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

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If Your Business Looked at Solar 2 Years Ago and Passed, Now May Be the Time

Clean Energy Advisors, one of our sponsors, has invested in Solar Site Design.

If your business evaluated solar power as a way to reduce costs more than a year ago and rejected it, it is time to look again, says Jason Loyet, CEO of Solar Site Design.

Solar Site Design has a national network of independent contractors who work as solar originators. The company also has a network of client contractors who pay for the opportunity to bid on the projects the originators find. This competitive marketplace is helping to accelerate projects and reduce the cost of solar installations.

Scott Hill, President of Clean Energy Advisors, explains the motivation for their investment. “We invested in Solar Site Design because we believe in Jason and in his business model. Commercial and Industrial companies need a place they can go to quickly understand if installing a solar array can be a smart business decision. He is also creating a platform where companies providing solar products and services compete for each project. These factors are bringing down costs and allowing Solar to complete against other forms of energy, which is something we’re very passionate about.”

The result of the acceleration in solar and the falling costs, Jason says, is installed costs of solar power that are years ahead of recent expectations at under $2.00 per watt. That means that in most parts of the country, a business can install solar and save enough to on utility bills to justify the expense.

While the industry has long relied on innovative financing to make projects pencil, with the current 30 percent tax credit, companies can now afford to buy the solar panels outright with traditional financing sources. Banks, Jason says, are now experienced in financing solar projects.

Typically, projects today are built “behind the meter” in that the plan is not to sell power back to the utility, but only to produce enough power at peak production to meet the business’s own need for that power at that time. The solar power becomes the primary power source and the utility is the secondary power source.

In most states, commercial businesses can’t sell power back to utilities at the same rate they buy power. By eliminating any low-priced sale of solar generated power to the utility and using 100 percent of the power produced to reduce high priced power purchased from the utility, the financial returns are improved.

Jason notes, too, that the next step the market is preparing for is the addition of storage so that companies can go ahead and produce extra power at peak production times and use it later, rather than relying on the utility. In such a scenario, the utility becomes a backup provider of power rather than a secondary power source. This near-future scenario is intriguing to environmentalists and CFOs alike.

Looking longer term, Jason sees a bright future for solar. The cost of extracting fossil fuels is unlikely to go down, meaning that the cost of generating power from fossil fuels will likely rise. He predicts an average rate of inflation of 3 percent for fossil fuel energy. Given that solar is already cheaper than fossil fuel generated power today, the spread is likely to grow dramatically in relatively few years.

The bottom line is that the economics of solar power make better sense than ever before today. The 30 percent Federal tax credit creates an incentive for companies to look at solar projects in 2017. Fossil fuel inflation combined with declining costs in solar will quickly reshape our global energy mix.

Jason Loyet, courtesy of Solar Site Design

Jason Loyet, courtesy of Solar Site Design

More about Solar Site Design:

Twitter: @solarsitedesign

Since winning the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Catalyst Award in 2015, Solar Site Design has focused on solving the next chapter of driving down customer acquisition costs for Commercial and Industrial solar energy projects. After a year of software development, we are proud to announce the newest enhancement to our platform: Solar Site Design Commercial Marketplace. For three years, Solar Site Design has become a leading recruiter and trainer of Nationwide Commercial Originators. Our Originators have deep relationships in their local market and are able to open doors wide open on highly qualified C&I projects. In addition, our Originators are trained on collecting extensive data at the site through our innovative platform available on Android and IOS. SSD aggregates the project data entered by service professionals (referral agent), connects the projects to networks of contracted fulfillment partners, thereby reducing customer acquisition costs by up to 50%

Jason’s bio:

Twitter: @jasonloyet

Jason Loyet is an accomplished solar industry entrepreneur, having founded and built three solar companies since 2005. His first company solved bottlenecks in importing solar equipment and streamlined mainline distribution to solar installers. In 2009, he founded and built a $3 million company that provided wholesale solar supply, sales and marketing services to electrical and roofing contractors throughout the United States. In 2013, Mr. Loyet leveraged the powerful capabilities of mobile phones to build an easy way for traditional contractors to add a revenue source to their bottom line by playing an active role in the solar industry. Hence, Solar Site Design was born. Solar Site Design is a collaborative, cloud-based platform that connects highly-qualified solar project referrals to leading solar companies to drive down customer acquisition costs. Our proprietary business process is designed to reduce the solar industry’s customer acquisition costs by up to 50%. Solar Site Design was chosen as a winner of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Catalyst Program in May of 2015. Prior to entering the solar industry, Mr. Loyet founded, developed and sold two software companies; a video-streaming service and a photo-sharing platform. Jason is a member of the Social Venture Network.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here! Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

I Will Stand Up For Women


Men. We think we understand women because we all have mothers and a few of us still have wives or girlfriends.

We also think we know how to run a restaurant because we eat.

I’d like to think I’m different, but I’m not. I don’t understand women. I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman.

Last year, I was invited to speak at the UN on gender diversity. I was challenged by the emcee to commit to do something—anything really—to improve gender diversity within my sphere. I agreed to ensure that 50 percent of the guests on my show would be women.

The first thing I learned is that only 28 percent of my guests had been women.

A funny thing happened when I started having more women on my show. I began hearing about women’s issues. For instance, I did three episodes of my show on menstruation. I learned that feminine hygiene products are a big deal. In the developing world, girls often miss school because they lack them. Some are even sexually exploited.

Celeste Mergens launched an NGO called Days for Girls to provide girls around the world with reusable pads, so they won’t have to miss school. She stands up for women.

Celeste Mergens in Nepal, courtesy of Days for Girls

Celeste Mergens in Nepal, courtesy of Days for Girls

After Donald Trump was exposed for bragging about sexually assaulting women, I learned that many—perhaps most women—have been assaulted. That doesn’t make it okay. That makes it a global crisis.

Nearly 20 percent of women are sexually assaulted in college. Laura Dunn, a lawyer and a campus rape survivor herself, launched SurvJustice to get the Federal Government to enforce protections for victims on campus rather than protecting the perpetrators. She stands up for women.

I still don’t understand women. I will never know what it is like to be a woman. What I do know is that women are smart, strong and powerful. They are the equal of men in every way that matters.

From now on, I will stand up for women.

#standupforwomen

CEA Targets $800M of Solar Investment With New Partners

Clean Energy Advisors is a sponsor of the Your Mark on the World Center.


Clean Energy Advisors announced a major new financing that will take the firm from having invested about $140 million in solar energy projects to about $800 million. CEA President Scott Hill also notes that building on this success, the firm will establish a foundation to fund more charitable initiatives. (Watch or listen to my discussion with Scott using the players above.)Scott explains that the unnamed financing partners, two “multinational families,” have committed about $350 million. Combined with additional debt financing, the firm anticipates reaching $800 million in financed projects, “completing the pipeline of projects in North Carolina.” He anticipates that deploying the capital will take 18 to 24 months.

Scott explains that the unnamed financing partners, two “multinational families,” have committed about $350 million. Combined with additional debt financing, the firm anticipates reaching $800 million in financed projects, “completing the pipeline of projects in North Carolina.” He anticipates that deploying the capital will take 18 to 24 months.

He notes that the cost of installation for small utility scale projects is about $1.50 or $1.60 per watt, yielding a cost of about $1.5 million per megawatt. The new financing should allow CEA to install another 400 MW in North Carolina. He also notes that the scale they are achieving should allow the firm to look beyond their traditional structure where Duke Energy is the primary “off-taker” or buyer of the energy from the projects financed.

The new scale also creates an opportunity for CEO to increase its philanthropic efforts. Scott says the firm has started the process of creating a foundation that will fund charitable work. Last year, the firm backed nonprofits Reverb and Headcount to build support for environmental causes at 25 concerts across the country. Scott says they’ll be doing that again. “People who attend concerts have a natural affinity for nonprofits.”

Scott also hopes that the firm can use the foundation to fund solar projects in the developing world like putting solar panels on schools that don’t have access to the grid. He says the firm will donate its time to manage projects that the foundation funds and hopes donors will help them make a big impact.

The acceleration of the solar industry is creating a bright future for the world, both in the developing world and here in the developed world.

Scott Hill, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

Scott Hill, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

More about Clean Energy Advisors:

Twitter: @cleanenergyadv

Clean Energy Advisors (CEA) creates ownership opportunities for investors in utility scale solar energy projects that generate tax-advantaged predictable income, preserve capital, and have positive social and environmental impact.

Scott’s bio:

Twitter: @williamandhill

Scott Hill has over twenty years of entrepreneurial experience including a significant perspective on business start-ups and building successful small businesses. Mr. Hill has been with CEA since April 2014.

His duties include overseeing the firms family office, endowment, foundation, and UHNW client strategies. He has served as a panelist at US based family office conferences and enjoys speaking on impact investing, renewable energy opportunities, and the future of Solar PV worldwide.

Scott is a 1991 graduate of Columbia University and four year member of the football program. He lives near Nashville, TN with his wife and children. He’s also actively involved in his community and church.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

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

Are You Crazy Enough to Change the World?

People ask me all the time what I do.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with my father in 1982. I told him I had decided to become an author. He responded, “You can’t do that. That’s not a job.” At the time, I wasn’t confident enough to say, “But bookstores are full of books written by people we call authors. That really looks like a job.”

For better or worse, I accepted his advice and went on to become a successful finance guy, running my own SEC- and FINRA-registered investment bank and later becoming the CFO of a global food and beverage company that became the third largest company on the 2009 Inc. 500 list.

When I got fired from that job, I launched my new career as an author, a journalist and a speaker. I call myself a champion of social good. I write and speak about people who are changing the world for good.

BATH, UK – OCTOBER 06, 2011: Close-up of an Apple iMac computer displaying the www.apple.com front page tribute to former chief executive Steve Jobs, who died on 5th October 2011 aged 56

I’ve learned one thing. Steve Jobs was right. He famously shared the following in an advertisement:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

On my show, I’ve spoken to more than 800 people who are changing the world. Most of them are not changing the world in the way Steve Jobs did. With apologies to him, they are changing the world in more meaningful ways. Ending climate change. Eliminating extreme poverty. Eradicating disease. And they all have one thing in common. They are crazy enough to believe that what they do matters. They believe that the world will bend to their will. They believe they can change the world. And they have.

How crazy are you?

I’m Not Mindful Because I’m Not a Narcissist

How many times per day do you hear “be mindful” or “be present”?

Frankly, as a social entrepreneur, I’m sick and tired of it. Here’s why.

Yes, there are demonstrable health benefits to being present in the moment, especially for good moments. And frankly, for most of us with time to read an article of this sort, most moments are pretty good. Enjoying them more makes us all healthier and happier.

But I’m not very good at that.

Right now, in Somalia 6.5 million people are at risk of starving to death, largely as a result of climate change. The entire country is experiencing extreme drought and children—the most vulnerable to famine—are beginning to die. More than 100 people died in two days from starvation-related causes. (The British Red Cross is on the scene working to alleviate suffering and prevent massive death—donate here.)

About six million women and children will die this year from the smoke of cooking fires inside their homes. That is about 11 people every minute. For some reason, I don’t feel the need to be present while I warm up my left overs in the microwave. (Learn more about clean cookstoves from the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves).

When I’m out for my run in the morning, I can’t focus on my stride length, cadence or breathing because right here at home in the United States, 28.5 million people lack health insurance and another 14 million are threatened with losing theirs if Trumpcare is adopted. A study published by the Harvard Gazette reported that as of 2009, 45,000 people in the United States die from a lack of health insurance every year. While that number likely dropped in recent years due to the Affordable Care Act, the numbers could quickly spike again. (Write your congressional representatives to encourage them to expand coverage under the ACA rather than shrinking it.)

Not everything that distracts me is terrible. The number of polio cases is the world has dropped by 99.99 percent since the mid-1980s when there were almost 400,000 cases every year. Last year there were 37. This year could be the last year that anyone on the planet gets polio. Yes, I’ve said that for the past three years. No, I’m not giving up hope that this year will be the one. (Donate to Rotary’s “End Polio” efforts here.)

Two drops of oral polio vaccine cost about 60 cents and can protect a child against the disease. Devin Thorpe administers the drops.

Two drops of oral polio vaccine cost about 60 cents and can protect a child against the disease. Devin Thorpe administers the drops.

And let’s be clear, when I’m walking the streets of Salt Lake City thinking about my next article, my strategy for increasing my impact or reducing my carbon output, I’m not present. I’m not thinking about my feet in my shoes, the wind on my face or the beauty around me. I’ve seen it before. Hundreds of times over more decades than I care to count. Frankly, I’m thinking and worrying about something much more important than how much I’m enjoying my day.

Years ago, I learned that taking a few deep breaths when I’m stressed can have a big impact on my stress and my health. I do employ that technique consciously on most days because something gets me worked up. I’m ashamed that the things that really get me worked up are stupid, first-world sorts of problems. I should be getting more worked up about people starving in Somalia for starters.

You are probably more like me than you think. Perhaps you don’t worry or think about any of the things I’ve listed above. Maybe you are more focused on caring for your aging parents, or for your own young children, or keeping the job you absolutely need to keep your family fed and sheltered. Being mindful is a luxury for the wealthy and the world would be better off if they weren’t so mindful.

Someone is sure to point out that being truly mindful means contemplating the very things I’m talking about. Wonderful! Let’s all be mindful in that sense. But let’s not pretend we can be present in the moment appreciating the world around us and simultaneously be aware of others removed from us by great distances or dire circumstances. To be mindful of others is anathema to a focus on oneself.

Life is not supposed to be one continuous amusement. Your life has meaning, purpose and real joy when your attention is focused more on the wellbeing of others.

So, the next time you start to feel a bit guilty because you are not “present” or “mindful” enough, just say to yourself, “I’m not mindful because I’m not a narcissist.”

Reverb Is Making The Live Music Industry Greener

Clean Energy Advisors is a sponsor.

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

Lauren Sullivan and her husband Adam Gardner, a touring musician, wanted to make the concert scene more environmentally friendly. They’ve created Reverb, a nonprofit, to help the industry get its green on.

Adam explains, “The live music industry has historically been highly disposable, creating large amounts of landfill, energy and water waste. Think of all the plastic cups on the ground at the end of a concert or a weekend long festival, for example. Tour busses and trucks guzzle fuel carrying large crews, and large amounts of equipment across long distances every day on a tour. Tens of thousands of fans commute to a venue typically located 40 miles outside of major city centers, contributing to over 80 percent of a concert’s carbon footprint.”

Adam recognized that other nonprofits face that Reverb could overcome. “Local and national enviro nonprofit organizations have had variable experiences ‘tabling’ at concerts because they aren’t directly connected to the band or they don’t have the capacity to compete against all the other attractions at a show to get concertgoers’ attention.”

Working directly with the bands, Adam says, they can make a big difference. “Because I’m a touring musician myself, I’m able to speak to artists and their managers directly about how we can help make their tours more green while mobilizing and inspiring their fans to take action that adds up to real change.”

As a musician, Adam has an advantage. “I understand the challenges and opportunities live music events and tours create. We make it easy for bands to bridge the gap between their intentions and actions, as we embed our staff into their tours as part of their touring crew to handle tour greening behind the scenes while setting up a fan-facing interactive Eco-Village.”

Reverb has a crew that works the concerts. “Just like they have staff to handle setting up their lights and sound, we provide expert staff to set up biodiesel fuelings for tour vehicles, local farm food for catering, compost and recycling, etc. Out front at the Eco-Village in the concourse of each venue, fans can connect with issues and organizations that are near and dear to their favorite musicians. We also incentivize fans to participate by offering them ticket upgrades, meet and greets with the band and prizes. We want to make this fun and meaningful for fans in a way that only enhances their concert experience,” Adam says.

It is still a hard sell at times, Adam says. “The challenge is sometimes a general resistance to change, and lack of prioritizing or recognizing the negative impacts of live music. I get it–it’s hard enough to pull off a major production every night in a different city–everyone out on the road has their plates full and don’t have the know-how or capacity to take on new territory.”

There are challenges in trying to scale, too, he says. “We try to ‘teach a band to fish’ as much as we can, but ultimately the best programs have our staff onsite handling them–so there’s a limitation as to how much we can do directly to green tours. That said, the biggest impacts are with the millions of fans these major musicians have and their actions adding up to something truly significant. Impacting fans to take action is getting more and more powerful as social media and large concert events grow.”

Chris Warren, CEO of Clean Energy Advisors, says, “The work Adam and his team do is awesome. They spend countless hours on tour with musicians and make a difference one recycled bottle or locally sourced dinner for the crew at a time. Everyone I have met at Reverb is committed to the mission. It’s thought leaders like Adam who see an opportunity to make a positive impact and do something about it that give us great hope for future generations. We’re proud to walk hand in hand with Reverb to spread the word about climate change and to take actions that make the world a better place.”

Adam’s vision to leverage the bands’ fans to make a real impact in the world.

He says, “We are called REVERB because the message of sustainability starts with the musicians and reverberates out to their fans, which then take that passion and inspiration home to their families, workplaces, schools, and communities. We’ve been able to make a pretty good dent in changing the public’s hearts, minds and actions through the incredible reach and connection of music. It has taken many forms–fans have volunteered thousands of hours, given thousands of dollars to causes, taken thousands of actions in their own lives as simple as ditching disposable water bottles and using reusable ones.”

On Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at noon Eastern, Adam will join me here for a live discussion about the work of Reverb, making the live music industry greener. Tune in here (at the top of this article) then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Adam Gardner, courtesy of Reverb

Adam Gardner, courtesy of Reverb

More about Reverb:

Twitter: @reverbrocks

REVERB is a community of music makers and lovers harnessing the power of live music to tackle today’s most urgent environmental issues. We partner with major musicians, festivals and venues to green live music events behind the scenes while mobilizing millions of concertgoers to take actions that add up to real change. Leading the music community since 2004, REVERB is a 501c3 environmental non-profit founded by activist Lauren Sullivan and her musician husband, Adam Gardner of Guster.

Adam’s bio:

Adam wears two “hats”— Guster frontman and Co-Director of REVERB, a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to educating and engaging musicians and their fans to take action toward a more sustainable future. Gardner co-founded REVERB with his environmentalist wife, Lauren Sullivan in 2004. Since then REVERB has greened over 200 major music tours and festivals and over 5,000 concert events, kept over 117,000 tons of CO2 from the air, fueled touring fleets with over 900,000 gallons of biodiesel, partnered with over 4,000 environmental groups and have reached over 27 million music fans.

The artists that have partnered with REVERB to help them go green and mobilize their fans include Dave Matthews Band, Maroon 5, Linkin Park, Jack Johnson, Drake, FUN., Sheryl Crow, Phish, Jason Mraz and many more. REVERB also works with the music industry to improve business practices including record labels, concert venues and radio stations. While Adam is often on tour with his own band playing to sold-out audiences from Radio City Music Hall in New York to the Warfield in San Francisco, he is busy work-ing for REVERB in the back of his biodiesel-powered tour bus. REVERB and Guster launched the annual Campus Consciousness Tour in 2006, bringing daytime environmental programming to students and a green concert event onto college campuses across the country. Past headliners include Grammy Award-winning artists, Ben Harper and FUN., hip-hop sensations, Drake and J. Cole, and indy rockers Passion Pit, Walk the Moon and X Ambassadors. Adam has had the honor of testifying to Congress twice: in 2010 about the benefits and need to support sustainably produced and community-based biodiesel and again in 2012 in support of keeping wood products such as musical instruments free of illegally sourced wood.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

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

 

13 Social Ventures Woo Investors and Philanthropists in Nairobi

Today, 13 social enterprises from across Africa put their best feet forward in Nairobi, hoping to attract investor and donor money to help them scale their enterprises and their work in improving health outcomes for women and children.

The entrepreneurs presented at the GE healthymagination & Miller Center Mother and Child Program Investor Showcase. The program largely replicates the Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute program, which it has been conducting in Silicon Valley for 15 years. GE provided funding to make the program possible in Kenya. It has been so successful that GE has committed to fund the program again.

The month’s long program features a focused curriculum to help the entrepreneurs generate more self-sustaining revenue sources and includes counsel from accomplished mentors. The program culminates in today’s investor presentations, with each entrepreneur getting six minutes on stage to hook the investors’ interest.

United Nations Coordinator for Kenya, Siddarth Chatterjee, spoke about collaboration between the public and private sectors to create a leapfrogging of maternal and child healthcare. Sid highlighted women’s issues, including female genital mutilation, child marriage and gender-based violence. He noted, “Kenya’s economy will grow when the woman is allowed to achieve her full potential and can plan her own family.” He congratulated the Miller Center and GE for assembling such an impressive cohort of entrepreneurs.

The following is a summary of each of the 14 social enterprises who pitched from the day’s program:

Access Afya, Melissa Menke, Founder and CEO:

Access Afya creates a model for comprehensive primary care in wellness in Nairobi’s informal settlements. Our tiered approach includes fixed community microclinics as anchors that have authentic medication, emergency response capacity point-of-care lab   capabilities, immunization family planning, and qualified clinicians with novel field programs that provide care through field-based programs to community institutions like schools, factories and churches.

Ayzh, Zubaida Bai, Founder and CEO:

Ayzh is transforming access to products through carefully designed kit-styled interventions around reproductive, maternal, pediatric, and adolescent health needs. These products help the care providers and beneficiaries with improved health outcomes.

Health Builders International, Tyler Nelson, Executive Director:

Health Builders (HB) is dedicated to addressing the fundamental challenges that prevent universal access to quality primary health care services in Rwanda: inefficient management systems, inadequate or nonexistent health infrastructure, and outdated technology. Through partnerships with local and national governments, HB mentors health care providers to build strong management systems; constructs comprehensive primary health centers where access is limited; and equips health centers system strengthening technology that supports efficient and sustainable operations. This approach results in health centers with the knowledge, resources, and capacity to thrive as independent enterprises, ensuring more people receive higher quality care in Rwanda.

Health-E-Net Limited, Pratap Kumar, CEO:

Health-E-Net is a social enterprise in Kenya providing innovative solutions to support healthcare delivery in low resource settings. PaperEMR is a unique system to generate electronic medical records directly from paper. It allows clinicians to document cases easily on paper, while interacting with the patient. Data entered on paper can be automatically extracted in digital form, analyzed, and used to improve quality of care. The Gabriel application is an innovative, low-cost tele-consultations platform that allows local healthcare providers to easily create and share digital medical information. Experts from a global volunteer network engage with local healthcare providers, supporting healthcare in the community and improving the efficiency of referral when needed.

Hewa Tele Ltd., Dr. Bernard Olayo, Executive Chairman:

Hewa Tele provides medical oxygen that is needed in medical and surgical situations. Medical oxygen has been listed as an essential drug for the last three decades by the World Health Organization. Unfortunately, many patients still do not receive this vital drug. Oxygen can reduce the chances of a child dying from pneumonia by at least 35 percent when given with antibiotics.

LifeNet International, Stefanie Weiland, Executive Director:

LifeNet International provides a bundle of services for primarily rural and faith-based health centers that improves the quality of clinical care and sustainability as businesses. This includes dedicated mentors to train all staff on-site in updated, life-saving techniques and efficient financial and operational management practices, door-to-door medicine delivery, and access to resources and equipment. In addition, LifeNet provides monitoring of health center performance with regular evaluation and quality assurance. By strengthening local capacity in every link of the healthcare delivery chain, LN is transforming primary care for Africa’s poor.

Lwala Community Alliance, Julius Mbeya, Managing Director:

Lwala Community Alliance is a community-led innovator, tackling the multidimensional drivers of poor health. Founded by Kenyans, Lwala ensures that beneficiaries plan, implement, and evaluate all programs. At the core of our model is a cadre of former traditional midwives whom we train, pay, and supervise to track, support, and refer every pregnant women and child under five. Simultaneously, Lwala works with primary care facilities and the communities they serve to provide quality, patient-centered care. Through bringing communities closer to health providers, Lwala has a driven a 97 percent facility delivery rate and 300 percent increase in contraceptive uptake.

Kids at play at Nurture Africa in Uganda

Kids at play at Nurture Africa in Uganda

Nurture Africa, Brian Iredale, Co-founder and CEO:

After 17 years of operation, our holistic and community-centered model, providing healthcare, vocational education, and sustainable livelihood loans has proven that offering these services under “one roof” successfully empowers vulnerable families to increase their standard of living. Our new enhanced model shifts from the   traditional philanthropic approach to a self-sustainable paradigm.  Accessing multiple community services locally benefits affluent   residents who will support and subsidize the operations to more vulnerable families.

Outreach Medical Services, Nigeria Ltd., Dr. Efunbo Dosekun, CEO:

Outreach Medical Services is a health service acute care provider for babies and children and professional development company, leapfrogging and leveraging on technology in clinical applications, training and health service operation management. Solutions provided are integrated, high impact and scalable, strengthening our acute care system horizontally and having its influence on saving lives of ill babies and children and preventing chronic disability together with increasing the human  capacity of healthcare workers in Nigeria. In our bid to deliver affordable, quality and safe care, there has been need for continuous refinement and modification in our product creation and service deliver responding to the multiple challenges in our internal and external environment in Nigeria.

PurpleSource Healthcare, Femi Sunmonu, Co-founder and CEO:

PurpleSource Healthcare strengthens clinical processes through   evidence-based approaches to care and provide quality certification in partnership with standard setting bodies. The enterprise aggregates its primary healthcare centers into one integrated network, centralize management functions and share scarce resources across the network. PurpleSource Healthcare leverages technology for healthcare analytics, population management and to aid responsive performance management of the network.

The Shanti Uganda Society, Natalie Angell-Besseling, Founder and Executive Director:

Shanti Uganda provides a unique model of care where skilled midwives incorporate traditional knowledge and modern best practices. Shanti Uganda’s Birth House is a collaborative-care maternity center staffed by Ugandan midwives and traditional birth attendants that provide mother-centered care throughout pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. Shanti Uganda’s expansion plans include the development of a Midwifery Training School, which will offer a 2.5 year certification program to students throughout East Africa with both local & international faculty.

Telemed Medical Services/helloDoctor, Dr. Yohans Wodaje Emiru, Founder & CEO:

Telemed’s helloDoctor platform provides reliable and affordable access to health care. Through teleconsultations, we provide chronic disease follow-up and support to underserved people living in emerging markets by leveraging proven technologies and its unique partnerships.

Village HopeCore International, Dr. Kajira K. Mugambi, CEO and Founder:

Village HopeCore International (HopeCore) is dedicated to fostering integrated social and economic development in rural communities in Kenya and Africa. HopeCore enables and empowers members of rural Kenyan communities by providing health education and interventions, and microloans, business education and skills based training. We offer clinical curative services, preventative health information, and educational lectures to women and children to improve health outcomes in the community.

Jason Spindler, Managing Director of I-Dev International, an investment banking firm serving the developing world with an office in Nairobi, attended the event and reflected on what he saw. He said, “A majority [of the for-profit companies that presented] are ready for angel investment. Thirty to 50 percent are ready for later seed investment. Two or three could be acquisition targets.”

He noted that the capital markets in Africa are spotty, flush in some spots and thin in others. “Clean energy has a lot of capital going into it. Hundreds of millions more will be going in over the next few years.” On the other hand, tech ventures are struggling to access startup capital.

He is excited about Kenya’s prospects. “Nairobi is one of the best start up ecosystems in the world, including San Francisco. We’re building a car and you can’t drive it until you put the wheels on and the engine in. Kenya’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is ready to drive.”

This week, I’m traveling in Africa as a guest of Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s Executive Director Thane Kreiner and namesakes Karen and Jeff Miller. Read all my reports.

#17africa

When Free Maternity Care Isn’t Worth The Price

Shalom Mbungua Kang’ethe was born healthy on February 21, 2017 at 5:00 AM at Jacaranda Maternity Hospital in Nairobe. His mother, Lydia Wangui, paid about $100 to deliver her baby there; her first son was born at Mama Lucy Hospital, a public hospital where the delivery was free. Let’s find out why she didn’t want a free delivery for Shalom.

Lydia Wangui and her newborn son Shalom Mbungua Kang'ethe

Lydia Wangui and her newborn son Shalom Mbungua Kang’ethe

At the public hospital, women are expected to bring a birth kit. Of course, you say. Every woman in the world has a kit ready to go to the hospital when it is time to deliver. It isn’t that kind of kit. This kit would include the hospital essentials like rubber gloves for the nurse or midwife that delivers the baby, a string to tie off the umbilical cord, a razor blade to cut the umbilical cord, two sheets–one for the baby and one for the mother, and a maternity pad. If they want the bed sterilized following the preceding delivery, mothers are expected to bring bleach.

Oftentimes, however, the bleach is irrelevant. The hospitals are so overcrowded and understaffed that multiple women may be laboring in the same bed. One nurse described a scene with ten women laboring in one room with three beds.

Jacaranda Health was founded by Nick Pearson, who is from North Carolina. Nick came to Kenya several years ago while working for the Acumen Fund. He fell in love with Kenya and with an obstetrician here. He confessed that part of his motivation for leaving Acumen to start Jacaranda Health was to impress the woman who would become his wife.

Lydia seems to think that Nick and his team are doing a good job. Her first observation about the difference between delivering at Jacaranda compared with the public hospital was the nurses were nice. Seeking to understand more fully, I asked what the worst thing about the public hospital was and she reiterated that the nurses there were “not polite.”

She also liked the hot shower, clean facilities and good food.

Of course, these things don’t just happen in Kenya. It has taken Jacaranda five years to create a model maternity hospital that it hopes to replicate across the continent eventually.

Faith Muigai, Chief Medical Officer

Faith Muigai, Chief Medical Officer

Faith Muigai, the Chief Medical Officer, was trained as a nurse in the U.S. and worked at Johns Hopkins. She provided a guided tour of the facility to the visitors from Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Jacaranda participated in the school’s Global Social Benefit Institute program in 2014.She explained that the

She explained that Jacaranda initially opened a smaller facility that was intended to serve the same purpose. Staffed only with nurses and midwives and without an operating theater for performing C-sections, care could be provided even more affordably but even women who received their pre-natal care there chose not to deliver there. They made it clear that they wanted to deliver in a facility with a doctor and an operating room in case there were complications.

So, the new hospital was built. During the tour, the visitors saw a newborn that had been delivered via C-section only moments earlier. The fifth such delivery of the day.

Midwives use donated, modern ultrasound equipment from GE to spot complications as soon as women arrive.

Most of the women who deliver at the facility live in Nairobi’s slums. Urban poverty is different from rural poverty; people have money and incomes, but not enough. To help the women plan and prepare for the cost of delivering a baby, the prices for the services are posted on the wall on a giant sign. A normal delivery like Lydia’s costs about $100. A C-section costs about $350.

Posted prices at Jacaranda Maternity Hospital

Posted prices at Jacaranda Maternity Hospital

Women living in the slums don’t routinely have access to that much money. They are forced to save for the expense.

It isn’t just poor women that are delivering at Jacaranda. Faith admitted that she didn’t know what to think of it when women started showing up to the hospital in cars, “even a Range Rover.” The quality of care at Jacaranda now matches the most expensive private hospitals in the city, but at a fraction of the price.

Nick says the hospital recovers about 80 percent of its operating costs. Faith adds that they are exploring services they can offer at a premium, to improve profit margins for affluent patients.

As Lydia she was preparing to leave the hospital with Shalom, I asked her if it was worth paying so much. Without hesitating, she said, “Oh, yes.”

This week, I’m traveling in Africa as a guest of Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s Executive Director Thane Kreiner and namesakes Karen and Jeff Miller. Read all my reports.

#17africa

This Social Venture Helps Marginalized People Get A Leg Up

Walking through the dusty Nairobi slum called Kawangware, the general bustle of the place overwhelms the visitor. Grace Njeri lives in the neighborhood and she’s got work to do. She recently signed on as a sales rep for the social enterprise Livelyhoods and this is her third day on the job.

Yesterday, she had her first sale. She sold a clean cookstove and she’s carrying another one through the streets; she holds the stove in one hand and the empty box in the other. As she walks, she and her trainer Simon Mwenya spot a man in an informal hardware store looking at the stove. She decides to approach him.

With her winning smile and the knowledge that she has three children at home and no father to help carry the load, she quickly makes the sale. As Thane Kreiner, the Executive Director for the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University completes the receipt for her as part of his field work today, Grace learns that the buyer would like to become a distributor himself. He’s interested in buying 20 more stoves.

Thane Kreiner of the Miller Centeer completes the receipt for the customer

Thane Kreiner of the Miller Centeer completes the receipt for the customer

Grace was doing well before the possibility of selling 20 more stoves popped up. After selling two units in her first three days she is well on her way to her first month’s target of six stoves.

She takes the cash from the sale and walks across the street to an M-Pesa kiosk. The ubiquitous kiosks are so common in Nairobi that there are sometimes multiple competing shops on the same block. They are never far away. She hands the clerk the 3,490 shillings (about $35) she collected for the stove and the money is instantly applied to the account on her phone. Using her smartphone, she then transfers the entire amount to Livelyhoods. She’ll collect her commissions and any bonuses she may earn at the end of the month.

Grace Njeri, after making her first sale of the day

Grace Njeri, after making her first sale of the day

After completing the transaction, she cajoles a colleague into allowing her to take the electric kettle in hopes of finding a buyer. Around the corner, she spots the barber shop, a shop that isn’t 100 square feet in size, has two barbers and two customers in it. She recognizes that there are four prospects who can’t leave.

She enters and within five minutes she leaves having taken an order for a blender and another for an iron. Her day is getting better and it isn’t even noon.

Livelyhoods is intent on creating quality employment opportunities for some of Kenya’s least qualified. Sales reps last an average of only four months. A few won’t survive their first week. Some people aren’t cut out for sales.

At 44, Grace is old than the average of 24. The sales reps who attended the meeting this morning at 8:00 sharp–the trainer Lillian locks the door promptly at 8:00–were typically younger. Split almost perfectly between men and women, the crew included eight women and six men.

Most of the reps will move on to better jobs, the company says. The position is intended to be preparatory. Training is pretty intense.

The meeting began comfortably with introductions. Then Lillian offered an enthusiastic evangelical prayer. She then moved on to stretches with twenty people in a 200 square foot room. Despite the cramped quarters, the team seemed genuinely to enjoy the stretching as Lillian made it into a game of “Simon says.” I couldn’t help but wonder if the game was more or less amusing with two Simons in the room. No one seemed to notice.

With that complete, real sales training with goal setting and a review of the seven steps of a sale were presented, reviewed and practiced. Jeff Miller, the namesake for the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship who is visiting Nairobi, provided a group of reps with some personal sales training. Later, he would accompany some of the reps and help one close five sales in one hour.

Jeff Miller coaches a team of reps

Jeff Miller coaches a team of reps

Livelyhoods generated $440,000 in revenue in 2016, according to Claire Baker, the Director of Development. With growth beginning to ramp, in part due to a new layaway program for the $35 stoves, the company hopes to help more people in 2017.

The company’s founder, Tania Laden, participated in the Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit institute program in 2016. I reported on that here.

This week, I’m traveling in Africa as a guest of Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s Executive Director Thane Kreiner and namesakes Karen and Jeff Miller. Read all my reports.

#17africa

2,000 Women Rising From Poverty Celebrate The Social Venture That Helped

February 21, 2017 – The women mostly wearing beautiful, brightly colored traditional gowns were seated quietly beneath white event tents festooned in bright colors surrounding a small plaza that would serve as a stage. An empty tent on a platform was waiting for the VIP guests, including the executives of All Across Africa, the company the women credit with changing their lives.

All Across Africa sources handicrafts from here in Rwanda and also from Uganda and Burundi. The women weave baskets. This model would not distinguish All Across Africa from dozens or perhaps hundreds of other social enterprises that buy handicrafts from marginalized communities in emerging markets, but the story doesn’t end there.

CEO Greg Stone and COO Alicia Wallace have developed an impressive customer base for their products, including Pro Flowers and Costco. Their portfolio of buyers includes hundreds of independent retailers, allowing them to buy in volumes that are unusual.

All Across Africa’s secret sauce is creating contemporary designs that are appealing to Americans that the weavers in Rwanda can produce, rather than simply taking what the women were making and trying to sell it in the U.S.

When the company landed Costco in 2009, they had to grow their phalanx of weavers who supply their products from 60 women to over 1,000 in about 90 days. It has continued to grow ever since. Today, about 2,000 of the women were invited from this part of Rwanda to participate in the celebration. At least half showed up.

The weavers, primarily women but including a few men, held their annual celebration of the year spent working themselves out of poverty. The event is part annual meeting and includes some ceremony, but is primarily a party to celebrate their shared success.

Greg Stone, CEO, All Across Africa

Greg Stone, CEO, All Across Africa

At last year’s event, the weavers presented Greg with a spear and shield as symbols of his battle with their poverty. They recognized that they needed each other to make the climb from the lowest economic rungs to a lifestyle that would include adequate food, shelter and clothing—and dignity. In his remarks, Greg recommitted himself and the company to the fight.

All Across Africa exists to fulfill that mission. Selling baskets is simply the vehicle the company uses to achieve that objective. Organized originally as a nonprofit, the company now uses a hybrid model with a for-profit and a nonprofit entity. The for-profit business, All Across Africa, sources and sells baskets and other handicrafts. Opportunity Across Africa, the nonprofit, provides training.

The company participated in the Global Social Benefit Institute program at the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University in 2016. I wrote about the program here.

One of the weavers displays special baskets for Alicia Walker, COO

One of the weavers displays special baskets for Alicia Walker, COO

The company has helped the women form and manage co-ops. Technically, the company doesn’t buy products from the weavers; it buys from the co-ops. The co-ops are all independent. They can choose to sell products to other companies and there are several competing for the women’s handicrafts. But, the women say they earn twice as much selling to All Across Africa and so devote the majority of their time to its orders.

The income they make is life changing, they say. Typically, before joining the ranks of the All Across Africa weavers, they ate only two meals a day, including a bowl of porridge for breakfast that would have to last a full day of working outside on their farms. Now, they eat three meals a day, pay others to work on their farms and use their profits to acquire more land and animals. The women take pride in being fat, though few would qualify for that label in the U.S. None of the women appeared skinny or undernourished.

The income increases their status in the community and at home. The women not only earn greater respect from their neighbors but also from their husbands. They admitted that their husbands were dismissive of their work before All Across Africa but no longer. Many women earn more than their husbands and are now true partners in their marriages.

The income is also growing the local economy in unanticipated ways. In addition to using their new wealth to hire farm hands, they also buy sisal, the natural thread they use for weaving the baskets, rather than tediously harvest it themselves as they once did. Each week, the women gather for order days on Monday and Tuesday. A cottage industry of food purveyors has popped up so the woman don’t have to cook or bring lunch.

One of the weavers shows off some freshly harvested sisal.

One of the weavers shows off some freshly harvested sisal.

At today’s event, in a lengthy pageant-like sketch, the women portrayed the complete cycle of change that All Across Africa brings to their lives. They covered everything from how they were recruited and how skeptical they were about changing their lives by weaving to how to run a co-op, to avoid bad financial decisions—like spending their money on banana beer—and how to save for the future. The presentation ended with the women dancing and proudly holding up their bank books.

Irene Mujawayezu, one of the co-op leaders

Irene Mujawayezu, one of the co-op leaders

A local politician was invited to speak. His message, reminding the women to be thrifty and to buy health insurance was at least redundant and perhaps insulting. One of the women leaders, Irene Mujawayezu (her last name means servant of Jesus, one of the staff explained), took the microphone to explain in response that in her co-op, all of the women have their health insurance paid and to otherwise make clear that these women didn’t need a man to tell them how to spend their money.

Alicia Wallace, COO, All Across Africa

Alicia Wallace, COO, All Across Africa

In her remarks today, Alicia invoked a local blessing, “I wish you many cows and much success.” That was also redundant. The women do have many cows and plenty of success.

This week, I’m traveling in Africa as a guest of Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s Executive Director Thane Kreiner and namesakes Karen and Jeff Miller. Read all my reports.

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