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Social Justice Helps to Fight Social ChallengesAccording to the Pachamama Alliance, social justice is defined as “equal access to wealth, opportunities and privileges within a society.” Social challenges are defined as “an issue that relates to society’s perception of people’s personal lives. Different societies have different perceptions and what may be “normal” behavior in one society may be a significant social issue in another society.”

After defining terms, now the question raised must be addressed: how can social justice helps to fight social challenges? Social justice can help to fight social challenges by providing society with equal opportunities to overcome its problems.

Social justice and education

For instance, poverty is considered a social challenge because it relates to how society views people’s lives. One way to help reduce poverty is to provide greater and more equal education opportunities since many find themselves living in poverty due to a lack of education. From the years of 2002 to 2007, about 40 million more children around the world were able to attend school, due largely in part to the lowering of costs and the increase in investment. Programs like these are examples of social justice and the impact it can have on addressing social problems like global poverty.

Social justice and access to clean water

Another factor that influences poverty rates is a lack of access to clean potable water and nutritious foods. Although having access to these resources is a basic human right, many people around the world do not have access to clean water and food. To be more specific, according to The Water Project one in nine people worldwide do not have access to clean and safe drinking water, as a result, people find themselves without the ability to “grow food, build housing, stay healthy, stay in school, and keep a job.” By implementing programs such as building wells in rural communities and bringing access to potable water within a half-mile of villages across the globe, social justice in the form of providing people with equal access to privileges within a society, the social challenge of global poverty is being addressed.

Social justice and job development

Another important aspect is the economy and how job development can help to eradicate poverty. In China, 700 million people have been raised out of poverty due to several different programs being put in place by the government, one of which is its focus on the creation of jobs and the economic development of rural areas. Additionally, by providing underdeveloped areas with officers to regulate the poverty-alleviation programs, Chinese citizens were able to rise up out of the inhumane living conditions they were surviving in.  Through the government’s efforts in the job and economic development, China’s poor population has been given the same opportunities to achieve wealth and change their situation, which just goes to show that social justice can make a difference in how social challenges are addressed.

In conclusion, in terms of how social justice can help to fight social challenges, one could say that through the implementation of programs that offer the same opportunities to the underprivileged, social justice helps to fight social issues like global poverty.

Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Private Sector Fighting Poverty
When it comes to global poverty, the solution should involve collective effort from different organizations and individuals as well. These involve various participants from volunteers and nonprofit organizations to the government or even celebrities who are contributing their time to raise public awareness and much more. In fact, even private sector fighting poverty via Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is crucial too.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Many large businesses and corporations are doing their bit for the world. Examples of private sector fighting poverty are not only motivational but also help to eliminate the sources of and causes leading to global poverty. Each year, different companies take action to do what is necessary for their community. The concept was introduced in the 1800s when the U.S. Supreme Court stated that corporations are people and they should be good citizens.

There are several ways for companies to practice Corporate Social Responsibility. Environmental efforts, volunteering, ethical labor practices and philanthropy are some of the examples. The private sector fighting poverty is reflected in many of the world’s biggest and most profitable businesses. CSR has become so critical that, for example, in the U.S., more than 60 percent of citizens hope that business will drive social and environmental changes in the absence of government actions and regulations.

Private Sector Fighting Poverty

Print giant, Xerox, has been focusing on different social areas with many projects, but it’s most recognizable one is the Xerox Community Involvement Program. Through this program, Xerox encourages its employees to work on social projects of their choice. They can also get a paid leave of absence to focus on their respective projects.

Another company that has been running several projects for the social good is the shoe company, Toms. Their well-known project One for One Campaign came into existence after the company’s founder, Blake Mycoskie, witnessed the difficult life of Argentinian children who grow up without wearing shoes. The idea of the project is really simple: Toms provides shoes to the children in need in 60 countries as it donates one pair of shoes for every pair of shoes sold.

Microsoft is another company taking responsibility for social issues. According to Forbes, the company holds the second highest rating on CSR score for all their educational and environmental contributions worldwide. It’s also known that the company’s co-founder and former CEO, Bill Gates, started the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to combat infectious diseases, promote equality, empower the poor and much more.

How CSR Benefits the Private Sector

Numerous big giants such as the BMW Group, Google, Samsung, LEGO Group, The Walt Disney Company, etc., have been taking action. Many of these companies benefit from their CSR as well. For example, Google Green is a social effort geared toward using resources effectively and increasing the use of renewable power. Ever since this cultural change occurred, Google’s data centers’ power requirements have reduced by about 50 percent. This means that what is saved by a social project can now be used for other operations.

Fighting global poverty and its causes needs to be a collective effort and the involvement of the private sector is highly crucial.

– Orçun Doğmazer

Photo: Flickr

Crowdsourcing
The process of collecting contributions in the form of ideas and services is not a new phenomenon. In fact, crowdsourcing has historically been used to solve challenging innovation problems.

Companies have for a long time used consumer wisdom to tackle tough scientific and technological challenges, design new products, generate marketing ideas and increase customer satisfaction. Platforms like the Heineken Ideas Brewery, BMW customer innovation lab and My Starbucks Ideas show how major organizations are successfully tapping into the power of the crowd to co-create innovative concepts.

Beyond simply a new approach to research and development, some companies have taken crowdsourcing a step further. Organizations are now using the powerful platform to tackle social challenges in the areas of sustainability and poverty reduction.

Unilever Foundry Ideas is a crowdsourcing platform that was launched by a corporate giant, Unilever in 2015. Through the platform, Unilever seeks to make sustainable living mainstream by sourcing ideas from customers and entrepreneurs. An article in CSR Asia talks about the success of Unilever Foundry ideas highlighting how it has generated over 300 ideas to encourage recycling of bathroom products, reduction of water dependency while doing laundry and invention of concepts for more luxurious and sustainable showers for the future.

“Big social, environment and economic issues are so huge that no one organization or company or group can solve them alone,” says a Unilever Foundry Ideas representative. “Aspects of sustainability affect all of us and so all of us have ideas.”

General Electric has the open innovation branch of its Ecomagination program. This is a collaborative problem-solving environment.

Open innovation posts a variety of challenges and creates an open call to the global brain, a growing community of over 400 million, to submit creative ideas to tackle these challenges. Contributors of winning ideas normally receive cash prizes, internships and future collaboration opportunities.

Open innovation has so far fielded challenges in the areas of solving water scarcity through Water Reuse and managing chronic disease by developing wearable monitoring technologies to mention a few.

BASF, one of the world’s leading chemical companies, has the co-creation platform the Creator Space. In 2015, Creator Space conducted a tour in six cities around the globe, Mumbai, Shanghai, New York, Sao Paulo, Barcelona and Ludwigshafen. Creator space aimed to develop solutions for problems that citizens in the different cities were facing. It did this through enlisting inputs from government officials, NGOs, the society as well as artists.

In Mumbai, for example, BASF Creator Space was tackling the challenge of water accessibility. According to a white paper on the Mumbai visit, a holistic approach has been developed to augment Mumbai city’s plans to revamp the on-grid water infrastructure.

Coca-Cola takes part in the crowdsourcing space by hosting an annual grant challenge known as “Shaping a Better Future”. For the grant, Coca-Cola has partnered with the Global Shapers Community of the World Economic Forum to scale proven solutions to the world’s biggest problems.

There are over 500 Global Shaper hubs around the world that comprise of young people with an exceptional drive to make a contribution to their communities. They have a focus on matters such as bettering the environment, kick-starting civic engagement and eradicating poverty to name a few.

Coca-Cola offers five 10,000 dollar grants through the program to accelerate the most impactful and promising Global Shaper hub projects.

François Pétavy, eYeka CEO notes that crowdsourcing often has its beginnings in the creation of better products and experiences, but often results in a more collaborative and sustainable world.

June Samo

Sources: BASF 1, BASF 2, Coca-Cola, Crowdsourcing.org, CSR Asia, Entrepreneur, GE 1, GE 2, Open Innovation, Unilever

The What Took You So Long Foundation Solving Local Issues
The What Took You So Long Foundation (WTYSL), founded on June 14, 2009, is a team of storytellers that uses multimedia outlets to tell the stories of farmers, nomads and entrepreneurs from around the world. They use these stories to inspire small communities to work together to solve issues with health, education and social justice. Through lectures, workshops and movies, the organization works with people living in rural villages in overcoming speed bumps preventing them from using their resources to create new markets.

The organization collaborates with NGOs, friends and institutions to develop projects in communities based on the issues they are facing. They document the process using videos and photographs, which in turn are used in future workshops or lectures in new communities. WTYSL uses guerrilla filmmaking, a form of filmmaking that works with a low budget, skeleton crews and simple props, to capture the situation, culture and people of different countries.

During the filmmaking process, the members of WTYSL live where they’re filming and build relationships with members of the community. They also follow local customs, use local transportation and encourage residents to participate in their project to gain a better understanding of their everyday life.

In total, WTYSL has filmed in over 60 countries, including Mauritania, Mongolia and Papua New Guinea. The members of WTYSL believe everyone, no matter what their age is, has an imagination and can use their imagination to help those in need. WTYSL will take on amateur filmmakers and train them on the job in creating quality films and working with underdeveloped communities. Working together, the team is able to motivate positive change in these communities.

The team of WTYSL consists of a variety of filmmakers, storytellers and photographers from various backgrounds. The team’s most recent project had them travelling to Rwanda to document the impact of solar energy on the community. Before Rwanda, WTYSL created films in Liberia to observe the quest for camel milk. The team continues to travel the world, documenting achievements, encouraging empathy and creating projects to make the world a better place.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: What Took You So Long, Co.Exist, Afritorial
Photo: What Took You So Long

State_of_the_Union
Social mobility in the U.S. played an extremely crucial role in President Barack Obama’s most recent State of the Union Address. He took the opportunity to comment on the furthering economic divide occuring between the lower middle and upper middle and upper classes in America.

“Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well,” the president asked, appealing to lower class Americans.

One of the stories he told pertained to a young couple who was negatively affected by the economic crisis of 2008. The story represents that of resilience and the couple was able to rebuild their lives.

In addition, Mr. Obama is sending a bill to Congress that would lower the cost of a community college education to zero. President Obama said that the measure will provide students without the means to go to college, an opportunity to attend without taking on large amounts of debt.

“Forty percent of our college students choose community college. Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt,” Mr. Obama said.

College tuition is on the rise and inhibiting many from receiving graduate degrees that would allow them to get higher paying jobs. In addition he requested that companies start providing more benefits for their employees including higher wages even without a bachelors or masters degree. In general, Obama solicited companies to provide more benefits because currently 43 million workers in the U.S. do not get paid sick leave.

Smoothing over the vast inequality that is present in America is pertinent to developing a better life for many citizens. Another subject he focused on was that congress needs to impose higher taxes on wealthy Americans who can afford to take higher cuts. This is likely to fail especially in a full GOP congress.

Some have called President Obama’s economic approach “populist” as he is appealing to ordinary Americans, many of whom are still suffering from the 2008 economic crisis.

Bipartisanship in congress was another focal point of the address. He focused on issues that in the past had garnered bipartisan support such as creating jobs. Although job growth in the private sector has been relatively successful, there are other parts of the economy where job growth has been limited.

Although President Obama is faced with a GOP congress he seemed to try to appeal to Republicans on a number of issues. With a majority Republican congress, Obama has no other option if he wants to make headway on a number of issues in his agenda.

Maxine Gordon

Sources: Bloomberg, NPR, The Washington Post
Photo: TIME

googleglass
Known for its ubiquitous search engine and innovative products and services, Google is a do-it-all giant in the world of technology. One of its more recent creations – Google Glass – has become an “already-iconic wearable computer,” despite still having not been released for public purchase.

Perhaps Google is holding out on the masses for a better purpose.

Two days ago, Google officially launched its Giving Through Glass initiative, which will give five nonprofits exclusive access to Google Glass, in the hopes of increasing the organizations’ transparency and accountability. Though it is unclear exactly for what the nonprofits will be using Google Glass, Google says that it will bring insight to the organizations’ everyday work.

Google Glass is, essentially, a computer that is worn as a futuristic-looking pair of glasses. It overlays data into the wearer’s vision, allowing the user to take pictures, record videos, share what they are seeing live, get directions in their line of vision, send messages by talking, ask questions and receive instant answers, translate words into any language, and access Google search, simply by wearing their glasses.

According to Hubspot, potential uses of Google Glass by the nonprofits include real-time streaming of images from the field, connecting supporters with the organization, translating between local people and foreign staff members, streaming board meetings and showing the impact of the organization’s work on its community, among a multitude of other functions.

Thus far, the majority of the nonprofits chosen to be part of Giving Through Glass operate with a focus on assisting people in developing nations. These organizations include the World Wildlife Fund, Samasource, GiveDirectly, DoSomething!, and charity: water.

Google disclosed that their infamous product will be used to “bring more transparency to philanthropy, and close the gap between donors and the people they support.” This partnership demonstrates an innovative way that a major multinational corporation can practice corporate social responsibility.

Keep on with the good work, Google!

– Tara Young
Sources: HubSpot, Engadget, +Google Glass
Photo: Techno Buffalo

 

OECD_policies_
What is the OECD?

In short: OECD stands for Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. It is an international economic organization whose mission is to “promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.”

A little more detail: In the beginning, the OECD was actually named the OEEC – the Organization for European Economic Co-operation. It was founded in April of 1948, with 18 original European participants. The first and original principles of the OEEC were as follows: “Promote cooperation between participating countries and their national production programs for the reconstruction of Europe; Develop intra-European trade by reducing tariffs and other barriers to the expansion of trade; Study the feasibility of creating a customs union or free trade area; Study multi-lateralization of payments; and Achieve conditions for better utilization of labor.”

In 1961, the OEEC became the OECD, and membership was extended to non-European countries. Most OECD members are regarded as “developed countries” with a high human development index. To this day, according to Pierre Tristam at about.com, the OECD remains one of the most cited sources for “economic data and information” because the organization keeps vast databases and “conducts some of the world’s most authoritative analyses and studies on the world economy.”

The OECD said that it provides a forum in which countries can work together to “seek solutions to common problems.” The organization aims to identify good practices and to coordinate “domestic and international policies.” It is committed to democracy and a sustainable market economy. Some of these good practices include taxes and social security, leisure time, school systems and “pension systems” that look after country’s elderly citizens, since the OECD tries to look at issues “that directly affect the lives of ordinary people.”

Its reach extends to the environment, the economy and social issues. The OECD is committed to helping the lives of ordinary people, thus making life harder for those “whose actions undermine a fair and open society,” such as terrorists, unethical businessmen and tax evaders.

The OECD promotes policies designed:

“To achieve the highest sustainable economic growth and employment and a rising standard of living in Member countries, while maintaining financial stability, and thus to contribute to the development of the world economy; to contribute to sound economic expansion in Member as well as nonmember countries in the process of economic development; and to contribute to the expansion of world trade on a multilateral, nondiscriminatory basis in accordance with international obligations.”

As of 2013, the OECD has 34 active member countries, including the United States, and “is in accession talks with the Russian Federation.”

Alycia Rock

Sources: OECD: About, OECD: Report 2013, Middle East About, OECD
Photo: CIB

Beijing_air_quality_pollution_opt
In the wake of numerous high-profile corruption and pollution cases in China, concerns about the environment  and social issues have been on the rise, according to a recent survey by the US-based Pew Research Center between March and April 2013.

Nearly half of all respondents list air pollution, food safety, and the gap between the rich and poor as “very big problems,” showing significant increases from 2012. More than half of respondents also described political corruption as a significant concern, an issue highlighted by this year’s trial of former Chongqing Communist Party leader Bo Xilai.

Overall, the survey illustrates the evolving set of priorities of the Chinese people. As the Chinese economy strengthens and the middle class grows, concerns about the environment and consumer safety move to the forefront, and more people become concerned that the nation’s economic growth unfairly benefits the wealthy and politically connected.

Concerns about food safety and water pollution followed headlines about thousands of rotting pigs floating down a river through the center of Shanghai, as well as stories about tainted infant formula and other products.

Chinese citizens are far more optimistic about the national economy, with 80% saying they expect the economic situation to improve over the next 12 months, but the Chinese government has been increasingly alarmed by social unrest caused by environmental issues and public health threats. This month, a slew of pollution measures were unveiled in Beijing with the hopes of curbing air pollution by 25% by 2017.

– Michael DeZubiria

Sources: Pew Research Center, Reuters, South China Morning Post