John Converse Townsend's blog

How UNFIRE helps feed Nigeria at a bargain price

Social entrepreneur Mene B. Orits helps Nigerian farmers feed their families, and the rest of the country, while also offering young people and women a means out of poverty.

Micro-health insurance: how and why it works in Indonesia

Keeping waste out of landfills? Making health care accessible to all?

Rebuilding Guatemala … Through Its Soil

The story of how one social entrepreneur in Guatemala, Curt Bowen, is starting a revolution—for farmers, by farmers.

Mexican Innovation Connecting Off-The-Grid Rural Farmers To The World

Millions of rural Mexican citizens lack access to reliable electricity. But Manuel Wiechers, founder of Iluméxico, is helping farmers off the national energy grid turn on the lights.

2 Innovations Changing The Tech Landscape For Women In MENA

The Middle East and North Africa is home to a growing number of women who are, uncharacteristically, demanding equal citizenship and a greater role in society. The impetus? Women are getting educated—and getting online.

Interview With Tony Juniper: 'No Nature, No People'

Tony Juniper is a campaigner, writer, and “by popular consent the most effective of Britain’s eco-warriors.” He’s currently a special adviser to the Prince of Wales Charities’ International Sustainability Unit, a senior associate with the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership (CPSL), and editor-in-chief of National Geographic Green Magazine.

How Can Business Be a Force for Change? G+ Hangout Next Monday

Business leaders can be a force for addressing climate change. They need to be. Now.

E HealthPoint transforms rural health care by providing access to clean water and affordable treatment

Editor's note: This post was written by Andrea Boston, freelance writer for Ashoka Changemakers.

For many families in developing countries, traveling to a nearby city for a doctor’s visit is expensive and inconvenient, and a lack of safe drinking water can make existing health conditions even worse. E HealthPoint provides low cost, clean water and quality medical treatment to rural Indian communities with a unique technology-based management and delivery system.

Saúde Criança: A winning innovation for global family health

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

The Saúde Criança Association (Children’s Health Association, or ASC), one of Brazil’s most robust health initiatives, has been recognized—not for the first time—for its clever and comprehensive approach to pediatric and family care.

Meet the Innovations for Health Competition Finalists!

Nearly 400 entrepreneurs, health care professionals, and community members from 73 countries submitted their health care solutions to the Innovations for Health: Solutions that Cross Borders competition hosted by Ashoka Changemakers and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio.

Today, 15 competition finalists have been identified as outlining the most promising solutions. The Innovations for Health finalists are designed to advance high quality health and well-being through low-cost interventions and personalized patient-centered care, and they have the potential to be applied to other countries.

The finalists provide a glimpse of the future of border-crossing innovation:

Get to know the Activating Empathy Early Entry Award Winners

Ashoka’s New Year’s resolution for 2012 was more ambitious than most. We’re not cutting back on the caffeine, eating healthier, or exercising more frequently. But we resolved to make 2012 the year to jumpstart a worldwide movement for empathy, made official with the launch of the global Activating Empathy: Transforming Schools To Teach What Matters competition.

Three months later, we are seeing this resolution become a reality. Teachers, parents, students, and innovators have joined this effort to ensure that all children master empathy, a critical skill in today’s rapidly changing world. The competition has attracted more than 160 entries and nearly 400 nominations for ideas that create better communities, societies, organizations, companies, and institutions.

There is still time to get involved; the deadline for solutions isn’t until 5:00 p.m. (ET) on March 30. More than $110,000 in cash and in-kind prizes are still available to entrants!

In the meantime, we have decided to recognize a handful of our favorite solutions to date: the Activating Empathy Early Entry Award Winners:

Enter the We Media PitchIt! Challenge for a shot at $25k

What is an idea worth? Pennies on the dollars? Less?

Try $25,000. According to Andrew Nachison and Dale Peskin, co-founders of the digital creation agency We Media, the right idea is worth that much—but only if it’s submitted by March 13.

Q&A with Darren Bunton, Human Rights Activist

By now you’ve definitely spotted it: Changemakers is changing. One of the most visible developments is changeshops, an improved way to help build the world of social good. Changeshops is still a very young network, but we’re already seeing signs of its potential. As the community grows, we’re asking a few top users to share the exciting projects popping up.

Today Darren Bunton, executive director and chairman of Eway Foundation, talks about growing the foundation’s Ethical Citizen Media project, the difference between Facebook and Twitter and changeshops, and keeping in touch with innovators all over the world.

Q&A with Jacquie Cutts, Maternal and Child Health Champion

Changemakers is changing. Through the new changeshops platform, we now offer improved ways to help build the world of social good. Changeshops users will be able to tell the online community what they need to grow their projects; search for collaborators, innovators, and competitions in the field; and access funding opportunities for world-changing ideas.

The changeshops community is growing each day. To get a preview of what might be in store, Changemakers is catching up with a few of the platform’s top users.

Today, Changemakers talked (change)shop with Jacquie Cutts, the founder, president, and CEO of Safe Mothers, Safe Babies, a nonprofit organization working to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality in Uganda.

Cutts has been a long-time supporter of participatory development and has worked to help rural communities understand maternal and child health from the local perspective, in addition to supporting more innovative health care initiatives like motorcycle ambulance programs which reduce barriers to accessing care.

Save the Date! Join @Changemakers for a #SocEntChat about Empathy!

February 14th is a day the world beams with love – and what better way to capture that love, by cultivating empathy in ourselves and in our communities?

Join us, the 1440 Foundation, experts and innovators between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. EST on Valentine’s Day for a conversation about empathy: its power, its impact, and its future.  

This is your chance to share your thoughts, ideas, challenges, and perspectives—and to connect with innovators and thought-leaders!

Q&A with James Waruiru, Community Health Activist

Changemakers is changing. Through the new Changeshops platform, we now offer improved ways to help build the world of social good. Changeshops users will be able to tell the online community what they need to grow their projects; search for collaborators, innovators, and competitions in the field; and access funding opportunities for world-changing ideas.

The Changeshops community is growing each day; to get a preview of what might be in store, Changemakers is catching up with a few of the platform’s top users.

Q&A with Idit Harel Caperton, Education Entrepreneur

Changemakers is changing. Through the new Changeshops platform, we now offer improved ways to help build the world of social good. Changeshops users will be able to tell the online community what they need to grow their projects; search for collaborators, innovators, and competitions in the field; and access funding opportunities for world-changing ideas.

The Changeshops community is growing each day; to get a preview of what might be in store, Changemakers is catching up with a few of the platform’s top users.

Our first interview is with Dr. Idit Harel Caperton, president and founder of the World Wide Workshop, the New York-based foundation that is powering ideas for global learning and leadership in the 21st century. Caperton’s Globaloria project is the world’s first and largest social learning network where students develop the digital citizenship skills the global economy demands. Globaloria helps both youth and educators learn to participate as leaders of change in the global knowledge economy.

Caperton sat down to talk with Changemakers about the organization’s early success with Changeshops.

Ben & Jerry’s Scoops Up New Ideas on

What happens when you blend Ben & Jerry’s environmentally-friendly business model with Ashoka Changemakers’ dynamic platform for innovation? You get an international competition sure to delight young entrepreneurs throughout Europe.

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.

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.

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.

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.

An Army of Giant Rats Unearths Peace in Africa


It takes a true visionary to see a Buddhist monk deploying a pack of giant rats as the solution to the devastating danger posed by landmines.

Every few hours, another person is killed or maimed by a landmine. Even in areas removed from active conflict, landmines are more than just distressing reminders of former bloodshed — they’re hidden hazards that terrorize populations and freeze development.

Identifying, unearthing, and disarming these explosives is dangerous and daunting. Despite record clearances, more countries deployed anti-personnel mines last year than in any year since 2004.


"Everywhere I went to apply for funding, we were just laughed at. Institutions were actually very reluctant toward such an approach.
The reason (for my perseverance) why was clear, obvious. 

I dreamt of a better world . . ."

Calling All Social Innovators: McKinsey is Looking for Inspiration

UPDATE: The deadline for video submissions has been extended to midnight on November 20.

What inspires you? If it’s a unique social innovation with a big impact, McKinsey wants you to share it.

McKinsey is asking you to submit one-minute videos before November 18 of your favorite innovations, for a collection of video shorts that showcase solutions to pressing social issues, from new models for water and sanitation, to health and community well-being.

Videos submissions may also highlight what drives your social good organization.

A selection committee will choose ten finalists, to be voted on by McKinsey’s global community beginning on November 23. Winners will be announced on December 5.

The best videos will be showcased on the McKinsey website; the video producers will be honored with exclusive interviews in McKinsey on Society, featured prominently on The Huffington Post, and will be invited to a networking reception in New York City in early 2012.

Shoot your short video quickly! The project entry deadline is in ten days.

Nation’s Most Innovative STEM Solutions Honored in “Partnering for Excellence” Competition

Eight winners have been selected from the Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education competition, a search for the most innovative ways to inspire STEM-rich learning in our nation’s classrooms (particularly in high-need communities) by connecting students with STEM professionals.

The competition was hosted by Ashoka Changemakers, with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York and The Opportunity Equation. Winners were selected by a combination of open voting on the website, the recommendations of competition partners, and a rigorous assessment by a distinguished panel of judges including Dr. Bruce Alberts, Tim Brown, Michele Cahill, Caroline Kennedy, Dr. Ioannis Miaoulis, and Dr. Robert Moses.

Let’s meet the winners!

Occupy Rooftops and Start a Solar Revolution

Are you a part of the rooftop revolution? It’s never been easier, explains Ashoka Fellow Billy Parish. (Video after the jump.) He is the co-founder of Solar Mosaic, a marketplace that simplifies the clean energy movement by helping communities create and fund their own solar projects.

Join Parish in celebrating Community Solar Day in your neighborhood on November 20.

Occupy a rooftop near your home as a first step into a future where solar investments can create green jobs and local prosperity. Or find a building you’d like to see powered by solar energy and gather a community solar team to make sure your dream becomes a reality.

The Power of People and the Necessity for Choice

Molly Katchpole has become an Internet sensation—and a real people’s champion. Katchpole is the 22-year-old who led the charge against Bank of America, which capitulated to a public campaign against a planned monthly $5 fee on debit card transactions, in an about-face on September 29.

“I heard the news about the fee and was like, ‘That is it. I'm sick of this,” Katchpole said. She is a recent college graduate who lives paycheck-to-paycheck in Washington, D.C.

“On the one hand, [Bank of America] is running a business, but on the other hand, it is people’s money they are working with, and some people don't have a lot of money. It's not like they are just selling toothbrushes—it goes much deeper than that."

Katchpole petitioned Bank of America’s president and CEO Brian T. Moynihan to reverse the $5 fee decision. On October 1, Katchpole’s online petition on had attracted 100 signatures; by the 30th, it had more than 300,000.

The Bank waved the white flag on November 1, surrendering to people power and stating that it will not implement a debit usage fee.

Okay, America, I didn’t know you felt so strongly.

Water Privatization: Villainy or Necessity?

The 2008 James Bond film Quantum of Solace introduced a different kind of villain to popular audiences: Dominic Greene, the ruthless capitalist with a sinister scheme to take control of Bolivia’s water supply and, under private contract, provide that precious resource to the public—at double the rate.

Greene is an invention of Hollywood, but the new economy of water privatization is a legitimate issue with real risks and complexities. Nearly one billion people lack access to safe potable water. 
Bolivia—the real-life version—serves as a prime example. In 1999, the Bolivian government privatized the water system of its third-largest city, Cochabamba, under pressure from the World Bank, which declared it would not renew a $25 million economic assistance loan unless major structural adjustments were made to the country’s water services. 
The government conceded the city’s water supply to a multinational consortium, Aguas del Tunari, which hiked rates almost immediately. Some Cochabamba residents saw increases as high as 100 percent, as Aguas del Tunari looked to finance a new dam project and pay the debt accumulated by SEMAPA, the state agency that had been managing the city’s water works.
Things got heated, and the outrage ultimately boiled over into protests that shut down the city. It wasn’t until after both military intervention and the declaration of martial law failed to restore order that the Bolivian government cancelled the private contract. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of citizen revolts about water privatization.

Just for GRINS: An Interview with Gram Vaani’s Zahir Koradia


A large proportion of mobile phone users in India prefer voice communication to SMS or written interactions. Why? Because literacy rates affect how users interact with mobile quite a bit. 
Clearly, if you’re illiterate—and more than 450 million people in India are—SMS offers little value. Community development institutions and social enterprises in the Indian subcontinent are turning to voiced-based technologies to connect users to their world.
One such example is Gram Vaani’s flagship automation system, GRINS, an entrant in the Changemakers Citizen Media competition, supported by Google. Gram Vaani is a participatory media organization that has built a nationwide network of community radio stations, proudly broadcasting on FM frequencies; telephony applications allowing the social sector to better engage with the public; and a voice-based rural news serviced powered by the mobile phone.
GRINS helps Gram Vaani realize its mission to develop solutions that give people a greater say in community matters by facilitating engagement between everyday citizens and established institutions like the government and development organizations. 
Changemakers recently spoke with Zahir Koradia, Gram Vaani’s lead developer, to find out why the venture has been so successful—even landing a $200,000 grant from the Knight Foundation in 2008. (Hint: Gram Vaani is more than a single, popular mobile app or affordable tech feature—it is an entire network of action, information and accessibility to communication services.)

Voice of Chhattisgarh: A CGNet Swara Origin Story


The citizen media movement is built on one key premise: Everyone deserves to be heard. 
However, freedom of expression is often limited by a lack of access to the press; too often, expression is a right exercised only by those in power. No money? No voice.
But thanks to a free voice-based portal accessible by even the simplest mobile phones, even those citizens living on just a few dollars each day can report and discuss the top news stories in their region. The project democratizes media by enabling marginalized communities to manage their own content.
This is particularly important in areas of rural India where, in many cases, half of the population is illiterate, offline, isolated, and at the mercy of the mainstream media’s top-down power — and spin.

Keeping Up With the Greens: I’m making a difference. Why aren’t you?


Just about everyone and everything is green these days. And it’s not enough to quietly turn over a new leaf; you’ve got to trumpet your transformation. 
In the United States, ballparks and sports stadiums are being celebrated for using environmentally-friendly materials and new, efficient technologies. In India, banks are publicly announcing the launch of green initiatives like paper-free banking, e-statements, and “green offices.” 
In Japan, building-top windmills actually have electric motors to keep them spinning when the wind stops (because they would look silly sitting idle). And yes, these windmills actually cost energy, but hey, they look great!
“The message is clear: Helping the planet is nice, but being seen helping the planet is really nice,” said Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of the book Freakonomics and host of the WNYC podcast of the same name. “So, here's a question for you: How much value do people place on being seen leaning green?”

The Fair Trade Revolution: How Solidarium Can Transform Our World


Tiago Dalvi is an Ashoka changemaker who is using his sharp business acumen to help improve the lives of thousands in his home country of Brazil by connecting local producers with established global retailers like Walmart, JCPenney, Whole Foods, and Target.

Dalvi is the spirit behind the award-winning Brazilian social venture and certified fair trade organization Solidarium: Transforme O Seu Mundo and one of the five winning entrepreneurs in the recent Powering Economic Opportunity competition, organized by eBay Foundation and The Opportunity Project. 
Unlike traditional fair trade models that tap into already-established, often grassroots-level fair trade networks, Dalvi connects producers directly with the world’s retailing giants.

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:

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?

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

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.

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.

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.

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. 

An Honest Story: America's Path Out of Islamophobia

Photo via

“The New York Police Department is doing everything it can to make sure there’s not another 9/11 here and that more innocent New Yorkers are not killed by terrorists,” said New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne. “And we have nothing to apologize for in that regard.”

Browne’s statement came in response to the anger surrounding the recent revelations of the NYPD’s undercover operations and surveillance — and civil liberty infringements — in minority neighborhoods. 
Though the NYPD’s mission is appropriate (there is, without a doubt, great value in protecting our country from terrorist threats), some of its methods are suspect. The department’s main offense was specifically targeting Muslim neighborhoods, without evidence of wrongdoing, as part of a human mapping program which included monitoring daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes, nightclubs, and even mosques.
This wasn’t the first time Muslims have been targets of vigilant circumspection. Defense measures have tightened since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; in order to prevent another such act, the FBI has made counterterrorism the nation’s leading priority, spending well over half of its budget on field agents and a nationwide network of informants. The Pentagon has gone as far as to pose as al-Qaeda agents online, spreading “confusing and contradictory orders, some so virulent that young Muslims dabbling in jihadist philosophy, but on the fence about it, might be driven away,” according to a report published in The New York Times
The federal budget, which funds a number of (perhaps questionable) clandestine security forces, suggests that Islam is a threat to our national security and that the enemy is all around us, always threatening. My point of contention is that the terrorist threat posed by radicalized Muslim-Americans after 9/11 has been vastly exaggerated.

What's the best thing you'll see at SXSW 2012?

Every March, the world heads to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest (SXSW), the film, music, and interactive superfestival. And while SXSW is still a full seven months away, its smart and fervent followers are already making plenty of noise. So many promising panel proposals have already rolled in, the event organizers have asked their global community to help decide which to feature. That’s where you come in.

In 2012, Changemakers is hoping to host two interactive panels on open growth and creating brand-aligned social change. But we need your help to do it. (More information on the panels after the jump.)

In India, the Food Cart of the Future and a Promise of Prosperity

As the clock on your office wall wills itself past midday, you head out the door in search of lunch. “I’m starving,” you announce (and your stomach growls in agreement). The quest for food is brief; soon you’re heading back to work sated with another giant burrito or maybe a famous flatbread sandwich from that place on the corner.

This sort of afternoon adventure happens daily. In the developed world, it’s generally mission accomplished. But this isn’t the case around the world, where more than 800 million are food insecure, uncertain where (and when) they’ll have their next meal. As a result, undernourishment – which exists where caloric intake is below the minimum dietary energy requirement – is prevalent in Central and South America, in many parts of Asia, and all over Africa, particularly south of the Sahara.

With mouths to feed, people have begun to take to the streets to put food on the table; street food, both accessible and affordable, is eaten by almost two and a half billion people every day. While food carts have seen a marked increase in popularity in the United States over the past few years, they’re a longstanding, ubiquitous phenomenon and have forever been a go-to source of grub worldwide.

Basketball Changed Their Lives; Now They’re Changing the World

Summer break is quickly winding down for many across the United States. But for a special team of almost 500 young men (mostly in their teens or 20s), vacation has just started. 

The young men I’m referring to are professional basketball players. And thanks to the NBA lockout, those athletes and their coaches are in for a break that is a little (or a lot) longer than usual.

While the NBA lockout is a bad deal for all parties involved (at least in the short term), there is one positive outcome from this mess at the local level: Many players and coaches, with extra time on their hands, have decided to use their influence and affluence to make a difference in communities at home and around the world.

How the Women's World Cup Initiative Will Level the Playing Field

Girls need sports. Young women who play live better; many studies suggest that increasing girls’ participation in athletics has a direct and positive effect on their education, careers, and self-confidence.

Fewer girls around the world today are restricted to the “feminine” pursuits of painting and needlework than ever before. But even while more parents, educators, and community leaders are embracing the benefits of sports, girls are still six times more likely to drop out of a sport than boys.

That figure must change. And it might change faster than we could have ever anticipated, thanks to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is working to harness the power of sports and international exchanges that empower girls around the world.

Last month, Clinton announced the launch of the Women’s World Cup Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports, a joint initiative by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues. Clinton’s official announcement kick-started the 40th anniversary celebration of Title IX, the 1972 U.S. law offering equal academic and athletic opportunity for both men and women.

How to Change the Face of Education: An Interview with Tim Gott

Education was a much-tweeted topic during President Barack Obama’s Twitter Town Hall yesterday afternoon. Of the almost 200,000 #AskOBama Tweets, 11 percent dealt with education—just behind jobs, the budget and taxes.

President Obama was asked how he plans to respond to the nation’s crumbling learning infrastructure—an education system that fails to properly prepare our students for the future.

“Every time we've made a public investment in education, it's paid off many times over,” the President answered. “For us now to give short shrift to education—when the world is more complex than ever and it’s a knowledge-based society and companies locate based on whether they’ve got skilled workforces or not—that makes no sense. We've got to get our priorities straight."

Ashoka and Boehringer Ingelheim Partner to Promote New Ways of "Making More Health"

Ashoka and Boehringer Ingelheim, one of the world’s largest and most innovative pharmaceutical companies, yesterday announced a new global partnership: “Making More Health.”

Making More Health is a three-year initiative aimed at improving health in communities around the world—promoting strong individuals, families, and communities by identifying and supporting the most promising solutions to challenging health problems.

Gamification FTW: How online gaming can make a better world

Jane McGonigal has come up with the rather fantastical idea that reality is broken and we need to make it work more like a game. But she doesn't quit there—she believes that we must convince people to spend more time playing bigger and better games. An additional 18 billion hours per week to be exact.

Want to 'Win the Future'? Start by Reimagining Education

The little red schoolhouse—full of bright-eyed pupils carrying satchels and an apple for teach’—doesn’t exist anymore. Innovation, collaboration, and social entrepreneurship must be the lesson plans of tomorrow.

New studies show that three-quarters of American college students would not be able to study without some form of technology—almost half said they can’t even go ten minutes without checking their laptop, smartphone, or ereader. Notes are taken with keyboards instead of paper, presentations are carried by flash drives instead of poster board, and questions are asked in pixels. Number 2 pencils? Haven’t seen one in years.

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