This week, public voting for the BBC’s World Challenge 2011 opened. Twelve social enterprises from around the world, ranging from Cambodia to Chile, are competing for YOUR votes to win a US$20,000 grant from Shell, with two runners-up receiving US$10,000 apiece. You can get to know them by watching their videos online at http://www.youtube.com/user/bbcworldchallenge , following their profiles on BBC World News television, and studying their advertorials in Newsweek.
Every fall at Social Capital Markets (SOCAP), the who’s who of impact investing and social enterprise convene in San Francisco to network and share stories about topics like market-based solutions to poverty, social stock exchanges, and just how much capital is waiting to be deployed to solve the world’s toughest problems. It’s inspiring to be sure, especially the growth in the number and diversity of participation. It’s no longer the sole domain of Ashoka, Skoll, and Schwab who have paved the way for so many others. Today, mainstream Banks from Europe to Asia, fund managers, and wealth advisors are sending a signal that doing good and doing well is a more enlightened form of capitalism.
But behind all the feel-good energy and promises that impact investing will be a $50 billion industry by 2020, there are gaps in the story line and challenges that we must confront as a community. First, there is no clear definition of an impact investor. The industry brings together those who are primarily driven by a financial bottom line (finance first) with those who are seeking to optimize a social return without making a loss (impact first), and finally grant makers who are aiming to improve the efficiency of philanthropic capital (largely foundations). Their world views are different, their expected returns are different, and how they use the same vocabulary (e.g. impact, viability, and sustainability) varies widely.
The Team at OperationASHA apply Biometrics to manage Tuberculosis Medication in Slums and demonstrate a dramatic impact in reducing instances of multi drug resistant TB. “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune,” so said Shakespeare, believing, as I do, that one can bring about a change by acting as a catalyst. There are a lot of things that exist disparately, which, when combined at the right time by the right people, create a revolution.
I have worked as a medical specialist for several years. Over the years, I have witnessed every kind of human misery. I have worked under challenging conditions in understaffed, overcrowded public hospitals, where life was a constant war against infection and anemia. I have even performed emergency Caesarian sections by candlelight! The worst cases were those where because of an ailment, indignities would be heaped upon the patient, and social discrimination would raise its ugly head. These were truly those who suffer, for they would have no food, no shelter, no family, no treatment, only pain and suffering. Tuberculosis (TB) is one such disease where patients have to face horrifying discrimination and violation of human rights.
The project entitled "Elevated Bamboo Houses designed to Lift Communities above Flood Zones" is being implemented in Ecuador and it is already being considered a victory. Even before the project has completed its funding cycle with the DM, the European Commission and Common Fund for Commodities have contributed €1,647,959 and $2,007,300 respectively so the project can scale up.
In Vietnam, several women with extraordinary vision have been the technological leaders in agricultural innovation. From the laboratory, to the factory, to the farm, women have been the pioneers along every link of the supply chain in this project called “Sustaining nitrogen-efficient rice production.”
Under the DM in early March 2011, Agriculture Green Future (AGF), a non-profit organization devoted to promoting sustainable fertilizer, was founded on the research of the only female soil scientists in Vietnam: Phan Thi Cong (pictured).
AGF promotes the manufacture and use of BioGro, a microbial bio-fertiliser invented in the 1990s by Professor Nguyen Thanh Hien (also pictured). AGF provides starter cultures and training in quality control to BioGro manufacturers, while promoting the BioGro brand. Phan Thi Cong, who continues to advance the BioGro technology, represents a younger generation positioned to carry this work forward.
To highlight the work of social entrepreneurs, this animated video tells the story of a relationship between an Indian householder and a young social entrepreneur. In the story, the householder, Neeraj, is given the opportunity to pull himself out of poverty through the intervention of Amit, a social entrepreneur. The video tells of one man's journey from destitution, picking rags from a garbage heap, to owning a business of his own.
The Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation recognizes individuals whose technological innovations improve the lives of impoverished people in the developing world. The Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation celebrates outstanding technology-focused innovators who have improved quality of life in the areas of health, shelter, energy, agriculture, quality of air, water, soil, education, or ecosystem management in developing nations and have disseminated technology that is scalable or replicable.
My name is Beatriz, I am a social change-maker from Peru. In 2003, thanks to the Development Marketplace, a group of enthusiastic, passionate young people in Lima received funds to start the first Cybercafé for the blind in Peru. During the first year, more than 250 visually impaired were trained in word processing and E-Mail.
In 2004, the World Bank invited us to Washington, to exchange lessons and experiences among other Latin American projects. Certainly, this opportunity was extremely beneficial to our project. Now, thanks to private sponsorship, our Cybercafé has become ATECNODIS, an NGO that promotes access to information and technology for the visually impaired.