eAcademy for Conscious Change

Competition Finalist

This entry has been selected as a finalist in the
She Will Innovate: Technology Solutions Enriching the Lives of Girls competition.

Global Grassroots’ eAcademy is an interactive, online social venture incubator for underserved women and girls in poor countries, providing mindful leadership and social entrepreneurship tools.

About You

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About You

First Name

Gretchen

Last Name

Wallace

About Your Organization

Organization Name

Global Grassroots

Organization Website

Organization Country

United States, NH, Hanover, Grafton County

Country where this project is creating social impact

Rwanda, XX, This project is actually global

Age of Innovator

Over 34

Gender of Innovator

Female

Is your organization a

Non‐profit/NGO/citizen sector organization

How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Has the organization received awards or honors? Please tell us about them

Our model for grassroots, women-led social change was chosen a semi-finalist for the Kyoto World Water Prize in 2009. As founder, I have received other awards individually, including: Emmy nomination for Best Documentary as producer of "The Devil Came on Horseback" (2008). World Business Magazine and Shell's top International 35 Women Under 35 (2007). CNN Hero in Haiti, for trauma healing work in Haiti after the earthquake (2010). The inaugural Susan J. Herman Award for Leadership in Holocaust and Genocide Awareness by the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College (2010). One of seven Remarkable Women of the World by New Hampshire Magazine (2011).

Innovation

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Name Your Entry

eAcademy for Conscious Change

Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Start-Up (a pilot that has just begun operating)

How long have you been in operation?

Operating for more than 5 years

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your innovation addresses? Choose up to two

Access, Quality.

The Need: What problem are you trying to solve?

As the primary caretakers of their families and communities, women and girls have the greatest insight into local social issues and their underlying root causes. As such, they are critical in defining priorities and relevant solutions. Yet, especially in poor countries, they often have the least access to the education, skills training and financial resources needed to advance their own ideas for social change. While microfinance exists for the poor, it rarely provides enough funding to tackle systemic social issues. Also, few networks exist for practical ideas sharing across geographical boundaries. However, with minimal training and a tiny seed grant, some of the most effective, sustainable and insightful innovations have been designed by uneducated, grassroots women and girls.

The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!

Global Grassroots’ eAcademy for Conscious Change is an interactive, web-based, social venture incubator for emerging change agents. It provides mindfulness-based leadership skills and “nuts and bolts” social entrepreneurship tools for the step-by-step design of a sustainable, micro-NGO. The content leverages the curriculum we have used for the last 6 years in our 18-month hands-on program with women survivors of war in Rwanda. Especially tailored for underserved women and girls in poor countries, the eAcademy helps each team design a comprehensive venture plan for their solution. Upon completion, it facilitates the submission of their plan to foundations for grant funding and gives the option of profiling their venture in an idea bank with a crowd-sourced funding mechanism. The idea bank will also help spread innovation globally by making grassroots social issue solutions available in a “how-to” format for adaptation by other change agents.

The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities

Each change agent team will register for the program, providing contact, demographic and project-specific information to a central database that can be mined to learn about the interests and ideas of vulnerable women and girls across the developing world. User teams will then navigate the curriculum’s 32 modules, each of which has the following structure:
1. A conscious leadership activity to support personal growth, trauma healing, and compassionate and ethical social change.
2. A case study of a social entrepreneur or conscious leader.
3. An interactive social change lesson with worksheets for completion offline if necessary.
4. A submission tool where the user will input the venture design work from each lesson (e.g., for a lesson on theory of change, the design work would be to submit your venture’s theory of change).
When the entire training course is complete, the design work submitted will in aggregate form a comprehensive project plan. Users can print for their own use or email a copy of their plan as a grant proposal to a foundation. Users may also submit their plans online for public viewing in an idea bank with a crowd-sourced funding mechanism like GlobalGiving. Change agents can also access the idea bank to obtain a solution’s plan for adoption or adaptation. Ongoing technical assistance will be provided by trained volunteers. Phase 2 features include an application for use on smart-phones and tablets, a mobile phone reference library and digital mentorship and collaboration networks for issue-specific or geographically located teams.

The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?

Peer groups include Echoing Green, Spark Micro-Grants, Global Change-Makers, Educate! and Youth Venture. Most provide funding to change agents based on a concept or limited plan, but do not provide the comprehensive tools for designing a social venture sustainably from scratch. Those who do provide technical support do so either in person or provide limited frameworks online, but do not utilize an interactive platform for building a plan step by step. GG’s eAcademy is unique in its experiential curriculum that integrates systemic change with participatory development tools, its self-awareness program that guides change agents in becoming mindful leaders and its idea bank. We hope our eAcademy can serve as the catalyst for change agents who can later seek the services of these other groups.

Social Impact

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What solution(s) does your initiative address to better the lives of girls and women by leveraging technology? (select all applicable)

Access to technology, Access to education/training, Access to economic opportunity.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

Since 2006, GG has led our Academy for Conscious Change in Rwanda, an 18-month hands-on social venture incubator to help marginalized women launch their own micro-NGOs. One of our ventures in rural Rwanda is a team of 19 women, only 7 of whom are literate. Their issue was women who were being forced to trade sex for water delivery because they were blind, pregnant, disabled or too weak to collect it themselves from a valley 3 miles downhill. The team built a clean water venture to serve 100 households, ensuring free water for vulnerable women. After 4 years, they have expanded to 3 new sites and now serve an estimated 6000 people, sustainably. To date, our 300 graduates are operating 21 organizations. This year we will expand to Northern Uganda, train 85 women and girls and launch another 5-15 ventures. In the last 3 years, we have received requests from 200 women’s groups in 45 countries seeking to participate in our programs. The eAcademy is our solution to serving this demand.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

We are now piloting the program with 10 teams in 10 countries. After launching the eAcademy publically this fall, our goal is to build a user base of 75 teams across 45 countries in year 1. Given our work in Rwanda, we anticipate each venture initiated will benefit an average 500-1000 others, collectively impacting between 37,500 –75,000 women and girls. In year 2, we will aim to expand the user base to 200 groups and focus on building partnerships for support services and improved accessibility and new languages. We will also populate our idea bank so that we can mine for data, track best practices and monitor social idea spread. In year 3 we will aim to double our user base through marketing efforts and word of mouth to 500 users, with ventures serving at least 250,000 women and girls.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Based on our field research and pilot users, the two greatest barriers to the use of our eAcademy for Conscious Change are difficulties in accessing the Internet and language. Though most users have mobile phones, they are not Internet-enabled devices. Accessing the Internet requires an often unsafe journey to visit an internet café, where transportation, Internet usage and printing costs are expensive. Slow speed and old computers also challenge users. Further, our current platform requires an understanding of English. We will address these challenges by (a) forging local partnerships that remove financial barriers to access, (b) designing a simple application to be used on smart-phones with mobile access when hardware is affordable and (c) seeking grants for new language versions.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

In 6 months after public launch, we will have 35 user groups utilizing the eAcademy; 50% will have completed their venture plan

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone

Task 1

Complete pilot program with 10 users, fix bugs and and integrate recommendations from user feedback.

Task 2

Initiate social media campaign and 2 marketing partnerships to attract grassroots user teams through local & global networks.

Task 3

Establish funding mechanism and volunteer technical support to incentivize and facilitate user experience.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

In 12 months after public launch, we will have 75 user groups, and 50 will have completed their plans for implementation.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone

Task 1

Forge 1-2 sponsor partners who will offer seed funding awards to attract new user groups in certain issue areas.

Task 2

Build partnerships with 2-3 NGOs who can extend the eAcademy to their beneficiaries and provide onsite support.

Task 3

Train 25 university student facilitators to provide volunteer technical assistance online and through site visits.

Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world.

In 2004 Gretchen Wallace went to South Africa to meet with social entrepreneurs working on HIV/AIDS to learn why social innovation was not spreading quickly. She met a 25 year old change agent, named Zolecka Ntuli, who had no formal education or job, but was working fearlessly and creatively to address child rape in her township. Gretchen realized that one of the most effective levers of social change is a woman with the capability, resources and inner commitment to initiate positive change for herself and others. She founded Global Grassroots that same year to provide training and seed funding for women change agents in post-conflict countries. As women globally began seeking our help, Gretchen knew she needed to leverage technology to grow sustainably. The eAcademy was envisioned not as a static platform to disseminate our tools, but as an interactive program to foster the spread of social ideas, study practical grassroots solutions, and catalyze change agents among women and girls.

Sustainability

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Tell us about your partnerships

We have a pilot partnership with Dartmouth College and 85Broads’ network of professional women, who will provide sponsorship/mentorship to university volunteers who will be trained to provide technical assistance. We will market our program in partnership with WorldPusle, an online hub of women citizen journalists in 179 countries, and through the Half the Sky Movement. We will seek partnership with the Global Fund for Women for grant funding, and explore GlobalGiving as our donor portal. Finally, we are approaching the Peace Corps and NGOs who can extend the eAcademy to their beneficiaries.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

We seek investors and technology specialists to help pioneer the next phase of innovation in hardware and accessibility improvements to allow us to reach more disadvantaged change agents. We also need partners to help us extend our tools globally. Finally, we are happy to provide technical assistance and new solutions from our change agents to int’l and grassroots groups serving women and girls.

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98 weeks ago Gretchen Wallace said: Maya - I just discovered your comment here. I'd be delighted to share more about the eAcademy. I can email you an overview, and you ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
102 weeks ago eAcademy for Conscious Change has been chosen as a finalist in She Will Innovate: Technology Solutions Enriching the Lives of Girls.
112 weeks ago Maya Lindenmuth said: I would like to learn more. about this Competition Entry. - read more >
115 weeks ago Gretchen Wallace updated this Competition Entry.
115 weeks ago Gretchen Wallace updated this Competition Entry.
115 weeks ago Gretchen Wallace updated this Competition Entry.
115 weeks ago Gretchen Wallace submitted this idea.