John Converse Townsend's blog

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Be a ChangeSpotter for the Powering Economic Opportunity Competition!

UPDATE: The ChangeSpotting campaign has been extended until 5PM ET on Friday, June 3, 2011.

Do you know someone in your family, your community, or even your country that is generating economic opportunity for disadvantaged populations? Ashoka’s Changemakers® needs you to lead the charge in spotting social entrepreneurs and innovators from around the globe working to create tomorrow’s jobs today!

Which is why we’re inviting you, dear reader, as a ChangeSpotter for the Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World that Works competition, co-hosted with eBay Foundation and The Opportunity Project. (More on that here.)

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Empleando las ideas más innovadoras para crear un mundo que trabaja

Todos somos muy conscientes de la crisis económica a nivel global y del efecto dominó que se deriva del desempleo y la profunda falta de acceso a oportunidades. En parte, las revoluciones en Egipto y Túnez se desataron porque los jóvenes no pudieron encontrar la manera para auto-abastecerse, no porque no quisieran, sino porque no podían.

En este contexto de creciente incertidumbre internacional en torno a la creación de empleo, Ashoka Changemakers® unió sus fuerzas con la fundación de eBay para lanzar el día el 30 de marzo el desafío: “Impulsando Oportunidades Económicas: Un Mundo que Trabaja”. Esta convocatoria global busca constituirse en una fuente de soluciones innovadoras, basadas en el Mercado, que crean oportunidades económicas y generan empleo para las poblaciones desfavorecidas.

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Seja um(a) Nomeador(a) de inovação do desafio “Todos ao Trabalho”!

ATUALIZAÇÃO: A campanha de Nomeadores de Inovação foi lançada no dia 4 de maio e se estenderá até sexta-feira, dia 03 de junho de 2011, às 18h00 (horário de Brasília).

Você conhece alguém na sua família, comunidade ou no país que está gerando oportunidades econômicas para populações desfavorecidas? O Changemakers da Ashoka convida você, membro desta comunidade on-line global, para identificar e dar destaque a empreendedores e inovadores sociais no mundo que estão criando uma nova dinâmica de mercado global.

É por essa razão que o convidamos a participar, como Nomeador de inovação, no desafio “Todos ao Trabalho: Ampliando oportunidades econômicas”, lançado em conjunto com a Fundação eBay e o Projeto Oportunidade (mais informações aqui).

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Driving Viral Social Change: How will you get people talking?

Have you ever wished that more people were talking about solutions to pressing social problems? Have you ever imagined a world where people were buzzing about the latest initiative designed to curb child marriage in eastern Africa, instead of going ga-ga over the Royal Wedding? Or cheering the potential of disruptive innovations to create tomorrow's job markets, instead of jeering Rebecca Black's budding 'music career'?

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Empregando as ideias globais mais inovadoras na criação de um mundo com oportunidades econômicas

Estamos todos bem cientes das crises econômicas ao redor do mundo ... e os efeitos em cascata que resultam em graves índices de desemprego e ausência de oportunidade. Em parte, as revoluções no Egito e Tunísia foram provocadas porque os jovens não encontravam meios para se sustentar, não porque não queriam, mas porque não havia empregos.

Nesse contexto de crescente incerteza internacional em torno da criação de emprego, o Changemakers da Ashoka e a Fundação eBay lançaram juntos, no dia 30 de março, o desafio global “Todos ao Trabalho – Ampliando Oportunidades Econômicas”. O concurso buscará soluções de mercado inovadoras que criam oportunidades econômicas e geram emprego para populações desfavorecidas.

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To Celebrate Earth Day, Rap With The EPA (?!)

You rolled out of bed this morning itching to start your Earth Day party the right way, we know. And we've got just the ticket.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency recently released a bumpin' rap single, "Click It – Flip It," as part of its Create A New Climate For Action initiative. The program seeks to educate and motivate teens to green the energy scene -- look, I'm rhyming without even trying -- by taking an active role in making a difference to their planet, their health, and their future.

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BucketFeet: Buy One, Give Some

Charity is a basic constituent of today’s economy. Citizen consumers and cultural capitalists are demanding corporate social responsibility and won’t hesitate to punish companies who don’t deliver. So if the money is where the “warm and fuzzy” is, it makes sense that that’s where new businesses continue to emerge.

BucketFeet is the latest in this new wave of businesses blending social purpose with profit. The Chicago-based shoe company, launched just two months ago, operates under the motto, “Buy a Shoe, Build a Community.”

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Goldman Sachs Foundation Offering Scholarships to Indian New Media Startups

Attention all new media changemakers on the Indian subcontinent! If you're using digital media to deliver news in innovative ways, here's an opportunity you need to know about. (Ladies, read on; guys, forward this post to your female friends, please.)

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Trillion Dollar Slim-Down? Fat Chance!

Several months ago, we asked our community, “What if some social problems may be easier to solve than to manage? And what if solving said problems violates our moral institutions and political institutions?”

The inquiry was inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s feature in the New Yorker: “Million-Dollar Murray.” In it, Gladwell discussed power-law and the reasons why people fail to solve social problems. (Power-law distributions are those in which the majority of activity can be found at one extreme.)

“Million-Dollar Murray” told the story of Murray Barr, a chronically homeless former marine who racked up over one million dollars in hospital bills over a ten-year period. Homelessness has a power-law distribution: The majority of people are homeless for about a day, but quickly recover and move on with their lives. Ten percent of the homeless population, however, are episodic users and nearly consume public funds at the rate they swallow drugs and alcohol.

What Gladwell exposed is that it is much more cost-effective to solve social problems, rather than to simply treat them.

This reluctant truth made a bold appearance in this week’s New York Times.

“For the first time in history, lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and others kill more people than communicable ones,” writes Mark Bittman, Opinionator columnist, about the fiscal toll of treating ‘lifestyle diseases.’ “Treating these diseases — and futile attempts to ‘cure’ them — costs a fortune, more than one-seventh of our GDP.

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Employing the World’s Most Innovative Ideas to Create a World that Works

We are all well aware of the economic crises around the world … and the ripple effects that stem from deep unemployment and lack of access to opportunity. In part, the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia were sparked because young people couldn’t find the means to support themselves—not because they didn’t want to, but because there were no jobs.

In this growing context of international uncertainty around job creation, Ashoka’s Changemakers® joined forces with eBay Foundation on March 30th to launch a global competition, Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World that Works. The competition will source innovative market-based solutions that create economic opportunity and generate employment for disadvantaged populations.

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The Ethical Implications of Charity: First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

In this ten-minute YouTube clip, Slovenian continental philosopher and critical theorist Slavoj Žižek delivers a fast-paced, piquant overview critique of charity and cultural capitalism. Žižek, a proud misanthrope, explains that charity is now the basic constituent of our economy, and notes that "this cheap, charitable optimism" is naive -- charitable acts do not solve pressing social issues, they merely prolong them. (Video after the jump.)

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TRANSCRIPT: #SocEntChat on Flexible Purpose Corporation Legislation

On April 5, 2011, Ashoka’s Changemakers and Omidyar Network co-hosted a #SocEntChat to discuss the legislation driving the latest trend in social entrepreneurship: the creation of flexible purpose firms that support a positive triple bottom line.

The chat was organized for a small, very precise group of participants -- including the architects of the Corporate Flexibility Act of 2011 -- but word of the lively debate quickly spread across the Twittersphere. Entrepreneurs and innovators, including social good superstar Majora Carter, joined the discussion and made it that much better.

If you missed it, fear not! The transcript in its entirety can be found after the jump. As always, read up and reach out to any of the #SocEntChat participants and keep the conversation going.

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Celebrate International Women's Day with Changemakers, All Month Long

To celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, Changemakers will be bringing you the voices of powerful women leaders who are changing your world. All March long, influential women will share their insights into what it will take to build a stronger global future, as well as what challenges lie ahead for the progress of women in the next decade.

Changemakers Taxonomy: 
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Ashoka Partners with Techonomy to Create a New Philosophy of Progress

Techonomy Media just announced its second annual Techonomy Conference -- an invitation-only event for leaders devoted to accelerating innovation both in the United States and around the world. Previous attendees included Charles Best of, Ushahidi founder Ory Okolloh, and Google chairman Eric Schmidt.

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An inside look at the Wisconsin budget repair bill protests

Last week, over 50,000 protesters surrounded the Wisconsin statehouse in Madison to take a stand against Republican Gov. Scott Walker's SB11 budget repair bill. The bill calls for unionizing public employees to pay more for pensions and health insurance -- locking their pay rates and cutting benefits. (Video after the jump.)

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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.)

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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Junte-se a nós nesta quarta-feira, 26 de janeiro, ao #SocEntChat

Envolver Comunidades e Proteger Mares, Lagos e Rios

Nesta quarta-feira, 26 de janeiro, o Changemakers da Ashoka reunirá empreendedores e inovadores sociais, e os finalistas de todo o mundo deste desafio on-line, a fim de gerar interações sobre o tema Geoturismo - um turismo que sustenta ou desenvolve uma característica geográfica de um local. O Geoturismo ainda supõe o desenvolvimento de áreas costeiras, insulares e fluviais, bem como proteger as águas e o meio-ambiente e fortalecer o patrimônio e o sustento dos moradores locais, mobilizando os recursos, que incluem novas tecnologias, de maneira criativa.

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Únete este miércoles 26 de enero al #SocEntChat

Desafío de Geoturismo - Destinos al límite
Protegiendo a las Comunidades y Cuidando las Aguas

Este miércoles 26 de enero, Ashoka Changemakers estará reuniendo a emprendedores e innovadores sociales, y a los finalistas de este desafío online provenientes del todo el mundo, a fin de generar intercambios en torno al geoturismo – un turismo alternativo que sostiene y realza el carácter geográfico de un lugar. Geoturismo supone el desarrollo de las zonas costeras e insulares, preservando el medio ambiente y las aguas, al tiempo que respeta los medios de vida de las comunidades locales, movilizando de manera creativa recursos que incluyen nuevas tecnologías.

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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.

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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.)

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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.)

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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