People like to move. Hundreds of millions of people around the world pack up and hit the road at some point: seeking greener pastures, finding work, following family members, escaping strife, and just going someplace.
Human migration has been a part of our nature since we populated Pangaea. And though modern borders and immigration policies slow the ebb and flow of human movement, decreased racial and cultural boundaries are allowing disparate cultures to intermix, particularly in modern cities.
In 2010, 214 million people – 3.1 percent of the world’s 6.1 billion human occupants – were living outside of their native countries as immigrants. The majority of those people traveled to more developed areas. Cities everywhere are growing, fast.
With the world’s fastest-growing cities spread literally around the globe, it’s an exciting and important moment for civic strategists. The current wave of migration will reinvent many cities as we know them, making them dramatically more diverse than in the past. The effects will be magical and, in some cases, intensely dangerous.
"Our country is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants," Obama said. Immigrants bring economic activity, ambition, and a diversity of thought and behavior – but when new populations aren’t successfully integrated, the result can be xenophobia, segregation, poverty, and violence. Even in the United States – one of the world’s more immigrant-friendly nations – it’s common to see ethnically segregated neighborhoods, churches, schools, and their associated opportunities. Left unchecked, segregation can escalate to crime and brutality, race riots, and even ethnic cleansing.
“Government works best – most responsibly and responsively – when it is closest to the people it serves and the needs it addresses,” wrote urbanist Jane Jacobs. While immigration is always a national issue, the mechanics of integration happen at the civic level.
So how can modern cities be sure they’re welcoming immigrants – reaping the benefits of diversity instead of creating tension and danger? Cities of Migration has the answers.
A showcase of successful integration projects from cities around the globe, Cities of Migration hopes to provide not just inspiration but a set of tools that any city government can use to build a strong, diverse community. Some of solutions go well beyond what you’d expect, with surprising effectiveness.
“We talk about the usual and less usual suspects,” says Kim Turner, Cities of Migration project leader. “Not just diversity officers and settlement workers, but also police, business, emergency workers, planners, unions, banks, airports, sport and recreation, hospitals, schools, parks, and city streets.” The following ideas – just a few of the many innovations you’ll find on the Cities of Migration site – turn everyday resources into tools for integration and community building.
Cities are hubs of skill and innovation – and increasingly, modern cities are seeing immigrants as sources of potential and opportunity. But “It’s not enough to attract international skill and talent,” Turner says. “The secret is to attract and retain. People need to feel welcome, included, be able to participate and develop a sense of belonging – maybe even a path to citizenship.”
When newcomers feel welcome and have a reasonable financial foundation, they stay and contribute. Major cities are starting to advocate for immigration reform because it’s just good for business. Chicago is spearheading a national movement in the US, with a sweeping new initiative called the New Americans Plan. Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the goal is to make Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in America.
“I want our city to be the first destination for immigrants because they are going to create the jobs, create the new companies, the businesses of the future,” Mayor Emanuel says. “We have to be the most welcoming cities we can be.”
In real terms, that means a top-down initiative run by the newly created Office of New Americansand advised by 50 local leaders representing all the major communities in Chicago. 27 initiatives were launched in late 2012, including business incubators, pop-up city services, education programs, support for undocumented children, and significant community outreach and engagement. It’s a massive undertaking with a good chance of success: Chicago is one of the most diverse cities in the United States, and rebranding it as an immigrant-friendly destination will undoubtedly bring in new residents while improving cultural dynamics.
Chicago isn’t alone; the Council of Europe and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg are also advocating for integration. City initiatives in London and San Francisco are actively working to help immigrants gain their financial footing so they can contribute to the local economy.
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How do you get to know your neighbors? By walking through your neighborhood. Cities worldwide are encouraging community integration simply by getting people onto the sidewalks.
The Hague and Toronto both organize walking tours of immigrant neighborhoods, markets, and places of worship. The Hague focuses on tourism, capitalizing on its emerging reputation as a multicultural city. Toronto invites teachers on its tours, giving them insight and awareness into the lives of their students.
Meanwhile, the City of Auckland takes a different approach: The Walking School Bus gives students safe routes to school by organizing them along more than 300 routes, with set departure and drop-off times. Students and parents walk together in groups, staying safe and getting to know each other in the process.
Badalona, a city of 200,000 on the outskirts of Barcelona, had a different problem: a rapidly growing Sikh population that was not integrating with the native Spanish residents. When the Sikh temple wanted to host a religious procession, Badalona officials gave them a condition: They would need to go through a mediation and facilitation process with the local neighborhood association. Once the two groups started talking successfully, the parade was approved and some native residents even joined in.
It can take decades for a migrant population to gain acceptance in a new community without help from civic leaders. In 2008, the Netherlands realized it had a problem with its police force: Namely, high numbers of women and ethnic minorities joining the force only to drop out. With a growing immigrant population, the country took action to improve its police force’s intercultural awareness. Police Commissioner Patrick Voss relocated to Toronto for two months to see how its police work toward cultural peacekeeping in a highly diverse city.
Commissioner Voss shadowed Superintendent Sam Fernandes, spending every day with a different group of Torontonians.
“We talked about the importance of multicultural experiences; getting outside your comfort zone every day and seeing the world with a different perspective,” Voss wrote in his blog of the visit. “This, according to him (and me, in all modesty) is a prerequisite for leadership in this complex world and virtually every police force in the world.”
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Voss’ cultural training is just one of many experiments police forces are undertaking. Their role is ever more challenging, and in many cases they do act as ambassadors between communities that might not see eye to eye. Other successful experiments helping police connect with local populations:
- In Madrid, police meet monthly with the community in a public forum focused on how police officers can better serve and protect.
- In Cardiff, police teach ESOL courses as a method to increase communication.
- New Zealand police carry a handbook of religious diversity that specifically addresses religious protocols.
- In Leicester, police recruit actively at community centers, in mosques, and through special events organized by the police force to increase engagement with various cultural groups.
- Brooklyn police conduct outreach to help newcomers feel safe, and recruit multicultural cadets to help build personal connections.
No matter what a city does from an organizational level, it can be difficult for an existing population to welcome a wave of newcomers. Cultures and religions easily clash. Language barriers and foreign clothing styles may cause uneasiness, particularly when the either or both groups feel threatened or overlooked. In most cases, there’s a significant amount of community outreach to be done – and the best way to do it is by unblocking cultural channels:
Visual Art: Barcelona’s Anti-Rumor Campaign aims to open the conversation with humor. The City Council worked with a local artist to create a comic book about an elderly Spanish señora and her Peruvian helper, breaking down stereotypes by sending its characters through a variety of quotidian adventures. The “Did You Know?” video campaign is a series of humorous videos, such as this one poking fun at the stereotype that immigration endangers cultural identity:
Libraries and Education: Since 1977, the Queens Public Library in New York has been working to become a center for knowledge, culture, and language exchange. 55 percent of the population of Queens speaks a language other than English at home, and the library performs a crucial function for the diverse and often lower-income population. In fact, it’s the nation’s most active library, circulating more than 23 million items in 70 languages. But its cultural resources aren’t limited to providing information on American culture to immigrants; it also maintains an extensive international collection and conducts programs to share literature and performance and folk art from throughout the world.
Museums: London’s Victoria & Albert Museum celebrated International Refugee Week with a unique initiative: It recruited refugees from Rwanda, Burma, Iraq, Somalia, Darfur, and Uganda to present specific museum collections, using them as springboards to tell their own personal stories.
“When I remember what happened to me I feel bitterness in my soul,” Fayhaa Abdulwahab told Cities of Migration. “But when I see people listening and sympathizing, it helps remove it. I feel that there’s hope in humanity.” The museum also incorporated language sessions and live performance to help visitors connect with the diverse cultures being represented.
“As cities adjust to changing economic conditions, they also remain central to the social integration of immigrants across all areas of everyday life,” Turner says. “Unlike business enterprises, cities and towns must also seek approaches that are sustainable, inclusive, ecologically sensitive, and globally responsible.”
Our global culture is continuously shifting, even more rapidly now that technology connects us across great distances. Good ideas for improving cultural relationships abound, both from cities and from community organizations.
Sierra Leone is launching a five-year program to combat the recruitment of child soldiers and run child soldier prevention programs in local schools.
The nationwide drive, the first of its kind in West Africa, will make child-rights training mandatory for the local police and armed forces and outline standards on how troops must engage with children in combat.
Sierra Leonean troops are confronting child soldiers on the front lines when they join peacekeeping missions in countries such as Somalia and Mali, where about 6,500 Sierra Leonean troops were deployed in January.
A decade after the end of a civil war in which an estimated 10,000 child soldiers were recruited, Sierra Leone has a generation of young people who have gone to war and killed. To avoid another generation growing up amid such violence, the program aims to couple child-protection training for the police and army with an education program in 45 schools across five districts.
The Child Soldier Initiative (CSI), a nonprofit group founded by Canadian Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the former U. commander who led the ill-fated peacekeeping mission in Rwanda from 1993 to 1994, has designed the training manual and program for the army, police force, and prison officials. CSI officials said they do not yet know how many security officials will be trained but the army has 13,000 soldiers.
In the second phase of the scheme, now being developed, CSI hopes to train and employ former child soldiers to run the school program, which will teach children about their legal rights and explain what child soldiery is and what tactics are used to recruit children.
Sierra Leone is the first country in West Africa to adopt an official child soldier policy, said Ismail Tarawalie, director of internal security at the Office of National Security. Other war- affected countries like Sudan, Mali, and Ivory Coast have received training from charities like CSI and UNICEF but do not have mandatory child-protection training policies.
“It is an important project because it will enhance the military’s capacity to meet international standards and ensure adequate training for military personnel,” Tarawalie said.
The charity has raised $150,000 for the first 18 months of the program, but executive director Shelley Whitman estimates it will cost an additional $350,000 to run the project for five years as planned. CSI has done child-protection training for security personnel in 46 countries, but Whitman said this is the first time its goal is to train a whole nation.
Child soldiers are a problem confronting many African countries. Psychological trauma, maimed children with amputated limbs, and stolen childhoods are its immediate effects. But for post-conflict countries like Sierra Leone, its impact lingers a decade later. Many former soldiers who did not successfully reintegrate and finish school are now homeless and jobless, a generation of unskilled young adults living on the streets.
Saudamini Siegrist, a child-protection specialist with UNICEF, said CSI’s long-term commitment to a large-scale security sector training program is significant because it fills a gap in post-conflict countries’ rehabilitation schemes.
“Recovery from the consequences of war takes time – even a lifetime,” said Siegrist.
• Alyson Rowe is a fellow in global journalism at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs.
The organization seeks to provide fun, organized opportunities to play during recess, allowing children to return to class refreshed and ready to learn.
The charity places full-time coaches in 360 schools in low-income neighborhoods who organize games, encourage participation, and show kids how to mediate conflicts with techniques like rock-paper-scissors. Older students act as junior coaches, helping to lead activities and teach new games to younger children.
“We focus on recess and play in schools, with the idea of leveraging it to really promote learning and physical activity,” says Jill Vialet, who founded the organization in 1996.
Playworks grew from a conversation Ms. Vialet had with a principal who was frustrated by the amount of time she and her teachers spent dealing with playground conflicts. The principal was running late for a meeting, and when she emerged from her office, three little boys she had been disciplining trailed behind her.
“She starts describing how recess had become this really chaotic time and how these boys were always getting in trouble,” says Ms. Vialet. “They weren’t bad kids, but they were starting to see themselves as bad kids.”
Outside evaluators studied 14 schools in the Playworks program and compared them with 11 similar schools that were not. Teachers in the Playworks schools reported better behavior at recess and 27 percent less time transitioning to classroom activities after recess than at the control schools. What’s more, kids were far less likely to bully or treat one another poorly.
Boone Elementary School in Chicago — one of 22 cities where the organization works — started the program this fall. Discipline problems have decreased significantly, says Lori Zaimi, the school’s assistant principal.
“The teachers can now focus on teaching,” she says. “They don’t have to worry about what happened during recess.”
Money from fees — charged both to participating schools and to other schools, for training teachers and administrators — accounts for a little more than one-third of the organization’s $30.9 million annual budget. Most of the rest comes from private donations by individuals, corporations, and foundations, with government grants bringing in another $2.3-million.
There were days when she prayed for a bullet to end her suffering. When she thought she was dying of a heart attack, she whispered "Thank you God."
A young judge, Nusreta Sivac, was one of 37 women raped by guards at a concentration camp in Bosnia. They never discussed the nightly traumas — their pained glances were enough to communicate their suffering. She also witnessed murder and torture by Bosnian Serb guards — and was forced to clean blood from walls and floors of the interrogation room.
She told herself to memorize the names and faces of the tormentors so that one day she might bring them to justice.
Today, it's partly thanks to Ms. Sivac's efforts to gather testimony from women across Bosnia that rape has been categorized as a war crime under international law. Thirty people have been convicted at the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague and another 30 cases are ongoing. She personally helped put the man who raped her repeatedly during her two months in captivity behind bars.
The United NationsSpecial Representative on sexual violence in conflict said Sivac and other victims are helping to make sure wartime rapists pay for their crimes.
"The courage these women have shown coming forward and sharing their stories demonstrates the need to break the silence and stigma surrounding sexual violence in conflict," said Zainab Hawa Bangura. "These survivors are helping to end impunity by making sure perpetrators are brought to justice."
Bosnia's 1992-95 war was the bloodiest in the series of armed conflicts that erupted when the Yugoslav federation fell apart and its republics began declaring independence. It took more than 100,000 lives and devastated the region. According to the UN, between 20,000 to 50,000 Bosnian women were raped — many in special rape camps — during the war that was fought between the new country's Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks.
African conflicts have seen even more harrowing figures: Between 250,000 and 500,000 were raped during the Rwandan genocide, and hundreds of thousands more in conflicts in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Sivac's ordeal started in the spring of 1992 when Bosnian Serbs took control over her native Prijedor, in the northwest of Bosnia, and threw Muslim Bosniaks and Roman Catholic Croats in concentration camps. Alongside the women were 3,500 male prisoners, hundreds of whom were killed.
Sivac, a Muslim Bosniak, would start the day counting the bodies of the men who were tortured to death overnight. "Their bodies lay there in the grass in front of the building. Sometimes 20, sometimes 30 of them," she recalled outside the factory in Omarska where she was held for two months.
During the long days of forced labor in the camp's restaurant, the women listened to tortured prisoners screaming, calling for help, and begging for mercy with voices that would become weaker until they went silent. Then the guards would force the women to clean the interrogation rooms, strewn with bloody pliers and batons. At night, guards would come to take the women away one by one — to rape.
Her captivity ended in August 1992 when a group of foreign journalists found the facility. The images of skeletal prisoners behind a fence and naked bodies beaten black and blue shocked the world and prompted an avalanche of reactions that forced the Serb leadership to release the prisoners.
Sivac's pre-war colleague from the Prijedor court, prosecutor Jadranka Cigelj, was also among the 37 Omarska women. The two escaped to neighboring Croatia, where they began collecting testimonies from hundreds of women who had been raped.
They spent years transcribing testimonies, convincing victims to break their silence, and putting together legal dossiers that they then presented to the investigators at the International Tribunal for War Crimes in Former Yugoslavia, based in The Hague.
During this process, she said, "it became obvious how many women from all over Bosnia were affected. But I wasn't surprised by the big number."
For centuries, rape was considered a byproduct of wars — collateral damage suffered by women, horrors often overshadowed by massacres. Even though the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 prohibited wartime rape, no court ever raised charges until Sivac and Cigelj presented their overwhelming evidence.
The effort finally paid off in June 1995 when the two traveled to The Hague to take part in preparations for the first indictment by the Yugoslav war crimes court.
Their collected evidence exposed the magnitude of rape, which courts could no longer ignore. According to the United Nations, it was a major "turning point" in recognizing rape as a war crime.
Sivac remembers the sunny July day the two realized their work would be soon rewarded.
They enjoyed a coffee in an outdoor cafe in The Hague and wrote a few postcards back to their torturers in Prijedor.
"Dear Friends," they wrote. "We hope you will soon join us in this wonderful city."
A year later, the tribunal indicted eight Bosnian Serb men for sexual assault in eastern Bosnia — a verdict based on testimonies collected by Sivac and Cigelj.
It was the first time in history that an international tribunal charged someone solely for crimes of sexual violence.
Nerma Jelacic, spokeswoman for the Yugoslav war crimes court, recalls the "shocking" testimony in subsequent cases, where some victims were as young as 12.
"We had cases where both mother and daughter came to testify and both were subjected to same kind of torture and kind of crimes," she told AP.
Sivac, who has since testified in several cases, including against Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, is satisfied with what she has achieved, although she wishes the ongoing cases would accelerate.
"It's slow, very slow," she said. "But it is a start."
One of the Omarska guards she testified against was released in 2005 after he served two-thirds of his seven-year sentence.
Sivac ran into him on the street one day in Bosnia.
"We stared at each other," she said. "He was the first one to lower his head."
Mali may be in the headlines now for the conflict that erupted between Islamists who tried to take over the country and the government, which persuaded France to help chase them out. But in peaceful times, it has been famous rather for its rich cultural traditions – especially its musicians, whose songs are loved around the world.
One of Mali's biggest stars, the singer-song writer Salif Keita, says music can help bring peace and reconciliation in his homeland that has been torn apart by the war.
"The rest of the world – they have to know that Mali is one. Mali has never been two," the musician, a descendant of the founder of the Mali Empire and dubbed the Golden Voice of Africa, told BBC World Service presenter Mark Coles.
Mali's conflict began in early 2012 when Tuareg rebels led an uprising in the north, which resulted in the country being split in two. The Tuareg uprising was soon hijacked by better-armed and wealthier Islamist groups, who for 10 months controlled Mali's north before being ousted by French and Malian troops last month.
While in control, the Islamists imposed a harsh version of Islamic law. They carried out public whippings of people accused of adultery, punished others with amputations, forced women to veil their faces – and banned music from local radio stations.
Keita said he feared there could be revenge attacks on the Tuaregs, who are a semi-nomadic pastoralist people of North African Berber origin, spread across desert areas of the Sahel. Tuareg groups in northern Mali have long complained of being neglected and marginalized by the government, which rules from far away in the south. But Keita said the Tuareg rebels had "brought" the Islamists into their areas, with terrible results for ordinary people.
"The problem in the north is between black people and white [lighter-skinned] people – we have to find a solution for that," he said.
"Make concerts there to bring them together, to bring them in love together ... We need peace between them," added Keita, an albino who has long campaigned against the stigma attached to albinism, particularly in Africa.
Malian people "like Christian people, they like Muslim people, they like animistic people – this is our way to live," Keita said.
Other Malian musicians have also appealed for an end to the fighting.
In January, a group of 37 teamed up to release a song called "Mali-ko" (Peace) composed by Fatoumata Diawara. Other well-known Malian singers and instrumentalists added lyrics and melodies, including Oumani Diabaté, Amadou & Mariam, Vieux Farka Touré, Tiken Jah Fakoly, Habib Koite, and Oumou Sangaré.
In the track, they urge Malians to be united, point to the suffering inflicted on civilians, and protest the loss of freedom after Islamists took over the north. "War has never been a solution," sings one.
Diawara told French radio station France Inter that musicians in the north had had their homes, studios, and instruments destroyed under Islamist control. The song, she said, is "our contribution to save this asset, this heritage, because Mali without music is no longer Mali."
Kamila Haidary is just 24 years old, but she has already given birth to seven children, only four of whom are alive today.
Money is tight for her family, who live in this poor, dusty neighborhood on the outskirts of Kabul. So she has started a business – just a small one – to help supplement her husband’s income.
That’s a story that you don’t hear very often in Afghanistan. In this country, women, especially women in poverty, usually have no options beyond marriage and motherhood. But a nongovernmental organization called Zardozi is trying to change that, at least for the roughly 1,000 women that the project is able to reach. The idea is to help the women start their own businesses, even if tiny ones, by using a skill that most of them already know: sewing.
“One of my friends heard about Zardozi, and she told me about it. Now I’m earning good money,” says Ms. Haidary as she sits cross-legged on the floor of Zardozi’s regional office, where a small crowd of women are gathered to sew and chat on a recent weekday morning. “I used to just do sewing work on my own, but since I joined Zardozi I have so many orders that I can afford to hire homeworkers to help me.”
Working in Kabul and three other Afghan cities – Mazar, Jalalabad, and Herat – Zardozi offers women training on topics such as design, quality assurance, pricing, leadership skills, and business planning.
The organization – which is funded by the Dutch nonprofit group Oxfam Novib and the governments of Britain and Sweden – then connects the women with shopkeepers who buy their shirts, pants, pillowcases, and the like. Sometimes the organization offers the women small loans, as little as $100, to help them expand their fledgling businesses. In return, the women pay a membership fee of just $1 per month.
It may seem like a fairly straightforward business model, but the women who join the project tend to need a lot of support on even the simplest tasks.
“These women are like prisoners who have just gotten out of jail,” says Kerry Jane Wilson, the director of Zardozi, adding that most of the women are illiterate and have trouble doing very basic things like talking to shopkeepers or finding their way around their own city. “They don’t even know where they live,” she says.
That is why the training is so critical. The Zardozi staff teach the women how to build their businesses and access local markets on their own.
You can already see a difference in the women’s attitudes and abilities, says Storai Ahmadi, a Zardozi employee. The changes are especially evident among those women who have taken on positions within Zardozi’s executive committee, a small leadership group that represents the rest of the members.
“You can see a big change in their attitudes and their behavior – the way they talk, the way they interact with each other,” Ms. Ahmadi says. “You can see a big change in their levels of confidence from before.”
But for most of the women, the chance to earn a little extra income seems to be the main appeal of the project.
Haidary says that she now makes about $30 per month on her sewing work, more than she has ever earned before. That is no small feat in a country where more than one-third of the population lives in absolute poverty, and where unemployment hovers around 35 percent.
Haidary hopes to keep up her work with Zardozi, a goal that she says her husband supports.
“I want to keep attending the trainings to get more skills,” Haidary says, her soft words rising above the jumble of women’s voices behind her. “I hope to hire more workers and make my business bigger.”
The nonprofit organization Living Goods uses an Avon-like door-to-door model to deliver low-cost, high-impact drugs and much-needed basic household goods to families in Uganda and Kenya. Last year 975 of these traveling micro-entrepreneurs treated more 200,000 children for deadly diseases, provided products and support for 28,000 pregnant women, and sold more than 17,000 clean-burning cook stoves.
The mission of Living Goods, to deliver "life-changing products to the doorsteps of the poor," also means providing anti-malaria treatments, fortified foods, and even solar lamps, reading glasses, soaps, and sanitary pads that can dramatically improve the health and well-being of families who live on a few hundred dollars per year.
At the same time, Living Goods views its clients not as helpless victims but as resilient entrepreneurs and value-conscious consumers.
Mr. Slaughter comes from a background in business and entrepreneurship, having founded and run TravelSmith, the travel clothing and accessories company. He sold it in 2004 and began to look for a new challenge.
He didn't have long to wait. The problem of helping underserved people in Africa soon caught his attention. His "ah ha" moment came when he realized many Africans had trouble getting from remote villages to a store. They needed the store to come to them.
His idea: "Let's get [sales] people out of their chairs, out of their stores, out into the community, knocking on doors, going to schools, churches, so forth," he says.
That's when Avon's long-running, highly successful model came to mind. Much of Africa today, he realized, bears resemblance to late 19th-century America, when Avon was founded. In rural America 120 years ago the "poor had little access to [high-]quality products," he says. It was also a time and place "where women wanted a source of cash income, but they couldn't go down to WalMart. And there were strong social connections."
Slaughter decided to become an Avon lady himself for a time to learn the model. "That was the beginning of my research," he says. "We shamelessly borrowed from Avon."
Today Living Goods representatives, usually local women, earn important income for their families while providing useful products and health information to other African women. Its approach has proved so promising that this year Slaughter and Living Goods were named as one of 24 global social entrepreneurs of the year by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship in Geneva, Switzerland.
While the Avon model may be more than a century old, a relatively new piece of technology – the mobile phone – is putting a new twist on Living Goods' door-to-door sales. Just a few years ago only about 35 percent of the people in Uganda had mobile phones; today it's about 80 percent. And per-minute calling charges have dropped drastically too.
Customers can call their Living Goods representative and make orders for delivery to their door; just as important, Living Goods can text its customers with news about its products and how to use them properly.
Living Goods representatives receive two and a half weeks of training, along with regular refresher courses. Each is issued a "Business in a Bag" that includes a uniform, T-shirt, hat, and apron, all with the Living Goods logo. They also receive a display case to put in their homes to create a home store, and a Living Goods sign to put on their door. Each representative wears a badge with her phone number so that clients can easily jot it down.
As it grows Living Goods also expects to become known as a highly trusted "brand." Africa confronts two major problems in delivering drugs to patients. At local clinics popular drugs are often out of stock. And many of the drugs in circulation are counterfeits. Living Goods has addressed both problems by setting up its own distribution network and doing independent testing on the drugs it sells.
While Living Goods maintains an office in San Francisco, staff members spend 30 to 60 percent of their time in Africa. The organization spends little time or resources on fund-raising. No Kickstarter campaigns.
"We don't do grass-roots fundraising," Slaughter says. Instead, it goes to a few big donors "who are energized like we are about addressing social problems at great scale using the tools of business.
"Almost all of them are successful business people" who want to apply their money and business skills to solving social problems, he says.
Living Goods, Slaughter says, doesn't even think of itself a charity, though it is a registered nonprofit.
"Nothing about what we do is a handout," he says. "It's really about empowerment. It's about giving people the tools they need to improve on their own."
It's also a proponent of the "please steal this idea" philosophy. Slaughter knows that Living Goods can't solve the immense problems of Africa on its own. But he hopes it can become a successful model that other organizations will want to adopt and adapt for themselves.
"If you want to make a difference on a big scale," he says, "that's the only way to go about it."
Lydia Owenga is a rarity among young career women in Kenya – a trained installer of biogas systems who doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty.
She is at ease doing masonry and ensuring her farmer clients mix cow dung and water in the right proportions. Nor does she shy away from handling manure or concrete when checking whether a biogas digester is working properly.
Owenga, 27, runs her own company and is passionate about providing African households with clean energy, and helping slow climate change in the bargain.
Biogas, produced from the bacterial breakdown of animal waste in airtight containers, is used mainly for cooking. It can replace wood, gas, or kerosene, and reduce deforestation, which is a big problem in rural Kenya.
Ms. Owenga is one of fewer than 40 women among 560 Kenyans trained to build biogas systems under the Africa Biogas Partnership Program (ABPP). The project is funded by a 30 million euro ($39 million) grant from the Dutch government and uses technical expertise from SNV, a Dutch development organization.
Caroline Toroitich, SNV’s senior renewable energy adviser, says around half the 2,000 biogas digesters built in Kenya since the 1950s had stopped working by 2008, mainly because they were poorly built and maintained.
The ABPP wants to improve this record by bringing in new partners, reducing costs, offering credit and training, and promoting the use of biogas as an alternative clean energy source. “Other biogas projects never factored in this collective approach,” said Toroitich, resulting in high failure rates.
To reach more people, especially rural farmers, SNV teamed up with the Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers (KENFAP), which has 65 field offices around the country and works with more than 150 partners in regions where farming has a good chance of success.
KENFAP in turn set up the Kenya National Domestic Biogas Program (KENDBIP), which aims to “develop a biogas sector that departs from donor dependency, and is driven by demand and supply where each actor is rewarded,” according to its coordinator, George Nyamu.
Almost 7,000 biogas digesters have been built so far under the KENDBIP scheme. The target is 11,000, which it estimates will avoid nearly 94,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
In the Kenyan context, that is not a lot, however. A 2010 report prepared by Practical Action for the International Institute for Environment and Development noted that an estimated 52,000 hectares (128,000 acres) of woodland is cut down in Kenya each year, resulting in annual emissions of 14.4 million tons of carbon dioxide.
Nyamu considers it important to keep the biogas sector growing by protecting the interests of both the service providers, like masons, and the farmers who are the main consumers.
SNV helps trained masons to set up biogas installation companies by providing marketing, branding, and expertise as they build their first digesters. So far, 40 of the 560 trained constructors have established companies, five of them run by women.
Owenga founded Byestar Limited Biogas Systems (BLBS) in 2009, after two years working for other biogas firms. Her own business has now built 15 biogas systems – four for institutions and the rest for households. It employs seven permanent staff and 10 casual workers.
Few women have made so much progress. Owenga remembers that, in her first masonry class, there were 30 men and four women. She is the only one of the four women working in the sector today.
A study last year by the ABPP and the International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy reported that in the five countries where the ABPP is active, Kenya had the highest proportion of trained women masons, 8 percent of the total, and Ethiopia the lowest, 1 percent.
To stay competitive in a society that often does not take women seriously in business, Owenga promotes BLBS aggressively at major events such as agricultural shows. She also ensures that presentations to potential clients are polished and follows up promptly on enquiries.
The KENDBIP has a flexible gender policy to encourage more women to join all activities from marketing to construction and does not require them to have prior masonry training like men.
Women begin with basic construction training and build up their skills through refresher courses to give them confidence. They also go to established biogas companies as interns, working under expert masons and learning the trade, as Owenga did.
Simon Mwangi, a farmer from Ruai, 55 kilometers (34 miles) from Nairobi, is one user who appreciates the impact biogas has made on his life since he installed a digester a year ago.
He used to spend almost $100 a year on four Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) tanks. “I quarreled a lot, urging my family to economize,” he said. Now, his 12 cubic-meter (424 cubic foot) biogas system saves him time and money, and he even heats water for showers without wincing at the cost, as he did when using LPG.
He adds 200 liters (7 cubic feet) of dung and water for more gas when needed. “It has made my life so easy I rarely use firewood to cook,” he said. A fish farmer, he puts the slurry that is a biogas by-product into his ponds to grow food for his tilapia.
Kenyans applying to the ABPP for a biogas system must have at least two cows and an adequate water supply. To qualify for a Dutch subsidy of 25,000 shillings (around $300), SNV requires a farmer to show commitment by first building a digester tank.
Banks and micro finance institutions help farmers get credit to raise the remaining amount and arrange for repayments over an agreed period.
The Visionary Empowerment Program, a 7,000-member micro-finance organization based in Thika, 40 km (25 miles) from Nairobi, began making biogas loans in 2010, and targets farmers and women entrepreneur groups. The number of women applying for loans has increased by an annual average of 13 percent, it says.
Of the 1,111 biogas plants it has helped finance, 733 have been for women. Women’s groups act as guarantors to a woman getting a loan, and repayment rates average 98.5 percent. Repayments are made in equal monthly instalments over two years, plus 1 percent per month interest on the reducing balance.
• James Karuga is a Nairobi-based journalist interested in agriculture and climate change issues.
Kids love receiving positive feedback, and a group calling itself Special People Performing Random Acts of Kindness — SPPRAK for short — is helping them get plenty of it.
By placing sticky notes on a large banner, students at Dixie Bee joined the "SPPRAK Pack" campaign. Similar banners and SPPRAK-provided sticky notes are expected to be in all 28 Vigo County (Ind.) schools within the next couple of weeks, SPPRAK officials said.
Each sticky note represented something kind a student at the school had done.
"Ajay held the door for everybody," stated one sticky note, written by a thankful Dixie Bee student. "Priscilla helped me draw a picture," stated another.
Other notes called attention to students who shared their lunches, helped put away "recess games," or in other ways showed kindness during the course of the day.
In just a few seconds, Dixie Bee students had posted about two-dozen "random acts of kindness" on the banner, which is in the school's front hallway.
"We're honored to be a part of this program," said Mika Cassell, principal of Dixie Bee, a southern Vigo County elementary school. Cassell was joined at the program launch by members of the Dixie Bee student council, Vigo County School Superintendent Danny Tanoos, and other school and school corporation officials.
Performing random acts of kindness "starts when they're young and just continues to grow," said Robin Heng, who founded SPPRAK along with Kim Grubb and Susan Short. While the program is currently limited to Vigo County public schools, "We'd like to see this grow," she told the Tribune-Star.
SPPRAK is a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to improve the Wabash Valley community by supporting groups that can use extra funding. The organization has worked to reduce graffiti in Terre Haute and has raised money for the purchase of a "bite suit" for the Terre Haute Police Department K-9 unit.
Other organizations assisted by SPPRAK since its founding in 2009 include the 14th and Chestnut Community Center, Light House Mission, Happiness Bag, and Altrusa International.
Duke Energy, Indiana American Water Co., Woodburn Graphics, and MillerWhite Marketing all helped bring about the "Join the SPPRAK Pack" program, Heng said.
• Information from: Tribune-Star, http://www.tribstar.com.
Nearly 30 years later, the twin brothers are firmly planted in the tech industry's elite circles, after selling companies to Microsoft and News Corp's MySpace, and tapping the rare connections to invest early on in Facebook, Dropbox, and Zappos.
Hadi Partovi says the arc of his own successful rise in the tech world was shaped by an early interest in computers and a formal education in writing software, or coding, which enabled that spark to flourish into a career.
Along the way, the twins made influential friends.
Bill Gates, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey – three people who became billionaire tech industry luminaries thanks to their computer programming abilities – appear in a new video released Feb. 26 by the Partovi brothers as part of their new computer science-education nonprofit, Code.org.
The goal of the online video campaign is to encourage parents to demand more schools to teach computer programming – a potentially lucrative skill that "equalizes opportunity" but is only available to a fraction of US high school students, Hadi Partovi said.
"Computer programming, right now, is the best embodiment of the American Dream," Partovi said. "The American Dream is to be the next Mark Zuckerberg."
"The tragedy is the skills it takes are not hard to learn, but only 10 percent of schools offer [computer science] courses, and these are usually the privileged schools."
After graduating with computer science degrees from Harvard University in 1994, the Partovi brothers founded LinkExchange and sold it to Microsoft in 1998 for $250 million. Hadi helped co-found Tellme Networks, a telephony company, while Ali went on to found iLike, a music service that became one of the first apps to integrate with Facebook.
The Partovis' campaign comes at a time tech executives warn of a new digital divide emerging between job-seekers who possess programming skills and those who do not. They also point to statistics showing that while coding jobs are among some of the most well-paid, especially in Silicon Valley, there remains a dearth of computer engineers, who are recruited aggressively by companies like Google and Facebook.
But there have also been strong signs recently that government officials are increasingly raising the issue of technical education, beginning at the secondary level.
In his state of the union speech this month, President Obama vowed to redesign US high schools to meet "the demands of a high-tech economy," while New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg this week introduced a new computer programming pilot program for 20 schools.
Hadi Partovi, who financed the video with his brother, lined up endorsements from Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and American Federation of Teachers union leader Randi Weingarten, although they did not appear on camera. The 10-minute video was directed by Lesley Chilcott, the producer behind the documentaries "An Inconvenient Truth" and "Waiting for Superman."
Partovi said he hoped to eventually raise money to fund programming courses in low-income school districts and perhaps even advocate for certain policy reforms that champion computer science education. In California, he noted for example, computer science courses are not counted toward high school graduation requirements.
"We owe our success in business to having learned to code," Hadi Partovi said.
Although the video mostly contains interviews with tech entrepreneurs and has familiar startup scenes – like shots of young employees skateboarding inside startup offices – there are some unexpected appearances by pop celebrities, including Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh and Will.i.am, a part-time startup investor himself.
"Great coders are today's rock stars," the music producer, sitting in his recording studio, says into the camera.
But what is considered a truism in Silicon Valley may not be apparent elsewhere, Hadi Partovi said.
"Middle America doesn't realize it's an issue," he said. "We can't solve the problem until we realize it exists."
(Reporting By Gerry Shih; Editing by Bernard Orr)