kristiewang's blog

Meet the Makers of More Finalists!

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Twenty-two Finalists have been selected from a pool of 40 Semi-Finalists!

“We are thrilled by the ingenuity and diversity of the solutions that were entered into the competition,” said Rob Wilson, Director at Ashoka UK. “The shortlisting committee did not have an easy job. The Finalists represent those entries that best meet the challenge’s criteria of innovation, social impact, and sustainability.”

Trottibus is the Winner of The Play Exchange!

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Canadians from coast to coast to coast have spoken! Our six finalists were featured during a CBC Special, Canadians were asked to vote for their favourite innovation.

Trottibus received the most votes and will receive up to $1 million from the Government of Canada to put their winning idea into action!

Semi-Finalists Announced!

Ashoka Changemakers and Arthur Guinness Projects thank all who entered the Makers of More challenge for sharing their ideas for creating strong communities with more opportunities! 

An astounding number of entries were received from around the world – more than 300– and we’re proud to announce that 40 Semi-Finalists have been selected. They will go on to the next round of judging and remain eligible to win a grand prize of €30,000. Two additional runners-up will win €10,000 each. 

Northwest Territories Residents Team Up to Walk to Tuk

Walk to Tuk taps team spirit and community pride to get NWT residents outside and active - despite the winter weather

“Staying motivated is one of the biggest challenges to leading a healthy lifestyle that we see in the Northwest Territories especially during the winter months,” said Sheena Tremblay, Active Communities Coordinator of NWT Recreation and Parks Association. 

Want to get moving for 30 minutes a day? There’s a reward for that.

GOODcoins taps gamification to make daily exercise fun, social, and rewarding.

Staying active can be difficult, even if we know that exercise is one of the best ways to prevent diabetes and heart disease. But now an innovative app called GOODcoins is providing the carrot without the stick by rewarding people for everyday healthy behaviors.

Igniting a Passion for Dance & Active Living

Igniting a Passion for Dance & Active Living

Canada’s National Ballet School wants to make the joy and health benefits of dance available to all Canadians. For the past four years, the organization has been successfully piloting Sharing Dance, a free online resource for teachers and community members who want to teach dance.

Can Physical Activity Prescriptions Get People Moving?

Prescription to Get Active allows doctors to write actual prescriptions for exercise—and it’s working.

Family doctors in Edmonton and Calgary are working together to make active living—one of the best preventative measures for disease—a priority for everyone. The Prescription to Get Active program makes it possible for doctors to write prescriptions for exercise and gives patients limited free access to fitness and recreational facilities.

Empowering School Communities to Take Charge of Healthy Living

Canada has a health crisis, but the good news is that across the country, there’s a growing excitement about solutions that will help people achieve active, healthy lifestyles. Because healthy habits are built early on in life, schools have the potential to make a big impact and are the focus of many of these new initiatives.

‘Walking School Bus’ Makes Exercise Fun, Safe, & Easy for Children

“It builds our leg muscles and we can chat with our friends.” - Raphaël and Julia, children participating in the Trottibus Walking School Bus

In Quebec, more children are walking to school, thanks to the Trottibus Walking School Bus, an initiative first launched by two parents in Outaouais. Trottibus, now an official initiative of the Canadian Cancer Society, aims to enhance the physical and mental well being of children by making walking fun, safe, and easy.

Transforming Women’s Lives through Coffee Culture

Pamela Chng co-founded a web consultancy firm, but mid-career, she decided to launch a social business to empower disadvantaged women. Bettr Barista Coffee Academy trains women to become coffee professionals, tapping into coffee culture and the growing specialty coffee industry to help its students gain job skills and overcome significant life challenges.

13 Winning Ideas Chosen for the ACTIVE AT SCHOOL Challenge

Healthy living is about to become easier and more fun for children across Canada. The Play Exchange’s ACTIVE AT SCHOOL Challenge has named 13 winning ideas that help students increase their levels of physical activity every day! One winner was selected from each province and territory, and each will receive $3,000 to help implement their healthy living idea in local schools.

Traditional Superfoods Make a Comeback

While the world’s food systems have lost 75 percent of their biodiversity in the past 100 years, scientists are now starting to recognize the vast treasure trove of genetic diversity present in traditional and wild plant varieties. Biodiversity can lead to more nutritious diets, and is also a key asset for mitigating the risks presented by climate change, according to the FAO.

Wetlands Not Dams: Q&A with Ashoka Fellow Hannarong Yaowalers, Thailand

In Thailand, citizens routinely clash with government officials over the construction of dams that destroy fisheries and habitats. Recently, protesters have rallied against the Xayaburi “mega dam” currently being constructed on the Mekong River in neighboring Laos.

Fighting Climate Change With Indigenous Livelihoods

In Indonesia, where forests are being destroyed at the highest rates in the world, an untapped solution exists for balancing conservation with economic expansion.

This article originally appeared on

Why golf and its teachable moments have the power to bring out the best in kids - with the First Tee of Monterey County

The First Tee of Monterey County taps the power to golf to help kids learn the skills to be resilient and succeed in life. Executive Director Barry W. Phillips sat down with Changemakers to discuss why golf and its teachable moments have a unique power to bring out the best in kids.


Why is golf a particularly powerful tool for supporting kids in Salinas? 

Makers Of More: Sparking Local Economic Opportunity And Social Change Together

“How do we find a way to reconnect communities with local businesses, local resources, but more importantly, with each other?” This question, posed byKen Banks at Pop!Tech, is being echoed by an innovative generation of problem-solvers who are looking to strengthen local economies while simultaneously tackling community issues.

Unlocking Entrepreneurship + Solving the World’s Sanitation Crisis

David Auerbach discusses how his organization, Sanergy, helps community residents in developing countries become entrepreneurs by creating sanitation solutions.

This article originally appeared on

Play for Bringing out Empathy and the Best in Kids: Interview with Jill Vialet, Founder of Playworks

Jill Vialet, Ashoka Fellow and Founder of Playworks, sat down with Changemakers to talk about launching her organization in the Bay Area and why the Playworks “pro-social” model works to help kids play and learn at their best.

Playworks has its roots in the Bay Area. How did you get started launching your idea and building relationships with local schools?

Fostering Youth Peacemakers: Soul Shoppe interview with Ashoka Changemakers

What can parents do about bullying and how can schools become safe places for learning? Soul Shoppe co-founder Vicki Abadesco sat down with Ashoka Changemakers to discuss the root causes of bullying and tips for parents and children. Soul Shoppe creates empathy-based learning environments that eliminate bullying at the roots. Their work fostering youth peacemakers made them winners of the Building Vibrant Communities challenge!

The Empathy Debate

Roman Krznaric believes that empathy "allows us to challenge prejudices and create political change." But how can we strengthen our empathy skills and who can we learn from?

Winners Announced for Building Vibrant Communities: Activating Empathy to Create Change competition

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Ashoka Changemakers have announced the six winners of Building Vibrant Communities: Activating Empathy to Create Change! The challenge sought local initiatives that tap the power of empathy to strengthen communities and equip young people to become leaders of change.

How To Use 'Muscular' Empathy To Drive Social Change

Lisa Bennett writes about how empathy can be tapped as a powerful force for creating change.

Meet the Building Vibrant Communities Judges

We’re honored and thrilled to announce the expert judges of the Building Vibrant Communities challenge! They are:

Cedric Brown: Managing Partner, Kapor Center for Social Impact


Finalists Announced for Building Vibrant Communities: Activating Empathy to Create Change

Please join us in congratulating the Finalists of the Building Vibrant Communities challenge! After receiveing more than 200 entries, 86 top entries were selected as Semi-Finalists. Now, 23 top Finalists will go on to the final judging round of the competition.

Activating Empathy to Create Change News Roundup

Finalists will be revealed on 9/3! Until then, we’ve rounded up top stories about empathy making waves as a powerful driver of change in communities. (Photo: NERDS (Native Education Raising Dedicated Students) is a Semi-Finalist of the Building Vibrant Communities challenge and is featured on the Ashoka Changemakers Instagram this week!)

But first, a few announcements:

5 Empathetic Strategies To Inspire Climate Action Now

Lisa Bennett on why people avoid engaging in the fight against climate change--and how empathy can be tapped as a powerful solution. This article originally appeared on

Semi-Finalists Announced!

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From a pool of more than 200 entries, the short-listing team at Ashoka Changemakers has selected 86 Semi-Finalists of the Building Vibrant Communities: Activating Empathy to Create Change challenge. 

Video caption: Early Entry Prize Winner and Semi-Finalist iLead+Design submitted this video illustrating its unique model for teaching students empathy skills and how to use design thinking to solve problems.

Project Happiness – Equipping Young People with Emotional Resilience, Self-Awareness, and Empathy

Project Happiness (PH) teaches students the skills to build emotional resilience, self-awareness, and empathy. Informed by neuroscience, positive psychology, and mindfulness, PH “teaches kids to be happy and strong from the inside” and helps adults strengthen social and emotional skills as well, said founder Randy Taran.

Early Entry Prize Winners: Project Happiness and iLead+Design

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More than 200 entries were received for the Building Vibrant Communities competition!  We’d like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who entered. Due to the overwhelming response, we are pushing back our timeline one week and will be announcing Semi-Finalists on July 24.

Video caption: A trailer for the film produced by Early Entry Prize Winner and Semi-Finalist Project Happiness. The film is part of Project Happiness' set of tools for helping young people and adults strengthen the skills of empathy, emotional resilience, and self-awareness.

Enter Before Thursday 6/26, 5pm PDT for an Extra $1000! Plus tips for creating a winning entry

You can still continue to revise your entry up until the final deadline. Entering early means you'll be eligible to win one of two early entry prizes of $1000. All entries remain eligible to win one of four $100k Activating Empathy Prizes, or one of two potential Idea Prizes.

What makes a winning entry? Top entries meet the Assessment Criteria, and they also make a compelling case for the problem they are trying to solve, and for their specific model for achieving impact.

“Take your genius and your optimism and your empathy and go change the world” : Bill and Melinda Gates on the Power of Empathy

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Last weekend, Bill and Melinda Gates addressed Stanford’s graduating class, and urged them to use empathy and optimism to change the world. The couple delivered a poignant speech illustrating why innovation and optimism alone were not enough to make the world better.

Bill said, “Even in dire situations, optimism can fuel

Activating Empathy to Create Change - News Roundup

We’ll be posting the latest news from around the web on innovative empathy projects that help build vibrant communities! Check back weekly for more news and insights about putting empathy into action. 


The world’s first Empathy Museum

Ashoka Changemakers and Packard Foundation Launch an Online Competition

Building Vibrant Communities: Activating Empathy to Create Change

New online competition will award $500,000 in prizes to initiatives that activate empathy in order to strengthen communities in five California counties

"Empathy-based ethics are the essential foundation for 21st century changemaking," says Bill Drayton, the CEO and founder of Ashoka. "If we had to name a single, overarching success factor among our global network of social entrepreneurs, it would be the ability to put empathy into action."

Tumblebugs: Filling the Physical Literacy Gap in Early Childhood Education

As a gymnastics program in Nova Scotia, Tumblebugs is showing young children that exercise can be the foundation for play, fun, and most importantly, physical literacy. 

Brock Niagara Penguins: Where Disabled Youth Play and Compete Alongside Their Peers


The Brock Niagara Penguins is the only sports club of its kind in the Niagara, Ontario region that enables disabled youth and adults to come together and achieve active, healthy living. Penguins offers three programs for para-athletes: swimming, a wheelchair basketball team, and bocce ball.

Maria Umar: Women Powering Work Changemaker

Maria Umar founded Women’s Digital League (WDL), a virtual firm and pilot project in Pakistan, to train hundreds of women with the tech skills they need to gain economic empowerment.

A Women’s World: Virtual Offices and Gender Gyms

Today, social innovation is pioneering a new reality for women across the Middle East and North Africa, from Turkey to Egypt to Saudi Arabia.

Competition Launch: Women Powering Work in MENA

General Electric and Ashoka Changemakers launched an online competition today in search of innovative solutions that will advance economic opportunities for women in Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and Pakistan. Women Powering Work: Innovations for Economic Equality is calling for initiatives that enable women to achieve economic equality, strengthen their families and communities, and benefit equitably from economic growth. 

Nutrients for All: Thriving Ecosystems for Productive, Resilient Food Systems

Natural ecosystems ensure that vital nutrients flow from soils to food to people. Thriving ecosystems are the bedrock of healthy nutrient chains, the basis of all life on the planet.

So what’s the issue?

Double Win for Haiti: Human Waste into Valuable Fertilizer

SOIL is enabling communities in Haiti to transform human waste into a resource for sustainable livelihoods, agriculture, and reforestation. The organization is creating a lasting impact by seeding a new economy based on nutrients—one that a multinational corporation is now pledging to support.

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.

Have a Slavery-free Holiday: Buy Ethical Chocolate


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.

Helping Refugees Heal: Pathways to Wellness


While working as a social worker at a refugee resettlement agency, Beth Farmer saw that mental health support was a major gap in the services accessible to refugees.

“When you’re driving a client to a job interview, and they’re crying and telling you that they lived in the woods for three years, sucking water from mud, and that their newborn baby and wife were killed in front of their eyes — of course, you start to think that this person needs some extra support,” she said (in an understatement).

Even after fleeing unimaginable circumstances like terror, murder, rape, or torture, refugees face extraordinary challenges. There are about 15.4 million refugees worldwide (not including 27.5 million internally displaced people); and less than 1 percent eventually qualify for resettlement with the UN after a rigorous application process.

Refugees who do make it to the United States are immediately under pressure to quickly gain economic self-sufficiency.

Wal-MartCare – Could it Work?

Should we be celebrating the fact that Wal-Mart is considering joining the health care industry? The retail giant made big news last week when NPR learned that it was seeking partnerships with health firms for a major expansion of its in-store medical clinics. According to Wal-Mart’s request, the retail giant wants to “dramatically: 1) lower the cost of health care while maintaining or improving outcomes, and 2) expand access to high-quality health services by becoming the largest provider of primary health care services in the nation.”

Most of the commenters that weighed in for NPR’s article expressed doubts. Ann O’Malley, physician and senior health researcher at the Center for Studying Health System Change, said:

"Maybe Wal-Mart can deliver a lot of this stuff more cheaply because it is an expert at doing this with other types of widgets, but health care is not a widget and managing individual human beings is not nearly as simple as selling commercial products to consumers.”

I admit, my first reaction to the news was also skepticism. Wal-Mart’s abysmal reputation for “rolling back” employee health benefits doesn’t seem to make it a frontrunner for becoming the savior for America’s worsening health care crisis.

Tech and Design for Social Change – After the Hype

Recently, I’ve been posting about innovative gadgets (health-related devices last month and fresh water yesterday). We’re experiencing a unique and exciting cultural moment: while design and innovation once trended towards the production of sophisticated, expensive technology, innovators are now creating elegantly simple and inexpensive solutions that have the potential to make a big impact on the world’s problems.

But it’s important to remember that creating lasting social change takes more than just a gadget or technology, no matter how revolutionary. The infamous PlayPump fiasco illustrates the potential pitfalls of models that rely on a new device without seeing the bigger picture. 

Simple Gadgets for Fresh, Clean Water

Access to freshwater for agriculture, drinking, and household use will be potentially one of the greatest challenges facing the world as our population crests over 7 billion and demand increases for both drinking water and agricultural goods that need water. Add drought-causing climate change and desertification to the mix, and we may be facing a global freshwater crisis.
Innovators are looking ahead, however, and coming up with better ways to make the most of scarce resources. Here are five up-and-coming technologies—all simple and affordable—that are helping people access clean water and use it more efficiently.

Update on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (Yes, It’s Still There)

One-third of all albatross chicks die on the Midway Atoll, often as the result of being mistakenly fed plastic by their parents.

The North Pacific Gyre is commonly known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But a more accurate description might be a giant vortex of plastic soup, roughly twice the size of Texas. 
Awareness of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is widespread, but it hasn’t translated into widespread action—yet.  
Tackling the challenge is daunting, but the truth is that we CAN all do something to end plastic waste in our oceans. But first, here’s what we know so far (e.g., the scary part):
6.4 million metric tons of plastic circles the globe.

China’s Cultural Crisis – Bystander Apathy and Empathy


Last Friday, YueYue, the toddler that was run over twice in China and ignored by 18 passersby, died from her injuries. The incident was caught on closed circuit camera, and the online video of YueYue lying bleeding in a gutter while pedestrians and bikers swerved to avoid her went viral and garnered over 1.5 million views on Youku video, a popular video sharing site.  
Nationwide, newspapers and online communities have continued to discuss how such horrifying inaction might reflect a deeper cultural problem in China. While many Internet commentators have pointed to the possibility that in China, ethics have been left behind in the wake of economic development and urbanization, I think there’s more to the issue.

A New Paradigm for Biomedical Research


In the world of biomedicine, a few trailblazers are envisioning a new way for researchers to share information and accelerate the progress of curing human disease. According to Stephen Friend, Ashoka Fellow and founder of SAGE Bionetworks, academic and commercial researchers typically work in isolation. They are “hunting and gathering,” accumulating data that becomes protected intellectual property. In this competitive atmosphere, research is often duplicated, and progress that could be accelerated by cooperation is stonewalled. 
SAGE Bionetworks is working to change that. The nonprofit hopes to create a new paradigm of cooperation through an open-source commons that incentivizes information sharing and, ultimately, benefits health consumers. 

Engineering a Way for Businesses to Partner with Schools: An Interview with Lila Ibrahim

“Engineering students want to solve the world’s problems and to use engineering to do so.”
In this Ashoka Changemakers interview, Lila Ibrahim, an internationally-recognized leader in the field of engineering and business, discusses how she encourages women to become technologists, and how to build successful private-sector partnerships that strengthen science, technology, education, and math (STEM) learning in schools. 
Ibrahim is a partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), a leading venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. Before joining KPCB, Ibrahim had a diverse 18-year career with Intel Corp, where she led the startup business of Intel's Emerging Markets Product Group, as well as Intel’s Digital Village Initiative, which delivered technology projects to advance entrepreneurship, health, education, and e-governance all over the world. Ibrahim was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and was featured on the cover of ForbesWoman (2009) for her role in promoting women in technology.
During the past decade, Ibrahim has established and sustained three computer labs at the orphanage in Lebanon where her father was raised. She earned her bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University, where she continues to guest lecture. 

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