Blogs

Coke adds life? Yes.

Editor's note: This post was written by Alison Craiglow Hockenberry, contributing editor at Ashoka Changemakers®.

As advertising slogans go, “Coke adds life” is among the most potent and memorable. Simon Berry wants to make it also true.

The visionary behind ColaLife, Berry uses Coca-Cola’s unparalleled distribution channels to deliver preventive medicines to the most remote places on the planet and save lives.

Photo of the Day: Dec. 9, 2011

Riders for Health courier, Piero Sakala (center), delivers blood samples sourced from rural health centers to a medical lab in Zambia's Chadiza district. After testing, the results are transported back to clinics along the country's southeastern border, enabling medical staff to more effectively diagnose diseases (including HIV and tuberculosis) and treat patients.

Making More Health for More People — and Making it Look Easy

Editor's note: This post was written by Alison Craiglow Hockenberry, contributing editor at Ashoka Changemakers®, and originally featured on the Huffington Post.

If you ask Vera Cordeiro, good health is within reach for everyone, even the poorest of the poor. But this requires radical rethinking of what health care is.

Health is not merely the absence of illness. If a patient is released from a hospital into a situation that includes stress, poor nutrition, inadequate shelter and sanitation, he or she is likely to get sick again and again, putting pressure on the family's meager resources, deepening the poverty and increasing the suffering.

"I saw this vicious cycle: hospitalization, rehospitalization, many times," said Cordeiro of her early years as a pediatrician. "And I knew we needed to do something."

Have a Slavery-free Holiday: Buy Ethical Chocolate


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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.

Winners of Making More Health Competition Announced!

The Changemakers global community has chosen the winners of the Making More Health competition, part of a three-year global initiative led by Ashoka Changemakers and Boehringer Ingelheim to identify and support innovations from around the world that transform the field of health to sustainably increase individual, family, and community well-being.

The public voted to select three top health solutions from a field of finalists. The finalists were chosen by a panel of expert judges out of more than 470 entries received from 82 countries.

The winning solutions are:

Three Tips for Social Entrepreneurs: Balancing Work with the Holidays


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Editor's note: This post was written by Kate Petty, writer and editor at Ashoka Changemakers.

There’s nothing like the holiday season: Attending parties with friends, spending quality time with extended family, preparing 500 personalized letters to ask your donor list to make a year-end pledge to your social venture…

If that last item didn’t seem out of place to you, keep reading. For too many social entrepreneurs, the holidays are just another time of the year when you work hard for a great idea to save the world.

But taking time to vacation, spend time with family, and generally unplug is vital. Just ask the Mayo Clinic, which cautions on its web site against working long, stressful hours without a break: “When you’re tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly may suffer — which could take a toll on your professional reputation or lead to dangerous or costly mistakes.” 

Save the Date: December 12


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Early Entry Deadline & #SocEntChat about Innovations for Health: Solutions that Cross Borders

Do you have an opinion about what health care models might work in more than one country? Are you interested in what kinds of health care challenges are shared by communities around the world? Join Ashoka Changemakers on December 12, 2011, for a global #SocEntChat about Innovations for Health.

Join @changemakers from 2 to 4 p.m. EST to participate in a Twitter-based discussion with innovators, social entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts about health care solutions that have the potential to be applied in other countries in order to improve health and health care. This is your chance to make your voice heard or to ask experts in the field your most burning questions.

December 12 is also the Early Entry Deadline for Innovations for Health! Enter by 5 p.m. EST and you could win one of two US $500 cash prizes, plus the unique opportunity for a private consulting session with industry experts. The sooner you enter, the more likely your entry will gain visibility from this community of experts, enthusiasts, media partners, and investors. Submitting your solution early allows you to interact with other innovators, answer questions, and improve your odds of winning.

Visit the competition page to enter or nominate a solution today!

Photo of the Day: Dec. 2, 2011

A citizen journalist interviews a woman for a story in Chhattisgarh, a primarily rural state in Central India. Photo courtesy of CGNet Swara: Voice Portal For Community Media In India.

An Army of Giant Rats Unearths Peace in Africa


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It takes a true visionary to see a Buddhist monk deploying a pack of giant rats as the solution to the devastating danger posed by landmines.

Every few hours, another person is killed or maimed by a landmine. Even in areas removed from active conflict, landmines are more than just distressing reminders of former bloodshed — they’re hidden hazards that terrorize populations and freeze development.

Identifying, unearthing, and disarming these explosives is dangerous and daunting. Despite record clearances, more countries deployed anti-personnel mines last year than in any year since 2004.

 

"Everywhere I went to apply for funding, we were just laughed at. Institutions were actually very reluctant toward such an approach.
The reason (for my perseverance) why was clear, obvious. 

I dreamt of a better world . . ."


Helping Refugees Heal: Pathways to Wellness


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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.

Holiday Shopping for Good: Spend Cash. Make Change.

Discover the best online destinations for wide smiles and big impact with our holiday shopping and feasting guide, compiled by our editors just in time for Cyber Monday.

Nov. 28: Join Innovators from Around the Globe for a Multilingual #SocEntChat About Making More Health

On November 28, 2011, Ashoka Changemakers® will host a multilingual #SocEntChat about Making More Health through innovations that are sustainably increasing the health of people around the world. Join @changemakers from 3 to 5 p.m. EST to participate in a Twitter-based discussion with innovators, social entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts on the next generation of health solutions. This chat will be multilingual, with simultaneous facilitation in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Want to brush up on the latest innovative health models ahead of time? Check out the finalists of the Making More Health competition. Then join the #SocEntChat to share your thoughts and ask leading innovators your most burning questions!

11 Ideas Changing the Way We Communicate

There is only one day left to vote for your favorite innovators in citizen media. We've made it as easy as pie (pumpkin pie!) to learn more about the 11 finalists — Storify lays out a quick description and a one-minute video about each media solution.

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.

Making More Health


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Editor's note: This post was written by Alison Craiglow Hockenberry, contributing editor at Ashoka Changemakers®, and originally featured on the Huffington Post.

When you're sick, you see the doctor. When you get a medical test it goes to the lab. When you need medicine, you go to the pharmacy. Or not.

In many places in both the developing and developed world, these basic healthcare steps --  getting from point A to point B -- often don't work. And all the healthcare overhaul in the world is not going to matter much if patients can't connect with the services and products they need to stay healthy.

"We have developed the most miraculous tools for dealing with the health of humankind," according to Nils Daulaire, director of the Office of Global Health Affairs for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "But the best tools in the world don't make a bit of difference if they don't get out to where they're needed."

Fortunately, some of the most innovative ideas now emerging are tackling these very basic problems. In southern Africa, for example, Riders for Health is addressing what it calls "the tyranny of distance," by putting healthcare workers -- more than 300 of them -- on dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles in seven countries so they can navigate Africa's remote and rugged roads, travel further, reach more isolated villages, and spend longer with their communities. Riders for Health also ensures timely delivery of diagnostic samples and test results for patients with HIV, TB, and other diseases that require close monitoring and treatment.

Understanding the Meaning of Aboriginal Literacy

Victoria Grant, a member of the Ashoka Team and the Changemakers Initiative “Inspiring Approaches to First Nations, Metis and Inuit Learning,” attended the Aboriginal Literacy Symposium in Winnipeg on November 1 and 2 at the invitation of Bruce Lawson, Executive Director of The Counseling Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counseling. She found it an amazing opportunity to meet, interact with, and learn and share with people engaged with Aboriginal literacy.

Ovide Mercredi, a former national chief and the opening speaker at the Aboriginal Literacy Symposium, challenged his audience with this question: What does Aboriginal literacy mean? He spoke deliberately, and his thoughts, which were well organized and researched, were the perfect introduction for the symposium that followed.

Questions that I kept in mind were: Is literacy about understanding what binds us together? Is literacy about participating fully as a good human being with the potential to take care of one’s own needs? Is literacy about the individual spirit to achieve? Is Aboriginal literacy about all of the above, as well as being proficient in one’s own language?

Calling All Social Innovators: McKinsey is Looking for Inspiration

UPDATE: The deadline for video submissions has been extended to midnight on November 20.

What inspires you? If it’s a unique social innovation with a big impact, McKinsey wants you to share it.

McKinsey is asking you to submit one-minute videos before November 18 of your favorite innovations, for a collection of video shorts that showcase solutions to pressing social issues, from new models for water and sanitation, to health and community well-being.

Videos submissions may also highlight what drives your social good organization.

A selection committee will choose ten finalists, to be voted on by McKinsey’s global community beginning on November 23. Winners will be announced on December 5.

The best videos will be showcased on the McKinsey website; the video producers will be honored with exclusive interviews in McKinsey on Society, featured prominently on The Huffington Post, and will be invited to a networking reception in New York City in early 2012.

Shoot your short video quickly! The project entry deadline is in ten days.

Nation’s Most Innovative STEM Solutions Honored in “Partnering for Excellence” Competition

Eight winners have been selected from the Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education competition, a search for the most innovative ways to inspire STEM-rich learning in our nation’s classrooms (particularly in high-need communities) by connecting students with STEM professionals.

The competition was hosted by Ashoka Changemakers, with support from Carnegie Corporation of New York and The Opportunity Equation. Winners were selected by a combination of open voting on the Changemakers.com website, the recommendations of competition partners, and a rigorous assessment by a distinguished panel of judges including Dr. Bruce Alberts, Tim Brown, Michele Cahill, Caroline Kennedy, Dr. Ioannis Miaoulis, and Dr. Robert Moses.

Let’s meet the winners!

On Nov. 22, Be a Part of a #SocEntChat about the Next Generation of Health Models

Join Ashoka Changemakers® on November 22, 2011 for an Asia #SocEntChat about Making More Health. From 1 p.m – 3 p.m. IST (Indian Standard Time, or 2:30-4:30am EDT), join us from anywhere in the world to participate in a Twitter-based discussion with innovators, social entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts about solutions that will transform health for individuals, families, and communities around the world.

Have you checked out the finalists of the Making More Health competition yet? Do you have an issue to raise about the next generation of health models? This is your chance to share your thoughts and ask leading innovators your most burning questions.

JOIN US! @Changemakers is hosting a #SOCENTCHAT on #CITIZENMEDIA for their Asia Community!


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THIS THURSDAY November 17th from 2:30am – 4:30am EST (1pm - 3pm IST) the #socentchat focuses on citizen media in the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Far East.

Our citizen media colleagues from Asia get their chance to be heard! So… innovators, citizen journalists, online activists, content-creators, communicators, online media gurus, and lovers of all things technology:  If you are in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, or the Far East and have been unable to join previous #socentchats because of time differences – this is your chance.

This chat will build on the previous conversations about the status and future of citizen media. In previous #socentchats, we discussed the general state of affairs, challenges, and success stories. This week, we want to a explore timely and exciting topic: the relationship between citizen media and mainstream media – especially in areas impacted by protests and crisis.

Introducing Innovations for Health: Solutions that Cross Borders

Editor's note: This post was written by Deborah H. Bae, Program Officer at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and originally featured on the Pioneering Ideas blog.

At RWJF, we’re focused on solving the most intractable health and health care challenges in the United States, but we recognize that innovations come from all over the world and that many effective health solutions are emerging with the potential for immediate adaptation, replication and impact. That’s largely because, despite their differences, many countries throughout the world face a surprisingly similar set of health care challenges.

In today’s interconnected world, we have an important opportunity to learn from each other – especially when a new idea has the potential to make a difference in a big way. For example, the New York Times recently released a special section, “Small Fixes,” which focused on low-cost health care innovations to improve global health. The small fixes ranged from simple, self-adjusting eyeglasses for those who don’t have access to optometrists to the sophisticated, Gates-funded “postage stamp” paper to detect liver disease nearly instantaneously—the samples don’t have to be sent to a laboratory to be processed.

Occupy Rooftops and Start a Solar Revolution

Are you a part of the rooftop revolution? It’s never been easier, explains Ashoka Fellow Billy Parish. (Video after the jump.) He is the co-founder of Solar Mosaic, a marketplace that simplifies the clean energy movement by helping communities create and fund their own solar projects.

Join Parish in celebrating Community Solar Day in your neighborhood on November 20.

Occupy a rooftop near your home as a first step into a future where solar investments can create green jobs and local prosperity. Or find a building you’d like to see powered by solar energy and gather a community solar team to make sure your dream becomes a reality.

The Power of People and the Necessity for Choice

Molly Katchpole has become an Internet sensation—and a real people’s champion. Katchpole is the 22-year-old who led the charge against Bank of America, which capitulated to a public campaign against a planned monthly $5 fee on debit card transactions, in an about-face on September 29.

“I heard the news about the fee and was like, ‘That is it. I'm sick of this,” Katchpole said. She is a recent college graduate who lives paycheck-to-paycheck in Washington, D.C.

“On the one hand, [Bank of America] is running a business, but on the other hand, it is people’s money they are working with, and some people don't have a lot of money. It's not like they are just selling toothbrushes—it goes much deeper than that."

Katchpole petitioned Bank of America’s president and CEO Brian T. Moynihan to reverse the $5 fee decision. On October 1, Katchpole’s online petition on Change.org had attracted 100 signatures; by the 30th, it had more than 300,000.

The Bank waved the white flag on November 1, surrendering to people power and stating that it will not implement a debit usage fee.

Okay, America, I didn’t know you felt so strongly.

Vote for your favorite finalist in Citizen Media: A Global Innovation Competition, supported by Google

Eleven finalists have been chosen for Citizen Media: A Global Innovation Competition, supported by Google. The competition had a strong turnout of 426 entries from 75 countries, with more than 100 entries submitted in languages other than English.

The finalists represent the most promising innovations for boosting media access and participation around the world. They were selected by Citizen Media’s panel of expert judges, which included Michael Maness, vice president at the Knight Foundation; Esther Wojcicki, vice chair at Creative Commons; and Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas. Now, your vote will determine the four winners of the competition.

Anyone can vote by logging-in to changemakers.com/citizenmedia/vote and learning about the entries. You can also browse the Citizen Media Toolkit, where the work of the finalists and other top entries will be showcased. Or, you can hear directly from the innovators on video.

The top 11 finalists are:

Making More Health: Finalists Announced!

More than 470 entries from all over the world, containing solutions to transform the field of health, have been submitted to the Making More Health: Achieving Individual, Family and Community Well-being competition.

Now, your vote will determine the three competition winners. Thirteen top finalists have been selected by the competition’s panel of expert judges.

Visit the Making More Health competition web site throughout November to read more about the finalists and cast your vote! You can also use our handy Facebook app. Three winners will each receive a prize of US $10,000.

The finalists showed an astounding range of innovative strategies to improve health, from improving slum sanitation and strengthening supply chains for reliable drugs, to fast-tracking HIV and TB diagnoses. They represent solutions that will sustainably increase the well-being of individuals, families, and communities and will go beyond, or improve upon, established health systems.

The Making More Health finalists are:

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.

TEDMED 2011 is Over — What Now?


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Editor's note: This post was written by Kate Petty, writer and editor at Ashoka Changemakers.
 
Exoskeletons, prosthetic eyes, and an open-heart surgery tool controlled by an iPhone: Last week’s TEDMED 2011 conference delivered its trademark glimpse into the future of technology, medicine, and ideas.  
 
Some of those technologies were so futuristic they felt like science fiction. The exoskeleton, demonstrated by a paraplegic man who walked across the stage, can be pulled on and worn like pair of pants. The artificial eyes are prosthetic retinas that require no surgery and have already given some sight back to blind lab rats.
 
And the iPhone-controlled tool for open heart surgery? It’s a robotic lever for opening a patient’s chest cavity. The model currently used, best described as a “hand crank,” often causes collateral damage; the iPhone model operates smoothly to avoid tissue damage. (Dr. Chuck Pell, the tool’s designer, told ABC that Apple discourages the use of iPhones in surgical equipment; the final prototype will probably have a more precise control). 
 
These are just a few of the amazing advances in science and medicine on display last week. Reading coverage of the conference in the news and on Twitter (talks are available only to attendees until videos are posted online in the following months) is enough to get anyone excited about the possibilities. 

Better Dividends: A G-20 story that’s good news

Editor's note: This post was written by Alison Craiglow Hockenberry, contributing editor at Ashoka Changemakers®.

As the G-20 summit meeting gets underway and mainstream media coverage inevitably focuses on the economic woes of the developed world, we’re going to focus on some good news. We want to celebrate the members of the Changemakers community who took center stage at last year’s G-20 summit to show the world how to build strong economies through the support and financing of local, small businesses.

Winners of the G-20 SME Finance Challenge, which prompted the G-20 to invest more than $500 million in their projects and others like them, are demonstrating that in a global economy run amok, the investments that do well are likely to be the ones that also do good.

Check out this brilliant video from one of the winners, Peace Dividend Trust, which is revolutionizing the way international aid works by investing on the ground: “What's Wrong with Aid? It's not Local.”

SAVE THE DATE! Join @Changemakers for a #SOCENTCHAT on #CITIZENMEDIA!


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Attention citizen journalists, online activists, content-creators, communicators, media gurus, and lovers of all things tech! 
 
Next Wednesday, Nov. 9 will be a big day for the Changemakers community, for two reasons:
1. CITIZEN MEDIA FINALISTS. Finalists of the Google-supported citizen media competition will be announced, and voting will open to the public.
 
2. #SOCENTCHAT ON CITIZEN MEDIA. From 3 to 5 p.m. (EST), Ashoka Changemakers will host a Twitter chat to discuss the citizen media landscape!  
 
This chat will build on previous conversations we have had about the state and future of citizen media. In previous #socentchats, we discussed the general state of affairs, challenges, and success stories. Next week, we want to explore a topic that struck a chord with many of you in past #socentchats: the relationship between citizen media and mainstream media
 
Join Changemakers, Google, competition finalists, innovators, and experts in the field, to explore the quickly-shifting relationship between citizen and mainstream media. 

Bill Drayton in Spain: huge recognition in times of change

In October of this year, Ashoka founder Bill Drayton travelled to Spain to accept the 2011 Prince of Asturias Prize in International Cooperation, a great honor for Ashoka; the prize is the Nobel Prize equivalent for Spanish-speaking countries.   
 
Drayton joins the ranks of previous winners such as Nelson Mandela, Al Gore, and Ignacio “Lula” da Silva in accepting an award for “the person, institution, group of persons or institutions whose work have contributed in both an exemplary and relevant way to mutual understanding, progress, or fellowship among peoples.” 
 
“I am deeply touched,” Drayton said. “I know it is a recognition of the extraordinary social entrepreneurs in Spain and across the world, many of whom are friends and colleagues.”
 
In addition to attending the official award ceremony hosted by the Prince of Asturias Foundation and presided over by Spain’s Prince Felipe, his wife, and Queen Sofia, Drayton took the opportunity to visit social entrepreneurs in Spain in order to get to know their work and express his gratitude to them. 

Solutions in Health Crossing Borders

Editor's note: This post was written by Chloe Feinberg, Health Specialist for Knowledge and Learning at Ashoka Changemakers.
 
It’s time to look at health challenges through a new lens. In the Ashoka Changemakers Innovations for Health: Solutions that Cross Borders competition, we are looking for solutions that work in your region — and that will work in other countries, too. 
 
No two countries, beneficiary groups, or innovative models are exactly alike. But we are seeing the lines blur between health challenges faced in both developed and developing countries, and in rural and urban areas. 
 
Throughout the world, pressure on national health systems is increasing as populations grow, people live longer, and individuals moving into the middle class have more money to pay for health care. At the same time, the burden of diseases is spreading globally. 

Water Privatization: Villainy or Necessity?



The 2008 James Bond film Quantum of Solace introduced a different kind of villain to popular audiences: Dominic Greene, the ruthless capitalist with a sinister scheme to take control of Bolivia’s water supply and, under private contract, provide that precious resource to the public—at double the rate.

Greene is an invention of Hollywood, but the new economy of water privatization is a legitimate issue with real risks and complexities. Nearly one billion people lack access to safe potable water. 
 
Bolivia—the real-life version—serves as a prime example. In 1999, the Bolivian government privatized the water system of its third-largest city, Cochabamba, under pressure from the World Bank, which declared it would not renew a $25 million economic assistance loan unless major structural adjustments were made to the country’s water services. 
 
The government conceded the city’s water supply to a multinational consortium, Aguas del Tunari, which hiked rates almost immediately. Some Cochabamba residents saw increases as high as 100 percent, as Aguas del Tunari looked to finance a new dam project and pay the debt accumulated by SEMAPA, the state agency that had been managing the city’s water works.
 
Things got heated, and the outrage ultimately boiled over into protests that shut down the city. It wasn’t until after both military intervention and the declaration of martial law failed to restore order that the Bolivian government cancelled the private contract. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of citizen revolts about water privatization.

Innovating Together for Equity in First Nations, Métis and Inuit learning

Editor's note: This post was written by Elisha Muskat, Executive Director, Ashoka Canada.

Ashoka Canada and Ashoka Changemakers invite you to share your ideas or projects that support First Nations, Métis and Inuit learners to succeed, by submitting them to the Inspiring Approaches to First Nations, Métis and Inuit Learning initiative.

We hope to support your ideas for strengthening the success of First Nations, Métis and Inuit learners. We also hope that participating in the initiative will inspire new ideas and spark potential partnerships that will boost or help launch your project. 
 
This is Changemakers’ first initiative focused on supporting social change in Canada. We’re looking for all kinds of ideas, but to jumpstart your imagination about the kind of innovative social change that is possible, check out these Ashoka Fellows in Canada and their incredible work making a difference in the field. 

I Spy Occupy


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Editor's note: This post was written by Alison Craiglow Hockenberry, contributing editor at Ashoka Changemakers®, and originally featured on the Huffington Post.
 
The threat level in the United States has been raised to yellow, but this time it's not the Department of Homeland Security raising the alarm. It's a private initiative that is monitoring the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations on behalf of corporations -- called The Occupy Movement Corporate Threat Advisory.
 
A fusion of public relations vigilance, the latest search technology, and a dose of old-fashioned paranoia, the advisory is the creation of a private social media monitoring company called ListenLogic, that counts Fortune 500 companies and banks among its clients. According to its Occupy Threat Center, the company's "Social Listening Intelligence Center (SLIC) is actively following Occupy in open social media and has issued a threat advisory to large U.S. corporations. The Threat Center is a comprehensive resource for up-to-date information on the movement."
 
SLIC. Now that's slick.

China’s Cultural Crisis – Bystander Apathy and Empathy


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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.

Just for GRINS: An Interview with Gram Vaani’s Zahir Koradia


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A large proportion of mobile phone users in India prefer voice communication to SMS or written interactions. Why? Because literacy rates affect how users interact with mobile quite a bit. 
 
Clearly, if you’re illiterate—and more than 450 million people in India are—SMS offers little value. Community development institutions and social enterprises in the Indian subcontinent are turning to voiced-based technologies to connect users to their world.
 
One such example is Gram Vaani’s flagship automation system, GRINS, an entrant in the Changemakers Citizen Media competition, supported by Google. Gram Vaani is a participatory media organization that has built a nationwide network of community radio stations, proudly broadcasting on FM frequencies; telephony applications allowing the social sector to better engage with the public; and a voice-based rural news serviced powered by the mobile phone.
 
GRINS helps Gram Vaani realize its mission to develop solutions that give people a greater say in community matters by facilitating engagement between everyday citizens and established institutions like the government and development organizations. 
 
Changemakers recently spoke with Zahir Koradia, Gram Vaani’s lead developer, to find out why the venture has been so successful—even landing a $200,000 grant from the Knight Foundation in 2008. (Hint: Gram Vaani is more than a single, popular mobile app or affordable tech feature—it is an entire network of action, information and accessibility to communication services.)

Your Solution May Be The Key To Improving Health Care Around The World

Countries around the world are facing a common crisis: the lack of accessible and affordable health care. 
 
Nations everywhere are facing severe challenges, including fragmented health care ecosystems, high costs, inconsistent quality of care, inefficient systems, and barriers to access. These surprisingly similar obstacles to accessible and affordable health care exist across borders – and so should their solutions.  
 
To catalyze these solutions, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio is partnering with Ashoka Changemakers to launch a new competition: Innovations for Health: Solutions that Cross Borders.

Voice of Chhattisgarh: A CGNet Swara Origin Story


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The citizen media movement is built on one key premise: Everyone deserves to be heard. 
 
However, freedom of expression is often limited by a lack of access to the press; too often, expression is a right exercised only by those in power. No money? No voice.
 
But thanks to a free voice-based portal accessible by even the simplest mobile phones, even those citizens living on just a few dollars each day can report and discuss the top news stories in their region. The project democratizes media by enabling marginalized communities to manage their own content.
 
This is particularly important in areas of rural India where, in many cases, half of the population is illiterate, offline, isolated, and at the mercy of the mainstream media’s top-down power — and spin.

An Artsy Fartsy Mom Gets All Techy: Why I Embrace Science and Math

Editor's note: This post was written by Alison Craiglow Hockenberry, contributing editor at Ashoka Changemakers®, and originally featured on the Huffington Post.

All parents want a bright future for their kids. Which is why this history major, French-poetry minor, writer mom wants her kids to ditch the artsy, literary track I once held as the height of achievement and make stuff. Invent, design, discover, and build actual things.
 
This surprising revelation is rooted in my vague understanding that the fields that are growing in this country are in science, technology, engineering, and math -- the STEM fields. And our country needs STEM experts to thrive. And, unlike the field of writing, there's money and stability in STEM careers.
 
I have been talking, mostly seriously, about wanting my kids to make stuff for a while, but suddenly I've got a child who is old enough to begin making decisions about her future -- and the future she sees for herself is in STEM. So I, like our whole country, need a serious attitude adjustment.

A New Paradigm for Biomedical Research


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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. 

Is Plagiarism a Necessary Evil of Citizen Media?


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Editor's note: This post was written by Kate Petty, writer and editor at Ashoka Changemakers
 
Citizen media platforms are solving problems that mainstream media can’t. These platforms do a better job than traditional models of giving everyone a voice in and access to relevant news — by definition, they empower anyone to participate. 
 
Yet there’s one, seemingly-intractable problem that mainstream and citizen media share: Plagiarism. And while plagiarism in mainstream outlets is usually blamed on “one bad apple,” the openness and inclusiveness of some citizen media projects has led to allegations that they’re turning a blind eye to plagiarism — or even encouraging it. 

Good News in Rwanda: Strong Strides in Maternal Health

Just 17 years ago, civil war in Rwanda culminated in a horrific 100-day genocide that killed between 800,000 and 1,000,000 citizens. Today, however, the country is making notable strides towards the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals, and against all odds has doubled the life expectancy of its citizens. Despite the scars left by decades of violence, Rwanda’s story is changing into one of hope and pragmatic determination at the local and national level.
 
Through an ambitious set of health reforms, the country is saving the lives of children and mothers. The backbone of Rwanda’s newly-decentralized health system is its vast network of over 45,000 local community health workers. Each village elects three members to serve as trained community health workers — one each for maternal health, child health, and community health. 
 
Because 85 percent of Rwanda’s people live in rural agrarian areas, more than an hour’s walk from the nearest health center, the presence of local health workers is vital, particularly for pregnant women.

Vote for Top 10 CNN Hero Elena Durón Miranda

Ashoka Fellow and ChangemakeHERS rep Elena Durón Miranda is opening a world of opportunity for young people in the city of Bariloche, Argentina. After witnessing children in the local garbage dump looking for food and buried market items, Durón founded the social enterprise Fundación PETISOS so that disadvantaged Argentine youth, often victims of child labor practices, could lead more meaningful lives. Her foundation offers a means out of poverty and exploitation through counseling, after-school programs, and education, which is “how we start to break vicious cycles to give children a better future.” 
 
Durón has been recognized as a top 10 CNN Hero for her efforts and successes championing children. Visit the CNN Heroes page to vote for Durón, the only social entrepreneur representing Latin America. Vote early and often — voting ends December 7, 2011. 

International Day of Rural Women


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Every October 15, the United Nations celebrates the International Day of Rural Women. Rural women make up nearly half of the world’s farmers, and in some countries represent over 60 percent of the agricultural labor force. When you consider that the world’s population is set to double by 2050, the importance of rural women for food security around the globe comes into sharp focus. 
 
Rural women are also arguably the backbone of many societies in the developing world. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, “across the developing world, rural women carry the main responsibility for providing the food, water, and fuel needed by their families. And the quality of the care that mothers give to their children and other household members influences the prospects for healthy and productive lives for all.”
 
By celebrating rural women, we recognize their invaluable role, as well as the need to address the obstacles that they continue to face. While men may have access to land, education, financing, and technology, women seldom have these same opportunities. 

The New Minimalism: Five Low-Cost Health Gadgets Express Genius in Simplicity

Around the world, innovators are going back to basics. Since September, The New York Times has been running an ongoing segment, “Small Fixes,” featuring low-cost health solutions that have a big impact. 

The simple solutions include using vinegar to assist in removing pre-cancerous cervical lesions and folding a sari cloth four times to create a filter that reduces 99 percent of cholera in water.
 
The innovations featured in the NYT are remarkable in their simplicity, affordability, and cleverness. (The NYT did, however, include LifeStraw in its featured solutions, which has been under fire for the past year for its controversial incorporation of carbon credits to offset its steep production costs.)
 
With the simplest of solutions often proving to be the most effective (a la Occam’s razor), we at Changemakers have become fascinated with the new wave of low-cost health gadgets, which could dramatically reverse health care’s trend towards the more complex and expensive. Here are five more emerging health innovations — elegantly simple and affordable — to look for on the horizon. We think they’re pretty nifty, and hope you will, too.

A Convention for the Unconventional

Editor's note: This post was written by Kate Petty, writer and editor at Ashoka Changemakers
 
Social entrepreneurs are nothing if not unconventional: To break new ground in social change, you’ve got to step off the beaten path. It’s a word that describes Sushmita Ghosh, founder and chair of Ashoka Changemakers, who pioneered the revolutionary concept of open and transparent problem-solving in the social sector, using a website that attracts funders and innovators from around the world. 
 
So it’s appropriate that Ghosh will be a panelist at Unconvention 2011, an annual conference in India which bills itself as “the largest networking and knowledge sharing platform for the Innovation and Social entrepreneurship ecosystem;” i.e., it’s a convention for the unconventional, the innovative, and the brave.   

Join Our Next #SocEntChat on October 18: Innovations in STEM Education

It’s an exciting time in the Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in Science + Technology + Engineering + Math (STEM) Education competition, hosted in collaboration with Carnegie Foundation of New York and The Opportunity Equation. Solving the world’s most pressing challenges requires innovations in STEM education because these disciplines are at the very center of our quest to improve our lives and the condition of our world. The 24 innovations that were chosen from 265 total entries are now eligible for cash prizes and rewards, and it’s up to you to pick a People’s Choice winner from the ten competition finalists.  

Visit the competition site or use our slick Facebook app to vote for your favorite innovation that boosts STEM-rich learning in schools by 5 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, October 26, 2011. The entry receiving the most votes will receive The People’s Choice Award and a $20,000 prize, sponsored by the Noyce Foundation, in addition to our competition partners. Additionally, a panel of experts will grant Judges’ Awards, worth $30,000 apiece, to two of the top ten finalists.

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