health policyKerala, a state within India, is renowned for its effective policies in education, literacy, and healthcare. Kerala has the second-lowest rate of poverty in India, and that figure has been steadily declining since 1994. Health policies that provide affordable and accessible healthcare to the state’s low-income populations have been critical in its success defeating poverty, but relatively high levels of inequality and emerging health challenges, including an aging population and lifestyle diseases like diabetes, remain policy challenges for Kerala moving forward.

Kerala’s Current Health Needs

One of Kerala’s most pressing healthcare challenges is caring for its rapidly aging population. Kerala’s population over the age of 60 is expected to double by 2050, and as a larger proportion of people are retired, the state needs a healthcare infrastructure designed to support the health needs of the elderly.

A trustee of an NGO focused on healthcare for the underprivileged in Kerala, who wished to remain anonymous, pointed out changing lifestyles as the cause of some of Kerala’s growing health issues. Non-communicable diseases are on the rise; cancer and diabetes have become the two largest causes of death in the state.

While infectious diseases remain under control compared to other parts of India, re-emergence of certain diseases have led to rather high morbidity in some areas. Additionally, despite significant efforts on the part of the state to place healthcare in the hands of local authorities, and what the NGO trustee says is the highest ratio of doctors to the public in rural areas of any state in India, rural parts of Kerala still do not receive the same quality of care as do urban areas. Likewise, although Kerala has the lowest infant mortality and maternal mortality rates of any Indian state, the government still aims to reduce these rates further.

Policy Solutions

Because healthcare in India is managed at the state level, Kerala’s state government is responsible for formulating its own comprehensive healthcare policy. The state has a history and culture of providing health services to the public; as early as 1879, vaccinations were made mandatory for specific subsets of the population. Since India’s independence in 1947, Kerala has worked to expand easy, community-based access to primary care, prevention services, and specialized treatments.

Kerala’s decentralized healthcare model is a key component of its success in providing affordable and accessible care. After a statewide movement towards expensive private healthcare in the 1980s due to a lack of resources in the public health sector, in 1996, Kerala’s state government decentralized public healthcare through the People’s Campaign for Decentralized Planning. Decentralization shifted approximately 40 percent of state healthcare funding to local governments, prioritizing creating community-based services that are accessible to all regardless of income or caste, as a private-dominated system was consistently barring the poor from accessing care across Kerala.

Looking to the Future

Another key element of Kerala’s healthcare successes has been its willingness to generate policies anticipating future healthcare needs. As the state’s population ages rapidly, policy is already being generated to combat this coming issue. Senior care facilities are already being constructed across the state, existing facilities are being made more equipped for geriatric care, and the Pain and Palliative Care Policy of 2008 has increased the amount of home-based care at the local level.

Likewise, to combat the re-emergence of infectious diseases like diarrhea, typhoid, and Dengue fever, Kerala has invested in information-gathering at the household level in order to observe the spread of such illnesses. As diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease came to account for more than half of all deaths in Kerala, the National Programme for Prevention of CVD, Diabetes, Cancer and Stroke (NPCDCS) was introduced in Pathanamthitta district in 2010 and has since been expanded statewide.

This year, Kerala’s government passed a policy for comprehensive healthcare reform. This new policy seeks to reshape the state’s health services to better account for an aging population, re-emerging infectious diseases and non-communicable lifestyle diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and to expand mental healthcare. It will increase public spending on healthcare more than eightfold in order to further lower the price of public health services as well as providing treatment guidelines to ensure a more even quality of treatment across the state. This comes at the same time as the state is expanding its public health insurance coverage.

Impact on Poverty

Despite the government’s continued efforts to decrease the cost of healthcare and the fact that privatized healthcare services are still largely inaccessible to the poor, Kerala has accomplished several significant victories in providing affordable and accessible healthcare. According to the NGO trustee, no one needs to travel more than 10 kilometers to a primary health centre (PHC), and medicines are provided for free at PHCs across Kerala. Decentralization of healthcare has cut costs significantly, and the state’s new health policy seeks to encourage subsidized public healthcare even further while increasing insurance coverage.

Certainly, Kerala’s innovative health policy is a critical component of its low and steadily decreasing poverty rate. However, underprivileged individuals–including the poor, those in rural areas, women, and the elderly–continue to receive lower quality care and less of it. That is why NGOs and nonprofits like the trustee’s organization must continue to exist, and why the government continues its fight for constant improvement of Kerala’s health policy.

Macklyn Hutchison
Photo: Flickr


Hunger_Food_wasteIn the San Francisco Bay area, Komal Ahmad has a dream to solve world hunger. She is dedicating her life to feed people around the country one city at a time. Her vision began when she was a senior at the University of California, Berkeley. She calls hunger “the world’s dumbest problem” and has created a simple solution through an app called Copia.

Copia is the basis of a technological development that is expected to feed a million people this year alone. Users identify themselves as either food-donors or food-recipients. Copia food donors can be anyone – grocery stores, restaurants, cafes, catering companies, etc. When a company designates itself as a donor, it simply has to enter the amount of food left over in pounds. Then, a Copia designated driver will pick up the extra food and distribute it to nonprofit organizations that are in the most need at the time.

So far, companies have donated over 830,000 pounds of food to feed just under 700,000 people. During Super Bowl 50, the Copia team recovered 14 tons of food – that’s enough to fill four 16-foot-long refrigerated trucks! This weekend alone fed 23,000 people–one of the most successful feeds in Copia’s history.

However, Copia is not just being of use in the Bay area. European countries’ senior government officials in Austria and Germany have reached out to Ahmad inquiring about bringing the technology overseas for Syrian migrants. Ahmad stated, “If I was going to dedicate my life to something, it wouldn’t be something small scale. It would be something I want to grow globally.”

In order to help Ahmad’s movement, Toyota named her as one of Toyota’s Mothers of Invention, which recognizes women whose entrepreneurial accomplishments make an influence. As a result, Ahmad received a $50,000 Toyota Driving Solutions grant. Consequently, this honor has allowed Ahmad to share her message with more of the world and grow her business, to help solve world hunger.

Copia continues to flourish today and for anyone who is looking to make a difference in the world, Ahmad shared her thoughts: “People may think you’re crazy, they might even discourage you, but if you know your truth, if you know what you’re doing is the right thing to do, let that be your guiding light, and stop at absolutely nothing until you achieve what you want.”

Rachel Hutchinson

Photo: Flickr

In 2014, the space-based video game ‘Star Citizen’ raised almost 40 million dollars via crowdsourcing, earning it a Guinness World Record for the largest single amount ever raised through crowdfunding. To put this in context, funding for all of the specialized agencies of the U.N., including WHO, UNICEF and UNDP, totalled about 20 billion dollars in 2011, only 500 times the amount raised for a single video game.

Crowdfunding, the raising of funds for a particular venture or project directly from the population through the internet, has been gaining considerable steam in recent years. Worldwide crowdfunding volume in 2011 was over one billion dollars. In the U.S. alone, there are over 190 platforms for crowdsourcing.

In 2012, social causes made up 30 percent of all crowdfunded projects. This statistic reveals that it is possible to enthuse the public about socially beneficial projects, consequently reducing the burden on the government.

Floating Doctors is just one example of such a project. The organization aims to provide free medical care and deliver medical supplies to isolated populations of Central America. The unique approach of this project is that they voyage by ships to reach these populations and their ships are completely self-sustained in their ability to serve as a doctor’s office. They do not require the existence of a permanent hospital building in the locations they serve. In 30 days, they have been able to raise 3,000 U.S. dollars on KickStarter, a crowdfunding platform.

Another example is Energy for Old Fadama. It is trying to provide solar energy to a large urban slum in Ghana. In 18 months, the organization has equipped 20 community buildings with solar energy and are also trying to empower women in the community by providing them the opportunity to be small solar system entrepreneurs. So far, Energy for Old Fadama has raised 17,000 euros from 59 backers.

Several platforms dedicated specifically to civic projects are starting to appear. According to Deutsche Welle, one such platform, Germany-based nonprofit, has collected 10 million euros for 5,000 projects in 147 countries since its launch in 2007.

StartSomeGood is another example. This platform, as the name suggests, supports projects focussed on social good. The platform generates revenue for itself only if a project on its platform meets its fundraising goal. Start Some Good also asks fundraisers to decide on a “tipping-point goal”, an amount required to launch all projects. Donations are only processed if a campaign raises enough to meet its tipping-point. In this way, donors are assured that their money is going toward a goal that will be realized.

Like any good investor, a donor should also be able to evaluate a project for its merit. BetterPlace accommodates this by allowing donors to rate projects and ask questions to project organizers. Incorporating more approaches like donor questions and tipping-point goals will give crowdfunding campaigns more credibility.

Crowdfunding allows for innovations for development to be realized. As it grows, crowdfunding might well become another mainstream approach, just like aid from governmental and intergovernmental sources, to secure funding for civic projects.

– Mithila Rajagopal

Sources: Daily Crowd Source, Deutsche Welle, Guinness World Records, Statista, Start Some Good, World Watch
Photo: Flickr

political internships
Internships are an important way to determine what fields interest a student or recent graduate, and they are helpful for finding employment after graduation. Finding an internship can be overwhelming, especially when a student or recent graduate needs to decide his or her interests and match it to an internship. For political interests, this could mean searching for an internship that matches political inclinations or goals. The following are a few resources to use to learn where to find political internships.

Use School Resources

Colleges and universities are motivated to ensure job success for their students. Many universities offer career services or a search tool on their website to narrow the job search to particular fields, such as politics. More importantly, faculty at universities may have connections for internships that suit a students needs and interdisciplinary interests.

Some universities offer class credit for internship programs. Completing a number of hours or assignments for an internship can allow a student to earn credit for their unpaid work. For instance, Georgetown University offers a Semester in Washington D.C. program. A student can attend academic classes, complete a research project and an internship during the week. Potentially, a student can earn 15 credits for the semester.

Contact Local or State Representatives

Several internship opportunities are in the offices of House representatives or senators of a student’s state on both the state and national level. In most cases, a representative will have opportunities listed on their website and an email to contact or send an application. Otherwise, on the national level, interns will work in the personal office of a House or Senate member. The intern will have the opportunity to attend committee meetings and make valuable connections with policymakers in Washington, D.C. or within the state.

Check with Nonprofits

In many cases, a nonprofit will have a particular goal in which is has to participate in political action in order to achieve. Although not directly affiliated with the creation of legislation, a nonprofit can be a great way to get involved with politics from a different perspective.

The Borgen Project offers internships from Seattle and telecommuting internships that involve political action. The Political Recruiter internship in Seattle helps to expand The Borgen Project nationally by targeting several congressional districts. As a telecommuting internship, the political affairs internship requires interns to meet with congressional representatives, attend politically related events and advocate for The Borgen Project.

Ask Friends or Family

Using personal connections can be the most important way to find an internship. Friends, family, professors or co-workers can have connections in fields of interests in a particular geographic region. It can be extremely helpful to have a mutual connection introduce a student to a representative from the internship of choice. A personal connection may also be able to provide insight into the environment and expectations of the internship site.

Knowing where to find political internships can be challenging and intimidating. However, many people looking for political internships will have the resources to find the internships right in front of them. Utilizing these resources, interns will gain valuable experience they need for future professional success.

– Tara Wilson

Sources: Georgetown University, About Travel, Borgen Project, Forbes

What is the first thing you feel when you remember you have to buy a gift for a special occasion?

For most people, shopping for a gift can be a daunting endeavor as they juggle a multitude of considerations to reach a final decision and make the purchase. However, in the end, the buyer has no real indication of whether their gift was well-received.

This gift giver’s dilemma has recently been assuaged by the emergence of the one and only gift card phenomenon. Recent statistics indicate that in the 2013 holiday season alone, 60 percent of consumers wanted gift cards. While you can pretty much never go wrong with a gift card, critics have pointed out how most gift cards either end up half-used or not even used at all.

There is a new trend emerging, however, that trumps the simplicity and safety of a gift card. People hailing from all walks of life are now taking advantage of special occasions as an opportunity for both the gift giver and receiver to pay it forward.

Those who are passionate about an issue or a cause have most likely experienced how challenging it is to mobilize those around them to care as much as they do about something. There is one thing, however, that is easy to get your network of friends, family, and colleagues to care about: you! In lieu of gifts, people are now asking their social network to raise money for their favorite cause.

This trend has even made its way to celebrity and pop culture, social networking sites, and a variety of NGOs, which all serve as a means to spread the word and inspire global action.

The NGO Charity: Water, for example, has been described as reinventing the world of charitable giving. Its founder, Scott Harrison, turned his birthday party into a fundraiser that raised $15,000 to build water wells in Rwanda.

OneDaysWages is another intriguing group, which works “to raise awareness and funds around the issues of extreme poverty and specifically those related to the Millennium Development Goals.” Through the organization’s website, individuals can calculate and make a donation of their one day’s wage to pledge, as well as pledge their birthday, to raise funds for a specific cause. The organization also lists a variety of options of different charities/nonprofits to which to donate.

– Rifk Ebeid

Sources: One Day’s Wages, SignUp Genius, First Giving, Charity Water, HubSpot, PR Week, NTen, GRI Financial Services, TIME
Photo: Westphillys Finest

importance non-profits nonprofit organizations
It never occurs to many people who are not involved with non-profits how integral these organizations can be to the overall functioning of the economy.

To many, non-profits are just innocuous little entities existing in their own isolated corner of the economy. They do not hurt the economy, but they certainly do not carry it, either. Non-profits serve one distinct purpose – bettering the world while zeroing out their books.

In reality, non-profits do much more. Discussed below are three ways non-profit organizations enhance and bolster the economy.


3 Benefits of Non-Profits


1. Non-profit organizations are a steady source of employment. Just because non-profits are not allowed to carry forward does not mean their operation does not require specialized jobs to be filled. In fact, in terms of day-to-day operations, non-profits run very similarly to for-profit corporations. Non-profits, like for-profits, rely on computer programmers, accountants, graphic designers and other specialized workers to ensure smooth operation.

“Non-profits are businesses. They simply receive preferential tax treatment,” Sean Stannard-Stockton said in a piece for The Chronicle of Philanthropy. The piece was a response to a remark by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim in which Slim expressed distaste for non-profits. “Like all businesses, non-profits employ people. A lot of people.”

A 2012 report prepared by Johns Hopkins University showed that 10.7 million people were employed in the non-profit sector in 2010 – 10.1 percent of total employment in the United States.


2. Non-profit organizations, like any other business, consume third-party goods and services in their day-to-day operations. They require computers, internet and phone services, building materials, and utilities in order to run. This generates revenue for the companies that manufacture and distribute these goods and services, thereby providing added economic stimulation.


3. By providing employees with a source of income, non-profits, just as for-profits, indirectly stimulate endless other facets of the economy. When people have money, they spend it. They pay mortgages, utility companies and car payments. Discretionary income goes to restaurants, theaters and other luxuries and entertainments.

Even the most cursory economic impact study demonstrates the indispensable value of non-profit organizations in any economy. The jobs they provide help sustain the economy in the same way any properly-functioning for-profit organization does. The same Johns Hopkins report mentioned above even seems to indicate that non-profits have a certain resiliency in economic downturns that for-profit organizations do not have. According to the report, employment in the non-profit sector had an average annual growth rate of 2.1 percent from 2000-2010 – a period in which the United States experienced two separate recessions. On the other hand, for-profits saw employment reduced by 0.6 percent annually across those 10 years.

Non-profits’ vast economic contributions are evident in the United States’ GDP. According to The Independent Sector, non-profits account for 5.5% of the GDP – the equivalent of $805 billion.

The impact of non-profit organizations is indisputably far-reaching and vital to the United States’ economic well-being.

– Matt Berg

Sources: Grant Space, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Career Builder, Independent Sector
Photo: Slick Text


Navigating the world of the government can be a complicated and scary venture. But with a good idea and an understanding of what is expected, it does not have to be so bad. The dream of starting your own non-profit can become a reality by following these steps and tips.

A non-profit organization is defined as an organization that operates without taking a profit, meaning that any money received is not distributed to its directors, members, or officers. These can take the form of schools, churches, libraries, charities, foundations, hospitals, volunteer groups and even a few government agencies. These organizations are exempt from paying national taxes and may be from paying state taxes as well, depending on the base location of the non-profit. The Borgen Project, a national campaign to end extreme global poverty, falls under this designation. So do World Food Program USA and Charity:Water.

First, it is imperative to have a good idea to fill a need that is currently not being met. There are thousands of groups out there working to end poverty, save the environment, advocate for human rights, and end poverty. That does not mean that another organization cannot be created, it simply means that some creativity should be applied. Maybe this new organization funds inventions or works in less commonly assisted countries. It is all about taking a cause and a passion and combining them to make a difference in the world.

After an idea has been filled out and expounded upon, it is necessary to start doing some research on what requirements must be met to officially become a non-profit and become exempt from federal taxes. Several forms are necessary, including the SS-4 to receive an Employer identification Number for the IRS, banks, and others, and the 1023 to become officially recognized as a non-profit and therefore not taxed as a normal for-profit business would be. There are numerous codes, procedures, and rules that must be adhered to in order to avoid revocation of official standing. But our federal government is not the only one with special requirements; all of the states do as well.

Each state has different requirements that must be met and procedures that must be followed. Generally, though, registration of intended name must take place first thing. After that some sort of Articles of Incorporation must be submitted. These may need extra information, multiple submissions, or even publication in newspapers. For instance, the only submission needed is that of a certificate of a nonstock corporation in Connecticut and the Director must register with the state Attorney General. But in Washington, one needs two copies of the Articles of Incorporation and the Director must register with the Secretary of State. The differences may seem small and inconsequential, yet failure to comply will result in a rejected application.

Once all the research on what is necessary on the national and local levels has been completed and paperwork is underway, funding must be taken into account. Aside from the initial setup fees to the federal and state governments, money is needed for general operations, like renting a building and travel expenses. If the organization is charitable, money is obviously needed to fund various projects and to make the necessary donations. Clint Borgen started the Borgen Project on his laptop while and made money for his dream by living on a fishing boat in Alaska. Now the non-profit takes part in constant fundraising and takes on corporate sponsors to fund their existence. It is all about doing the homework and having the patience to understand that raising the money for start-up, as well as to stay running and meet goals, will take a lot of hard work as well as time.

When all the paperwork is done, the money has been secured, staff has been acquired, and the start-up is through the initial processes the work of getting the name out there can begin.

  • Utilize the Internet and social media like Facebook and Twitter.
  • Start a blog and update it regularly to build an interested audience.
  • Contact local news sources about goals that have been met or upcoming events.
  • Participate in an already established event.
  • Get in contact with other similar non-profits and try to start a good working relationship with them.

And the list continues indefinitely. Most importantly is to continue to work and stay optimistic even when it seems like the whole thing is taking entirely too long.

Chelsea Evans

Sources: Council of Non-Profits, Hurwitt and Associates, Borgen Project, Cornell University

Founded in 1983, the Ethiopian Community Development Council is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. whose mission is to empower Ethiopian refugees and immigrants in the United States. The main function of the ECDC is to resettle Ethiopian refugees displaced by drought, famine, and internal conflict in their home country. It should be noted that the organization is not limited to Ethiopian refugees, as it also serves immigrants from other African nations. The nonprofit receives support from US federal, state, and local governments along with the charitable contributions of private individuals, businesses, and foundations.

One of the most effective programs offered through ECDC is the Match Grant Program. This innovative program is funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement and has allowed over 8,000 refugees from around the world to obtain employment quickly and easily. The program also provides a stipend for rent and transportation for the grant recipient.

Altogether, the Ethiopian Community Development Council is bettering the lives of refugees who have resettled in the United States from poverty-stricken African countries. In the ECDC, we see an organization that is successfully confronting a tangible need, the need for a fresh start in the life of a refugee, and delivering a set of solutions to meet that need. The ECDC is surely on the front lines of humanitarianism in America, and its influence can only spread. Currently, the ECDC is operating in Washington D.C., Denver, and Las Vegas.

– Josh Forget

Sources: The Ethiopian Development Council, USAID
Photo: The Ethiopian Development Council