John Converse Townsend's blog

The Real Power of a Woman’s Touch

[Morton (top left) walking a local Hesquiaht community through renewable energy options.]

Donna Morton has successfully made the transition from a promising changemaker to a high-impact 2011 Unreasonable Institute Fellow, tackling poverty, economic and community development, and climate abatement.

Vodafone's Webbox brings the power of the Internet to emerging markets

Vodafone, the world's largest mobile telecommunications company, recently released the Webbox: a smart, nifty innovation developed specifically for customers in emerging markets. (Video after the jump.)

You Have Never Seen Women's Economic Opportunity Like This

The Economist set out to do the impossible: bring a one-of-a-kind, 150-page report on women's economic opportunity around the world to life. In just six minutes. (Video after the jump.)

WANTED: 10 young action heroes to save planet

The global search for agents of environmental change has begun! Are you up for it?

Project Borneo 3D: An Action Movie is looking for 10 changemakers aged 18 to 35 to star in an ambitious 3D feature documentary. This environmental Justice League will be sent into the heart of the Borneo jungle for five months to implement the DeforestACTION project and connect with the world through the Web -- providing updates for millions of students and activists across the globe who are responsible for driving, developing, and owning the project. (Video after the jump.)

Jill Vialet at TEDxSF: Now Press Play

Ashoka Fellow Jill C. Vialet is the founder and President of Playworks, whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play. Today, Playworks is the only nonprofit organization in the country providing trained, full-time play coaches focused on recess to hundreds of low-income schools in major urban areas. Playworks also provides training and technical assistance to schools, districts and youth organizations that wish to include inclusive, healthy play as part of a positive learning environment. (Video after the jump.)

African Stock Investment Competition (ASIC): Raising the global profile of Africa

The 2011 African Stock Investment Competition (ASIC), which opened for registration earlier this month, is an annual competition allowing university students from around the world to explore and learn about African stock exchanges. The virtual trading competition offers students a hands-on opportunity to learn about emerging capital markets as they compete to build the best performing stock investment portfolios.

Win $25k to Change Digital Media: The PitchIt! Challenge

It was just two short years ago that Ashoka Changemakers and We Media joined forces to launch a community challenge to source innovative approaches for inspiring a better world through media and technology. People from all around the world entered their ideas - from very early stage projects to more established but never-before-seen innovations - for harnessing the power of media for social good.

Join @changemakers Wednesday, January 26th for a Multilingual #SocEntChat on Geotourism

Geotourism Challenge: Places on the Edge
Saving Coastal & Freshwater Destinations

On Wednesday, January 26th, Ashoka Changemakers will bring together entrepreneurs, innovators, and competition finalists from around the world to discuss geotourism – an alternative tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place. Geoutorism is a means of developing coastal, waterway, and island destinations without destroying the land, the water, or the lifestyles of the local people by creatively mobilizing resources including technology and other tools.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak offers advice to innovators

Steve Wozniak, computing pioneer and Apple co-founder, was recently tracked down by VentureBeat's Dean Takahashi at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. Wozniak briefly shared his experiences during the early era of personal computers. Of course, he also offered some advice to innovators -- as you can imagine, Wozniak is a man just bursting with creative energy. (Video after the jump.)

What's your 'million dollar idea' for building a sustainable future?

Ashoka Changemakers is looking for innovative solutions that engage communities, entrepreneurs, and key institutions in collaborating to integrate and develop affordable, inclusive, and sustainable urban housing that respects the environment, local cultures, and practices. (Video after the jump.)

The Miniature Earth: How would you create a better world?

So, you're trying to change the world? Chew on this:

Today, a whopping 48 people live without basic sanitation, 14 are hungry or malnourished, and 21 people live on US$1.25 per day or less. Of course, these statistics would only hold true if the entire population of planet Earth was transformed into a small community of 100 people.

Welcome to The Miniature Earth, ladies and gentlemen. (Video after the jump.)

Educate! to Write World’s First National Social Entrepreneurship Curriculum

Educate! -- a Boulder, CO and Uganda-based non-profit that unlocks the potential of African youth to solve their communities' most pressing issues -- was asked by the government of Uganda and the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) to incorporate its social entrepreneurship program into Uganda's national high school curriculum.

Educate! recently won the Ashoka Changemakers Quality Education in Africa award. It has also been backed by Echoing Green (the leading venture philanthropy fund), received first place in the Pan African Awards for Entrepreneurship in Education, and was recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of 100 Brilliant Companies of 2009.

Want to halt tyranny, rape, HIV? Let women own land

Did you know that women produce 80 percent of the food in developing countries, yet own just 2 percent of the world's land? So, while women feed the world, they are routinely denied the right to own the land they cultivate and on which they are dependent to raise their families. Without titles to land, women and their families are incredibly vulnerable -- they're at risk of having their livelihoods, education, health care and identities stripped away.

Lack of property rights leads to new 'Scramble for Africa'

Let’s fire up the WABAC Machine and wake up in 1914.

For the past three decades, Europe’s powers have pillaged and plundered Africa under the misguided, ethnocentric mandate of New Imperialism.

This isn’t your great, great grandfather’s colonization of Africa. No, this is something new, fresh, and just as sinister – and actually seen as a way to eliminate the threat of a Europe-wide war over Africa. Divide, deal, and conquer they say. Today, the world map looks significantly different than it will 100 years from now, with Europe having added almost nine million square miles – one-fifth of the land area of the globe – to its colonial possessions.

What a terrifying takeover, particularly to those Africans lacking not only advanced weaponry, but also a united front to resist European aggression!

Enigmatic Parisian street artist, JR, wins 2011 TED Prize

On New Year's Eve, Changemakers brought you six ideas that are making the world a better place.

As a follow-up and a way to kick off 2011, here is another powerful idea brought to life by another TED Prize Winner: The 27-year-old Parisian street artist known as JR.

JR, "a shadowy figure who has made a name for himself by plastering colossal photographs in downtrodden neighborhoods around the world," has been recognized as the winner and recipient of the 2011 TED Prize -- an annual award granting winners $100,000 to change the world with the support of the TED community.

Changewatch: Ten lessons for 2011; The New, Golden Era for Entrepreneurs; Partnering with a Social Enterprise

Today, the very last day of 2010, our Changewatchers are buzzing about....

Google the good guy: Goliath gives $140 million to make world less evil

For years, Google, Inc. has held a notorious reputation for being the biggest cyber-bully on the block. As a result, it has been the target of virtual vitriol for its "insidious and potentially pernicious" business practices. Essentially, Google has been alleged as one of the kings of online malpractice, charged with smothering search neutrality and manipulating search results to hoarding queries and invading our privacy. (Ironically, Facebook passed Google as most-viewed site in US earlier this year. So now, it seems that Facebook -- another space invader -- has a stranglehold on our collective attention, time, and keystrokes.)

Announcing the Sustainable Urban Housing Early-Entry Prize Winners

It's that time of the year again. The holiday season is a time for giving and for change. In the spirit of both, Changemakers is proud to announce the early-entry prize winners in our Sustainable Urban Housing Competition: Green Development Zone in the USA, Housing Finance for urban financially excluded families in India, and Franquicia Social para el desarrollo de vivienda sustentable in Mexico! Each of these entrants have been awarded a prize of US$500.

These entries were evaluated per the Changemakers criteria -- innovation, social impact, and operational sustainability -- as the best competition entries submitted at or before the December 12 early-entry deadline.

Visionary doctor kept his eye on the prize, changed ocular healthcare in India forever

In 1976, Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy -- perhaps better known as Dr. V -- founded the Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, India. Dr. V had once been head of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Government Madurai Medical College, as well as the head eye surgeon at the Government Erskine Hospital in Tamil Nadu. After his mandatory institutional retirement at age 50, Dr. V decided to change the game.

Hans Rosling's 200 countries, 200 years, 4 minutes

When statistics go stale, Hans Rosling finds a way to make them sing.

So, I'm certain Rosling couldn't resist participating in the operatic ode to the "glorious nerdiness of statistics": 'The Joy of Stats.'

"I kid you not, statistics is now the sexiest subject on the planet."

The Robin Hood Tax: The world's greatest bank job

Changemakers, I would like to introduce you to an incendiary idea: The Robin Hood Tax.

Inspired by the actions of England’s most popular outlaw, The Robin Hood Tax’s mission is to “take from the richest in society and give to those who need it.” Rest assured, the plan is more detailed than that. The tax is imposed on banks and would give billions to tackle social issues in England and beyond.

Barefoot Power wins big at the Cool Company Awards

Australia’s leading entrepreneurs and business rock stars met at 24 Moons Bar on AC/DC Lane in Melbourne last week for Anthill Magazine’s 2010 Cool Company Awards.

The Cool Company Awards is an initiative launched to celebrate Australian organizations making real change through innovative means – rule-makers, rule-breakers, and trend-setters in attitude and action

Catch the debut of Be the Change: Save a Life

Have plans for Friday night?

Whether you answered 'yes' or 'no', consider joining ABC News tomorrow, December 17, 2010 at 10PM EST for the launch of Be the Change: Save a Life.

Who needs women, really?

Who needs women? Humanity does. Desperately.

John Marshall Roberts: The Global Urgency of Everyday Empathy

In this TEDxChCh talk, John Marshall Roberts (CEO of Worldview Learning) draws on his knowledge of systems theory and developmental psychology to discuss how the glut of "global non-empathy" impacts how our world works.

Reasonable Entrepreneurs Need Not Apply

The Unreasonable Institute, an international accelerator for high-impact ventures, has opened applications for its second annual institute – a search for 25 of the world’s most promising entrepreneurs committed to launching globally significant social ventures that can reach at least one million people.

The Fun Theory: Why fun should be used to change behavior for the better

The Fun Theory is a site dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people's behavior for the better.

International Symposium: "SME – Entrepreneurship at its best"

One of the deliverables of the G-20 SME Finance Challenge – besides the launch of a $528 million SME Finance Innovation Fund supported by South Korea, the U.S., Canada, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) – was connecting competition winners with donors and investors at a small and medium-size enterprise (SME) conference in Cologne, Germany after the Seoul Summit.

Global Security Challenge winners transforming the lives of millions

Last Friday, the Global Security Challenge (GSC) – a Dragon’s Den-style event and central hub for security innovators, start-ups and investors around the globe – announced this year’s Best Security Start-Up and Best Security SME: mPedigree and iWebGate. (Previous winners and finalists have gone on to raise over $80 million investment as a result of the challenge.)

The Grand Prize Winning Film: Kakenya

Link TV, with support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, officially launched yesterday evening. is a next-generation multimedia platform for global development which uses the power of video to tell stories about real people and progress in global development.

Yesterday's launch party -- co-hosted by Devex and AED -- featured powerful speakers, interactive discussions, and short films, as well as the announcement of Link TV's six ViewChange Online Film Contest winners. The film categories included Innovation, Leadership & Governance, Empowerment, Sustainability, Local/Global Partnerships, and Overcoming Conflict. Winners received $5,000 each.

The event's capstone was the presentation of the Film Contest's $20,000 Grand Prize Winner: New York director and communications consultant Aaron Kisner. Kisner's award-winning short film "Kakenya" tells the story of Kakenya Ntaiya; whose courage and vital voice were drivers of change in her life and for her Massai village community.

"I have built the first primary school for girls in my village. A place where girls can be free, a place where they can dream ... a place that let's them know their dreams are possible."

The Film: "Kakenya":

James Cromwell opens TEDxYSE with a bang

James Cromwell just rocked the stage at TEDxYSE.

He gave a rousing speech that brought several members of the audience to their feet.

“There is so much optimism and enthusiasm and hopefulness in the young people that I’ve met this morning,” said Cromwell. “But I do have to say from and older perspective, we made a hash of it. We really made a hash of it. We have left you a disaster.”

Cromwell compared the world’s current state of affairs to a roaring, violent locomotive racing toward a cliff. There won’t be time for incremental changes, and therefore we are in desperate need of dramatic system-changing impact; a necessary paradigm shift to save our species from its worst enemy: ourselves.

Fortunately we have young social entrepreneurs fueling world-changing initiatives. For Cromwell, young entrepreneurs are undoubtedly the hope for the world. He closed with this statement:

"The heart, not the mind, is the organ which connects us to the natural world and to each other. And so with all my heart, I wish all of you the best of luck. Persevere, question authority, and seize the day."

Veterans Day, social media, and a rewarding community of support

I just had a great conversation with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Communications Director, Chrissy Stevens, who shared what IAVA was doing for Veterans Day.

Hey, East Coast women! Do something good with your money


West Coast women are more entrepreneurial than their East Coast counterparts. At least according to Deborah Perry Piscione, co-founder of Desha Productions and its accompanying online women’s magazine,

Greg Stone: "The Savior of the Seas"

In 2000 Greg Stone, American scientist and ocean research pioneer, was invited to join an exploratory cruise of the Phoenix Islands of the Pacific nation of Kiribati.

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