Qiyas Ergashev, a carpenter in Arslanbob, Kyrgyzstan, builds houses for a living. In his spare time, he crafts wooden gifts—nut crackers, containers, cups, etc.—for foreigners who visit his city. He aspires to make more money from his woodcraft, but he lacks the means to market his products to a larger audience.

A San Francisco startup called GlobeIn has solved Qiyas’s problem.

GlobeIn is an online marketplace that allows users to buy goods that were handmade by people in remote parts of the world. Chief Executive Vladimir Ermakov has said that his business aims to “bring local artisans to the global market.” GlobeIn’s website has been described as “Etsy with a decidedly international feel to it.”

Site users can search for artisans by region, country or craft medium. Artists from over forty countries are represented on the site, selling a panoply of items that range from musical instruments to jewelry to furniture and more.

GlobeIn’s method is simple but effective. The company employs “Artisan Helpers” who travel to the artisans’ locations. During their meeting with a helper, an artistan gets their photograph taken, tells the helper about him or herself (for marketing purposes) and learns how to use any required technologies.

Afterward, the artisan’s work is posted on the website, immediately introducing him or her into the global marketplace. GlobeIn profits by marking prices up anywhere from 5 percent to 25 percent—a form of commission.

In 2013, the company raised more than $1 million in order to develop new platforms, like its newly launched iOS app, which allows users to quickly search for and purchase crafts from around the world.

Investors included former IBM executive Doug Maine, as well as renowned author and physician Deepak Chopra. This latter investor also convinced Ermakov to shift his company’s marketing strategy away from a more traditional approach toward a storytelling approach. Now, each artisan’s website profile includes both his or her work and a short biography.

Chopra said he chose to invest in GlobeIn partly because of the company’s potential to “eradicate poverty.”

Indeed, GlobeIn seems uniquely capable of improving the standard of living for a traditionally impoverished group in developing countries—the craftspeople.

For example, the poorest denizens of the Indian state of Bihar rely on their “traditional cultural industries” for their livelihood. If these people could access the resources needed to market their cultural products to a global audience, their income could increase substantially. GlobeIn is actively providing these sorts of populations with the requisite resources.

Thus, as GlobeIn’s website suggests, the world is now open for business.

Ryan Yanke

Sources: GlobeIn, A G & CO, Tech Crunch, Forbes , World Bank
Photo: Barjeel Art Foundation

Rope isolated on white background
This week marked the anniversary of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

According to the United Nations, torture as a practice seeks “to annihilate the victim’s personality and denies the inherent dignity of the human being.”

The U.N. General Assembly adopted resolution 52/149 in December 1997, a resolution that proclaimed June 26 as the U.N. International Day in Support of Torture Victims. Believing torture to be “one of the vilest acts perpetrated by human beings on their fellow human beings,” the resolution maintains the intention to completely eradicate all torture measures and practices.

Torture practices used today include the controversial waterboarding, sleep deprivation, force feeding, electric shock and cold cell, among others. Rape, beatings and public sexual humiliation are also considered to be forms of torture as they are measures used to inflict pain upon other individuals. Countries, including the United States, continue to use enhanced interrogation techniques to obtain information from suspected criminals or terrorists. Many believe these techniques qualify as acts of torture.

“As we honor the victims on this International day, let us pledge to strengthen our efforts to eradicate this heinous practice,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

The U.N. Fund for Victims of Torture has assisted torture victims around the world. It provides direct assistance to torture victims — assistance that includes access to psychological and physical rehabilitation centers as well legal services.

While many countries do not make use of torture practices, 41 countries have not ratified the Convention Against Torture and thus allow and continue to use practices deemed to be inhuman by the U.N. In fact, Amnesty International’s 2013 Report stated that 112 of 159 countries practiced torture methods in 2012.

“Torture is an unequivocal crime,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said. “Neither national security nor the fight against terrorism, the threat of war, or any public emergency can justify its use,” Pillay said. “All States are obliged to investigate and prosecute allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and they must ensure by every means that such practices are prevented.”

Ethan Safran

Sources: allAfrica, United Nations, International Business Times, Human Rights Web, United Nations Human Rights, Dignity – Danish Institute Against Torture
Photo: Time and Date

For many nations, the recent revelation of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results were a call for celebration. For others, they were a sign that their nation might be falling behind—and, perhaps, cause for outright embarrassment.

PISA is a standardized test designed to evaluate the scholastic performance of 15-year-old students in math, reading and science. Ideally, nations will be able to use these results in order to develop better, more comprehensive curricula and learning strategies.

However, this program is not without its flaws, critics claim.

While the results speak to the scholastic achievement, it fails to account for other educational outcomes. Critics suggest that not only are PISA results not enough to determine the quality of education reliably, some argue that such a task might not even be possible.

Svein Sjøberg of the University of Oslo believes that PISA is comparing apples and oranges in most cases. For Sjøberg, the contextual differences between nations trouble PISA’s fundamental assumption: it is possible to create a universal test that validly measures student achievement across the borders of language, culture and curriculum.

As far as problems go, he argues, this is the tip of the iceberg. A perhaps even more important concern lies within how these scores are interpreted—how they might be used to express the success or failure of an entire system that might have other larger problems.

In Vietnam, for instance, there can be little doubt that their recent ranking was an immense success. Vietnam was ranked 17th overall out of 65 nations, beating many larger industrialized nations.

However, Christian Bodewig of the World Bank has called into question the validity of such scores. He argues that there is other relevant data that PISA largely ignores.

Bodewig says that while many of the students participating in the PISA evaluations did perform well, their performance is not a perfect reflection of the state of education in a given nation. The primary reason for this is that enrollment numbers between nations vary enormously and, in poorer nations in particular, this sort of tabulation can be misleading.

In the case of Vietnam, only some 65 percent of school age children are actually enrolled in school. Compare that with the nearly 90% enrollment rate of the US and the picture of Vietnamese education becomes a bit fuzzier.

The Economist reports that the problems for Vietnamese education are legion, ranging from corruption to homogeneity.

So, what do PISA rankings actually tell us?

Professor Svend Kreiner from the University of Copenhagen in Demark, argues that they don’t tell us that much. In fact, his analysis of the PISA testing model suggests that rankings are largely arbitrary and based on what amounts to luck of the draw.

Depending on which questions a particular set of students receive, their global ranking can fluctuate dramatically.

Still, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stands by their methodology as the best and most accurate measure of global scholastic achievement available.

It is also clear that participating nations continue to see the value in PISA. Despite its flaws, PISA still helps nations make decisions with regard to the robustness of their systems of education—even if it doesn’t paint a complete picture.

– M. Chase

Sources: The Economist, Sjoberg, Tes Connect, OECD
Photo: Vintage 3D

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

For many, spending their lives working to bring positive change to impoverished countries and underprivileged communities is the most rewarding job in the world. Being an aid worker is an incredible, though challenging, position that allows people to physically promote change in the world. While lots of people hold romanticized ideas about travelling the world as an aid worker, it is important to keep in mind that the job isn’t always going to fulfill idealized expectations. It’s hard work, but the reward is far greater. In order to become a relief or aid worker there are some steps to follow and some things to keep in mind.

First, evaluate your motives for wanting to be an aid worker. Think about what humanitarian skills you have that prompt you to want to enter this field. This, undoubtedly, will be a question that resurfaces as you talk to aid agencies so it’s important to have a good grasp on what your skills and motives are. Again, romanticized ideals about leaving a comfortable living to go live in a war zone, or region marred by poverty won’t go far in a serious interview. There need to be deeper motives that can be expressed in a way that the interviewer can understand and believe to be genuine.

Participate in aid work training and heavily research the humanitarian field. Experience in any and every aspect of aid work is very important when preparing to make it a career. Some aid agencies offer workshops or various training services that can help you prepare for the field. Always keep up to date with the latest news in the humanitarian field, paying close attention to the standards required by certain agencies when employing aid or relief workers. This will give you a better edge to market your abilities to particular agencies. Technical positions such as engineers, medics, linguistics, and environmentalists are almost always in high demand. It’s important to know what agencies are looking for in order to tailor your training and capabilities accordingly.

The cliché, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” still holds significant value especially in the case of becoming an aid worker. It is crucial to network as much as possible so that when opportunities do present themselves, you have a contact to better your chances. Meet people who are already working in the relief field, ask them questions, learn from their experience. Aid agencies have a tendency to hire people that they trust, and this comes from having prior knowledge or relationship with the person.

International travel is a great way to gain the necessary experience to become an aid worker. Agencies are going to be looking at where you have travelled, what you did there, and how long you stayed. Stay involved in volunteer opportunities; it will show agencies how committed you are to the humanitarian field, automatically making you a more reliable candidate.

Once you feel like you have a good grasp on each of these steps, you’re ready to get in touch with an agency and apply for a position. Some of the best resources to find agencies to work for are listed below. Good luck!

·      Aid Workers Network
·      Reuters AlterNet
·      DevNet Jobs
·      Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)
·      ReliefWeb

– Chante Owens 

Sources: Transitions Abroad, Redr UK
Photo: UN OCHA