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 subsidy
Last year the New York Times featured a piece entitled, “The United States of Subsidies.” In this piece, author Louise Story details how U.S. government offices have doled out $80.4 billion in incentives to companies across the country over the years.

The incentives, which are little more than tax payer dollars subsidizing the cost of business, are awarded by states, counties and cities to companies who are looking to invest in a state or city. The idea is that if a local government sweetens the pot for a company, their local economy will then benefit from the company’s presence via the jobs they will create.

Lucrative tax breaks, free buildings and cash rewards are just some of the potential subsidies that cities provide for companies. The problem is that when these companies find their new venture unprofitable they often skip town—taking with them the jobs and the billions of dollars in incentives. Across the country, cities are replete with empty factories, pockets and promises.

The most notorious offender is General Motors (GM). Before the billions in federal bailouts, and before the financial crisis, which saw the liquidation of many of their properties, GM famously built relationships with states and towns, promising “win/win situation[s]” for both the company and the city—the city gets jobs, GM gets tax breaks, all is well. But soon after the collapse of the financial sector GM started shutting down plants and pulling out of towns at record pace.

In Ypsilanti, Michigan an empty warehouse with a $200 million sticker price, is all that remains after GM pulled out. Some states like Ohio and Wisconsin have even tried to no avail, to offer cash to the tune of $56 million and $153 million respectively, to try and keep GM from moving their plants.

The cost of luring a big company like GM to locate their factories or invest in a city can be anywhere from $50 to $200 million or more. The cost for the U.S. as whole at $80.4 billion is telling.

By contrast, USAID’s budget is only $33 billion a year—less than half the cost of subsidizing empty promises. The cost of eradicating hunger on a global scale is similarly, $30 billion annually. For about two-thirds of the cost of ensuring that the path to profit for companies remains unhindered, hunger and poverty can be eradicated.

GM pulled out of more than 50 towns and cities across the U.S. And due to $49.5 billion in bailout dollars, GM is once again profitable, while the cities they took from have been left high and dry—much like the world’s poor and hungry.

Pedram Afshar

Sources: New York Times, USAID, FAO, USA Today

Sometimes, it can be curious to put certain large corporations in perspective, analyzing what they give to the world versus what they earn. The large sums of money below constitute only miniscule percentages of companies’ total earnings – what if efforts were combined and doubled among these firms? Presented here is a brief account of last year’s (2012) top five most charitable companies in the U.S., and how much each respectively donated:

1. Wells Fargo & Company – Bank giant Wells Fargo tops the list, having donated a hefty total of $315,845,766 USD for various charitable purposes. This constitutes the estimated share of 2011 pre-tax profits donated to 1.3%.

2. Walmart – The American convenience store that has it all, Walmart donated $311,607,280 USD in cash in the past year, and gave away $755,868,381 USD worth of products from the store itself. The share of 2011 pre-tax profits donated is 4.5%.

3. Chevron Corporation – A chain of gas stations across the country, Chevron Corp, too, has had a hand in philanthropy. In the past year, the company has donated $262,430,000 USD (0.6% of 2011 pre-tax profits).

4. Goldman Sachs Group – The luxurious department store gave $241,278,912 USD in cash in 2012, making it a 3.9% of their profits in 2011.

5. Exxon Mobil Corporation – Another favorite gas go-to destination for Americans, Exxon has donated $213,374,183 USD in cash and $2,433,200 USD in products – 0.3% of their total earnings the year before.

– Natalia Isaeva 

Sources: Forbes, Huffington Post

Zimbabwe has sent foreign businesses packing as Robert Mugabe increases his unstable and illegitimate control over Zimbabwe and its economy.

Foreigners operating businesses were given notice that they risk being arrested if they continued doing business after a deadline to relinquish their businesses to Zimbabweans. Zimbabweans will take control of wholesale and retail establishments from foreign owners, the state-owned  media has reported.

The government had added barber shops, hair dressings, beauty salons, bakeries, employment agencies and grain milling to the list of those who may face prosecution if they fail to obey.

Foreign business has been a threat as of late to economic security of Zimbabwe. There is also an antsy yet still seated Mugabe who sees this as an opportunity to clamp down control by claiming to be removing damaging foreign influences.

Last August the controversial leader of Zimbabwe threatened to expel foreign-owned firms over what he claimed was Western interference in the politics of the country. This of course came one month after Mugabe won elections that both the European Union and the United States refused to recognize as legitimate due to irregularities and fraud.

This particular move by Mugabe seems to be in line with the Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act, according to the state-controlled news agencies. The act calls for the protection of reserved sectors of the economy as being agriculture, transportation, estate agencies, tobacco grading and packaging, advertising agencies, milk processing and provision of local arts and crafts.

State-owned papers felt that the Nigerian and Chinese populations who immigrated in recent years were likely to be the biggest casualties as they had set up small shops and businesses in almost every town.

These measures are likely to leave Zimbabwe dependent on imports and fleeing populations if barriers of investment and business continue to target foreign companies in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has one of the most uncompetitive economies and the country needs foreign companies to invest money, innovation, and labor. This move also serves to further isolate an increasingly beleaguered Mugabe on the international stage, with his citizens to pay for that distance.

– Nina Verfaillie
Feature Writer

Sources: Al Jazeera, The Independent
Photo: Neatorama

“Buy a Belt–Feed a Family.”  That is the motto of Mission Belt, a company whose co-founder appeared on the critically acclaimed show Shark Tank and scored a deal with fashion mogul Daymond John.

With the simple idea of designing a belt with no holes, emerged a company designed to fight global hunger and poverty. The strategy? Micro-lending.

The company was named Mission Belt because it had one mission–to help people break out of the cycle of poverty.  The company policy is to donate 100 percent of one dollar from every Mission Belt sold. According to company statistics, the dollar they donate often represents 20 percent or more of their profit. They work with a “non-profit, peer-to-peer ‘micro-lending’ organization” called Kiva, which distributes money in the form of $25 micro loans to people in the developing world.

One dollar goes a long way in this case, because when the borrowers repay their loans, those funds can be lent out over and over.

So far, Mission Belt Co. has made 1,492 individual loans, with the majority going to the agricultural sector.  According to the Creative Director of the company, they chose the agricultural sector (primarily targeted towards helping women) so that they can directly help people feed themselves and their families.

“We like to think of it as corporate responsibility to give something back. We feel strongly about the work we do, and the contributions to this micro-loans have meant the world to so many people around the world.”

Nate Holzapfel, co-founder of Mission Belt Co., is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post online and recently wrote an article about his thoughts on the secret to life. He says that helping others is what has been the secret to his success personally, financially and emotionally. “Realization of ourselves and our humanity is the key to empathy, which is essential if you want to truly be happy.”

It is not uncommon to see U.S. companies engaging in corporate giving on a large scale. In a 2011 survey carried out by The Chronicle of Philanthropy magazine, data revealed that in 2010, total cash donations by 180 of the nation’s largest companies were $4.9 billion.

Among the top companies listed was the supermarket Kroger, which created a loyalty program where 2-5 percent of a shopper’s bill would be donated to a community group of the shopper’s choice. Wal-Mart Stores also topped the list, with an announcement of a $2 billion five-year strategy to fight hunger.

Goldman Sachs was also recognized, despite criticism remaining surrounding its generosity in light of the liquidity crisis. It was among the companies who donated the most cash in 2010, and is also known for a project called “10,000 Women,” a five-year investment which provides female entrepreneurs in the developing world with a business and management education.

– Rifk Ebeid

Sources: Sharktanksuccess, Mission Belt, Huffington Post, Forbes, Goldmansachs
Photo: Twisted Sifter

cinncinati_recyclebankSome people claim that we are living in revolutionary times. With terms like Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street becoming part of our everyday lexicon, it’s hard to argue otherwise. But one revolution occurring outside the lens of the mainstream media involves young, tech-savvy entrepreneurs applying creative solutions to solve problems associated with everything from environmental cleanup to access to higher education.

Those studying this rapidly evolving phenomenon refer to it as the “Solution Economy.”

These solution revolutionaries are challenging old business models and developing products or services that deal directly with social problems. To accomplish this, these entrepreneurs combine technological knowledge with creative business planning and behavioral incentivizing. Generally speaking, the new solution revolutionaries are not in it so much for the money–they’re in it to solve problems.

William Eggers and Paul Macmillan–co-authors of a recently published book on the subject–claim that these solution revolutionaries, “develop fundamentally different operating models that are fostering new relationships between services and clients, government and citizens, managers and workers, and neighbors and strangers.”

Many enterprises in the Solution Economy benefit from the collaboration of government, private businesses and non-profit organizations. One example is an organization called Recyclebank, which rewards households that recycle by issuing points that can be redeemed for prizes or discounts on products.

Recyclebank relies on collaboration with small municipalities, waste haulers and large, for-profit corporations. Neighborhoods that have partnered with Recyclebank have witnessed a large increase in consumer recycling. In some parts of Philadelphia, for example, rates have gone from 7 percent to 90 percent.

Traffic congestion is another problem area where social entrepreneurs are competing to develop solutions. According to Eggers and Macmillan, Americans lose 4.76 billion hours a year to delays resulting from traffic congestion. The annual opportunity cost of these delays is nearly $160 billion.

To solve this problem, entrepreneurs have developed a variety of apps that pair commuters with drivers to utilize empty seats in automobiles. One app–Carma–actually transfers a mileage-based fee from the passenger’s account to the driver’s account, making the transaction simple and efficient.

Examples abound of social entrepreneurs collaborating with public and private partners to develop creative solutions to collective problems here and across the globe. In an age of growing frustration and discontent, it may be comforting to know that solution revolutionaries are utilizing their minds and talents to promote a new kind of economic progress.

This brand of revolutionary does not seem concerned with rhetorical bickering about government, corporations or corruption. Instead, they are driven by a more tangible and immediate goal–innovative solutions to difficult problems.

– Daniel Bonasso

Sources: PBS, Huffington Post, Fast Company
Photo: Urban Cincy

Despite advances in advertising in recent years, word of mouth is still considered by many marketing experts to be the best form of advertisement. As businesses look to increase their presence in South Africa, word of mouth publicity could be the key to appealing to otherwise unreachable demographics.

Zonal champions, as they are called by marketing agency Creative Counsel, are human advertisements. They are members of local communities who are employed to represent a brand and promote appropriate products during their everyday conversations. The potential consumers are able to freely question zonal champions about the products, allowing for all curiosities to be satisfied before a purchase is made.

Nontando Vena, a zonal champion for South African mobile phone company Vodacom, says she doesn’t have conventional work hours. Instead, she promotes the brand “24/7, 365,” and members of her community occasionally refer to her as “Miss Vodacom.”

The merits of zonal champions are numerous for both the customers and the providers. For businesses, zonal champions are able to reach rural parts of Africa that traditional advertisements are unable to. Upwards of 550 million people are without electricity in Africa, which represents a massive untapped market for businesses to sell products. A zonal champion only needs two to four days to be properly trained, and they can continuously reach rural customers on a daily basis.

South African consumers are more welcoming of zonal champions than they would be of commercials and billboards. Consumers are more trusting of a friend or family member than they are of an advertisement, and this is especially true in South Africa. Zonal champions are able to give a familiar face to otherwise detached companies, which let consumers feel more comfortable with new brand names.

Economically, zonal champions are also beneficial to the many rural consumers who are forced to be judicious with their income. While the income of South Africans has risen by upwards of 170% in the past decade, the average annual income is still about $6,258. As a result, South African consumers are extremely hesitant to invest in products they are unfamiliar with. By answering questions and recommending products, zonal champions are able to engage local citizens and let them know if the product being offered will meet their needs.

In addition to the benefits for businesses and consumers, the zonal champions themselves are able to benefit from this unique form of employment. Unemployment in South Africa remains very high, with up to 24% of citizens without work. Many of these people have no access to education, and therefore are considered “unemployable.” There are no prerequisites to become a zonal champion, and the work itself primarily involves being present in a community. This allows a new opportunity for these “unemployable” citizens to find work and curb the harsh unemployment rate in the process.

Africa’s economy is among the fastest growing in the world now, and international businesses are starting to take notice. President Obama’s recent trip to Africa highlights the continent’s growing relevance in the global economy, and zonal champions will surely play a large role in growing markets in these once impoverished parts of the country. With the numerous advancements in technology and advertising in recent years, zonal champions prove that old fashioned conversation is still as relevant as ever.

– Timothy Monbleau
Sources: Linkedin, How We Made It In Africa, CNN, Creative Counsel, BBC, Google Currency Conversion, World Bank, Vodacom
Photo: Riger Jabber


On a trip to Adidome, Ghana in 1963, Ed Bullard, businessman by trade, was struck by the poverty in the area and decided to help. Five years later, Ed founded a non-profit to facilitate the spread of business knowledge and the strengthening of market systems. He named it TechnoServe, an abbreviation of the phrase “technology in the service of mankind.”

Bullard envisioned the organization as an innovative non-profit that would empower the poor by connecting them to the resources they need to thrive while also emphasizing a commitment to integrity. Although Bullard passed away in 1996, TechnoServe has stayed true to his mission, enabling millions of people worldwide and earning a perfect score in transparency from Charity Navigator.

TechnoServe works to improve market systems as a whole, particularly focusing on markets that have a clear unmet demand for a product or service, potential for growth that would benefit poor communities, and the opportunity to impact large groups of people. The organization sees market systems as comprised of three primary facets: direct market players (e.g. consumers, producers, middlemen), suppliers (e.g. producers of intermediary products such as chicken feed), and influential entities (e.g. governments, infrastructure providers).

Based on this understanding, TechnoServe works in three main ways. First, they develop capacity by enabling individuals and communities to improve their skills, share knowledge, and gain access to necessary technologies. They also strengthen market connections by fostering collaboration between market players, and integrating new farms and businesses into the market system. Finally, they improve the business environment and facilitate independent economies by addressing policy issues.

TechnoServe operates in over 40 countries and has affected an estimated 10 million people. Their innovative and adaptable programs have proven that businesses have the potential to empower people and raise them out of poverty. For example, cacao farmers in Peru have doubled their yields thanks to TechnoServe’s training on how to properly prune and fertilize their trees, improve their handling and processing after harvest, and earn higher market prices by selling their cacao together.

TechnoServe has an impressive history of partnerships with for-profit companies. A recently announced partnership with Nespresso is creating a more sustainable coffee supply. Work is taking place in Ethiopia and Kenya to provide support for smallholder farmers and improve supply chain efficiency, and in South Sudan to rebuild the coffee industry after decades of instability. Project Nurture, a partnership with The Coca-Cola Company and the Bill & Melinda Gates, helps foster a sustainable and profitable mango and passion fruit industry in Uganda and Kenya.

Over the past 55 years, TechnoServe has positively affected the lives of millions of people by connecting them to the tools they need to create successful businesses. Their commitment to integrity has earned them the trust of individuals, communities, corporations, governments, and fellow nonprofits. Meanwhile, their work has proven that improving markets systems reduces poverty and empowers the poor. Their success is an excellent model that should be praised, supported, and followed.

Katie Fullerton

Sources: The New York Times, Charity Navigator, TechnoServe
Photo: Humanosphere

Philanthropic Companies
The Foundation Center has compiled a list of the top givers in the business world based on the most current financial data obtained in May 2013. Here is a list of the top 25 philanthropic corporate foundations, including the total amount of money the foundation has given in its lifetime.

1. Sanofi Foundation for North America; $497,491,467

2. Novartis Patient Assistance Foundation, Inc.; $331,911,548

3. The Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Inc.; $198,213,418

4. The Wal-Mart Foundation, Inc.; $175,680,474

5. The JPMorgan Chase Foundation; $136,201,550

6. GE Foundation; $112,221,740

7. Wells Fargo Foundation; $107,542,374

8. Citi Foundation; $78,614,500

9. The Coca-Cola Foundation, Inc.; $76,230,474

10. ExxonMobil Foundation; $74,507,597

11. Verizon Foundation; $56,282,791

12. The PNC Foundation; $54,22,909

13. The Merck Company Foundation; $53,306,196

14. Caterpillar Foundation; $49,789,926

15. Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies Foundation; $49,556,298

16. Intel Foundation; $43,388,787

17. MetLife Foundation; $43,938,306

18. The UPS Foundation; $39,833,790

19. Illinois Tool Works Foundation; $36,176,325

20. Lucasfilm Foundation; $34,770,779

21. Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Patient Help Foundation; $30,592,240

22. The PepsiCo Foundation, Inc.; $29,773,085

23. Abbott Fund; $29,545,990

24. The Medtronic Foundation; $29,241,817

25. The Goldman Sachs Foundation; $29,237,825

Corporate philanthropy is important for several reasons and it comes in many forms, from simply donating money to encouraging employees to volunteer within the community. An obvious benefit of businesses giving back is that it benefits the community by either providing money to buy supplies or fund programs, or supplying the volunteers to run events or fundraisers. Other less-obvious benefits include boosting employee morale, recruiting more socially responsible potential employees, as well as boosting the company’s public image. These 25 companies have reaped all of these benefits and more through their generous donations to charities.

Katie Brockman

Source: Foundation Center, Houston Chronicle
Photo: TreeHugger

Most Powerful Women
Each year Forbes compiles a list of the top 100 most powerful women who are contributing the most through donations, media momentum, and impact on society. These women work in a variety of areas–the list includes celebrities, businesswomen, women in politics, and social activists–and they are from all areas of the world. These women are demonstrating that power comes in a variety of forms and can be used in a variety of ways. Here is a short list of the top 10 most powerful women.

10. Indra Nooyi – CEO of Pepsico, United States

9. Sonia Gandhi – President of Indian National Congress

8. Janet Napolitano – Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, United States

7. Christine Lagarde – Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, France

6. Sheryl Sandberg – COO of Facebook, United States

5. Hillary Clinton – Politician and Philanthropist, United States

4. Michelle Obama – First Lady of the United States

3. Melinda Gates – Co-chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, United States

2. Dilma Rousseff- President of Brazil

1. Angela Merkel – Chancellor of Germany

Katie Brockman

Source: Forbes