Unconditional_Basic_Income_Initiative
Citizens of the European Union (EU) have successfully gathered groundbreaking support towards establishing unconditional basic income. A petition for the unconditional basic income initiative began in 2013 and it has spread widely. The petition has officially gained 285,041 signatures from EU citizens across 28 countries.

The movement fell short of their goal to reach the one million signatures needed for the European Commission to “win their consideration of unconditional basic income as a new form of ‘emancipatory welfare.” However, the initiative was brought to Switzerland, where it managed to get 100,000 signatures.

Unlike the United States—where most legislation has to pass through representatives to be implemented—popular initiatives in Switzerland are able to gain more ground. The proposal is also possible because the Swiss political system allows for a very direct form of democracy. Moreover, unconditional basic income is part of a larger movement across the globe to address the pressing issue of rampant economic inequality.

The people of Switzerland have been successful in introducing legislation that would limit the salary of CEOs to “12 times the salary of the lowest paid employee.”

Considering how unconventional the proposal is—in which the suggested amount of $2,800 a month would be unconditionally provided to the people of Switzerland—gathering the votes required is considered to be a long shot. But, the movement represents a rapidly growing public concern.

It aims to account for some of the 21st century problems that arise due to a capitalist mode of economy.

For instance, the unconditional basic income initiative would allow for jobs to be distributed more widely and equally. Currently, France has three million people who are jobless and five million people working more than necessary. This sort of unequal employment distribution in France is also evident across nations on an international scale.

There is an element of controversy to the movement though, where debates regarding human rights and entitlements circulate the issue. The initiative reflects a strong public opinion however, in which human nature is regarded as creative as opposed to lazy. It would allow for people to have the tools to realize their potential and have a dignified existence, rather than being left out of what society has to offer.

As stated by a leader behind the unconditional basic income initiative, “This would lead to a paradigm change.”

Jugal Patel

Sources: Business Week, Forbes, Basic Income, Business Insider
Photo: RT

Education_Reform_in_Chile
As of next month, Chile will once again call Michelle Bachelet, leader of the popular Socialist Party, its president.

Although she left office with an 84 percent approval rate, Chilean law prohibits presidents from serving consecutive terms. However, in the four years since Bachelet left office, millions of citizens have openly protested for the return of many of her reforms — specifically demanded, are her reforms concerning education, environmental protection and income inequality.

Students are especially excited for Bachelet’s return. Her plan is to raise corporate taxes to 25 percent and use the money to fund the overhaul of secondary and higher education. This is the first step of what Bachelet hopes is a gradual move towards free public universities.

The influence of former president Augusto Pinochet, which ended central control and funding of public schools, left the education system in Chile diminished in quality skewed for the benefit of the elite. The majority of universities there today are private and expensive; and the country has not seen a new public university built in over 20 years.

Bachelet became the first female president of Chile in 2006; she served the traditional four-year term until 2010. She is often considered one of the most admired presidents in modern Chilean history, especially since the end of Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship in 1990.

Many of the problems facing the Latin American country today are blamed on Pinochet’s abuse of power. Amongst other things, he is most criticized for ending land reform by selling off the nation’s water. This created a small pocket of economic elite and sparked the growing wealth distribution gap, which Bachelet has dedicated her career to fighting.

Education reform was central to the success of Bachelet’s last presidential term, and throughout her campaign she has vowed to continue it. Early in her first term, in April 2006, demonstrations of high school students broke out across the country, voicing frustrations with the quality and price of their education.

It became known as the “Penguin Revolution,” named for the black-and-white uniforms common among Chilean students.

Bachelet addressed this by immediately setting up an educational advisory committee. The committee, comprised of 81 advisory members from an array of political affiliations and socioeconomic backgrounds, functioned as a forum for the proposal of education bills.

Many of them were effective by August 2009 under the signing of the Education Reform Bill, which decentralized the system and created new regulatory government agencies.

When Bachelet’s term ended in 2010, students once again found themselves frustrated by their lack of representation within the education system and began protesting against current president Sebastián Piñera. Throughout 2011 and 2012, the streets of Santiago were filled nearly every Thursday with students demanding the reinstating of certain funding and other reforms for higher education.

She recently ran for office a second time, succeeding long-time political rival Evelyn Matthei. Now Bachelet and her education and economic reforms will return to office in March. Her popularity was proven on December 15, 2013 with reports of applause and tears accompanying her acceptance speech in Santiago.

Although the anticipation is high, there are also concerns regarding Chile’s immediate economic future and skepticism surrounding how Bachelet will handle it.

Chile’s economy has been growing rapidly in recent years, increasing by 5.6 percent last year.

However, there are fears that it will soon begin to slow, since much of its gross domestic product is tied to its primary export copper, which is at risk of declining prices in the global market. Many speculate that copper wealth will be Bachelet’s weapon for the underfunded public schools system, but if the copper market suffers, so will education.

Regardless, Bachelet is still followed by a reputation for charisma, intelligence and understanding of the common citizen. Her constituents widely agree that her future term as the president of Chile will be productive and positive.

As Paolo Bustamente, who admits to voting for Bachelet, said: “Abroad you often hear that this country has been growing and progressing more than others in Latin America, but it can’t just be a matter of growth. We need urgent educational reform, improvements to health and I feel Bachelet can fulfill promises of deep changes this time around.”

 – Stefanie Doucette

Sources: Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyTimeForbesThe GuardianUnited Nations, CNN, Inter Press Service News Agency, MercoPress

Tech Hub for Rwanda Startups
To make positive change in the world, we don’t just need tons of money, popularity or political influence, we need the right tools.

By getting the right people together in one place, specifically one that fosters intellectual development and creativity, we can make great things happen.

This is the belief of kLab, a tech hub in Rwanda where young people can bring their startup ideas and receive free Wi-Fi, workspace and mentorship from professors, business owners, and community leaders.

kLab – which stands for “knowledge lab” – has been operating for over a year and was officially launched in October 2013. The center is funded by the Rwanda private Sector Federation, the Rwanda Development Board and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

“The knowledge lab is an innovation center where fresh and young graduates come to work on their projects, especially in the tech industry,” said Jovani Ntabgoba, kLab’s general manager, at the launch.

kLab currently offers the services of 21 different mentors to its over 80 tenants. The startups at the center range from online shopping websites to improved medical technology. The mentors offer these young people the ability to truly flesh out their ideas and turn them into much more.

“The culture is collaboration, but it’s not just collaboration; it’s positioning oneself at an age where you receive the best mentorship that you cannot find anywhere else in Rwanda,” Ntabgoba said. “At kLab we have all of the knowledge that is required for a tenant to develop their business.”

The power of this collaboration has led to the beginning of many bright futures for startups that focus on the vision of the country of Rwanda: to turn the nation into a knowledge-based economy. However, young Rwandans are challenged daily by a lack of skills due to the fact that the educational curriculum is not yet “innovation-oriented.”

One of the more recent kLab successes is GIRA ICT – a startup that combats a large roadblock to widespread internet usage in Africa: hardware prices. By partnering with big name manufacturers like Apple, Samsung, HP and Lenovo, GIRA ICT allows consumers to pay for their devices in monthly installments in order to increase hardware ownership across the country.

“We started as a group of five entrepreneurs, so we came into kLab and they gave us a free space to work in. We could enjoy internet… they provided us with mentors,” said project supervisor Alphonse Ruhigira.

GIRA ICT has also been collaborating with the government to supplement the One Laptop per Child program. Founded by Nadia Uwamahoro, this effort provides teachers with laptops that they can pay off over a span of four years. So far, this has helped about 100 teachers to attain laptops and the number is steadily increasing.

“It’s a brilliant innovation and she is doing brilliant business,” says Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Rwandan Minister for Youth and ICT of Uwamahoro. “She’s taken computers to places where they were seeing and touching them for the first time by lowering the affordability challenge.”

Through efforts such as GIRA ICT, kLab is pushing Rwanda towards its goal of becoming a middle-income country by the year 2020.

“I want you to understand the uniqueness of this kLab compared to many other iHubs in the region. The uniqueness of this one is that you are in this building and you are not alone in this building,” said Michael Bezy, associate director of Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda, who works with kLab in order to provide mentorship to its tenants.

“You look at that and you say ‘I have entrepreneurs here, I have a world-class university, I have IT businesses and I have IT infrastructure.’ That looks to me like a mini Silicon Valley,” said Bezy.

– Samantha Davis

Sources: Wired, kLab, Wired
Photo: Wired

L_africa_children_doctors_smile
For many people the nonprofit sector, also known as the “third sector,” can offer an exciting and rewarding career. With the exception of where the funding comes from, nonprofit organizations often are run very similarly to for-profit organizations. They also have to adhere to the same policies and may even hire similarly qualified people. This article will provide an overview of the types of jobs available in the nonprofit sector as well as some of the things to consider when looking for a non-profit job.

Development

The development department is one of the largest and highest paying job categories in the nonprofit sector. Development professionals work on gathering the resources that fund the programs and initiatives run by the organization. These jobs are needed in order for the organization to stay alive thus affording the position to pay well and stay in the position of not likely to be cut. Jobs in development also tend to be less competitive than jobs in other departments. Such jobs here can include:

– Director of Development
– Fundraiser
– Proposal Writer
– Communication Professional

Program

Being part of the program department is exciting and rewarding, especially since those who work in this department get to put their organization’s mission into action. These are the people who will be developing and implementing disaster relief plans in developing countries, or providing services to people with mental health challenges. Unfortunately program careers are very competitive and have a high burn out. These jobs include:

– Program Manager
– Program Assistant
– Policy Analyst
– Technical Advisor

Administrative

Just like private sector companies, nonprofit sectors also need an administrative team to help organizations keep on their feet and run smoothly. These jobs are also good stepping-stones into programs careers or management level jobs.

– Human Resources
– Office Manager
– Receptionist

Important Things to Consider About Careers in the Nonprofit Sector

1. You’ll have to wear many hats – Nonprofits don’t always have the funds to hire a large staff, this means you may have to be the graphic designer, the social media coordinator and the grant writer.

2. You need to be passionate about the cause – Employers aren’t just looking for talented qualified workers, they are also looking for people who are passionate about the cause and will work hard to achieve the organization’s goals.

3. You’ll probably make less money – Nonprofits have less resources, this means your office may be less plush and your salary smaller.

4. Volunteer first – It’s important to volunteer or intern at a nonprofit to see if you like the culture and are actually passionate about the job. This also proves your commitment to an employer and can open up job opportunities.

5. Nonprofits are run like any other business – Managing finances and being cost effective are just as important to nonprofits as they are to businesses.

– Elizabeth Brown

Sources: Miami University, US News, Forbes
Gif: Borgen Project

PovertyCure Film Festival
What is PovertyCure? In a nutshell, this organization consists of a Christian-based, International network of organizations that employ policies to help reduce global poverty. PovertyCure then bonds these businesses through employee practices, environmentally sound structuring, donations of profits and the education of citizens in surrounding communities.

The companies that join PovertyCure soon realize that more than one billion people are trying to survive on less than two dollars per day. PovertyCure has also given talks and spoken at seminars around the United States, and they have employees working with organizations in nine different countries so far.

The foundation recently hosted a film festival in New York City that featured competition from all over the world. The festival’s theme was global poverty and the films that resulted from the contest ranged from inspiring and harrowing to enlightening. “Eviction” was the ten thousand dollar grand prize winner of the PovertyCure film festival held on December 12, 2013 at the Helen Mills theatre.

The festival drew participants filming about the human struggle of dealing with poverty every day, a deeper look into the types of people affected by poverty, war and what life looks like on the other side of the poverty line.

Most of the films emphasized how similar the people affected by extreme poverty are to everyone else. Everyone smiles the same way, no matter what nation they were born in. Furthermore, though the poor are no less intelligent or motivated, they are at a disadvantage and many people are in a position to help.

Using businesses as a way to fight poverty is a new method and one that could yield extremely effective results. Treating those who live in poverty around the world not as a burden on the economy but as a market in and of itself is the main concept of the ‘entrepreneurial’ solution to poverty. Using supply and demand while also creating jobs and markets for those struggling with poverty is just one way PovertyCure and other companies help to resolve the issues across the globe.

Outside of the film festival and working network of international companies, PovertyCure has a six episode DVD series. Looking into the causes of wealth and what those in a position of success and communities do to thrive in their environments is one of the methods in which PovertyCure believes to be necessary in ending global poverty.

Instead of researching why poverty happens, research why wealth happens and educate those struggling with financial devastation.

Use an entrepreneurial mindset to seek out and destroy the failing practices that pull nations into corruption and economical disaster. Teach communities to thrive and help themselves and each other. Through art, film and business, PovertyCure is trying to reach people on a human level.

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: PovertyCure Forbes, Palm Springs International Film Society
Photo: Vimeo

business solution
Almost three billion people live on less than $2 dollars per day. Paul Polak, one of the co-authors of the Business Solution to Poverty: Designing Products and Services for Three Billion New Customers (Berrett-Koehler Publishers 2013), believes that social entrepreneurship is the solution to ending global poverty.

From a marketing standpoint, those 2.8 billion people represent an enormous international market that is not being utilized in the economy. Innovation and technological advancements in the world of supply and demand could put products on the market that are affordable to those nearly three billion people. With a market of that size, anyone is bound to enjoy capital gain as well as improve the lives of countless people in need.

Author Paul Polak founded a business to sell cheap irrigation pumps to farmers in Bangladesh to increase their access to clean, healthy drinking water. The market for the water pumps raised the average income of the farmers by $150 million dollars a year. Contaminated water systems spread disease quickly to a massive amount of people, contributing to the ‘water crisis’ that plagues societies around the world.

What is the water crisis? Countries with no access to clean water are more heavily riddled with disease, rendering them unable to work and contribute to the economy. Medical treatment is expensive even for people who are working, so the inability to work combined with the need for disease treatment puts a heavy financial strain on a massive number of people- all because their drinking water is basically poisoning them. Unclean water spreads disease and consequently causes the economy to get stuck in a downward spiral deeper into poverty and distress. Of the 3.4 million water, sanitation, and hygiene-related deaths that occur annually, 99%  in the developing world.

Polak believes that selling affordable products that improve the lives of people in developing countries could benefit both the entrepreneurs marketing these products and the customers who are buying them. The Business Solution to Poverty outlines how companies focusing on the market in developing countries could bring an end to global poverty in approximately 30 years.

Another book called, “Thirty Years to Peace,” that more extensively details the business solution to global poverty timeline, is reported to be released in the next year. America has the wealth and manpower to launch these initiatives and the fact that it is a hugely profitable market should make it attractive to executives across the nation. There is no downside to ending global poverty through business ventures.

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: Philstar, Project Humanity, Forbes
Photo: Giphy.com

Private_Sector_For_Common_Good
In the wake of the destruction following Typhoon Haiyan, reconstruction strategies in the Philippines are starting to gain headwind. Budgets, however, remain limited. In fact, proposals for funds from the Philippines’s Congress are still inconclusive and critically slow to respond to relief efforts.

But there is some good news: the cooperation between private sector and international aid funding has provided a combined supplementary budget to the Philippines government at an estimated $5.8 billion. The Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation, headed by private sector donors, raised $310 million for the recovery effort.

The World Bank Group has recently adopted a new strategy in ending the problem of world poverty by its goal of 2030: reaching out to the private sector. According to Bank Group estimates, expunging social inequality and closing large infrastructure gaps in developing countries will cost $1 trillion per year through 2020. Currently, official development assistance (ODA) from NGOs and agencies such as the Bank Group reach $125 billion per year.

At a meeting at the United States Chamber of Commerce, President Kim of the World Bank stressed the private sector’s necessary role in global development: “There is no way ODA is going to be anywhere near adequate. If you have high aspirations for poor people in the world, you have no choice but to embrace the private sector.”

The anxieties associated with private sectors invested in low to middle-income countries are astounding thanks to the high risks involved — so high as to turn most investors away from seeing the potentialities of opening up new markets. Private sector investments are responsible for 90% of the world’s economic growth. Focusing money into a developing country’s infrastructure would create new classes of middle-range consumers in the poorest of countries.

The World Bank, IFC (the Bank Group’s private sector arm), and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency will work together to mitigate the risks involved in private sector ventures into global development. The organizations aim to act as financial advisors between public and private sectors of business in developing countries.

– Malika Gumpangkum

Sources: The World Bank Group: Private Sectors, Voice of America, The World Bank Group: Support the Philippines, International Finance Corporation
Photo: WordPress

africa_ibm
Tech companies’ new hot spot for investment and expansion? Africa. It may come as a surprise to many that the world’s largest information technology (IT) firms are taking their business to the continent, but Africa is ripe for technological development in myriad ways. For starters, Africa’s middle class is growing rapidly – the World Bank predicts a 2013 growth rate of nearly 5.6 percent. Nearly everyone owns a cell phone, and access to the Internet and higher education is increasing.

According to representatives from the world’s top IT companies – IBM, Microsoft and Intel – the reasons for technological expansion extend beyond shifts in socioeconomic factors. IBM’s Director of Research – Africa, Dr. Kamal Bhattacharya, believes technology is a means to solving Africa’s deep-rooted problems. IBM recently established a research center in Nairobi, which officially opens at the end of October. “We believe research for Africa…has to be done on the ground in Africa” as opposed to in the United States, Dr. Bhattacharya told BBC, “and this is why we set up and made this investment.” Development must be done within local environments in order to make the biggest impact and create practical products.

Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative follows in similar footsteps. The program focuses on training, infrastructure, expansion of access to broadband and agriculture development. For Fernando de Sousa – head of the initiative and a Mozambique native – Microsoft’s investment in Africa is more than skin deep.  As he told BBC, “It’s not just about networks, it’s not just about PCs. It’s about the end economic impact, it’s about the skills.” Creating opportunities for both knowledge and technology development, says de Sousa, will in turn create larger economic growth and success throughout Africa.

Marcin Hejka – Intel’s Europe, Middle East, and Africa Managing Director – sees Africa as a pool of untapped potential. Hejka believes Africa will follow a similar model like that of Eastern Europe. “People doubted that Russia could yield successful exits,” he explained to IT Africa News, “and now they are doing billion-dollar deals. Africa is growing at the same pace and it will catch up.”

The dramatic decrease in the cost of broadband is a major factor in Africa’s foreseen technological success, making it a strategic investment location. Intel, according to IT Africa News, has more offices than any other venture capital investor, with offices on the ground in 25 countries and investments in more than 55 nations worldwide.

Why should IT companies bet on Africa? “There is an unserved demand,” Hejka iterates, “and whoever figures out how to deliver on this demand will be profitable.” Technological expansion in Africa will not only bolster investing corporations, but also sustain socioeconomic development through Africa’s future.

Mallory Thayer

Sources: BBC, IT News Africa
Photo: IBM Research

Albania Poverty Global Downturn Financial Crisis
Since 2008, Albania has seen an increase in the national poverty level and remains one of the poorest countries in Europe.

The Statistics Institute of Albania (INSTAT) recently reported that this increase has largely been due to the global economic crisis, especially now since that Albania is no longer the centralized, state-run economy it once was. Due to relatively low rates of growth from 2008, Albania has found itself struggling economically, with many people blaming the global economic crisis, especially economic crises in neighboring countries like Greece and Italy.

Despite the economic growth Albania, a country with a population of only 3 million, has undergone under its free market economy, nearly one-fourth of the population still lives in poverty.

Even though Albania saw a decrease in extreme poverty between 2002 and 2005, poverty has actually risen 1 percent from 2008 to 2012. While both urban and rural areas have seen similar percentage increases, a little over 2 percent, some highly populated regions have experienced vast increases.

For example, Tirana, the capital of Albania, has experienced a nearly 5 percent increase in poverty. After the end of communism in Albania, many state-owned industries closed, and many people found themselves struggling with unemployment.

As a relatively new free market, the Albanian economy is not apt to deal with macro-economic slowdowns. The worldwide economic crisis further exacerbates the troubles many smaller-scale farmers have in finding outlets to sell their products. In a globalized, hyper competitive world, there is little hope for products that struggle to pass international hygiene and safety standards.

Albanian productivity is also hindered by lapses in technical expertise and industrial innovation, having to compete with international corporate giants. The lack of markets, foreign investments, other vital financial services, make these poor economic conditions even more precarious.

In June, after a landslide election, Albania’s new prime minister, Edi Rama, promised to fight these economic troubles and pledged to create 300,000 jobs for Albanians. The socialist prime minister’s hope is to fight poverty, corruption, and unemployment to win Albanian membership into the European Union.

Rahul Shah

Sources: Global Times, Top ChannelRural Poverty Portal
Photo: PhotoPin

Foreign_Aid_Domestic
Since 2007, the jatropha tree has been considered by many different groups for various green-energy purposes. Known for its hardiness, the jatropha can grow in places where many other plants cannot. It also produces oil-rich seeds which can be used for food and bio-fuel. Initial projects to exploit these attributes fell through in 2012 when it became clear that jatropha trees only produce the oily seeds with nutrient-dense soil usually reserved for more competitive cash crops like corn.

The jatropha tree is now being revisited, however, as a way to turn coastal deserts into carbon-reducing, money-producing plots. A study by Klaus Becker and an interdisciplinary team has demonstrated, through farming data and simulated models, that jatropha farming is an economically competitive method of carbon sequestration. For $56-84, one ton of CO2 can be absorbed – up to 25 tons per year per hectare. The study also suggests that the increase in vegetation will lower local temperatures by 2º Fahrenheit and trigger an increase in precipitation to those areas, possibly creating a self-sustaining feedback loop. There are even benefits to be had from diverting sewage currently dumped into the ocean for use as fertilization, which would solve the soil nitration dilemma. If jatropha farmers were able to market their service to American and European businesses looking to lower their carbon footprint, the influx of money could spark villages and stable economic growth in regions currently producing nothing at all.

As the initial projects discovered, the tree is not without its limitations. Becker et al. warn that that high rate of absorption can only continue for 20 years. Furthermore, soil salination could become toxic in that same amount of time, meaning the absorbed carbon would be released right back into the atmosphere as the tree dies. Becker cautioned that the method “may not be a permanent solution, but at least it would provide a breathing space during which longer term methods…could be found.”

Already plantations are appearing in Egypt, Oman, Madagascar, and Mexico, providing real world data which informed and continues to inform Becker’s research. Omani scientist Ahmed Al Busaidi conducted a similar experiment in 2012, with results in line with Becker’s findings; however, Al Busaidi warned that his study was very small and limited to Oman. With over 2,000 km of desertic coast, even a small country like Oman has the potential to farm jatropha on a large scale.

Becker concluded his study by pointing out data deficiency in some crucial aspects of this work, particularly in the areas of water dynamics with the jatropha and life cycle data which would yield long-term understanding of the tree’s ability to grow in these environments. An issue that Becker did not consider is that which has stymied coastal hydroelectric plants around the globe: the destruction of small ecosystems. Hydroelectric turbines change tidal patterns, and jatropha farms could transform local desert ecologies irreversibly – an important long-term consideration when making drastic changes to stable, but unproductive (for humans) regions. With the world approaching major ecological collapse, it must be hoped that Becker, Al Busaidi, and others are able to quickly gather the data they need in the hopes of attracting public and private investment into this sequestration project. The breathing space to which Becker referred will be needed.

– Alex Pusateri

Sources: allAfrica, Times of Oman, NPR, Earth System Dynamics
Photo: