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Join our next Asia-focused #SocEntChat about “Making More Health” on September 13

Did you try and stay up for our #SocEntchat on September 8 and just didn’t make it? Not to worry because on Tuesday, September 13, 2011, Ashoka Changemakers®, in collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim, is organizing a #SocEntChat for Asia and other Eastern Hemisphere participants. You are invited to join entrepreneurs, innovators, and enthusiasts from around the world to discuss challenges related to the health sector, as well as innovative and sustainable solutions that increase individual, family, and community well-being.
Participate in this #SocEntChat on Twitter between 1 and 3 p.m. IST (Indian Standard Time) to share your innovative ideas and solutions that address the collaboration and ingenuity needed to Make More Health.

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Statelessness and the Trouble with Invisibility

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Where are you from? 
I usually answer that question with, “Well, it’s kind of a long story.” I’m not particularly special, but the truth is I don’t know—not really. 
I was born in Mexico City and raised in New Delhi by a Panamanian mother and an American father, and while I’m a dual citizen, I don’t wholly consider Mexico or the United States home. The government, on the other hand, has its managerial mind made up, plainly expressed on my driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, and other forms of official identification. 
My personal uncertainty doesn’t cause any angst, nor is it a problem in public life. However, the same can’t be said for the 12 to 15 million stateless persons around the world. 
The invisible people aren’t recognized as nationals by any country or government, and consequently denied fundamental rights that the vast majority of earth’s citizens take for granted.

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The Anti-bullying Movement: Where do we go from here?

Across the United States and around the world, the anti-bullying movement has become a rallying force. From celebrities telling gay teens that “It Gets Better” to the world-wide attention paid to a bullying incident in Australia captured on video, the problem of bullying in schools has garnered heightened media attention and is being tackled with increasingly stronger laws by communities.  

There are anti-bullying laws of varying strength in at least 40 states. Last week, New Jersey enacted the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, the nation’s toughest anti-bullying state law yet; it received both cheers and criticism. The law includes a requirement that teachers and administrators report incidents of bullying to the police, and has raised questions about who should be held accountable for protecting students. It has also sparked debate around the potential implications of criminalizing bullying, as well as how schools are going to pay for anti-bullying programs, given already-slashed budgets and overworked teachers.
But schools and communities agree on the critical nature of the problem. Studies have shown that bullying leads to increased incidence of mental health issues later in life and lower achievement levels, especially for minority students. In fact, according to a Harvard Medical School study, verbal abuse — even without physical abuse — acts like a neurotoxin, having serious effects on brain development, most markedly in students in their middle school years.

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Save the Date for a Twitter Chat on September 12th on #CitizenMedia

Save the date! 

On Monday, September 12, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. (EDT) Ashoka Changemakers will be hosting a Twitter chat to discuss issues pertaining to citizen media. 
Join the early-entry winners of the Google-supported Citizen Media competition, along with entrepreneurs, innovators and enthusiasts from around the world. We'll discuss best practices, challenges and trends in the future of information-sharing. 
It’s your chance to share your thoughts, ideas, challenges and perspectives about this quickly developing field! 

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Who's Driving our Data?

In 1960, architect and preservationist James Marston Fitch declared in The New York Times: “The automobile has not merely taken over the street, it has dissolved the living tissue of the city. Its appetite for space is absolutely insatiable; moving and parked, it devours urban land, leaving buildings as mere islands of habitable space in a sea of dangerous and ugly traffic.”

Fitch’s criticism — addressed to motor-obsessed consumers almost 50 years after Henry Ford’s assembly-line manufacturing model made the automobile affordable — would have little impact today, with our undying, time-tested love for the automobile. Yet his worry applies equally to today’s hi-tech monster: the Internet, which also has origins reaching back into the 1960s
The Web is everywhere, hugging the streets of our cities and expanding across our seas and skies. It’s in the palm of everyone’s hand, and while it promises to connect the world, it might be fragmenting society like the automobile once did. 
The 2011 equivalent of James Marston Fitch is Eli Pariser, the pioneering online organizer and author of The Filter Bubble, a worrying account of how an increasingly personalized Internet may be narrowing our worldviews, damaging our personalities, and impairing democracy.

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Fearless in France: The Story of Rumah Cemara's 2011 Homeless World Cup

You won’t find many World Cup soccer players who have had to rise above extreme poverty, homelessness and prolonged spells of alcoholism and drug abuse. But these are the kinds of challenges that socially marginalized players from around the world have surmounted in order to be featured in the Homeless World Cup (HWC) annual tournament. 
This year’s tournament, held from August 21 through August 28 in Paris, France, was supported by legendary Premier League manager, Arsène Wenger, and former French internationals Lilian Thuram and Emmanuelle Petit. 
Since its inception in Graz, Austria in 2003, the 48-team Homeless World Cup tournament has given some of the world’s most invisible people a grand stage to showcase their courage, perseverance and pure footballing talent in their nation’s colors. The contest also offers players the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to find societal acceptance, and affect the attitude of spectators, media, and governments toward the issue of homelessness. 

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Join the Momentum for Making More Health – Participate in Our Next #SocEntChat on September 7

The response by the global health community to the Making More Health competition has been outstanding and has even broken an Ashoka Changemakers® record, receiving 186 entries by the August 17 deadline for the early entry prize. 

Be among the first to congratulate the Making More Health early entry prize winners:
Do you want to join this energy and excitement—but you don’t necessarily have a solution to submit? That’s okay! On Wednesday, September 7, 2011, Ashoka Changemakers®, in collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim, invites you to join entrepreneurs, innovators and enthusiasts from around the world to discuss challenges related to the health sector, as well as innovative and sustainable solutions that increase individual, family, and community well-being.
Participate in this multilingual (English, Spanish, and Portuguese) #SocEntChat on Twitter between 3 and 5 p.m. EDT, to share your innovative ideas and solutions that address the collaboration and ingenuity needed to Make More Health.

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Mobile Gaming for Change: An Interview with Hilmi Quraishi

Photo via jackol

Recently, Changemakers reported on innovations in health, including Hilmi Quraishi’s mobile phone games that give teens points for knowing more about HIV/AIDS and prevention. Changemakers sat down with Quraishi to discuss his work founding and leading ZMQ Software Systems, which has created dozens of games and technology solutions for the social sector, including ones that raise awareness about climate change and that address the UN’s Millennium goals, such as sanitation, clean water, and children’s health. 

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Citizen Media in the Age of Algorithms, Part Two

Photo via Derek DeVries

[Editor's note: This post was written by Zack Brisson, co-founder and principal at Reboot, a network partner in the Changemakers Citizen Media: A Global Innovation Competition.]

Last week, I wrote about the need to expand our definition of “citizen media.” In addition to oft-cited examples of civic media – Ushahidi, Global Voices, Twitter – other platforms have a powerful hold over how we receive civic information. 

Specifically, Google and Facebook control and manage the flow of information for billions of people worldwide. But do we understand how this information is curated and presented? 

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An Honest Story: America's Path Out of Islamophobia

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“The New York Police Department is doing everything it can to make sure there’s not another 9/11 here and that more innocent New Yorkers are not killed by terrorists,” said New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne. “And we have nothing to apologize for in that regard.”

Browne’s statement came in response to the anger surrounding the recent revelations of the NYPD’s undercover operations and surveillance — and civil liberty infringements — in minority neighborhoods. 
Though the NYPD’s mission is appropriate (there is, without a doubt, great value in protecting our country from terrorist threats), some of its methods are suspect. The department’s main offense was specifically targeting Muslim neighborhoods, without evidence of wrongdoing, as part of a human mapping program which included monitoring daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes, nightclubs, and even mosques.
This wasn’t the first time Muslims have been targets of vigilant circumspection. Defense measures have tightened since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; in order to prevent another such act, the FBI has made counterterrorism the nation’s leading priority, spending well over half of its budget on field agents and a nationwide network of informants. The Pentagon has gone as far as to pose as al-Qaeda agents online, spreading “confusing and contradictory orders, some so virulent that young Muslims dabbling in jihadist philosophy, but on the fence about it, might be driven away,” according to a report published in The New York Times
The federal budget, which funds a number of (perhaps questionable) clandestine security forces, suggests that Islam is a threat to our national security and that the enemy is all around us, always threatening. My point of contention is that the terrorist threat posed by radicalized Muslim-Americans after 9/11 has been vastly exaggerated.

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For Nuru, Energy Applies to Products and Microfranchises

(Above: Esperance Yanfashije who along with her husband Martin Uwayezu, run a Nuru business together. They live and work in Ruhuha Sector, Bugesera District, Eastern Province, Rwanda. Image credit: John Briggs)

[Editor's note: This post was written by Adeena Schlussel, associate at KIND Snacks, and was originally featured on Next Nuru Energy is a finalist in the Changemakers Powering Economic Opportunity: Creat a World That Works competition.]

Nuru Energy faces the same problems that many alternative energy initiatives in the developing world face: kerosene is a dangerous, polluting, expensive, and non-renewable source of energy that leaves many families in poverty, some injured, and others in the dark. Nuru Energy, however, approaches this familiar problem in its own unique way with the Nuru Light and the Power Cycle.
The Nuru Light, seed funded by the World Bank in 2008 and serving East Africa and India, is innovative in its design; each battery re-charge affords a consumer 26 hours of light, which translates into five to seven days of use.  Another of Nuru's assets is that it's designed to be incredibly versatile. Because energy is needed for all sorts of circumstances and occasions, Nuru's designers created the product so it can be work on one's forehead, perched on a flat surface, mounted on a wall or channelled though a plastic or glass bottle.
But what is an energy providing product without a dependable and continuous source of energy? The founders of Nuru Energy created the PowerCycle to address this necessity. The PowerCycle is a generator that recharges Nuru's products as the pedals are pumped. In 20 minutes, one peddler can recharge 5 lights, and with new functionality, it can re-charge cell phones as well. The PowerCycle's manual energy generation avoids the various pitfalls of weather dependant sources of energy such as sunlight and wind power.

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Citizen Media in the Age of Algorithms: Part One

[Editor's note: This post was written by Zack Brisson, co-founder and principal at Reboot, a network partner in the Changemakers Citizen Media: A Global Innovation Competition.]
What is citizen media? This may seem like a silly question, given the context of the Citizen Media Global Innovation competition. But the concept is worth defining because it’s rapidly expanding.
Our media have been the fluid that connects our ideas since our earliest days as an articulate species. “Media” are any tools, mediums, or channels through which an individual or group creates and shares ideas. This is the process through which we form our conceptions of culture, power, justice, and community. 
Our media were predominantly “citizen,” or individual, during the vast arc of human culture, extending over tens of thousands of years. Constrained by existing technology, almost all media — cave paintings, storytelling, song, and dance — were local and community-driven. 

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Sustainable Farming and Livelihoods Take Root

Organic and fair trade agricultural SMEs are expanding their markets despite the global economic downturn, and are getting a boost in the developing world through organizations like Root Capital. The nonprofit investment fund recently acquired a loan package of $4.9 million from the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the U.S.-based Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group. 
Root Capital will use $3 million of the funds to expand its ability to lend to sustainable coops and agricultural SMEs in Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Another $1.9 million will go towards a technical assistance initiative to help the organizations strengthen their financial skills.
As the organic cotton export industry in India has demonstrated, sustainable agriculture has the power to support sustainable livelihoods for small-scale rural farmers. Global demand, mostly from developed nations, for organic and fair-trade agricultural products has grown over the past few years, even throughout the global economic downturn. 

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What is Innovation in Health and Well-Being?

Camila Batmanghelidjh at TED Salon London Nov 2010 | via
With a record number of early entries to the Making More Health competition, answering this question is going to be key for determining the winners. While new medical insights and technologies are being discovered and developed continuously, a truly innovative health project is one that uses new strategies beyond those used by traditional health systems.
Through sector research and conversations with experts from the field, the Changemakers Knowledge and Learning Team has uncovered some preliminary trends around innovation in health and well-being. Here’s a closer look with some real-life examples from the field: 

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Media in a Post-Revolution Tunisia: A Conversation with Zied Mhirsi, Co-Founder of Tunisia Live

When the revolution in Tunisia started in the winter of 2010, the mainstream media wasn't even paying attention. The stories, photos, and videos from the frontlines came out because of citizen media, spread by Twitter, YouTube, and local citizen media sites like Tunisia Live
This year has been the year of citizen media. From Tunisia to London, citizen media (and its partner, social media) has captured the attention of citizens, media, and governments alike. Tunisia Live is a post-revolution citizen media initiative that connects the country with the English-speaking world. 
Just a few weeks ago, it captured the thoughts of citizens, focusing specifically on their perception of the role and value of media:

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Social Media: The Jekyll & Hyde of Media?

"Everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck by how they were organized via social media . . . Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them." – British Prime Minister David Cameron

Blackberry Messenger was used as a highly-effective tool for organizing the recent riots in London and creating mass chaos, along with Facebook and Twitter.

But Twitter was also used to organize a resistance movement (#riotcleanup) that coordinated crowds of citizens from the riot-affected areas. Citizens who were outraged by the violence came together to clean up the damage. The effort was a local action that turned into a movement; with the broom as its symbol, the cleanup campaign spread across the country as quickly as the riots did, thanks to . . . social media.

I realize it is slightly ludicrous to discuss “social media” in an anthropomorphic sense. Social media is a tool used by people, and can be used in any number of ways, from organizing weeks of peaceful protests that led to the collapse of the Mubarak regime to organizing destructive riots that set fire to London for days. Yet as I watched the coverage of the events in London I couldn’t help but picture social media like this:  

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Citizen Media Trends: Digital Tools in India Catalyze Participatory Citizenship and Combat Corruption

Access to media in India is accelerating in both traditional and new digital forms. Television and radio are reaching more people than ever, and unlike much of the world, print readership in India is strong and on the rise. Although universal Internet access is far from a reality — only about 5.3 percent of India’s population uses the Internet, according to the World Bank — rapid changes to the way people access news and share information are on the horizon. 
Internet access and the use of social media tools for personal expression and news-sharing is fairly strong in cities and among middle- and upper-income groups. Prominent Bollywood actors, like Aamir Khan, are contributing to the mass popularity of blogging and tweeting, and due to its sheer population size, India ranks globally as one of the highest participants in top social media sites like Facebook. 
The situation is far different in rural areas, which have extremely limited access to digital communication technology. But awareness is growing. Last year, the Internet and Mobile Association of India reported that only 16 percent of the rural population was aware of the Internet. This year, that number jumped to 69 percent. 

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“Women Play a Critical Role in Family Health”

[Editor's note: This post was written by Lorena López, Argentine journalist and Ashoka Changemakers collaborator.] 

Listening to communities, respecting traditions, and motivating families to get involved in self-care:  These factors are fundamental to achieving better quality of life and health, according to María Elisa Bernal, director of the Experiences in Social Innovation project of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL). In 2010, CEPAL published a study, From Social Innovation to Public Policy: Successful stories from Latin America and the Caribbean, identifying the factors necessary to guarantee access to health care in Latin America. This interview with Bernal is based on the findings of this study, as well as her years of experience working at the regional level in the field of health.

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Join us on August 23, 2011 for Ashoka Changemakers' Asia #SocEntChat on Citizen Media!

Save the date! Ashoka Changemakers® will host a #SocEntChat on Citizen Media in Asia on Tuesday, August 23, 2011, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. IST (@ Indian Standard Time). 
Join us from anywhere in the world to participate in a discussion with innovators, social entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts about the most pressing issues in Citizen Media affecting Asia today. Topics will include censorship, access to technology, crowd sourcing for social change—and more issues chosen by you. This is your chance to share your thoughts and ask leading innovators all of your most burning questions. Make your voice heard! 

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Architecting Media’s Future

[Editor's note: This post was written by Keith Hammonds, director of Ashoka's News & Knowledge Program.]

One of the more intriguing exchanges I’ve been in on recently came between Jake Shapiro, founder and CEO of the Public Radio Exchange, and Stephen Friend, president of Sage Bionetworks. Both are recently elected Ashoka Fellows. Shapiro is a media guy: PRX is a web-based platform that allows the distribution, review, and licensing of radio content that’s produced by literally anyone. Friend, a medical doctor and biochemist, was previously senior vice president at Merck & Co., Inc. where he led the company’s basic cancer research effort. Among other projects at Sage, Friend has created an online space where genomic and biomedical researchers can convene, interact, share basic research, and build upon one another’s insights in an environment governed by neither academia nor industry — speeding treatments and cures.

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What's the best thing you'll see at SXSW 2012?

Every March, the world heads to Austin, Texas for South by Southwest (SXSW), the film, music, and interactive superfestival. And while SXSW is still a full seven months away, its smart and fervent followers are already making plenty of noise. So many promising panel proposals have already rolled in, the event organizers have asked their global community to help decide which to feature. That’s where you come in.

In 2012, Changemakers is hoping to host two interactive panels on open growth and creating brand-aligned social change. But we need your help to do it. (More information on the panels after the jump.)

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Arab Spring – and the Long Winter Ahead

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

For all the debate about whether this is the year of the Twitter revolution and the Facebook riots, the much more interesting question is: What is not happening on the giant social media websites of the world?

The answer is: A lot.

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Innovating Toward a Healthier World

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

When health innovation expert David Aylward is asked if the developing world can learn from the U.S. healthcare system, his answer is an emphatic yes -- "They should do the opposite!"

Aylward, senior advisor for Global Health and Technology at Ashoka, is not exactly joking. For all our sophisticated technology, medical talent, and access to medicine, we all know the U.S. health-care system needs a significant upgrade. Fundamentally, the situation is not very different from that in countries on the other end of the economic spectrum.

"For different reasons, the developed world and the developing world are ending up in the same place: with health-care systems that are inefficient and not sustainable," Aylward said.

But as it turns out, this is actually reason to celebrate. It means that countries rich and poor, rural and urban, can learn from each other to bring more health to more people everywhere.

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In India, the Food Cart of the Future and a Promise of Prosperity

As the clock on your office wall wills itself past midday, you head out the door in search of lunch. “I’m starving,” you announce (and your stomach growls in agreement). The quest for food is brief; soon you’re heading back to work sated with another giant burrito or maybe a famous flatbread sandwich from that place on the corner.

This sort of afternoon adventure happens daily. In the developed world, it’s generally mission accomplished. But this isn’t the case around the world, where more than 800 million are food insecure, uncertain where (and when) they’ll have their next meal. As a result, undernourishment – which exists where caloric intake is below the minimum dietary energy requirement – is prevalent in Central and South America, in many parts of Asia, and all over Africa, particularly south of the Sahara.

With mouths to feed, people have begun to take to the streets to put food on the table; street food, both accessible and affordable, is eaten by almost two and a half billion people every day. While food carts have seen a marked increase in popularity in the United States over the past few years, they’re a longstanding, ubiquitous phenomenon and have forever been a go-to source of grub worldwide.

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In Today’s Media Landscape, We Are All Witnesses

[Editor's note: This post was written by Jayanthi Daniel, Content and UX Specialist,]

The landscape of media has changed so much over the past 20 years that for even the most seasoned journalists, it’s almost unrecognizable.

Twenty years ago, how did we get our news? How did we hear about the important events of the day? How did we even know that the important events of the day were the ones that all of the world needed to know about?

For many journalists —newspapermen and women, television anchors under make-up and heavy lighting — the media world in 1990 was a small one. Anyone interested in the news read newspapers or magazines. Those without time to read during the day caught up with evening news reports on television. It was, amazingly, a golden age in television and print journalism.

Now, with the advent of online news and content, the world has drastically changed. Newspapers these days aren’t fat with advertisements; they’re conducting rounds of layoffs. Instead of a treasured evening news hour, dozens of channels devote their airtime to 24-hours of what’s now called the “news cycle.” Is there even enough news to sustain that amount of time? Some would say no, pointing to the increasingly blurred line between “news” and “entertainment."

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A New Aspect to Citizen Media: In a psychiatric hospital in Buenos Aires, a surprising new crop of citizen journalists

[Editor's note: This story was written by Alyssa A. Feldmann, Summer Associate at Ashoka Changemakers.]

Citizen journalism has developed in some niches of Argentina, telling the stories that the mainstream media giants Clarín and La Nación do not publish. But these pioneers in citizen media have not been celebrated by the general public, and many of their publications remain overlooked. 

Most citizens still rely on mainstream media for their news. The Media Law passed in 2009 equally divides the number of media licenses available between non-profit, for-profit and government media associations in order to decrease the monopolies’ power. But, the monopolies continue to distract the public from those who are using their voice to unearth information that is sometimes unpopular. In the capital Buenos Aires, especially, strikes and peaceful demonstrations are still the most common way to increase greater public attention. But there is one organization working -- successfully -- to bring citizen media to the masses.

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Changemakers Top 10 Summer Reads

Wilting from this summer’s record temperatures? We’ve got 10 great books to get you energized.

We asked social innovators from around the globe, including a few members of the Changemakers team, to tell us about their favorite summer reads. From poetry to memoirs to personal wisdom guides, our summer reading list is packed with insight and knowledge that is guaranteed to get you pumped to make change.

So load up your beach bags and e-readers—there isn’t a more perfect way to escape the August heat than a great book (and possibly air conditioning)!

Kristie Wang's picture

Small Farmers Willing to Quit, Jeopardizing India’s Food Security

India’s rapidly developing urban economy and the legacy of its Green Revolution are posing an increasing threat to small farms. Yet small farms produce 41 percent of India’s foodgrains.

The nation’s ability to feed itself may suffer as a result. In fact, there is an increasing body of evidence indicating that the technologies ushered in by the Green Revolution — pesticides, chemical fertilizers, high-yield seeds — are to blame for India’s current soil crisis.

An epidemic of farmer suicides (it is estimated that one farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes in India) and rising concerns about food security are underscoring just how critical small farms truly are. Despite the Green Revolution of the 60’s, which transformed India into one of the largest agricultural producers in the world, India is still home to one-fourth of the world’s 800 million under-nourished people. Rural people make up most of the country’s poor.

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Basketball Changed Their Lives; Now They’re Changing the World

Summer break is quickly winding down for many across the United States. But for a special team of almost 500 young men (mostly in their teens or 20s), vacation has just started. 

The young men I’m referring to are professional basketball players. And thanks to the NBA lockout, those athletes and their coaches are in for a break that is a little (or a lot) longer than usual.

While the NBA lockout is a bad deal for all parties involved (at least in the short term), there is one positive outcome from this mess at the local level: Many players and coaches, with extra time on their hands, have decided to use their influence and affluence to make a difference in communities at home and around the world.

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Getting Real on Job Creation

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

We don't need more jobs.

It's true we need to "add jobs" to the economy. But more jobs is not the same as new jobs. We need new jobs.

Real job creation is about new jobs in expanding markets that provide products and services that are growing in demand. But all too often, increasing employment means propping up failing industries, supporting artificial labor markets or giving people a paycheck for making and doing things the demand side doesn't need them to do.

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Angry Birds! Roller Coasters! Harry Potter! Thank You, STEM

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

From Angry Birds to roller coasters, from the Harry Potter films to viral YouTube explosions of Diet Coke and Mentos, your summer fun is made possible by science, technology, engineering, and math.

But the STEM subjects, as they're known, are in serious need of a public relations overhaul. Somehow they've gotten a bad rep among students for being "boring." And grown-ups who should know better often think of them as "uncreative." Ludicrous.

People who have studied and work in STEM subjects are responsible for much of our modern amusement, communication, health, and progress. They invent and make the stuff we love. They improve our lives. They do cool stuff. They imagine the future and build it.

Carter Emmart, for example, takes the data collected from the most sophisticated telescopes and turns it into wild visuals that make the audiences at the Hayden Planetarium's space shows feel like they are traveling through space and time. "My job is to translate the difficulty of science into understandable stories," says Emmart, who studied physics and art. His movies whoosh viewers on a breathtaking, heart-pounding journey around a scientifically accurate 3D solar system and across the Milky Way, passing uncountable numbers of stars and galaxies to the edge of time. Can you think of a kid who wouldn't want to be part of that when they grow up?

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Digital Detox: Hotels encourage digital vacations

If a hotel offered you a 15 percent discount to leave your cell phone at the front desk, would you take it? This summer, some hotels are trying to help us get away from our gadget addictions by offering promotional packages and discounts that require disconnecting from our digital lives.

If you are anything like me, you have a recurring daydream about moving to a lake house with ZERO connectivity. Mobile signal? Nada. Wi-fi? Wi-who? A place where electricity is for lighting, heat, and cooking; where entertainment is relegated to live music, books, and storytelling; and where everyone I speak with is within eight feet of me. Ah, yes, simpler times.

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Imagination in American Schools: Building the Foundation of Creativity and Innovation

An Interview with Scott Noppe-Brandon

It is often said that American economic competitiveness depends on our capacity to innovate. But how exactly can innovation be fostered in schools?

To answer this question, Scott Noppe-Brandon, executive director of Lincoln Center Institute and co-author of Imagination First: Unlocking the Power of Possibility, is leading a campaign prompting each of the 50 states to conduct Imagination Conversations. The Conversations are series of public panel discussions in which leaders representing a multitude of professional backgrounds discuss the role of imagination in their work and how to foster imagination in schools and communities.

Last week, after two years of Imagination Conversations across the United States, America’s Imagination Summit took place at Lincoln Center in New York. It served as both a celebration and a recapitulation of all that had been learned during two years of ideological exchanges. Featured speakers included Peter Cunningham, assistant secretary for Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education, Sir Ken Robinson, Deepak Chopra, and Tony Derose, Senior Scientist at Pixar Animation Studios.

Following the summit, Noppe-Brandon sat down with Changemakers to discuss imagination, innovation, and STEM learning.

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Fixie or Four-Speed? New Bicycle is Best of Both

Jonathan Fiene knows student engagement. As a lecturer and advisor for the University of Pennsylvania's Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mathematics Program, he helps students bring their knowledge from the classroom to the real world on a daily basis.

When his students designed an innovative new bicycle, the Alpha Bike, it earned the excitement and admiration of the cycling community. In this interview, we talk with Dr. Fiene about the Alpha Bike, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, and the importance of inspiration for innovation.

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“Media is complicated.” Or not.

[Editor's note: This post was written by Keith Hammonds, director of Ashoka's News & Knowledge Program.]
At the recent MIT | Knight Civic Media Conference, Ethan Zuckerman – brand-new director of the Center for Civic Media and co-founder of the relentlessly innovative site Global Voices – offered a pretty brilliant state-of-the-field address.  Media, he observed:

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In Health Care, it’s Time for a Paradigm Shift

“Health systems in all world regions are under pressure and cannot cope if they continue to focus on diseases rather than patients,” according to the International Alliance of Patient's Organizations (IAPO). In order to achieve the benefits of effective health care, IAPO argues, policy makers, health professionals, service providers, and health-related industries have to change their focus from disease-centric to a patient health focus.

I would go one step further: To achieve this shift, innovation must be unfettered from the limitations of current mindset. Only by demonstrating what is possible outside the context of traditional methods will we be able to abandon the limitations of "treat the disease" thinking. 

The benefits of patient-centered health care are especially clear in a disease like diabetes, which causes myriad symptoms, is usually accompanied by other medical conditions, and is significantly impacted by the social realities of everyday life. Managing diabetes requires a holistic, patient-centered approach to address all of these factors.

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Are you in the Eastern Hemisphere? Join us for a Powering Economic Opportunity #SocEntChat on August 3!

Save the date! Ashoka Changemakers® will host a #SocEntChat for our Asia community on Wednesday, August 3, from 1PM to 3PM IST (Indian Standard Time!). No matter where you are in the world, we hope you’ll join the semi-finalists from the Powering Economic Opportunity competition, as well as entrepreneurs, innovators and enthusiasts from around the world to discuss innovations and challenges related to market-based solutions that create economic opportunity and generate employment for disadvantaged populations.

#SocEntChat participants will have the opportunity to discuss the state of the global economy, as well as the latest market innovations around lasting economic growth in Asia.

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Citizen Media: Perspectives from Thought Leaders

A big thank you to the more than 50 Twitterers who joined @Changemakers for a #SocEntChat about Citizen Media on July 14! It was one of our most lively and energetic Twitter chats to date.
For those of you who are interested in citizen media, and related questions about how media and technology are intersecting with our daily lives, here are a few of my favorite thought-provoking and inspiring videos on the topic:

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Are You a Full Information Citizen? You Could Be.

We are thrilled to announce Citizen Media: A Global Innovation Competition, run by Ashoka Changemakers® with the support of Google. Citizen Media is an ambitious new effort to catalyze full information citizenship around the globe.

A few words on what that means: Full information citizenship is central to Ashoka’s vision of an “Everyone a Changemaker” world. All people must be able to engage freely and powerfully with information to advance their own lives and society. This is as true and as profound for remote Peruvian villagers and displaced persons in Sri Lanka as it is for Web-savvy American teens.  In a rapidly changing world, news and knowledge is the basis of action – the currency that gives one standing; reveals the horizon of what may be possible in a world where everyone is a change maker; and determines how we interact with others.

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Imagining a Better World Through Technology

Imagine more than 350,000 students from 183 countries competing to solve some of the world’s most daunting problems. Imagine these 358,000 students using technology to combat disease, improve education, create disaster communication systems, empower people with disabilities, and promote environmental sustainability.
Now imagine 400 of these students, from 70 countries, competing at the Worldwide Finals in New York City for a six-day celebration of technology, creativity, and problem-solving. Have the image in mind? Now watch this video to see how it looked:

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Revamping Skills Training to Help India’s Rural Unemployed

If India’s economic growth is going to reach those who need it most, more has to be done to connect the rural unemployed to jobs. India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, but rural workers are at risk of being left behind.

“In India, as in many developing countries, most of the growth is happening in urban areas. Rural populations are often unable to access these growth opportunities,” said Warisha Yunus, moderator at Work and Employment Community, Solution Exchange, a knowledge management initiative of the United Nations in India.

The search for employment has driven widespread rural-to-urban migration, but workers from rural areas face multiple barriers once they move.

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How the Women's World Cup Initiative Will Level the Playing Field

Girls need sports. Young women who play live better; many studies suggest that increasing girls’ participation in athletics has a direct and positive effect on their education, careers, and self-confidence.

Fewer girls around the world today are restricted to the “feminine” pursuits of painting and needlework than ever before. But even while more parents, educators, and community leaders are embracing the benefits of sports, girls are still six times more likely to drop out of a sport than boys.

That figure must change. And it might change faster than we could have ever anticipated, thanks to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is working to harness the power of sports and international exchanges that empower girls around the world.

Last month, Clinton announced the launch of the Women’s World Cup Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports, a joint initiative by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues. Clinton’s official announcement kick-started the 40th anniversary celebration of Title IX, the 1972 U.S. law offering equal academic and athletic opportunity for both men and women.

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Back-to-School Shopping List: Pens, Notebooks, Engineers, Chemists, Architects

In bright contrast to recent doom-and-gloom news about the state of science and math education, Google announced earlier this week the winners of its first-ever science fair. As The New York Times reported, the three winning entries proposed new ideas for solving acute medical challenges, including a new possible treatment protocol for ovarian cancer.

But the Times headline wasn’t about cancer. It was about girls.

Girls, who remain under-represented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, “swept all three age categories in the competition,” according to The New York Times. Advances in science that just a few generations ago might have gone undiscovered are now coming to light because these girls gained access to STEM subjects at the highest levels. 

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A Closer Look At Ashoka's Urban Housing Challenge (With Video)

[Editor's note: This post was written by Sarah Dimson, senior manager at Ashoka's Full Economic Citizen Initiative, and originally featured on]

Today, more than half of the world's population lives in urban areas. Globally, cities act as the heartbeat of economic and social life for millions of people whose livelihoods inextricably flow from the dynamic opportunities within urban centers.  By 2050, three out of four people in the world will live in cities. And more than 90 percent of the expected urban growth will occur in the developing world, which will add an estimated 70 million new residents to urban areas each year[i]. Many cities in the developing world, as a result of market deficiencies, inadequate policies and gaps in public sector capacity, are littered with slums, slipshod infrastructure and are not able to support such intense growth.

How do we harness the power within the pulse of these cities to inspire innovative ways to keep up with urban growth and provide access to sustainable housing?

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Encouraging Exploration from the Classroom to the Space Station

In addition to being the first female private space explorer, Anousheh Ansari works to enable social entrepreneurs to bring about radical change globally with organizations such as the X Prize, Ashoka, and the PARSA Community Foundation. Here she talks to Ashoka Changemakers® about how her passion for space exploration drives her work to promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.

In the fall of 2006, Ansari, a technology entrepreneur, earned a place in history as the first female private space explorer, the first astronaut of Iranian descent, and only the fourth private explorer to visit space. After completing a six-month training course in Russia and cross-training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston (including the same simulator, zero-g, and survival techniques training that astronauts receive), she joined the crew of a Soyuz mission to relieve one Russian and one NASA crew member on the International Space Station and spent eight days there before returning to Earth.

To help drive commercialization of the space industry, Ansari and her family provided title sponsorship for the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million cash award for the first non-governmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. Ansari is a member of the X Prize Foundation’s Vision Circle, as well as its board of trustees. She is a life member in the Association of Space Explorers and on the advisory board of the Teachers in Space project.

Changemakers: Some have called you one of the first “space tourists,” but that’s not quite accurate, is it? What you did was more akin to being a non-professional astronaut.

Ansari: I use the example of people who climb Mount Everest — you would never call them “Everest tourists,” because it’s not a simple, ordinary flight where you go buy a ticket and a guidebook, and then get on a plane that goes out and comes back. With the technology that exists today, it’s a rigorous task.

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Are We Holding Back Tomorrow’s World Cup Stars?

Last week, in the nail-biting finale of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011, Japan captain Homare Sawa delivered a dramatic penalty kick for the winning point against the United States. Sawa, who made her debut on team Japan at the age of 15, took home the Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards and has garnered admiration for both her prowess on the pitch and her sportsmanlike manner.

Sawa is a star role model for girls who play sports. But while the women’s game drew record viewership in the United States, girls who are inspired by the excellence of Sawa and female athletes like her face real challenges: play is in peril for girls. 

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Join us on July 27 for a #SocEntChat on Powering Economic Opportunity

On Wednesday, July 27, 2011, Ashoka Changemakers®, supported by eBay Foundation, invites you to join the semi-finalists from the Powering Economic Opportunity competition, as well as entrepreneurs, innovators and enthusiasts from around the world to discuss innovations and challenges related to market-based solutions that create economic opportunity and generate employment for disadvantaged populations.

Ashoka Changemakers® invites you to participate in this multilingual (English, Spanish, and Portuguese) #SocEntChat on Twitter, between 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM (EDT), to share your innovative ideas and solutions that address the collaboration and ingenuity needed to power the marketplaces of the future.

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Simon Says, “Mitochondria!”: An interview with Radha Basu on democratizing science education

Jhumki working with high school students in a physics course in 2004.

This post is part of a week-long STEM Matters series. Thought-leaders, social innovators, and experts from around the country are sharing how and why science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are critical to our abilities to solve complex problems across a wide range of fields, from climate change, medicine, economic development, space exploration, to the movies!

Radha Basu is an extremely successful engineer and entrepreneur with plenty of personal experience that demonstrates the importance of STEM education. But it was the tragic loss of her daughter, New York University professor Dr. Jhumki Basu, that led Basu to become personally involved with bringing high-quality science education to underserved students through the Jhumki Basu Foundation.

The foundation is a partner and prize sponsor of the Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in Science + Technology + Engineering + Math competition, and is introducing a new framework of democratic science teaching to New York City.

We caught up with Basu to talk about the foundation’s work, and her vision for science education in the United States.

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Voting for Semi-Finalists in the Powering Economic Opportunity Competition is Now Open!

Voting begins today at to select the ten finalists in the Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World That Works competition, co-hosted by eBay Foundation and Ashoka Changemakers®.

Launched to find the world’s most innovative market-based solutions that create economic opportunity and generate employment for disadvantaged populations, the competition received a record 873 entries. These outstanding solutions, offering mobile innovations and new finance models to leverage crowd-sourcing and rural energy initiatives, represent 83 countries; more than 500 citizen sector organizations and 200 businesses submitted entries.