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Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012
I have visited Kenya twice in the last six years. In 2005 after high school, I worked for six months with the social enterprise Komaza, based in Kilifi, Kenya. Komaza uses an innovative micro-forestry design to fight rural poverty. There I developed an inexpensive home water filter made of clay painted with colloidal silver, an effective anti-microbial. During this time I lived in the town of Kilifi and worked in the large city Mombasa, and so I was exposed to urban and sub-urban cultures. On this recent trip, I was most interested in the rural culture of the Giriama tribe in Ganze district; about 1 hour’s drive inland from Kilifi.
The Giriama in Ganze have a strikingly different lifestyle to mine, and very different to urban Kenyans as well. As complex and vibrant as their culture is, I would try to interpret and understand the photos I received by organizing their culture into sub-groups such as food, water, technology, home, school, work, friends, family, etc. Many of the photos I received can be classified into just a few of these large categories. I have chosen those I share here for their prevalence in the photos I received.
All photos posted in these blogs were taken by rural Kenyan high school students.
Giriama Food: Ugali is the staple food in much of Kenya. It is pounded cornmeal cooked with water until it reaches a stiff mashed potato-like texture, and it is in just about every meal a person in Ganze eats. Women pound corn into this meal for hours in large mortar-pestle constructions. Most families in Ganze grow their own corn to make ugali, while other crops may be grown to sell. While high in starch and therefore good energy in terms of calories provided, a diet of ugali with little else can still cause deficiencies and malnutrition. While it can be a bit bland on its own, its firm texture makes it very filling. It is picked up by hand in little balls, which are used for grabbing vegetables, chili peppers, meat and fish, or whatever the family may be eating. Ugali is also mixed with water to make a refreshing porridge for kids.
Giriama Home: A traditional Giriama home is cozy, well insulated, and can cost $300-500 dollars to make; building poles are sometimes foraged for, but often bought from town. The poles are inserted into deep holes in the ground and tied into a structure. Clay mud is inserted between the poles, and palm fronds are made into a “makuti” roof, which can be made or purchased. Unfortunately, because of rain, heat, and rot, makuti has to be replaced approximately every five years, just as the mud huts themselves have to be occasionally reconstructed and renovated. Sometimes granaries or fire pits are built into huts, and walls can be decorated with magazine clippings and tinsel.
Giriama Cool: I was very interested in what makes a student cool or “poa” at school. The amount of Western and American influence on Giriama youth and popular culture is amazing. While they appreciate traditional Giriama song and dance, students often prefer American rap and hip-hop. Omar is a self-proclaimed freestyle rapper (Swahili and English) although I never got to hear his work. He and the others took many photos of “poa” hand-shakes, gang signs, and poses, all of which I imagine have been imported here by radio, magazine clippings, mobile phones, and word of mouth. Pants are dropped, collars are popped, non-functioning clear sunglasses are bought, and the look is complete. At the coolest high school parties in the middle of the bush, kids drink palm wine and dance to Tupac and Beyoncé.
Posted by Kieran Howard (Guest Post) |
Monday, Dec. 19, 2011
bushes on the slopes of Mt. Elgon, a large and solitary volcano in East Africa, yield red-ripe cherries making their way as Fairtrade
coffee beans to western markets and major coffeehouses such as Starbucks. Smallholder farmers will soon receive a bonus of cash for their crops. The good news is that the price of coffee this harvest season in Uganda
is likely to rise due to heavy rains earlier this year that limited the crop size.
There’s little incentive for the farmers to save any of that cash influx, however. Village banks are few and far between; moreover, they charge account maintenance and transaction fees that rapidly sip away the meager income. Moreover, with rampant inflation in Uganda and devaluation of the shilling, it’s a pretty sure bet that their hard-earned money will be worth less tomorrow than it is today. Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo describe how the poor save without banks in their recently published Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, often “brick by brick.” The poor want to invest in something that has future value – just like everyone else on the planet.
We witnessed this paradigm last week on a visit to Mt. Elgon with the CEO of Solar Sister
(GSBI ’11) Katherine Lucey, and her amazing team of women entrepreneurs. “We” included myself; Social Benefit Operations Director Sherrill Dale (for those who don’t know Sherrill, she’s the one who makes our signature Global Social Benefit Incubator program happen); Chair of the Center’s Advisory Board Jeff Miller; and his incredible wife, Karen. We’d arrived on Mt. Elgon after visiting other GSBI alums ToughStuff
(GSBI ’09) and KopoKopo
(GSBI ’11) in Nairobi, and re:char
(GSBI ’10) in Bungoma, about a 10 hour drive from Nairobi across the Great Rift Valley. Crossing into Uganda and reaching our base at Sipi Falls was another day’s journey.
Solar Sister is an amazing social enterprise by any standard. Already employing 177 women and affording them economic opportunity through an Avon-style sales model, the team strives to bring “light, hope and opportunity to even the most remote communities in rural Africa.” They are succeeding, and though their goal of scaling to 5,000 sisters in 5 countries within 5 years sounds ambitious, they may well exceed it.
Each Solar Sister carries a bag of products matched to different market needs in their sales territories. In the bag are ToughStuff’s affordable, modular solar-powered energy products including lighting, mobile phone chargers, and a D-battery form factor device that powers radios with the flexible solar panel module. These are the top three uses of electricity for the poor, with TVs next on the list. Also in the bag is Angaza Design’s (GSBI ’11) super-bright, sleek solar-powered lantern that lights up a typical single-room home for an average family of 7.
The ToughStuff radio-powering device is a big hit; we all like entertainment! And many purchasers of mobile phone chargers create microenterprises that provide their communities more affordable, and sustainable, ways to charge their mobile phones, critical given the information access and services now enabled by mobile technologies. (The power of mobile is well recognized within Africa with organizations such as iHub
in Nairobi fostering mobile innovation. Read more...
Lifeline Energy (GSBI ’04) CEO Kristine Pearson’s excellent blog on the burning issue of kerosene use
set the context for the contrast between those who had invested in solar powered lighting and those who had not. At the nearest town’s fuel station, we saw lines of young children filling empty 500 ml plastic bottles with clear kerosene at nearly 3000 shillings per liter, a huge fraction of the average daily income on Mt. Elgon. It wasn’t at all hard to imagine the picture Kristine had painted of an even younger child drinking the kerosene as if it were a beverage. Nor was it difficult to see how the lack of light hindered learning and damaged health.
The villagers we visited with Solar Sister had different stories to tell. They had invested in solar lights after receiving a bolus of income – it doesn’t come weekly or biweekly, but seasonally, perhaps after the coffee harvest. They were reaping the economic benefits of not purchasing kerosene every day. Depending on the lighting product, payback can be less than a month, with future savings fueling livelihoods, education, and housing.
Lidia, the very first Solar Sister, is a successful entrepreneur in her village. Her husband works for her. We visited her mother in another village and demonstrated the Angaza light to her great delight. She plans to open a store in her village - what a great holiday gift from daughter to mother – light and livelihood!
Another family we visited was using the 1700 shillings per day savings to cover school fees for the girls, a very high return investment according to Banerjee and Duflo. A third family was using the savings to expand their home, brick by brick.
Lucey shows how sustainable businesses with significant social impact can be “powered by smart investment in women entrepreneurs.” Applications for the 2012 Global Social Benefit Incubator, our tenth year, are now available for inspired, passionate, and compassionate social entrepreneurs like Lucey and her sisters. They light up all of our lives!
Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011
Are you out of ideas for holiday gifts and haven't crossed off a single name from your list? Well here is a list of GSBI Alumni organizations that can provide a unique gift for your loved ones and can also create a lasting impact in the life of someone one in need.
Gifts to Give: Many of our GSBI Alumni use fair trade as a means to create economic opportunity.
Craft Network ’08 (International) provides export facilitation and enterprise development services, through high-speed satellite communications, linking artisans from over 300 fair trade producer groups in the developing world to consumer markets. By breaking down barriers to global markets, thousands of artisans worldwide benefit from job creation, increased sales, strengthened ethical trade practices, and standard of living improvements. You can visit their online store here.
||eShopAfrica ’05 (West Africa, Ghana) uses the worldwide web to preserve cultural artifacts and enhance livelihood opportunities for traditional African artisans. You can visit their online store here.
|GRUPEDSAC ’09 (Mexico) has been working for over 20 years to educate, train, and carry out activities to promote the development of sustainable societies for low income, small farmers in Mexico. Simultaneously, the organization works on the development of environmental responsibility among all citizens through and appreciation of indigenous knowledge, skills and systems for increasing the well-being of rural communities. You can visit their online ecotienda here for unique handmade bags and purses.
||Gifts and Graces Fair Trade Foundation ’09 (Philippines) provides product development assistance and training which help people sharpen their creativity, improve their craft, and strengthen sales. The market access that Gifts and Graces provides contributes to increased incomes and an improved quality of life though enhanced food security, shelter, health, and educational opportunities for families. The producers also gain pride and self-esteem from being productive, contributing members of society. You can visit their online store here.
Gifts that Give: These GSBI Alumni offer ways for you to directly assist or invest in a beneficiary.
||Angaza Design & Solar Sister Team Up!
Angaza Design ‘11(Africa) is dedicated to making clean and affordable energy accessible to the 150 million East Africans without access to electricity. Angaza aims to replace the dependence on dim and toxic kerosene lanterns, with clean, bright solar-powered LED lights.
Solar Sister ’11 (Africa) empowers women through economic opportunity. Using a market based solution to eradicate energy poverty in rural communities throughout Africa, Solar Sister gives women the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty.
Support two GSBI alumni at one time! Give the gift of light here.
You can also purchase an Angaza light for your own home emergency kit here.
||Kiva.org ’06 (International) is a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world. Help an entrepreneur start their own business here.
||Lifeline Energy ’04 (South Africa) Lifeline Energy improves the quality of life of vulnerable populations. We provide renewable energy alternatives to those most in need. This includes sustainable access to information and education, as well as lights and solar panels. Give a radio and give the gift of knowledge here.
||ToughStuff ’09 (International) is a pro-poor social enterprise which provides solar-powered products for low income people, replacing expensive and environmentally damaging kerosene lamps and batteries. Users substantially increase their incomes as these robust products that provide less expensive sources of light and power allowing them to work more effectively and live fuller lives. Help support the “Business in a Box” with your gift here.
||Trees, Water & People ’11 (Haiti) delivers immediate triple-bottom line returns to the poorest communities in the Western Hemisphere by leveraging its 13 years of experience toward the development of a charcoal stove that reduces household charcoal consumption by up to 40%. This allows families to repurpose 20% of their annual household income from fuel expenses toward other productive activities. Give the gift of a cook stove to a family in Haiti here.
|SAMRUDHI ’09 (India) SAMRUDHI Micro Finance Society provides cost-effective, livelihood-based, collateral-free, financial services (such as microcredit) to rural and urban poor households. SAMRUDHI reverses the age-old vicious cycle of low income, low savings, low investment, and an expanding system of low income people, through the injection of credit for livelihood investment, more income, more investment, and more income. This brand-new site helps entrepreneurs in India. Learn more here.
||Solar Ear ’10 (Brazil)manufactures low-cost, solar-powered hearing aids with a workforce that is deaf. With a purchase price of only $100 (vs. equivalent products priced at $750), Solar Ear makes hearing aids available for low-income people who could not otherwise afford one. In addition, Solar Ear partners provides training, education and employment opportunities for deaf people in the local communities they serve. Give the gift of hearing for a child here.
Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011
Kiva.org is the fruit of a philosopher who asked a practical question: what could I do to help very poor people improve their lives? Matt Flannery visited Africa and discovered that a very small amount of money could help people in big ways, and that people in existing communities of trust would ensure that a loan was repaid. With some friends and family members, Matt started making a few loans. Kiva.org is now one of the most visible micro-lending institutions in America. Matt visited Santa Clara on November 9, and told stories of how this came about.
Every time I hear news about the big banks, the ones too big to fail, I get a bit more cynical. The enormous salaries to men whose banks’ bad behavior brought the American economy to its knees, credit default swaps so complex their inventors could not understand them, secret loans made by the feds to banks, government bailouts used to fund lobbyists to fend of regulation...these stories prompt in me a question: is the whole banking industry a parasite on society? The occupy movement does have a point here.
Starting a bank was the farthest thing from Matt Flannery’s mind, but he found, as I have, that one cannot foster human flourishing for poor people without providing them access to some capital. Matt was a computer programmer at TiVo with a Masters degree in philosophy, so he came to banking through a nonconventional path. He didn’t get into this line of work to make money, but rather, to alleviate poverty. Perhaps it was the ethicist in him that perceived economic options where others saw nothing but risky loans. In the Ugandans he met he found people alive with hopes and dreams, and he activated his networks back in America to partner with them. To accommodate the compassion of micro-loaners like you and me, he created a website to share the stories of people who needed credit, and Kiva.org was born.
This form of economics has nothing to do with the predatory or parasitic practices that foster cynicism. Instead, it’s based on mutuality through the international sharing of stories. Micro-loaners here in America learn about the needs of the poor, working so hard -- but unable to escape the traps of poverty without credit--in poorer countries over there. By exchanging stories, Kiva.org fosters practical compassion. People do want to make a difference, and by making a micro-loan, they can. Kiva.org facilitates this exchange.
Matt clearly loves what he does, and he has apparently found his life’s work. He used his computer programming skills to help countless people. From another perspective, his is a very old solution. In response to interest rates of >40% during the late Middle Ages, members of my religious order, the Franciscans, devised and launched local credit unions to provide loans at a fraction of this rate. These were the forerunners of the modern banking system....and this from a religious order that takes its vow of poverty quite seriously!
Fostering practical justice means understanding the economic reality of people who are poor, and just might be able to make it out of their poverty trap with a loan. Cynicism of American banking may be warranted, and the occupy movement may decry greed, but understanding how well conceived economic interventions based on solidarity can make a huge difference in the lives of others seems highly appropriate for a Catholic university that prides itself on teaching conscience. It is my hope that the Global Social Benefit Fellowship can help some Santa Clara students learn this.
Keith Douglass Warner OFM is a Franciscan Friar and the CSTS director of education.
Watch the Video of Matt's Kiva talk from November 9th, here.
Posted by Keith Douglass Warner OFM |
Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011
On behalf of the Center, we wish happy and healthy holidays to all of our GSBI alums, Tech laureates, partners, mentors, advisory board members, supporters, and other friends.
Last year, we set an audacious goal to promote the use of science and technology to benefit the lives of 1 billion impoverished people around our planet by 2020. The Center sharpened its focus in 2011 on three social benefit programs that enable progress towards this vision: entrepreneurship, through our signature Global Social Benefit Incubator™; innovation, including the rapidly evolving frugal innovation initiative; and social capital. According to the United Nations, the global population reached 7 billion at the end of October this year. Fully 4 billion, or 57%, are living in poverty at the “base of the pyramid.” Andy Lieberman’s article in the San Jose Mercury News captures well the power and potential of social entrepreneurship and innovation to solve the pressing needs of the global poor.
Our sector focus on off-grid, sustainable energy continued, enabling a successful launch of our Energy Map
, which has won praise from numerous impact investors, foundations, and development agencies for its deep and thorough characterization of technology solutions and business models to meet the needs of the 1.5 billion people living without electricity and nearly 3 billion using wood fires or unsafe traditional stoves for cooking. Based on practical knowledge from GSBI applicants, we’ve started to explore “contextual” factors, such as government policies, that facilitate or inhibit adoption of appropriate technology solutions and business model innovations for off-grid, sustainable energy, including speaking at the OECD’s Better Innovation Policies for Better Lives
Forum. Because our knowledge continues to deepen, we plan to continue the energy sector focus, particularly relevant given the UN’s declaration of 2012 as the Year of Sustainable Energy for All.
Our amazing 2011 GSBI Class
included 11 social enterprises focused on off-grid energy, the highest number and percentage ever. We also made significant progress towards gender equality with 8 women entrepreneurs of 18 total, again the highest number and percentage. In concert with the rapid emergence of social entrepreneurship in Africa, 6 of this year’s class serve communities there, with the remainder including Cambodia, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Mexico, the Philippines, Slovakia, and Thailand.
With the enormous caveat that there are many forms of social benefit and no universal metric for assessing impact, analysis revealed that our 140 GSBI alums have collectively impacted the lives of 74 million people. Our strategy to positively impact the lives of 1 billion by 2020 is simple: help more social entrepreneurs help more people.
GSBI program extensions in development include GSBI Online and the GSBI Network. GSBI Online could potentially train hundreds or thousands of social entrepreneurs all over the world through proven core modules of our program. The GSBI Network leverages the International Association of Jesuit Business Schools to foster the development of GSBI-like programs that help social entrepreneurs build sustainable and scalable ventures. Towards this end, we have hosted a first working group at Santa Clara and have executed Memoranda of Understanding with Ateneo de Manila in the Philippines; the CK Prahalad Centre in Chennai, India; ESADE in Spain; and XLRI in Jamshedpur, India.
We also introduced substantial “capacity development” training for the 2011 Tech laureates
, helping them craft succinct elevator pitches, create 2-page innovation profiles useful for fundraising, and explore different sources of capital. We continue to manage the nominations, applications, and judging processes, and are pleased that the 2012 categories include Sustainable Energy and Young Innovators, the latter of particular interest given our blossoming partnership with The Spirit of Innovation Awards
A common need for all social entrepreneurs and innovators is access to appropriate forms of capital. Compared to the well-developed VC ecosystem, impact capital is poorly coordinated, creating higher costs for both investors and entrepreneurs. Under the leadership of John Kohler, we launched our Coordinating Impact Capital
report in July, and with an in-depth workshop hosted by World Bank in early November.
The newly funded Global Social Benefit Fellowship Program
will afford high potential juniors from all disciplines a comprehensive practical social justice experience conceived in memory of Fr. Paul Locatelli.
Together, these programs provide the Santa Clara community unique opportunities to create a more just, humane, and sustainable world in accord with our Jesuit tradition. In 2012, our signature Global Social Benefit Incubator
will enter its 10th
year. In many ways, it is the “center of the Center” and we hope that you’ll join us in celebrating the accomplishments of these incredible social entrepreneurs who are changing the world and creating significant impact. We invite you to consider a gift to the Center to help us accelerate progress towards positively impacting the lives of 1 billion by 2020.
Thane Kreiner is the Executive Director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University