There’s nothing like the power of a good story, says Trevor Burbank, to cross the cultural divides between countries.
Mr. Burbank is cofounder and CEO of Teach Twice, a social venture that aims to publish children's stories from around the world in an effort to spread traditions and tales across the globe. A portion (currently 35 percent) of the profits from the books goes to help schools and students in the country where the story originates.
Teach Twice's title echoes the venture's dual purposes: It provide parents with great stories to read to their children, and it provides financial support to schools and students in the developing country from which the book came. Ideally, both the author and illustrator live in the country where the narrative originated.
“Our real point is sharing the culture and the story,” says Burbank, who graduated from Vanderbilt University this spring.
Teach Twice was created when Burbank’s cofounder, Teach Twice's chief operating officer and fellow Vanderbilt student Jason Wen, approached Burbank about it. Burbank was able to bring his experience working for community-development projects, such as one that assists orphans in Africa, to the venture. The two developed the idea in December 2010 and January 2011.
Burbank and Wen then assembled a group of 12 Vanderbilt undergraduate and graduate students to get Teach Twice off the ground. The team won third place at a Vanderbilt Entrepreneur Society competition in which they were the only group using undergraduate students and the only nonprofit group, Burbank says.
Along with third place, they received a $250 prize. “It wasn't a huge amount, but it was the first one we won, so it was exciting,” Burbank says.
They later placed as semifinalists at a Dell Social Innovation competition, receiving $5,000 in prize money. Through a combination of the money they’d won, grants, donations, and money raised through the fundraising website Kickstarter, Teach Twice was able to publish its first title, “My Precious Name,” in March.
“My Precious Name” tells the story of a Ugandan boy who learns the importance of his name. It was written by Eva Baronga, with illustrations by Sam Muganga. Teach Twice found the story through its East Africa regional director, Paul Kabanda. Burbank had met Mr. Kabanda when he traveled to Uganda on a trip sponsored by his church.
Kabanda contacted the Ugandan Children’s Writers and Illustrators Association to find a local team to write the book. Money from the book’s sales will go into the construction of a school in Nakikungube, Uganda.
Members of Teach Twice find the story, market it, and design the narrative, Burbank says. The printing is handled by Worzalla, a book manufacturer based in Stevens Point, Wis.
Printing books isn’t Burbank's area of expertise, so working with Worzalla was invaluable, he says. “They were really good about holding my hand and helping me understand the details.”
The story for Teach Twice's next book, “Tall Enough,” comes from South Africa and will be published in October.
Currently, Teach Twice books are only sold through its website, TeachTwice.org, and at business presentations. Teach Twice hopes to have its titles available on Amazon within the next month, Burbank says.
The social venture also wants to continue working on another project, titled Teach One, in which volunteers teach and mentor middle and high school students in the United States. Teach One will launch at five colleges this year, Burbank says, with the hope that additional chapters will be started in other communities.
Teach Twice expects to continue publishing children’s titles, Burbank says, as well as expand to include photography and fiction books for all ages.
“After that, we really want to take off,” he says.
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For the past nine years, seafood industry executives and marine conservationists have met in a European or North American city to talk about sustainability at the annual Seafood Summit.
This year, they’ll meet in Hong Kong. It’s a sign that market-based efforts to make fishing and aquaculture more environmentally friendly are spreading from Europe and the US, where eco-labeling schemes like the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) were first launched, to Asia, where most of the world’s fishermen, fish farmers, and seafood consumers live.
So far in Asia, wealthy, seafood-loving Japan is leading the way. Yes, Japanese fishing boats still hunt whales under the guise of scientific research. Fishermen continue to kill dolphins in Taiji’s now-infamous coves, and Tokyo sushi lovers still feast on endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna. But at the same time, consumers and corporations here are becoming some of the first in Asia to put their buying power to work for the cause of sustainable seafood.
Signs of the nascent revolution could be found on a recent afternoon in the sprawling fish display of a chain grocery store in Nagano Prefecture, three hours from Tokyo. There, nearly hidden among the piles of attractively packaged seafood and the red flags blaring “The more you buy, the cheaper it seems!,” sat several dozen Styrofoam trays of salmon and trout roe, salted mackerel, and salmon steaks bearing the MSC logo, signifying that the fish had been sustainably caught.
Fumiko Yamaguchi, 81, who purchases fish at the store every day, said she’d never noticed the small blue-and-white label. She is worried about the state of the world’s oceans, however. “Programs about overfishing are on TV all the time lately — if we harvest too many fish there won’t be any left,” she said, adding that fishermen and government regulators, not consumers, must fix the problem.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that more than 80 percent of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited, overexploited, or recovering. Like Yamaguchi, many Japanese are aware of those dismal figures. Yet eating seafood is a central part of national food culture — so much so, says Greenpeace Japan’s oceans campaign manager Wakao Hanaoka, that “some people think they have a right to eat it, and they don’t want outsiders telling them not to.” That, along with other cultural and institutional factors, means the notion of sustainable seafood still faces an uphill fight in Japan.
If more Japanese consumers embrace seafood sustainability, they could have a significant impact on ocean ecosystems. The Japanese eat 6 percent of the world’s fish harvest, 81 percent of its fresh tuna, and a significant chunk of all salmon, shrimp, and crab. Japan also imports more seafood than any other country and caught 4.2 million metric tons of fish in 2008.
“Japan is an incredibly powerful player in fisheries and as a market,” says Adam Baske, an international policy officer at the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Environment Group. Japan demonstrated its dominance at the 2010 meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, where Japanese officials allegedly pressured representatives from Asia, Africa, and other regions to join them in voting down a proposed ban on international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna. Turning that power toward conservation, Baske says, represents “an incredible opportunity.”
Quite a few international environmental organizations seem to have had the same idea recently. In the past six years WWF, Greenpeace, and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership have all launched seafood campaigns in Japan. Greenpeace has published a Japanese-language guide to threatened seafood, and WWF plans to release 50,000 copies of its own guide later this summer.
MSC, the world’s leading wild-caught seafood standard setter, is also making inroads in Japan. Although total market share for MSC-labeled products remains below 1 percent, nearly 30 food retailers — including four of the top 10 — carry about 250 different products from various fisheries certified as sustainable. One in six consumers recognizes the label, and three fisheries — for skipjack tuna, flounder, and snow crab — have won certification. MSC’s Tokyo office, opened in 2007, remains the organization’s sole Asian outpost.
While persuading consumers in seafood-centered Japan to purchase sustainably caught fish is a particular challenge, the fact remains that influencing the public’s seafood-buying choices remains a daunting challenge worldwide. The MSC has certified 168 fisheries — ranging from Alaskan salmon to Argentine anchovies — as sustainable, representing about 8 percent of the world’s annual harvest of wild fish. The organization is now assessing another 116 fisheries. Consumers in Europe are increasingly attuned to whether the seafood they’re purchasing is sustainable. But numerous analysts believe the most important progress is being made on the corporate front, where international giants such as Unilever, Wal-Mart, and McDonalds are buying larger quantities of certified seafood.
In Japan, a domestic fishing-industry organization launched its own seafood standard in 2007, called Marine Eco-Label Japan (MEL Japan). MEL Japan secretariat staff member Masashi Nishimura says the scheme, which has certified 13 fisheries and 45 processors and distributors to date, was a proactive response to international trends. “When it comes to managing Japan’s fisheries, Japanese actors have been doing it longer than anyone else,” says Nishimura. “There was a need for a Japanese-run scheme.” MEL Japan encourages traditional systems of voluntary, fishermen-led resource allotment called “co-management.”
But critics say co-management has done little to prevent the decline of coastal fish stocks, 40 percent of which are rated in poor condition by Japan’s Fisheries Research Agency. They also point out that MEL Japan, whose secretariat is run by an industry association and whose certifier is a nonprofit organization that includes fisheries industry representatives on its board, is hardly in a position to impartially evaluate those fisheries. (MSC, too, has been widely accused of certifying fisheries that are not sustainable.) Nevertheless, MEL Japan is a sign that some fishermen think eco-labels will help them sell fish because customers are starting to care about sustainability.
As is the case globally, Japanese corporations, rather than consumers, have provided most of the momentum so far. Aeon, Japan’s largest supermarket chain, began enthusiastically promoting MSC-certified seafood in 2006, but spokeswoman Miho Takahama says the company was not motivated by consumer demand. “Back in 2006, customers were like, ‘What’s MSC?’" she says. “We wanted to proactively introduce sustainably harvested fish as a way to protect marine resources and secure a steady, long-term supply of fish. To do that, we had to raise customer awareness about MSC.”
Greenpeace’s Hanaoka, who recently began negotiations with Japan’s top five supermarket chains to sell less of certain threatened species like eel and tuna, suggests retailers may have more near-sighted motivations as well. “The food retail market is quite saturated and competitive,” he said. “Brand image is very important.” And corporate-centered strategies for reforming the seafood industry may be particularly critical in Japan, where environmental groups have little lobbying power and are not often able to force regulatory change. In contrast, the fishing industry enjoys strong links to regulatory agencies.
“After World War II, Japan promoted its fishing industry because there was a lack of protein,” explains Toshio Katsukawa, an associate professor of fishery management at Mie University. “Catching as many fish as possible was the policy objective. It worked.” He says that while the industry has declined since its peak in the 1960s and 70s, policy still focuses on supporting rather than aggressively regulating fisheries. Retired bureaucrats regularly cycle into top posts at fishing industry organizations, and politicians compete for fishermen’s votes.
Katsukawa says most consumers don’t have the information they need to challenge overly cheery government narratives about fisheries. “It’s a problem of education," he says. "People are taught that eating many fish is a good thing because it supports Japanese culture.”
Environmental organizations do offer alternative information, but they are smaller, weaker, and poorer than their counterparts in the US and Europe. When environmental groups bring up fish, they face an additional challenge: anger over controversial campaigns by Sea Shepherd, Greenpeace, and others to end whaling and dolphin hunting.
But Aiko Yamauchi, WWF Japan’s fishery and seafood project leader, sees sustainable seafood as a positive way to approach the issue. “We’re trying to improve troubled fisheries, not just tell people to avoid eating fish,” she says. “The global movement is not opposed to Japanese culture.”
That approach is slowly starting to work. Ultimately, however, trends that have nothing to do with sustainability may dwarf the progress WWF and other organizations have made in Japan. Fish consumption is falling as people buy more meat and convenience foods, and annual fish harvests have fallen by more than half since 1985 as both fishing communities and fish stocks decline.
Meanwhile, aquaculture production, fish processing, and seafood consumption are all booming in neighboring China, which now consumes about one third of the world’s fish. MSC plans to open an office there and another in Singapore in the near future. Whether lessons from Japan prove useful remains to be seen.
• Winifred Bird is a freelance journalist living in Japan. She has written about the environment for the Japan Times, Environmental Health Perspectives, and other publications. In a previous article for Yale Environment 360, she reported on the struggle to maintain bear populations in heavily urbanized Japan.
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When Gaitano Likhavila was still working as an accountant at the provincial hospital in the west Kenyan town of Kakamega, he ran into a situation that got him thinking about water.
“There was a serious water shortage that made the hospital administration almost close down the hospital. At the same time, a lot of rainwater from the roofs was wasted, running down to the River Isikhu, but nobody thought of getting hold of this free water,” says Likhavila.
In 2007, he left the hospital and set up a business, now known as the KwelaKwela Inn, along the Kakamega-Kisumu highway. The venue, which occupies three-quarters of an acre, is well-known for traditional African foods, cultural performances, drinks, and lodging, and has a large garden for outdoor functions.
But as he built his business he faced one big challenge: a shortage of water. At first he paid local women to carry water on their heads from the Isikhu River, about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away, for cooking, drinking, washing, and other daily use.
“It was very expensive for me, because I needed a lot of water to run my business on a daily basis. Not that the water from government was not available, but it was not reliable,” he explains.
But the Isikhu River also dries up between rainy seasons when there is very little precipitation, and the situation has been getting worse each year due to changes in the weather patterns, experts say.
“Today there is no predicting [the weather],” said Moses Agumba, head of the Lake Victoria South Water Services Board, which operates in the area. Increasing deforestation and climate change have made rainfall erratic, he said.
The Lake Victoria Water Development Authority, a government department that connects homes to piped water supplies, depends on the Isikhu River to pump water into its storage facilities. When water shortages hit, rationing becomes the only way to serve the population.
Likhavila didn’t see the point in applying for a water connection for his business, as it was expensive and unreliable.
“I saw that I needed a lot of water. I thought very hard and came up with an idea of harvesting my own water,” he says.
He paid some men to dig a hole 10 feet deep and 10 feet wide. He used the soil to bake bricks for the construction of an underground tank, and bought iron bars, wire mesh, and water-proof cement.
He then got a plumber to fit a network of pipes around the edges of his sheet-iron roof, channeling rainwater runoff into the tank.
Today there is a dining area for visitors on top of the underground tank, and all that can be seen of it is a lid and an electric pump in the corner that draws up water.
Likhavila has also installed plastic water-storage tanks on his roofs. He pumps water from the underground tank up to these roof tanks to supply the guest rooms, toilets, bathrooms, kitchen, bars, and restaurant.
“I get a lot of water when it rains,” he says. “I first fill the overhead tanks, which can take several weeks to empty.”
Once all the tanks are full, an outlet directs water to the vegetable garden. He also has a car-washing bay that uses water from the tanks.
Likhavila says his system stores enough water to get him through most of the year. He only suffers from water shortages, usually lasting two to three weeks, at times when droughts are particularly severe. And his system allows him to capture more of the region’s increasingly intense rains.
The total cost of constructing the tank system was around 60,000 Kenyan shillings ($700), with the main expenses being labor and materials.
“For these past few years, I would have been spending more than 5,000 Ksh (about $60) every month paying for piped water from the government,” he says. Since 2007, he would have spent as much as $4,000 on water bills, he calculates.
Officials from the local water department found it hard to believe that such a thriving business could run without piped water. They suspected Likhavila might have been siphoning water illegally from the municipal supply.
They came to investigate and saw the water-harvesting tank system for themselves. Then they wanted to check that the water was safe for human consumption.
“They found that I treated the water with chlorine, and it tasted sweeter than the piped water. They left me alone,” says Likhavila.
He believes that water harvesting is the solution to the water shortages experienced by small-scale farmers and the rural poor during dry spells.
“Farmers should stop cursing climate change when there is a simple way of storing water,” he says. “And I would encourage them to construct underground tanks, because the water is as cold as if it had come from the fridge and it is very clean.”
If farmers installed a similar system, their livestock would not die and they would have enough water for drinking and other household uses as well as irrigation, he says.
Likhavila says other people from the area now are coming to see how he built his system, with a view to doing the same. Many are his old colleagues at the water-short hospital.
“Hospital officials have visited me to learn about this innovation, and are now planning to start constructing tanks to store water for hospitals and other institutions,” he says.
• Pius Sawa is a freelance science journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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Resilience isn't something that Andrew Zolli just thinks about. It's something he's had to demonstrate in his own life.
In 2008 his close partner at PopTech, Tom LeVine, died suddenly. He and his wife lost a child in pregnancy. His mother suffered a serious illness.
"And then we had the global financial collapse. All at the same time," he recalls. "I've had rough times before, but I've never had anything that made me feel like I might run up against my ability to manage."
Mr. Zolli had been working on a book about resiliency. "I wrote this book at a time when it felt like it was raining hammers. I would show chapters of the galley to my wife who would say, 'You see what you said here in Chapter 3? Are you doing this? You need what you're writing about right now.' "
Zolli did pull through. Today he and his wife have two lovely children. He's still heading PopTech, which brings together a global community of innovators from many fields to share insights and work together to address world problems. And his book, "Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back," written with journalist Ann Marie Healy, was published this summer.
Resilience is the key to the world overcoming its severe economic and environmental challenges, Zolli says. It's what makes individuals, organizations, and cultures able to withstand hardships and recover.
A few years ago Zolli noticed "a new conversation" emerging among institutions such as the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, and the World Bank, "converging toward a conversation about ... how we build systems that can absorb disruption, because we're living in such a time of volatility," he says. He saw how the scientific study of resiliency, though still in its infancy, was already yielding useful insights.
Iceland is "a fascinating laboratory for economic, social, and political resilience of many different stripes," Zolli said in a recent telephone interview. Its banks melted down in the financial crisis. But the country has taken decisive steps to bounce back, including writing a new constitution in just a few months time.
One happy conclusion of the book is that most people are resilient – often more resilient than they think. But can those who, for whatever reason, don't seem to possess that quality be helped? What makes individuals resilient? Ways to increase resiliency are becoming better understood, with two factors emerging, he says.
"If you believe that the world is a meaningful place, and you have a meaningful place within it; if you believe that you have agency within the world, that your actions have meaning ... that successes and failures are put in your life to teach you things, and that they're not just random acts of chance, then you have a much higher degree of resilience in the face of trauma," he says.
These mental attitudes are associated with religious beliefs. "People who have a spiritual or religious worldview are, on average, more resilient than people who aren't," he says. That's not the same as saying a particular religious belief – or any religious beliefs – are true. But "whether religion is true or not, it's actually good for you," he says.
The kind of "mindfulness" meditation associated with Buddhist monks has also proved useful in reducing stress. It can be used with combat veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Today US troops are more likely to kill themselves after returning home than to have been killed by the enemy, Zolli says. "That's a byproduct of the fact that war has become less fatal but no less stressful." In teaching some form of "mindfulness" meditation to veterans "we're talking about not only saving dollars but saving lives."
Zolli's book is laced with examples of resilient institutions. None is any more remarkable than that of Hancock Bank. Hurricane Katrina damaged or destroyed 90 of the 103 branches of the Gulfport, Miss., based regional bank. Many of its customers had lost everything they had, including their IDs and checkbooks. The bank, recognizing that its prime responsibility was to serve its community (not to make a profit), authorized branches to begin giving out $200 to anyone who would sign their name (not just its customers), no ID required. In this way some $42 million was put in the hands of local residents (and pumped into the local economy) to help begin the recovery.
The move paid off for the bank. More than 99 percent of the money was paid back voluntarily. And the goodwill that was created helped deposits at the bank rise by $1.5 billion over the next three years.
"The world needs a lot more examples like this," Zolli says. "How do we establish rules that create more Hancocks over time?"
America celebrates businesses such as Google and Facebook who grow at fantastic speed, but forgets that a crash is often awaiting them somewhere down the line. "We forget that everything that goes up must come down," he says. "And the coming down is usually uglier."
Hancock represents a different model. "This kind of slower growth, deeply connected to community, this is the kind of stuff of which real resilience is made," he says.
PopTech now is taking on the question of how to build resiliency in the world, Zolli says. The world's problems, from economic disruptions to changing climate patterns, will demand resilience. "It's ultimately in our collective self-interest that we bolster the resilience of all of us."
Indiana University’s trustees voted [in June] to create a school of philanthropy, the first in the nation and a sign of both the growing amount of scholarship on the nonprofit world and intense demand to offer rigorous training to people who work at charitable institutions.
The university has already raised nearly 70 percent of its $100-million goal to endow the new school, said Eugene Tempel, who founded Indiana’s Center on Philanthropy, one of the first and biggest academic units created to study the field.
Leslie Lenkowsky, a professor of public affairs and philanthropic studies at Indiana University, said the decision to start a school was a profound development for nonprofits.
“It’s a coming of age for the study and teaching of philanthropy—just as we have schools for government and business, this will be the first school for the nonprofit sector,” said Mr. Lenkowsky, who is a also a Chronicle columnist.
Indiana has long been building a serious academic program in philanthropy. It created the first philanthropy doctoral program, and last month it graduated the first students in the United States to earn bachelor’s degrees in philanthropy.
Mr. Tempel says he hopes other colleges and institutions will follow Indiana’s lead and elevate the study of philanthropy.
While Indiana is a public university, private donations will be the key to paying for the school, said Mr. Tempel.
The goal is to expand the number of faculty members who teach philanthropy by 10 members over the next years, says Patrick Rooney, who took over as head of the Center on Philanthropy when Mr. Tempel left to lead the Indiana University Foundation. Among the projects the center produces: “Giving USA,” which this week issued a new estimate of the state of private support.
Under the plan, student would graduate from the School of Philanthropy rather than liberal arts, and the school would grant tenure.
Today, “everyone who teaches in philanthropic studies has a home somewhere else,” said Mr. Tempel. “This will allow them to have one home, one primary responsibility.”
Mr. Tempel says when he and a small group of others wrote a document 12 year ago pushing a School of Philanthropy, “some people thought were we crazy.”
The critics didn’t see enough intellectual basis to justify creating a school. One wrote, “There isn’t enough 'there' there.”
But now, Mr. Tempel says, more scholarship has been conducted, and academics have less reason to raise the question.
Paul Light, professor of public service at New York University, agrees, noting the great deal of research on philanthropy conducted in the past 10 or 20 years. He sees the new school as a logical extension of the Indiana center’s work. “It is an interesting start, and we’ll see if it catches hold [at other universities].”
William Schambra, director of the Bradley Center of Philanthropy and Civic Renewal for the Hudson Institute, gives the new school a qualified thumbs up: “If the school can encourage foundations to enter into larger discussions of the moral and political purposes of philanthropy in America, then it could be helpful, but it won’t be if it is just going to be another technical training school for nonprofit managers or fundraisers. If the classes are all about measuring outcomes and effective grant making 101, then it isn’t adding to the field.”
The school must still be approved by the Indiana Commission on Higher Education, which could take it up as soon as next fall or winter. If approved, it could start operations in July 2013.
As Nourishing the Planet has witnessed first-hand, small-scale farmers and local communities have developed innovative ways to meet the challenges facing people across the world. But until recently, they have often lacked the ability to share their solutions, or their knowledge has been overlooked by governments and international groups.
Today, Nourishing the Planet highlights five organizations that recognize the valuable contributions farmers can share with their neighbors, with policymakers, and with people across the world.
1. Africa Rice Center:
Created in 1971 by 11 African countries, the Africa Rice Center now works with 24 countries across the continent, connecting researchers, rice farmers, and rice processors.
AfricaRice has been developing learning tools that focus on reaching as many farmers as possible, aiming to both “decentralize and democratize learning within the rice sector.” One powerful method has been farmer-to-farmer videos, which feature local experts sharing their knowledge about seed drying and preservation, rice quality, and soil management with viewers. These videos have been translated into more than 30 African languages, with great impact.
Reaching even beyond the continent, the African Rice Center has also created a set of four videos on seed management with rural women in Bangladesh, helping to further facilitate valuable knowledge exchange between rice farmers.
According Louis Béavogui, a researcher at the Institut de recherche agronomique de Guinée (IRAG) a research institute of the Guinean government, “watching the videos on seed has stimulated them [farmers] to start looking for local solutions to common problems that farmers face. It is by drawing on local knowledge that sustainable solutions can often be found at almost no cost.”
To read more about the AfricaRice Center and other agricultural knowledge sharing organizations, see “What Works: Creating Connections.”
SEWA is a member-based Indian trade union that brings together approximately 1.3 million poor, self-employed women workers. These women make up approximately 93 percent of the work force in India, but are often uncounted and lack health care, access to credit, and other social security services.
Fifty-four percent of SEWA’s members are small and marginal farmers. These women meet monthly in groups across the country to discuss challenges they are facing and identify possible solutions. SEWA’s Village Resource Centers connect the farmers with agricultural supplies, including improved seeds and organic fertilizers, as well as trainings.
SEWA, for example, is introducing women farmers to agroforestry and vermin-composting (a process which uses worms to break down organic matter into rich fertilizer and compost). “We now earn over Rs. 15,000 [$350] per season, an amount we had never dreamed of earning in a lifetime,” says Surajben Shankasbhai Rathwa, who has been a member of SEWA since 2003.
For more on SEWA and other organizations helping women farmers, see “Women farmers key to end food insecurity.”
3. Songtaab-Yalgré :
Marceline Ouedraogo founded this rural women’s association in 1990 as a way to support the women of Burkina Faso with the resources and support that they need. Originally going door-to-door to recruit members, the organization now has more than 1,000 members and works with over 3,100 women in nearly a dozen villages across Burkina Faso.
The women of Songtaab-Yalgré began by teaching each other how to read and write in their local language. After gaining this basic, but critical skill, the organization then found ways to boost members’ incomes by producing shea butter products. Returning to traditional techniques, the women learned how to process the arechete – or shea butter nuts – into a variety of products, including shea butter creams and soaps, with the profits distributed evenly among members.
In 2006, Songtaab-Yalgré won the Equator Prize in recognition of its outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation of biodiversity. The organization now runs 11 centers for arechete collection and manages and protects 20,000 shea trees using ecological practices. By working together, the members of Songtaab-Yalgré are improving both their environments and their livelihoods.
To learn more about Songtaab-Yalgré, see “Forming Groups and Transforming Livelihoods.”
4. Ecova – Mali:
After witnessing how much more efficiently local experts trained their fellow Malians than foreigners could, two former Peace Corps Volunteers, Gregory Flatt and Cynthia Hellmann, founded Ecova-Mali in 2007 as a “grass-roots alternative to the predominant top-down approach to development.”
The organization runs a training center and testing ground 35 kilometers (22 miles) outside of Bamako, Mali’s capital, as well as provides small grants to local farmers. In 2007, for example, Ecova-Mali awarded $125 (50,000 CFA) to Fatoumata Dembele, who used this money to buy vegetables seeds for her community. After growing these new crops, she and her neighbors were able to save the valuable vegetable seeds from the plants for future harvests, eliminating the need to purchase expensive new seeds and boosting both their incomes and their crops.
Terra Madre, a network launched by Slow Food International in 2004, focuses on protecting and promoting improved education, biodiversity, and connections between food producers and consumers. In June 2011, 200 representatives from 50 indigenous communities around the world met in Jokkmokk, Sweden, for the first-ever Indigenous Terra Madre Conference.
The meeting, hosted by the native Arctic people known as the Sámi, and organized in partnership with Slow Food Sápmi and Slow Food International, discussed food sovereignty issues, the importance of preserving traditional knowledge for future generations, and ways to involve indigenous people and local communities in policy decisionmaking and implementation.
Small-scale farmers and indigenous people around the world shared their experiences and the solutions they had developed in response to the challenges they faced in common. As TahNibaa Naataanii, a participant in the meeting from the US-based Navajo Sheep Presidium, described, “We hear stories of the same thing that is happening in our own countries and own lands, and it gives us hope.”
At the conclusion of the meeting in June 2011, the participants issued the Jokkmokk Agreement, recognizing the importance of their collective knowledge and experience, and calling for indigenous people across the world to continue their cooperation, information sharing, and networking in order to strengthen their voices and protects their environment and ways of life.
• Jenna Banning is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project. To purchase "State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet" please click HERE. And to watch the one-minute book trailer, click HERE.
Nguyen Thi Huong, a paddy rice farmer in central Vietnam’s Phong Binh commune, enjoys cooking in her smoke-free and pollution-free kitchen.
“Before the advent of clean biogas, cooking was an uneasy and hazardous job for me. My kitchen would become smoky with black particles coming out from the muddy stove from fuel wood burning. The black ash would make me cough the whole day and cause soreness in my eyes,” recounted the 35-year-old.
For Huong, a mother of two children, collecting fuel wood daily from the nearby mangroves forest was a no less tedious task, particularly when she was already busy rearing pigs, looking after children, and doing house chores.
But a biogas system provided by Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) International has made her life much easier, Huong said.
The clean biogas fire “has got rid of my cough and eye infections, and given me a sense of cleanliness,” she said – not least because her village now also has a solution to its former animal manure problem.
The Phong Binh commune is a low-lying coastal area in the Phong Dien district, some 45 kilometers (28 miles) northwest of the city of Hue.
Stretched over nearly 690 hectares (1,700 acres), around 91 percent of the area is in rice production and livestock, and fishing is a secondary source of work during the non-rice-sowing season. The commune has 1,717 households, with over 8,000 people living across 10 villages.
Nguyen The Dong, one livestock farmer, remembers how managing animal manure used to be a serious problem for the community.
But Dong now has a biogas plant that is turning the stinky manure from his 100 buffalos, as many pigs, and over 200 ducks into a useful resource.
“I feed the bio-digester with manure everyday, which after an anaerobic process churns out clean gas for our kitchen. I also use this gas for lighting during the night and boiling water for bathing during winter,” he said.
More than 70 percent of Vietnam’s people live in rural areas, earning a livelihood from agriculture, animal husbandry, and fishing. Most rely on wood, charcoal, agricultural residue, and dried animal dung for their energy needs.
Gathering the traditional fuels also devours precious daylight hours that children and women in particular might otherwise spend at school, or in income-generating or social activities.
But development organizations like Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and SNV, a Dutch development organization are now promoting the use of biogas from manure in the region. NCA has provided 82 biogas plants along with energy-efficient stoves in Phong Binh commune.
The change is reducing pressure on mangroves and other forests in the area and allowing farmers to use the nutrient-rich slurry left over from the biogas digesters as a crop fertilizer, said Hoang Thi Thanh Mai, an NCA clean energy expert.
“Bio-slurry is really good, as it has improved soil fertility. Its application has reduced bills for chemical fertilizer, whose cost has risen a lot over the years, making cultivating of crops financially difficult for many small farmers like me,” Dong said.
SNV officials say that since 2006 the organization has, in conjunction with Vietnam’s government, installed 78,000 biogas plants in more than 30 provinces of the country. The plants have benefited more than 400,000 people and are reducing the country’s carbon emissions by 167,000 tons a year, the officials said.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam has now launched an ambitious program with the SNV to install an additional 168,000 biogas systems by the end of 2012.
With a lifespan of 15 years, one biogas plant costs an estimated $500, which is a sizable investment for a farming family with moderate income. But clean energy experts say the advantages make it worth the investment for many families.
On average, farmers with at least two head of cattle or six pigs can generate sufficient biogas to meet their daily basic cooking and lighting needs.
The investment in a biogas plant is recovered in about three years, said Bastiaan Tenue, SNV’s biogas adviser in Vietnam.
Apart from the household benefits, use of biogas can protect forests, fuel new businesses, and improve air quality, he said. Reports by international and national nongovernmental organizations in Vietnam suggest more than 300,000 jobs have been created in biogas energy since 2003, including many for village people trained in biogas plant construction.
Dao Ngoc Bay in Phong Binh commune is one of them.
“I have built a number of biogas plants for SNV, which imparted me training on biogas plant construction. Now, I am happy that people are calling on my cellphone and asking me build biogas plants for them. I will continue to build biogas plants for private customers as long as there is demand, said the 35-year-old mason.
“Biogas is here to stay as long as there are farmers raising their cattle in Vietnam and other Asia-Pacific countries, most of which are extremely vulnerable to effects of climate change and shrinking natural capital,” he said.
“Alone in Vietnam there are over 1 million households that qualify for a biogas plant,” he said.
• Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are climate change and development reporters based in Karachi, Pakistan.
University of the People has an ambitious goal: to use the Internet to provide an extremely low-cost college education to students around the world.
And the nonprofit’s big idea is starting to gain traction with grantmakers.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded $500,000 to support the university’s effort to gain accreditation. The grant comes on the heels of recent awards by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Intel Foundation, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Since its inception in 2009, University of the People has enrolled 1,500 students from 132 countries. Courses are taught by professors from around the world who volunteer their time, and the university offers degrees in business administration and computer science.
“If you educate one person, you change his life,” says Shai Reshef, the technology executive who founded and leads the university. “If you educate many, you change the world.”
While University of the People uses the Internet to deliver courses, the organization takes a straightforward, no-bells-and-whistles approach to technology.
“Since we wanted to make sure that any person with any Internet connectivity will be able to study with us, we don’t require broadband,” says Mr. Reshef. “So we don’t have audio, and we don’t have video.”
The wide variety of ways that students gain access to the Internet has surprised even the university’s leaders.
Some students take part using dial-up connections at home, while others study from Internet cafés. To cut down on Internet café charges, some students download classroom materials to a flash drive, study and complete assignments on an offline computer, and then return to the Internet café to upload their work. Some students rely entirely on mobile phones for their Internet access.
“We didn’t know it was possible, and then one of the students showed us,” says Mr. Reshef.
The one place where University of the People provides the Internet connection for students is in Haiti. There, the university is working with local charities to provide computer centers to help 250 earthquake survivors complete their studies.
University of the People does not charge tuition, but it does require some fees. The application fee ranges from $10 to $50, depending on the student’s country of residence. Applicants from developing countries pay less.
Starting in September, the university will charge a $100 exam-processing fee for each course. Students who cannot afford it will be able to seek contributions from donors to cover the fees on a Kiva-like Web site the university is developing or apply for a University of the People scholarship.
“The theory is that nobody will be excluded for financial reasons,” says Mr. Reshef. “But we still expect our students to help us become sustainable.”
A new book titled Jugaad Innovation looks at lessons from emerging markets in frugal innovation for multinational corporations. Here's our chat with co-author Simone Ahuja, one of the three authors on this project (along with Navi Radjou and Jaideep Prabhu).
For readers who aren't familiar with jugaad, could you please briefly describe it?
Jugaad is a Hindi word meaning an innovative fix. It's an improvised solution using ingenuity and resourcefulness, often due to very limited resources.
When we talk about jugaad innovation, we are referring to the mindset and principles that are used to make this happen. Jugaad innovation is frugal, flexible, and inclusive. It's also called gambiarra in Brazil, zizhu chuangxin in China, and is most like DIY in the US.
I think the biggest question for a lot of readers is – this looks great on paper. But how do we make this happen in the US where there's an onslaught of regulations?
I think we have to shift our mindset around this issue. Absolutely regulations can add a challenging dimension to innovation, but the jugaad mindset can actually help address these.
Embrace, a low cost, portable infant warmer is one example. The creators of Embrace used all of these principles to find a solution that would address the needs of emerging markets. The device is now being tested at the Lucille Packard [Children's] Hospital at Stanford right here in the US, where medical devices are highly regulated.
Another example is the Nano, the $2,000 car created by Tata Group in India. The car was made first for Indian markets, but with some limited additional cost is being adapted for Europe and even the US – markets with strict regulations, and setting new industry benchmarks.
Another example is GE Health's Mac 800 – a portable, low-cost ECG unit first developed for emerging markets that has received FDA approval and will make a big impact on our highly strained health-care system right here in the US. All of these products utilized several principles of jugaad innovation – and all of them are finding a place in highly regulated markets like the US and Europe.
Reducing the bells and whistles on many of these products is in a way about going backward – going back to a simpler existence? Mitticool, for example, is about using basics and natural products.
Jugaad innovation goes far beyond simple de-featuring, but having a deep understanding of consumer needs and recognizing that certain features just don't provide value for money is a part of jugaad innovation.
It's interesting to think about whether removing bells and whistles is going backward, or is actually an advancement from the complexity we face today ... too many software programs on your laptop, too many buttons on your remote control – it's overwhelming and counterproductive.
MittiCool, the low-cost, biodegradable refrigerator made out of clay, is a great example of jugaad innovation – creating a product and a new industrial process with very limited education and capital, flexible thinking that allowed the innovator to use a millennia-old material like clay to create a fridge out of it, and yes, simplicity that allowed his community to have refrigerated produce and dairy for the first time ever – and in an environmentally friendly fashion Interestingly, many users of the MittiCool say that food actually tastes better when stored in it as compared to a regular fridge, because it provides moisture to the food rather than drying it out.
There's been some debate about how successful are some of these low-cost products. Tata Nano is a low-cost product but had trouble with quality control and didn't really reach as many consumers as they had hoped. Can you address the "success" element here?
I think the Tata Nano is a huge success. While they've had some challenges with safety and sales have been disappointing, the Nano has created a whole new benchmark in the global auto industry. Every car company today wants to create their own version of the Nano. The car isn't just stripped down, there were many new innovations that were developed resulting in tens of technology and design patents. It also provides an alternative to families who previously could only travel on a motorcycle – sometimes with 4-5 passengers. The Nano provides a much better option. They've also demonstrated tremendous flexibility in their sales models and even the location of their factories quickly – no easy feat for a large corporation.
You refer to a Booz & Company report that has a CEO wearing a shirt, "Spent $2 billion on R&D, and all we got was this lousy T-shirt." For companies in the West to get smarter about innovation, what do they need to do?
Companies in the West would benefit from using jugaad innovation to augment their current innovation practices, which tend to be more expensive, structured, and insular.
Typically innovation occurs in big R&D labs, with planned approaches to innovation done by those whose job it is to innovate. What we're suggesting is that rigid processes like Six Sigma can be highly effective where sameness is desired, such as manufacturing. But innovation takes place in a less linear fashion.
As George Buckley, former CEO of 3M said, "Invention by its very nature is a disorderly process. You can't put a Six Sigma process into that area and say, 'Well, I'm getting behind on invention, so I'm going to schedule myself for three good ideas on Wednesday and two on Friday.' That's not how creativity works." And that's exactly why he rolled back Six Sigma initiatives at 3M.
Companies will need to imbue frugality, flexibility, and inclusiveness into their culture to drive sustainable growth in a global economy that is more diverse, interconnected, volatile, global, and resource scarce.
Western companies traditionally have large overhead costs – complex corporate structures, large staff, etc. Are they ready to get rid of some of this? What do you find in your conversations with these companies?
There is a huge trend emerging around frugal innovation – and companies are now understanding the urgency of why they must be more frugal, flexible, and inclusive in order to succeed in today's volatile economy. This is a big shift from 3 to 4 years ago when we first started writing about jugaad innovation, when there was a lot of pushback around making these kinds of changes.
Having said that, the changes will come slowly. Typically, we see this style of innovation occurring on the edges, and through partnerships and even acquisitions. It will take some time before we see radical changes across large organizations, but it's starting to happen.
One of the ways we're helping corporations deeply understand how to do this is through workshops and interactive, hands-on innovation labs that dig deep into the principles of jugaad innovation. In our book, my co-authors and I share several examples of [how] large companies like 3M, Google, Facebook, Renault-Nissan, and GE are already using the principles of jugaad innovation to create sustainable growth in a very challenging economic climate.
There's a saying, "Keep it simple, stupid." Is that fundamentally at the core of frugal innovation – keep it simple?
Yes, simplicity is a key principle of jugaad innovation, and one of my favorites. Simplicity requires a deep understanding of consumers, their needs and their habits. Simplicity and "good enough" products deliver higher value because they are designed to do one thing exceptionally well (functional specialization), rather than doing multiple things in a mediocre fashion.
The MittiCool mentioned above is an outstanding example of simple, focused design, as is the Mac 800. John Maeda, president of the Rhode Island School of Design, points out "It's not necessarily beneficial to add more technology features just because we can. R&D engineers must make frugal simplicity the core tenet of their design philosophy." I couldn't agree more.
When feminist writer Courtney Martin wanted to raise money to fund research into the future of online feminism, it made sense to turn to other women for funding.
She called in Jacquelyn Zehner, chief executive of Women Moving Millions, a philanthropic organization made up primarily of women who have donated at least $1 million each to women's causes. Ms. Zehner arranged for a conference call with a small group of wealthy women and Ms. Martin this spring.
"They responded immediately and enthusiastically," said Martin. In a month, this audience raised $24,000 to fund the research. For Martin, it was a satisfying and natural extension of some of her earlier activities. In 2006, she created The Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy, an annual gathering that began with a gift of $100 each to 10 friends, with instructions to give it away and then tell how.
Welcome to the world of female philanthropy – it's not your father's United Way.
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"Women are taking ownership," said Andrea Pactor, associate director of the Women's Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University, which has found that female-headed households are more likely to give to charity than male-headed households, and that in nearly all income groups women give more than men.
Women are exerting a greater influence on how philanthropy is done as they accumulate wealth and use their clout to change the way funds are raised and distributed. Roughly 1 million women in the United States each have assets of at least $2 million, according to 2007 Internal Revenue Service data, the most recent available. Wealth controlled by charitably minded women can be expected to grow as they build careers and inherit money from their parents and their husbands.
As more women give, they are likely to change not only what is funded but how they raise money, because female philanthropists often prefer to raise money in a group.
Three years ago, the Red Cross raised the ante in its women's program, called the Tiffany Circle, to $100,000 a year, and pulled in 61 new members the first night.
"We raised over $6 million in 30 seconds," said Melanie Sabelhaus, a former deputy administrator at the Small Business Administration who heads the Tiffany Circle, "and not one of the women picked up the phone and asked her husband."
Another group, the Women Donors Network, has 175 members who combine individual gifts in the $100,000 to $200,000 range and give $200 million a year to women's causes. And Women Moving Millions, after five years, has more than 150 members.
Insiders say women have their own culture in grant-making.
"We really believe the solution lies with the people on the ground. We don't think we have all the answers," said Zehner of Women Moving Millions.
For example, the Global Fund for Women (GFW), unlike most grant-givers, accepts handwritten proposals of any length and in any language, and is unusually open to grants for general purposes rather than specific projects. It also funds meetings to create networks of women activists.
The approach demonstrated its power during Egypt's Arab Spring, said Christine Switzer, GFW's director of development. "Our women were able to mobilize together," she said, pointing to 77 grants totaling more than $1 million GFW has given to Egyptian women, young and old.
Women have also helped establish a new model for medical research grants. For example, lupus, an autoimmune disease, typically hits women of child-bearing age, and often strikes minorities. Research was at a standstill in the late 1990s, so the lupus community created the Lupus Research Institute in 2000 to give small grants to fund experimental research on projects not necessarily likely to pay off quickly.
Few private groups were doing anything like it at the time.
"We were open with each other about our frustration, and that led us to be able to take risks," said lupus activist Jennie DeScherer. Now the foundation is going international, and the small-grant approach has spread.
It is obvious that with everyone glued to their cellphones, nonprofits would miss out if donors couldn't text money. But the United States lagged Europe in mobile donations until American women broke the logjam.
A $34.7 million Red Cross text campaign to aid victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake was put together by a team of women that included a special adviser at the State Department, leaders at the Red Cross, and Jenifer Snyder, a lawyer who created the platform with women technologists.
Snyder spent two years working out financial arrangements that are still in place with carriers. For every $100 texted, $93 goes to the charity, $6 covers costs, and $1 is donated to the mGive foundation, which Snyder co-founded to vet nonprofits and help them use texting imaginatively, not just for fund-raising.
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The text-for-Haiti effort wasn't the first time that women innovated in the field of philanthropy. Giving circles were embraced in 1991 by the Ms. Foundation, and they have caught on and stuck. Members decide together where to give their dollars. Many groups don't stipulate how much each person must contribute. Community foundations often manage the money.
Female philanthropists now are also establishing private family foundations and donor-advised funds to funnel money to the charities they care about most.
But the real surge in woman's philanthropy may be yet to come.
"I'm waiting for the whole women's funds movement to come to scale, understanding the interchange between economic security and health and civil rights and violence," Zehner said.
When that day comes, expect a mobile-giving campaign, and a whole lot of lucrative conference calls.