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.