to shape and advance President Obama’s early education and K-12 education agenda.

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.


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