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.

Sustainable Apparel: Big Brands Clean Up Their Act

[Editor's note: This post, written by Molly Mann, was originally featured on Divine Caroline.]

As a whole, clothing companies have a notorious record of harsh labor and environmental practices. But that record may be changing. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a team of thirty major apparel brands and retailers, has committed to transforming the industry’s reputation for social responsibility. Even labels that have previously made ethical blacklists, such as Nike, Adidas, and the Gap, are working to clean up their acts.

Go Green, Get Rewarded?

Altruism might be overrated when it comes to making a substantive difference in the world today. Advancing the social good revolution, or at least reshaping cultural constructs, isn’t at all dependent on a band of socially conscious brethren. It requires only a multi-layered incentive program to spur that change.
Ian Yolles knows that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make a difference—you just have to keep it rolling.

Bill Drayton Wins Prince of Asturias Award, Spain's Answer to Nobel Prize

Bill Drayton, CEO and Founder of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, took home a tremendous honor today. Drayton was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for International Cooperation, Spain’s highest honor and Nobel Prize equivalent. The announcement was made live via satellite from Oviedo, Spain.

GreenShields: Green Technology for a Better World

Jonny Cohen is a celebrated green social entrepreneur, who has been inventing, innovating, and designing gadgets for almost his entire life. Since the age of four, he has put together robots, helicopters, and other remote-controlled devices, even sewing a miniature camera into a Beanie Baby to spy on his older sister, Azza. Now 15, Cohen—a self described “friendly science nerd” and aspiring mechanical engineer from the North Side of Chicago—is using his particular set of skills and know-how to make a visible difference on the national stage.

The Role of Social Businesses in Creating Employment

[Editor’s note: This article was written by Paula Cardenau, leader of Ashoka’s Social Business Initiative in Latin America. Paula is currently participating as an expert commentator in the Powering Economic Opportunity competition.]

Social businesses are key actors in creating decent employment. While there are many different definitions and enthusiastic debates on what a social business is or is not, the most important thing is not the definition but the common denominator, the essence that we all agree about: A social business or company applies market mechanisms — offering goods or services in exchange for payments that cover its costs — in order to benefit sectors of society currently being excluded.

We can identify two types of social businesses. On one hand, we have those that reduce the barriers for poor populations to access critical products and services. These are businesses that increase access to healthcare, education, dignified housing, light, potable water and other necessities. On the other hand — and these have a critical role in the generation of employment — we find social businesses that, throughout their extensive production or distribution processes, create employment opportunities or increased incomes for people in vulnerable situations.

Crowdsourcing: Putting the "Public" Back in the Public Sector

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

If the global financial crisis taught us anything, it's that leaving the fate of our collective economic health in the hands of a select few members of an exclusive club with their own narrow agenda is no longer a credible way of doing business. That's true for almost every institution involved, from the banks that crafted impenetrable mortgage bundles for gambling purposes to the decision-making bodies that oversee international economic stability.

While reforming the private institutions that made a casino out of the U.S. housing market may be proceeding at a tepid pace, change at big public sector institutions such as the International Monetary Fund is gaining speed.

Building Schools With Recycled Plastic Bottles

[Editor's note: This post was written by Dana Zichlin, the Country Director of Manna Project: Guatemala, and was originally featured on Care2.]

Community development initiatives rarely solve problems overnight. It's a hard realization to come to, but the nature of the field is so large in scope, population size, and unproved theories that goals are hard to meet, let alone create. So it's refreshing to come across a project like Hug It Forward's bottle schools. The solution is ingenious in its simplicity -- it takes two of the pressing issues in Guatemala, education and the environment, and presents a solution that's rapidly adaptable and easily incentivized.

Entrepreneurship: A viable option for job creation and secure financial futures

[Editor’s note: This article was written by Kim Pate, vice president of external relations for the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), a network partner for the Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World that Works competition.]

The Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) was founded more than 30 years ago on the promise that microenterprise held for generating jobs and income for vulnerable populations. Today, that work is embodied by an investment in entrepreneurship. Business ownership is second only to homeownership as a source of household wealth in the United States. CFED sees support for entrepreneurs, especially disadvantaged ones, as a key strategy for individual asset-building and as a critical component of a healthy local economy. The Entrepreneurship Program at CFED focuses on social innovations that support entrepreneurship in new and targeted ways.

Two important entrepreneurship and job creation strategies at CFED focus on worker-owners of business cooperatives and Native American entrepreneurs.

Matchmaking That Works -- For Work: Building an Efficient Marketplace for Employment

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

"Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." So proclaimed President Theodore Roosevelt. Though we half-joke about what drudgery our working lives can be, the guy was right. Trouble is, it's a prize too few people ever win.

Currently there are more than 200 million people in the world who want and need to work but have no job. The number of people who are employed but underpaid, overqualified, or in jobs that don't match their skills or potential is immeasurable, but certainly enormous.

In an era when matchmaking supply and demand in the world of shopping has reached a level of incredible efficiency, why is it so hard for a willing worker with a specific skill set and an eager employer with a precise need to find each other?

Check out the Twitter Chatter Generated by the May 17 #SocEntChat on Powering Economic Opportunity

Anyone who was not able to participate in the “Powering Economic Opportunity” #SocEntChat on Tuesday, May 17th, missed out on one of the most successful chats to date. It was lively and informative, with lots of interaction between the chatters in three different languages (English, Spanish, and Portuguese). There were more than 400 total tweets from about 50 participants, promoters, and listeners.

But we’re not going to leave you out in the cold. Here is a quick recap…

In Our New Sputnik Moment, the Solutions are Down on the Ground

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

This is our new Sputnik moment: The United States is behind in math and science. But this time, the threat has crept up on us without the dramatic blaze of a humiliating and ominous satellite. And without the roaring economy of the late '50s that allowed an instant, enormous commitment to increasing funding for science and technology education.

We need new ideas to fix this problem. Fortunately, these are things we do well in the United States: New. And ideas. And fixing. We have done it before -- to put a man on the moon, to lead the biotechnology revolution, and to transform the way the world connects and communicates. But this time, we'll have to do it without the impetus of a Soviet villain, or a declared War on Cancer, or an Internet stock bubble.

The future is about innovation, and if today's students are going to compete in the world, they'll have to know what they're doing in the fields of study known as the STEM subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. With big cuts in education happening at the state and local level -- meaning fewer STEM teachers and fewer resources -- solutions will have to come in part from new places.

Sweat Equity and Soccer for Community Development

Drew Chafetz (center), co-founder of love.fútbol, at the 2010 inauguration event in Guatemala.

When love.fútbol approached the town of San Antonio Palopó, Guatemala last year to build a safe soccer field for its children, the organization was surprised to receive a lukewarm response. Community members were initially reluctant to agree to the project’s sweat equity requirement.

love.fútbol, which works with impoverished communities to build inexpensive, durable soccer pitches for kids, supplies raw materials and guidance, but partner communities are expected to contribute all labor and take ownership of the construction process.

“In our effort to provide the right to play, core belief is that we do not provide a gift of a soccer field,” said Drew Chafetz, co-founder of love.fútbol. “We provide an opportunity for a community partnership and an experience for a community that will lead to long term change.”

Meet the Three Early Entry Winners of the Powering Economic Opportunity Competition

Great news! Ashoka Changemakers® has identified three Early Entry Prize winners in the Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World that Works competition.

The Changemakers® screening team spent many hours poring over a record 164 solutions – entered by the May 11 early entry deadline – before coming to a decision. Entries came in from 36 countries around the world; Africa, Latin America, and Asia are strongly represented, providing more than three-fourths of the submissions so far.

“We are incredibly excited by the record number of innovations that are surfacing from around the world,” said Gaston Wright, Director of Community for Ashoka Changemakers. “From Cuba, to Uganda, to China, the Changemakers open-source model is providing a platform for innovators to collaborate on high-impact solutions that generate economic opportunity for disadvantaged populations.”

Join us May 31 for Ashoka Changemakers' First Asia #SocEntChat!

Save the date! Ashoka Changemakers® will host a #SocEntChat for our Asia community on Tuesday, May 31, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. IST (yes, that’s Indian Standard Time!). No matter where you are in the world, please join us for a discussion with innovators, social entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts. We hope you will!

#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.

This #SocEntChat comes on the heels of the successful May 17 discussion about market-based solutions to create economic opportunity for disadvantaged populations. The chat featured nearly 50 active participants and over 400 tweets.

Voices from the Field: Breaking Down Barriers to Economic Opportunity

[Editor's note: This article was written by Emily Bosland, project manager at Ashoka Changemakers®.]

How can innovative, market-based solutions generate economic opportunity and sustainable jobs?

In an effort to answer this question, Ashoka’s Changemakers® is speaking with leading social entrepreneurs in a quest to better understand why connecting qualified—yet unemployed—people to available jobs is still a significant problem around the world.

Third World Planet: No Place to Call Home

The world’s population today is evenly split between cities and rural areas. Developed nations – boasting all the luxuries of modern life – are about three-quarters urban, while nearly half of the population in developing countries lives in densely packed, suffocating city settings. Population continues to rise and mass urban migration dictates that by 2030, 5 billion people will be living in cities; 2 million of whom will be living in slums, without access to potable water and sanitation infrastructure.

Save the Date for a #SocEntChat on May 17th on Powering Economic Opportunity

It's that time again — time to get the Twittersphere chirping about social change! On May 17th, from 3PM to 5PM EDT, Changemakers® will be hosting a multilingual #SocEntChat about innovative market-based solutions to create economic opportunity for disadvantaged populations. Innovators, social entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts from around the world will be jumping on Twitter to share their opinions and form new ones. Join us, whether you have a hankering to discuss the future of global job markets, or you are simply hoping to listen and learn more about the issue.

Women Stuck in Poverty in Asia

[Editor's note: This article was written by Aisha O'brien and was originally featured on]

Despite an economy in recovery, women workers in Asia still face a life of poverty and exploitation because of prejudice, according to a new report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Women face discrimination when trying to get better jobs or more pay. This is due in large part to cultural norms and lack of governmental investment. Women continue to remain at the lowest rung in unstable industries.

Girl Up: Uniting Girls to Change the World

Yesterday, Changemakers® shed light on the scope of child marriage, with the help of a few thought-provoking statistics and infographics. But we also shared several powerful solutions that help young women and girls stay happy and healthy, and we challenged you to get engaged to prevent child marriage.

Today, we have a simple way to do your part in slowing child marriages in communities around the world: take action with Girl Up.

The Next 100 Million Weddings and Why We'll Get Slammed with the Bill

Youth are the fastest growing segment of the global population. There are 1.2 billion young people aged 10-19 around the world, and 87 percent of them live in developing countries. Adolescent girls make up half of that population, yet those 600,000,000 are too often ignored by public policymakers, private sector leaders, and commodified by impudent community members.

As a result of such political and cultural degeneration, 1 in 7 girls is married before the age of 15. And 1 in 3 is married by the time she is 18. The social cost of this practice is high, with disastrous implications for both personal growth and global development. Over the next decade, more than 25,000 early marriages will take place every single day.

"Child marriage tends to create an environment that makes young wives extremely vulnerable to physical, sexual, psychological, and economic abuse."

Be a ChangeSpotter for the Powering Economic Opportunity Competition!

UPDATE: The ChangeSpotting campaign has been extended until 5PM ET on Friday, June 3, 2011.

Do you know someone in your family, your community, or even your country that is generating economic opportunity for disadvantaged populations? Ashoka’s Changemakers® needs you to lead the charge in spotting social entrepreneurs and innovators from around the globe working to create tomorrow’s jobs today!

Which is why we’re inviting you, dear reader, as a ChangeSpotter for the Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World that Works competition, co-hosted with eBay Foundation and The Opportunity Project. (More on that here.)

Driving Viral Social Change: How will you get people talking?

Have you ever wished that more people were talking about solutions to pressing social problems? Have you ever imagined a world where people were buzzing about the latest initiative designed to curb child marriage in eastern Africa, instead of going ga-ga over the Royal Wedding? Or cheering the potential of disruptive innovations to create tomorrow's job markets, instead of jeering Rebecca Black's budding 'music career'?

Uncage the Lion: Could Africa rule tomorrow's markets?

Africa's lions are on the prowl, hails McKinsey Global Institute (MGI). They're not referring to our fuzzy feline friends, but to the progress and potential of African economies based on productivity, competitiveness, consumer demand, and demographics.

"Today, while Asia's tiger economies continue to expand rapidly, we foresee the potential rise of economic lions in Africa's future."

Mining for Great Minds

[Editor's note: This post was written by Laura Zax, guest blogger and Ashoka colleague, and was originally featured on Ashoka's Change inSight blog.]

A peek inside Ashoka’s process of finding and electing the world’s leading social entrepreneurs

If you know only one thing about Ashoka, chances are you know about Ashoka Fellows. 

After all, the work of finding all-star innovators (work known as “venture,” in Ashoka speak) is where it all began.  That was in the late 70’s, when Bill Drayton set out across the globe in search of people merging a saint’s sense of social injustices with a businessman’s sense of strategy.  He found them simply by asking questions. Lots of questions.  First to community members (“Who is making big change in your community?”  “Where can we find them”) and ultimately to the changemakers themselves (“What is the problem you’re addressing?” “How are you fixing it?”).  After learning of an innovator, Drayton and his search team would write the name down on a three-by-five card. A couple of years and a couple of hundred cards later, Ashoka was ready for its first “selection panel,” and in 1981 the world’s very first Ashoka Fellow was elected.

Join @AshokaTweets & @NextBillion for tomorrow's #SocEntChat on #SustainableUrbanHousing (Apr 27, 3-5pm EDT)!

Are you intrigued by the emergence of collaboration between social entrepreneurs and government? Interested in hearing about current ways in which social entrepreneurs are working with public policy? Have ideas of the types of collaborations between companies and entrepreneurs on sustainable and affordable housing? Join the conversation in tomorrow's today's #SocEntChat!

On Wednesday, April 27th from 3-5pm EST, Ashoka will join forces with Next Billion to co-host the monthly #SocEntChat, a real-time Twitter-based discussion on social entrepreneurship which is based around a specific theme each month.

Water Changes Everything: Visualizing the Global Water Crisis

What do you know about water? Specifically, what do you know about the global water crisis? (Video after the jump.)

To Celebrate Earth Day, Rap With The EPA (?!)

You rolled out of bed this morning itching to start your Earth Day party the right way, we know. And we've got just the ticket.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency recently released a bumpin' rap single, "Click It – Flip It," as part of its Create A New Climate For Action initiative. The program seeks to educate and motivate teens to green the energy scene -- look, I'm rhyming without even trying -- by taking an active role in making a difference to their planet, their health, and their future.

Two Ashoka Fellows Win Goldman Prize

[Editor's note: This post was originally featured on Ashoka's Change inSight blog.]

We are thrilled to congratulate Ashoka Germany Fellow Ursula Sladek and Ashoka Indonesia Fellow Prigi Arisandi, who were just announced as 2 of 6 winners of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize! The annual award, often referred to as the Nobel Prize for the environment, recognizes “grassroots environmental heroes around the world for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Each winner receives an award of $150,000, the largest award in the world for grassroots environmentalists. The Goldman Prize views “grassroots” leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the Prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.” (Source: Goldman Prize website.)

BucketFeet: Buy One, Give Some

Charity is a basic constituent of today’s economy. Citizen consumers and cultural capitalists are demanding corporate social responsibility and won’t hesitate to punish companies who don’t deliver. So if the money is where the “warm and fuzzy” is, it makes sense that that’s where new businesses continue to emerge.

BucketFeet is the latest in this new wave of businesses blending social purpose with profit. The Chicago-based shoe company, launched just two months ago, operates under the motto, “Buy a Shoe, Build a Community.”

Goldman Sachs Foundation Offering Scholarships to Indian New Media Startups

Attention all new media changemakers on the Indian subcontinent! If you're using digital media to deliver news in innovative ways, here's an opportunity you need to know about. (Ladies, read on; guys, forward this post to your female friends, please.)

Saving the City of God: An Interview with Terra Nova

[Editor's note: Terra Nova, along with the two other winners in our Property Rights competition, are at a World Bank event today to share the innovative work that distinguished them from a pool of more than 210 entries from around the world.]

Brazil. Land Rights. Poverty. 

What picture do these words bring to mind?

For many, it conjures up City of God-like images of crowded violent favelas and communities living in chaos. With over 12 million Brazilians living in 3.2 million informal dwellings without access to public services, that dark visualization wouldn’t be far from the truth.

Yet to Andre Albuquerque, founder of Terra Nova and winner of the Property Rights: Identity, Dignity & Opportunity for All competition, it means much more – it means hope.   

HIV Positive Football Players Aim for the Homeless World Cup in Paris

Rumah Cemara’s HIV positive football players are pinning their hopes on playing at the Homeless World Cup (HWC) tournament this August on the famed Champs de Mars turf in Paris.

“For our HIV positive players to play 90 minutes of football on a world stage, televised from Paris—can you imagine? This would be a kind of magic,” said Aditia Taslim, Rumah Cemara’s international grant writer.

By playing in the HWC, Rumah Cemara’s players hope to transform their lives and change the Indonesian government’s hands-off stance on HIV awareness. They want to change attitudes about those living with HIV and homelessness, and to gain support from the Indonesian government, which has largely refused to engage in public HIV awareness initiatives due to prevalent social taboos.

Ashoka Changemakers: Winners of the Sustainable Urban Housing Competition

[Editor's note: This article was written by Adeena Schlussel, Associate at KIND Snacks, and was originally featured on]

Ashoka Changemakers announced the winners of its Sustainable Urban Housing competition, as voted by the public. With support from the Rockefeller Foundation, Ashoka has challenged innovators to orchestrate sustainable, safe, transferable and affordable housing solutions for any landscape or culture. Earlier this week, finalists were selected based on innovation, social impact and operational sustainability, each pocketing $10,000 to seed their plans. With projects under way from Buffalo to Buenos Aires, check out the three finalists below to understand just how competitive the competition was:

Trillion Dollar Slim-Down? Fat Chance!

Several months ago, we asked our community, “What if some social problems may be easier to solve than to manage? And what if solving said problems violates our moral institutions and political institutions?”

The inquiry was inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s feature in the New Yorker: “Million-Dollar Murray.” In it, Gladwell discussed power-law and the reasons why people fail to solve social problems. (Power-law distributions are those in which the majority of activity can be found at one extreme.)

“Million-Dollar Murray” told the story of Murray Barr, a chronically homeless former marine who racked up over one million dollars in hospital bills over a ten-year period. Homelessness has a power-law distribution: The majority of people are homeless for about a day, but quickly recover and move on with their lives. Ten percent of the homeless population, however, are episodic users and nearly consume public funds at the rate they swallow drugs and alcohol.

What Gladwell exposed is that it is much more cost-effective to solve social problems, rather than to simply treat them.

This reluctant truth made a bold appearance in this week’s New York Times.

“For the first time in history, lifestyle diseases like diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and others kill more people than communicable ones,” writes Mark Bittman, Opinionator columnist, about the fiscal toll of treating ‘lifestyle diseases.’ “Treating these diseases — and futile attempts to ‘cure’ them — costs a fortune, more than one-seventh of our GDP.

A 'Master Class' for Making a Difference

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

Making a difference. It's something every one of us wants to do at some point in our lives. But how? How do you take that first step of action? How do you turn an idea into a real solution? How do you grow into a bigger organization that touches even more lives? How do you shake up the world and definitively, tangibly make it a better place?

Answers to these questions -- real, concrete advice about how to make a difference at any and every level of action -- are now gathered in one place: Ashoka Changemakers just wrapped up a month of daily offerings of wisdom from some of the most accomplished social entrepreneurs in the world during its ChangemakeHERS initiative.

Employing the World’s Most Innovative Ideas to Create a World that Works

We are all well aware of the economic crises around the world … and the ripple effects that stem from deep unemployment and lack of access to opportunity. In part, the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia were sparked because young people couldn’t find the means to support themselves—not because they didn’t want to, but because there were no jobs.

In this growing context of international uncertainty around job creation, Ashoka’s Changemakers® joined forces with eBay Foundation on March 30th to launch a global competition, Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World that Works. The competition will source innovative market-based solutions that create economic opportunity and generate employment for disadvantaged populations.

The Time to Improve School Meals is Now

[Editor's note: This post was written by Erik D. Olson, the director of the Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project and deputy director of the Pew Health Group's Food Portfolio, and was originally featured on]

Nearly one in three kids in the U.S. today is either overweight or obese. Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates have skyrocketed. If we fail to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic, some experts warn that the current generation of U.S. school children may be the first in our nation's history to live sicker and die younger than their parents' generation. We cannot allow that to happen.

While the food parents serve their children at home is important, the effort to prevent childhood obesity must also focus on what kids eat during the school day. On average, children consume about half of their daily calories at school. Fifty-six percent of kids eat at least one meal served in school every day. Many rely on schools for both breakfast and lunch.

Yet pizza is the most common menu item in schools across the country, and nearly half of all high school students eat French fries every day. Despite the fact that kids are getting much of their food while at school, 90 percent of schools serve meals that fail to meet current nutrition standards -- and even those have not been updated in 15 years.

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