As global awareness rises and people become educated about the needs of people all over the world, social-entrepreneurs are stepping up and starting businesses of all types, in order to bring about improved social and environmental conditions. Whether for-profit or non-profit, business models are being developed and implemented, in order to increase the quality of life for people living in the hardest of conditions.  In ever-growing numbers, people are considering new business ventures to enact positive change. Here is a 10 point plan for social-entrepreneurs to focus on:

  • Save your money
  • Keep your day job
  • Stay committed – it won’t be easy
  • Focus on social issues (and you can still make money)
  • Bring passion to your mission
  • Build a great team of supporters
  • crowdrise or kickstarter)
  • Make an impact, be able to show results
  • Change the world – all of the above will make it happen

Writing for, Devin Thorpe, the strategist of the above list says that “Once you demonstrate your impact, you can grow your enterprise to have world-changing scale.” The results won’t be measured in profits, he adds. Even the smallest idea can grow into a global force, anyone can choose to start a project and make a difference.

– Mary Purcell

Sources: Forbes
Photo: Heinebroscoffee

Dupont Invents Life Saving Packaging
DuPont, in collaboration with Simonalbag, recently launched “MixPack,” the first flexible package in Mexico capable of combining high-and-low resistance seals. This new technology is proving to be a life saving solution to malnutrition in rural communities.

Between 1,000 and 3,000 Tarahumaras indigenous people live in the remote caves of Chihuahua, Mexico. They are isolated and poor, when droughts come they have no access to drinkable water, and no water for farming – thus unable to feed themselves.

The MixPack product is a bag with two compartments, which are separated by an internal seal made of DuPont Surlyn®. This solution prevents the mixing of the milk powder with the purified water that is contained within the same packaging unit. Then, when needed, by squeezing the package, the inner seal breaks mixing the ingredients – resulting in a nutritious and healthy drink for children.

Dupont has started a program that provides milk for children living in these areas. CEO Alvaro Navarro states that MixPack was the result of a dream to help people nourish their children but have no way to refrigerate baby milk or do not have a source of drinking water. He projects MixPack will revolutionize flexible packaging around the world.

“I have a dream and a mission to alleviate hunger through science and innovation,” said Navarro

– Mary Purcell

Will Capping Charity Deductions Hurt?
Despite Congress’ efforts in January to increase the tax savings for charitable donations, Obama’s newest proposal will lower it from the current 39.6% to 28%.  A cap on itemized deductions basically means that when someone makes a charitable donation, the amount that they can claim on their itemized tax deduction is now about 10.8% less than before. For example, say a person who earns about $450,000 a year makes a donation of $1000 to UNICEF. Originally, they would be able to write off $396 but with the change in charity deductions, can only write off $280.

This change, however, will only affect those in the top 35% tax bracket (those who make more than $335,000). For Obama, this is a major source of money that he would use to help pay for the $447 billion job plan he introduced a few years ago. It is also a way to make sure that the rich are paying a higher share of taxes and eliminating the loophole of writing-off thousands and thousands of dollars.

But what does this mean for nonprofits? And aside from them, what does the fact that this is even an issue mean about society and giving in general? To tackle the first question, referred to a study by economists John Bakija and Bradley Heim that concludes that for every 1% decrease in savings (in this case, about 10.8%), there is an equal 1% decrease in the amount given. They do, however, mention that there are many other factors that affect how much donors give and that this change will affect each charity in a different way.

The second question seems to be the elephant in the room. It is not naive to assume that people choose to give from the heart. Yes, we live in a country that allows those who donate to receive some sort of benefit for doing so, but at a time where our passions for a cause should be the driving cause of our actions and charity, why would receiving only 11% less on a donation make the wealthy hesitate when giving to a cause?

Perhaps the charted out reductions in total donations is frightening to some charities. They should still remain hopeful that there are those in the 35% tax bracket who will continue to donate at the rates they have previously, regardless of this new change in policy. Obama’s intent to bridge the income gap and require the wealthy to pay more taxes is understandable; but so is the fear of many nonprofit organizations.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Photo: Times Union

The Amanda Palmer Ted Talk on asking explores a new way of selling records. The singer-songwriter-blogger-provocateur, known for pushing boundaries in both her art and her lifestyle, made international headlines this year when she raised nearly $1.2 million via Kickstarter (she’d asked for $100k) from nearly 25,000 fans who pre-ordered her new album, Theatre Is Evil.

But the former street performer, then Dresden Dolls frontwoman, now solo artist hit a bump the week her world tour kicked off. She revealed plans to crowdsource additional local backup musicians in each tour stop, offering to pay them in hugs, merchandise and beer per her custom. Bitter and angry criticism ensued (she eventually promised to pay her local collaborators in cash). And it’s interesting to consider why. As Laurie Coots suggests: “The idea was heckled because we didn’t understand the value exchange — the whole idea of asking the crowd for what you need when you need it and not asking for more or less.”

Summing up her business model, in which she views her recorded music as the digital equivalent of street performing, she says: “I firmly believe in music being as free as possible. Unlocked. Shared and spread. In order for artists to survive and create, their audiences need to step up and directly support them.”

Too often, the positive effects of government aid are either overlooked or overshadowed. However, the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cabinet Cluster (HDPRCC) of the Philippines has released Voices of Change, a book documenting the triumphs of 18 people over poverty.

One of the stories the book documents is that of Bec, a 56 year-old woman with a visual impairment. Although Bec was born into poverty with a disability, through government assistance and hard work, she earned her bachelor’s degree and has spent her life giving back to the community by preparing braille for students with visual impairments in public schools.

Bec’s story stands as a symbol of the progress that governmental assistance can make in impoverished communities. Not only has Bec pulled herself out of poverty, she continues to pay it forward and contribute to the education and development of children who were born at a disadvantage. Government aid in this case has given rise to a butterfly effect of progress and economic development. Bec’s success has enabled more impoverished students to attain success which will have a ripple effect on their communities, the Philippines, and eventually the global economy.

In a country that is fighting its way into the ranks of developed nations, stories like Bec’s continue to inspire and motivate people to contribute despite their disabilities or economic situation. All they need is a hand up.

– Pete Grapentien

Source Rappler


The ‘Harlem Shake’ has become a viral video craze in the last few weeks. A typical ‘Harlem Shake’ video consists of a single person dancing crazily in a space while many other people are acting normal and seem oblivious to the dancing person. Then, all of a sudden the video cuts to the entire group of people dancing crazily in extravagant, yet often silly, costumes. Looking on youtube, you can find videos of swimwear models dancing in speedos, the entire Miami Heat basketball team dancing in their locker room, Norwegian army officers dancing in camouflage, and various college students dancing in college libraries, college houses, and classrooms.

You can also find videos of protestors partaking in the ‘Harlem Shake’ video craze. Yet, their videos are not just for fun but have become a new form of Middle East protest. Outside of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, a large group of protestors danced. In a Tunisian town plagued with uprisings in the Arab world, students utilized the ‘Harlem Shake’ video craze to clash with Salafists, super conservative Islamists.

The videos were streamed live, recorded by activists and later appeared on Egyptian news channels. They’ve made their way into other social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, spreading awareness and bringing attention to governmental clashes occurring in Tunisia and Egypt, leading to the arrest of at least 4 students in Egypt.

For many, the ‘Harlem Shake’ craze may seem like nonsensical fun but in the Middle East, the dance has become politicized as police and Islamist groups try to prevent these videos from happening and students and protestors stand up for their right to free expression and defy officials.

-Angela Hooks

Source: The Lede- NY Times, The Verge
Photo: The Lede- NY Times

It was announced on Monday that President Obama will nominate a former Gates Foundation official, Sylvia Burwell, as the next budget director. The announcement comes at a time of severe administrative budgeting issues and strong disagreement between the parties over how best to fix them. In the role, Ms. Burwell would assist the White House in developing its overdue 2014 budget proposal.

Sylvia Burwell’s background in economic policy and non-profit administration qualifies her for the position. She was president of the Gates Foundation Global Development program from 2006 to 2011, and served as the organization’s chief operating officer from 2001 to 2006. She has run the Walmart Foundation, the company’s philanthropic and charitable branch, since 2011.

The fact that Obama will nominate a former Gates Foundation official for the position of budget director is encouraging for those engaged in the fight against global poverty.

The Gates Foundation, headquartered in Seattle, WA, is a $36 billion national organization dedicated to improving health and fighting poverty worldwide. The Global Development division is devoted to finding and implementing solutions to extreme global poverty in the areas of agricultural development, family health care, and many more.

Founded by Bill and Melinda Gates, the Gates Foundation shares many of the same goals as the Borgen Project and the Millennium Development Goals.

Kat Henrichs

Sources: Seattle Times, New York Times
Photo: Gates Foundation

With old Senate mates and close confidants gaining power and moving up the ranks in government administration, Vice President Joe Biden’s talent of using personal relationships to gain influence within the Obama administration is helping him take on a larger role in foreign policy.

Recently, Biden was essential in ensuring that Syrian opposition leader, Moaz al-Khatib, met with a former Senate mate, Secretary of State John Kerry. He also helped in easing tensions over another former Senate mate, Chuck Hagel, becoming Defense Secretary. His role in both of these situations was simple. He made phone calls and his credibility and stature in the U.S. government did the rest.

Because of Biden’s connections and personal ties to top government officials – the above just being a couple of examples – Vali Nasr, a former State Department official, believes “it’s not so much that he [Biden] intends to expand his influence, but his stature will rise by default.” He has also built specific relationships with influential leaders around the world, such as slated President of China Xi Jinping.

Biden taking on a larger role in foreign policy would help the White House have more control on this issue area, which seems to be their intent. Biden bringing his whole team up, vis–à–vis Drake’s song “Started From The Bottom”, seems to be key to the White House having this control. Considering Biden’s ability to take on specific issues and build key relationships, an increased role in foreign policy for Biden seems to be on the horizon.

– Angela Hooks

Source: NY Times
Photo: Huffington Post

alternative spring break
Mid-March is coming. This is a special time of year that college students around America know as Spring Break. For many people, the words “Spring Break” trigger images of a wild party of hooligans drinking as if it were the end of the world, moshing about in an endless sea of lacrosse shirts and Oakley glasses. Many students will spend their spring breaks doing just that in Panama City, Daytona, and most of the state of South Carolina, but more and more students are doing something else during their week off.

The idea of an “alternative spring break” has been around for quite some time. These are usually programs that allow students to spend their week away from school helping victims of disasters and poverty around the country and the world. Many of these programs are led by local churches and other faith-based organizations and more and more student-run groups are being started to create rewarding, safe, and productive opportunities for American college students to volunteer their time. Hundreds of students are already helping rebuild homes and clear debris from Superstorm Sandy on the Jersey Coast while more will soon be on their way. Other groups have organized trips to help in schools and community centers around the Americas.

Alternative spring breaks became very popular after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the trend doesn’t look like it will be going away anytime soon. Seeing the nation’s young students getting involved in efforts to help the poor in our country and abroad is a fantastic sight, and is something to be thankful for. Volunteers in a multitude of organizations around the world continue to take all the little steps that make a real difference, and their importance cannot be understated.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: CBS
Photo: University of Pennsylvania

Students and faculty at the University of Bristol are actively making many necessary pharmaceuticals more available to people living in the developing world. The university created its’ own “equitable access policy” act in order to help create affordable medicine and drugs that will be more accessible to patients suffering curable diseases throughout the world.

Any drugs that are produced using the University of Bristol are entered into this program and the result is a giant difference in prices, making them more realistically available to many people who would otherwise not be able to afford their medicines. Hopefully, other universities will create similar policies and contribute to making needed medicine more accessible. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that limited access to medicine is responsible for about 18 million deaths every year. The ability to get needed medicine at a lower price could save lives while also allowing people in the developing world to hold on to more of their disposable income, letting that money move in and out of local economies. While some programs have already been established to provide HIV/AIDS related medication at lower prices, people suffering from other diseases have not yet been able to receive such aid.

Affordable medicine and treatment are important anywhere, but they are especially important in the developing world. More reasonably priced medicine may be able help many people who have to choose between buying their medicine or food for their family. It may be just a small step now, but if such programs spread to other universities, they could make a great impact in helping the world’s poor.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Medsin
Photo: Photo Dictionary