Texas: Doing Something Right

Transforming inmates into entrepreneurs in Texas — and saving millions of tax dollars

Texas has been the center of a swirl of controversy lately in two very different arenas: the state’s enthusiastic embrace of the death penalty, and Republican frontrunner Rick Perry’s touted track record of job creation. Perry’s history of job creation has come under fire from numerous critics, as well as a new study revealing that Texas’s poverty levels rank the second highest in the nation.

But deep in the heart of Texas, there’s a promising light for real job creation — and for bringing positive change to the criminal justice system.

Visualizing Data at Tech@State

Editor's note: Evagelia Tavoulareas, Changemakers media mobilizer, was at the most recent Tech@State event which featured some rather remarkable data visualization techniques. Find her rundown of how they can be used to enhance diplomacy, development and foreign affairs after the jump.

What Happened to the Magic of Science?

via Blind Owl Underground

There has been much talk about jobs recently — green jobs, tech jobs, more jobs, and even Steve Jobs. With more than 200 million people unemployed worldwide, and another 1.5 billion under- or informally-employed, such a focus on economic growth is both necessary and expected.
In this respect, the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative (which took place last week) delivered. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: Generating Employment for the 21st Century was the headlining meeting topic for this annual convention of former heads of state, Nobel Prize laureates, CEOs, philanthropists, and frighteningly smart can-do-gooders.
These leaders spoke about game-changing innovations for building social and economic value (to enable global growth while still preserving our sustainability as one people on one planet), but it wasn’t all cheers, champagne, and confetti.
Andrew N. Liveris, chairman and CEO of The Dow Chemical Company, explained that while many of the world’s innovations give us great hope, there is one thing that could keep us from meeting our social, economic, and environmental goals:

Health Innovations in Asia: Making More Health With Less

A team of emergency medical responders at Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI). EMRI's state-of-the-art call response centers are able to dispatch over 2600 free ambulances across multiple states in India to respond to medical, police and fire emergencies. via

Skyrocketing health care costs are a global problem, but creative entrepreneurs in South and Southeast Asia are figuring out how to do better with less. Changemakers worked with its network partner, The Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI), to spotlight four promising strategies that innovators in this region are using to tackle high out-of-pocket costs and simultaneously ramp up the delivery of quality health care. 

These cutting-edge, cost-saving health solutions are homegrown, within ecosystems of limited resources. Leveraging both technology and creative business models, they are proving once again the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention. 

Watch: Nuru Design Uses Solar Lighting to Empower Communities in India and East Africa

Nuru Energy is a job creator. And a planet saver. And an education booster. A winner in the Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World That Works online competition, co-hosted by eBay Foundation and Changemakers, it’s a brilliant, self-sustaining model that turns the unemployed into entrepreneurs: they own and operate pedal-powered recharging stations for the simple, inexpensive, beautifully designed Nuru Lights that are providing a source of light for thousands of people in India and Africa – lights that can be used, among many other things, for students to study by at night. Watch how they do it.

Mobile Microfranchising Answers the Call to Power Economic Opportunity in Indonesia

Ashoka Changemakers, eBay Foundation, and The Opportunity Project recently announced the five winners of the Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World That Works competition, each of which will receive US $50,000. The winners included the Grameen Foundation’s initiative: Mobile Microfranchising in Indonesia.
What does mobile microfranchising mean? And what does it offer to disadvantaged populations in Indonesia?

Supporting the Free Press

Photo from a Citizens for Democracy letter signing campaign in Pakistan, covered by Global Voices blogger, Sana Saleem
Is journalism getting better or worse in the new media landscape? And what does that mean for democracy? During the Arab Spring earlier this year, new media seemed to not only generate unusually multi-faceted news coverage, but also play a role catalyzing the revolutions themselves.
Still, reactions to the state of news today continue to fluctuate between anxiety and elation. On the one hand, the digital age blesses us with access to more information than ever. On the other, the ability of the news infrastructure to serve the public interest seems to be threatened on all sides. 
The free press has been long recognized as the life-blood of democracy; informed citizens are necessary for a just and functioning democratic state. But commercial networks are influenced (some would say enslaved) by market interests, and public media is vulnerable to political meddling and funding cuts. The new media is generative, iterative, disruptive, democratizing, and fragmenting all at once. 
What’s the average American citizen to do? Where do we put our focus, energy, and money? How do we ensure that we get both the information we want and the information we need to be smart citizens? 

Can Social Entrepreneurship Rebuild Afghanistan?

via isafmedia

Peace and nation-building efforts in Afghanistan are falling far short of expectations. Former U.S. top commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s “government in a box” approach to counterinsurgency was intended to build up local governments, repair damaged infrastructure, establish police stations, and create self-sufficient marketplace economies. 

But this one-size-fits-all strategy has been criticized for not consulting the Afghan people sufficiently, leaving a disconnect between the pressing demands of war-torn people and the operational orders of foreign soldiers — not to mention a gap between expectations and reality. 
The goal of “winning the hearts and minds” — the battle for human terrain that is the social aspect of war — has also failed in Afghanistan due to ideological shortcomings, suggested Bing West, author and former assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan Administration, in Newsweek

Now for Some Good News About Jobs

[Editor's note: This post was written by Alison Craiglow Hockenberry, contributing editor at Ashoka Changemakers®, and originally featured on the Huffington Post.]

You wouldn't know it from the headlines, but people are getting hired, household incomes are rising, and Americans are pulling themselves and their families out of poverty.

It's happening in Minnesota: An innovative career development program for the chronically-unemployed, called Twin Cities RISE! (TCR!), gets state funding only if and when a participant is hired for a skilled job (at living wage, with benefits) and stays for at least a year. The model motivates TCR! to adequately train and prepare these future employees for success and holds the organization accountable.
What's in it for the state? A significant return on investment -- an estimated $7.24 for every dollar put in -- when these people stop receiving subsidized housing, health care and food stamps, and start paying taxes.

Speaking Truth to Terror

One of Ashoka’s ChangemakeHERS honorees, Carie Lemack, reached new heights again this week when her Oscar-nominated film, Killing In The Name, premiered on HBO. The film, a production of the Global Survivors Network (GSN), tackles the taboo subject of terrorism through the journey of Ashraf, a victim of the 2005 bombing of a wedding celebration in Jordan — his wedding.

eBay Foundation Awards $250,000 to the Five “Powering Economic Opportunity” Winners

After six months of evaluation, and a rigorous review by a panel of expert international judges, Ashoka Changemakers is pleased to announce the five winners of the Powering Economic Opportunity competition. 
The competition, co-hosted by eBay Foundation and The Opportunity Project, caught the attention of social innovators around the world, and sourced a record-breaking number of solutions — nearly 900 — from 83 countries. All these solutions aim to create economic opportunities and to engage the untapped potential of disadvantaged populations.
“I am inspired to see the breadth of innovative solutions that are creating economic opportunity for the world’s most vulnerable people,” said Diana Wells, president of Ashoka. “We are delighted to have received a record-breaking number of entries, and are honored to support the pattern-changing work of these winning innovators.” 
The winners will each receive a cash prize of US $50,000 from eBay to invest to scale-up their ideas.

“Telling a Story is a Form of Activism”: Interview with Naveen Naqvi

Changemakers recently sat down with Naveen Naqvi, co-founder and executive director of Gawaahi, to discuss her work in Pakistan’s turbulent and often violent environment, where she uses citizen media as a tool for political engagement and raising public awareness. 
Gawaahi, which means “witnessing” in Urdu, is a Pakistan-based citizen-sector organization that produces digital stories of survival and resistance. Through its online platform, Gawaahi shares stories about women's human rights, child sex abuse, unfair labor practices, and religious persecution. 
With a background in journalism, Naqvi was previously the senior anchor and morning news presenter at DawnNews, Pakistan's first English-language channel. Before that, she was a producer for NBC News and online contributor for Naqvi is serving as an expert commentator for the Citizen Media competition.

For Afghan Women, DOSTI is a Path Toward Peace and Prosperity

Photo via BpeaceHQ

In the heart of war-torn Afghanistan, a woman named Mursal focuses her energy on the task directly in front of her. She works from home—a space that is not only safer, but also more practical for the female head of a household—and spends much of her day, like most days in the year, stretching, drying, and cutting synthetic leather into panels before hand-stitching the pieces together. 

The finished product is a club-quality soccer ball, silk-screened with a dove pattern in the colors of the Afghan flag; the phrase “Made by Afghan women” rests proudly across its face. 
It doesn’t seem like much, but this soccer ball has become a powerful symbol for Afghan women, and a way out of illiteracy, poverty, and violence.

What is the Internet, Anyway?

It's easy to take technology for granted. I've compiled a few vintage videos to remind us of just how far we've come!

Join our next Asia-focused #SocEntChat about “Making More Health” on September 13

Did you try and stay up for our #SocEntchat on September 8 and just didn’t make it? Not to worry because on Tuesday, September 13, 2011, Ashoka Changemakers®, in collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim, is organizing a #SocEntChat for Asia and other Eastern Hemisphere participants. You are invited to join entrepreneurs, innovators, and enthusiasts from around the world to discuss challenges related to the health sector, as well as innovative and sustainable solutions that increase individual, family, and community well-being.
Participate in this #SocEntChat on Twitter between 1 and 3 p.m. IST (Indian Standard Time) to share your innovative ideas and solutions that address the collaboration and ingenuity needed to Make More Health.

Statelessness and the Trouble with Invisibility

Photo via
Where are you from? 
I usually answer that question with, “Well, it’s kind of a long story.” I’m not particularly special, but the truth is I don’t know—not really. 
I was born in Mexico City and raised in New Delhi by a Panamanian mother and an American father, and while I’m a dual citizen, I don’t wholly consider Mexico or the United States home. The government, on the other hand, has its managerial mind made up, plainly expressed on my driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, and other forms of official identification. 
My personal uncertainty doesn’t cause any angst, nor is it a problem in public life. However, the same can’t be said for the 12 to 15 million stateless persons around the world. 
The invisible people aren’t recognized as nationals by any country or government, and consequently denied fundamental rights that the vast majority of earth’s citizens take for granted.

The Anti-bullying Movement: Where do we go from here?

Across the United States and around the world, the anti-bullying movement has become a rallying force. From celebrities telling gay teens that “It Gets Better” to the world-wide attention paid to a bullying incident in Australia captured on video, the problem of bullying in schools has garnered heightened media attention and is being tackled with increasingly stronger laws by communities.  

There are anti-bullying laws of varying strength in at least 40 states. Last week, New Jersey enacted the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, the nation’s toughest anti-bullying state law yet; it received both cheers and criticism. The law includes a requirement that teachers and administrators report incidents of bullying to the police, and has raised questions about who should be held accountable for protecting students. It has also sparked debate around the potential implications of criminalizing bullying, as well as how schools are going to pay for anti-bullying programs, given already-slashed budgets and overworked teachers.
But schools and communities agree on the critical nature of the problem. Studies have shown that bullying leads to increased incidence of mental health issues later in life and lower achievement levels, especially for minority students. In fact, according to a Harvard Medical School study, verbal abuse — even without physical abuse — acts like a neurotoxin, having serious effects on brain development, most markedly in students in their middle school years.

Save the Date for a Twitter Chat on September 12th on #CitizenMedia

Save the date! 

On Monday, September 12, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. (EDT) Ashoka Changemakers will be hosting a Twitter chat to discuss issues pertaining to citizen media. 
Join the early-entry winners of the Google-supported Citizen Media competition, along with entrepreneurs, innovators and enthusiasts from around the world. We'll discuss best practices, challenges and trends in the future of information-sharing. 
It’s your chance to share your thoughts, ideas, challenges and perspectives about this quickly developing field! 

Who's Driving our Data?

In 1960, architect and preservationist James Marston Fitch declared in The New York Times: “The automobile has not merely taken over the street, it has dissolved the living tissue of the city. Its appetite for space is absolutely insatiable; moving and parked, it devours urban land, leaving buildings as mere islands of habitable space in a sea of dangerous and ugly traffic.”

Fitch’s criticism — addressed to motor-obsessed consumers almost 50 years after Henry Ford’s assembly-line manufacturing model made the automobile affordable — would have little impact today, with our undying, time-tested love for the automobile. Yet his worry applies equally to today’s hi-tech monster: the Internet, which also has origins reaching back into the 1960s
The Web is everywhere, hugging the streets of our cities and expanding across our seas and skies. It’s in the palm of everyone’s hand, and while it promises to connect the world, it might be fragmenting society like the automobile once did. 
The 2011 equivalent of James Marston Fitch is Eli Pariser, the pioneering online organizer and author of The Filter Bubble, a worrying account of how an increasingly personalized Internet may be narrowing our worldviews, damaging our personalities, and impairing democracy.

Fearless in France: The Story of Rumah Cemara's 2011 Homeless World Cup

You won’t find many World Cup soccer players who have had to rise above extreme poverty, homelessness and prolonged spells of alcoholism and drug abuse. But these are the kinds of challenges that socially marginalized players from around the world have surmounted in order to be featured in the Homeless World Cup (HWC) annual tournament. 
This year’s tournament, held from August 21 through August 28 in Paris, France, was supported by legendary Premier League manager, Arsène Wenger, and former French internationals Lilian Thuram and Emmanuelle Petit. 
Since its inception in Graz, Austria in 2003, the 48-team Homeless World Cup tournament has given some of the world’s most invisible people a grand stage to showcase their courage, perseverance and pure footballing talent in their nation’s colors. The contest also offers players the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to find societal acceptance, and affect the attitude of spectators, media, and governments toward the issue of homelessness. 

Join the Momentum for Making More Health – Participate in Our Next #SocEntChat on September 7

The response by the global health community to the Making More Health competition has been outstanding and has even broken an Ashoka Changemakers® record, receiving 186 entries by the August 17 deadline for the early entry prize. 

Be among the first to congratulate the Making More Health early entry prize winners:
Do you want to join this energy and excitement—but you don’t necessarily have a solution to submit? That’s okay! On Wednesday, September 7, 2011, Ashoka Changemakers®, in collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim, invites you to join entrepreneurs, innovators and enthusiasts from around the world to discuss challenges related to the health sector, as well as innovative and sustainable solutions that increase individual, family, and community well-being.
Participate in this multilingual (English, Spanish, and Portuguese) #SocEntChat on Twitter between 3 and 5 p.m. EDT, to share your innovative ideas and solutions that address the collaboration and ingenuity needed to Make More Health.