Social Entrepreneurship Journeys
People often say that necessity is the mother of invention. However, communities that require innovations do not always see enough of them. Due to a lack of access to resources, many rural communities suffer an endless cycle of poverty and poor living conditions. Several nonprofit organizations in India are conducting social entrepreneurship journeys for college students as a means of countering the problem that most brilliant, young minds in the country are focusing too much on the big picture rather than on how empowering the poor can build a stronger nation.  They are doing this to imprint the minds of the youth and shift their focus to innovation for the sake of uplifting rural communities. Here are examples of three of such journeys.

Jagriti Yatra

A charitable nonprofit organization called Jagriti Sew Sansthan started Jagriti Yatra, which is the largest of its kind in India. It is an extensive, 15-day, roundabout journey across several of the nation’s rural landmarks. The journey spans for about 8,000 kilometers across the length and breadth of India to expose youth to several grassroots problems and inspire them to be the face of innovation.

Yearly, 500 college students who clear a rigorous selection process, undertake this life-changing journey. They have the opportunity to meet several role models and social entrepreneurs who strived against unfavorable societal conditions (like poverty, hunger and lack of educational facilities) to take charge and innovate sustainable business models for their social enterprises.

Bunker Roy from Barefoot College, a voluntary research organization that works on bettering health, educational facilities and skills of the rural population, and Anshu Gupta from Goonj, an innovative nonprofit that focuses on providing clothing as a basic need among other things, are a couple of role models who are working with Jagriti Yatra to inspire the students. They are demonstrating how students can contribute to alleviating poverty and bettering living conditions in rural India.

LEad Prayana

The LEaders Accelerating Development (LEAD) program is a brainchild of Hubbali, Karnataka’s Deshpande Foundation that Mrs. Jaishree Deshpande and Dr. Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande founded. From thousands of applicants, the program selects 120+ college students based on their passion for solving problems and compassion towards the society they live in.

The on-road, 14-day journey includes activities that challenge the students’ innovative abilities and encourages them to partake in mini-projects that have environmental, social and humanitarian value. The students participate in several panel sessions that successful social entrepreneurs conduct like Madhu Chandan of Organic Mandya, a social movement that encouraged the farmers of Mandya, Karnataka to practice organic ways of farming to yield healthier produce.

ShodhYatra

What sets ShodhYatra apart from the rest of social entrepreneurship journeys is its unique mode of transport, which is nothing but human feet. Anil Gupta, a retired IIM professor, founded ShodhYatra. This journey of search spans about 100 kilometers on foot and occurs in various parts of the country. The participants get a chance to view and analyze the shortfalls in rural communities first hand and sometimes also come across innovative solutions that the villagers put into action.

Gupta calls this journey a two-way street rather than a one-sided one, where urban and rural communities exchange knowledge. Being the founder of Honey Bee Network, he propagates that humans can benefit from lateral learning without exploitation of either party, just like how honey bees thrive from collecting honey without impoverishing the flower.

While undertaking such journeys, the participants, who are usually from the urban areas of the country, have no choice but to shed their inhibitions, interact with the locals and understand the human ability to adapt and that, indeed, is the prime reason to innovate. All these journeys primarily work on the concept of social entrepreneurship, which not only focuses on bettering living conditions across the country but also on building sustainable business models while doing so.

Reshma Beesetty
Photo: Flickr

5 Facts About the Technology Renaissance in Africa
As of 2019, 11 percent of the world’s internet subscribers are from Africa and only 39 percent of Africans use the internet. However, Africa is quickly closing the digital gap with the developed world. Here are five facts about the technology renaissance in Africa, as digital technology rapidly expands across the continent.

5 Facts About the Technology Renaissance in Africa

  1. Africa is Ripe to Enter the Tech Economy: Africa has multiple advantages over other regions in developing a technology-based economy. The continent has the youngest population in the world with an average age of 19.5, meaning that there is a large population of young people looking for a chance to break into the technology industry. Because of the continent’s late entry into the global tech economy, African tech companies can learn from the early mistakes of tech hubs like Silicon Valley. Further, Africa is entering the digital market at an ideal moment – by entering the industry late, African techies can immediately take advantage of globalized internet technology, bypassing outdated infrastructures such as landlines and branch banking and directly adopting mobile phones or mobile money.
  2. Technology is Revolutionizing Other Sectors: Technology is not just good for the technology industry – as many countries have discovered, one can apply tech to a multitude of industries. Technology is revolutionizing education in Africa through digital books and online classes with global universities such as Harvard and MIT. An app called iCow helps farmers manage their cattle populations. Africans can attend church services online, solving problems of limited religious resources in smaller communities. Additionally, mobile phones and increased connectivity have already been critical in responding to crises like Boko Haram kidnappings in Nigeria.  New technology has already had a profound effect on both commercial and social industries.
  3. Tech Education is Booming: Recognizing the critical need for technology-based education, multiple universities in Africa now offer software engineering, computer science and other tech programs that compete with established universities such as Yale or Stanford. Further, technology accelerators are rapidly growing. French telecommunications company Orange opened its first African digital center in Tunis, Tunisia in April 2019, which will support startups and educate young entrepreneurs. Nairobi, Kenya-based Andela is the top computer engineering accelerator in Africa, connecting its students with tech jobs around the world.
  4. Africa is Building its Own Tech Economy: The technology renaissance in Africa means that the continent will eventually have its own independent tech market. For example, in October 2019 President Paul Kagame of Rwanda inaugurated Africa’s first smartphone factory. The factory does not produce iPhones – instead, it produces the Mara, a mobile phone that the pan-African Mara Group developed. The Mara is unique in that it is the first phone a company entirely assembles in Africa. Other African companies entering the smartphone market include Onyx Connect from South Africa and AfriOne from Nigeria.
  5. Growing Tech Industries Raise GDP: The increase in access to technology is critical to increasing African countries’ economies. The World Bank reports that a mere 10 percent increase in internet penetration represents a 1.38 percent increase in GDP for a developing country. The growth of African technology also attracts international business – IBM, Google, Facebook and Microsoft have all begun investment projects in Africa based on the continent’s technological growth. Though getting widespread technology access across dispersed communities is a challenge, African governments are coming together and developing plans to move the technology renaissance in Africa forward.

Though African countries are still developing, the continent is becoming a major player in the global technology economy. From international investment to country-specific development, a technology renaissance in Africa is truly underway. The next decade will only see more development and innovations from the “Silicon Savannah.”

Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr

Global poverty is an ever prevalent issue in the world today. Poverty affects at least one billion children worldwide and is responsible for the death of 22,000 children daily. Many companies are emerging with missions to help stop global poverty by selling things jewelry or food products and donating some of the proceeds to charitable organizations. Some companies are working directly with the people they are helping. A way to contribute to the fight to stop global poverty is to support and buy from these companies fighting poverty.

Jewelry Companies Fighting Poverty

There is an exorbitant number of accessory companies around the world. In 2018, people spent 18 billion euros on luxury jewelry globally. Many people buy jewelry from large, name-brand corporations. One way to help global poverty is by buying jewelry from smaller companies who give back to the cause. Here are companies fighting poverty with jewelry sales.

  1. Starfish Project: Starfish Project is a jewelry company whose mission is to help exploited women in Asia through a variety of Holistic Care programs. The project’s Community Outreach Services are helping train women to be entrepreneurs. So far, more than 140 women have found employment through Starfish Project.
  2. Noonday Collection: Noonday Collection is a small business created by Jessica Honegger that specializes in selling jewelry. Women learn to make and then sell jewelry at Noonday jewelry markets called Trunk Shows. So far, Noonday Collection has helped more than 1,700 women around the world launched their own businesses.
  3. Nightlight Design: Nightlight Design is an international organization whose mission is to end commercial sexual exploitation in Thailand. The jewelry proceeds go towards supporting the organization and its efforts to employ these women.

Food Companies Fighting Poverty

Hunger is a pressing issue that comes with global poverty. Those in extreme poverty often do not have the resources to get access to food. In developing countries, 12.9 percent of the population suffers from undernourishment. There are many companies that sell food in order to fight world hunger. Here are some companies fighting poverty that are giving back by selling food.

  1. KIND: KIND is a company that mostly sells granola bars. The KIND Movement started in 2004 as the company’s way of trying to make the world a little better and a little kinder. KIND and The Kind Foundation have spent more than $34.5 million to fight world hunger. Volunteers through the companies have donated 50,490 hours to charitable causes.
  2. Annie’s: Annie’s is a company famous for its boxed macaroni and cheese as well as other snacks. Its creator and founder, Annie Withey, has strong values geared towards helping the planet and the people on it. She set out to create a socially conscious business through Annie’s. In the last six years, Annie’s has “donated more than $2.5 million” to a variety of organizations working to make a better world.
  3. Justin’s: Justin’s is a nut butter company created by Justin Gold. It gives back to the planet through poverty relief efforts. The company works with the Whole Planet Foundation and Conscious Alliance to provide hunger relief around the world. Justin’s works with many other organizations committed to helping global poverty.

Clothing Companies Fighting Poverty

For those living in poverty around the world, clothing is a huge problem. Many do not have the resources to buy clothing that accommodates often harsh weather conditions, leading to sickness and injury. Fortunately, there are many clothing companies who give back by employing people in developing countries. Through the proceeds, these people are able to make a living. Here are some poverty helping companies that give back by selling clothing.

  1. ASOS: ASOS is a large clothing company that is home to hundreds of well-known brands. It recently launched ASOS ‘Made in Kenya,’ a line encouraging people to live up to their ethical values by buying clothes made by garment workers in Kenya. ASOS has also released 11 collaborations with SOKO, Kenya. Proceeds from the collection boosted the workforce and helped parents afford school for their children.
  2. People Tree: People Tree is a clothing company based in the U.K. whose supply chain is 100 percent ethical and fair trade. The clothing company partnered with many humanitarian organizations such as Bombolulu Workshop, which works to empower physically disabled people in Kenya. It works with a variety of groups in several countries.
  3. Elegantees: Elegantees is a clothing company whose mission is to end sex trafficking largely caused by poverty in Nepal. The company’s goal is to employ women from Nepal to help manufacture their clothing. It offers women stable jobs to provide for themselves and their families and keep them safe from sex trafficking.

Although world poverty numbers can seem daunting at times, there are many small choices one can make in their everyday lives to help create an impact. One way to help end global poverty is to buy products such as clothes, food and jewelry from companies fighting poverty.

Natalie Chen and Jenna Chrol
Photo: Pixabay

Youth Empowerment Programs in AfricaBy 2050, Africa’s child population is projected to reach one billion, which would be the largest among the other continents. Already, the median age in Africa has shifted to 18 years old and increased the labor force substantially. The Center for Strategic and International Study released a report highlighting just how much of an impact the youth of Africa can have on the continent’s economic growth. With these trends in mind, a number of organizations are finding new and creative ways to increase youth empowerment in Africa today.

Here are three programs centered around youth empowerment in Africa.

3 Youth Empowerment Programs in Africa

  1. Young African Leaders Initiative
    The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is one of the programs created by USAID to empower young people across the world. This 2010 U.S. initiative focuses on providing Africans with resources to bolster development. These young people receive support regarding leadership skills and entrepreneurship opportunities in Regional Leadership Centers in sub-Saharan Africa. The four regional centers are located in higher education institutions and primarily target young people between the ages of 18 and 35. For example, one center located at the University of South Africa School of Business Leadership serves Swaziland, Zambia, South Africa and Madagascar. These regional centers help foster entrepreneurship and create opportunities for cross-border collaboration.The program also offers a fellowship for young Africans to study at a U.S. university and further develop their skills to become young leaders. The Mandela Washington Fellowship selects young people from 48 countries across sub-Saharan Africa to create a diverse group of fellows learning about topics surrounding business, civic engagement or public management.

    One of the most important parts of this program is the large network for young Africans to connect with each other across the continent. With online resources and regional centers in all parts of sub-Saharan Africa, every day, more young people are gaining access to information about professional development and entrepreneurship, creating a strong foundation for long-term youth empowerment in Africa.

  2. Young Africa
    In 1988, Young Africa International was founded in the Netherlands. With a goal to empower young Africans with employability and entrepreneurship skills, the program utilizes a network of independent and local affiliations to run activities in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia.A majority of the funding goes to creating training centers to hire youth across these countries. It also allows local entrepreneurs to run their businesses in a successful environment. By establishing local nonprofits in these youth centers, it promotes local businesses while also giving youth the opportunity to explore career fields, develop new skills and learn lessons about the working environment.

    Targeted to the 15 to 25 age group, Young Africa also provides 43 courses to people in the program. These courses include vocational education in technical, agricultural and commercial skills. Young Africa also focuses heavily on life skills training to help empower young people to make healthy choices and grow their self-confidence so they can make a positive impact on their community.

    The overall impact of the organization can be seen by its milestones. In 2017, there were 1,980 vocational graduates from the program. Sixty-nine percent of them are now employed or self-employed. Overall, there have been 36,894 graduates from the vocational program and their incomes increased significantly. In Namibia alone, the participant’s average daily income increased from $15.30 a day to $40.

  3. International Youth Foundation
    For 30 years, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) has prepared young women and men to take control of their futures by focusing on a combination of education, employment, entrepreneurship and social innovation.Zimbabwe:Works is an example of a program focusing on employment for marginalized groups, especially women. Using the Passport to Success curriculum, the program teaches life skills to increase self-esteem, promote teamwork and motivate young people to engage in their communities. Certain partners and entrepreneurs also assist the process by providing business courses and access to microloans and related programs. Roughly 80 percent of interns with this program have transitioned to full-time employment with various companies. Also, almost 7 out of 10 women in the targeted group received financial literacy training.

    This program is just one of many examples of youth empowerment programs in Africa led by IYF. Across 14 countries, various programs introduce young people to healthier lifestyles and brighter futures.

– Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Female Entrepreneurship in Mexico
According to a 2016/2017 study by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Mexico is one of the five countries in the world where the number of women starting their own businesses is equal to or greater than men. This is fantastic news because if men and women participate equally in the economy, Mexico’s GDP could increase by 43 percent or $810 billion. From 2000 to 2010 alone, women’s participation in the workforce decreased extreme poverty by 30 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. With that increase in female entrepreneurship in Mexico, women are able to become more independent, but many women still face powerful barriers in starting their own business.

Many women, especially in subsistence settings, lack access to training, financing and markets, and face physical, sexual and economic violence. The average female-headed household earns $507 a month in urban areas and $273 a month in rural areas while male-led households earn $780 a month in urban areas and $351 a month in rural areas. The burden of domestic tasks also falls mostly on women. A 2009 survey found that men spend an average of 53 hours a week on economic activities and 12 hours on domestic tasks while women spend an average of 40 to 45 hours a week earning money and 20 hours maintaining the family and household.

The Marketplace Literacy Project

Elena Olascoaga, a gender and development consultant and former project manager for the Marketplace Literacy Project in Mexico, is very familiar with the challenge successful female entrepreneurship in Mexico faces. Olascoaga describes the Marketplace Literacy Project as an initiative to help people in subsistence settings become entrepreneurs by acknowledging the skills they already have in the marketplace and giving them the tools to build on and market pre-existing skills.

According to Olascoaga, the founder of this methodology and workshop program, Professor Madhu Viswanathan, tried to bring this program to Mexico for a long time before finding a U.S. State Department grant intended for breaking cycles of violence against women due to economic dependency. He initially designed the program to be gender-neutral so Olascoaga came in because her background in gender consultancy allowed her to effectively factor the unique challenges female entrepreneurship in Mexico faces to the workshops. She added a new program to the methodology that she called autonomy literacy, because, although the program teaches participants to create their own income, it is often difficult for people in abusive situations to start a business, even if they have the know-how.

The Need for Female Entrepreneurship in Mexico

While Mexico has made great strides to improve gender equality, there is often still a cultural emphasis for women to become mothers and housewives, to a point where Olascoaga describes economic dependence as romanticized. Many consider women lucky if they do not have to work because their husband provides food and shelter. However, this kind of love can be a trap. If the husband is the only provider, then the wife is not building her own savings or gaining experience in the workforce. “If something goes wrong in the relationship, then they have nowhere else to go,” she said.

In an interview by Forbes Magazine, hotel owner Gina Lozada said that “…Most parents don’t educate their girls to succeed in business. On the contrary, it is normal that women are raised to believe that their goal should be to marry and take care of the family.” Often, because female entrepreneurship in Mexico does not receive emphasis, women feel that they do not have many options and lack the confidence to start their own company.

Olascoaga observes that, because women in subsistence settings feel that they cannot strike out of their own, they often stay with their abuser. “A common phrase is no se hacer nada which is I don’t know how to do anything,” she says. Autonomy training, when combined with marketplace literacy training, teaches women that they do know how to do something. For example, they might be good cooks or skilled embroiderers. The methodology of the Marketplace Literacy Project is to build on preexisting knowledge and teach women to recognize their skills and to think strategically about their resources.

Autonomy Literacy

“We want women to be aware that they can create their income,” said Olascoaga. In the workshops, the Marketplace Literacy Project works with women in two age groups, women older than 18 and girls 14 to 18 years old. In her experience, almost all the women older than 18 had been in violent relationships where they stayed with their aggressors because they did not have economic independence. Some among the younger group were already mothers and in violent relationships where they had the potential to work and build skills, but their partners would not let them.

As the younger group went through the program, though, many of them began to realize that their mothers, aunts and other relatives were living in similar situations. One struggle that she noted when working with women is that they will not recognize that they are living in an abusive situation, especially to a group of strangers, so they instead speak in hypotheticals. The participants may know someone in this situation, and if they did, they would express how they could help.

The Marketplace Literacy Project, though, has helped give more than 4,500 women tools for economic independence since its start in 2016. Olascoaga said that those who participate have two major takeaways. The first is that autonomy becomes a very important concept and the second is that they do not need money to start a business. Olascoaga was happy to report that women will often come up to her and say that, after the workshop, they started businesses by selling cookies or embroidering. “It might seem small to us,” Olascoaga said, “but for them, it’s a really big deal.”

With female entrepreneurship in Mexico on the rise, more and more women are not only finding empowerment in their lives but changing the world around them by challenging a culture that often devalues their work.

Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

 

Donate by SavingThere are countless efforts around the globe working to improve living conditions for those in extreme poverty. While per capita, Americans are the biggest charitable givers on Earth, charitable contributions can be increased. By cutting back on everyday living expenses, it is possible to donate by saving money.

Alternatives to Buying Bottled Water

Drinking water is a healthy habit, but bottled water is costly and creates single-use plastic waste.

One way to donate by saving is buying a reusable water bottle. For instance, the reusable Dopper bottle donates 5 percent of every purchase to the Dopper Foundation, an organization working to improve water resources in Nepal.

Upon saving money on single-use bottles, the amount saved can be diverted to a charitable cause. The average American spends around $266 on disposable water bottles, which can add up to over $17,000 in a lifetime. Those savings could be donated to support the work of organizations like Water is Life which pledges to provide clean drinking water to a billion people by 2020.

Water is Life helps communities around the world gain access to clean water through many means, including filters and wells. After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the organization sent filtration straws and portable filtration systems to the hardest-hit parts of the island. Currently, it is working on installing 40 solar-and-wind-powered water filtrations stations in the northwest part of the country. The stations are capable of providing 20,000 liters of drinking water a day.

Credit Card Fee Avoidance

A recent survey of 200 U.S. credit cards found that credit cards average 4.35 fees per card. Furthermore, every card in the survey charged at least one fee.

No-fee cash-back cards are available. Card issuers will also offer a cost break to customers with a long series of on-time payments by lowering their interest rates, waiving the very occasional late fee, or both.

Trading in a big-annual-fee card, asking for late waivers and lowering interest rates can save cardholders $100 – 200 per year. The amount saved is almost enough to fund a grant to a Kenyan or Ugandan entrepreneur through Village Enterprise, which can transform the lives of a family living in poverty.

Since its founding in 1987, Village Enterprise has trained more than 154,000 owners who have gone on to create 39,000 businesses. One such success story is Angela Adeke, a Ugandan woman who was denied the opportunity to attend school due to her family’s extreme poverty. After her own children were denied entry to school because they could not afford uniforms, Adeke took action. With the help of a $150 grant, she invested in fabric and sewing machines for her tailoring business. Adeke sewed her own children’s uniforms and made uniforms for more than 4,000 Ugandan children. She now trains disenfranchised young women to become tailors.

Household Maintenance

The average family spends $6,649 on home maintenance. From major repairs to even the price of lawn mowing, it all adds up. A recent survey from Homeadvisor shows that 72 percent of new home buyers are learning how to do their own repairs. Video tutorials are now available online for most projects, enabling families to save on expenses.

The savings can be donated to a charity like Heifer International, an organization that helps families help themselves. The organization has been active in 25 countries, helping more than 32 million families to overcome poverty and hunger. In Nepal, projects targeting women have contributed to improved gender equality. Nine out of 10 of the families in Nepal interviewed say they had increased their income as a result of Heifer International projects, and it is possible to donate by saving on expenses as manageable household maintenance.

Trimming the Food Bill

Most Americans spend nearly half of their monthly food budget on eating out. By preparing more meals at home and packing a lunch more often, these funds can be diverted to donations. A conservative estimate is that preparing one meal per week instead of eating out will save more than $800 per year. These savings can fight worldwide hunger when diverted to an organization like The Hunger Project (THP).

The Hunger Project works to end hunger through strategies that are sustainable, grassroots and women-centered. Mozambican citizen Moises Fenias Malhaule is an example of a THP success story: Malhaule joined THP education and microfinance programs, and in ten years, he has expanded his farm and paid for his children’s education. Malhaule has also taken many courses in development and construction and shared his knowledge with his community. Donations to organizations like this not only help individuals but often have ripple effects, making entire villages more resilient and self-sufficient.

Organizations like Water is Life, Village Enterprise, Heifer International and The Hunger Project are making a considerable impact in global poverty reduction, but their work relies on financial contributions.  While finding the extra money to donate can be challenging, with a few lifestyle tweaks, it is entirely possible to donate by saving money.

– Francesca Singer 
Photo: U.S. Air Force

Social Entrepreneurship in Developing CountriesToday, social entrepreneurship is growing rapidly in size, scope and support. An unprecedented number of organizations are using entrepreneurship as a strategy to address social problems like poverty, at-risk youth and hunger. Social entrepreneurs are developing creative and innovative organizations that give people the tools, education and resources to become an entrepreneur. As entrepreneurs, they can serve their own communities, improving health, decreasing hunger, creating safer environments and accessing clean water. Here are five organizations using social entrepreneurship to help create jobs in developing countries.

5 Examples of Social Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries

  1. The Adventure Project
    The Adventure Project works in developing countries seeking out partnerships with organizations creating jobs for their communities. Some organizations include KickStart, LifeLine, Living Goods, Water for People, and WaterAid. The organization chooses partners based on their measurable social impact, a proven track record of success, and readiness to scale. Since its inception, the Adventure Project has empowered 798 people to find a job. This has led to thriving local economies, improved environmental conditions and even reduced mortality rates. In Kenya, cooking over an open fire posed a huge health risk to both people and the environment. Now, stoves are made and sold locally. Masons create stoves and vendors earn commissions for their sales. And because they’re using 50 percent less charcoal, families are saving 20 percent of daily expenses. In other countries, villagers have been trained as health care agents, selling more than 60 products at affordable prices. These health care agents also care for more than 800 people in their communities.
  2. Indego Africa
    Indego Africa is a nonprofit social enterprise that supports women in Rwanda through economic empowerment and education. This enterprise aims to break intergenerational cycles of poverty. To do so, Indego Africa provides female artisans with the tools and support necessary to become independent businesswomen and drive local development.Partnering with 18 cooperatives of female artisans, Indego Africa sells handcrafted products through an e-commerce site, collaborations with designers and brands and at boutiques worldwide. To develop their entrepreneurial skills, Indego Africa provides artisans with training in quality control, design and product management. Indego currently employs over 600 women, 58 percent of whom make over $2 a day. According to the World Bank, $2 a day marks the entry point into Africa’s growing middle class.
  3. Mercardo Global
    Mercardo Global is a social enterprise organization that links indigenous artisans in rural Latin American communities to international sales opportunities. As a result, this organization helps provide sustainable income-earning opportunities, access to business training and community-based education programs. Mercado Global also increases access to microloans for technology, such as sewing machines and floor looms. Mercado Global believes income alone cannot solve long-term problems. Therefore, the organization focuses on both business education and leadership training. In doing so, Mercado Global enables artisans to address systemic problems within their communities. Artisans are given microloans, ideally to purchase equipment that allows them to work more efficiently. They then pay back their loans, allowing another artisan to attain one. Forty-four percent of Mercado Global entrepreneurs held a leadership position within their cooperatives in the last three years. Ninety-six percent participate in the finances of their households. And 77 percent of women voted in their last community election.
  4. Solar Sister
    Everyone should have access to clean energy. And the team behind Solar Sister believes women are a key part of the solution to the clean energy challenge. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 600 million people have no access to electricity. Moreover, more than 700 million must rely on harmful fuels. However, women bear the majority burden of this energy poverty and disproportionately shoulder the harmful effects. In order to address this issue and create more equity around clean energy and economic opportunities, Solar Sister invests in women’s enterprises in off-grid communities. By doing so, the Solar Sister team builds networks of women entrepreneurs. Women are first given access to clean, renewable energy. Then, they participate in a direct sales network to build sustainable businesses. Centering local women in a rapidly growing clean energy sector is essential to eradicating poverty. This allows helps achieve sustainable solutions to climate change and a host of development issues. Evidence shows the income of self-employed rural women with access to energy is more than double the income of those without access to energy. For rural female wage or salary workers, access to energy is correlated with 59 percent higher wages. Solar Sister is currently helping over 1,200 entrepreneurs. The team is also partnering with Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, Sustainable Energy for All, U.N. Women and Women in Solar Energy.
  5. United Prosperity
    United Prosperity is a nonprofit organization providing an online lending platform connecting lenders to poor entrepreneurs across the globe. A Kiva-like peer-to-peer loaning system allows anyone with spare cash to guarantee loans to entrepreneurs in need. Lenders select the entrepreneur they want to support and lend any amount they wish. United Prosperity then consolidates the loan amount and passes it on to the entrepreneur through a local bank. For every $1 given by the lender, the bank makes a nearly $2 loan to the entrepreneur through a partner Microfinance Institution (MFI). Once a loan or a loan guarantee has been made, the entrepreneur’s progress is tracked online. When loans are repaid, lenders get their money back. They then have the opportunity to recycle it by lending or guaranteeing the loan to another entrepreneur. These microloans aim to help entrepreneurs, mostly women, grow their small businesses. United Prosperity has transferred more than $280,000 in loans to 1,300 entrepreneurs. Moreover, MFI helps build entrepreneurs’ credit history with local banking systems, thus encouraging more banks to lend to them.

These organizations are wonderful examples of how social enterprises have effectively empowered locals in the social entrepreneurship space. Through innovation, investment in local resources and talent, and measurement practices, these organizations have helped social entrepreneurs around the world to scale and grow. In doing so, they also address social problems like poverty, at-risk youth and hunger in their community. The results have been improved health, increased economic opportunities, safer environments and increased access to clean water and energy.

Leroy Adams
Photo: Flickr

Clean Water to KenyaIt all began with a friend and a teammate. In 2008, while running for the University of West Florida, Chris Hough noticed one of his teammates wore a small beaded bracelet customized with the Kenyan national flag. The bracelet sparked Hough’s interest, and that teammate promised to bring Hough a bracelet when he next returned to Kenya. Unfortunately, that never happened.

Flash forward to 2015. Hough, who worked at Nike, was out on a run when he crossed paths with Paul Chelimo and Shadrack Kipchirchir, two notable faces among Nike runners. Both are members of the military’s World Class Athlete Program and went on to compete in the 2016 Olympics, where Chelimo earned a silver medal in the 5,000 and Kipchirchir finished 19th in the 10,000. On that day, both men were wearing beaded bracelets with the Kenyan flag, the same one that Hough’s teammate wore eight years prior. Hough stopped them, inquiring about the bracelets and eventually striking up a valuable friendship. From that friendship, ArtiKen was born. Now, ArtiKen connects passion with passion, tieing the running community with philanthropic change.

ArtiKen’s Impact on the Ground

Thanks to the notoriety of Chelimo and Kipchirchir, ArtiKen bracelets quickly became popular amongst runners of all ages and skill sets. Olympians, elite athletes and high schoolers alike wear ArtiKen bracelets. However, ArtiKen is more than just a popular brand in the world of running. It is also a company driving positive change by bringing clean water to Kenya.

Currently, 41 percent of Kenyans still rely on unimproved water sources, which are ponds, shallow wells or rivers. Accordingly, 19 million people lack access to clean water, and 27 million people lack access to improved sanitation. Only 9 of the 55 water suppliers in Kenya have the ability to supply clean water on a regular basis. In short, many Kenyans still struggle to find clean water on a regular basis, especially those in rural areas or urban slums.

ArtiKen is striving to help solve the water crisis by bringing clean water to Kenya. The company donates 10 percent of every purchase to clean water initiatives throughout Kenya. The idea was to give back to those who in Kenyan communities because, without them, the company would have never existed. ArtiKen also employs members of the Massai tribe, helping these artists earn a steady income and provide for their families.

ArtiKen Connects Multiple Passions for One Cause

On Medium, Hough writes, “…giving those athletes the opportunity to show support and love through our jewelry is exciting, but more importantly, the ability to provide clean water to those in need is the foundation to our company’s mission— to help eradicate poverty and provide clean water in Kenya one day at a time.”

ArtiKen allows for runners to change the world through a single purchase. The company strives to create a positive impact on both local Kenyan and running communities. Through their simple, yet elegant bracelets, ArtiKen connects passion with passion, by bringing distant communities closer to one another to celebrate both art and athletics and by bringing clean water to Kenya.

– Andrew Edwards
Photo: Google Images

Landmine CrisisLandmines are a destructive weapon of war that often times outlive the conflict they had been implemented for. Today, civilians around the world are inheriting the landmine crisis from both current wars and earlier conflicts. An estimated 110 million landmines are active in the ground right now, killing and maiming more than 5,000 people every year.

The Difficulties of Landmine Removal

Although landmines are an urgent global issue, removing them is painstakingly difficult for three main reasons:

  1. Time—the detection and demining of landmines take a good deal of time. In fact, it is estimated that if landmines continue to be removed at the current rate (with no new mines added), it would take approximately 1,100 years to completely rid the world of them.
  2. Cost—mines only cost between $3 and $30, making them effective tools for combat in both cost and casualty effectiveness. Removing them, however, can cost between $300 to $1,000. Removing all landmines would cost anywhere between $50 to $100 billion. Since most countries affected tend to be poorer, the cost of mine removal can be extremely detrimental.
  3. Risk—most minefields are unmarked. It is not unusual to find mines laid in agricultural fields, around irrigation systems and in forests that provide villages with firewood. (That is if they are not inside the villages themselves). Civilians and professionals alike are at risk of death or severe injuries; for every 5,000 mines successfully removed, one deminer is killed and two more are wounded.

Instead of becoming discouraged by how problematic the landmine crisis actually is, one Indian teen rose to the challenge of innovating smarter landmine removal.

The Inventor of the Mine-Detecting Air Drones

One day, now 15-year-old techie Harshwardhansinh Zala came across a YouTube video of military men who were detecting landmines in an active minefield. While soldiers explained the landmine crisis to their viewers, one landmine exploded. Consequently, the blast killed and injured many of the soldiers present. The video horrified Zala, who felt like he could be doing more to aid in the demining efforts. This spurred him and a few of his friends to begin a startup electronics company named Aerobotics7. Their primary task? To create a prototypical air drone to replace human deminers. Hypothetically, the drone could detect and mark buried landmines while being remotely controlled by an operator at a safe distance.

Zala explains how the drone would work: “Our drone will go on to the field, survey the whole ground, send the real-time signals to the army base station, and our drone will also drop a package to mark the location. The army can detonate the landmines with our wireless detonator, without any human risk.”

Zala plans on giving the finished product to his government to help them safely detect mines.

Although his drone may not decrease the cost of removing mines or speed up the process of demining, it would help spot and mark landmines across the globe, potentially saving the lives of those who might have accidentally stumbled upon an unmarked minefield otherwise. Warning civilians of the dangers around them is the most time-sensitive aspect of the landmine crisis, after all, and though removing all landmines may take centuries, Zala’s air drone could be helping people stay safe today.

Haley Hiday
Photo: Sumit Baruh for Forbes India

10 Innovations That Tackle World HungerOne of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is the elimination of poverty. This is necessary to achieve worldwide prosperity. Billions of dollars have been spent on projects attempting to eradicate and reduce poverty. However, many of these projects have failed. The eradication of poverty has been an international focus for several years. While its causes are worrying, its effects are more damaging.

As poverty grows, individuals and communities around the world have been motivated to act. Private companies are growing socially responsible. Individuals are boycotting companies that exploit communities suffering from poverty. And nongovernmental organizations are establishing independent and unique projects. More significantly, entrepreneurs and innovators are inventing products to help reduce poverty. This article lists 10 innovations that tackle world hunger.

10 Innovations that Tackle World Hunger

  1. Safari Seat
    Access to wheelchairs in rural areas of developing countries is incredibly low. Safari Seat is one invention that tackles this issue. Its production is low cost and the company is located in Kenya. Safari Seat is made up of bicycle parts and controlled by hand levers and durable wheels.
  2. NIFTY Cup
    Child malnutrition in Africa is a major obstacle. Many infants struggle to nurse, which can ultimately lead to death. It costs as little as $1 to produce a NIFTY Cup, however, its impact is tremendous. The cup is designed to make milk more easily drinkable is also reusable.
  3. LifeStraw
    This innovation is one of the most important among the 10 innovations that tackle world hunger. LifeStraw addresses access to clean water. Eleven percent of the world’s population lacks access to drinkable water. And the effects of drinking contaminated water can be deadly. The straw-like product includes a filtration system that filters contaminated water as it is used.
  4. M-Farm
    M-Farm is a digital technology allowing Kenyan farmers to receive up-to-date pricing information on their products. This eliminates the corruption of middlemen who usually receive more profit than deserved. Kenyan farmers particularly suffer from issues with middlemen as they lack high levels of internet access.
  5. Wonderbag
    Areas where poverty is present usually lack basic needs, such as access to electricity. However, Wonderbag doesn’t let that stop anyone from cooking. Wonderbag is a slow cooker that requires no electricity to use, allowing those without electricity to still cook their food.
  6. Feedie
    Feedie is a project run by the Lunchbox Fund which allows you to donate a meal to a child somewhere in the world simply by sharing the picture you took off your food. This is significant as social media already encourages food bloggers to share pictures of food, making Feedie an easy way to help tackle world hunger.
  7. Mazzi
    Developing countries often lack methods for collecting food without spilling and wasting it. This occurs specifically in the collection of milk. Mazzi is a 10-liter plastic container that is designed for collecting and transporting milk safely with no losses.
  8. Eco-Cooler
    Eco-Cooler is a simple invention that cools down unbearably heated huts. It is made up of recycled bottles that are built up in a way that attracts cool air into homes, helping keep conditions cool for both people and their food without air conditioning or refrigeration.
  9. Lucky Iron Fish
    Lucky Iron Fish is an iron, fish-shaped object that can be placed in a pot of boiling water when cooking to enhance iron levels in the meal. Iron deficiency is the most widespread nutritional disorder in the world. Therefore, Lucky Iron Fish is a significant innovation in tackling world hunger because it helps those without access to iron-rich foods.
  10. Humanium Metal
    This initiative turns disarmed weapons from areas of conflict into “humanium” blocks by recycling metal from destructed guns. Humanium Metal then sells these blocks to companies, for instance, blocks sold to H&M are used for buttons. Violent conflicts are a major cause of poverty and world hunger. Therefore, this unique approach recycles destructive materials for a constructive cause.

Njoud Mashouka
Photo: Flickr