Blogs

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.

Serious Play: The Goal Is Peace

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

Jürgen Griesbeck plays hard because of a murder. After his friend Andrés Escobar, a Colombian national soccer player, was killed for botching a goal in a 1994 World Cup game, Griesbeck set to work making sure the game itself -- football, as most of the world calls it -- became an agent for helping to end violence.

"When I heard the news about Andrés it was about five in the morning and it hurt so deeply," Griesbeck said. He started Football for Peace in Escobar's hometown, Medellín, which was at the time one of the most dangerous and violent cities in the world. The program brought at-risk kids together to play under rules decided democratically by the players on both teams, a process that encouraged collaboration, peaceful conflict resolution, gender equality, and inclusion. Within a few short years, 10,000 kids in and around Medellín were playing Football for Peace. "I think, in Medellín, it was the first time people from a background of conflict were brought together, and it was football that did it," he said. "We have aimed to make possible the impossible."

And the possibilities are endless. Study after study has shown that kids who are involved in sports are more likely to be successful, healthy, productive members of their community. They learn and internalize the value of tolerance, teamwork, discipline, and leadership, and kids who play are less likely to be involved in gangs, crime, and extremist activity.

How to Change the Face of Education: An Interview with Tim Gott

Education was a much-tweeted topic during President Barack Obama’s Twitter Town Hall yesterday afternoon. Of the almost 200,000 #AskOBama Tweets, 11 percent dealt with education—just behind jobs, the budget and taxes.

President Obama was asked how he plans to respond to the nation’s crumbling learning infrastructure—an education system that fails to properly prepare our students for the future.

“Every time we've made a public investment in education, it's paid off many times over,” the President answered. “For us now to give short shrift to education—when the world is more complex than ever and it’s a knowledge-based society and companies locate based on whether they’ve got skilled workforces or not—that makes no sense. We've got to get our priorities straight."

Wanted: Leadership and Creativity of Social Entrepreneurs to Make More Health!

Of all the advances to look forward to in the 21st century, none may be more critical – and more promising – than those in the field of health. As part of a three-year global initiative to identify and support the most promising solutions to health problems around the world, Boehringer Ingelheim and Ashoka’s Changemakers® have launched the Making More Health: Achieving Individual, Family, and Community Well-Being competition.

How Gaming Can Win the World a 1-Up

[Editor's note: This post was written by Kris Herbst, Creative Manager at Ashoka's Changemakers®.]

The holy grail for the Games for Change (G4C) movement is to harness the addictive pleasure of game playing for positive social change. G4C is a young movement, and there are still some who question whether games as tools for change can be taken seriously. But these detractors do not include former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who gave the keynote speech at the 8th Annual Games for Change Festival, held last week in New York City.
 
Gore admitted that his own game-playing skills hadn’t progressed much since he mastered Pong, but he enthusiastically endorsed gaming as a “deeply immersive and engaging medium” that is so popular it “will produce an awareness among our political leaders that this is important to our civilization.”
 

Making Movements – Live from CGI America

[Editor's note: This post was written by Alexa Clay, Knowledge and Learning Manager at Ashoka's Changemakers®.]

It’s day two of CGI America. We’ve talked job creation, STEM education, veterans affairs, and manufacturing. In between large panel discussions, with big shots searching for the soul of America in phrases like “crossroads,” “heartland,” and “competitiveness,” are small groups in ambitious conversation: A woman working to develop young leaders in rural areas of the United States, a museum director from New York looking to make science sexy again, a technologist building local food supply chains in Michigan. These people are here for a simple reason: They want to be part of something bigger.

Celebrating 30 Years of Social Entrepreneurship

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

Social entrepreneurship today enjoys the high regard it has long deserved -- fully 30 years after the organization that launched the movement was born.

When Bill Drayton started Ashoka, he knew that the old ways of dealing with social problems -- through the public sector, charity, or too often by simply ignoring them -- were by and large failures. But he also knew that creative, driven, innovative problem-solvers in communities all over the world were quietly rolling up their sleeves and getting the work done.

Join us July 6 for a #SocEntChat on Partnering for Excellence in Education

On Wednesday, July 6, 2011, Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Opportunity Equation, and Ashoka’s Changemakers® will bring together entrepreneurs, innovators, and enthusiasts from around the world to discuss how to best engage students, particularly our highest-need students, in rich STEM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

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

The Search is on for the World’s Best Young Social Entrepreneurs

Calling all changemakers! Ashoka’s Youth Venture has launched its fifth annual Staples Youth Social Entrepreneurship (YSE) Competition.
 
The competition, created by Staples Foundation and Ashoka, was created to recognize exceptional, innovative young people who are advancing positive change in their communities around the world. The focus of this year’s competition is technology, and how digital, online, and social connections can be leveraged to create solutions to pressing social problems.

The Road to Recovery: Green Job Training in the Gulf

It’s been more than a year since the Deepwater Horizon disaster spilled nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. BP has since set up a $20 billion claims fund to compensate those harmed by the spill, but many of the long-term ramifications of the disaster are still unknown.

Scientists believe the extent of the damage to ocean ecosystems may not be fully realized for another 15 years. How this event will impact communities, young people, and employment in the long-term also remains to be seen.

In New Orleans, the Gulf South Youth Biodiesel Project (GYBP) is hoping to intervene in the lives of unemployed young people affected by some of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history: Hurricane Katrina, followed by Hurricane Gustav, and then the Deepwater Horizon spill. GYBP, a finalist in the Changemakers Strong Communities competition (“Engaging Citizens, Strengthening Place, Inspiring Change”), offers a training and green industry certification program for at-risk youth from 16 to 25 years of age. Many have either left school or were unsuccessful in conventional learning situations.

Top 10 Apps for Social Entrepreneurs

When the iPad was first released, there were “only” about 10,000 apps available. Now there are more than 90,000 ... and counting.

So, as you can imagine, when I brought home my iPad, I was a little overwhelmed. I don’t know what I was expecting — where was the #socent app section?! 

Needless to say, I was determined to populate my iPad with apps that were relevant to me and our work here at Changemakers. So, after some digging, a few disappointments, and maybe one too many levels of Angry Birds, I present to you: the top 10 apps for social entrepreneurs.

How Travelers Can Help Stem Human Trafficking

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

The hospitality industry is increasingly making things decidedly inhospitable for a certain kind of person: human traffickers.

Hotels, airlines and other travel-related companies are in a position to combat these criminals where they tend to operate. Whether transporting enslaved domestic workers into the country on a plane or pimping girls out in hotel lobbies, a portion of a trafficker's activity often happens in plain sight. Even though the very nature of human trafficking is covert, well-trained employees at committed, responsible companies can spot suspicious behavior and act.

Alliance to STOP Sex Trafficking: How you can help

Changemakers talked with Ms. Patchareeboon Sakulpitakphon, program officer for ECPAT International, about their new campaign, “STOP Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People,” a partnership with The Body Shop. ECPAT is a global network of organizations and individuals that are working to eliminate child prostitution, child pornography, and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes.

Changemakers: What is the “STOP” campaign about?

 
Sakulpitakphon: “Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People” has three overall objectives:

  1. Raise funds to provide immediate support to child victims of sex trafficking.
     
  2. Change the public’s perception of child trafficking.
     
  3. Influence decision makers to take action towards better protection and care of children against trafficking.

The Oldest Professions: A History of Abuse

Prostitution is often characterized as the “oldest profession.” It is a story that has haunted the world for centuries: women with limited economic options sell their bodies to survive.
 
One group with a historically close relationship to prostitution has been the other oldest profession: the military. Opinions on prostitution aside, supply increases where demand increases (simple). Historically, the areas of highest demand were ports, where sailors, soldiers, and shipping workers would dock for extended periods of time. Men in transit were the consumers – women in poverty were the supply.
 
Today the entire world is in transit, especially military personnel and their contractors. From war zones to peace-keeping missions, soldiers and their support systems are stationed around the globe for years, and sometimes decades. And while it may not be stately to discuss, the demand for sex follows – and with time, grows.

Peter Sims: STEM Education, Chris Rock, and Pixar are More Alike Than You Think

Editor's note: This post was written by Chris Correa, Media Strategist at Ashoka Changemakers.

Peter Sims knows innovation, technology, and social entrepreneurship. He's a Stanford GSB alum, frequently collaborates with Stanford’s Institute of Design (the d.school), and is the consummate valley guy, having served as an advisor to Google, Eli Lilly, Pixar, ConAgra, and Cisco Systems.

His latest book is Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, which asks pointed questions about how system change occurs on a methodical level across myriad industries and sectors. For example, what do Apple CEO Steve Jobs, award-winning comedian Chris Rock, famed architect Frank Gehry, and Pixar scientist Tony Derose (watch for his upcoming interview, to be posted here) have in common?

Answer: Their outputs are the result of what Sims considers "little bets," or small, experimental steps. He posits that typically desired outcomes are often planned in advance, but are better achieved through learning critical information from lots of little failures and from small but mighty wins. Sims has written frequently about STEM education for various publications, including TechCrunch, and brings his insight and passion for the learning process to the Partnering for Excellence competition.

Ashoka and Boehringer Ingelheim Partner to Promote New Ways of "Making More Health"

Ashoka and Boehringer Ingelheim, one of the world’s largest and most innovative pharmaceutical companies, yesterday announced a new global partnership: “Making More Health.”

Making More Health is a three-year initiative aimed at improving health in communities around the world—promoting strong individuals, families, and communities by identifying and supporting the most promising solutions to challenging health problems.

STEM Education Keeps Zombies at Bay

 
Editor's note: This post was written by Chris Correa, Media Strategist at Ashoka Changemakers.
 
The early entry deadline for Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in Science + Technology + Engineering + Math Education is today at 5PM EDT. But that's not the only STEM-related issue to stay on top of! Now for something completely different.

Recently the CDC issued a public health checklist that succinctly describes what to do in the event of a zombie attack. Don't believe us? Here's the link. From a public service standpoint, people should now be fairly ready for what to expect. A young student in Virginia is bringing STEM education learning processes to the subject. Should there be a (yes) zombie invasion, Akira Snowden queries, will we be ready for it?

Slavery in the 21st Century -- and in the United States

June 19th, or Juneteenth, commemorates the 146th year anniversary of the end of slavery in the United States. Yet, slavery remains a thriving industry in every country—including the United States. Human trafficking is the 21st century’s slave trade, and the fastest growing criminal trade in the world.

According to the United Nations, 12.3 million people live in modern day slavery today. 80% are women and children. Slavery appears in the form of debt bondage, forced labor conditions with little or no pay, compelled enlistment in state or rebel military groups, or commercial sex acts against the victim’s will. Revenues from human trafficking are estimated to be between 5 and 9 billion USD annually.

 

See innovative solutions from members of the Changemakers community that help end global slavery


Different from human smuggling, human trafficking is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel victims to perform labor or services. And contrary to popular misconception, it isn’t limited to developing countries. In the US, the numbers of people in slavery are largely under-reported and unknown, but there are an estimated 100,000 – 300,000 children alone that are sex trafficking victims in the US.

A Roadmap for the Planet

[Editor's note: This article was written by Bjorn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It. It was originally featured in Newsweek.]

How we live today is clearly unsustainable. Why history proves that is completely irrelevant.

From the 18th through the mid-19th century, whale oil provided light to much of the Western world. At its peak, whaling employed 70,000 people and was the United States’ fifth-largest industry. The U.S. stood as the world’s foremost whale slayer. Producing millions of gallons of oil each year, the industry was widely seen as unassailable, with advocates scoffing at would-be illumination substitutes like lard oil and camphene. Without whale oil, so the thinking went, the world would slide backward toward darkness.

By today’s standard, of course, slaughtering whales is considered barbaric.

Two hundred years ago there was no environmental movement to speak of. But one wonders if the whalers, finding that each year they needed to go farther afield from Nantucket Island to kill massive sea mammals, ever asked themselves: what will happen when we run out of whales?

Such questions today constitute the cornerstone of the ever-louder logic of sustainability.

Climate alarmists and campaigning environmentalists argue that the industrialized countries of the world have made sizable withdrawals on nature’s fixed allowance, and unless we change our ways, and soon, we are doomed to an abrupt end. Take the recent proclamation from the United Nations Environment Program, which argued that governments should dramatically cut back on the use of resources. The mantra has become commonplace: our current way of living is selfish and unsustainable. We are wrecking the world. We are gobbling up the last resources. We are cutting down the rainforest. We are polluting the water. We are polluting the air. We are killing plants and animals, destroying the ozone layer, burning the world through our addiction to fossil fuels, and leaving a devastated planet for future generations.

In other words, humanity is doomed.

GoodWeave: Recovering Childhoods Lost

[Editor's note: This article was written by Carol Erickson, director of development and evaluation at GoodWeave, and is republished here with permission.]

In January 2011 GoodWeave India’s inspectors discovered 60 children as young as eight working as bonded laborers in three separate Bhadohi carpet weaving sites.  All had been trafficked from the eastern states of Bihar and West Bengal, over 300 miles away. In reuniting one child with his West Bengal family, community members told GoodWeave that some 400 children from six neighboring villages were now working in the carpet belt.

“Children in modern India exist in two completely extreme realities,” said Dr. Vineeta Gupta, Program Officer, South Asia, at The Global Fund for Children (GFC), one of GoodWeave’s India partners. “One India offers children access to technology, resources and a high-quality education to rival the world’s most developed countries. In the other India, invisible children are bonded in labor similar to that of 16th century slaves.  Groups such as GoodWeave and GFC are working relentlessly to narrow this gap by finding innovative solutions to reach the most vulnerable children. Supporting these community-based efforts is vital in the effort to facilitate change for India’s neediest children.”

Gamification FTW: How online gaming can make a better world

Jane McGonigal has come up with the rather fantastical idea that reality is broken and we need to make it work more like a game. But she doesn't quit there—she believes that we must convince people to spend more time playing bigger and better games. An additional 18 billion hours per week to be exact.

Scaling Technical Assistance: Regional Workshops for High Impact Businesses

[Editor's note: This article was written by Michael Stulman, Communications Officer at Grassroots Business Fund.]

Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) provide 90% of African business operations and contribute to over 50% of African employment and GDP. A large segment of these SMEs are also High Impact Businesses—SMEs founded and managed with a specific social purpose in mind—providing sustainable economic opportunities to farmers, artisans, and microentrepreneurs, or affordable basic services to people at the base of the pyramid. 

Access to capital is one of the greatest challenges these companies face; however, many High Impact Businesses also require additional value-added services, including financial management assistance and marketing or operational expertise that cannot be easily sourced or financed with short-term microfinance loans or existing sources of commercial capital. In addition, qualified, skilled human capital is scarce in low- and middle-income countries.

Fortunately, there are budding networks where High Impact Businesses are coming together to develop tools, strategies, and best practices that can be applied to a wide variety of contexts across the developing world.

Eyewitness Account: Child Labor in North India’s Hand-Woven Carpet Sector

[Editor's note: This, written by Siddharth Kara, appeared in the Spring 2011 GoodWeave newsletter and is reprinted with permission. GoodWeave works to end child labor in the handmade rug industry and provide educational opportunities for children in South Asia.]

The carpet belt of North India stretches across the state of Uttar Pradesh from the town of Allahabad, east to Bhadohi, ending in the rural reaches beyond Varanasi. I have visited this area several times across the last decade, and despite recent pronouncements by the government of India that child labor no longer exists in the country’s hand-woven carpet sector, there are still innumerable shacks and village huts in this area in which children as young as 10 years of age are coerced to work 16 or more hours a day weaving carpets for export to Europe and North America.

All of these children are poor, low-caste or dalit peasants who are either paid a pittance for their efforts, or are exploited through outright bonded and forced labor. Children are especially prized for carpet weaving, as their nimble fingers and good eyesight are perfectly suited for the intricate motions required to weave carpets that may be 30 to 40 square feet in size, one thread at a time. 

Interview with Peggy Liu: “China is focusing on increasing jobs period, and those jobs have to be green”

PEGGY LIU is Chairperson of the Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy (JUCCCE). She was honored as a Time Magazine 2008 Environmental Hero and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader 2009. Liu was an adviser to the Clinton Global Initiative 2008 on Energy & Climate Change. JUCCCE is a non-profit changing the way China creates and uses energy through international collaboration. Changemakers sat down with Liu to discuss China’s push towards going green and the country’s stance on green jobs.

Want to 'Win the Future'? Start by Reimagining Education

The little red schoolhouse—full of bright-eyed pupils carrying satchels and an apple for teach’—doesn’t exist anymore. Innovation, collaboration, and social entrepreneurship must be the lesson plans of tomorrow.

New studies show that three-quarters of American college students would not be able to study without some form of technology—almost half said they can’t even go ten minutes without checking their laptop, smartphone, or ereader. Notes are taken with keyboards instead of paper, presentations are carried by flash drives instead of poster board, and questions are asked in pixels. Number 2 pencils? Haven’t seen one in years.

Last Call to Enter the Powering Economic Opportunity Competition!

Have you submitted your market-based innovation that’s creating employment opportunities for vulnerable populations to the Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World that Works competition?
 
If you have not yet done so, get your entry completed quickly because time is running out! The competition entry deadline is today tomorrow, June 15, 2011, at 5PM EDT.
 

CNN Recognizes Everyday Heroine and Changemaker, Elena Durón Miranda

Elena Durón Miranda knows that you don’t need to a cape, superpowers, or even millions of dollars to be a community’s protector—or steward, if you will.
 
What that role does require is the steadfast determination to end to unnecessary social injustice, which Durón does quite effectively. Durón, a Mexican psychologist by training, is the president and founder of Fundación PETISOS in Bariloche, Argentina, a nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating child labor and other abuses by providing youth with free education and extracurricular programs. Durón was most recently recognized as a 2011 CNN Hero for her impact and leadership in ending child exploitation, and Ashoka’s Changemakers® also featured her as a one of the most influential and inspiring women working for social change in its March ChangemakeHERS campaign.

Green Jobs: More Than Just Green and More Than Just Jobs

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

There's a growing green career in East Africa that owes thanks to an unlikely inspiration -- the Avon Lady.

Like their American counterparts of a century ago, shut out of most jobs by oppressive cultural standards, women in rural Rwanda and Uganda are going door-to-door, earning income, sharing wisdom, and evangelizing for an exciting new product.

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