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

Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Secret To Polio Eradication In India

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

On March 26, 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to certify India as a polio free country, marking more than three years since the last case of polio there. While visiting India for this story as a guest of Rotary International, I stumbled upon a surprising secret—more about that later.

It is virtually impossible to convey the magnitude of the eradication of polio from India. Deepak Kapur, a business leader in New Delhi who has chaired Rotary’s National PolioPlus Committee in India since 2001, explained the challenges to me during my recent visit. He identified six major challenges that the country faced:

  1. Population: The biggest challenge is the sheer scale of the project, needing to vaccinate 172 million children twice each year. Note that there are only seven countries with a total population greater than 172 million on the planet.
  2. Population Density: On one immunization visit, Kapur noted 107 people living within a 30 square yard plot of land in shanties, literally taking sleeping shifts around the clock.
  3. Insanitary Conditions: You can see refuse flowing in open sewers and otherwise abysmal sanitation conditions in many Indian communities, especially in Utter Pradesh and Bihar.
  4. Impure Drinking Water: Many people in India still lack access to clean drinking water; they may be drawing water from shallow wells in places with no sewer system such that there is a constant intermingling of sewage and drinking water.
  5. Malnourishment: Malnourished children don’t seem to get the same immunity from the vaccine that healthy children get. In the developed world, children receive three doses of the vaccine and gain immunity. Some Indian children have been infected with the virus after 18 documented doses.
  6. Enteric diseases: Several communities in India have the highest incidence of enteric diseases in the world, meaning that the kids who received an oral dose of vaccine wouldn’t gain immunity due to diarrhea—the vaccine simply didn’t stay in the body long enough to do any good.

Deepak Kapur, a business leader in New Delhi

Without seeing, smelling and hearing these problems in person it is difficult to get a complete sense of the challenges. Having been there, I can tell you that only having it done makes it seem possible.

(The story continues after the infographic.)

Courtesy of

The Secret:

Sajjan Goenka, an entrepreneur and philanthropist in Mumbai who has been a member of Rotary since 1968 was the first person I interviewed in India for this story; he shared the surprising secret with me. He shocked me when he said, “We didn’t believe we could do it. I didn’t believe we could do it.” Kapur agreed, offering up the same observation after he enumerated all of the challenges to eradicating polio.

I expected bravado and chest thumping. I expected to hear that “we always knew we could do it.” In fact, a group of naïve, well-intentioned people got together and thought even though it would probably be impossible, it was important enough to try.

And so it—the eradication of polio from India—is done. In the 1980s, there were approximately 350,000 cases of polio every year worldwide, 150,000 in India. In 2013 there were just 403 cases of polio worldwide, none in India, according to a WHO report.

Goenka was the first to help me understand the early history of the fight against polio. In those early days in the 1980s, he explained, Rotary was virtually alone in the effort. He explained that the government was not investing in polio vaccines so Rotary funded and administered the first vaccination campaigns alone.

Sajjan Goenka, Rotary member, entrepreneur, philanthropist

Over the years, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the WHO, UNICEF and the Indian Government all got involved. More recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has added more than $1.5 billion to the fight in an effort to ensure that having come so far, the virus is finally defeated.

The Vaccine:

Dr. Sunil Bahl, Deputy Project Manager, National Polio Surveillance Project (NPSP), a joint project between the Indian Government and WHO, explained some of the technical challenges of the polio vaccine. There are—or were—three strains of Polio, commonly called P1, P2 and P3. For more than a generation, a “trivalent” vaccine that inoculated against all three strains was used.

Dr. Sunil Bahl, Deputy Project Manager, National Polio Surveillance Project

In India, however, it was learned through the NPSP surveillance that the trivalent vaccine was not especially effective. Children weren’t gaining immunity. The last case in the world of P2 was reported in 1999, so thereafter it was no longer necessary to immunize against it. So, in 2005, the country began using “monovalent” vaccines that inoculated against just one strain. The results were immediately apparent. When the P1 vaccine was used, cases of P1 dropped significantly, but cases of P3 would rise.

A “bivalent” vaccine had not been developed or used prior to that point. The bivalent vaccine was developed in 2009 and it is now used around the world. Its efficacy is comparable to the monovalent vaccines—much better than the trivalent vaccine—and it covers the last two strains.

Dr. Jay Wenger, a Director of Global Development at the BMFG who previously worked with Dr. Bahl, explained that the last reported case of P3 occurred just over one year ago. Only P1 appears to be surviving today.

Government of India:

Everyone I spoke with was quick to give the ultimate credit for success in India to the Indian Government. When I met with Anaradha Gupta, An Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare who serves as the Mission Director of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), leading the polio fight for the Indian Government, I was impressed that I had found the person responsible for finally snuffing the life out of polio in India.

Anaradha Gupta, An Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

Gupta earned an MBA in Australia and has done executive education at both Stanford and Harvard. It showed. She spoke the language of an MBA, focused on process and outcomes. When she took office in 2009, India had 741 cases of polio. In 2010, there were just 42 cases, with the last case of polio in India reported in January 2011.

She explained that early in her tenure, she faced a difficult decision. The World Bank was prepared to provide funding for vaccines in 2010. The loan would come with strings attached. One of the strings was that vaccines were to be purchased from WHO prequalified manufacturers, who were not yet prepared to produce the vaccine at the scale required for India. Gupta decided to source the vaccine locally in India from high-quality, but non-WHO-prequalified who met India’s “Good Manufacturing Practices.” The impact of that decision is evident in the dramatic decline in cases from 2009 to 2010 and 2011. “We saw amazing results,” she exclaimed.

The other key, she says, was the programmatic effort to ensure that every single child was immunized. The goal was to reach every single child. Her data indicates that they in fact reached 99.7 percent of the children under five in the country. “We started to get data of every household that was missed,” she explained.

National Immunization Days:

The government organizes, with help from Rotary, WHO, and UNICEF, two National Immunization Days (NIDs) each year. On these days, all 172 million children are immunized. Volunteers from Rotary work side-by-side with health care workers to stand up immunization booths in every community in the country. In the days leading up to the event, all sorts of promotion is done.

Scott Leckman, a cancer surgeon from the Salt Lake Rotary Club (my club) has been visiting India every year for the past five years to help with the NIDs. He noted that on the day before the NID, he works with local Rotary clubs to distribute flyers around the community to alert people to the place and time for the NID booth in the community the following day.

When I visited India, I was able to observe a rally with about 100 Rotarians, many local, plus groups from Tokyo Japan and Devon, England, along with 300 primary and secondary school students. The group, with visiting Rotarians riding horses, a marching band playing, marched through the neighborhood for two hours waving signs and banners announcing the NID place and time.

Immunization Day Rally through poor neighborhood in Delhi, India

On the actual day of the event, I visited three booths operating in strategically different ways. The first stationary booth was, as it was explained, the most common sort. Set up under a simple awning, Rotary volunteers working with health workers began immunizing children with two drops of the oral vaccine early in the morning. Each child immunized would receive a toy ball. Given the incentive, it was not surprising to see that most of the young people were accompanied by modestly older siblings; six-year-olds dragged their four-year-old brothers and sisters to get inoculated in order to get the toy ball.

Dr. Mona Khanna immunizes children in Delhi, India

When children were immunized, their pinkies were marked with a pen using the same ink used to mark adult fingers after voting in an election here in India. This not only prevents children from being immunized multiple times for the sake of toys, but also allows for the “mop-up” teams who go house-to-house following the NID to find the children who weren’t immunized.

On the NID, there are also mobile units that drive around setting up shop quickly and then moving on after immunizing the children in the immediate area.

The third focus of the NID is transit stations; booths are set up in train stations. The workers and volunteers there not only invite children passing through the stations be immunized, but also board the trains when they stop in the station to look for children who need to be immunized and give them their drops right on the train.

Leckman shared with me an anecdote from his 2009 trip with 16 Salt Lake Rotarians to India to help with the NID.

Dr. Scott Leckman, Rotary Member, immunizing children in India

After doing the immunizations and walking back to the bus. I’m kind of walking by myself and this Indian guy about my age on a bike was passing by and jumps off and starts walking with me.

He says, “Where are you from?”

I say, “The United States.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m with Rotary and we’re immunizing kids against polio.”

“Well, what do you get out of it?”

I said, “A world without polio.”

He thought about it for a moment and simply replied, “Namaste,” which is to say, I recognize the divinity within you. Then he got back on his bike and rode away.

Polio’s Impact:

Since Rotary launched its effort to eradicate polio in 1985, approximately 10 million cases of polio have been prevented. For many in the developed world, however, that is a statistic without much meaning. Few people younger than 50 even know of anyone personally who was afflicted with polio-related paralysis.

During my visit to Delhi, I visited St. Stephen’s Hospital, which operates the only dedicated polio ward in India. The program is led by Dr. Mathew Varghese, who gave us a tour of the ward.

Dr. Matthew Varghese with one of his patients in the cancer ward

Polio frequently paralyzes the lower limbs and most often impacts those with little economic means, leaving them in the humiliating position of being forced to crawl. The kids who grow up crawling end up with permanent deformities.

Dr. Varghese accepts every patient who comes to him, regardless of ability to pay. Over the last decade, he boasts enthusiastically, that his patients are getting older and older. Virtually all of his patients are now over 15. He performs surgeries that allow children who crawl, to stand and walk in braces or calipers. Some children have had paralysis on only one leg. One outcome is that the affected leg is shorter than the other leg. Dr. Varghese provides surgery to lengthen the leg one millimeter per day. This allows patients to get out of orthopedic shoes and sometimes to eliminate the need for crutches or even a cane.

The ward is financially supported by Rotary.

The History of Rotary’s Fight to End Polio:

One of the highlights of my visit to India, was a meeting with Raja Saboo, who at the age of 80 interrupted his planning for a humanitarian mission to Rwanda, to visit with me.

Raja Saboo, former President of Rotary International

Saboo served as the President of Rotary International in 1991-92; he joined Rotary in 1961. As a young man, he met Mahatma Gandhi and as an adult met Mother Teresa several times. In 1992, he visited South Africa in his official capacity as the President of Rotary International. He was surprised to be invited to meet with President F. W. de Klerk. After a brief introduction, the South African President invited Saboo to stand with him at a press conference where he announced the end to apartheid.

Saboo, who served on the Rotary International Board beginning before the decision to make polio Rotary’s global effort, was able to provide a historical perspective.

Individual Rotary clubs were engaging in the fight against polio by the late 1970s, but this work was all being done at the club level and not at the international level.

Sir Clem Renouf of Australia served as the president of Rotary in 1978 and 1979 was the first to identify polio as a potential large scale project for Rotary. In 1981, Rotary decided approve a proposal to “immunize the children of the world against polio by 2005, when Rotary would be celebrating its 100 years. In 1988, the goal was rephrased as the eradication of polio, a difference that may be viewed as symbolic, but was actually a significant leap. No longer would success be judged by Rotary’s effort, but by the outcome.

When Rotary first estimated the cost of the program, Saboo said, the organization estimated the cost would be $25 million. They quickly realized that the cost would be much higher, estimating that it would be at least $120 million. In 1988, Rotary International raised $240 million to kick off the effort in earnest.

More than $10 billion has been spent to date to end polio with a budget of approximately $5 billion pending for the “Endgame Strategic Plan.”

Saboo played a key role in managing one of the biggest challenges of the immunization campaign. Some people in the Muslim community were especially resistant to efforts to immunize their children. Saboo visited a community where five families were specifically identified who were refusing to have their children vaccinated. During the visit, Saboo noticed a small child crawling on the ground in a classic polio afflicted way. He recognized that the child needed polio corrective surgery. He organized an effort to have this child and other children in the area receive the needed surgeries. This helped to soften the resistance to immunizations.

Public Relations:

In India, managing the challenge of public relations is the primary responsibility of UNICEF. During my visit, I sat down with Nicole Deutsch, Chief of Polio with the UNICEF India Country Office.

Michelle Kloempken, Rotary, Nicole Deutsch, UNICEF, Nima Chodon, Rotary

“UNICEF’s role is primarily on the social mobilization and communications side; this is about creating demand for the vaccination and raising awareness about its benefits,” Deutsch explained. Deutsch noted that she previously worked in Nigeria on polio and that while there, they used the “India Model” of communication for building community support.

Much of the focus is on bringing in influential leaders, like religious and local political leaders and doctors to participate in local functions to establish credibility for the immunizations.

“Branding was a big thing in India; so anytime people saw the pink and yellow they knew a campaign was being announced,” she explained. She highlighted the use of celebrities as spokespeople for the campaign across all sorts of media, including text messages.

“At one point it became obvious that there were certain communities that were being repeatedly missed or had distrust. Working with Islamic leaders and imams really helped turn things around. They were a major force in getting community buy in and support for this. Rotary had actually done a council of Ulemas to meet one time,” she noted.

Deutsch made it clear that the success in India came down to creating a universal understanding and agreement important among local and national government and among religious leaders that immunizations were. Everyone took ownership of the program within their particular responsibility.

The Legacy of the Polio Campaign:

With the eradication of polio in India and the imminent end of polio globally, it may be too early to look at what’s next, but it is clear that the 30 year effort to end polio has proven a few things. Most importantly, we can see that there is a way for humankind to do extraordinary things. In many ways, ending polio has proven to be a much greater challenge than going to the moon and yet we can predict reasonably that the final case of polio in human history will be reported in the next twelve to 18 months.

Dr. Wenger from the BMGF explained the Foundation’s hope that the “personnel and machinery used for the eradication of polio will be used for other things,” like routine immunizations for DTP and measles.

“In India especially—when I was there in early 2002, the routine immunization coverage in Bihar was about 10 percent, so only 10 or 11 percent of kids were getting the vaccines they were supposed to get. After years of working on that not just with the polio folks—with other groups too—now 70 or 80 percent of children are getting vaccinated,” Dr. Wenger explained.

“We think that is a huge piece of the polio legacy to see that the infrastructure is used to help other health goals. That is a huge benefit of eradication,” Dr. Wenger said.

“The challenges in India were so stunning. You could really go to places in India and find thousands of kids living on top of each other without any sanitation and who were getting no health care. We would run into some areas where the only thing people were getting from outside was the polio vaccine. In a way, this is sort of sad. In some ways, it was evidence of the reach of the polio program.”

He noted that the NIDs required two million volunteers. “That’s a huge commitment and buy in by the population. Once you’ve done that for something, you should be able to extend that to other things. That would be the real benefit of polio eradication, even bigger than the bottom line thing of getting rid of polio,” Dr. Wenger concluded.

Eliminating Our Carbon Footprint Goes Beyond Recycling

This is a guest post from Carlton Solle.

The recent Carlsbad plutonium spill shed light to the Department of Energy’s $5 billion pledge to clean up nuclear waste, putting into question the legitimacy and effectiveness of the department’s budget execution.

Meanwhile, many reports say consumers are recycling only 20% to 30% of plastic bottles, leaving 200 billion plastic bottles around the world ending up in landfills, beaches, rivers, and oceans every year.

To call it a problem is like calling BP Oil Spill a “situation.”

This all begs the question of who is responsible for the well-being of the planet, and how can government, businesses, and consumers share the responsibility? While the D.O.E shuffles to clean up its own messes and lobbyists push for relaxed regulations, consumers in a free market are left disempowered to exert influence upon the bottled water industry to take responsibility.

Yes, we have companies like Crystal Geyser and Poland Springs reducing the amount of plastic in their bottles under pressure from media pushback and because it boosts their bottom line and is good PR. Yet this reduced amount of unnatural plastic is still accumulating on top of what already persists out in ocean waste patches. That’s before we even mention the collateral air pollution released by the machines that produce plastic products in the first place.

In truth, the responsibility for protecting and restoring the environment lies with all of us. The government has played its part in making the mess, and so have plastic companies and we as consumers. Complex problems require cooperation. Ideas and approaches that may seem unorthodox at first can ultimately inspire others to change their behaviors because the idea works. You don’t change hearts and minds by telling people what they “should” do. You affect change by showing that there is another way, a better way that allows people to make simple choices that may not require them to change their lifestyles.

Although no company has completely eliminated its carbon footprint, a truly sustainable business model requires a complex, holistic set of practices. It starts with materials – using planet-friendly materials that do their job, ship well and minimize packaging weight is a good start. Finding a way to take the bottles after use, ensuring those products don’t end up where they shouldn’t, is a significant step further in owning our environmental responsibility.

Although we have yet to master a solution, I started Treeson Spring Water with the intention to take a giant step in the right direction. By not only using planet and people friendly materials in our bottles, we are teaming up with the US Post Office to allow consumers to mail their bottles back to our headquarters. Upon return we will convert the bottles into clean energy that is used to make more bottles – “Recycling 2.0”, a proprietary system incorporating the USPS to offer consumers a way to guarantee that their bottles won’t end up where they don’t want them to.

This is a bold idea that deserves attention and it could just be the one that starts to move the dial back on the amount of plastic pollution entering the environment.

Treeson’s water bottle might not “save the planet” overnight, but it’s a positive start. Start with bottled water and then sodas, juices and all the rest. It’s an idea that puts the power into the hand of the shopper buying their water and gives them a choice that they can feel good about making. Let us take responsibility where we can, and encourage others to pick it up as well.


New Savings Program For Poor In Developing Countries

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

The Gateway Financial Innovations for Savings project is a four-year effort to expand savings programs in the developing world from the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and partnering with five partner banks.

The project is intend to help millions of people open their first bank accounts and begin using them to accumulate savings. Savings for the poor can help protect them from economic shocks, prepare them for seasonal fluctuations in income and provide for future life events like weddings and funerals.

On October 14, 2014 at 4:00 Eastern, Chris Page, senior vice president of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, will join me for a live discussion about the new program.

Tune in and listen while you work.

Chris Page, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors

Page’s bio:

Chris Page leads the organization’s New York-based Donor Services Team, helping individual and institutional donors develop their philanthropic interests and manage their grantmaking activities. Together, the team manages philanthropic programs in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Europe, and the Caribbean for donors whose interests include the arts, community development, environmental conservation, education, and poverty alleviation.

Previously a Program Officer at the Ford Foundation, he served in its Rural Poverty and Economic Development divisions for seven years. He was a co-founder and chair of the Foundation’s Affinity Group on Development Finance, a research and grantmaking collaborative comprised of representatives from 11 countries.

Prior to joining Ford, Chris led the nonprofit Economic Development Council of Northern Vermont between 1978 and 1992. He is chairman of the board of Community Resource Group, Inc. (Fayetteville AR), a nonprofit organization that helps poor communities in seven states of the mid-South to develop safe drinking water, adequate housing, rural transportation systems and consumer finance services. Chris also serves on the boards of the Northland Institute (Minneapolis, MN) and CFED, formerly the Corporation for Enterprise Development, (Washington, D.C.). Chris holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from the Southern New Hampshire University’s School of Community Economic Development.


Mitch-Stuart Raises Over $1 Billion For Charity With Travel Incentives, Charity Auctions

Mitch-Stuart has been working for decades to help corporations engage more effectively with their customers and employees while helping charities to raise over $1 billion.

On Thursday, March 12, 2014, Mitch-Stuart CEO Stuart Paskow and President Michelle Cohen will join me for a live discussion about their programs and their success in helping raise money for good.

Tune in and listen while you work.

Keep reading to learn more about Stuart and Michelle.


Michelle’s bio:

Michelle Cohen heads the West Coast office of Mitch-Stuart, Inc., which she co-founded with Stuart Paskow in 1994. The company specializes in unique travel programs that serve nonprofit organizations in fundraising and provide travel incentives for businesses. 

As president, Cohen is responsible for the overall operations of Mitch-Stuart’s main headquarters in Orange County, Calif. 

Cohen’s fundraising career spans over 25 years beginning with volunteerism and leadership at the community level.  She was co-creator of a community-wide after school enrichment program.  She later served as national director of development for the Jewish National Fund and chaired its National Communications Committee.

She and Paskow created the Frequent Funder Awards Program®—the first charitable giving program of its kind in the nation—which received national recognition, including the front page of the Wall Street Journal and which led to the creation of Mitch-Stuart, Inc.

Cohen’s greatest accomplishment is raising over a billion dollars for more than 12,000 charities through Mitch-Stuart’s innovative programs.  She and her partner created and managed the American Airline’s AAdvantage Fundraising® program. Their Destinations of Excellence® no-risk auction travel program opened up a new avenue for nonprofit fundraising and bolstered hotel/flight sales following the downturn in the hospitality industry after 9-11.  The industry honored them with a Freddie Award for their accomplishments.  Cohen and Paskow also authored the United Way Donor Awards program and created a major donor gift with Tiffany & Co that was featured in 45 countries. 

More recently, the team created Perfect Places®, a cause related marketing program that generates a creative revenue stream for charities and provides businesses the opportunity to be philanthropic with no out of pocket expense.

A recognized speaker at numerous national conventions, Cohen has served as a panelist at the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) Fundraising Day in New York.  She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and has served on the Incentive Customer Forums for Marriott Hotels & Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton and the Advisory Council for Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. Cohen was recognized as Woman of the Year for Temple Bat Yahm for her service to the community, as one of OC Metro’s 20 Women to Watch 2010 and was a featured nominee of the Orange County Business Journal’s Women In Business 2010 and 2010 Excellence in Entrepreneurship. In 2013, Cohen and Paskow were honored by receiving the prestigious national SCORE Award for the Outstanding Small Business Launched by an Individual 50+. She holds a B.A. degree in business from Cal State Northridge and a certificate in professional fundraising from UCI.  She was honored with the Outstanding Alumni Award from the University of California, Irvine, for her success in nonprofit fundraising.


Stuart’s bio:

Stuart Paskow is chief executive officer of Mitch-Stuart, Inc. and heads its East Coast office.  Mitch-Stuart, Inc., which he co-founded in 1994 with Michelle Cohen, is headquartered in California and has offices in Miami, Florida.  The company is a recognized leader in providing unique travel programs that serve nonprofit organizations in fundraising and offer incentives for businesses.

As CEO, Paskow is responsible for sales and marketing and, with Cohen, consults on all aspects of the company.

Prior to forming Mitch-Stuart, Inc., Paskow was national communications director for an international nonprofit organization where he became the first fundraising executive to promote a philanthropic institute as a commercial product via innovative television and print campaigns.  He and Cohen created the Frequent Funder Awards Program®—the first charitable giving program of its kind in the nation—for which they were recognized in national news media, including the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

In 1993, while working with Cohen on fundraising ideas for the same nonprofit organization, the pair created and managed the American Airline’s AAdvantage Fundraising® program, which introduced the unique concept of using airline miles as a nonprofit direct mail incentive and as donor premiums. 

The following year, the colleagues officially formed Mitch-Stuart, Inc. and it became a full-service company, providing direct marketing consulting and creative services to charities. In 2005, their Destinations of Excellence® no-risk auction travel program opened up a new avenue for nonprofit fundraising while helping the ailing hospitality industry.  The industry took note and honored the company with a Freddie Award (named in honor of aviation magnate Sir Freddie Laker) in 2005 for distinguished achievement.  In addition, Paskow and Cohen authored the United Way Donor Awards program.  To date, they’ve helped raise more than a billion dollars in revenue for over 12,000 charitable causes.

The team created a new program in 2010, Perfect Places®, a cause related marketing program that generates a new revenue stream for charities and provides businesses the opportunity to be philanthropic and provide an employee benefit.

Paskow served on the Small Business Administration Advisory Board and the New Jersey Hotel Association Board of Directors.  He is former owner of the Harbor Island Spa Hotel in New Jersey and held the position of assistant professor of hotel management at the New York Institute of Technology where he helped to coordinate the school’s hotel management program.

He is a founding member, creator and former board member of the International Arid Land Consortium.  The members are the Jewish National Fund, Arizona State University, Israel, Jordan and Egypt.  Its purpose is to assist farmers in desert areas of the Sub Sahara countries to use Israel-developed technology to successfully farm arid areas in the Middle East.

He served on the Incentive Customer Advisory Board for Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.  His company, Mitch-Stuart, Inc., is a sponsor of the annual Nonprofit Times’ Power & Influence Top 50 gala and was honored as the founding charter sponsor.  

Most recently, Stuart Paskow and Michelle Cohen were honored by receiving the national SCORE Award for the Outstanding Small Business Launched by an Individual 50+.

Paskow is recognized as a lifetime member of Strathmore’s Who’s Who global registry and network of outstanding professionals for his leadership in the travel incentive industry.  He received a B.A. in political science from Washington Jefferson College in Pennsylvania and then attended Penn State, where he received an A.A. in hotel management.

Dr. Venus Shares Her Insights On Female Empowerment

Recently, had the opportunity to share a stage with Dr. Venus Opal Reese, an amazing woman who is focused on empowering women to find success in life.


Dr. Venus works with women through Black Women Millionaires.

On Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 2:00 Eastern, Dr. Venus will join me for a live discussion about helping women succeed.

Tune in and listen while you work!

Dr. Venus’s bio:

Dr. Venus Opal Reese has consulted O Magazine and has been featured on ABC News, CBS News, in Glamour magazine, Diversity Inc., the Associated Press, and on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, which reaches 8 million daily. One of her clients used the exact same system that got Dr. Venus off the streets to generate over 1.7 million in business. 

Monetizing and leveraging the survival strategies that got her off the mean streets of Baltimore and a Ph.D. from Stanford University, Dr. Venus Opal Reese is considered by many to be the ‘Defy Impossible’ Expert. She teaches uber-educated, purpose-driven, and successful entrepreneurial Black Women how to monetize their worth—on their own terms. 

Debt Crowdfunding Site Deal With Institutional Investor Portends Industry Growth

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Debt crowdfunding site Dealstruck recently announced an arrangement with peer-to-peer loan fund Direct Lending Investments. In order to better understand the import of the arrangement, I reached out to the leaders of both companies to get a sense of what the deal means for social entrepreneurs and other seeking growth capital.

Ethan Senturia, the CEO of Dealstruck, noted, “For the first time, a crowdfunding partnership is addressing the actual lending ecosystem, offering small businesses not only a term loan product, but now also a working capital line of credit (which most small businesses have asked for but no platform has offered until now). This allows not only high growth startups to benefit from crowdfunding, but also the main street businesses that have revolving capital needs.”

He went on to say, “Dealstruck and DLI are making a prime product (revolving credit line) available down-market to businesses that don’t meet the credit or size standards of traditional bank or ABL lenders. The result is that they will be able to step off unhealthy products, build business credit, and graduate through to better and better options.”

The implication of the new arrangement seems to be that more sophisticated money is beginning to seek out opportunities to invest alongside the crowd to bring more capital and more credit products to the SMB market.

Brendan Ross, founder and president of Direct Lending Investments, agrees, “This partnership connects investors directly with qualified business borrowers and is indicative of the vast changes occurring in the capital markets, on both the debt and equity sides of the equation.”

The problems of accessing capital may be greater for social entrepreneurs.

Senturia recognizes the challenges social entrepreneurs face, “Mission-driven entrepreneurs are still entrepreneurs, and they face the same struggle for capital access as those with an exclusive profit motive. In fact, many times it is harder for them to access capital because they are not purely focused on profit maximization.”

The news of the deal bodes well for social entrepreneurs, Ross says, “This partnership will ultimately make more capital available to those businesses that are the driving force behind economic growth and job creation in this country. Peer-to-peer lending is the vanguard of Silicon Valley’s attack on New York, Charlotte, and other centers of retail lending that are currently underserving the small business and consumer lending markets. ”

The best news of all is the indication that the more capital may be available to entrepreneurs, that this deal is evidence of a trend. Ross noted, “As more investors–be they institutional or individuals–see both the social and financial value of investing in local businesses, I anticipate this industry to grow substantially and develop even more ways to satiate the financing needs of the small business community.”

Ross also points out that this isn’t his firm’s first such deal, “This is the third such partnership Direct Lending Investments has signed with online/peer-to-peer lenders, the others being IOU Central and Quarterspot.”

Senturia says he sees himself as a social entrepreneur, “Our purpose for existing is to provide fair, transparent, affordable loan options that put small businesses on a path to bankable. In that sense, Dealstruck itself is run by mission-driven entrepreneurs, so we have respect, admiration, and an exceeding desire to help those pursuing financial dreams and making the world a better place at the same time.”

In the UK, where investment crowdfunding has been legal for some time, it is reported that lending models have scaled much more quickly than equity models. Perhaps we are seeing the first sign that the same pattern may emerge here in the U.S.

It is important to remember that we are still in the early days of the development of the investment crowdfunding ecosystem here. Title III of the JOBS Act, which formally authorizes it subject to the issuance of regulations by the Securities and Exchange Commission, has not yet been implemented. The SEC is expected to issue final regulations within the next 90 days.

Raise Funds to Help My Friends & Colleagues With Typhoon Relief

This is a guest post from Victoria Mita of GoAbroad.


Victoria Mita and the Children in Cangumbang a village nearby Tacloban

On November 7, 2013, GoAbroad and FundMyTravel team members moved from their respective desks in the US office, so they could work together in their main conference room for the entire day. They were creating a pre-emptive fundraising campaign for the anticipated damages of Super Typhoon Haiyan ( known as Yolanda in the Philippines.) There was no way to conceptualize the severity of damage and loss that the storm would bring, but they knew it was very serious, after seeing a first hand video-clip transmitted from their founder’s iphone via email.

The clip showed a rooftop slowly being forced to detach by the winds, until it was eventually ripped off. This was all in under three minutes and hours prior to the actual storm making landfall., an online directory for international opportunities, has its Asia headquarters based in Tacloban City, Philippines. The campus has been compared to Google in terms of the benefits and treatment of its staff. The Asia office developed, when GoAbroad decided to take some the their site’s automated functions and put smart, hard-working people behind the tasks instead. Over the years, more jobs were created and thus more professional opportunities for the locals as well. While this approach might have gone against the grain of most tech companies at the time, it only reinforced the mission and culture of GoAbroad: to be the leading resource for meaningful travel and and an organization based on humanitarian interests.

It’s evident within one week of visiting either the US or Asia office, that the staff are not simply employees but team members at GoAbroad, and the overall atmosphere is very much one of a family. That feel holds true for the FundMyTravel team as well. One of GoAbroad’s more recent projects was creating a solution for all the students they met who wanted to study, volunteer, work or intern abroad, but stated funding as the number one obstacle. Enter a crowdfunding site made specifically for meaningful travel campaigns. The FundMyTravel team never anticipated having their own site used by GoAbroad to fund major relief efforts for the Tacloban community, but that’s exactly what took place and they raised over $10,000.00.



Cangumbang Center Almost Complete

In the days and months following Typhoon Haiyan, GoAbroad and it’s charitable wing, The GoAbroad Foundation were in a unique position to make a significant difference on the ground in the Philippines. NBC news was stationed at the GoAbroad Asia complex, while covering the storm. Multiple global relief organizations ended up using the office as a space to hold meetings, develop strategies for addressing the devastation and it was also used as an evacuation center for numerous locals during the storm.

During the aftermath of Haiyan, we saw through the media how impressive the Typhoon’s damage really was. Though the storm had passed, it’s effects were obviously long term. GoAbroad staff from the US and their extended networks, including multiple partners and organizations in the international education field, showed inspirational support through various campaigning and fundraising efforts- this time with a more specific intent to help locals rebuild their homes and have a place to start their lives over. These campaigns are still ongoing and that is the initial reason I reached out to Devin.

My name is Victoria Mita and I have been working with GoAbroad for the past year and a half. I direct and work with an incredible team of people, who motivate me to do the best work I can do, every single day. The reason I wrote the first portion of this piece in third person is because I still reflect on the whole instance from that point of view, quite frequently. I observe the ethic and honor that my colleagues carry out their work with on a daily basis and am genuinely amazed by it, just as I was when I first joined the GoAbroad family.


Ride Safe and Tip for Tacloban

I will soon be going on a three month sabbatical from work with GoAbroad and traveling through Asia and Australia, before returning to our office in the Philippines. I feel blessed to say that all of GoAbroad’s staff survived Typhoon Haiyan but I am very much aware that the storm’s effects are still present and felt every day. Before I go on sabbatical, it was important for me to launch this personal campaign, to help rebuild the homes of my friends. Please consider sharing this message and the campaign I have below, where I will be posting the first hand stories of three incredible Filipinos.

Thank you, Devin and thank you to all who join in becoming aware.

With sincere gratitude,


Kat Taylor Does It Her Way: Banking The Underserved

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Kat Taylor isn’t your typical bank CEO. While she’s not the only woman CEO in the banking world, female CEOs certainly aren’t the rule. But that just begins to scratch the surface of what makes Taylor and her bank, One PacificCoast Bank, truly unique.


Kat Taylor, One PacificCoast Bank

When banks have seen their reputations sullied, One PacificCoast Bank operates with a triple bottom line focus. The bank “pursues economic justice and environmental sustainability” by serving nonprofit organizations and businesses in sectors like low income housing that require banking services to create social benefits.

The website proudly boasts of this philosophy, “Our profits, when distributed, can only be distributed to our Foundation to support our community and environment. We believe this innovative structure will allow us to achieve our vision of Beneficial Banking.”

Taylor will be speaking at the Social Venture Network conference on April 24 through 27, 2014 in San Diego.

On Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 7:00 PM Eastern, Taylor will join me for a live discussion about her unusual approach to banking.

Tune in and listen while you work.

Taylor’s bio:

Kat Taylor is CEO of One PacificCoast Bank, a Community Development Financial Institution whose mission is to bring beneficial banking to low-income communities in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner. One PacificCoast Bank is the result of a merger between OneCalifornia Bank, which Kat and her husband, Tom Steyer, founded in Oakland, CA CA -0.09%, and ShoreBank Pacific, with offices in Oregon and Washington. The bank’s revolutionary ownership design means that its profits be invested in the communities it serves. Kat is also a founding Director of TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation (TKREF) dedicated to sustainable food production through ranching, tours, research, and school lunch and garden programs.


Hard Work And Self-Discipline Are Still The Keys To Success

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Joanne Lipman’s recent book Strings Attached is an inspiring treatise that challenges the premise of education and parenting for the past twenty years that says everyone is special and that all we need to do to build self esteem is to tell kids how great they are.

Lipman argues that hard work and accomplishment are superior means of building a positive self image. The book is a history of “Mr. K” or Jerry Kupchynsky (yes, Mr. K is the father of the co-author), a Ukrainian immigrant who served in the U.S. Military and who taught music in the public schools of New Jersey for a generation.

Mr. K’s style was to brutally challenge his students to master their music with insults that would be more likely to yield parental complaints than praise today. Notwithstanding his style, he trained brilliant musicians and more importantly taught students to work hard and succeed. While a few pursued music at the collegiate level and beyond, many have gone on great success in other arenas.

Joanne Lipman

Lipman herself was one of Mr. K’s students. She became a Editor-in-Chief of Conde Nast Porfolio after serving as the Deputy Managing Editor at the Wall Street Journal. She attributes much of her success to the self-discipline and self-confidence she learned from Mr. K.

On Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 1:00 Eastern, Lipman will join me for a live discussion about the book and the implications of these principles for society.

Tune in and listen while you work.

Lipman’s bio, according to Wikipedia:

A native of East Brunswick, New Jersey, Joanne Lipman graduated from East Brunswick High School and summa cum laude from Yale University with a B.A. degree in history. While a student at Yale, she worked as an intern for The Wall Street Journal, which she joined as a staff reporter upon graduating in 1983.[7] After covering the insurance and real estate beats, she created and wrote the Journal’s daily Advertising column from 1989 through 1992. She served as a Page One editor of the Journal from 1992 through 1996.

In 1998, she created the Journal’s popular Friday section, Weekend Journal.[8] She served as its Editor-in-Chief through 2000, when she was named a Deputy Managing Editor of the newspaper, the first woman to hold that post.[9] In 2002, she oversaw the creation of a new fourth section, Personal Journal. The New York Times described her role as the Journal’s “innovator in chief.”[10]

In 2005, Lipman moved to Conde Nast to create Conde Nast Portfolio and, a business magazine and website that launched in April 2007. The print magazine folded after 21 issues in May 2009.[11] The website,, is now being run by a Conde Nast sister company, American City Business Journals.

Lipman serves on the Yale University Council,[12] the Yale Daily News board of directors, and the advisory board.[13] She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has served as a judge for the Pulitzer Prize and National Magazine Awards, among others.

HealthTap: Helping Millions Feel Good

This is a guest post from Ron Gutman, Founder and CEO of HealthTap.

Since the mobile health revolution has started a few years ago with the advent of smartphones and tablets, the way we stay in touch with our health has changed. HealthTap is on the cutting edge of this movement, bringing together more than 55,000 U.S. licensed physicians on a transformative mobile platform that delivers health information immediately to anyone, anywhere, at no cost. Not only have 1.2 billion doctor-answers been served to many millions around the globe, but also every one of these knowledge exchanges has become available for anyone to access at any time. This is the first time in history that the heart of medicine – questions and answers – has been codified and assembled in a way that’s easily accessible 24/7 for free. Everyone can easily benefit from trustworthy doctors-knowledge that’s constantly refreshing itself with each new response. In short, HealthTap has democratized doctor knowledge for you and your loved ones.

One of the most unique aspects of HealthTap is that each user has the opportunity to both receive high quality information for herself, and at the same time, contribute to an ever growing repository of high quality health wisdom available for others forever. Because HealthTap’s network of physicians is highly engaged, any health question asked today will receive a quality answer within minutes or short hours, regardless of the individual’s location, income, or access to medical insurance.

Social good means delivering to the world real value that’s helping every person it touches. HealthTap has done exactly that for many millions of users everywhere, who in return continuously make the service more inclusive and robust. HealthTap has already changed the way people access doctors and their knowledge, and it’s just the beginning.

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