Blogs

Year In Review: Making Change in 2011

2011 was a big year for Ashoka Changemakers. Take a quick look at the milestones that amped up the momentum for Changemakers and our community

Early Entry Winners Announced in Inspiring Approaches Competition

We've received an outstanding response for Inspiring Approaches to First Nations, Métis and Inuit Learning! Remember that you can share your idea or project until January 27, 2012.

Today we are excited to announce and congratulate our Early Entry Award Winners (follow the links to read their entries):

What Happens When HeroRATs Head Home?

If you’ve been around these parts, you’re familiar with APOPO’s HeroRATs — the carefully trained, classically conditioned rodents that are bringing peace and security to countries with landmine legacies. HeroRATs founder Bart Weetjens and his talented critters have recently been featured at events like the 2011 Ashoka Globalizer and Skoll World Forum, heard over airwaves worldwide, and even captured on film in the field.

APOPO has successfully cleared more than 2,000 landmines and unexploded ordnances from land along the Thai-Cambodian border and in Mozambique. But what becomes of the reclaimed land after the HeroRATs head home?

Q&A: An Interview With Ben Wald

On January 14, leading innovators in social and business entrepreneurship, technology, academia, and entertainment will meet at Pixar Animation Studios to discuss powerful and effective ways to address the most critical social and economic challenges of our time. They include Google vice president Marissa Mayer; Steve Case, founder of AOL and The Case Foundation; and Tim Brown, IDEO CEO, as well as Ashoka president Diana Wells and Ashoka Changemakers chief executive partner Ben Wald.

The event, dubbed “The Intersection,” will be a mash-up of 14 “innovation masterminds” from the business and social sectors exploring leading trends and ideas in personal creativity, team and organizational innovation, and social impact.

Wald recently talked with Changemakers about what he expects from the event—and what he is excited about.

Chatting with Social Innovators: Winners of the Making More Health Competition

Earlier this month, we announced the winners of the Making More Health competition, sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim:

While we learned a great deal from (and about) these incredible innovators through the competition, we wanted to learn more. And what better way to learn, than to speak directly with the brains of the operations themselves?

Changemakers brought together the three winners of this competition on Google+ Hangout to hear more about their work, and to give them an opportunity to connect with each other. These teams have been doing incredible work -- take a listen:

The New Farm Bill: An Opportunity to Create a Sustainable Agricultural System

Change could be on the horizon for agriculture and food in the United States. The controversial 2012 Farm Bill, which failed to pass in November, is back on the table and due for a rewrite. (For a recap of the original “Secret Farm Bill” and how it failed, read this).

The new Farm Bill could be a tremendous opportunity to finally introduce both incremental and systems-level innovation in the way we eat and grow our food.

It’s important to note that the Farm Bill affects more than just farmers—it impacts everyone who, well, eats.

Saúde Criança: A Program for Health and Social Inclusion

Editor's note: This post was written by Vanuza Ramos, a Brazilian journalist and collaborator with Ashoka Changemakers.

In 1991, Dr. Vera Cordeiro realized that the real cause of most pediatric visits to a public hospital in Rio de Janeiro wasn’t illness or accident: it was the children’s living conditions.

“When the patient is discharged, they normally return to their homes, to a social context of vulnerability where they lack conditions to continue treatment,” Cordeiro said. “This makes the condition worsen and the patient must return to the hospital, which is yet another problem for a family already weakened by adverse economic and social realities.”  

With other professionals from the Lagoa Hospital technical staff, Dr. Cordeiro set out to break the cycle of hospitalization, discharge, and readmission by transforming the lives of the children and their families. They founded the Saúde Criança Association (ASC) to promote the physical, mental, and social health of children who were patients that were recently released to their families living below the poverty line. 

Photo of the Day: Dec. 16, 2011

Two female "enviropreneurs" unload crate of saplings from a pickup truck in Nicaragua'ss La Flor Wildlife Refuge. These environmental stewards work with Paso Pacifico's Environmental Learning, Leadership, Adventure, and Stewardship Initiative (ELLAS), and are hoping to avert (and reverse) large-scale environmental destruction in the coastal and marine protected area.

Gift Social Entrepreneurship This Holiday Season

The holidays is the perfect time to join Ashoka in supporting remarkable social entrepreneurs who are changing the world one idea at a time.

Support outstanding people and their ideas by giving a gift that gives back, entrepreneurial style. From our editors, some ideas:

* Give insight. In 2011 alone, several books by Ashoka Fellows and staff have been published. Here are just a couple:

#InnovateHealth: Talking Health Innovation on Twitter

On Monday, we hosted a Twitter-based discussion about health care solutions that have the potential to be applied in communities around the world. In case you missed it, find a neat wrap up of the #SocEntChat after the jump.

Visionary Entrepreneur Sets Sight on Eliminating Preventable Blindness

Nearly 40 million people worldwide are needlessly blind and another 240 million have low vision. Virtually all of the world’s 285 million visually-impaired persons live in developing countries, suffering from uncorrected refractive errors and cataracts.

But Unite For Sight, a social enterprise headquartered in New Haven, Connecticut, is empowering communities worldwide to improve eye health and eliminate preventable blindness. The organization guarantees eye treatment—whether it’s medication, a $150 sight-restoring surgery or even a first pair of glasses—for patients living in poverty in Ghana, India, and Honduras, as well as the United States and Canada.

More than 1.3 million people worldwide have overcome barriers to eye care through Unite For Sight services, whether they can afford to pay or not—the bill is always covered by the nonprofit.

Coke adds life? Yes.

Editor's note: This post was written by Alison Craiglow Hockenberry, contributing editor at Ashoka Changemakers®.

As advertising slogans go, “Coke adds life” is among the most potent and memorable. Simon Berry wants to make it also true.

The visionary behind ColaLife, Berry uses Coca-Cola’s unparalleled distribution channels to deliver preventive medicines to the most remote places on the planet and save lives.

Photo of the Day: Dec. 9, 2011

Riders for Health courier, Piero Sakala (center), delivers blood samples sourced from rural health centers to a medical lab in Zambia's Chadiza district. After testing, the results are transported back to clinics along the country's southeastern border, enabling medical staff to more effectively diagnose diseases (including HIV and tuberculosis) and treat patients.

Making More Health for More People — and Making it Look Easy

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

If you ask Vera Cordeiro, good health is within reach for everyone, even the poorest of the poor. But this requires radical rethinking of what health care is.

Health is not merely the absence of illness. If a patient is released from a hospital into a situation that includes stress, poor nutrition, inadequate shelter and sanitation, he or she is likely to get sick again and again, putting pressure on the family's meager resources, deepening the poverty and increasing the suffering.

"I saw this vicious cycle: hospitalization, rehospitalization, many times," said Cordeiro of her early years as a pediatrician. "And I knew we needed to do something."

Have a Slavery-free Holiday: Buy Ethical Chocolate


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This isn’t intended to ruin your holiday cheer, but it definitely caused me to think twice before buying big-brand chocolate for an upcoming holiday fête: Much of mainstream chocolate contains cocoa produced by child slaves.

Winners of Making More Health Competition Announced!

The Changemakers global community has chosen the winners of the Making More Health competition, part of a three-year global initiative led by Ashoka Changemakers and Boehringer Ingelheim to identify and support innovations from around the world that transform the field of health to sustainably increase individual, family, and community well-being.

The public voted to select three top health solutions from a field of finalists. The finalists were chosen by a panel of expert judges out of more than 470 entries received from 82 countries.

The winning solutions are:

Three Tips for Social Entrepreneurs: Balancing Work with the Holidays


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Editor's note: This post was written by Kate Petty, writer and editor at Ashoka Changemakers.

There’s nothing like the holiday season: Attending parties with friends, spending quality time with extended family, preparing 500 personalized letters to ask your donor list to make a year-end pledge to your social venture…

If that last item didn’t seem out of place to you, keep reading. For too many social entrepreneurs, the holidays are just another time of the year when you work hard for a great idea to save the world.

But taking time to vacation, spend time with family, and generally unplug is vital. Just ask the Mayo Clinic, which cautions on its web site against working long, stressful hours without a break: “When you’re tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly may suffer — which could take a toll on your professional reputation or lead to dangerous or costly mistakes.” 

Save the Date: December 12


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Early Entry Deadline & #SocEntChat about Innovations for Health: Solutions that Cross Borders

Do you have an opinion about what health care models might work in more than one country? Are you interested in what kinds of health care challenges are shared by communities around the world? Join Ashoka Changemakers on December 12, 2011, for a global #SocEntChat about Innovations for Health.

Join @changemakers from 2 to 4 p.m. EST to participate in a Twitter-based discussion with innovators, social entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts about health care solutions that have the potential to be applied in other countries in order to improve health and health care. This is your chance to make your voice heard or to ask experts in the field your most burning questions.

December 12 is also the Early Entry Deadline for Innovations for Health! Enter by 5 p.m. EST and you could win one of two US $500 cash prizes, plus the unique opportunity for a private consulting session with industry experts. The sooner you enter, the more likely your entry will gain visibility from this community of experts, enthusiasts, media partners, and investors. Submitting your solution early allows you to interact with other innovators, answer questions, and improve your odds of winning.

Visit the competition page to enter or nominate a solution today!

Photo of the Day: Dec. 2, 2011

A citizen journalist interviews a woman for a story in Chhattisgarh, a primarily rural state in Central India. Photo courtesy of CGNet Swara: Voice Portal For Community Media In India.