handcrafted_jewelry
If you are guilty of spending too much money on beautiful handmade jewelry, consider making your next shopping trip online with Soko, a social enterprise that supports artisans in the developing world through a mobile web platform.

Similar to Etsy, Soko functions as an online marketplace, with every purchase directly benefitting its creator. The idea for Soko began with the collaboration of its three founders—Ella Peinovich, Gwendolyn Floyd and Catherine Mahugu, who were living and working around the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.

It was here that they met and spoke with women who were receiving just a fraction of the profit that they should be earning from their handmade jewelry. Although the founders saw the potential in the craft of these artisans, they also recognized the lack of a consumer market—something they set out to solve with the creation of their, company Soko, which means “marketplace” in Swahili.

Since its inception in 2011, Soko has been changing lives by providing an innovative way for artisans to reach a global market through mobile phone technology. By registering with the company, artisans can upload photos of their creations which are then available on Soko’s online shops. At the touch of a button, artisans can engage with brands, retailers and online customers from around the world.

All materials used from Soko are natural as well as upcycled—meaning that they are taken from old and discarded items to be created into something beautiful. Stylistically, Soko is conscious of the popularity of modern designs and works with artisans to design both sustainable and fashion-forward jewelry.

When asked to describe the company in one way in an interview with Inspire Afrika magazine, the founders said that they like to think of Soko as “empowering women.” Today, there are more than 1,000 artists in the Soko community, 41,309 products have been sold and the average artisan’s household income has increased by four times its former number.

It was Soko’s vision for a majority of profits to return back into the hands of the local artisans, and through Soko, women have not only gained the opportunity to engage with an international marketplace, but they have also found a way to ultimately improve their livelihoods.

Nikki Schaffer

Sources: Philanthropy Page, Shop Soko, Inspire Africa
Photo: Manhattan with a Twist

whole_planet_foundation
Poverty alleviation through microcredit is the Whole Planet Foundation’s mission. This foundation was created by the Whole Foods Market chain. It provides microcredit to different organizations in areas of Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Middle East. These organizations, in turn, offer loan programs, training and financial services that provide help to self-employed people living under poor conditions.

According to the Whole Planet Foundation’s website, they are currently supporting more than 1,000,000 micro-entrepreneurs in around 60 countries throughout the world.

Partnerships are an important pillar of the foundation because they help support these micro-entrepreneurs. The foundation has microfinance partners, supplier partners, collaborating partners, custom contributions and musicians for microcredit.

The foundation’s microfinance partners are the ones in the field. These foundations are located across the globe in places such as Honduras and China.

The Adelante Foundation in Honduras, Aga Khan Foundation in Ivory Coast, Association Costa Rica Grameen in Costa Rica, Banco do Povo Credito Solidario in Brazil, Banigualdad in Chile, CASHPOR in India, CAURIE in Senegal, Chamroeun Microfinance Limited in Cambodia, Entrepreneurs du Monde in Togo, INMAA in Morocco, KOMIDA in Israel, Pro Mujer in Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru and the Women and Family Development Fund in Laos are some of the microfinance partners that the Whole Planet Foundation works with.

On the other side, the foundation’s supplier partners have donated millions in order to advocate for the Whole Planet Foundation’s mission. These partners support the foundation’s mission through different fund programs: the $100,000 Fund, the Supplier Alliance, the Poverty is Unnecessary Fund, the Ten Thousand Dollar Fund and the Microloan a Month Fund.

The partners supporting the $100,000 Fund are Frontier Co-op, Living On One, Papyrus-Recycled Greeting and Whole Foods Market.

The Supplier Alliance, the Poverty is Unnecessary Fund, the Ten Thousand Dollar Fund and the Microloan a Month Fund are supported by different organizations like Alaffia, Allegro Coffee, Amazing Grass, Blue Avocado, Garden of Life, Hain Celestial, Organic India, Suja Juice, Greyston Bakery, Rainbow Light, Chavez for Charity, Teatulia and Gourmet Guru, among others.

The foundation also has a scan-back program in which Whole Foods Market supplier partners can donate a part of their sales to the Whole Planet Foundation. According to the foundation’s website, they have more than 600 suppliers in this program.

The Whole Planet Foundation’s collaborating partners are organizations that help to increase the foundation’s reach, potency and success. A Glimmer of Hope, Aldea Artisans, My Social Canvas, The Rainforest Alliance and Valley Credit Union are some of the collaborating organizations of the foundation.

The custom contributors collect sources that help the Whole Planet Foundation support poverty alleviation. Some of their contributors are Aurora University, Hand in Hand Soap, Pura Vida Bracelets, Barefoot Wine, Crafted Peru and FedEx Office, among others.

Another way for the Whole Planet Foundation to support poverty alleviation is through the use of music. The foundation partners with musicians that are advocating for poverty alleviation and empowering entrepreneurship around the world.

Musicians like Rocky Dawuni, Aziza & the Cure, Patrick Bradley and Tiffany Parker are donating part of their album sales to the foundation.

If the general public wants to get involved and support the Whole Planet Foundation mission, they should know that fundraising is an option. People can create a fundraising campaign page in order to support entrepreneur communities around the world, and spread the word to their family, friends and colleagues.

Partnerships are an important aspect and pillar of the Whole Planet Foundation. These partnerships have helped the organization to support poverty alleviation throughout the world and use entrepreneurship as a crucial way to target poverty.

Diana Fernanda Leon

Sources: Whole Planet Foundation 1, Whole Planet Foundation 2, Whole Planet Foundation 3, Whole Planet Foundation 4, Whole Planet Foundation 5, Whole Planet Foundation 6, Whole Planet Foundation 7, Whole Planet Foundation 8, Whole Planet Foundation 9
Photo: Whole Planet Foundation

slatecube
This August, MIT will host the 2015 MITx Global Entrepreneur Bootcamp, where students from all around the world are brought together in the spirit of entrepreneurship. Within a week, each student will create a business and pitch their idea to a panel of professionals, giving the visiting students a taste of the fast-paced, competitive MIT atmosphere.

MITx selected 50 candidates from 24 countries to participate in the boot camp. Chris Kwekowe from Nigeria is among the 50 to be accepted at the MIT workshop with his startup, Slatecube.

Chris Kwekowe is from southeastern Nigeria. He comes from a family of five, which are all boys. He currently studies Computer Science at the Nnamdi Azikwi University, Awka. He believes “the average African youth is the driving force for global impact,” which inspired the start of Slatecube.

Slatecube balances current knowledge with skill acquisition in a system of free, cloud-based learning courses. It focuses on “employability and social development”. It enables its users to learn and collaborate with professionals while developing relevant skills to give them an edge in the working world.

Kwekowe explains, “Essentially, what we do at Slatecube is really simple but very important. We help individuals develop new knowledge or build on already existing knowledge and then expose them to industry-relevant skills with hands-on training from real organisations in order to make them more employable and improve their social and economic relevance.”

Slatecube is designed to help students gain skills and obtain experience, both of which will help young, aspiring professionals when applying for a job. The courses are self-paced and the instructors are free-lanced.

With knowledge this accessible to young Nigerian students, Slatecube would empower the workforce and decrease the unemployment rate. In 2015, Nigeria’s unemployment rate is seven point five percent, an astonishing decrease since 2012, when the unemployment rate was 23 percent. Slatecube could further this decline in unemployment while empowering young professionals.

Kwekowe will attend MITx Global Entrepreneur Bootcamp at the end of August, ready and armed with Slatecube. Back with his newfound knowledge from MITx, Kwekowe and Slatecube could have a large impact on young, aspiring professionals around the world.

Hannah Resnick

Sources: IT News Africa, MITx, Slatecube, Trading Economics
Photo: IT News Africa