23 December 2008

Berlin: Becoming Europe’s new Social Entrepreneur Hub?

Recently I had the chance to attend the Xmas gathering of betterplace.org in Berlin. I have blogged about them before and during this visit a new ‘scene’ of social entrepreneurs in Berlin came to my attention.

Ever since I decided to combine ‘business’ with ‘social’ some years ago I felt about lonely in Germany. Sure Ashoka has an office and there are initiatives such as start social. However, in big business cities such as Munich and Frankfurt there are still plenty of people who don’t know what CSR stands for or how sustainability can make business sense.

Therefore, it was a positive surprise to meet real people behind social business ventures in Berlin. Next to the betterplace team there were people form the Bertelsmann Foundation and social entrepreneurs form smaller, upcoming initiatives such as:
  • Genisis Institute: A think-tank to change charity thinking towards social business. Under the patronage of Muhammad Yunus.
  • Good Root: helping foundations, NGOs and social investors to track and improve social impact.

Why does Berlin have this new social entrepreneur scene? Sure, Berlin hosts the German government and the German Global Compact network but there are neither strong industries nor big employers in Berlin, if not to say eastern Germany overall. So where does the new entrepreneurial spirit come from? Maybe it is “Die Not macht erfinderisch” (A German saying meaning “If you don’t have much, you are forced to become creative”). Certainly Berlin’s openness and international flair contributed significantly to this ‘new scene’.

Many ventures are relatively new and in there start up phase. I wish them all the best and hope that traditional corporate decision makers and politicians support these valuable ventures. I am going to move to Berlin in March 2009 to write my dissertation on Responsible Tourism. Will keep you posted.

Marry Xmas and a happy new year!

UPDATE: Also selfHUB is an interesting center of and for Social Entrepreneurs in Berlin.

12 November 2008

Video of Project in Mali: School construction in Niamana, authentic African Village

"Initsche" (hallo) and Bonjour out of the middle of Africa. After blogging about "high-flying" CSR topics, it's time to write about the "down-to-earth" development project I have dedicated most of my personal time and energy of 2008: the construction of two class-rooms in Niamana, Mali, West Africa.

Niamana is an ultra-authentic African village in rural Mali, about seven hard-rocking car hours away from the country's capital Bamako in the direction of Timbuktu. It is a place that - by Western measures - suffers extreme poverty of subsistence farming, without electricity, running water, cars etc. However, from a less materialistic and more romantic viewpoint it has its wonderful sides to it, as blogged here from my first visit.

The project is part of the Mali Initiative and includes the construction of two class-rooms to allow the education of up to 200 children per year. It is based on a needs assessment undertaken early this year showing that many hundreds of children of Niamana and surrounding villages have no chance to receive any proper education. Education is key for a better future including finding a job and caring about your family's health etc.

"Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world" (Nelson Mandela)

At the core of the project is the friendship established between Malian community leader Youchaou Traore and the Mali Initiative. Youchaou has been raised in Niamana and thanks to this, international visitors from Australia and Germany have had incredible authentic immersion experiences in the village. Friendships and hospitality are very important for Malians which means that we always been received much more as friends than as faceless aid-donors.

Youchaou and Niamana's mayor Karim Traore are both visionaries with aspirations. They motivate communities and give them confidence and guidance to unleash their potential for positive development. A key success factor of the Mali Initiative is to partner with exactly these kind of visionaries and leaders who translate their talk into action. This approach could be termed "aspiration-based" development. It is insofar different from needs-based or rights-based development that it's a paradigm change of seeing people with potential to develop themself seizes rather beneficiaries receiving aid. Therefore, this approach leverages opportunistic and entrepreneurial elements from Social Entrepreneurs.

"A vision is the right balance between realism and utopia. It is the just achievable"

During my stay in Niamana in Jan. 2008 (as described here) I got the vision to make Niamana's dream of two new come true with support raised in my home country Germany. I was inspired by the amazing support by Australians around Elise Klein and was sure to be able to awaken (com)passion with friends, former colleagues, businesses and organizations back home. Soon some friends raised their hand to found a charitable organization. We organized event, spread the word, got press coverage and made the target of raising the required 25000€ in time.

Currently, I am in Niamana together with two German supporters. The first concrete-brick was laid on 24th October 2008 and construction is fast under-way. 250 people and several donkey-carts helped to remove the rubble of the mud-bricks of the old, decayed rooms. Construction will be finished soon in November and then up to 200 children each year will have the chance to for a better future.

Compared to my corporate jobs at global players or my time at the UN Global Compact this might appear as a tiny grass-roots project. However, driving a project end-to-end and seeing real impact on the ground has been a great experience. I am looking forward to combine Social Entrepreneurial approaches to link Niamana with international visitors.

If you want to support this project or visit Mali email me at juergen.nagler@mali-initiative.org. See photos of Niamana construction or watch the following video:

13 October 2008

Book "The Difference Makers": Jane Nelson from Harvard’s CSR Initiative and more

Africa-born Jane Nelson is an inspiring difference make in the field of Corporate Responsibility. Through the friend of a friend (the power of networking) I got connected to her allowing me to ask for some advice which I am sharing below. Currently, Jane is the Director of the Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and she is involved in numerous other organisations.

Recently, Jane also got featured in the book “The Difference Makers” published at Greenleaf Publishing (leading in CSR and sustainability books). The book tells the stories of how social and institutional entrepreneurs created the Corporate Responsibility movement. It’s an inspiring read to see how the personal stories formed these leaders’ life paths and allows the reader to identify with them.

Author Sandra Waddock uses an interesting style interweaving the personal background of 23 leaders with how they came about to create their organizations and initiatives including the UN Global Compact, Global Reporting Initiative, Millennium Development Goals, SustainAbility, Human Rights Watch and many more.

In the case of Jane, she grew up in South-Africa and Zimbabwe surrounded by rural poverty and racial tension. Early she developed a strong passion around issues of peace, non-violence, and sustainability. After Masters at Oxford she worked for Citibank and took a Sabbatical to attend the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. She never returned to the bank but then work for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) in Africa and went onto her Corporate Responsibility career.

Despite being an eminent person, Jane has remained humble and doesn’t overlook simple things. Jane realized “that that the poorest people in terms of income have an incredible spirit, even though they lack a lot materially and they also have major problem-solving skills and entrepreneurial skills”, an experience that I can confirm form village visits in Mali.

Are you interested in making a difference in the field of Corporate Responsibility?

Jane believes that “there’s an increasingly essential role for social entrepreneurs to serve as bridge builders between large companies, foundations, governments, and communities in tackling social problems. There is a new kind of leadership required…”

When I asked her how someone young and passionate can make a difference, she responded with these five main areas as key options:

  1. Key Intermediaries: such as WBCSD, ILF, WEF
  2. Major Corporations
  3. Development Agencies and UN: such as World Bank, DFID, GTZ
  4. Academic Institutions and Think Thanks
  5. Consulting Firms: such as McKinsey, BCG, Dalberg

Of course, as bridge builders, it's also our task to form new partnerships between these areas and all kinds of innivative hybrids. Finally, she encourages all of us to follow our heart and passion by saying “be an explorer!”

11 September 2008

Unleashing the Potential for Sustainable Development in Mali

Thanks to a recommendation from my friend Mike Smith I got interviewed by A Developed World:

Juergen Nagler was enjoying successful career in the business world a couple of years ago when he was almost killed in a motorbike accident. He realized then that he wanted to do something more meaningful than sitting in an office cubicle and contributing to a corporation’s bottom line.

He started the Mali Initiative in February 2007 with a young Australian Elise Klein and a Malian community leader Youchaou Traore. Together, they have built a not-for-profit network of committed individuals and organizations to provide access to quality education in Mali, in order to break the cycle of poverty.

Education in Mali
Mali is one of the least developed countries in the world according to the United Nations, which estimates that its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita was only US$1000 in 2007. Its young population of 12 million people, of which 50% are under the age of 15, comprises of Muslims, Christians and other ethnic groups living side-by-side. However, the lack of access to quality education have left the people in Mali felt disempowered.

Juergen explains: “The challenges in Mali were almost incomprehensible for a Western-mind: 7 out of 10 people in Mali cannot read and write, poverty and unemployment are dire and the country is dependent of foreign aid.”

Juergen strongly advocates Nelson Mandela’s belief that education is "the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”. Education can enable a child to improve his chances of finding a job and providing for his family, to exercise his choices as an inform citizen living in a democracy, and then to finally pass on the baton to all future generations.

Local networks, local knowledge
The Mali Initiative takes a unique approach by developing local networks and partnerships and using local knowledge to build their projects focused on education and empowerment. All projects are lead by locals in order to create sustainable results. By taking time to understand local aspirations, Juergen and his team has been able to mobilize the community and use their raw energy and motivation to drive the projects.

Since 2004, they have raised $200,000, which have gone towards multiple projects such as launching a micro-credit organization for women,establishing a health center, getting street children to learn French, and establishing the Youchaou's School to provide quality primary and secondary education in Kalabacoro (on the outskirts of Mali’s capital Bamako). The school is considered one of the best in Mali and will be used for teacher-training in partnership with local representatives of the Ministry of Education.

"One World"
Backpacking through Africa and South America, it dawned on Juergen that the divide between the West and the rest of the world was just an illusion. “At the core, aren’t we all striving for our families to live in peace with proper shelter, education and healthcare?” This belief has fueled his commitment to work towards healing the divisions and creating "one world".

“Connecting heart to heart with the people of Niamana, a rural community in Mali without roads, electricity or running water, has made my sacrifices worthwhile,” he said.
Juergen’s vision for the Mali Initiative is to develop “a million of projects rather million-dollar-projects” that are sustainable and provide opportunities for the locals. He believes that everyone has the responsibility, in any decision they make, to direct their energies towards positive social change.

Make it Happen!
The Mali Initiative is registered as a charitable organization in Mali, Australia and Germany. They are looking to build an arm of the organization in the United States. If the initiative resonates with you and you would like to bring this organization to North America please contact Juergen Nagler at juergen.nagler@mali-initiative.org.

There are also other ways to get involved:
Participate in the Mali Initiative’s fundraising events
Join one of their Goodwill Trips to Mali
Volunteer in Mali or from home- Volunteers that speak French are definitely an asset to spreading the message and volunteering in Mali.
Donate to the cause:
-US$100 buys learning materials -US$200 a year of street child education sponsorship -US$2000 buys furniture and teachings aids for a classroom -US$7,000 secures a year of street children education for 35 kids -US$13,000 builds a classroom

For more information see: http://www.mali-initiative.org/

A Developed World is "an action-oriented social publication that uncovers the stories behind the work of social entrepreneurs and visionary leaders, who are changing lives around the world": http://adevelopedworld.com/

02 September 2008

Refreshing Reflections on Ethics and the Process of Making Things Happen

Max Oliva has refreshing reflections on ethics on the CSR blog of the Instituto de Empresa (IE). Max and I have blogged a lot about the "down to business" side of CSR but this article is different because it goes beyond ethical reflections and adds "the process of making things happen". It stimulates questions like 'should I try to make a difference?'.

I find this highly interesting because it's thought-provoking to bring a fresh awareness of how we actually have the potential to bring change (rather focusing too much on the obstacles). Can you think global and go for new ideas? Have you unleashed your potential yet? These types of questions are touched by the statements below and the ones I am personally working on. I hope you, too, find the article inspiring:

"If ethics is the choice for the common good
(global reach and including all living beings):
  1. Deciding to act small because it is more comfortable… is not ethical;
  2. Deciding to hold back (your proposals, ideas and actions) because you don’t want to go against “the group” … is not ethical;
  3. Deciding to doing the possible instead of trying to make the impossible possible… is not ethical;
  4. Deciding to use just a part of your potential (to “save” it for self interest purposes) … is not ethical;
  5. Deciding not to act, to stay silent, letting fear stay in the way… is not ethical;
  6. Deciding to conform to the “letter of the law” instead of persisting on the path defined by the “spirit of the law” … is not ethical;
  7. Deciding not to try because nobody tried it before… is not ethical;
  8. Deciding not to pursue the perfection and conform to what seems “negotiable” … is not ethical;
  9. Deciding to postpone bold actions again and again “waiting for the right moment” … is not ethical;
  10. Deciding to “play the game” and pretend that you are not seeing the manipulations underway… is not ethical;
  11. Deciding to live in the realm of ideas, diagnosis and theories instead of taking the risks and going for actions… is not ethical;
  12. Deciding to act only when all is scientifically proven, even when the truth is self evident… is not ethical;
  13. Deciding to reject all radically creative ideas (yours including) when the “traditional-not-so-radical ideas” have not been working… is not ethical;
  14. Deciding to reject every proposal that looks “idealistic” or “utopic” … is not ethical"
From: Corporate Responsibility Blog, IE

24 August 2008

Why focussing on "the End of Poverty" reinforces Poverty -
Energy follows Attention, so let's aim for Sustainable Prosperity

Some years ago my attention in a bookstore was caught be Jeffrey Sachs' book titled "The End of Poverty". Later at the UN I even had the chance to meet Jeffrey Sachs and his intelligence and passion are amazing. Doesn't ending poverty sound like a cause worth fighting for? It certainly does, the real question is how to achieve this.

Other passionate and intelligent people, such as William Easterly, strongly disagree with Sachs' grand UN-plan. Millennium Development Goal 8 "Develop a global partnership for development " goes into the right direction Easterly has a point. He argues that one big plan for so many different cultures and countries have never worked and in fact have done damage. In fact when you study international development there are no clear examples where 'aid' actually really helped a country to develop. In Mali I even have found cases where aid reinforced dependency and created a corrupt aid system.

Energy follows attention, this means that by focussing on poverty and pitying the 'poor' Africans (for example) and trying to 'help' them, it is actually contributed to reinforce the situation. The more we try to fix poverty the more energy it gets... why not talking about potential and sustainable prosperity?

I have blogged many times about examples how CSR and especially Social Entrepreneurship can contribute to sustainable prosperity, rather ending poverty. These concepts tap into potential, they unleashing entrepreneurship and responsible business pratcices by an increased awareness that there is 'more' than profit or poverty only. For example, I am sure Yunus is not running around in Bangladesh pitying 'the poor' but has been their potential and unleashed it with microcredits.

Fundamental problems such as poverty can not be solved until a shift in awareness helps our consciousness to go beyond the we-versus-them paradigm. We need to see the bigger picture, i.e. that we are all connected and therefore part of one whole (call it the planet, the universe etc.). Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer et. al., leaders in organizational learning, describe this well in their book Presence (more on this in a separate article).

Finally, there are certainly enough resources on earth to happily feed the planet's population. Why do 20% of the world population need 80% of the world's resources? So it's not about ending poverty but about sustainable prosperity for all. How can it be achieved? With real partnership with 'aspiring countries', it's about fair trade (hallo Doha round), it's about sharing and collaboration, it's about expanding consciousness. So let's give energy towards sustainable prosperity which will end poverty along the way.

As Ghandi put it: "The earth has enough for man’s need but not for man’s greed"

What do You think?

05 August 2008

Copenhagen Consesus Ranking: Doing Good Efficiently

Recently a group of five Nobel laureates and three distinguished economists came together to answer the question: "if we had, say, an extra $75 billion to spend, where could we achieve the most good?"

For each issue examined, thy focused on benefits relative to costs. The latest Doha round just collapsed (again) and some are happy... but it ranked second in this. So what's #1? Climate Change? Nope that came last. Micronutrients is their #1.

In summary, their top-ranked solutions were in areas that we don’t hear much about, "unglamorous interventions". Certainly inspiration to look deeper... Read on here and their ranking below.

Copenhagen Consesus Ranking 2008:
1. Micronutrient supplements for children (vitamin A and zinc)
2. The Doha development agenda
3. Micronutrient fortification (iron and salt iodization)
4. Expanded immunization coverage for children
5. Improving agricultural technology
6. De-worming and other school-based nutrition programs
7. Lowering the price of schooling
8. Increasing and improving girls’ education by paying mothers to send them to school
9. Community-based nutrition promotion
10. Support for women’s reproductive role to reduce gender inequity
11. Low-cost heart attack drugs for developing countries
12. Malaria prevention and treatment
13. Tuberculosis identification and treatment
14. R&D in low-carbon energy technologies to combat global warming
15. Bio-sand filters for household water treatment
16. Pumps and wells to improve water coverage in rural areas
17. Conditional cash transfers to increase the number of children receiving education
18. Peace-keeping in post-conflict situations to reduce the risk of civil war
19. HIV “combination” prevention package
20. Total sanitation campaign to reduce the number of “open defecation” areas
21. Improving surgical capacity at district hospital level
22. Microfinance to women to reduce gender inequity
23. Improved stove intervention to reduce indoor air pollution
24. Large, multipurpose dam in Africa to improve water coverage
25. Inspection and maintenance of diesel vehicles to reduce outdoor air pollution
26. Low-sulfur diesel for urban road vehicles to reduce outdoor air pollution
27. Diesel vehicle particulate control technology to reduce outdoor air pollution
28. Tobacco tax to reduce heart disease and cancer
29. A package of R&D and mitigation to combat global warming
30. Mitigation of carbon emissions to reduce global warming

02 July 2008

UN Report: Doing Good Business with the Poor

The United Nations Development Program just released a potentially groundbreaking new report on how businesses may include the global poor as potential customers--and how the global poor might benefit from collaborating more closely with businesses. Creating Value for All: Strategies for Doing Business with the Poor is part of UNDP's Growing Inclusive Markets Initiative and explores 50 case studies of local and international companies successfully integrating the poor into their business models to "create wealth, spur growth and spark social change." Here are a few highlights from the report:

* In Colombia, the Juan Valdez company is offering higher, more stable incomes to over 500,000 smallscale coffee growers.

* In China, Tsinghua Tongfang markets computers loaded with distance education software to the rural population both for primary and middle school education and for minority language education.

* In the Russia Federation, over 80 percent of Forus Bank's clients are women, most of them in retail businesses; in 2006 the bank helped create 4,250 direct
and 19,950 indirect jobs.

* In Senegal, healthcare organization Pésinet provided an early warning method for monitoring the health conditions of children under age five from low-income
families--the infant mortality rate fell by more than 90 percent between 2002 and 2005--from 120 per 1,000 live births to 8.

* In Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, the liquefied petroleum gas supplied by VidaGas improves the sterility of medical instruments used to deliver babies.

* In the Philippines, Smart, whose network covers over 99 percent of the population, offers low-cost, prepaid mobile phone airtime cards and eases financial transactions through the option to send remittances using short messaging service (SMS) technology. In the full report there are many, many more examples of companies helping countries reach the millennium development goals while not sacrificing on the bottom line.

Cross-posted from UN Dispatch

20 May 2008

Mali Ambassador for Germany supports the Mali Initiative

Earlier in May I met with Malian Ambassador for Germany Madame Fatoumata Siré Diakité in Berlin. Objective was to seek her support for the German information and fundraising activities of the Mali Initiative (MI). Together with other committed people in Munich and Berlin I have founded the MI's carrier organization 'Sterntaler für Afrika e.V.'. It's inspired by brothers Grimm fairy tale Sterntaler, in English The Star Money.

The meeting with her "excellence" went very well, thankfully she looked over my faux pas when not addressing her with "excellence" as the diplomatic protocol would require. Fortunately, she is down to earth and hands on. She herself has founded a Kindergarten in Kalabancoro, the same are where the Mali Initiative runs a school and a street kid education program.

I presented her with the Mali Initiative's activities, and she was pleased that projects where successfully delivered over the last 4 years. When I mentioned that - next to building schools - I have a "crazy idea" to add, she corrected me by saying this is a dream and dreams are there to make them happen... what a woman:

„I fully support the Mali Initiative's work of improving access to quality education in Mali. Let the Mali Initiative be a bridge between the people of Germany and Mali. I join you in your dream of bringing a modern University of Timbuktu to life”.

The best is that Madame Diakité will fly in from Berlin to give the key-note speech at our photo and information event on 1st July in Munich! So if you are in Munich or know someone there, join in!

06 May 2008

Social Intrapreneurs Promote Sustainability From Within Corporations

Another formula: Social Entrepreneur (SE) + (within) Corporation (MNC) = Social Intrapreneur (SI).
I have wondered for long where the cross-road of these two concepts is and the following article from CSR Wire hits the nail on it head:

An Inside Job: Social Intrapreneurs Promote Sustainability From Within Corporations

In 1978, Gifford and Elizabeth Pinchot coined the term "intrapreneur" to describe innovators who create change from within corporations, obviously riffing on the term "entrepreneur." Almost a quarter century later, the Pinchots co-founded ... the first MBA program to integrate sustainability at its core. This bold move exemplifies "social entrepreneurship," a current buzzword for applying innovation to promote social and environmental sustainability that is the focus of a new book (The Power of Unreasonable People co-authored by SustainAbility founder John Elkington), a foundation (The Skoll Foundation established by eBay's first president Jeff Skoll), and annual awards (Fast Company Social Capitalist Awards.)

Now, a buzz is building around social intrapreneurship. John Elkington just co-authored a report (sponsored by the Skoll Foundation and others) entitled The Social Intrapreneurs: A Field Guide for Corporate Changemakers. The guide profiles prominent social intrapreneurs from multinational corporations such as Unilever, Nike, BP, Cemex, Coca-Cola, Dow, and Shell, among others. It also proposes a playful taxonomy of tactical and strategic characteristics: the stamina of a donkey, a "lone" wolf, a giraffe with head in the clouds and feet on the ground, and beaver who transforms landscapes...

Thanks to CSR Wire. Read on with SustainAbility's Report.

23 April 2008

CSR a necessity - not a choice

Is the discussion about if to do CSR over? Another 'yes' says the latest Grant Thornton International Business Report. Now the main question is how to implement CSR policies?

While most studies I have read so far have a 'one size fits all approach' regarding company size, Grant Thornton have made a useful distinction between a) privately held businesses (PHBs) and b) multinational companies (MNCs):
  • "PHBs are ‘the economic engine of the world’" and they are adopting CSR policies "not just to save the planet but because they are having to in order to survive and prosper."
  • "For privately held businesses, the pressure to act can stem from the demands of the supply chain, with large multinationals increasingly demanding that suppliers conform to ethical business practices."
  • In comparison to PHBs, large multinationals have a far more powerful stakeholder group to consider and have, in many cases, adopted an holistic approach to CSR."
Top CSR drivers for PHBs identified are:

In summary, "while ‘saving the planet’ is a concern, by far and away the main drivers for action on corporate social responsibility are recruitment and retention issues followed closely by cost management."

To me this looks pretty pragmatic but also reactive. It appears that these comapnies are lead by their staff rather their CEOs. Where is forward-looking leadership? Where innovation for new products and markets?

11 March 2008

Social Entrepreneurs + Web 2.0 = betterplace.org

What do you get if you combine the functionality of web 2.0 with the objectives of social entrepreneurship? Probably a platform similar than betterplace.org.

I have blogged about social entrepreneurs several times. Using business acumen (economic development) for the public good (social development) is a hybrid I have centered my interest on for years. Imagine you add the outreach potential and functionalities of web 2.0 using the internet as a platform for web-based communities. The outcome might be a social platform to make the world a better place: connecting people who want to help with people who need support.

How does betterplace work?
Signing up is as simple as onto Facebook or match.com, however, at the center of this platform are development projects. On the one side, individuals and organization post projects which they are looking for support, while on the other side, individuals and companies offer their donations or in-kind contribution (see illustration below). A bit like match.com but rather a computer matching you, you are selecting suitable projects yourself and, rather going for a blind date, you can check the projects through a 'web of trust'.

The Web of Trust
How do you know which projects and project carriers are trustworthy? Trying to trust big brand names such as UNICEF has its limitations. Many local projects are directly posted by small organizations from developing countries. Therefore, people you know who have visited the project or have a relationship with the project carriers help to build up a trust relationship with the project. It is a bit like business networking where you would only recommend someone you trust. Below an illustration.

New generation of Social Entrepreneurs
A few months ago I met betterplace' CEO Till Behnke in Berlin and it is great to see a new generation of young social entrepreneurs emerging in a 'conservative' country such as Germany. Till, for example, left his well paid job at DaimlerChrysler Financial Services to set-up betterplace. He uses business skills not just to develop the platform but also to link it to Corporate Social Responsibiliy (CSR) by offering betterplace as a platform to companies allowing them to integrate their employees into the corporation's CSR activities.

Furthermore, recently the co-founders of betterplace visited us in Mali on their travels around the world meeting searchers and featuring projects. Joana Breidenbach is very active on the betterplace.blog and a helping the Mali Initiative a lot to spread the word, especially in Germany where we work on a joint event in May.

What are the benefits of betterplace' approach?

  1. New ways in development are much needed as success stories of the last 60 years are hard to come by. Moreover, the aid system is full of fundamental flaws as I have observed in Mali and blogged about in "How corrupt is the development aid system?"
  2. William Easterly, author of White Man's Burden, states, a platform such as betterplace "would bypass the narrow administrative funnel in the recipient government... it would avoid the strategic manipulation of aid by donor governments and the corruption of recipient governments."
  3. Ultimately, my field observations in Mali and at renowed Ugandan Rural Development and Training Programme (URDT) support the argument that the so-called 'poor people' are key to their own development (rather the patronizing and often dependency-increasing efforts of us 'whities'). As Easterly states "Only the self-reliant efforts of poor people and poor societies themselves can end poverty, borrowing ideas and institutions from the West when is suits them to do so".
  4. Therefore, it is great to see how different social entrepreneurs working together, from the betterplace founders in the heart of Europe to local searchers such as Youchaou Traore, the Mali Initiative's social entrepreneur in Africa.

Read an article about betterplace in Die Zeit (in German).
Check out the Mali Initiative's projects on betterplace.

04 January 2008

The Mali Initiative launches to make Change through Education

(5 January 2008 Bamako, Mali) - The Mali Initiative, a not-for-profit network of committed individuals around the world aspiring to make change through education launches with the start of 2008. Nelson Mandela said “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world” stressing the fundamental importance of education for development.

Therefore, the initiative aims at improving the education of children to become an active generation for a better future. It facilitates global partnerships for local development projects which communities drive and own themselves. It focuses on improving access to quality education for the children in Mali where around half of all children have no access to schools at all.

Activities include facilitating the construction of new class-rooms as well as significant improvement and equipping of existing class-rooms, enabling an effective learning environment. Furthermore, teacher training and ongoing support is provided empowering teachers to use engaging and effective techniques, including laptop computers.

Education is seen as a priority at national and village levels in Mali, with good reason. Many children have no access to any schools at all. Class-rooms hold up to over 100 children where most children do not have tables and chairs or books and pens. With 81% illiteracy rate, 4 out of 5 adults can not read and write, according to UN data.

“How shall you learn or find a job without being able to read and write? Education holds the key for sustainable development in action, you see the difference child per child” says Youchaou Traore, Director of the non-governmental organization (NGO) that has been officially registered to undertake activities in Mali.

Youchaou was a street-child himself, without access to education for many years. He decided to leave the begging in the streets behind him when he got the chance to go to school where he learned enthusiastically. Education pulled him out of poverty and allowed him to become a renowned translator for international organizations. Now he runs the flagship school of the Mali Initiative in Bamako.

“A world is possible where all children have access to quality education” believes Elise Klein, Managing Director. “We know it is a long way but bringing together local communities in Mali with passionate individuals from Australia and around the world is powerful. Step by step we have been building friendships, developed class-rooms and given children the gift of education” she continues.

The Mali Initiative is based on the success of a project by young people and Malian Youchaou Traore who have fundraised and invested over 200.00$ since 2004. The pilot school in the outskirts of Mali’s capital Bamako has been expanded to now 12 class-rooms, a library and computer-room. The school is a quality-reference and considered one of the best in the country. Furthermore, a pilot with street children successfully educates these marginalized children.

By 2020 the Mali Initiative wants to have developed 1.000 class-rooms, trained 10.000 teachers and have facilitated the education of over 500.000 children in Mali. “Young people are the future. We are going to need a lot support to scale up the successful pilot schools. Individuals and organizations, please join the initiative!” calls Elise Klein, Managing Director who also is a UN Youth Spokesperson.

“Help is especially needed in raising funds for additional class-rooms which each costs up to 13.000$ in poor but expensive Mali. Adopt a class-room which is more than a donation, you get a great social return on investment: enabling quality education of 30 children per year” says Program Director Juergen Nagler.

So far the growing network consists of some dozens of committed individuals bringing in their passion, skills and time; Corporate supporters include National Australia Bank and Telstra. Express your interest to support the Mali Initiative by emailing to elise.klein@mali-initiative.org. For more information see www.reachmaliproject.org.au. To make a donation use PayPal, please.

About the Mali Initiative

The Mali Initiative is a not-for-profit network of committed individuals around the world aspiring to make change. We facilitate global partnerships for local development projects which communities drive and own themselves. We focus on improving access to quality education for the children in Mali. A non-governmental organization (NGO) is officially registered in Mali. Tax-deductibility status is also given in Australia through the Reach Foundation. Fore more information, please visit www.reachmaliproject.org.au.

About Mali

Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa. It is the 4th poorest country in the world with over 70% living of less than 1$ per day according to UN data. It has a population of 12 million people, of which over the half is under 15 years old and 81% are unable to read and write. However, Mali is also a positive example for African countries and the world as a stable democracy where Muslims, Christians and different ethnic groups live peacefully together.