Blogs

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

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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 Billion.net. 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, Africa.com.]

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."

A New Aspect to Citizen Media: In a psychiatric hospital in Buenos Aires, a surprising new crop of citizen journalists

[Editor's note: This story was written by Alyssa A. Feldmann, Summer Associate at Ashoka Changemakers.]

Citizen journalism has developed in some niches of Argentina, telling the stories that the mainstream media giants Clarín and La Nación do not publish. But these pioneers in citizen media have not been celebrated by the general public, and many of their publications remain overlooked. 

Most citizens still rely on mainstream media for their news. The Media Law passed in 2009 equally divides the number of media licenses available between non-profit, for-profit and government media associations in order to decrease the monopolies’ power. But, the monopolies continue to distract the public from those who are using their voice to unearth information that is sometimes unpopular. In the capital Buenos Aires, especially, strikes and peaceful demonstrations are still the most common way to increase greater public attention. But there is one organization working -- successfully -- to bring citizen media to the masses.

Changemakers Top 10 Summer Reads

Wilting from this summer’s record temperatures? We’ve got 10 great books to get you energized.

We asked social innovators from around the globe, including a few members of the Changemakers team, to tell us about their favorite summer reads. From poetry to memoirs to personal wisdom guides, our summer reading list is packed with insight and knowledge that is guaranteed to get you pumped to make change.

So load up your beach bags and e-readers—there isn’t a more perfect way to escape the August heat than a great book (and possibly air conditioning)!

Small Farmers Willing to Quit, Jeopardizing India’s Food Security

India’s rapidly developing urban economy and the legacy of its Green Revolution are posing an increasing threat to small farms. Yet small farms produce 41 percent of India’s foodgrains.

The nation’s ability to feed itself may suffer as a result. In fact, there is an increasing body of evidence indicating that the technologies ushered in by the Green Revolution — pesticides, chemical fertilizers, high-yield seeds — are to blame for India’s current soil crisis.

An epidemic of farmer suicides (it is estimated that one farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes in India) and rising concerns about food security are underscoring just how critical small farms truly are. Despite the Green Revolution of the 60’s, which transformed India into one of the largest agricultural producers in the world, India is still home to one-fourth of the world’s 800 million under-nourished people. Rural people make up most of the country’s poor.

Basketball Changed Their Lives; Now They’re Changing the World

Summer break is quickly winding down for many across the United States. But for a special team of almost 500 young men (mostly in their teens or 20s), vacation has just started. 

The young men I’m referring to are professional basketball players. And thanks to the NBA lockout, those athletes and their coaches are in for a break that is a little (or a lot) longer than usual.

While the NBA lockout is a bad deal for all parties involved (at least in the short term), there is one positive outcome from this mess at the local level: Many players and coaches, with extra time on their hands, have decided to use their influence and affluence to make a difference in communities at home and around the world.

Getting Real on 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 don't need more jobs.

It's true we need to "add jobs" to the economy. But more jobs is not the same as new jobs. We need new jobs.

Real job creation is about new jobs in expanding markets that provide products and services that are growing in demand. But all too often, increasing employment means propping up failing industries, supporting artificial labor markets or giving people a paycheck for making and doing things the demand side doesn't need them to do.

Angry Birds! Roller Coasters! Harry Potter! Thank You, STEM

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

From Angry Birds to roller coasters, from the Harry Potter films to viral YouTube explosions of Diet Coke and Mentos, your summer fun is made possible by science, technology, engineering, and math.

But the STEM subjects, as they're known, are in serious need of a public relations overhaul. Somehow they've gotten a bad rep among students for being "boring." And grown-ups who should know better often think of them as "uncreative." Ludicrous.

People who have studied and work in STEM subjects are responsible for much of our modern amusement, communication, health, and progress. They invent and make the stuff we love. They improve our lives. They do cool stuff. They imagine the future and build it.

Carter Emmart, for example, takes the data collected from the most sophisticated telescopes and turns it into wild visuals that make the audiences at the Hayden Planetarium's space shows feel like they are traveling through space and time. "My job is to translate the difficulty of science into understandable stories," says Emmart, who studied physics and art. His movies whoosh viewers on a breathtaking, heart-pounding journey around a scientifically accurate 3D solar system and across the Milky Way, passing uncountable numbers of stars and galaxies to the edge of time. Can you think of a kid who wouldn't want to be part of that when they grow up?

Digital Detox: Hotels encourage digital vacations

If a hotel offered you a 15 percent discount to leave your cell phone at the front desk, would you take it? This summer, some hotels are trying to help us get away from our gadget addictions by offering promotional packages and discounts that require disconnecting from our digital lives.

If you are anything like me, you have a recurring daydream about moving to a lake house with ZERO connectivity. Mobile signal? Nada. Wi-fi? Wi-who? A place where electricity is for lighting, heat, and cooking; where entertainment is relegated to live music, books, and storytelling; and where everyone I speak with is within eight feet of me. Ah, yes, simpler times.

Imagination in American Schools: Building the Foundation of Creativity and Innovation

An Interview with Scott Noppe-Brandon

It is often said that American economic competitiveness depends on our capacity to innovate. But how exactly can innovation be fostered in schools?

To answer this question, Scott Noppe-Brandon, executive director of Lincoln Center Institute and co-author of Imagination First: Unlocking the Power of Possibility, is leading a campaign prompting each of the 50 states to conduct Imagination Conversations. The Conversations are series of public panel discussions in which leaders representing a multitude of professional backgrounds discuss the role of imagination in their work and how to foster imagination in schools and communities.

Last week, after two years of Imagination Conversations across the United States, America’s Imagination Summit took place at Lincoln Center in New York. It served as both a celebration and a recapitulation of all that had been learned during two years of ideological exchanges. Featured speakers included Peter Cunningham, assistant secretary for Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education, Sir Ken Robinson, Deepak Chopra, and Tony Derose, Senior Scientist at Pixar Animation Studios.

Following the summit, Noppe-Brandon sat down with Changemakers to discuss imagination, innovation, and STEM learning.

Fixie or Four-Speed? New Bicycle is Best of Both

Jonathan Fiene knows student engagement. As a lecturer and advisor for the University of Pennsylvania's Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mathematics Program, he helps students bring their knowledge from the classroom to the real world on a daily basis.

When his students designed an innovative new bicycle, the Alpha Bike, it earned the excitement and admiration of the cycling community. In this interview, we talk with Dr. Fiene about the Alpha Bike, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, and the importance of inspiration for innovation.

“Media is complicated.” Or not.

[Editor's note: This post was written by Keith Hammonds, director of Ashoka's News & Knowledge Program.]
 
At the recent MIT | Knight Civic Media Conference, Ethan Zuckerman – brand-new director of the Center for Civic Media and co-founder of the relentlessly innovative site Global Voices – offered a pretty brilliant state-of-the-field address.  Media, he observed:

In Health Care, it’s Time for a Paradigm Shift

“Health systems in all world regions are under pressure and cannot cope if they continue to focus on diseases rather than patients,” according to the International Alliance of Patient's Organizations (IAPO). In order to achieve the benefits of effective health care, IAPO argues, policy makers, health professionals, service providers, and health-related industries have to change their focus from disease-centric to a patient health focus.

I would go one step further: To achieve this shift, innovation must be unfettered from the limitations of current mindset. Only by demonstrating what is possible outside the context of traditional methods will we be able to abandon the limitations of "treat the disease" thinking. 

The benefits of patient-centered health care are especially clear in a disease like diabetes, which causes myriad symptoms, is usually accompanied by other medical conditions, and is significantly impacted by the social realities of everyday life. Managing diabetes requires a holistic, patient-centered approach to address all of these factors.

Are you in the Eastern Hemisphere? Join us for a Powering Economic Opportunity #SocEntChat on August 3!

Save the date! Ashoka Changemakers® will host a #SocEntChat for our Asia community on Wednesday, August 3, from 1PM to 3PM IST (Indian Standard Time!). No matter where you are in the world, we hope you’ll join the semi-finalists from the Powering Economic Opportunity competition, as well as entrepreneurs, innovators and enthusiasts from around the world to discuss innovations and challenges related to market-based solutions that create economic opportunity and generate employment for disadvantaged populations.

#SocEntChat participants will have the opportunity to discuss the state of the global economy, as well as the latest market innovations around lasting economic growth in Asia.

Citizen Media: Perspectives from Thought Leaders

A big thank you to the more than 50 Twitterers who joined @Changemakers for a #SocEntChat about Citizen Media on July 14! It was one of our most lively and energetic Twitter chats to date.
 
For those of you who are interested in citizen media, and related questions about how media and technology are intersecting with our daily lives, here are a few of my favorite thought-provoking and inspiring videos on the topic:

Are You a Full Information Citizen? You Could Be.

We are thrilled to announce Citizen Media: A Global Innovation Competition, run by Ashoka Changemakers® with the support of Google. Citizen Media is an ambitious new effort to catalyze full information citizenship around the globe.

A few words on what that means: Full information citizenship is central to Ashoka’s vision of an “Everyone a Changemaker” world. All people must be able to engage freely and powerfully with information to advance their own lives and society. This is as true and as profound for remote Peruvian villagers and displaced persons in Sri Lanka as it is for Web-savvy American teens.  In a rapidly changing world, news and knowledge is the basis of action – the currency that gives one standing; reveals the horizon of what may be possible in a world where everyone is a change maker; and determines how we interact with others.

Imagining a Better World Through Technology

Imagine more than 350,000 students from 183 countries competing to solve some of the world’s most daunting problems. Imagine these 358,000 students using technology to combat disease, improve education, create disaster communication systems, empower people with disabilities, and promote environmental sustainability.
 
Now imagine 400 of these students, from 70 countries, competing at the Worldwide Finals in New York City for a six-day celebration of technology, creativity, and problem-solving. Have the image in mind? Now watch this video to see how it looked:

Revamping Skills Training to Help India’s Rural Unemployed

If India’s economic growth is going to reach those who need it most, more has to be done to connect the rural unemployed to jobs. India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, but rural workers are at risk of being left behind.

“In India, as in many developing countries, most of the growth is happening in urban areas. Rural populations are often unable to access these growth opportunities,” said Warisha Yunus, moderator at Work and Employment Community, Solution Exchange, a knowledge management initiative of the United Nations in India.

The search for employment has driven widespread rural-to-urban migration, but workers from rural areas face multiple barriers once they move.

How the Women's World Cup Initiative Will Level the Playing Field

Girls need sports. Young women who play live better; many studies suggest that increasing girls’ participation in athletics has a direct and positive effect on their education, careers, and self-confidence.

Fewer girls around the world today are restricted to the “feminine” pursuits of painting and needlework than ever before. But even while more parents, educators, and community leaders are embracing the benefits of sports, girls are still six times more likely to drop out of a sport than boys.

That figure must change. And it might change faster than we could have ever anticipated, thanks to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is working to harness the power of sports and international exchanges that empower girls around the world.

Last month, Clinton announced the launch of the Women’s World Cup Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports, a joint initiative by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues. Clinton’s official announcement kick-started the 40th anniversary celebration of Title IX, the 1972 U.S. law offering equal academic and athletic opportunity for both men and women.

Back-to-School Shopping List: Pens, Notebooks, Engineers, Chemists, Architects

In bright contrast to recent doom-and-gloom news about the state of science and math education, Google announced earlier this week the winners of its first-ever science fair. As The New York Times reported, the three winning entries proposed new ideas for solving acute medical challenges, including a new possible treatment protocol for ovarian cancer.

But the Times headline wasn’t about cancer. It was about girls.

Girls, who remain under-represented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, “swept all three age categories in the competition,” according to The New York Times. Advances in science that just a few generations ago might have gone undiscovered are now coming to light because these girls gained access to STEM subjects at the highest levels. 

A Closer Look At Ashoka's Urban Housing Challenge (With Video)

[Editor's note: This post was written by Sarah Dimson, senior manager at Ashoka's Full Economic Citizen Initiative, and originally featured on NextBillion.net.]

Today, more than half of the world's population lives in urban areas. Globally, cities act as the heartbeat of economic and social life for millions of people whose livelihoods inextricably flow from the dynamic opportunities within urban centers.  By 2050, three out of four people in the world will live in cities. And more than 90 percent of the expected urban growth will occur in the developing world, which will add an estimated 70 million new residents to urban areas each year[i]. Many cities in the developing world, as a result of market deficiencies, inadequate policies and gaps in public sector capacity, are littered with slums, slipshod infrastructure and are not able to support such intense growth.

How do we harness the power within the pulse of these cities to inspire innovative ways to keep up with urban growth and provide access to sustainable housing?

Encouraging Exploration from the Classroom to the Space Station

In addition to being the first female private space explorer, Anousheh Ansari works to enable social entrepreneurs to bring about radical change globally with organizations such as the X Prize, Ashoka, and the PARSA Community Foundation. Here she talks to Ashoka Changemakers® about how her passion for space exploration drives her work to promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.

In the fall of 2006, Ansari, a technology entrepreneur, earned a place in history as the first female private space explorer, the first astronaut of Iranian descent, and only the fourth private explorer to visit space. After completing a six-month training course in Russia and cross-training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston (including the same simulator, zero-g, and survival techniques training that astronauts receive), she joined the crew of a Soyuz mission to relieve one Russian and one NASA crew member on the International Space Station and spent eight days there before returning to Earth.

To help drive commercialization of the space industry, Ansari and her family provided title sponsorship for the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million cash award for the first non-governmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. Ansari is a member of the X Prize Foundation’s Vision Circle, as well as its board of trustees. She is a life member in the Association of Space Explorers and on the advisory board of the Teachers in Space project.


Changemakers: Some have called you one of the first “space tourists,” but that’s not quite accurate, is it? What you did was more akin to being a non-professional astronaut.

Ansari: I use the example of people who climb Mount Everest — you would never call them “Everest tourists,” because it’s not a simple, ordinary flight where you go buy a ticket and a guidebook, and then get on a plane that goes out and comes back. With the technology that exists today, it’s a rigorous task.

Are We Holding Back Tomorrow’s World Cup Stars?

Last week, in the nail-biting finale of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011, Japan captain Homare Sawa delivered a dramatic penalty kick for the winning point against the United States. Sawa, who made her debut on team Japan at the age of 15, took home the Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards and has garnered admiration for both her prowess on the pitch and her sportsmanlike manner.

Sawa is a star role model for girls who play sports. But while the women’s game drew record viewership in the United States, girls who are inspired by the excellence of Sawa and female athletes like her face real challenges: play is in peril for girls. 

Join us on July 27 for a #SocEntChat on Powering Economic Opportunity

On Wednesday, July 27, 2011, Ashoka Changemakers®, supported by eBay Foundation, invites you to join the semi-finalists from the Powering Economic Opportunity competition, as well as entrepreneurs, innovators and enthusiasts from around the world to discuss innovations and challenges related to market-based solutions that create economic opportunity and generate employment for disadvantaged populations.

Ashoka Changemakers® invites you to participate in this multilingual (English, Spanish, and Portuguese) #SocEntChat on Twitter, between 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM (EDT), to share your innovative ideas and solutions that address the collaboration and ingenuity needed to power the marketplaces of the future.

Simon Says, “Mitochondria!”: An interview with Radha Basu on democratizing science education


Jhumki working with high school students in a physics course in 2004.

This post is part of a week-long STEM Matters series. Thought-leaders, social innovators, and experts from around the country are sharing how and why science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are critical to our abilities to solve complex problems across a wide range of fields, from climate change, medicine, economic development, space exploration, to the movies!

Radha Basu is an extremely successful engineer and entrepreneur with plenty of personal experience that demonstrates the importance of STEM education. But it was the tragic loss of her daughter, New York University professor Dr. Jhumki Basu, that led Basu to become personally involved with bringing high-quality science education to underserved students through the Jhumki Basu Foundation.

The foundation is a partner and prize sponsor of the Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in Science + Technology + Engineering + Math competition, and is introducing a new framework of democratic science teaching to New York City.

We caught up with Basu to talk about the foundation’s work, and her vision for science education in the United States.

Voting for Semi-Finalists in the Powering Economic Opportunity Competition is Now Open!

Voting begins today at Changemakers.com to select the ten finalists in the Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World That Works competition, co-hosted by eBay Foundation and Ashoka Changemakers®.

Launched to find the world’s most innovative market-based solutions that create economic opportunity and generate employment for disadvantaged populations, the competition received a record 873 entries. These outstanding solutions, offering mobile innovations and new finance models to leverage crowd-sourcing and rural energy initiatives, represent 83 countries; more than 500 citizen sector organizations and 200 businesses submitted entries.

Gaming Reveals the Invisible World of Science to Students

The exploration robot in the Nintendo DS game Ruby Realm, developed by Possible Worlds to teach 7th graders photosynthesis.

This post is part of a week-long STEM Matters series. Thought-leaders, social innovators, and experts from around the country are sharing how and why science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are critical to our abilities to solve complex problems across a wide range of fields, from climate change, medicine, economic development, space exploration, to the movies!

As the Changemakers Blog discussed last week, there’s been a lot of buzz lately about the potential power of digital gaming to do more than just exercise thumbs. In a keynote speech at the Games for Change (G4C) annual conference held last month, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore spoke encouragingly about games’ potential to educate and develop critical thinking—and there were several presentations of games that support STEM education.

The potential for games to enhance STEM learning is backed up by a growing body of research, which is revealing how digital games can be particularly useful for tackling STEM learning and teaching challenges. One way to put this theory into practice is demonstrated by Possible Worlds, a research and development center funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The project is studying how games can be designed to target specific problems that middle grade students face when learning about science.

Pixar wants you to take more math classes: An interview with Tony DeRose



This post is part of a week-long STEM Matters series. Thought-leaders, social innovators, and experts from around the country are sharing how and why science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are critical to our abilities to solve complex problems across a wide range of fields, from climate change, medicine, economic development, space exploration, to the movies!

Pixar Animation Studios has given audiences a roster of unforgettable heroes: Woody and Buzz, Nemo and Marlin, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible … and Tony DeRose.

He may not be a household name, but DeRose has proven himself time and time again to be an integral ingredient of Pixar’s success. The animated characters created by arguably the most cutting-edge and critically acclaimed cinematic dream factory wouldn't be possible without his contributions.

A former educator, DeRose is a senior scientist at Pixar, where he’s head of the research group responsible for much of the technology behind Oscar-winning films like Geri's Game and Ratatouille. DeRose earned his bachelor of science in physics in from the University of California Davis, and a doctorate in computer science from the University of California Berkeley.

From 1986 to 1995, DeRose was a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington. Then the Emeryville-based Pixar, which had vaulted onto the movie scene in a major way, brought him on the team to make their digitally-simulated environments more "real."

A longtime advocate of STEM education, DeRose spoke with Ashoka Changemakers® about how science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) have taken his passion, profession, classroom, and movie audiences to infinity and beyond. (Sorry, we had to go there — can you blame us?)

Citizen Media Expert Interviews

Anoush Rima Tatevossian is the Strategic Communications Officer for UN Global Pulse, an innovation initiative in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General at the United Nations. Previously, she was Director of Projects and Partnerships for MobileActive.org - the leading global network and clearinghouse on the use of mobile technology for social impact.  She is particularly interested in how new media and ICTs can provide a platform for communities to participate in global civil society and dialogue, and is pleased to serve as Co-Chair on the New Media Roundtable for the 2010 U.S. Summit on Citizen Diplomacy.

Give me an S! Give me a T! Give me an E! Give me an M!: Interview with "Science Cheerleader" Darlene Cavalier

 

This post is part of a week-long STEM Matters series. Thought-leaders, social innovators, and experts from around the country are sharing how and why science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are critical to our abilities to solve complex problems across a wide range of fields, from climate change, medicine, economic development, space exploration, to the movies!

Cheerleaders don't always get the credit they deserve. So it might surprise you to hear that there's a cheerleader out there pursuing a professional career in science engineering.

You read that right. Darlene Cavalier embraces her identity as a cheerleader to advocate for STEM education. She earned her master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and prior to that, spent part of her tenure at Temple University as a pom-pom shaker for three-time NBA champions, the Philadelphia 76ers. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Cavalier pursued her first degree in communications at Temple University, took on cheerleading to supplement her income, and ended up at Discover Magazine, where she would eventually serve as a senior advisor. She is also the founder of Science Cheerleader, featuring NBA and NFL cheerleaders-turned-scientists and engineers who challenge stereotypes and inspire more people to consider STEM careers. The site has also spawned the popular science portal ScienceForCitizens.net. To add even more dramatic flair to an already fascinating story, she started out in the mail room.

In this exclusive interview with Cavalier, she tells Changemakers about her ascent in the sciences and why she's chosen STEM education as her new reason to rah-rah.

More Health is Possible – and Necessary – to Respond to Growing Challenges and Opportunities

[Editor's note: This article was written by Chloe Feinberg, knowledge consultant at Ashoka Changemakers®.]

You might think that health care is in dire straits today: Around the world, austerity measures are cutting health care programs, populations are living longer than ever (increasing demands on health services), and diseases and disorders are destabilizing human resources in emerging markets. Moreover, the financial cost of care continues to rise, and many conditions and lifestyles remain largely taboo or ignored.

But as dire as the situation may be, it’s also a time of real hope: Every day, more and more people are taking responsibility for their health, and the health of those around them. And we are experiencing a level of innovation in health care never before seen.

Meet the Four Early Entry Winners in the Partnering for Excellence Competition

Ashoka Changemakers® is thrilled to announce the four Early Entry Prize winners in the Partnering For Excellence: Innovations In Science + Technology + Engineering + Math (STEM) Education competition!

These four competition entries were evaluated according to the Changemakers criteria — innovation, social impact, and operational sustainability — and identified as the best solutions that were submitted at or before the June 22 Early Entry Deadline.

The winners are …

Join us on July 14th for a #SocEntChat on Boosting Global Media Access and Participation

On Thursday, July 14, 2011, Ashoka's Changemakers®, supported by Google, will bring entrepreneurs, innovators and enthusiasts from around the world to discuss how to boost media access and participation for people marginalized by political and economic barriers around the world.

Ashoka’s Changemakers invites you to participate in this multilingual #SocEntNOM #SocEntChat on Twitter between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. (ET), to share -- and NOMINATE -- your innovative ideas and solutions that address the partnerships, programs and people that will make Citizen Media possible.

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