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.

The Future of Citizen Journalism: A Conversation with Brian Conley, Director/Co-Founder of Small World News

The revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa have captured the attention of the world, and have inspired citizens everywhere to speak out against injustice. Yet many of these movements have felt the wrath of the regimes they are speaking out against – through violence, arrests, and massive censorship. 

In such environments, how can the media capture the stories unfolding on the ground?  
More and more recently, we are seeing mainstream media look to citizen media and citizen journalists to accurately capture the story.

Keeping Up With the Greens: I’m making a difference. Why aren’t you?


Just about everyone and everything is green these days. And it’s not enough to quietly turn over a new leaf; you’ve got to trumpet your transformation. 
In the United States, ballparks and sports stadiums are being celebrated for using environmentally-friendly materials and new, efficient technologies. In India, banks are publicly announcing the launch of green initiatives like paper-free banking, e-statements, and “green offices.” 
In Japan, building-top windmills actually have electric motors to keep them spinning when the wind stops (because they would look silly sitting idle). And yes, these windmills actually cost energy, but hey, they look great!
“The message is clear: Helping the planet is nice, but being seen helping the planet is really nice,” said Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of the book Freakonomics and host of the WNYC podcast of the same name. “So, here's a question for you: How much value do people place on being seen leaning green?”

How I Will Remember Steve Jobs

The news of Steve Jobs’ death spread like wildfire -- accompanied by tributes to his life -- by the very technologies he introduced to the world.
There are countless stories and tributes circulating about this brilliant man. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Fair Trade Revolution: How Solidarium Can Transform Our World


Tiago Dalvi is an Ashoka changemaker who is using his sharp business acumen to help improve the lives of thousands in his home country of Brazil by connecting local producers with established global retailers like Walmart, JCPenney, Whole Foods, and Target.

Dalvi is the spirit behind the award-winning Brazilian social venture and certified fair trade organization Solidarium: Transforme O Seu Mundo and one of the five winning entrepreneurs in the recent Powering Economic Opportunity competition, organized by eBay Foundation and The Opportunity Project. 
Unlike traditional fair trade models that tap into already-established, often grassroots-level fair trade networks, Dalvi connects producers directly with the world’s retailing giants.

The Tiziano Project Takes Home Award at 2011 Online Journalism Banquet

A quick shout-out to The Tiziano Project, an entrant in the Citizen Media competition, for winning the Community Collaboration award at the 2011 Online Journalism Awards Banquet for their work promoting collaborative journalism in Iraq.
The project provides community members with the equipment, new media training, and global connections needed to cover and share underreported — and otherwise undocumented — stories of injustice in their lives.

Cast Your Vote for Innovations in Science + Technology + Engineering + Math (STEM) Education

Voting has opened for the Partnering for Excellence competition! After careful deliberation, 10 top finalists have been chosen from 265 entries, representing the most innovative and scalable solutions for STEM education that best exemplify the goals of the competition. 

These cutting-edge initiatives and projects are boosting STEM-rich learning in schools by building partnerships that connect schools with STEM talent and re-envisioning how to engage students in STEM subjects. They will help students analyze today’s problems, imagine tomorrow’s solutions, and translate innovative ideas into action.
Check out the 10 finalists and vote for your favorite entry by visiting the competition site. (Or use our handy Facebook app!) Your vote will help determine the People’s Choice Winner, who will receive a cash prize of US $20,000.

Changemakers Judge Sanjana Hattotuwa: 'Citizen Media is Vital for the Global Population to Move Forward in the 21st Century'

The Ashoka Changemakers Citizen Media competition (sponsored by Google) has attracted the attention and support of leaders in the citizen media space. One of the competition judges, Sanjana Hattotuwa, has dedicated himself to the complex (and often risky) field of citizen media in war-torn Sri Lanka. 

Now the founding editor of Groundviews, an award-winning web based citizen journalism platform, Sanjana took a moment to speak with us about his work pioneering efforts to leverage web based media to strengthen democracy, human rights, and a just peace.

Time for Innovation in Job Creation

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

We hear a lot these days about innovation and job creation. But when people talk about innovation and jobs, they're usually talking about innovations that may produce jobs -- as opposed to innovations in the way we increase employment.

Why not innovation in job creation?

Texas: Doing Something Right

Transforming inmates into entrepreneurs in Texas — and saving millions of tax dollars

Texas has been the center of a swirl of controversy lately in two very different arenas: the state’s enthusiastic embrace of the death penalty, and Republican frontrunner Rick Perry’s touted track record of job creation. Perry’s history of job creation has come under fire from numerous critics, as well as a new study revealing that Texas’s poverty levels rank the second highest in the nation.

But deep in the heart of Texas, there’s a promising light for real job creation — and for bringing positive change to the criminal justice system.

Visualizing Data at Tech@State

Editor's note: Evagelia Tavoulareas, Changemakers media mobilizer, was at the most recent Tech@State event which featured some rather remarkable data visualization techniques. Find her rundown of how they can be used to enhance diplomacy, development and foreign affairs after the jump.

What Happened to the Magic of Science?

via Blind Owl Underground

There has been much talk about jobs recently — green jobs, tech jobs, more jobs, and even Steve Jobs. With more than 200 million people unemployed worldwide, and another 1.5 billion under- or informally-employed, such a focus on economic growth is both necessary and expected.
In this respect, the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative (which took place last week) delivered. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: Generating Employment for the 21st Century was the headlining meeting topic for this annual convention of former heads of state, Nobel Prize laureates, CEOs, philanthropists, and frighteningly smart can-do-gooders.
These leaders spoke about game-changing innovations for building social and economic value (to enable global growth while still preserving our sustainability as one people on one planet), but it wasn’t all cheers, champagne, and confetti.
Andrew N. Liveris, chairman and CEO of The Dow Chemical Company, explained that while many of the world’s innovations give us great hope, there is one thing that could keep us from meeting our social, economic, and environmental goals:

Health Innovations in Asia: Making More Health With Less

A team of emergency medical responders at Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI). EMRI's state-of-the-art call response centers are able to dispatch over 2600 free ambulances across multiple states in India to respond to medical, police and fire emergencies. via

Skyrocketing health care costs are a global problem, but creative entrepreneurs in South and Southeast Asia are figuring out how to do better with less. Changemakers worked with its network partner, The Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI), to spotlight four promising strategies that innovators in this region are using to tackle high out-of-pocket costs and simultaneously ramp up the delivery of quality health care. 

These cutting-edge, cost-saving health solutions are homegrown, within ecosystems of limited resources. Leveraging both technology and creative business models, they are proving once again the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention. 

Watch: Nuru Design Uses Solar Lighting to Empower Communities in India and East Africa

Nuru Energy is a job creator. And a planet saver. And an education booster. A winner in the Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World That Works online competition, co-hosted by eBay Foundation and Changemakers, it’s a brilliant, self-sustaining model that turns the unemployed into entrepreneurs: they own and operate pedal-powered recharging stations for the simple, inexpensive, beautifully designed Nuru Lights that are providing a source of light for thousands of people in India and Africa – lights that can be used, among many other things, for students to study by at night. Watch how they do it.

Mobile Microfranchising Answers the Call to Power Economic Opportunity in Indonesia

Ashoka Changemakers, eBay Foundation, and The Opportunity Project recently announced the five winners of the Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World That Works competition, each of which will receive US $50,000. The winners included the Grameen Foundation’s initiative: Mobile Microfranchising in Indonesia.
What does mobile microfranchising mean? And what does it offer to disadvantaged populations in Indonesia?

Supporting the Free Press

Photo from a Citizens for Democracy letter signing campaign in Pakistan, covered by Global Voices blogger, Sana Saleem
Is journalism getting better or worse in the new media landscape? And what does that mean for democracy? During the Arab Spring earlier this year, new media seemed to not only generate unusually multi-faceted news coverage, but also play a role catalyzing the revolutions themselves.
Still, reactions to the state of news today continue to fluctuate between anxiety and elation. On the one hand, the digital age blesses us with access to more information than ever. On the other, the ability of the news infrastructure to serve the public interest seems to be threatened on all sides. 
The free press has been long recognized as the life-blood of democracy; informed citizens are necessary for a just and functioning democratic state. But commercial networks are influenced (some would say enslaved) by market interests, and public media is vulnerable to political meddling and funding cuts. The new media is generative, iterative, disruptive, democratizing, and fragmenting all at once. 
What’s the average American citizen to do? Where do we put our focus, energy, and money? How do we ensure that we get both the information we want and the information we need to be smart citizens? 

Can Social Entrepreneurship Rebuild Afghanistan?

via isafmedia

Peace and nation-building efforts in Afghanistan are falling far short of expectations. Former U.S. top commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s “government in a box” approach to counterinsurgency was intended to build up local governments, repair damaged infrastructure, establish police stations, and create self-sufficient marketplace economies. 

But this one-size-fits-all strategy has been criticized for not consulting the Afghan people sufficiently, leaving a disconnect between the pressing demands of war-torn people and the operational orders of foreign soldiers — not to mention a gap between expectations and reality. 
The goal of “winning the hearts and minds” — the battle for human terrain that is the social aspect of war — has also failed in Afghanistan due to ideological shortcomings, suggested Bing West, author and former assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan Administration, in Newsweek

Now for Some Good News About Jobs

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

You wouldn't know it from the headlines, but people are getting hired, household incomes are rising, and Americans are pulling themselves and their families out of poverty.

It's happening in Minnesota: An innovative career development program for the chronically-unemployed, called Twin Cities RISE! (TCR!), gets state funding only if and when a participant is hired for a skilled job (at living wage, with benefits) and stays for at least a year. The model motivates TCR! to adequately train and prepare these future employees for success and holds the organization accountable.
What's in it for the state? A significant return on investment -- an estimated $7.24 for every dollar put in -- when these people stop receiving subsidized housing, health care and food stamps, and start paying taxes.

Speaking Truth to Terror

One of Ashoka’s ChangemakeHERS honorees, Carie Lemack, reached new heights again this week when her Oscar-nominated film, Killing In The Name, premiered on HBO. The film, a production of the Global Survivors Network (GSN), tackles the taboo subject of terrorism through the journey of Ashraf, a victim of the 2005 bombing of a wedding celebration in Jordan — his wedding.

eBay Foundation Awards $250,000 to the Five “Powering Economic Opportunity” Winners

After six months of evaluation, and a rigorous review by a panel of expert international judges, Ashoka Changemakers is pleased to announce the five winners of the Powering Economic Opportunity competition. 
The competition, co-hosted by eBay Foundation and The Opportunity Project, caught the attention of social innovators around the world, and sourced a record-breaking number of solutions — nearly 900 — from 83 countries. All these solutions aim to create economic opportunities and to engage the untapped potential of disadvantaged populations.
“I am inspired to see the breadth of innovative solutions that are creating economic opportunity for the world’s most vulnerable people,” said Diana Wells, president of Ashoka. “We are delighted to have received a record-breaking number of entries, and are honored to support the pattern-changing work of these winning innovators.” 
The winners will each receive a cash prize of US $50,000 from eBay to invest to scale-up their ideas.

“Telling a Story is a Form of Activism”: Interview with Naveen Naqvi

Changemakers recently sat down with Naveen Naqvi, co-founder and executive director of Gawaahi, to discuss her work in Pakistan’s turbulent and often violent environment, where she uses citizen media as a tool for political engagement and raising public awareness. 
Gawaahi, which means “witnessing” in Urdu, is a Pakistan-based citizen-sector organization that produces digital stories of survival and resistance. Through its online platform, Gawaahi shares stories about women's human rights, child sex abuse, unfair labor practices, and religious persecution. 
With a background in journalism, Naqvi was previously the senior anchor and morning news presenter at DawnNews, Pakistan's first English-language channel. Before that, she was a producer for NBC News and online contributor for Naqvi is serving as an expert commentator for the Citizen Media competition.

For Afghan Women, DOSTI is a Path Toward Peace and Prosperity

Photo via BpeaceHQ

In the heart of war-torn Afghanistan, a woman named Mursal focuses her energy on the task directly in front of her. She works from home—a space that is not only safer, but also more practical for the female head of a household—and spends much of her day, like most days in the year, stretching, drying, and cutting synthetic leather into panels before hand-stitching the pieces together. 

The finished product is a club-quality soccer ball, silk-screened with a dove pattern in the colors of the Afghan flag; the phrase “Made by Afghan women” rests proudly across its face. 
It doesn’t seem like much, but this soccer ball has become a powerful symbol for Afghan women, and a way out of illiteracy, poverty, and violence.

What is the Internet, Anyway?

It's easy to take technology for granted. I've compiled a few vintage videos to remind us of just how far we've come!

Join our next Asia-focused #SocEntChat about “Making More Health” on September 13

Did you try and stay up for our #SocEntchat on September 8 and just didn’t make it? Not to worry because on Tuesday, September 13, 2011, Ashoka Changemakers®, in collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim, is organizing a #SocEntChat for Asia and other Eastern Hemisphere participants. You are invited to join entrepreneurs, innovators, and enthusiasts from around the world to discuss challenges related to the health sector, as well as innovative and sustainable solutions that increase individual, family, and community well-being.
Participate in this #SocEntChat on Twitter between 1 and 3 p.m. IST (Indian Standard Time) to share your innovative ideas and solutions that address the collaboration and ingenuity needed to Make More Health.

Statelessness and the Trouble with Invisibility

Photo via
Where are you from? 
I usually answer that question with, “Well, it’s kind of a long story.” I’m not particularly special, but the truth is I don’t know—not really. 
I was born in Mexico City and raised in New Delhi by a Panamanian mother and an American father, and while I’m a dual citizen, I don’t wholly consider Mexico or the United States home. The government, on the other hand, has its managerial mind made up, plainly expressed on my driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, and other forms of official identification. 
My personal uncertainty doesn’t cause any angst, nor is it a problem in public life. However, the same can’t be said for the 12 to 15 million stateless persons around the world. 
The invisible people aren’t recognized as nationals by any country or government, and consequently denied fundamental rights that the vast majority of earth’s citizens take for granted.

The Anti-bullying Movement: Where do we go from here?

Across the United States and around the world, the anti-bullying movement has become a rallying force. From celebrities telling gay teens that “It Gets Better” to the world-wide attention paid to a bullying incident in Australia captured on video, the problem of bullying in schools has garnered heightened media attention and is being tackled with increasingly stronger laws by communities.  

There are anti-bullying laws of varying strength in at least 40 states. Last week, New Jersey enacted the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, the nation’s toughest anti-bullying state law yet; it received both cheers and criticism. The law includes a requirement that teachers and administrators report incidents of bullying to the police, and has raised questions about who should be held accountable for protecting students. It has also sparked debate around the potential implications of criminalizing bullying, as well as how schools are going to pay for anti-bullying programs, given already-slashed budgets and overworked teachers.
But schools and communities agree on the critical nature of the problem. Studies have shown that bullying leads to increased incidence of mental health issues later in life and lower achievement levels, especially for minority students. In fact, according to a Harvard Medical School study, verbal abuse — even without physical abuse — acts like a neurotoxin, having serious effects on brain development, most markedly in students in their middle school years.

Save the Date for a Twitter Chat on September 12th on #CitizenMedia

Save the date! 

On Monday, September 12, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. (EDT) Ashoka Changemakers will be hosting a Twitter chat to discuss issues pertaining to citizen media. 
Join the early-entry winners of the Google-supported Citizen Media competition, along with entrepreneurs, innovators and enthusiasts from around the world. We'll discuss best practices, challenges and trends in the future of information-sharing. 
It’s your chance to share your thoughts, ideas, challenges and perspectives about this quickly developing field! 

Who's Driving our Data?

In 1960, architect and preservationist James Marston Fitch declared in The New York Times: “The automobile has not merely taken over the street, it has dissolved the living tissue of the city. Its appetite for space is absolutely insatiable; moving and parked, it devours urban land, leaving buildings as mere islands of habitable space in a sea of dangerous and ugly traffic.”

Fitch’s criticism — addressed to motor-obsessed consumers almost 50 years after Henry Ford’s assembly-line manufacturing model made the automobile affordable — would have little impact today, with our undying, time-tested love for the automobile. Yet his worry applies equally to today’s hi-tech monster: the Internet, which also has origins reaching back into the 1960s
The Web is everywhere, hugging the streets of our cities and expanding across our seas and skies. It’s in the palm of everyone’s hand, and while it promises to connect the world, it might be fragmenting society like the automobile once did. 
The 2011 equivalent of James Marston Fitch is Eli Pariser, the pioneering online organizer and author of The Filter Bubble, a worrying account of how an increasingly personalized Internet may be narrowing our worldviews, damaging our personalities, and impairing democracy.

Fearless in France: The Story of Rumah Cemara's 2011 Homeless World Cup

You won’t find many World Cup soccer players who have had to rise above extreme poverty, homelessness and prolonged spells of alcoholism and drug abuse. But these are the kinds of challenges that socially marginalized players from around the world have surmounted in order to be featured in the Homeless World Cup (HWC) annual tournament. 
This year’s tournament, held from August 21 through August 28 in Paris, France, was supported by legendary Premier League manager, Arsène Wenger, and former French internationals Lilian Thuram and Emmanuelle Petit. 
Since its inception in Graz, Austria in 2003, the 48-team Homeless World Cup tournament has given some of the world’s most invisible people a grand stage to showcase their courage, perseverance and pure footballing talent in their nation’s colors. The contest also offers players the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to find societal acceptance, and affect the attitude of spectators, media, and governments toward the issue of homelessness. 

Join the Momentum for Making More Health – Participate in Our Next #SocEntChat on September 7

The response by the global health community to the Making More Health competition has been outstanding and has even broken an Ashoka Changemakers® record, receiving 186 entries by the August 17 deadline for the early entry prize. 

Be among the first to congratulate the Making More Health early entry prize winners:
Do you want to join this energy and excitement—but you don’t necessarily have a solution to submit? That’s okay! On Wednesday, September 7, 2011, Ashoka Changemakers®, in collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim, invites you to join entrepreneurs, innovators and enthusiasts from around the world to discuss challenges related to the health sector, as well as innovative and sustainable solutions that increase individual, family, and community well-being.
Participate in this multilingual (English, Spanish, and Portuguese) #SocEntChat on Twitter between 3 and 5 p.m. EDT, to share your innovative ideas and solutions that address the collaboration and ingenuity needed to Make More Health.

Mobile Gaming for Change: An Interview with Hilmi Quraishi

Photo via jackol

Recently, Changemakers reported on innovations in health, including Hilmi Quraishi’s mobile phone games that give teens points for knowing more about HIV/AIDS and prevention. Changemakers sat down with Quraishi to discuss his work founding and leading ZMQ Software Systems, which has created dozens of games and technology solutions for the social sector, including ones that raise awareness about climate change and that address the UN’s Millennium goals, such as sanitation, clean water, and children’s health. 

Citizen Media in the Age of Algorithms, Part Two

Photo via Derek DeVries

[Editor's note: This post was written by Zack Brisson, co-founder and principal at Reboot, a network partner in the Changemakers Citizen Media: A Global Innovation Competition.]

Last week, I wrote about the need to expand our definition of “citizen media.” In addition to oft-cited examples of civic media – Ushahidi, Global Voices, Twitter – other platforms have a powerful hold over how we receive civic information. 

Specifically, Google and Facebook control and manage the flow of information for billions of people worldwide. But do we understand how this information is curated and presented? 

An Honest Story: America's Path Out of Islamophobia

Photo via

“The New York Police Department is doing everything it can to make sure there’s not another 9/11 here and that more innocent New Yorkers are not killed by terrorists,” said New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne. “And we have nothing to apologize for in that regard.”

Browne’s statement came in response to the anger surrounding the recent revelations of the NYPD’s undercover operations and surveillance — and civil liberty infringements — in minority neighborhoods. 
Though the NYPD’s mission is appropriate (there is, without a doubt, great value in protecting our country from terrorist threats), some of its methods are suspect. The department’s main offense was specifically targeting Muslim neighborhoods, without evidence of wrongdoing, as part of a human mapping program which included monitoring daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes, nightclubs, and even mosques.
This wasn’t the first time Muslims have been targets of vigilant circumspection. Defense measures have tightened since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; in order to prevent another such act, the FBI has made counterterrorism the nation’s leading priority, spending well over half of its budget on field agents and a nationwide network of informants. The Pentagon has gone as far as to pose as al-Qaeda agents online, spreading “confusing and contradictory orders, some so virulent that young Muslims dabbling in jihadist philosophy, but on the fence about it, might be driven away,” according to a report published in The New York Times
The federal budget, which funds a number of (perhaps questionable) clandestine security forces, suggests that Islam is a threat to our national security and that the enemy is all around us, always threatening. My point of contention is that the terrorist threat posed by radicalized Muslim-Americans after 9/11 has been vastly exaggerated.

For Nuru, Energy Applies to Products and Microfranchises

(Above: Esperance Yanfashije who along with her husband Martin Uwayezu, run a Nuru business together. They live and work in Ruhuha Sector, Bugesera District, Eastern Province, Rwanda. Image credit: John Briggs)

[Editor's note: This post was written by Adeena Schlussel, associate at KIND Snacks, and was originally featured on Next Nuru Energy is a finalist in the Changemakers Powering Economic Opportunity: Creat a World That Works competition.]

Nuru Energy faces the same problems that many alternative energy initiatives in the developing world face: kerosene is a dangerous, polluting, expensive, and non-renewable source of energy that leaves many families in poverty, some injured, and others in the dark. Nuru Energy, however, approaches this familiar problem in its own unique way with the Nuru Light and the Power Cycle.
The Nuru Light, seed funded by the World Bank in 2008 and serving East Africa and India, is innovative in its design; each battery re-charge affords a consumer 26 hours of light, which translates into five to seven days of use.  Another of Nuru's assets is that it's designed to be incredibly versatile. Because energy is needed for all sorts of circumstances and occasions, Nuru's designers created the product so it can be work on one's forehead, perched on a flat surface, mounted on a wall or channelled though a plastic or glass bottle.
But what is an energy providing product without a dependable and continuous source of energy? The founders of Nuru Energy created the PowerCycle to address this necessity. The PowerCycle is a generator that recharges Nuru's products as the pedals are pumped. In 20 minutes, one peddler can recharge 5 lights, and with new functionality, it can re-charge cell phones as well. The PowerCycle's manual energy generation avoids the various pitfalls of weather dependant sources of energy such as sunlight and wind power.

Citizen Media in the Age of Algorithms: Part One

[Editor's note: This post was written by Zack Brisson, co-founder and principal at Reboot, a network partner in the Changemakers Citizen Media: A Global Innovation Competition.]
What is citizen media? This may seem like a silly question, given the context of the Citizen Media Global Innovation competition. But the concept is worth defining because it’s rapidly expanding.
Our media have been the fluid that connects our ideas since our earliest days as an articulate species. “Media” are any tools, mediums, or channels through which an individual or group creates and shares ideas. This is the process through which we form our conceptions of culture, power, justice, and community. 
Our media were predominantly “citizen,” or individual, during the vast arc of human culture, extending over tens of thousands of years. Constrained by existing technology, almost all media — cave paintings, storytelling, song, and dance — were local and community-driven. 

Sustainable Farming and Livelihoods Take Root

Organic and fair trade agricultural SMEs are expanding their markets despite the global economic downturn, and are getting a boost in the developing world through organizations like Root Capital. The nonprofit investment fund recently acquired a loan package of $4.9 million from the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the U.S.-based Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group. 
Root Capital will use $3 million of the funds to expand its ability to lend to sustainable coops and agricultural SMEs in Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Another $1.9 million will go towards a technical assistance initiative to help the organizations strengthen their financial skills.
As the organic cotton export industry in India has demonstrated, sustainable agriculture has the power to support sustainable livelihoods for small-scale rural farmers. Global demand, mostly from developed nations, for organic and fair-trade agricultural products has grown over the past few years, even throughout the global economic downturn. 

What is Innovation in Health and Well-Being?

Camila Batmanghelidjh at TED Salon London Nov 2010 | via
With a record number of early entries to the Making More Health competition, answering this question is going to be key for determining the winners. While new medical insights and technologies are being discovered and developed continuously, a truly innovative health project is one that uses new strategies beyond those used by traditional health systems.
Through sector research and conversations with experts from the field, the Changemakers Knowledge and Learning Team has uncovered some preliminary trends around innovation in health and well-being. Here’s a closer look with some real-life examples from the field: 

Media in a Post-Revolution Tunisia: A Conversation with Zied Mhirsi, Co-Founder of Tunisia Live

When the revolution in Tunisia started in the winter of 2010, the mainstream media wasn't even paying attention. The stories, photos, and videos from the frontlines came out because of citizen media, spread by Twitter, YouTube, and local citizen media sites like Tunisia Live
This year has been the year of citizen media. From Tunisia to London, citizen media (and its partner, social media) has captured the attention of citizens, media, and governments alike. Tunisia Live is a post-revolution citizen media initiative that connects the country with the English-speaking world. 
Just a few weeks ago, it captured the thoughts of citizens, focusing specifically on their perception of the role and value of media:

Social Media: The Jekyll & Hyde of Media?

"Everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck by how they were organized via social media . . . Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them." – British Prime Minister David Cameron

Blackberry Messenger was used as a highly-effective tool for organizing the recent riots in London and creating mass chaos, along with Facebook and Twitter.

But Twitter was also used to organize a resistance movement (#riotcleanup) that coordinated crowds of citizens from the riot-affected areas. Citizens who were outraged by the violence came together to clean up the damage. The effort was a local action that turned into a movement; with the broom as its symbol, the cleanup campaign spread across the country as quickly as the riots did, thanks to . . . social media.

I realize it is slightly ludicrous to discuss “social media” in an anthropomorphic sense. Social media is a tool used by people, and can be used in any number of ways, from organizing weeks of peaceful protests that led to the collapse of the Mubarak regime to organizing destructive riots that set fire to London for days. Yet as I watched the coverage of the events in London I couldn’t help but picture social media like this:  

Citizen Media Trends: Digital Tools in India Catalyze Participatory Citizenship and Combat Corruption

Access to media in India is accelerating in both traditional and new digital forms. Television and radio are reaching more people than ever, and unlike much of the world, print readership in India is strong and on the rise. Although universal Internet access is far from a reality — only about 5.3 percent of India’s population uses the Internet, according to the World Bank — rapid changes to the way people access news and share information are on the horizon. 
Internet access and the use of social media tools for personal expression and news-sharing is fairly strong in cities and among middle- and upper-income groups. Prominent Bollywood actors, like Aamir Khan, are contributing to the mass popularity of blogging and tweeting, and due to its sheer population size, India ranks globally as one of the highest participants in top social media sites like Facebook. 
The situation is far different in rural areas, which have extremely limited access to digital communication technology. But awareness is growing. Last year, the Internet and Mobile Association of India reported that only 16 percent of the rural population was aware of the Internet. This year, that number jumped to 69 percent. 

“Women Play a Critical Role in Family Health”

[Editor's note: This post was written by Lorena López, Argentine journalist and Ashoka Changemakers collaborator.] 

Listening to communities, respecting traditions, and motivating families to get involved in self-care:  These factors are fundamental to achieving better quality of life and health, according to María Elisa Bernal, director of the Experiences in Social Innovation project of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL). In 2010, CEPAL published a study, From Social Innovation to Public Policy: Successful stories from Latin America and the Caribbean, identifying the factors necessary to guarantee access to health care in Latin America. This interview with Bernal is based on the findings of this study, as well as her years of experience working at the regional level in the field of health.

Join us on August 23, 2011 for Ashoka Changemakers' Asia #SocEntChat on Citizen Media!

Save the date! Ashoka Changemakers® will host a #SocEntChat on Citizen Media in Asia on Tuesday, August 23, 2011, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. IST (@ Indian Standard Time). 
Join us from anywhere in the world to participate in a discussion with innovators, social entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts about the most pressing issues in Citizen Media affecting Asia today. Topics will include censorship, access to technology, crowd sourcing for social change—and more issues chosen by you. This is your chance to share your thoughts and ask leading innovators all of your most burning questions. Make your voice heard! 

Architecting Media’s Future

[Editor's note: This post was written by Keith Hammonds, director of Ashoka's News & Knowledge Program.]

One of the more intriguing exchanges I’ve been in on recently came between Jake Shapiro, founder and CEO of the Public Radio Exchange, and Stephen Friend, president of Sage Bionetworks. Both are recently elected Ashoka Fellows. Shapiro is a media guy: PRX is a web-based platform that allows the distribution, review, and licensing of radio content that’s produced by literally anyone. Friend, a medical doctor and biochemist, was previously senior vice president at Merck & Co., Inc. where he led the company’s basic cancer research effort. Among other projects at Sage, Friend has created an online space where genomic and biomedical researchers can convene, interact, share basic research, and build upon one another’s insights in an environment governed by neither academia nor industry — speeding treatments and cures.

Interfaith Means Cooperative Action for a Better World

  Amidst the tidal wave of riots that swept the United Kingdom earlier this month, stories emerged of different religious faiths working together to protect one another from violence and support the cleanup of London.

What's the best thing you'll see at SXSW 2012?

Every March, the world heads to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest (SXSW), the film, music, and interactive superfestival. And while SXSW is still a full seven months away, its smart and fervent followers are already making plenty of noise. So many promising panel proposals have already rolled in, the event organizers have asked their global community to help decide which to feature. That’s where you come in.

In 2012, Changemakers is hoping to host two interactive panels on open growth and creating brand-aligned social change. But we need your help to do it. (More information on the panels after the jump.)

Arab Spring – and the Long Winter Ahead

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

For all the debate about whether this is the year of the Twitter revolution and the Facebook riots, the much more interesting question is: What is not happening on the giant social media websites of the world?

The answer is: A lot.

Innovating Toward a Healthier World

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

When health innovation expert David Aylward is asked if the developing world can learn from the U.S. healthcare system, his answer is an emphatic yes -- "They should do the opposite!"

Aylward, senior advisor for Global Health and Technology at Ashoka, is not exactly joking. For all our sophisticated technology, medical talent, and access to medicine, we all know the U.S. health-care system needs a significant upgrade. Fundamentally, the situation is not very different from that in countries on the other end of the economic spectrum.

"For different reasons, the developed world and the developing world are ending up in the same place: with health-care systems that are inefficient and not sustainable," Aylward said.

But as it turns out, this is actually reason to celebrate. It means that countries rich and poor, rural and urban, can learn from each other to bring more health to more people everywhere.

In India, the Food Cart of the Future and a Promise of Prosperity

As the clock on your office wall wills itself past midday, you head out the door in search of lunch. “I’m starving,” you announce (and your stomach growls in agreement). The quest for food is brief; soon you’re heading back to work sated with another giant burrito or maybe a famous flatbread sandwich from that place on the corner.

This sort of afternoon adventure happens daily. In the developed world, it’s generally mission accomplished. But this isn’t the case around the world, where more than 800 million are food insecure, uncertain where (and when) they’ll have their next meal. As a result, undernourishment – which exists where caloric intake is below the minimum dietary energy requirement – is prevalent in Central and South America, in many parts of Asia, and all over Africa, particularly south of the Sahara.

With mouths to feed, people have begun to take to the streets to put food on the table; street food, both accessible and affordable, is eaten by almost two and a half billion people every day. While food carts have seen a marked increase in popularity in the United States over the past few years, they’re a longstanding, ubiquitous phenomenon and have forever been a go-to source of grub worldwide.

In Today’s Media Landscape, We Are All Witnesses

[Editor's note: This post was written by Jayanthi Daniel, Content and UX Specialist,]

The landscape of media has changed so much over the past 20 years that for even the most seasoned journalists, it’s almost unrecognizable.

Twenty years ago, how did we get our news? How did we hear about the important events of the day? How did we even know that the important events of the day were the ones that all of the world needed to know about?

For many journalists —newspapermen and women, television anchors under make-up and heavy lighting — the media world in 1990 was a small one. Anyone interested in the news read newspapers or magazines. Those without time to read during the day caught up with evening news reports on television. It was, amazingly, a golden age in television and print journalism.

Now, with the advent of online news and content, the world has drastically changed. Newspapers these days aren’t fat with advertisements; they’re conducting rounds of layoffs. Instead of a treasured evening news hour, dozens of channels devote their airtime to 24-hours of what’s now called the “news cycle.” Is there even enough news to sustain that amount of time? Some would say no, pointing to the increasingly blurred line between “news” and “entertainment."

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