27 December 2007

Where would You be without Education? - A Journey into an African village

Let me take you onto a journey...

You fly into Africa... to Bamako, the capital of Mali. You leave the airport, board a rusty old Mercedes minibus which was dumped in Europe probably 15 years ago. The five hour journey takes you through red dust countryside and huts along the road. Whenever your vehicle stops woman who wait along the road in front of their huts out of handmade mud bricks, come quickly to your window trying to make a sell to generate some income. The journey continues sharing the road with even older trucks, people on rooftops, donkey-carts and Malians walking from village to village.

After hours witnessing some of Mali's rural life along one of its main roads between Bamako and Segou, you leave the (hardly) paved road and turn right into the Sahel, the semi-desert sister of the Sahara. There is no more maverick-dangerous traffic, no overloaded trucks or broken down cars; in fact there is no more motorised traffic at all. Farmers, too poor and uneducated to use advanced tools or fertilizers, are trying to make the best out of the meager land. Currently it is the "season of plenty" which means the soils have recently delivered harvests but how must it be to be here in the "hungry season" when there is no water and no food?

You arrive in the village Niamana. As soon as kids spot the vehicle (remember, no cars) they get very excited which quadruples when then see "tibbaboo". This is the friendly word in Bambara, the most widely spoken language in Mali, for white people. The kids scream loud due to excitement with an heart touching smile on their face. You arrive at Youchau's family's house. Niamana is inspiring, kind of sobering. Imagine you strip away the "matrix" of our busy life-style full of gadgets, information overload with TV and daily swamp of emails being always connected. No water coming from tap (there is a well) and no electricity (there is a solar panel powering a lamp at night) and no mobile phone reception (there is one landline). You feel like being transferred into a village 100 years ago, start feeling settled into an extremely poor yet friendly community.

The poverty bothers you and you start thinking how you could make a difference (next of being an attraction to the kids). A happy young kid comes up to you and when he smiles at you you feel happy and smile back. Amadou is a typical rural Malian kid. Although being 10 years old he looks much smaller due to not getting enough good food. You learn that he talks 5km each morning to get to school. There he squeezes himself into a small, old class-room together with 100 other kids. Most of the kids don't find a table and almost none of them has something to write. Many kids are hungry which makes learning even harder. You identify yourself with Amadou and ask yourself "could I have learned under these conditions?" You learn that 4 out of 5 people can not read or write. Teaching facilities are so basic, classrooms missing and overfilled that hundreds of the village's kids have no chance to go to school at all.

However, there is hope: Elders, teachers and families of the community see education as the key to provide their children with the chance of a better future. They free their kids from work in the fields or households, they try to safe money to be able to pay for the teachers' salary. You think of Amadou and the hundreds of kids without a chance to receive education. You imagine how the the next generation of this country could develop through education. You remember that, although school was not always fun for you, it allowed you to read your favorite books, to learn, to study, to vote, to get your jobs... Where would You be without Education?

Happy new year!
Elise, Youchaou and Juergen

PS: The Mali Initiative works to improve the education of children in Mali. Get involved. For more information see http://www.reachmaliproject.org.au/.
PPS: For more photos see http://www.flickr.com/jjnagler/tags/mali/show

19 November 2007

WBCSD: New publication "Doing Business with the World"

The development focus area of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) released a new flagship publication "Doing Business with the World - The new role of corporate leadership in global development".

The WBCSD's development focus area's objectives are:
  1. Raise awareness of the business contribution to development, helping business and non-business stakeholders understand what is possible by providing case studies, guides and tools that advance our understanding of development challenges and opportunities;
  2. Advocate for change by working collaboratively with multiple stakeholders to create a more enabling business environment and seek synergies between official development assistance (ODA) and foreign direct investment (FDI);
  3. Act by working with our members, Regional Network partners and other stakeholders to broker new business ventures that are both good business and good for development.
The publication gives a very good introduction of the area of business and development working together. From a Marketing perspective (I still have this in my blood) it's a great peace, thouroghly researched information presented with plenty of graphs etc. From a more critical development perspective someone could say "all great talk... what's the real action?" I see it as a necessary stepping stone to bridge the gap between business activities and development requirements such as environmental protection, poverty reduction etc. What'syour take on it?

An interesting quote summing up nicely the role of business:
“Business is the most important engine of economic change. It brings employment, goods, revenues, knowledge and skills development. We must also recognize that the most important role is probably not that played by the multinationals, but by the small and medium enterprise sector, the SMEs.

We as global companies can provide the catalyst to partner with SMEs to mutual benefit. We can access their local expertise and markets; they can access our technologies and business skills for local momentum.”

Michael Pragnell, CEO, Syngenta

Read the full PDF report from WBCSD.

01 November 2007

Mali Project Update

Just four more weeks until Elise and I will travel to Mali to support the Mali Project, very exciting. In the last months we gathered support to scale up the seed of amazing work that has been done since 2004.

Dynamic people have joined the project:
1) Tomas, my closest companion from the Masters at UNSW, Sydney, who left a safe job with the Canadian government to consult the World Bank in Sydney. He will join us in Africa in January!
2) Jeffrey, an amazing American working on a new model of sustainable development. He ran a big development/business endeavor in Armenia (CARD) and is writing his PhD in Melbourne, currently.
3) Manfred, a long time business friend and creative director of a marketing agency who is going to support us with our new internet site and communications.

Tomas' update on the Mali project on his unitedstates4africa blog:
"Almost the entire country lives off a little more than $1/day. Given all these factors it is not difficult to see why the average life expectancy in Mali is a shocking 48 years of age.

But all these negative factors is neither here nor there. Since March 2007 Elise, Juergen and I have (with the help of many supportive friends and family) discussed how we can take the Mali project to the next level. What does this mean? Well, at the present moment we have an amazing base to build from - two schools, a vocational school (No need to focus only on math/science when the country has a shortage of masons/plummers), healthcare centre, women's entrepreneurship project and street children social entrepreneurship project. We also have incredible drive, passion and vision from Youchaou on the ground in Western Africa. I was fortunate to meet Youchaou here in Sydney when he visited in June 2007.

The local and international personalities are key to this project - each one of us brings in something complementary to the overall team: Youchaou as community leader and founder, Elise as founder, program architect and successful fundraiser; my previous experience working for the UN in East Africa, and experience with government and international donor institutions and finally Juergen - dreamer, compassionate Buddhist and extensive private sector experience - key to securing donations from companies like Google and inculcating a business mindset in all of us!

So how do we scale up? Where does the Mali Project go from here - how does it grow? How do Elise, Juergen and I along with Youchaou - ensure the project is sustainable through 2010 and beyond? Western donors I have met with - World Bank, Canadian International Development Agency have provided some good advice on our scale up potential. ...

I think we can do this, and not just to satisfy donors funding requirements but because for the communities in Mali - ensuring a long-term vision and continuous funding for the project is sensible. There is hard work ahead for all of us to translate this into reality.

We will take the passion from Mali and nuance this to fit with Western donor expectations. However, all of us will certainly be mindful to never lose sight of the fact that this project remains driven by those in Mali. The goal has always been to reduce poverty and create new opportunities - Millennium Development Goal #1. The Mali Project began after a call for assistance from Youchaou. No one dreamed the Mali Project would be where it is now. Three years on the project has evolved and donors are showing interest. We will take this enthusiasm and draft a strategic plan with Youchaou and Kalabankoro that works - not to suit a bureaucratic requirement far away in the West but because this makes sense for the community and supports the livelihood of its people.

The day will come when Western funding is no longer necessary in Mali and Kalabankoro. This is still some time off but it is my hope in seven to ten years residents of Kalabankoro will have attained educational levels that attract and create more productive employment opportunities, increased investment in local infrastructure, better health care and ultimately, improved living standards. It can be done..."

Visit Tomas' unitedstates4africa.
Read The Mali Project: How it all began - the first school.
Read The Mali Project - Making a Difference in Africa.
See The Mali Project Video: Social Entrepreneurs building a School.

18 October 2007

Me to We: Young individuals making a difference

Young individuals that try the make a bit of a better place inspire a lot. Yes, we all admire the Dalai Lama, Muhammad Yunus and Nelson Mandela. Young change makers have the advantage that it is much easier to identify with them. Seeing the (com)passion of young people not accepting the old apologies why the world is unfair and why it can't be changed, is refreshing and giving hope. One of the outstanding examples is Jeremy Gilley with his Peace One Day campaign and DVD I blogged about here.

The latest example I came across are two young Canadian brother, the Kielburgers. CBC featured them:
"Craig and Marc Kielburger have made headlines around the world. Craig organized students from his grade 7 class to start an awareness campaign about child labour.
'Free the Children' was born. Now just a year before, Craig's older brother Marc spent a year in Thailand at an AIDS hospital.

Since then, 'Free the Children' has gone from being a home-run organization to one that works around the world. They've received countless awards.. Had appearances - yes plural - on Oprah. And have an on-going partnership with her Angel Network. Conversed with Mother Theresa and the Pope. Done speaking tours with the Dali Lama, Bill Clinton and Desmond Tutu."
They also founded a business4good called Me to We Style selling organic fair trade clothing and doanting 50% of its profits to their charity. They even wrote a book 'Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World.'

Check out their interview on CBC!

17 October 2007

Mobile phones: the single most transformative technology for development

Mobile phones are clearly business4good. I have read plenty of articles about specific solutions using mobile phones in the developing world - including the Kenyan mobile4good example. This this BusinessWeek article sums it up nicely:

"What would a Kenyan farmer want with a mobile phone?
Plenty, as it turns out. To the astonishment of the industry, people living on a few dollars a day have proven avid phone users, and in many parts of the world cellular airtime has become a de facto currency. The reason is simple: A mobile phone can dramatically improve living standards by saving wasted trips, providing information about crop prices, summoning medical help, and even serving as a conduit to banking services.

Mobile phones are changing developing markets faster than anyone imagined. Today there are some 3 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, and that will grow to 5 billion by 2015, when two-thirds of the people on earth will have phones, predicts Finnish handset maker Nokia"

ile phones are changing developing markets faster than anyone imagined. Today there are some 3 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, and that will grow to 5 billion by 2015, when two-thirds of the people on earth will have phones, predicts Finnish handset maker Nokia Corp."

Jeffrey Sachs even calls cell phones "...the single most transformative technology for development".

Read the full article in BusinessWeek.

13 October 2007

The World needs a Global Marshall Plan

During Germany's G8 presidency I picked up an interesting initiative: The Global Marshall Plan. Their brochure featured the who is who on making globalization more fair, incl. Stiglitz, Yunus, Al Gore etc.

Coming from Germany which was rebuilt with the help of the Marshall plan after WWII it's very interesting seeing this idea taken onto a global level. It's certainly bigger and more complex but aiming for the right thing - a fairer globalization! Do you think it's possible?

"The Global Marshall Plan aims at a "World in Balance". To achieve this we need a better design of globalization and the global economic processes - a worldwide Eco-Social Market Economy. This is a matter of an improved global structural framework, sustainable development, the eradication of poverty, environmental protection and equity, altogether resulting in a new global 'economic miracle'."

Move your cursor over the animation to learn more about the initiative:

12 October 2007

Bill Gates Calls for More Creative Capitalism to Reduce Inequality

Bill Gates is one of the best examples of business leaders changing their way to strive towards doing good. Earlier this year Bill Gates gave an interesting speech on tackling inequities at Harvard.

I like his down to business approach to reduce poverty:
"Imagine, just for the sake of discussion, that you had a few hours a week and a few dollars a month to donate to a cause—and you wanted to spend that time and money where it would have the greatest impact in saving and improving lives. Where would you spend it? For Melinda and for me, the challenge is the same: how can we do the most good for the greatest number with the resources we have?

The defining and ongoing innovations of this age—biotechnology, the computer, the Internet—give us a chance we’ve never had before to end extreme poverty and end death from preventable disease... You know more about the world’s inequities than the classes that came before. In your years here, I hope you’ve had a chance to think about how—in this age of accelerating technology—we can finally take on these inequities, and we can solve them.

We can make market forces work better for the poor if we can develop a more creative capitalism—if we can stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or at least make a living, serving people who are suffering from the worst inequities. If we can find approaches that meet the needs of the poor in ways that generate profits for business and votes for politicians, we will have found a sustainable way to reduce inequity in the world.

Don’t let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives."

What a final call for action: “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”
Watch the video or read the transcript.

Thanks to Max Oliva from ie

05 October 2007

The Economist & CSR: From Foes to Friends

What a difference two years can make. CSR has made it into mainstream:

Economist '2005 :
The respected conservative weekly was pretty much on the side of Milton Friedman's "The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits". It dismissed CSR not only as a superficial PR exercise but even dismissed as counterproductive. "CSR cannot be a substitute for wise policies in these areas. In several little-noticed respects, it is already a hindrance to them...To improve capitalism, you first need to understand it. The thinking behind CSR does not meet that test."

Economist '2007:
It seems that the benefits that have been well documented (e.g. in Michael Porter's article) for some time, are becoming mainstream finally. In response to a CSR-critical book “Supercapitalism” the Economist writes:
"[D]one well, CSR can motivate employees and strengthen brands, while also providing benefits to society. Understanding and responding to the social context in which firms operate is increasingly a source of new products and services, observes Jane Nelson of the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum. Telling firms they need not act responsibly might cause them to under-invest in these opportunities, and to focus excessively on short-term profits."

Simon Zadek, the boss of AccountAbility summarizes the state of CSR in a nice way: “The ‘whether in principle' conversation about CSR is over,” he says. “What remains is ‘What, specifically, and how?'”. Answers to these important questions is what the UN Global Compact with its local networks in over 70 countries tries to foster. And this blog highlights some of outstanding business4good cases.

Thanks to the Triple Bottom Line Blog

01 October 2007

Business–NGO Partnerships Help the World’s Poorest

During the International Trade Forum leading businesses including Adidas, BP and Procter & Gamble committed to CSR:
“We believe that the leading global companies of 2020 will be those that provide goods and services and reach new customers in ways that address the world's major challenges — including poverty, climate change, resource depletion, globalization and demographic shifts.”
The full article on the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) website also features a few illustrative example of 'business4good' practices:
  • Unilever is integrating social innovation strategies in its business operations. In India, it teamed up with NGOs to create Shakti, a rural network that sells products adapted to rural customers in more than 100,000 villages, employing 31,000 women. In Indonesia, it teamed up with Oxfam to research and assess the impact of production and distribution processes on poor communities. (Sources: Unilever, Oxfam)
  • Procter & Gamble worked with research institutes and other organizations to create a low-cost ($0.01/litre) water purification product. PuR is mixed with water and filtered through a cloth to remove bacteria, viruses and parasites. One billion people lack access to safe drinking water. Relief agencies use PuR to provide clean drinking water during emergency relief operations. (Source: P&G Health Sciences Institute)
  • Cemex, the world's third largest construction materials firm, has been working with Ashoka fellows to help more than 30,000 low-income families to build affordable, decent houses for themselves. Participants enter a savings and credit programme, get assistance to plan construction work, and benefit from services such as material storage, delivery and price guarantees for two years. This helps the company reach new customers it could not serve before, while helping poor families to improve their living conditions. (Source: Ashoka)
The WBCSD article also talks about tthe rise of social entrepreneurship and poverty as a business challenge. A pretty good read and nice update summary on how business can do good.

26 September 2007

The Top 20 NGOs/UN Agencies according to Business

Dalberg, the Global Compact and the Financial Times came up with an unusual ranking... instead than companies are ranked it was NGO's and UN agencies that got assessed by corporate leaders against certain criteria (Accountability, Adaptability, Communication, Execution).

So who are the leading NGOs/UN agencies according to Corporate Leaders? See the Top 20:

For the full ranking tables and background information see FT or Dalberg.

Ranking are always disputed and setting criteria for such an homogeneous are such as NGOs and UN agencies this is far from an easy job. Having such diverse NGOs on the same piece of papers might appear a bit random to some but nonetheless I think it's a good start for increased transparency and stimulating improvement through sharing of best practices.

BTW not a big surprise than Rotary and Lions make it to the top considering that their members are mainly business people.

The only other ranking of NGOs - although focussed on US charities - is Charity Navigator. Do you know any else?

19 September 2007

Ten Questions on Social Entrepreneurship with David Bornstein

Social entrepreneurship is a core topic of business4good and I have blogged about it many times (scroll). This includes David Bornstein who one of the most renowned figures in the field and author of How to Change the World - Social Entrepreneurs which just came out in an updated edition.

Therefore I was happy to read on Guy Kawasaki's blog 10 questions and answers with David. He makes some interesting links between social entrepreneurship, meaningful action and to happiness (reminding me of books I am reading from the Dalai Lama). Here three little excerpts from David's answers:

1. Bill Gates' Awakening:
"When Bill Gates announced that he would be stepping down from Microsoft to run his foundation, he made it clear that he was not retiring, but rather “reordering” his priorities. Why? It was through his research trips in the developing world that he came face to face with people suffering and dying—and he couldn’t shake it. He saw that he could be more valuable to the world helping to develop AIDS or malaria vaccines, or expanding access to health care systems, than helping to create more software tools, as valuable as those tools may be. Lots of people are coming to similar conclusions. It is like a global awakening."

2. The Bottleneck Fundraising:
"Most of our major businesses are able to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in capital markets—through debt or by issuing stock. But social entrepreneurs, who typically run nonprofit organizations, usually have to raise considerable grant funding from foundations, which usually comes in small, short term installments. Because the funding is so fragmented, social entrepreneurs end up spending 80% of their time fundraising, rather than spending 80% of their time focusing on running their organizations. This is a huge bottleneck."

3. Meaningful Action:
"The bottom line is that we focus on the “doing good” aspects, on the sacrifice, and ethical components, but we often forget to mention how wonderful it feels to take meaningful action in line with your core beliefs. Finally people often delay because they just don’t know where to go, what to do, or how to take the first step. So there is a big need for tools that help people find their place in the field of social entrepreneurship and social innovation. That is actually the subject of the current book I am working on."

Read the full interview.

29 August 2007

The Other Africa: TED Conference on Ideas

What's the image of Africa in the west? If you are an optimist you might think about beautiful nature and animals but most likely many images might be negative such as poverty, famine and HIV/AIDS.

Africa has an image problem and therefore I was positively surprised to see these videos from the TED Conference on ideas which was held for the first time in Africa.

See inspiring videos which bring light to Africa showing for example how the investment climate and inflation rates have improved. It's very refreshing to see Africans themselves talking about their continent! See more at TED.

via iPienso.

28 August 2007

Do you like Flying? If you also like the Environment then offset your Carbon Emissions

Are you a carbon balanced flyer? Probably not and I haven't known what this means until lately (not to mention how to become one ;) .

TerraPass is a prime example for a "Business4Good" and can help you to offset the carbon emissions we are responsible for through flying. This is a smart business approach to the problem that flying contributes to green house gases which I lamented on in an earlier post.

Becoming carbon neutral might be cheaper than you think. I just invested 36.95$ for an intercontinental flight from Europe to Australia. The money will go into into green energy such as from wind. You can calculate you emission here, check it out.

Just a disclaimer, no this alone won't be the solution for climate change but it's a part of it. What do you think?

24 August 2007

Outcomes of UN Global Compact's Leaders Summit

This week the preliminary outcomes of the Global Compacts Leaders Summit from July in Geneva got released. I am thankful for it because way too much happened there for me to sum up myself :) Overall, it was very inspiring to have been there because you can see that business is taking global issues serious and the Global Compact is a facilitator in this change but as well as changing the UN itself by facilitating business-UN partnerships.

Highlights from my perspective were:
  • Largest high-level event on of corporate responsibility ever: bringing together more than 1,100 leaders and representatives from business, government, civil society, labour, academia and the United Nations means this is important!
  • Deepened commitment for universal principles: Through advancing responsible business practices a more sustainable and inclusive global economy can be realized. The Global Compact principles are the leading compass for this.
  • Diversity of participants from 90 countries: Where else do you bring together CEOs (incl. many from China) that talk business with critical voices from nearly 200 representatives from civil society, labour and academia?
  • Reports confirming that responsible business perform better: Goldman Sachs found that companies considered leaders in implementing ESG policies have outperformed the general stock market by 25 percent since August 2005. In addition, 72 percent of these companies have outperformed their peers over the same period.
  • Responsible investments take off: More than 200 institutional investors representing over US $9 trillion in assets signed onto the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) in just over one year.
  • Action platforms, i.e. walking the talk: Of course such an event is a lot about dialogue but I am glad to see that there is follow through. For example through action platforms on: Climate, Water and Responsible Management Education.
As you see, a lot has happened there and is underway. You can read the complete preliminary results.

16 August 2007

Support Make Poverty History

Make Poverty History is a great campaign I have been supporting since a couple of years. With white bands as its major symbol millions of people around the world are campaigning for the Millennium Development Goals. These where signed in 2000 to eradicate extreme poverty by 2015.
"Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made, and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings."
- Nelson Mandela
070707 was 'half time' on the way to landmark 2015 and reports show that in some countries great has been achieved and in many others a lot more is necessary. Around the world this has been reason for another push to campaign for the universal goals against poverty. In Australia the campaign even lit up the Opera House!

Support the campaign to Make Poverty History in your country: www.makepovertyhistory.org

11 August 2007

The Mali Project: How it all began - the first school

Two weeks ago I was writing on the development situation and some background of Mali. Now I'd like to dive deeper into the Mali Project. Before we come to the concept and current projects, read how the whole project began:

Paul Currie (Co-founder of Reach and film director) met Youchaou Traore whilst in Mali filming a documentary on child trafficking. Paul was inspired by the strength, vision and dedication of Youchaou - at this time translator next to being a teacher - in wanting to help his community. Youchaou had grown up an orphan, on the streets, so he understood the hardships his community faced and how precious it was to get an education. Paul could see that a little bit would go a long way and he committed to making Youchaou’s dream of a school a reality. He returned to Australia and inspired the Reach Crew to help.

The Australian young people lead by Elise Klein emailed this man, Youchaou Traore and told him they wanted to help. This was the start of a three year long relationship built only through emails where the young people set out to raise the money needed for the primary school. AUD$50 000 later, the school was completed. 130 students were enrolled in the first year. It has been labelled one the best schools in Mali and is available to the poorest of the poor.

On a self-funded trip, a small team of Reach Crew with the support of a Reach staff member and corporate supporter, visited the Kalabankoro community in late 2005 to gain first hand experience of the situation and to meet the community they had raised money to help.

In 2006, the Australian young people raised over AUD$70 000 to get the school to its final phase of a secondary school to accommodate students completing their secondary studies. 2006 also saw the creation of a micro finance organisation for Kalabankoro women to help generate economic development in the area. Again in late 2006 a self funded trip was organised to visit Kalabankoro community. In 2007 a community health centre was started in temporary rented premises.

See this inpiring video from a visit at the Mali Project from an earlier post. More about our plans on scaling up this great project soon...

03 August 2007

Flying for half the price than train - kerosene's subsidy is a loose hot air balloon fueled by tax money

How to waste tax money, distort market competition and kill the climate at the same time? What sounds like an absurd question is reality every day: tax subsidy (or more correctly put exemption) of flights' fuel does the trick!

Take for example: Recently, I wanted to get from Munich, Germany to Geneva, Switzerland. Distance around 600km which you could perfectly do by car, train or flying. Train ticket is around 200€ return. Guess how much flying is? 90€!

I couldn't believe that environmental dubious - but undoubtedly more comfortable - flying is less than half the price if trains, not to mention the cost of a car. So why do we need kerosene's subsidy when it obviously distorts the competition and sets the completely wrong signal in environmental protection and sustainability. Shouldn't have taxes the function of setting the right incentives? Also the money on taxing flights could will be used for development assistance as unitaid does.

Where are the EU, Germany and the US here? Don't you need some $$$ to save the climate or to decrease your debt mountains? That would be real sustainability. And don't tell me that a moderate percentage on these super cheap flights would stop business people flying business class when there companies pay or would harm the economy on a big scale. Maybe it's the power of lobbies? But I can't imagine that the airways industry (kerosene untaxed) is more powerful than the car industry (car fuel heavily taxed). So why is the right thing not happening?

Don't get e wrong here, I am certainly not against flying per se and am a frequent flyer myself. But we just need to show responsibility for our consumption and behavior. Until we get this dangerous tax hole fixed setting off our carbon emission ourselves by initiatives such as Terrapass is a start!

28 July 2007

The Mali Project - Making a Difference in Africa

Some time ago in Australia I came across an exciting hands-on development project that empowers people in Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world. The project is not only run by inspiring young Australians, foremost lovely Elise, but it is also a perfect match to my desire to make a difference in the field in Africa.

The project has established a successful pilot in a village by building a school and establishing a small Microfinance group near the capital Bamako. The people driving the project, Youchaou Traore in Mali and Elise in Melbourne, have big dreams. Every hand and dollar are needed, therefore, I have joined the team and we will travel to Mali and East Africa in December for some months.

Therefore, I will increasingly introduce Mali and the Mali Project as well as our plans and work on this blog. Also check out the Mali Project website.

Position and Population:
Mali is a landlocked country located in West Sub-Saharan Africa as shown in the map above. It has a population of about 11,9 million people growing at a high rate of 2.7%. The median age is just 16 years and over 48% of Malians are between 0-14 years old.

Legacy of Dictatorship:
Historically, Mali was a French colony and got its independence in 1960. The first President ruled the country for eight years and a military Coup in 1968 that established a dictatorship until March 1991. A revolution then threw down the dictator and Mali became a democracy. Since the events of March 1991, Mali is committed to the establishment of a democratic society which requires access of all citizens to a minimum education. The legacy of 33 years of dictatorship has been responsible for severe poverty and under-development, especially a lack of health and educational facilities.

Extreme Poverty and Low Development:
Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world ranking 175th out of 177 countries with data in the United Nations Development Index 2006. With a per capita GDP of less than 1000 PPP US$ and an illiteracy rate of 81%, most of Malian communities live in extreme poverty lacking basic resources such as access to food, water, shelter and health facilities. As the World Health Organization reports, the health indicators are alarming which will be analysed in the following section of development needs.

Despite some progress, Mali has a Human Development Index (HDI) which remains starkly below the HDIs of other regions in the world. The HDI measures three dimensions of human development: 1) life expectancy), 2) literacy and school enrolment and 3) Income measured by purchasing power parity.

The Mali Project is very exciting, so stay tuned for more updates!

20 July 2007

Peace One Day - The Story of an Individual changing the World

Just finished watching the movie "Peace One Day". Have you ever wondered if individuals can make a difference? Then you will be amazed by the drive of Jeremy Gilles who in this documentary puts his life and passion behind his dream to globally establish a day of ceasefire and peace.

Jeremy writes to every head of state and Peace Nobel Laureates about his dream. He meets Kofi Annan at the UN, the Dalai Lama and many presidents. If you are somehow interested in a better world then this movie is for you! To see Jeremy's drive and the ups and downs of this campaign are incredible.

Until you get a copy of the DVD check out a video from Jeremy on the campaign website Peace One Day. And let's do something on Peace Day 21st September!

18 July 2007

Pictures from the Global Compact's Leaders Summit in Geneva

To complete my wrap-up of the inspiring Leaders Summit here a few self-made pictures:

The "broken chair" in front of the UN building in Geneva:

1000 leaders from business, civil society, UN and governments in the General Assembly of the UN Geneva building:

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on his way to the Gala Dinner:

Jeffrey Sachs gave a very inspiring keynote speech:

The "COP" team, Christopher Wickert, Jeff Senne, me:

For more (private) pictures see my Flickr account.
For more info on the Leaders Summit see the Official Blog or UN's video archive.

11 July 2007

"UN Global Compact Boosts CSR" from CSRwire

CSRwire just brought a nice summary of the Leaders Summit and some reactions:
"Corporate sustainability and responsibility got a shot in the arm last week at the second annual Global Compact Leaders Summit in Geneva, where the UN-sponsored coalition of corporations addressed diverse issues--from the water crisis to climate change, particularly in China. Companies adopted a Declaration on Responsible Business Practices, called for Responsible Business Education, released a best practices implementation tool, and issued three reports, including one from Goldman Sachs finding financial out-performance by companies with strong environmental, social, and governance practices.

Predictably, response to the Summit ran the gamut from gushing praise to criticism from both the left (the Compact is greenwash) and the right (the UN is co-opting business.) Peter Kinder of KLD Research & Analytics provided a more reasoned response."

Video: The Role of Business in Tomorrow's Society

Digging on YouTube to find a good video explaining Corporate Social Responsiblity (CSR) I just found this interesting video from the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD). It showcases businesses that try to find win-win situations where making business can address some of the world most pressing issues such as the water crisis. It follows the thinking of Prahalad's "Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid".

What I like most is the example of Procter and Gamble (at around 4:30min) who offers a product that purifies water in developing countries to make it suitable for drinking and therefore avoids diseases and saves lives:

09 July 2007

Groundbraking Studies by McKinsey and Goldman Sachs Confirm "Doing Well by Doing Good"

Wow, the Leaders Summit in Geneva last week was full on! Where else in the world does the Coca Cola CEO speak with the Head of Amnesty or Oxfam? Where does the president of a major oil company sit at the same table with the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights?

Imagine over 1000 leaders of companies, NGOs, UN agencies and governments in the General Assembly in the UN in Geneva. Opening by the Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, followed by business and NGO leaders on the most pressing problems of the world: Climate Change, Water Crisis, Sustainability, Human Rights etc. I am still in information processing mode (my god was this all intense) but here the first highlight.

How often have you heard the catch phrase "Doing well by doing good?" Ever wondered what's really behind it? Two studies released at the biggest UN gathering with business delivered some answers:

1. Goldman Sachs Study
  • One of the world’s leading investment banks analysed companies that are considered leaders in implementing environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies to create sustained competitive advantage.
  • These companies have outperformed the general stock market by 25 per cent since August 2005.
  • In addition, 72 per cent of these companies have outperformed their peers.
  • That's groundbreaking news to see that behaving good pays off financially too! See their full GS Sustain report.

2. McKinsey Study
  • Shows that CSR has grown out of its early stages when it was only considered More than 90 per cent of CEOs are doing more than they did 5 years ago to incorporate environmental, social and governance issues into strategy and operations.
  • 72 per cent of CEOs said that corporate responsibility should be embedded fully into strategy and operations, but only 50 per cent think their firms actually do so.
  • Read the full McKinsey Report
Georg Kell, Executive Head of the Global Compact (great person who I worked for at the Summit, so I am biased) summarizes it nicely: "For an increasing number of business leaders, corporate responsibility is no longer an option, it is a necessity in order to compete successfully. At the same time, in order to fully maximize these benefits and increase their competitive advantage in the global marketplace, companies must adopt a broader and deeper approach with respect to implementation of corporate responsibility principles”.

Also check out the official Summit Blog full of great content!

02 July 2007

Companies valuing social factors better equipped to lead markets

This week the Leaders Summit of the UN Global Compact is happing. The Leaders Summit is the largest UN gathering with business ever, almost 1000 leaders here, sounds like CSR and sustainability are becoming mainstream!

In the run up for this major event that happens only every three years Goldman Sachs published some findings. Goldman Sachs links good performance in the environmental, social, and governance areas with competitiveness and stock performance. Sounds like a run for business case! Read on at UN News.

I just arrived in Geneva and will keep you posted with more soon. The agenda looks very interesting!

25 June 2007

Price of Peace - Campaigning for the UN

Although peace is not an obvious topic for "business4good", peace is probably the most valuable public good. Ever since I read that the US is spending 20 (!) times the money on its military than on Official Development Assistance, I thought "can't we use this money in a better way?". No doubt, we need some 'hard' power in the form of military for defense but everything in moderation and well balanced please.

Therefore, I like the "Prize of Peace" Campaign. Although US focussed, it shows that peace is not just the right thing for humanity but also make economical sense. UN peacekeeping is 8 times cheaper than US military forces (see their video for more snappy facts). Peace is not just cheaper than war but furthermore UN peacekeeping efforts and 'soft' peacemaking efforts are much more effective than 'hard' military power.

We can debate endlessly about the flaws of the UN but we have any better organization? No, so let's get together and make the UN works - for a better world. What's your opinion?

19 June 2007

Yunus Video on G8 and Development

Watch this interesting video where Yunus (Peace Nobel Prize 2006) answers questions about what the G8 and development should focus on. He talks about poverty, climate change, world peace and globalization etc.

I think he has a very inspiring view on how to develop capitalism and 'social business':
"Business is defined as a business to make money. That's the only kind of business today we know within the framework of capitalism. That kind of undermines human being. Human being is much bigger than that. Human being is not an entity which spends his or her lifetime making money."

Brought to you by Dropping Knowledge

12 June 2007

UN Opportunity: Become a Global Compact Online Volunteer

Get involved in the United Nations’ CSR Project

Do you want to learn about how companies implement the principles of the largest Corporate Citizenship initiative in the world? The UN Global Compact offers you a special “externship” volunteer opportunity: With little time and from home you can help the UN, learn about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and receive valuable benefits.

What is the UN Global Compact?
  • The world's largest corporate citizenship initiative aiming for a more sustainable and inclusive world economy
  • Supported by over 4000 participants in over 100 countries
  • Includes many of the worlds most influential companies, such as Coca Cola, ebay and Microsoft
What is the Project?
Companies from all over the world report their progress on implementing the 10 Global Compact principles. Presently, there are over 2000 so-called “Communication on Progress” (COP) reports. We need your support to review and tag these COPs in order to build a fully searchable database. Each review takes approximately 30 minutes.

What are your Benefits in Participating?
  • Gain valuable learning and resume-building experience in the field of CSR
  • Find out what companies around the world are doing for sustainable development
  • Receive a Certificate of Participation after completing 10 COP reviews
  • Get a personal Letter of Appreciation by reviewing more than 50 COPs!
Participate now at: www.unglobalcompact.org/COP/Wiki

For any questions please contact me here or at nagler@un.org.
Thank you for participating!

Juergen Nagler
Coordinator COP Review Project
UN Global Compact Office
United Nations
email: nagler@un.org

The Achievements of the UN Global Compact

For my Global Politics Masters course I wrote this paper:

The United Nations Global Compact is the world’s largest corporate citizenship initiative and started as an experiment when Kofi Annan challenged business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 1999. After decades of suspicion between the UN and the private sector this marked a historic change in the UN’s attitude towards business. In the face of globalization challenges, world poverty and inequalities, the Secretary-General called for a global compact between the private sector, civil society, governments and the UN to give globalization a human face. High expectations were raised and this essay will answer the question of what the Global Compact’s achievements have been so far.

At first, the Global Compact is introduced by exploring the attitude change of the UN with respect to the private sector away from hostility towards a compact, followed by describing its multiple stakeholders as well as the Global Compact’s ten principles which form the core of the initiative to foster more responsible business practices. After this brief introduction, I will argue in favour for four achievements of the Global Compact and compare them to various different expectations:
  1. The Global Compact contributed to the attitude change of the UN towards the private sector and became a central position between these two actors.
  2. The governance structure of the Global Compact accommodates differing stakeholders’ views that seemed to be incompatible, and with its pragmatic and unbureaucratic approach is an innovation within the UN as well as compared to other international institutions.
  3. The Global Compact developed itself from a small scale experiment into a global network of networks fostering learning and dialogue among over 4000 participants with continued strong participant growth.
  4. The initiative has had a positive impact on corporate policies and therefore contributed to more responsible business practices as well as to more public accountability of corporations.
Despite many very welcoming comments about the establishment of the Global Compact, there were also strong critics of the initiative whose critiques will be used as reference points to put the achievements of the Global Compact in perspective. It will be shown that a lot has been achieved, yet in comparison to the persistent globalization challenges much more remains to be done. Therefore, the achievements provide a solid foundation for a compact greater in reach as well as impact in the future.

Read the full PDF paper.

09 June 2007

Yunus: Change the Way the World does Business

No need to say how much I admire Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. In this great article he explains his few on leveraging globalization and social business to make a difference in the world and to alleviate poverty.

Globalization: "I support globalization and believe it can bring more benefits to the poor than any alternative. But it must be the right kind of globalization. To me, globalization is like a 100-lane highway criss-crossing the world. If it is a free-for-all highway, its lanes will be taken over by the giant trucks from powerful economies - Bangladeshi rickshaws will be thrown off the highway.

In order to have a win-win globalization, we must have traffic rules, traffic police, and a traffic authority for this global highway. The rule of 'strongest takes it all' must be replaced by rules that ensure that the poorest have a place and piece of the action, without being elbowed out by the strong."

Social Business: "Will be a new kind of business introduced in the market place with the objective of making a difference to the world. Investors in a social business could get back their investment money, but will not take any dividend from the company. Profit would be ploughed back into the company to expand its outreach and improve the quality of its product or service. A social business will be a non-loss, non-dividend company."

Read the inspiring SPIEGEL ONLINE article.

30 May 2007

Avaaz.org: The World in Action - Become an Online Activist

Do you want to make a difference? If the answer is "Yes but..." because you have no time to be an activist because of all your commitments, work, family, appointments, then Avaaz.org is for you!

"Avaaz.org is a community of global citizens who take action on the major issues facing the world today. The aim of Avaaz.org is to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people shape global decisions. Avaaz.org members act for a more just and peaceful world and a globalisation with a human face."

I have supported most of their latest campaigns... together we can make a difference! For example, Avaaz fought to sack Paul Wolfowitz (done), to close Guantanamo etc. Now the heat is on to make climate change top of the agenda of the G8.

Take action and sign the Avaaz petition now: www.avaaz.org

25 May 2007

Franchising meets Social Entrepreneurship: Kenya Video

PBS, a US non-profit media enterprise is featuring a nice example how entrepreneurship can serve communities in. This video shows a franchising-concept for affordable health services and medicines in Kenya! Franchising normally know for brands such as McDonald's and Holiday Inn reminds me of my good old days at Siemens with their daughter company Com Computertraining.

Franchising has the advantage that it combines a proven and standardized concept and brand with the drive of a local entrepreneur. Watch this 5 minute video of an American franchising expert being impressed by a Kenyan social entrepreneur:

14 May 2007

Poverty: The widening Gap between Rich and Poor

When I saw this World Bank stats in the Economist I initially thought "hey, look at this, the number of extreme poor is declining in absolute numbers and relative of the world population. This is good news, we are on the right track".

Wrong! I recalled some discussion from university and tried to re-think "what really is poverty? Is it absolute, i.e. less than 1$ a day OR is it relative to other people?". Think about it... Sticking to the World Bank definition of absolute poverty of less than 1$ a day is simple and convenient but gives the wrong picture. Even if the poor people might not get poorer in absolute income, they become poorer compared to the rest of the world.

An analogy: If we would just measure how long people life, we could say "great, the people in Mali are still dying at 40 years and not earlier. So at least they are not getting poorer". BUT if you then see that people in developed countries live longer and longer (80s), it becomes obviously absurd.

That said, I believe we can't measure poverty disconnected. Poverty is relative to other people and means you can't afford basic things that your peers can (by the way it's seems similar with happiness). I love simplicity but the World Bank stats have outlived their purpose now because they paint a wrong picture. The gap between rich and poor is growing which means inequality and poverty is growing. Poverty ultimately has to be defined in relative terms, a claim supported by others in the field such as Brown/Ainley 2005 "Intl. Relations". What do you think?

11 May 2007

UN Wire: Free newsletter from the United Nations on global issues

Are you interested in global issues and on what the United Nations is working on? On what the new Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is working on... what the global press is writing on the world's most pressing issues such as climate change, poverty and peace?

Then sign up for the great free newsletter "UN Wire" from the UN Foundation. It comes daily via email, has very well selected articles from around the world and is easy to read: UN Wire Sign Up

09 May 2007

IBM's ThinkPlace searches for social business ideas for Africa

Wow, "old economy" IBM is entering the area of how business can help to overcome societal problems. Sounds like a topic for this blog! I like their approach and hope that ideas are followed through and materialize:

"Have you ever thought about changing the world? Or maybe just one continent at time? How about Africa?
Beginning in June 2007, IBM and its partners will convene more than 150 global thought leaders for several face-to-face sessions around the globe over a three month period. Why? To identify new opportunities to advance innovation and economic development for the people of Africa..

This is about business development, not charity
It's important to note that the GIO will not attempt to re-create or supplant the extensive range of charitable efforts already underway in Africa. Plain and simple, this is about using business opportunities to address key societal issues."

You can see the ideas IBM has collected so far or submit your own by May 25, 2007: IBM ThinkPlace Africa

While IBM is taking on the bigger picture, the Social Entrepreneur Youchaou in Mali is doing action on grass roots level... Elise, Tomas and I am going to explore this and opportunities with our Africa trip starting in December 2007 and hope for inspiration!

02 May 2007

Entrepreneurial Solutions to Insoluble Problems

A new breed of leaders tackles world's big problems such as Renewable energy, affordable and effective health care, and fighting climate change. SustainAbility and the Skoll Foundation, two heavy weights in fostering Social Entrepreneurship, released a report based on surveying over 100 Social Entrepreneurs.
"Social entrepreneurs ... are set to have a profound impact on the world's most complex societal and environmental challenges... Their impact may be limited by their current scale, but could be limitless with the right business partners.
John Elkington, Founder SustainAbility. "
Main conclusions:
1. Social entrepreneurship is on a roll
2. The potential for breakthrough solutions is considerable — and growing
3. The field is growing, but still relatively small
4. Accessing capital remains the No.1 challenge
5. Financial self-sufficiency is seen as a real prospect within five years
6. There is a real appetite to partner with business
7. Beware blind spots
8. For real system change, we must focus on government and public policy
‘At its core, the corporate pursuit of sustainable development is not just about “doing good.” It makes companies more entrepreneurial, nimble and competitive.’
Björn Stigson, WBCSD
This is probably the most comprehensive work on this topic I have seen recently.
Read the full report at SustainAbility.

25 April 2007

Linking Microcredit with FairTrade: Handicrafts from FINCA Peru Exports

FINCA Peru Exports (FPX) is an interesting hybrid: It's a division of FINCA Peru, a pioneer in Microfinance for more than 10 years, and links microentrepreneurs producing handicrafts with Fair Trade distributors in Europe and North America. FPX has been established and run by young volunteers. Being part for a couple of months last year was a truly amazing and inspiring experience!

Recently FPX published their two new catalogues with beautiful designs of handmade clothing, accessories, textiles and home goods from Peru. By buying from FPX you can directly help disprivileged women and families. Have a look at their two new catalogues.

Furthermore, you can have a look at an 18-minute video about the organization we produced while I was there (in Spanish, sorry for small English subtitles). I am also featured in there ;) Watch the FPX video on YouTube.

21 April 2007

Mobile4Good Video: Social Entrepreneur Example from Kenya

Want to see an example of a Social Enterprise Business in 3 minutes? Can a mobile phone help people to find jobs?

Watch this video of Mobile4Good (interesting name analogy! ;) from Kenya which I found on Benin's "Africa is ready for Business" Blog:

20 April 2007

Free Trade or Fair Trade? The Injustice of Agricultural Subsidies

For a long time I have been thinking about free trade versus fair trade. Trying to get developing countries out of the poverty trap and believing in markets I analyzed the reasons for the collapse of the Doha development round. Key reasons?

The US and Europe are creating a massive market distortion by their agriculture subsidies. What a double standard to call for free trade but excluding one of the very few areas where developing countries have a competitive advantage. This means: In the case of agricultural products free trade would be fair trade and helping developing countries! Read the full essay.

19 April 2007

Video: Microcredit and the Future of Poverty

It's necessary being reminded that 1/3 of our world, i.e. around 2 billion (!) people around the world live in poverty. This means living of less than 2$ a day... could you live of less 2$ a day, every day?

Watch this fascinating 56-minute documentary about microcredit which is to me a prime example of business approaches working for the social good. It's very inspiring seeing ways out of the poverty trap:

18 April 2007

Harvard Business Review: "The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility"

Max Oliva reports that the article from Michael Porter and Mark Kramer which has been recognized as Harvard Business Review's Top Article of the Year is currently free to read!

"CSR can be much more than a cost, a constraint, or a charitable deed—it can be a source of opportunity, innovation, and competitive advantage... When a well-run business applies its vast resources, expertise, and management talent to problems it understands and in which it has a stake, it can have a greater impact on social good than any other institution or philantrhopic organization." Porter and Kramer

Read the full article: “Strategy and Society: The Link Between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility

15 April 2007

UN readies for its biggest-ever gathering on corporate citizenship

"More than 700 business leaders and hundreds of top representatives from government, labour and civil society are expected to attend the Global Compact Leaders Summit in Geneva in July, which will be the largest ever gathering convened by the United Nations on the issue of corporate citizenship.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a meeting yesterday in New York of the Global Compact Board, a panel of 20 leaders from business, civil society and labour which he chairs, that the two-day summit 'will be instrumental in bringing our joint vision for the future cooperation between business, the UN, governments, civil society and labour to full scale'.”

Read more on UN News. I will be there at the event in Geneva in July and blog from there.

Jeffrey Sachs answers my Question on Social Entrepreneurs

Via the 'Managing Globalization' Blog of the International Herald Tribune I posted a question to Jeffrey Sachs who I had the chance to meet briefly a few months ago at the UN in New York (photo). Read his just-published answer:

Question (Jürgen Nagler): What role do you see for social entrepreneurs and businesses subscribing to corporate social responsibility in helping to overcome poverty in Africa? How should governments in developed and developing countries work together with these agents?

Answer (Jeffrey Sachs): Social entrepreneurs are crucial in demonstrating how new technologies or management strategies can be applied in low-income settings to raise the wellbeing and productivity of the poor. For example, social entrepreneurs such as Rotary International have led the way on polio reduction. Social entrepreneurs have championed the use of improved farm practices and high-yield seed varieties. Social entrepreneurs have spread the use of small-scale irrigation systems. Social entrepreneurs have pioneered the use of micro-finance. The key for governments and other large donors is to watch the successes of social entrepreneurs and stand ready to help take those successes to scale. Usually, the novel approach requires some subsidy for the poorest of the poor, so that the good idea can spread simply on its own. It needs some kind of official or donor backing.

Read the full Q & A with Jeffrey Sachs.

The Importance of Social Entrepreneurship for Development

Especially since Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and a renowned example of a social enterprise, won the Nobel Peace Price in 2006 there is increasing interest in social entrepreneurship for development yet the current academic literature does not provide is a sufficient link between social entrepreneurship and economic development policies. How important are social entrepreneurs for economic development? What value is created by social entrepreneurship?

To answer these questions I researched the work of over 20 authors from Bornstein, Schumpeter, the OECD, the World Bank and many others for a paper for the UNSW. My findings conclude that the social entrepreneur sector is increasingly important for economic (and social) development because it creates social and economic values:

1. Employment Development
The first major economic value that social entrepreneurship creates is the most obvious one because it is shared with entrepreneurs and businesses alike: job and employment creation. Estimates ranges from one to seven percent of people employed in the social entrepreneurship sector. Secondly, social enterprises provide employment opportunities and job training to segments of society at an employment disadvantage (long-term unemployed, disabled, homeless, at-risk youth and gender-discriminated women). In the case of Grameen the economic situation of six million disadvantaged women micro-entrepreneurs were improved.

2. Innovation / New Goods and Services
Social enterprises develop and apply innovation important to social and economic development and develop new goods and services. Issues addressed include some of the biggest societal problems such as HIV, mental ill-health, illiteracy, crime and drug abuse which, importantly, are confronted in innovative ways. An example showing that these new approaches in some cases are transferable to the public sector is the Brazilian social entrepreneur Veronica Khosa, who developed a home-based care model for AIDS patients which later changed government health policy.

3. Social Capital
Next to economic capital one of the most important values created by social entrepreneurship is social capital (usually understood as “the resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of ... relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition"). Examples are the success of the German and Japanese economies, which have their roots in long-term relationships and the ethics of cooperation, in both essential innovation and industrial development. The World Bank also sees social capital as critical for poverty alleviation and sustainable human and economic development. Investments in social capital can start a virtuous cycle (for more explanation see my PDF below):

4. Equity Promotion
Social entrepreneurship fosters a more equitable society by addressing social issues and trying to achieve ongoing sustainable impact through their social mission rather than purely profit-maximization. In Yunus’s example, the Grameen Bank supports disadvantaged women. Another case is the American social entrepreneur J.B. Schramm who has helped thousands of low-income high-school students to get into tertiary education.

To sum up, social enterprises should be seen as a positive force, as change agents providing leading-edge innovation to unmet social needs. Social entrepreneurship is not a panacea because it works within the overall social and economic framework, but as it starts at the grassroots level it is often overlooked and deserves much more attention from academic theorists as well as policy makers. This is especially important in developing countries and welfare states facing increasing financial stress.

This is the executive summary from my 10 page PDF- read more: 'Is Social Entrepreneurship important for Economic Development Policies?'

06 April 2007

New Focus and Name of this Blog - Is Business good or bad?

As you might have realized, the focus of this blog has shifted significantly in the last few weeks. This is also the reason for its new name "Business4Good". Why the change? What started as my personal blog focussed on my travels around the globe, is now about how business can do good. This shift reflects the change in my life from traveling and searching for a meaning in life towards the mission in the next phase of my life. I am now at the start of this new phase: leveraging my seven years of business experience for the social good, especially to alleviate poverty of people in developing countries.

Why am I doing this? I felt that working 'only' for my money was not fulfilling me (anymore). I was looking for something to give my life a meaning, a mission. I had the dream of doing something good, of 'making a difference'. It took me over a year including volunteering in the Microfinance NGO FINCA Peru, learning in the Development Masters at UNSW working with like-minded people such as Elise, Mike and Tomas to get the confidence to really get out of the corporate rat-race and security-addicted mindset.

Is business good or bad? My opinion is that business can do good (or bad), just as humans and actually humans and businesses do both. Although I agree that exploitative behavior of corporations requires "blame & shame" responses I believe the power lies in cooperation (rather conflict), synergies and enlightenment. I feel it is important to focus on the positive potential and to nurture this because we attract what we envision.

We see already an increasing interest in concepts that try to do this: Social Entrepreneurs, Responsible Corporations and the UN Global Compact combine business approaches from the for-profit sector with social mission from the non-for profit world! This can be a force for positive change, employment and wealth creation. The mission of this blog is to foster these hybrid concepts and to inspire readers.

I hope you enjoy this new concept? I would appreciate your feedback very much, so leave a comment please!

Go for your dreams... best!

PS: I continue to share my personal endeavors in the form of photos here on Flickr.