Social Entrepreneur CorpsFounded by Greg Van Kirk, the Social Entrepreneur Corps (SEC) diagnoses needs and implements innovations that help marginalized, impoverished and vulnerable families build a better life for themselves.

The volunteers and employees of the SEC play an important role in creating impactful social innovation. They can “gain the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to become the high impact leaders and social entrepreneurs of the future.” In addition, the SEC has been “leading innovative and dynamic impact immersion programs for 10 years and over 1,000 participants have joined [their] diverse programs.”

The organization utilizes well-structured programs where participants are mentored by field leaders, who are experienced development professionals.

One of the SEC’s initiatives includes a needs and feasibility analysis, in which participants perform research through observations, surveys and informal conversations in order to analyze needs of impoverished communities.

Another is an innovative-design initiative, in which participants use their research to develop and give consultations to local community members on ways to improve their state of poverty.

As one SEC participant states, “from giving presentations in Spanish to local organizations to going on campaigns in rural regions, every activity gave me the chance and the courage to step out of my comfort zone and push my boundaries as far as I could.”

Communities in Latin America, for example, are reaping the benefits. The Jutiapa region in Guatemala had a successful village campaign which benefited women entrepreneurs in the region. In one day, participants “served over 150 people and helped the women to sell 69 pairs of glasses, 35 eye drops, 30 packets of vegetable seeds, 8 solar lamps/cell phone chargers and one water purification bucket.”

The female entrepreneurs earned nearly $240 in net profits, which is the equivalent of over two months’ wages for the average rural Guatemalan.

The Social Entrepreneur Corps has played an important role in breaking the cycle of poverty in Latin American countries. The organization’s efforts continue to inspire families and communities.

Vanessa Awanyo

Smartphone App Blindness Kenya
The product of collaboration between The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a group of Kenyan doctors, The Portable Eye Examination Kit (or PEEK), is a smartphone app that promises to help deal with blindness in Kenya, Business Daily Africa reports.

According to PEEK’s official website, any smartphone equipped with the app can provide accurate eye tests by taking high quality photos of the retina. Such photos will enable an ophthalmologist to “view cataracts clearly enough for treatment classification, detect signs of glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and signs of nerve disease.” The app displays its versatility in that it will also help doctors with identifying other health problems including “severe high blood pressure and diabetes.”

According to their website, PEEK’s developers believe that this advanced technology simplifies the process of retinal analysis, saving users considerable time and effort, compared to the traditional method of using an ophthalmoscope.

In a March 3 article, Ventures Africa reported that PEEK has recently been launched in the Trans-Nzoia county in Kenya. As it is explained later in the article, this particular county was chosen due to its high rate of vision problems. In an interview with Ventures Africa, one of the co-founders of the app Dr. Hillary Rono said that “out of the 2.5 million people in the region, 80 percent have eye problems that, if not checked, would lead to avoidable blindness.” More surprisingly, “five in every 1,000 people in the region are blind,” Dr. Rono continued.

PEEK has been brought to use in up to 350 schools in Trans-Nzoia, as reported by Business Daily Africa. Ventures Africa reports that “21,000 school children in the district and 900 were found visually impaired and were referred to the Kitale County Hospital Eye Unit for treatment.”

PEEK has already made considerable strides in combatting blindness in Kenya, and its developers hope to expand the project in the future. According to Business Daily Africa, the app is in line with Operation Eyesight and Christian Blind Mission, sponsored by the Standard Chartered Bank. The project has “helped to restore sight to more than 8,000 children,” said the bank’s chief executive Lamin Manjang. “The project has a target to reach 120 million people globally.”

Although considerable progress has been made in the fight against blindness in Kenya, much work remains to be done. “With around 1 in 10 men and 1 in 20 women color-blind, it’s important to be aware of what you can and can’t see,” says PEEK’s website. Developers are still exploring ways to add new capabilities to the app, including a wider range of color blindness and contrast tests.

Hoa Nguyen

Sources: Peek Vision, Business Daily Africa, Ventures Africa
Photo: TechIslet

UNICEF Innovation Fund
Starting in February, UNICEF will be accepting applications for its Innovation Fund. The funding will go to companies, teams or ideas from the developing world that help empower the local youth.

To be eligible for funding, the recipient’s project must use open source technology. This means that it is open to the public and can be modified by anyone.

UNICEF’s Innovation Principles stresses the importance of open source tech. According to UNICEF’s website, open source technology permits a global community of developers and designers to tweak and improve the code and design elements.

This allows the latest and most effective methods to be applied to the tech at no additional cost. It facilitates the creation of a public good by a global community.

In addition to the open source requirement, the tech must help local youth through the Innovation Fund’s three portfolio areas:

The first is that the project must be for people under the age of 25. Technology for this group can help break down the barriers that restrict access to information. It can also allow youth to connect with each other to share and scale their own solutions.

The second portfolio area of the Innovation Fund is real time information. With constantly updating data, decision makers will be more informed. Inefficiencies, disparities and restrictions can be resolved quickly.

The third area is infrastructure. UNICEF’s Innovation Fund aims to increase access to information for youth by improving infrastructure like connectivity, sensors and transport.

The open source requirement and the three portfolio areas represent the fund’s overall theme of access. The Innovation Fund desires that all children have unrestricted access to information.

According to its website, UNICEF believes “access to information, particularly basic, life-enhancing information, is a human right.”

This access to life-improving information is typically much more difficult for children living in poverty.

UNICEF Innovation Co-Lead, Christopher Fabian, stressed this when he said to Panarmenian.net: “We’ll be identifying opportunities from countries around the world including some that may not see a lot of capital investment in technology start-ups.”

He went on to say, “We are hoping to identify communities of problem-solvers and help them develop simple solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing children.”

So far, the Innovation Fund has raised $9 million for technology that helps young people. These funds have gone to various projects that improve the lives of children, like the U-Report project in Burkina Faso.

U-Report increases real-time access to information to help young women and girls in Burkina Faso. It connects the local girls so they can better cope with harmful traditional practices.

It also allows the girls to share information with each other, such as how to practice safe sex and improve familial practices.

UNICEF’s Innovation Fund helps empower youth in the developing world by increasing access to information through open source technology.

Andrew Wildes

Sources: Innovation Fund Backgrounder, OpenSource, Panarmenian, UNICEF Innovation Fund 1, UNICEF Innovation Fund 2, UNICEF Innovation Fund 3
Picture: Google Images

HelloFoodHelloFood, an online portal that allows customers to order food and have it delivered, recently celebrated its third anniversary.

HelloFood began as a 1970s-style website in November 2012. It was the first online food portal in Africa and took around one minute to load. The company only received two orders on their first day, but it was the start of an incredible journey to revolutionize how people eat in Africa, according to It News Africa.

HelloFood provides food from a listing of more than 270 restaurants. More than 125,000 customers order food every six seconds during the lunch time hours on the site. The company then delivers food to homes and offices where customers can pay upon delivery.

Joe Falter, CEO and Founder of HelloFood, said, “It was just a basic website [when it started]. Far from what it looks like now.”

HelloFood has grown 20 percent each month over the last 36 months. It has tripled in size in the last 12 months and now has 500 employees, 50 percent of which are women. It News Africa reports the delivery riders have traveled the equivalent of 100 times around the Earth.

HelloFood has also created mobile shopping apps, allowing customers to keep up with changing trends and technologies.

“I’m incredibly proud of what our team has achieved — building this business from nothing to dominate 11 African markets, and change the way that hundreds of thousands of people order food on a daily basis,” Falter said. “However, we’ve only scratched the surface, the potential for this business model is stratospheric and right now more than ever we are buzzing about the opportunity to reach more customers and ensure a stress-free ordering experience.”

According to Biztech Africa, the company plans to expand to other major towns and provide job opportunities to people across Kenya.

As part of its third anniversary celebrations, the company discounted food up to 40 percent on Black Friday. HelloFood said they hoped to reach the highest ever sale of food ordering in Africa on Black Friday.

Jordan Connell

Sources: Biztech Africa, It News Africa
Photo: Google Images

FINCA
FINCA International helps small business owners in more than 23 countries worldwide by providing the finances and resources they need to keep their businesses up and running.

The innovative nonprofit focuses on four core areas: financial assistance, social intermediation, enterprise development and social service impact.

FINCA International serves as a financial intermediary by providing developing business owners with loans, teaching them how to open savings accounts and helping them find insurance tailored to the products and services they offer. This helps new businesses blossom into full-running operations that help women and men provide for their families.

Their second facet, social intermediation, is also an important part of their business model. Because they are serving entrepreneurs in countries that may be lacking in gender equality, they have to serve as people who can help bring change to these communities. FINCA International provides this intermediation through education in financial literacy and Village Banking loan programs.

In addition to enterprise development, they also help developing communities through educational programs, nutrition services, and health training. These programs contribute to the success and growth of the villages and towns they serve.

FINCA International was launched in 1984 by former Peace Corps member Dr. John Hatch. Hatch started the organization as Village Banking, which operated in Bolivia and served as a financial intermediary for farmers struggling through tough economic times. The following year, Hatch started the organization.

In its early days, FINCA International operated primarily in Latin America, including the Honduras, Mexico, and El Salvador, but by the early 1990s, its services had spread to Africa and Eurasia as well. Since its inauguration, FINCA International has lived up to its name and has provided services in countries all over the world.

Subsidiaries exist in countries in Africa, Western Europe, Latin America and Asia.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: FINCA, Give, Philanthropedia, MicroCapital
Photo: Flickr

Women’s_World_Banking
Women’s World Banking raises money to provide women with the resources and tools needed to become successful entrepreneurs in their respective regions.

The organization operates primarily in Africa, Asia and Latin America, but has left footprints in other regions, such as the Middle East and Western Europe.

Women’s World Banking recognizes that although many women globally use their earnings to give back to their families and communities, the demographic continues to be underserved and underrepresented.

Once the group determines the tools needed to empower successful female entrepreneurs, they network with financial institutions to guide women through the business startup process.

Women’s World Banking consists of an executive team, staff members, fellows and a board of directors, all of whom help keep the organization afloat. These individuals have dedicated themselves to the development of innovated products, micro-insurance programs and enterprises.

The team helps women develop credit, savings and insurance programs that fit their needs. Through research and on-the-job experience, the organization also creates innovative methods that they share with hardworking women throughout the world.

This year, roughly 530,000 women have accessed tools and resources provided by Women’s World Banking, with the total participants each year totaling over one million. Eighty-five percent of people participating in their leadership programs each year are young women looking to make a living for themselves and their families.

For more than 35 years, Women’s World Banking has created and networked with more than 38 organizations dedicated to empowering women throughout these regions, leaving a worldwide impact on the state of poverty found within predominantly female areas.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: Womens World Banking, Microfinance Gateway, Friends of Women`s World Banking
Photo: Flickr

female_entrepreneurs
The World Bank recently established a line of credit for female entrepreneurs in the world’s poorest nations. The program has already helped more than 3,000 female entrepreneurs in Ethiopia start their own businesses and escape poverty.

In poor communities, women are far less likely than men to own valuable assets to use as collateral to get a loan. Without these loans, many business ventures never make it off the ground.

An estimated 70 percent of women who own small or medium-sized businesses are unable to stabilize and improve them because of a lack of funding credit. This challenge creates a huge loss in potential income within a community.

According to World Bank economists Francesco Strobbe and Salman Alibhai, investing in female-owned businesses results in one of the “highest return opportunities available in emerging markets.”

The World Bank is helping to put an end to this opportunity loss and stagnation of female business opportunities by offering female entrepreneurs loans through the International Development Association and several international development organizations in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Between January 2014 and September 2015, Ethiopia’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Project disbursed 768 million birr (about $38 million) worth of credit to 3,227 female entrepreneurs. Currently, nearly $2 million in credit is being disbursed each month with an average individual loan size of approximately 219,605 birr (approximately $11,000).

Research shows that female entrepreneurs are more likely to hire other women to work in their businesses, opening up employment opportunities in communities where positions for women were scarce before.

Thus far, 76 percent of the women who have taken advantage of the program are first-time borrowers, unlocking untapped capital and opening up a new route to closing the gendered financial gap.

Despite the majority being first-time borrowers with little to no collateral, the repayment rate is 99.4 percent. Besides the success of the small loans, the program also offers entrepreneurship training to inspired women throughout the nation.

So far, more than 5,000 women have taken advantage of training and hope to enter into the exciting realm of business ownership. This trend is likely to drive down the overall rate of unemployment throughout Ethiopia, which currently stands at 17 percent.

Claire Colby

Sources: CIA World Factbook, World Bank
Photo: Flickr

social_entrepreneurs_in_education
Entrepreneurs are individuals that go beyond the status quo in order to make change happen. “They pursue poverty alleviation goals with entrepreneurial zeal, business methods and the courage to innovate and overcome traditional practices,” says the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs.

Reform and change are never made without a struggle. Social entrepreneurs in education are no different.

Many struggle with receiving the support and funding necessary to keep programs running. But despite hardships, they press forward in order to make improvements.

Occasionally, an entrepreneur will find a break in the form of investors. Schwab, Skoll and Ashoka are three such foundations that provide this relief to individuals making change happen around the world.

One such fellow, or entrepreneur, that found relief works for an organization by the name of abcdespanol. Based in Colombia, the organization worked to create a new methodology for teaching reading, writing and math skills.

Javier Gonzalez discovered that the issues across Latin America were not due to the people, but the methodology while playing a game of dominoes. “González then created abcdespañol and “ABC de la Matematica”, an innovative learning solution employing games as a teaching methodology.”

For many, this is how it works. Social entrepreneurs in education see an issue and then fight to find and put into practice new ideas to correct the issue. The journey doesn’t stop there, though.

Going back to Javier, “he continued searching for additional ways to make the learning process more interesting.”

Education isn’t an easy fix and is not a one solution fits all circumstance ordeal. Teaching the world’s future leaders takes innovation and improvement. Social entrepreneurs, like Javier, know this and continue to seek out a better way.

Ashoka fellow Flick Asvat of South Africa is another excellent example of this.

In the country of South Africa, Asvat found that many youths become more discouraged than not by the truism that education is the path out of poverty due to the strikes, violence, and other issues that have continuously interrupted such attempts.

To fight this, “Flick is putting children in control of their own out-of-school educational programs. She has developed a concept, Bugrado, based on the idea that human beings have the power to change their circumstances.”

Through innovative new techniques, real change was seen in schools. “Flick has successfully created five pilot programs around Johannesburg and is now focusing on Alexandra Township, where the program is operating in four schools, reaching approximately six thousand students.”

As a social entrepreneur in education, Flick resigned from her job as Minister of Education to solely focus on the implementation of the Bugrado program.

Such stories have become increasingly common. Through simply opening one’s eyes and caring about making a difference, individuals have made change happen. When one thing doesn’t work, new ones are tried. In this way, education is constantly improving.

Jeff Skoll, Founder and Chairman of the Skoll Foundation has expressed the importance of these social entrepreneurs around the world.

On their site, it is stated that it has become, “the premier global event for social entrepreneurship…the Forum has increasingly become a showcase to highlight large scale impact that social entrepreneurs are having on the big challenges facing the planet.”

By connecting social entrepreneurs with the resources and connections they need to improve conditions, the Skoll Foundation helps millions experience the impact of positive change.

In short, these entrepreneurs are alike in a fundamental thought process. As Skoll puts it, “I believe “a lot of good comes from a little bit of good,” or, in other words, where the positive social returns significantly outstrip the amount of time and money invested.”

Katherine Martin

Sources: Schwab Found 1, Schwab Found 2, Ashoka, Skoll
Photo: Wikimedia

injaz
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a new emphasis has been placed on teaching children about entrepreneurship. In Morocco, four out of every five young people between the ages of 15 and 34 are unemployed and not taking an active role in changing their circumstances.

The idea behind encouraging young people to become entrepreneurs is that they will eventually create jobs for themselves and others as well. Injaz is a non-profit at the forefront of this initiative.

According to their website, Injaz aims to “reveal to youth their potential and stimulate their spirit of initiative through a partnership between the corporate and the public worlds.” They have 10 offices all over MENA that are carrying out programs that teach young people about how to create a business.

Injaz has volunteers on the ground who are engaging students at all grade levels for two hours during a three-week period in each location. During their time at each place, volunteers attempt to implement Junior Achievement programs, which has been a global leader of entrepreneurship since 1919.

These programs work to get unemployed youth engaged and re-energized about their futures.

The high unemployment rate can be attributed to several factors: public sector employment preferences, lack of “high quality” jobs and a mishandling of skills and the education that is provided when it comes to what jobs are most needed in the job market.

These and other intricately interwoven factors contribute to the lack of engaged youth and the clear need for an entrepreneurial initiative.

Although the governments in MENA have recognized and attempted to enthusiastically rectify this growing problem, they haven’t been able to gain the trust and respect of its people due to their predecessors. The public is skeptical because there have been many failures on the part of past government officials when it comes to this initiative.

It is important to remember that there have been failures, yes, but also many success stories, some of which are shared on Injaz’s website.

In 2014, the efforts of Injaz helped to provide almost 11,000 students with hands-on classes on global business, practical entrepreneurial skills, financial literacy and an encouragement towards imagination and creativity.

As Sarah Alaoui, a team member of the American Moroccan Legal Empowerment Network, says, “the fairies of innovation and entrepreneurship will not magically dissipate the hurdles faced by unemployed youth in the country, [but] if cultivated properly, they are a long-term channel for Morocco’s youth to contribute to the country’s growth and development as valuable members of society… [and] the ship of entrepreneurship must be encouraged to stay afloat in Morocco.”

Drusilla Gibbs

Sources: Al Jazeera, Injaz Morocco, Huffington Post
Photo: Morocco World News

z1 miniature people
Since independence, the long civil war and recurring natural disasters have led to widespread poverty in Tajikistan. About half of the country’s population is poor and depend on agriculture to survive. The majority of the poor are unemployed, underemployed or self-employed.

On Oct. 12, 2015, a Youth Entrepreneurship Forum took place in Dushanbe with support from the World Bank Group. The goal of the event is to increase awareness of the importance of entrepreneurship for job creation and economic growth and to share ideas about entrepreneurship for youth in Tajikistan.

The World Bank has an active portfolio of 24 projects, including regional projects and Trust Funds. It intends to make a net commitment of U.S. $383 million to support economic growth through private sector development and investments in better public services, such as education, health, municipal services and social protection.

As part of the World Bank Group-financed Central Asia Youth Empowerment and Jobs Project, this event aims to improve the business climate and foster youth entrepreneurship in Tajikistan through improving the capacity of state entities and offering skills training for youth.

The event involved around 200 young entrepreneurs, private companies, civil society organizations, development partners, World Bank Group experts, representatives from the Government of Tajikistan and participants from the Slovak Republic.

At the forum, international and local experts introduced key concepts of entrepreneurship, including how to set up and manage a business, how to make entrepreneurial decisions and identify new business opportunities.Representatives from Tajikistan private companies and the Slovak Republic shared their experience of starting a business and discussed with young entrepreneurs about how entrepreneurship works at the individual and company level.

embassy_dushanbe_0
Moreover, officials from the Secretariat of Consultative Council on Improvement Investment Climate under the president of Tajikistan and the Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic focused on policies that foster youth entrepreneurship and how to better link the private sector with education institutions.

The forum also includes the discussion on business and entrepreneurship opportunities offered by local and international civil society organizations, development partners and local associations and companies.

In order to put words into action, following the forum, a master class started on October 13 for start-up businesses intending to collect individual business advice from successful entrepreneurs from Tajikistan and the Slovak Republic.

“Young people are eager to work and need good job opportunities. A society that can deliver these opportunities is promoting growth and investing in its welfare,” said Patricia Veevers-Carter, World Bank Country Manager for Tajikistan. “The World Bank Group’s efforts in this area in Tajikistan are going to focus on helping youth develop skills and increase employment opportunities, as well as on assisting the Government in designing policies that help youth thrive.”

This project will benefit the society of Tajikistan with more jobs created by entrepreneurship and improved economy.

Shengyu Wang

Sources: World Bank, Rural Poverty                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Photo: DIPNOTE