The game of building a shared future

Something happens to me whenever I play a game, and this happens to all of us when we play. A sport practice, the one taking place in neighborhood fields, moves us, touches us. The reason is simple: it is inevitable to learn about myself and about my relationship with others, and be able to make something possible by starting from a "we”. Shall we go to the field? Let's go!

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.

365 Donations, 365 Blog Posts, and a Year Reaping the Joy of Giving

For each and every day this year, Betty Londergan has strived to “let love loose in the world.”  By the end of December 2010, Londergan will have identified 365 worthy charitable organizations, written about them on her blog, What Gives 365, and sent each of those organizations a personal check for US $100.

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

Google's Gift

by Keith Hammonds, director of Ashoka’s News & Knowledge

In this season of holiday cheer, we’re very cheered to report that Google Inc. has given Ashoka $1 million to support our News & Knowledge Entrepreneurs program.

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.

Sustain-A-Raisers: Applying a Barn Raising Approach to Community Sustainability Projects

by Kristie Wang, Ashoka Changemakers

When Joshua Arnold was preparing to lead his community group, Global Awareness Local Action (G.A.L.A.), in restoring a grange hall to create a community space for Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, he learned about barn raising, an event in which an entire community gathers to help build one household’s barn. “I had heard about it before—it’s always been in my cultural memory—but as I read more, I really became fascinated by how barn raising built a way of life centered on reciprocity,” Arnold said.

I Jumo. Should you?

by Evagelia Tavoulareas, Media Mobilizer at Ashoka Changemakers

In keeping with yesterday’s discussion around "wired for good" technologies, I wanted to take a look at the new kid on the block: Jumo.

Mark Zuckerberg: The New Face of The Giving Pledge

by Evagelia Tavoulareas, Media Mobilizer at Ashoka Changemakers

This past summer, Warren Buffett announced the launch of a long-term charitable project: The Giving Pledge.

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 Secret to Finding Jobs in a Harsh Economy

by Kristie Wang, Ashoka Changemakers

[After completing the Making Connections Louisville program, Shavelle Gordon (left) found a job in housekeeping at Norton Healthcare and support from Norton manager Michelle Williams (right). Gordon has since become a nursing assistant and is studying to be a nurse.]

A community movement that serves four of Louisville, Kentucky's most distressed inner-city neighborhoods has been extraordinarily successful in linking its members to lasting employment despite the harsh economic downturn. How does The Making Connections Network—known as the Network—do it?

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.

Everybody Deserves a Roof, Don't You Think?

by Lisa Germinsky,

This week Tonic is working with innovative nonprofit EDAR to help get a roof over at least 10 homeless Los Angeleans. Sound like a worthy cause? It's easy to help.

An eye-opening approach to preventable blindness

by Betty Londergan, What Gives 365?

Ashoka is the granddaddy of all associations of social entrepreneurs, working since 1981 to support men and women around the world who have developed system-changing solutions for the world’s most urgent social  problems. Instead of trying to explain all Ashoka does, over the next few weeks I’m going to feature Ashoka Fellows, Changemakers, Young Champions and Youth Venture folks who demonstrate the breadth & depth of Ashoka’s vision. Today, it’s Youth Venture activist Sheel Tyle.

The blessing lies close to the wound

"The blessing lies close to the wound."

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.

A 21st Century Social Movement: Using Cell Phones to End Street Harassment


Emily May, the Executive Director of Hollaback! believes that we all have the right to feel safe, confident and sexy, without being subjected to street harassment.   Using mobile technology, Hollaback! allows girls and women to report harassment and assault safely with their phones, publicly sharing stories of street harassment and photos of their harassers on the website.   May predicts that instant online reporting will become a new model of activism in the 21st century, creating movements to address a wide variety of social challenges.

This is the face of redemption

by Betty Londergan, What Gives 365?

Somaly Mam is so triumphantly beautiful, it’s difficult to think of her as a victim, or anyone’s slave. But she was both – sold into sexual slavery at the tender age of 12, raped, tortured and prostituted until she finally escaped and was able to build a new life for herself. But she vowed never to forget those left behind in the brothels, and Somaly made it her life’s mission to rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate trafficked girls and give them a new chance at life.

DC Central Kitchen talks turkey this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Donations

DC Central Kitchen is talkin’ turkey this week. Over 10‚000 pounds of donated turkeys‚ pies‚ and sides‚ to be exact.

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.)

Register Now for the Ashoka Twin Cities Solutions Forum: The Business of Social Innovation

You’re invited to an inspiring evening of learning, sharing and creative thinking around new solutions to advance lasting social change!

The first-ever Ashoka Twin Cities Solutions Forum will bring together leading social entrepreneurs and proven business innovators from the Twin Cities to explore how business principles can be applied to solve social problems. The evening will feature nationally renowned social entrepreneurs and Ashoka Fellows, Andy Lipkis and Jill Vialet. The interview will be hosted by media personality and entrepreneur, Rick Kupchella.

The event is FREE and will be held at the Walker Art Center on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010 at 7 p.m. with a reception to follow.

Click here to register!

Ashoka Solutions Forum
Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
Forum begins at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30)
Walker Arts Center, McGuire Theater
Reception begins at 8:15 p.m. in the Skyline Room

The event is co-sponsored by InCommons and The Knight Foundation.
This forum is the debut event of the new Ashoka Twin Cities chapter. Space is limited.

Watch the Ashoka Twin Cities story:

President Obama honoring the winners of the G20 SME Finance Challenge

"When it comes to creating jobs and opportunity, often times it's the small and medium sized enterprises that make all the difference in people's lives. And one of the biggest challenges for such companies is to make sure they receive the financing that they need. We look forward to — as a consequence of this award — seeing more and more creative mechanisms to finance worthy enterprises. And many of the lessons that are going to be learned from these projects are ones that hopefully can be expanded to a whole host of countries for years to come."

The G-20 has just committed more than one-half billion dollars to support the winners of the G-20 SME Finance Challenge. President Barack Obama, Korean President Lee Myung-bak, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulated the winners in person and announced this stupendous funding commitment at the closing of the G-20 Seoul Summit. Of course, the winners of the G-20 SME Finance Challenge were present at the G-20 Seoul Summit, too.


[South Korean President Lee Myung-bak (C), U.S. President Barak Obama (third from L) and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (third from R) pose with SME Finance Challenge Award people’s choice winners Scott Gilmore, Peace Dividend Trust executive director (L); Sylvia Beate Wisniwski, European Fund for Southeast Europe executive director (second from L); Obama, Myung-bak, and Harper; SME Finance Challenge Award people’s choice winner Onno Schellekens, Medical Credit Fund co-founder (second from right), and Bill Carter, Ashoka's diamond leader for Africa - at the closing of the G-20 Seoul Summit on Nov. 12.]

Women & Tractors: A love story

by Betty Londergan, What Gives 365?

[What worked for women in WWII, works for women in Ghana today.]

It was an earth-shaking moment. Leticia Brenyah was helping rural women in her Ashanti Ghana village to improve their lives with classes in personal hygiene, money management, and healthcare when it suddenly occurred to her that what they really needed was a break. These women were farmers, like 60% of Ghanaians, and like most smallholder farmers, they spent hours in the fields plowing, planting, weeding and harvesting by hand, using tons of harmful chemicals, exhausting themselves and the soils.

Ashoka Live: Interviews with Fellows Molly Barker, Kristin Hayden & Vishal Talreja

Watch live streaming video from ashoka at Changemakers! Join us today between 12:30-1 PM (EST) for a series of interviews with three Ashoka Fellows: Molly Barker, Kristin Hayden, and Vishal Talreja. Molly is building a new women’s liberation movement that breaks the cultural stereotypes and barriers preventing girls and young women from living healthy, authentic lives. Kristin wants more young Americans to understand and experience the cultures that are most relevant to our country’s future. She is reaching out to help disadvantaged American youth become the next generation of global leaders with a new worldview. Vishal, a former investment banker and venture capitalist, has built a network of volunteers that offer vulnerable children opportunities to increase their chances for normal childhood development.

Going Beyond "Do No Harm": Conversations on Patient Empowerment

by Evagelia Tavoulareas, Media Mobilizer at Ashoka Changemakers

From CNN’s Empowered Patient series, to TEDMED, there seems to be a growing conversation around patient empowerment and innovation in the healthcare industry.

Think Big, Shop Small on "Small Business Saturday"

by Josie Raymond,

It's that time of year again, but American Express has a new approach to holiday shopping. Support the little guys in your community on Saturday, Nov. 27 and everyone will have something to celebrate this season.

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":

Competition Pumps Funds into a Novel Growth Industry

by Robynn Sturm,

Last week, at a ceremony in Seoul, President Obama congratulated the winners of a competition that may not have caught the world’s attention like the Nobel Prizes or World Series but just might change the world. The G20 SME Finance Challenge, launched by G20 leaders in June at the group’s Toronto summit, invited individuals and organizations to submit novel approaches to helping small and medium-sized enterprises(SMEs) blossom into businesses that are engines of growth and job creation. The competition—which promised financial commitments from an array of international donors to help the winners scale up their ideas—drew 350 inspiring entries from more than 20 countries. The 14 winners selected from that pool will now share more than a half a billion dollars from the United States, Canada, the Republic of Korea, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Multilateral Investment Fund.

One of the biggest challenges that SMEs face is access to the financing they need to thrive and grow. To tackle this challenge, the G20 deployed an innovative approach that used the G20 reach and convening power to find the best solutions around the globe.  Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and run by Ashoka Changemakers, the G20 SME Finance Challenge called on private financial institutions, private investors and companies, socially responsible investors, foundations, and civil society organizations worldwide to identify the best models of using public interventions to catalyze the deployment of private finance on a sustainable and scalable basis.

One winning model, submitted by the Entrepreneurial Finance Lab, was a low-cost screening tool  lenders can use to evaluate the risk of a potential SME loan without requiring the traditional evidence for creditworthiness that all too many entrepreneurs—especially women—lack.  Another winning entry, submitted by the Capital Tool Company, also targeted the challenge of SME risk evaluation: through a web-based network, the winning model aggregates suppliers’ knowledge of their SME clients—for example,  whether they have a history of paying their bills on time—to create risk ratings that can be shared with potential lenders. 

The winning submission from MFX Solutions focused on eliminating currency risk for international SME lenders by adopting a proven currency-hedging strategy pioneered in the microfinance industry.  And the Peace Dividend Trust submitted an innovative loan guarantee model aimed at empowering local SMEs to bid for donor procurement contracts in post-conflict or post-disaster economies.  You can learn more about these winning ideas and many more on the Challenge website.

The winning ideas will be scaled through a new global SME Financing Facility launched in Seoul by President Obama in partnership with Canada, the Republic of Korea, and the multilateral development banks.  The SME Financing Facility will be structured to accept funding from an array of different sources and to distribute funding in the form best suited to the winning proposals.  In some cases that may be grants for technical assistance or capacity building; in others it may be risk sharing or first-loss capital, mezzanine capital, or investment capital. To date, $528 million has been committed to the framework.

Scaling the winning solutions through the SME Finance Innovation Fund is just the most immediate of the many benefits that are expected to emerge from this novel Challenge.  Through the Challenge, the G20 has cultivated a rich community of innovative minds committed to the goal of developing creative SME finance models as the Executive Director of Ashoka Changemakers, Charlie Brown, said at Promoting Innovation, a summit on prizes and challenges hosted earlier this year by the White House and the Case Foundation, “the power of competition is not only to source new ideas, but to create partnerships and collaboration in some of the most unlikely and seemingly impossible situations.”

In other words, although this contest has ended, the innovation has just begun.

Changewatch: The Demand Economy; The truth about executing great ideas; Social media for social good

Today, our Changewatchers are buzzing about ...

How to locate deep pools of demand in a shrinking marketplace.

The secret truth about executing great ideas.

A replicable framework to use social media for social good.

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."

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity - TEDxYSE

[This 2006 TEDTalk by Sir Ken Robinson was was streamed at today's TEDxYSE conference -- what a perfect complement. My reaction to it: Robinson doesn't just hit the nail on the head, but drives it through the wall. - John Converse Townsend]

Aleta Margolis on the Evolution of Success

Here are two fantastic quotes from Aleta Margolis, Ashoka Fellow and founder of Center for Inspiring Teaching, from her TEDxYSE talk....

Reporting LIVE from TEDxYSE!

Foreign Aid: Should it be a "DIY" Project?

by Evagelia Tavoulareas, Media Mobilizer at Ashoka Changemakers

Recently, a debate has emerged about "Do-It-Yourself" initiatives for foreign aid.

G-20 Looks to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises for Economic Revival in Developing Countries

by Harold Rosen, Grassroots Business Fund (G20 SME Finance Challenge Finalist)

The G-20’s 19 member countries, plus the European Union comprise 85 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and roughly two-thirds of the global population. Decisions made by this powerful body can help restore global economic growth and steer the future course for economic development worldwide. 

During this week’s G-20 Summit in Seoul, South Korea, leaders are turning their attention to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as the economic vehicle of choice. Long shown to be engines for economic development, SMEs have the potential going forward to serve as catalysts for countries at various stages of development. Why then, have SMEs been largely underserved by traditional financial institutions? 

Changewatch: $500M SME Framework, Why piracy is good for innovation, a Bicycle Empowerment Network

Today, our Changewatchers are buzzing about ...

A $528 million framework to support the businesses of the poor and near poor in developing countries.

  • New Global Framework to Fund Innovative SME Finance Models [U.S. Embassy]

How notorious markets and pirate services can be viewed as engines for innovation. 

  • Why Piracy Is Good For Innovation [Hypebot]

An organization bringing communities to life by turning shipping containers into bike shops, and bikes into ambulances.


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,

Video: Ashoka-Western Union Executive in Residence Program – Class of 2010

We are thrilled to share with you all the Ashoka-Western Union Executive in Residence video!

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