John Converse Townsend's blog

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You Won't Believe Who's Organizing Philly's First City-Wide Day of Play

Philadelphia will host its first city-wide day of play in the spring of 2015—organized not by city government but by 200 “play experts.” They will include young people who will design games while rallying teachers, mobilizing parents, teaming up with after-school program leaders, and encouraging their friends to take part.

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Design for Change: Children Feel, Imagine, Do, and Share

At age three, 98 percent of children are creative geniuses. By age 25, just 2 percent of people still possess their powerful childhood ingenuity. What's going on?

By the time they’re eight or nine, young students are rule-bound, self-conscious, and view tough tasks as threats to be avoided, rather than challenges to be mastered (or as opportunities to learn new skills). In other words, creative behavior is unlearned.

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How This Time-Traveling Professor Is Re-Defining Play And Learning

Professor S., a university professor in Berlin, has invented the world’s first functioning time machine. Unfortunately, it has malfunctioned and he’s stuck in the past with his Ph.D. research assistant, Jeanette. It’s up to students in seven elementary schools in Germany to help bring the pair home.

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Rebuilding Guatemala … Through Its Soil

The story of how one social entrepreneur in Guatemala, Curt Bowen, is starting a revolution—for farmers, by farmers.

Guatemala, 1970. General Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio became the face of the Institutional Democratic Party, essentially a club of military dictators whose brutal rule, between 1970 and 1986, changed the country forever. Guatemala's development plan, supported by the US, aimed to “aid campesinos as well as small and medium farmers” for a diverse national production.

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Interview With Tony Juniper: 'No Nature, No People'

Tony Juniper is a campaigner, writer, and “by popular consent the most effective of Britain’s eco-warriors.” He’s currently a special adviser to the Prince of Wales Charities’ International Sustainability Unit, a senior associate with the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership (CPSL), and editor-in-chief of National Geographic Green Magazine.

We caught up with Juniper to chat about climate change, sustainability, and how nature is actually the basis of economic activity.

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Conoce a los finalistas del desafío Innovaciones para la Salud!


Cerca de 400 emprendedores, profesionales de la salud y miembros de la comunidad de 73 países diferentes, presentaron sus proyectos en el desafío Innovaciones para la Salud: Soluciones que Cruzan Fronteras organizado por Ashoka Changemakers y el Pioneer Portfolio la Fundación Robert Wood Johnson.
Hoy 15 innovaciones han sido identificados como las soluciones más prometedoras en el campo de la salud. Los finalistas poseen una mirada a largo plazo, realizan intervenciones de alta calidad y de bajo costo, mantienen una atención personalizada y centrada en el paciente, y tienen el potencial de ser aplicados en otros países.
Estos finalistas poseen una visión a futuro de las innovaciones que pueden cruzar las fronteras:

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Conheça os finalistas do desafio Inovações para a Saúde!

Cerca de 400 empreendedores, profissionais da saúde e cidadãos de 73 países enviaram suas propostas para o desafio Inovações para a saúde: soluções que cruzam fronteiras, uma parceria entre o Chagemakers da Ashoka e a Iniciativa Pioneer Portfolio da Fundação Robert Wood Johnson. 

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Meet the Innovations for Health Competition Finalists!

Nearly 400 entrepreneurs, health care professionals, and community members from 73 countries submitted their health care solutions to the Innovations for Health: Solutions that Cross Borders competition hosted by Ashoka Changemakers and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio.

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Get to know the Activating Empathy Early Entry Award Winners

Ashoka’s New Year’s resolution for 2012 was more ambitious than most. We’re not cutting back on the caffeine, eating healthier, or exercising more frequently. But we resolved to make 2012 the year to jumpstart a worldwide movement for empathy, made official with the launch of the global Activating Empathy: Transforming Schools To Teach What Matters competition.

Three months later, we are seeing this resolution become a reality. Teachers, parents, students, and innovators have joined this effort to ensure that all children master empathy, a critical skill in today’s rapidly changing world. The competition has attracted more than 160 entries and nearly 400 nominations for ideas that create better communities, societies, organizations, companies, and institutions.

There is still time to get involved; the deadline for solutions isn’t until 5:00 p.m. (ET) on March 30. More than $110,000 in cash and in-kind prizes are still available to entrants!

In the meantime, we have decided to recognize a handful of our favorite solutions to date: the Activating Empathy Early Entry Award Winners:

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Q&A with Darren Bunton, Human Rights Activist

By now you’ve definitely spotted it: Changemakers is changing. One of the most visible developments is changeshops, an improved way to help build the world of social good. Changeshops is still a very young network, but we’re already seeing signs of its potential. As the community grows, we’re asking a few top users to share the exciting projects popping up.

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Q&A with Jacquie Cutts, Maternal and Child Health Champion

Changemakers is changing. Through the new changeshops platform, we now offer improved ways to help build the world of social good. Changeshops users will be able to tell the online community what they need to grow their projects; search for collaborators, innovators, and competitions in the field; and access funding opportunities for world-changing ideas.

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Save the Date! Join @Changemakers for a #SocEntChat about Empathy!

February 14th is a day the world beams with love – and what better way to capture that love, by cultivating empathy in ourselves and in our communities?

Join us, the 1440 Foundation, experts and innovators between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. EST on Valentine’s Day for a conversation about empathy: its power, its impact, and its future.  

This is your chance to share your thoughts, ideas, challenges, and perspectives—and to connect with innovators and thought-leaders!

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Q&A with James Waruiru, Community Health Activist

Changemakers is changing. Through the new Changeshops platform, we now offer improved ways to help build the world of social good. Changeshops users will be able to tell the online community what they need to grow their projects; search for collaborators, innovators, and competitions in the field; and access funding opportunities for world-changing ideas.

The Changeshops community is growing each day; to get a preview of what might be in store, Changemakers is catching up with a few of the platform’s top users.

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Q&A with Idit Harel Caperton, Education Entrepreneur

Changemakers is changing. Through the new Changeshops platform, we now offer improved ways to help build the world of social good. Changeshops users will be able to tell the online community what they need to grow their projects; search for collaborators, innovators, and competitions in the field; and access funding opportunities for world-changing ideas.

The Changeshops community is growing each day; to get a preview of what might be in store, Changemakers is catching up with a few of the platform’s top users.

Our first interview is with Dr. Idit Harel Caperton, president and founder of the World Wide Workshop, the New York-based foundation that is powering ideas for global learning and leadership in the 21st century. Caperton’s Globaloria project is the world’s first and largest social learning network where students develop the digital citizenship skills the global economy demands. Globaloria helps both youth and educators learn to participate as leaders of change in the global knowledge economy.

Caperton sat down to talk with Changemakers about the organization’s early success with Changeshops.

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Preguntas y Respuestas con Ben Wald: Director Ejecutivo de Ashoka Changemakers

El 14 de enero próximo, innovadores líderes en emprendedorismo social y empresarial, tecnología, ámbito académico y entretenimiento se reunirán en los estudios de Pixar Animation para intercambiar formas efectivas y poderosas de abordar los desafíos económicos y sociales más críticos de este tiempo. Entre los innovadores se encuentran la Vicepresidenta de Google, Marissa Mayer; Steve Case, fundador de AOL y de Case Foundation; y Tim Brown, director ejecutivo de IDEO, así como también la Presidenta de Ashoka, Diana Wells, y Ben Wald Director Ejecutivo de Ashoka Changemakers.

El evento, denominado “The Intersection” (La Intersección), será una reunión de 14 “mentes brillantes de la innovación” provenientes del sector empresarial y social que explorarán las tendencias líderes en innovación a nivel de creatividad personal, de equipo y organizacional e impacto social. 

Recientemente Wald conversó con Changemakers sobre sus expectativas sobre el evento: 

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What Happens When HeroRATs Head Home?

If you’ve been around these parts, you’re familiar with APOPO’s HeroRATs — the carefully trained, classically conditioned rodents that are bringing peace and security to countries with landmine legacies. HeroRATs founder Bart Weetjens and his talented critters have recently been featured at events like the 2011 Ashoka Globalizer and Skoll World Forum, heard over airwaves worldwide, and even captured on film in the field.

APOPO has successfully cleared more than 2,000 landmines and unexploded ordnances from land along the Thai-Cambodian border and in Mozambique. But what becomes of the reclaimed land after the HeroRATs head home?

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Q&A: An Interview With Ben Wald

On January 14, leading innovators in social and business entrepreneurship, technology, academia, and entertainment will meet at Pixar Animation Studios to discuss powerful and effective ways to address the most critical social and economic challenges of our time. They include Google vice president Marissa Mayer; Steve Case, founder of AOL and The Case Foundation; and Tim Brown, IDEO CEO, as well as Ashoka president Diana Wells and Ashoka Changemakers chief executive partner Ben Wald.

The event, dubbed “The Intersection,” will be a mash-up of 14 “innovation masterminds” from the business and social sectors exploring leading trends and ideas in personal creativity, team and organizational innovation, and social impact.

Wald recently talked with Changemakers about what he expects from the event—and what he is excited about.

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Uma empreendedora visionária coloca em foco a eliminação da deficiência visual evitável

Quase 40 milhões de pessoas no mundo estão desnecessariamente cegas e outras 240 milhões têm baixa visão. Praticamente 285 milhões de pessoas com deficiência visual vivem em países em desenvolvimento e sofrem de erros de refração não corrigidos e catarata.
Mas a Unidos pela Visão, uma empresa social localizada em New Haven, Connecticut, está fortalecendo comunidades ao redor do mundo para melhorar os cuidados dos olhos e diminuir as possibilidades de deficiência visual. A organização assegura tratamento oftalmológico – seja com medicação, uma cirurgia de restauração da visão a 150 dólares ou até mesmo um par de óculos – para pacientes que vivem em situação de pobreza em Gana, Índia, Honduras e também nos EUA e Canadá.
Mais de 1,3 milhões de pessoas no mundo superaram as barreiras de cuidados com os olhos através dos serviços oferecidos pela Unidos pela Visão, podendo elas pagar ou não pelo serviço – a conta sempre foi coberta pela organização social. 

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Una emprendedora visionaria pone en la mira la eliminación de la ceguera prevenible


Casi 40 millones de personas en todo el mundo son ciegas sin necesidad y otras 240 millones tienen poca visión. En el mundo, practicamente 285 millones de personas con discapacidad visual viven en países en desarrollo y sufren de errores de refracción y cataratas sin corregir.

Pero Unite for Sight (Unidos por la Vista), un emprendimiento social con sede en New Haven, Connecticut, EE.UU, está empoderando a las comunidades en todo el mundo para mejorar la salud ocular y eliminar la ceguera prevenible. La organización garantiza el tratamiento visual —ya sea si se trata de medicamentos, restauración de la vista por medio de una cirugía de USD 150 o incluso un primer par de gafas— para los pacientes que viven en situación de pobreza en Ghana, India y Honduras, así como Estados Unidos y Canadá.
Más de 1,3 millones de personas en todo el mundo han superado las barreras de acceso a la atención oftalmológica a través de los servicios de Unite for Sight, ya sea que puedan pagarlo o no: la cuenta está siempre cubierta por la organización sin fines de lucro.