Blogs

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.

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?


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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


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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?


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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?


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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 MSNBC.com. 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! 

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