Blogs

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 Care2.com.]

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 NextBillion.net.]

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 Care2.com.]

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.

The Ethical Implications of Charity: First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

In this ten-minute YouTube clip, Slovenian continental philosopher and critical theorist Slavoj Žižek delivers a fast-paced, piquant overview critique of charity and cultural capitalism. Žižek, a proud misanthrope, explains that charity is now the basic constituent of our economy, and notes that "this cheap, charitable optimism" is naive -- charitable acts do not solve pressing social issues, they merely prolong them. (Video after the jump.)

TRANSCRIPT: #SocEntChat on Flexible Purpose Corporation Legislation

On April 5, 2011, Ashoka’s Changemakers and Omidyar Network co-hosted a #SocEntChat to discuss the legislation driving the latest trend in social entrepreneurship: the creation of flexible purpose firms that support a positive triple bottom line.

The chat was organized for a small, very precise group of participants -- including the architects of the Corporate Flexibility Act of 2011 -- but word of the lively debate quickly spread across the Twittersphere. Entrepreneurs and innovators, including social good superstar Majora Carter, joined the discussion and made it that much better.

If you missed it, fear not! The transcript in its entirety can be found after the jump. As always, read up and reach out to any of the #SocEntChat participants and keep the conversation going.

The ChangemakeHERS 2011 Essential Guide To Social Change

[Editor's note: This post was written by Dr. Diana Wells, President of Ashoka. Diana was honored as an Ashoka ChangemakeHER, Changemakers's inaugural celebration of the world's most influentual and inspiring women. Find her fellow honorees' voices here.]

When we invited some of the world’s leading changemakers to share their best advice to launch, grow and sustain social change initiatives, we envisioned a master class for social change, an academy of action where concrete advice, guidance and direction for every level of changemaking – from the first spark of an idea to the scaling of an innovation across the globe – would be led by the most inspiring, experienced and dynamic role models imaginable.

We thank the contributors to ChangemakeHERS, some of the world’s most accomplished women social innovators. Captured daily over the course of Ashoka’s Changemakers’ month-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, their interview and blog posts constitute a rich and unparalleled syllabus for plotting a course of social action and in so doing appropriately honoring all those who have come before.

Join Omidyar Network and Changemakers for a #SocEntChat on Flexible Purpose Corporation Legislation Today

 

Today, April 5th, from 2-4 p.m. EST (11 a.m.-1 p.m. PST) Ashoka Changemakers and Omidyar Network will bring together entrepreneurs, innovators, and the architects of the Corporate Flexibility Act of 2011 to discuss the latest legislation in the trend to create alternative corporate forms for entrepreneurs who desire to mix money and mission in a for-benefit corporation. A little background on the legislation after the jump:

Making Every Business an “Ability” Company

Caroline Casey was honored as an Ashoka ChangemakeHER, Changemakers's inaugural celebration of the world's most influentual and inspiring women. Find her fellow honorees' voices here.

 

Sushmita Ghosh, member of Ashoka's Leadership Team and founder of Changemakers, sat down with Caroline Casey (pictured above), Ashoka Globalizer Fellow and founding CEO of Kanchi and the O2 Ability Awards.

Kanchi is a not-for-profit organization that works to change thinking about disability. Kanchi promotes the ability and value of every person with a disability and challenges traditional stereotypes through innovative initiatives aimed at a wide range of stakeholders. Kanchi works with leaders in business, government, and the media to accelerate change.

★★★

Ghosh: When was your "ah-ha" moment when you realized that your idea could be realized on a larger scale?

Casey: I actually had a few “ah-ha” moments throughout the history of Kanchi. The first time was in 2004 while creating the first Irish Ability Awards—I knew instinctually that this idea could be replicated in any country if we got the model right, like the ISO model.

The second was in 2007, when Telefónica came to Ireland to see the 02 Ability Awards. After hearing about our activities, they had sent very high-level people to witness the final stage of the Ability Awards Program - the gala ceremony. Within minutes of the ceremony ending, they asked me whether they could take the Ability Awards to Spain.

The third moment was January 17, during the first complete cycle of those Ability Awards in Spain, when the president of Telefónica announced his plan to take the Ability Awards to five countries in five years in front of an extremely influential audience, including the Queen of Spain.  It was at that moment that the dream I had back in 2004 began to become a reality.

Five Critical Steps to Establishing a Social Enterprise

Ms. Rita Sembuya Namusisi was honored as an Ashoka ChangemakeHER, Changemakers's inaugural celebration of the world's most influentual and inspiring women. Find her fellow honorees' voices here.

by Emily Bosland / Photo by Sanjoy Ghosh

Ms. Rita Sembuya Namusisi was born in Uganda in 1956. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Joyce Fertility Support Centre Uganda. She credits diverse changemakers including Florence Nightingale, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bill Drayton as her inspiration to continue growing a social enterprise.

“Alone you cannot achieve much, so I have worked with different stakeholders to bring about change. Role models inspired me to take a lead role and be focused,” Sembuya said. "I didn't wait for other people to make things better for me, but discovered that I could cause a change in society.”

Youth, Empathy, and Sports for Social Change

Dr. Auma Obama was honored as an Ashoka ChangemakeHER, Changemakers's inaugural celebration of the world's most influentual and inspiring women. Find her fellow honorees' voices here.

Auma Obama

A selection from Changemakers' interview with Dr. Auma Obama (left), CARE USA's Sports for Social Change Initiative Program Technical Advisor:

CM: The first step in “change-making” is becoming aware – becoming frustrated with the status quo and inspired to see that a different world is possible. How did you develop such awareness?
AO: When I asked why I was tasked with chores my older brother would never do, the response was always the same: “Because you’re a girl.” Because I was a girl? That answer was never good enough for me. I refused to be categorized, to be put into a box. So by the time I was eight-years-old, I began challenging the gender inequalities in my male-dominated household, and by extension the patriarchal Luo culture I was raised in.

How did you grow in confidence to give yourself permission to care and to act?
I developed very early a sense of fairness and what is right and wrong, regardless of gender. It was important to me to be able to defend my position and act on my sense of justice. This was not just in relation to me, but also towards other people as well. I guess that must have laid the foundation for the humanitarian work I am doing now. It was, however, difficult to be heard as a girl and it was only after I was enrolled in an all-girls high school when I was thirteen that I really started to find my voice.

Success Requires the Participation of Women

Chetna Sinha was honored as an Ashoka ChangemakeHER, Changemakers's inaugural celebration of the world's most influentual and inspiring women. Find her fellow honorees' voices here.

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Chetna Sinha founded the Woman’s bank, Mann Deshi Mahila Sahkari, a micro finance institution that makes loans to women in rural areas. To date, the bank has served more than 27,000 women and enabled more than 40,000 families to buy homes.

★★★

When you started Mann Deshi bank, what strategies did you use to build its success?

When I first went to Bombay to submit applications for loans to women, the license was denied on the grounds that they were illiterate. I was so shocked and nervous, but the women had so much energy and passion.

They just said, “So what? We will learn to read and write.” Their courage captured me. So we came together for classes to read and write for more than three months.

Then, when I was setting up the bank, one of our many ideas for different products was a small savings box. Without asking any of the women, we ordered 5,000 boxes.

The women told us, “It’s my hard earned money that I save by not buying another biscuit for my child. If I keep it in this, my husband will come and break it, and just take it!”

So I learned many times that I have to involve the women in the process. It was also clear that it’s not just about finance or savings, but about giving women control over their assets.

The Breath of a Movement: Girls Discovering their Voices

Sejal Hathi was honored as an Ashoka ChangemakeHER, Changemakers's inaugural celebration of the world's most influentual and inspiring women. Find her fellow honorees' voices here.


Sejal Hathi, age 19, trains and mobilizes girls across the globe to co-create social change through her organization, Girls Helping Girls

★★★

Today, when I talk about Girls Helping Girls (GHG), I always say that part of our mission is to grow the next generation of female leaders: to build a dynamic sisterhood of changemakers that will revolutionize the way social change is achieved.

Yet, when I ponder the skills I used to launch GHG that I could offer to make this possible, I can name only bold idealism, glorious compassion, and a deep eagerness to drive a positive difference. Was I a leader? Perhaps.

Was I capable of cultivating new leaders? Most would say, “probably not.” But I very rapidly learned that inspiring girls’ leadership is less about bequeathing tools and more about nurturing a reciprocal exchange of ideas, strengths, and experiences.

Woman Runner = Social Transformation

Kathrine Switzer was honored as an Ashoka ChangemakeHER, Changemakers's inaugural celebration of the world's most influentual and inspiring women. Find her fellow honorees' voices here.

Kathrine Switzer at the Boston Marathon / Photo Credit - AP Images

Pictured above: Kathrine Switzer is accosted by a judge who tried to eject her from the normally all-male Boston Marathon in 1967, when male teammates bounced the official out of the race instead and she went on to finish.  April 19, 1967 in Hopkinton, Mass. (AP PHOTO)

★★★

by Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon and to win the New York City Marathon. She led the drive to get the women’s marathon into the Olympics, and is a TV commentator and author of Marathon Woman. She will be inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame on Oct.1, 2011.

★★★

It is an interesting fact that you cannot pursue a physical activity for a long time and stay angry. When the adrenaline and aggression burn themselves off, the endorphins and reasonable-- even creative—thoughts take over.

So it was with me 44 years ago, this April 18, when I was attacked in the Boston Marathon by a race official who was so angry that I was a female in his male-only race that he tried physically to eject me. I was rescued by my male teammates who bounced the official out of the race instead, and I went on to finish.

I said that I would finish the race on my hands and knees if I had to, to prove to this official and the world that women were physically capable of running the marathon distance, and I deserved a place in this race. I was angry with the official for 20 miles of hard running, and then a light went on.

Women-led Enterprise: A Model to Transform Rural Energy Access

Christine Eibs Singer was honored as an Ashoka ChangemakeHER, Changemakers's inaugural celebration of the world's most influentual and inspiring women. Find her fellow honorees' voices here.

by Christine Eibs Singer, CEO and co-founder of E+Co. Singer has overseen the organization's growth from a start-up to an international leader in the developing country energy finance space. She is instrumental in maintaining E+Co’s mission to empower local small and growing enterprises that supply clean and affordable energy in developing countries, producing social, environmental, and financial returns.

★★★

“I am an entrepreneur at heart, I knew that one day I would launch a solar PV business.” -Yvonne Faye

Women and children are most affected by the lack of access to basic energy resources in developing countries. They experience a heightened risk of developing respiratory diseases from firewood stoves with “black soot” emissions, suffer burns from kerosene, and have less time for economic or education opportunities as they labor hours a day in the pursuit of firewood and water.  However, with their firsthand knowledge of the negative repercussions of a lack of energy resources, they may be the best answer to effective implementation of energy solutions for “Base of the Pyramid” communities, and the most likely to focus on a solution that is affordable, available, and appropriate.

Developing Young Leaders Through Sport

Dr. Elizabeth Odera was honored as an Ashoka ChangemakeHER, Changemakers's inaugural celebration of the world's most influentual and inspiring women. Find her fellow honorees' voices here.

by Dr. Elizabeth “Liz” Odera, Director of Sadili Oval Sports Academy and International Professional Coach. Odera was honored with the French Order of Youth and Sports Medal by the French Government for her ground-breaking work in the development of youth sports in Kenya, and her commitment to excellence in education. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Head of State Commendation (HSC) from the Government of Kenya. She has been involved in the education and training of more than 11,000 youth in various sports, including basketball, tennis, football, rugby, athletics and swimming. A former professional tennis champion, Liz also holds degrees in sports sciences, immunology, parasitology and education in Kenya and Denmark. She has been recognized as one of the highest women achievers in recent Kenyan history.

The Power of Partnership

Lydia Gilbert was honored as an Ashoka ChangemakeHER, Changemakers's inaugural celebration of the world's most influentual and inspiring women. Find her fellow honorees' voices here.


Lydia Gilbert is directing CGI America, a new effort of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) that focuses on economic growth and job creation in the United States.

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My career has been shaped by public service. After college, I lived in the Dominican Republic where I worked to improve the quality of education for elementary school students who are living in rural poverty.

I knew I would pursue a career in social impact after a year of facilitating small-scale community development projects. Why? Because the inequities in the world are too daunting not to do anything; because I should make a difference; and because I can.

I am most effective when I combine my creativity with that of my peers. I love to brainstorm and feed off of others' energy. I believe that my ideas are most effective when they are shaped by the wisdom and practicality of others.

This combination of inventiveness and teamwork has always been satisfying to me, and is a combination that I often see work well at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). CGI brings together world leaders from the public, private, and civic sectors to address pressing global challenges.

Why I am Committed to Ending Child Marriage

Sarah Degnan Kambou, PhD, was honored as an Ashoka ChangemakeHER, Changemakers's inaugural celebration of the world's most influentual and inspiring women. Find her fellow honorees' voices here.


by Sarah Degnan Kambou, PhD, president of the
International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)

Iredjourèma was born in 1935 to a traditional healer in Burkina Faso. She was the third of ten children, and lost her mother when she was 12.

As a young girl, Iredjourèma was regarded as a talented, graceful dancer. She was smart, too. But she never had the opportunity to attend school because she was needed to tend the family’s sheep. At 16, Iredjourèma’s family arranged for her to marry a man eight years her senior. She carried nine pregnancies to term, and nearly died giving birth to her youngest child.   

Today, there are more than 50 million child brides like Iredjourèma worldwide, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Child marriage — the practice of marrying girls younger than 18, often to much older men — is a violation of girls’ human rights. It also compromises their education, health, well-being, and productivity.

Fighting for Tigers, Giving Animals a Voice

Prerna Singh Bindra was honored as an Ashoka ChangemakeHER, Changemakers's inaugural celebration of the world's most influentual and inspiring women. Find her fellow honorees' voices here.

Prerna Singh Bindra is a journalist and lobbyist for conservation. She has consulted with Friends of Women's World Banking to make microfinance more accessible to rural women. She edits the conservation journal Tigerlink and received the Carl Zeiss Award for her work in wildlife conservation.

★★★

Who are your favorite female changemakers from history?

  1. Rachel Carson’s seminal work Silent Spring helped spark the environmental movement as we know it today. She showed the world what pesticides have poisoned our world—the presence of toxic chemicals in water and on land, in our soil and food, and its impact on other creatures of the earth.

    Rachel warned about the presence of DDT in mother’s milk. She faced the wrath of the pesticide industry, but her work resulted in the banning of DDT and enactment of environment regulations.

    Rachel Carson showed the world the power of the pen, and what one woman can do—to change the world.

  2. Dr. Jane Goodall, the world’s foremost primatologist and conservationist is my hero. She went into the jungles of Africa (Gombe National Park, Tanzania) to study wild chimpanzees in 1960. Her research and books changed the way we looked at our next of kin. She is courageous, compassionate, and a pioneer in her field.

  3. All those woman who fight against all the odds to stand up for their rights, such as Bhanwari Devi, who was gang raped by the upper-castes in a village in Rajasthan, India. She risked her life and faced social boycott to fight for justice and bring her rapists to book.

Gonzo Soccer! A Vehicle for Social Change

Mónica González was honored as an Ashoka ChangemakeHER, Changemakers's inaugural celebration of the world's most influentual and inspiring women.

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