Blogs

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.

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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.

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[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 livestream.com 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, Tonic.com

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 ViewChange.org Grand Prize Winning Film: Kakenya

Link TV, with support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, officially launched ViewChange.org yesterday evening. ViewChange.org 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, WhiteHouse.gov


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, BettyConfidential.com.

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!

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.

Changewatch: Monopolizing the poor; War and development; The Thin Mint Paradox

Today, our Changewatchers are buzzing about ...

The destructive microfinance competition between government and MFIs.

  • India's Microfinance Crisis is a Battle to Monopolize the Poor [HBR]

Whether or not economic growth and development should be paired with military missions.

How the increasing number of for-profit arms of businesses are leading to "mission distraction."

Changewatch: Outsourcing leads to opportunity at BOP; More social impact from foundations; Life without lights

Today, our Changewatchers are buzzing about ...

How the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry leads to opportunities at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP).

  • BPO opportunities as part of the poverty alleviation toolkit? [Beyond Profit]

A largely untapped source of capital that can play a critical role in devleoping the social finance marketplace.

Peter DiCampo's photo essay: A glimpse of life in rural Africa without electricity.

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Proudly Presenting: The Winners of the G-20 SME Finance Challenge

Our judges have selected the winners of the G-20 SME Finance Challenge from a pool of 345 entries worldwide. These are 14 of the world's brighest and most innovative solutions to unlocking financing for small- and medium-size enterprises:

Winners of G20 SME Finance Challenge TBA tomorrow: Will you influence the global economy?

 

The social entrepreneurs' winning entries in this global competition -- held by Ashoka Changemakers, the Group of 20, and the Rockefeller Foundation -- will have best demonstrated leverage, scalability, social and economic impact, and sustainability. Their selected proposals will continue to tackle a wide range of pressing social issues with innovative finance structures and transformative, system changing missions. With funding from the G-20, international development banks, and interested bilateral donors, winners will not only address challenges in various markets, but across multiple regions.

Snag-free hybrid model: Do well, do good

By John Converse Townsend, Media Mobilizer at Ashoka Changemakers

 

One of this week’s most-shared stories was Stephanie Strom’s “Hybrid Model for Nonprofits Hits Snags”. The New York Times article described several prominent examples of the hybrid model of social enterprise: the marriage between for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Making the hybrid model work is tougher than one might think, as Strom explains:

"[T]he hybrid model for nonprofits is proving problematic. On occasion, the need to generate returns for investors overwhelms the social mission. In other cases, business falters altogether and cannot support the nonprofit."

Fight Digital with Digital to Help End Cyberbullying

By Katie Leavitt, Tonic.com

Unless you've been living in a blissful state of medialessness, you've probably heard quite a bit about suicide, bullying and digital abuse lately. Sadly, many of the great assets of the cyberworld –– like quick and easy mass communication –– can turn ugly when used with malicious intent. That's why various campaigns are developing across the Internet, to help affected youth understand that they are not alone and that life doesn't have to be this way.

Cultural Tunnel Vision: Africa is more than meets the eye

By John Converse Townsend, Media Mobilizer at Ashoka Changemakers

 

This is not Africa.

Changewatch: The neglected key to development; A case for SME financing; Mobile healthcare in Africa

Today, our Changewatchers are buzzing about ...

How legalizing land rights increases income, improves social security, and enhances opportunity.

Reasons the capital needed to drive economic growth in Africa is being invested in the wrong asset class.

The story of an innovative mobile phone-based project helping to improve healthcare in Africa.

  • Africa is saving lives by turning mobile phones into hospitals [Telegraph]

Monday chat with development moghul Vineet Rai

 

Ashoka Fellow Vineet Rai will be taking your questions this coming Monday today at 3:30PM EST!

You're Invited! A Knowledge Management Impact Challenge Event

Online competitions -- like those run by Ashoka Changemakers -- are gaining popularity and becoming a go-to knowledge management tool. (They are also becoming more popular in the academic sphere, where universities like MIT now host global innovation and entrepreneurship challenges.)

But how do we define and achieve success? Perhaps more importantly for continued investment, how do we measure and demonstrate their impact? What can online competitions contribute to improve development effectiveness?

"My name is Chetna Sinha. I am a changemaker."

Today at noon, we took our first dip into an Ashoka Fellow interview series. We had a 30-minute conversation with women's empowerment devotee Chetna Sinha. (For background on Chetna, click here.) Through passionate storytelling, she shared tales of impact and change for impoverished women in Maharashtra, India.

All aboard the Changemakers choo-choo at ASU

Ashoka recently named Arizona State University an Ashoka U/Changemaker Campus, making it the ninth institution selected for setting the standard for excellence in social entrepreneurship education. This is a group of institutions committed to providing students with the tools they need to make an impact and pursue what they believe in. The photo above depicts the light rail train in Phoenix, outfitted with banners that promote ASU as Changemaker Campus.

Join Us Wednesday For A Live Chat With Chetna Sinha

Ashoka Fellow and award-winning innovator Chetna Gala Sinha will be taking your questions this Wednesday at 12:00 PM EST.
 

Chetna has dedicated her life to pioneering services that have led to economic empowerment and financial inclusion for rural women in the drought-affected areas of Western Maharashtra.

Got a problem? Throw money at it! Better yet, don’t.

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, the world's richest man, doesn’t believe in charity.

Now before you call him heartless, selfish, or The Grinch, know that he has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to his own charities and to joint-venture projects with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Last month, at the Forbes CEO Conference in Sydney, Australia, Slim made it clear he wants to be more than just “a Santa Clause.” And that others should do more as well:

Changewatch: Water Facts, Innovations, and Action

Today our Changewatchers are buzzing about water ... It is Blog Action Day, after all.

Why the water crisis matters? The health and economic impacts are staggering.

Six innovative design systems that improve access to sanitation for communities.

  • Top 6 Life-Saving Designs for Clean Drinking Water [Inhabitat]

6KM of action for water and sanitation!

Sekou Andrews on the story of your health, your wealth, and you

By Evagelia Tavoulareas, Media Mobilizer at Ashoka Changemakers

Imagine you're a medical practitioner at a conference on healthcare and patient empowerment. You can probably expect the usual events and sessions that will be in store for the duration of the conference - you've even brought a notepad. Then something different and wonderful happens. A thin, dynamic figure with movie star looks takes to the stage and stands at the microphone. The rapid-fire wisdoms he bestows is so impassioned, it could level trees. Meet Sekou Andrews, who is known to riff on the connection between one's wellness with one's financial portfolio:

“If it’s easier to enjoy your health when your wealth has busted, than it is to enjoy your wealth when your health has ruptured … then health at its most fundamental definition … IS wealth.”

Respecting diversity to promote health

By Hylton Sarcinelli Luz

The modern world’s most pressing public health problems do not come from global disease or illness. Lethal epidemics, such as avian flue or hemorrhagic fever caused by Ebola virus, or chronic sicknesses that develop as populations increase their life expectancy are not the only threats to our well-being.

And the winners of the Strong Communities competition are ...

... three of the most groundbreaking social innovations and solutions for community change!

Sustainable Jersey
Sustainable Jersey is a LEEDS-style certification program for municipalities in New Jersey that want to go green, save money, and sustain their quality of life. It provides tools, training and financial incentives to support and reward communities as they pursue sustainability programs.

Sustain-A-Raisers

Small Businesses Around the World: Shared Challenges, Shared Solutions

 

[This Changemakers article is Part Two of a three-part series focused on SME investment opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa, also featured on Social Edge and Africa.com.]

For all the envy that the world’s wealthy economies may inspire, the businesses that are key drivers of those economies have a lot more in common with their intrepid developing world counterparts than one might guess on first glance.

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