Social Entrepreneurship Archives

November 24, 2003

International Intellectual Commons

Creative Commons, Lawrence Lessig's organization building a new model for a more flexible, public-friendly form of copyright, just announced its iCommons initiative. iCommons intends to take the precepts underlying the Creative Commons and "port" it to a variety of other legal systems. Issues specific to a given nation can be dealt with while still providing a consistent, comprehensible set of intellectual property laws.

The first set of countries embraced by iCommons include open-source-friendly Brazil and Finland, both China and Taiwan, and Ireland, Italy, and Japan.

February 20, 2004

Open Source for Non-Profits

Jon Stahl points us to the Nonprofit Open Source Initiative (NOSI) release of their big "think piece," "Choosing and Using Open Source Software: A Primer for Nonprofits" (pdf). The Primer covers the reasons why non-profit organizations should choose open source and free software over proprietary applications, and goes over a variety of selection and implementation scenarios. It's reasonably well-done, although it does have some minor flaws, as Jon points out. Rather than simply repeat his observations, I encourage you to download the Primer then go read Jon's detailed entry.

April 5, 2004

Join Me

A few years ago, a bored young man in London named Danny Wallace sent a brief advertisement to a local newspaper reading, simply, "Join Me!," along with instructions to send a single passport-sized photo to a particular address. No further explanation was given; in truth, Wallace didn't really have much of one. At first, there wasn't much of a response, but pictures started to come in. Soon there were a few members, then a few dozen. Eventually, Wallace needed to figure out just what these people around England were joining.

Join Me! is Wallace's book describing the Join Me! movement, which now has thousands of members around the world, including the US and Australia. What is the Join Me! movement? Once Wallace got over his initial joke, he managed to turn the growing membership into a force for, well, good. Calling it the "Karma Army," Wallace instructed his Joinees to engage in random kindness, particularly on Fridays.

Despite the tongue planted firmly in-cheek, Join Me! manages to demonstrate that there are great numbers of people out there looking for reasons to do good deeds, just waiting for someone to give them the push in the right direction. And while Join Me! has neither the political sophistication or forward-looking agenda needed for a modern environmental movement, it does show that a combination of humor, generosity, and social connections can go a long way towards building a powerful movement.

Join Me! (the book) is a quick and enjoyable read, particularly for those trying to build a new movement for changing the world.

July 29, 2004

Free Wheelchair Mission

While "confined" is a verb often heard in reference to wheelchairs, for the mobility disabled, a wheelchair is a liberating tool. Unfortunately, it's a tool unavailable to millions of disabled poor around the world. Twenty five years ago, when mechanical engineer Don Schoendorfer saw a disabled Moroccan woman dragging herself across a dirt road with her one good arm, he asked himself a question: what would it take to build and ship simple, durable, and inexpensive wheelchairs for those in need in the developing world? The Free Wheelchair Mission was his answer to that question.

The free wheelchair idea is preposterously simple: with a cheap plastic patio chair, a couple of bicycle wheels, a couple of rugged casters, some steel tubing, and some bolts, you can build and ship a wheelchair anywhere in the world for under $42. For people injured by disease or war, a wheelchair can be a life-changing gift. The wheelchair is a compelling and useful design, elegantly executed.

What's more -- and what makes this particularly attractive to me -- is that the wheelchairs are not just free as in "gratis," they're free as in "libre," too. From the FAQ:

What if someone wants to copy your wheelchair design?
We encourage organizations to copy our design, or our passion. There are aspects of the design that we could patent, but doing so would hinder others from helping. We truly want to give a wheelchair to every human in need of one. That is a huge task, and we encourage anyone to help in any way.

In essence, these are open source wheelchairs for the world's poorest people. So far, they've shipped around 25,000 wheelchairs to over 30 different countries, and have a bold -- but not impossible -- plan to ship 20 million chairs by 2010. Of course, the more people who copy the design and the goal, the better.

(Note: Although the site and mission is run by a religious group, I found little on the site to bother those of us who are particularly sensitive to evangelical enthusiasm.)

(Further note: the site seems to have stopped responding. The URL is correct, but the link seems (temporarily, I presume) dead. I'll make a note of when it's back up. the site is now back up.)

August 24, 2004

Open Source Science

"The Common Good," a new essay in Nature by consulting editor Philip Ball, explores the growing use of collaborative methods to build and evaluate scientific efforts. Such methods make use of the cumulative wisdom of the scientific analysis of dozens, hundreds, sometimes even thousands of participants. Although the observations made by any single person may not be individually insightful, the accumulated (and, occasionally, averaged) efforts are often dazzling. While Ball's essay is not overly detailed, it covers a variety of projects -- some which many WorldChangers will already be familiar with, and some which are quite new.

Ball covers three broad categories of mass-collaborative science. The first I would characterize as mass analysis, in which large numbers of people take a look at a set of data to try to find mistakes or hidden details. His best example of this is the NASA Clickworkers project, which used a large group of volunteers to look at maps of Mars in order to identify craters. It turned out that the collective crater identification ability of volunteers given a small amount of training was as good as the best experts in the field. Ball links this directly to the James Surowiecki book, The Wisdom of Crowds, which argues that the collective decision-making power of large groups can be surprisingly good. WorldChanging's Nicole Boyer has mentioned The Wisdom of Crowds in a couple of her essays, most notably this week's The Wisdom of Google's Experiment. The ability of groups to act collectively to analyze and generate information is one of the drivers of collaborative efforts such as Wikipedia -- any individual contributor won't be an expert on everything, but the collected knowledge of the mass of authors is unbeatable.

The second model of collaborative science he discusses is that of mass evaluation, in which large numbers of people have the opportunity to vet articles and arguments by researchers. This is a less quantitative and more subjective approach than collaborative analysis, but can still produce high-quality results. Ball cites Slashdot and Kuro5hin as examples of this approach, with the mass of participants on the sites evaluating the posts and/or comments, eventually pushing the best stuff up to the top. In the world of science, articles submitted to journals are regularly checked out by groups of reviewers, but the set of evaluators for any given article is usually fairly small. Ball cites the physics pre-print journal arXiv as an exemplar of a countervailing trend -- that of open evaluation. ArXiv allows anyone to contribute articles, and lets participants evaluate them -- a true "peer review."

The third model Ball discusses is perhaps the most controversial -- that of collaborative research, where research already in progress is opened up to allow labs anywhere in the world to contribute experiments. The deeply networked nature of modern laboratories, and the brief down-time that all labs have between projects, make this concept quite feasible. Moreover, such distributed-collaborative research spreads new ideas and discoveries even faster, ultimately accelerating the scientific process. Yale's Yochai Benkler, author of the well-known Coase's Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm, argues in a recent article in Science (pay access only) that such a method would be potentially revolutionary. He calls it "peer production;" we've called it "open source" science, and have been talking about the idea since we started WorldChanging.

This is neither a utopian vision of "citizen science" nor a "Science Survivor" where the least popular theories get voted off the island each week. All three of these models are based on the mass participation of people who are at least amateur scientists, and who can demonstrate some understanding of the processes involved. The Clickworkers project required a moderate amount of training, evaluative comments on arXiv from those without a physics background will likely be ignored, and "peer production"/"open source" scientific research will be open to those who actually know how to carry out the proper experiments. Such "mass elitism" is not without precedent; Free/Open Source Software development is open to anyone who wants to participate, but does not usually accept code contributions from people with marginal programming skills. Functional "wisdom of crowds" approaches are predicated on the assumption that the crowds comprise people who are familiar with a given subject enough to even be able to speculate on the right answer to a problem.

All three of these methods are based on the fundamental logic of the open source concept: with many eyes, all bugs are shallow. The more participants you have, the greater the breadth of knowledge and experience, and the greater the ability to find subtle problems or hidden surprises. The open science approach is potentially invaluable -- and it's in the best traditions of science itself, which has always flourished best in a world of critical engagement, open discourse, and cooperation.

October 24, 2004

The WTN X-Prizes: Motivating Cathedrals of Achievement

(WorldChanging ally Hassan Masum contributed the following essay:)

When SpaceShipOne cracked the 100 km barrier for the second time to win the Ansari X-prize, the significance of a cheap, reusable, suborbital launch vehicle was celebrated all around the world. As we reported previously, the WTN is following up by proposing a series of social X Prizes, and asking for suggestions. What challenges are worth setting up as prize targets? And as Nicole Boyer asked about prizes, "...under what conditions do they actually make a difference?"

Well, let's think about it a little differently: as an investment problem. Suppose you had from $10 to $100 million to spend, in social entrepreneurship or philanthropy. You want to create new technology or solve a longstanding problem - to bring something new into the world that increases the range of the possible. How could you get the best impact for your money?

Continue reading "The WTN X-Prizes: Motivating Cathedrals of Achievement" »

October 25, 2004

WTN "Social Entrepreneur" Awards

The World Technology Network is an interesting group. We've linked to them a few times -- they're behind the proposed "social X-Prize" idea, and held a huge conference earlier this year on "Leapfrogging the Grid: Distributed Generation in the Developing World." Our own Nicole Boyer was one of the organizers of that event, and she promises to tell us all about it when she gets a chance.

WTN has now announced its 2004 winners of the World Technology Network Awards, which recognize outstanding achievement in categories such as biotechnology, design, energy, ethics, social entrepreneurship and many more. Many of the awards are for projects with a distinctly worldchanging flavor. SciDev.Net, one of our favorite sites for coverage of the intersection of technology and society, has the details:

The social entrepreneur prize — for people who apply technologies to social problems in a sustainable way — was awarded to Brazilian Fabio Luis de Oliveira Rosa, who has spent 20 years developing systems to bring electricity to people in isolated rural areas.

Rosa, the executive director of the Institute for the Development of Natural Energy and Sustainability in Porto Alegre, initially developed a low cost electrical grid for rural areas that went on to supply electricity to one million in Brazil.

"Then, I developed another approach to serve people using solar photovoltaic energy," says Rosa. "It is a completely new concept business approach that can bring electricity to poor people in a completely sustainable approach, without subsidies."

The SciDev.Net article is inspiring, but reading over the details of the various nominees and winners -- 20 categories, with five or more nominees apiece -- is humbling. From biomolecular computers to advanced solar technologies to efforts to develop a rainforest plant DNA bank and more, the work done by these researchers and developers provides ample evidence that another world is, in fact, here.

November 18, 2004

The Conservation Commons

conservation_commons.gifCareful readers of today's NASA/IUCN post below may have noticed an interesting sentence in the pull-quote: NASA data will also be provided under the IUCN Conservation Commons Initiative on sharing environmental knowledge.

But what is the IUCN's Conservation Commons Initiative? The World Conservation Union site is unhelpful (search is broken, and there are no clear links to anything like this Initiative), so we turn to Google, which points us to a document at the ant biology information resource The AntBase: The Conservation Commons (PDF).

The Conservation Commons is [...] the expression of a collaborative effort to improve open access to, and unrestricted use of, data, information, and knowledge related to the conservation of biodiversity with the belief that this will contribute to improving conservation outcomes. At its simplest, it encourages organizations and individuals alike to place documents, data, and other information resources related to conservation in the public domain. [...] the Conservation Commons is an approach designed to improve the management of data, information, and knowledge related to conservation. [...] The Conservation Commons will support and strengthen conservation decision making and our ability to scientifically comprehend the complex integrity of nature through improved logical synthesis of these resources and technical “interoperability” between systems and databases.

The goal of the Conservation Commons is to build a database of "fair use" material specifically to "improve open access to, and unrestricted use of, data, information, and knowledge related to conservation of biodiversity." Organizations involved in the initiative include NGOs (such as the Nature Conservancy, WWF International, Conservation International), government-connected agencies (such as NASA, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity Conservation, Chinese Academy of Sciences), and corporate entities (such as Chevron Texaco, Shell International Exploration & Production, Red Hat - Open Source Affairs). The initiative's principles are straightforward: Open Access; Mutual Benefit; and adherence to Rights and Responsibilities.

As it stands now, the Conservation Commons remains a proposal; the database and fair use information resources are not yet compiled, although some organizations are now offering their material under Conservation Commons terms of use. According to Open Access News, the proposal will be officially adopted by the IUCN on November 20, at the World Conservation Congress now underway in Bangkok.

November 19, 2004

The Fritz Institute

FI.jpgWhat do you need to mount a humanitarian relief effort? Donations of the needed materials, whether food, water, shelter, and/or tools. Permits to operate in the afflicted area. Strong arms to load and unload the aid. And some way of moving it. Logistics is a cornerstone of humanitarian relief, but the information revolution in "supply chain management" that brought increased efficiency and lower costs in the commercial sector wasn't visible in the humanitarian relief arena.

Until now.

The Fritz Institute is an organization dedicated to bringing modern logistics techniques to the world of disaster relief, and to help build "institutional memory" for humanitarian agencies. Founded in 2001 by Lynn Fritz and Dr. Anisya Thomas, the Institute provides logistics software and a network of knowledge and partner resources for organizations large and small engaged in global humanitarian efforts. The Humanitarian Logistics Software, built in coordination with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, brings the experience and best practices from the commercial sector to bear on the problems of the humanitarian relief delivery process. Their annual conferences and "Network of Knowledge" capture the evolving lessons from humanitarian efforts in order to develop and document broad solutions for common problems.

Dr. Thomas, now the Managing Director of the Fritz Institute, spoke with me yesterday about the Institute's programs and what it believes to be the challenges it will face in the near future.

Continue reading "The Fritz Institute" »

February 3, 2005

Carbon Disclosure Project

143 investment groups, representing over $20 trillion in assets, have joined together under the banner of the Carbon Disclosure Project to ask the top 500 corporations on the planet (as determined by the Financial Times) about environmental policies and plans. The questions are both philosophical and operational, and give a good read on how the company approaches climate issues. This is the third year the Carbon Disclosure Project has sent out its questions. Last year, over 300 of the 500 responded, up from 245 the first year. The Project expects an even higher turnout this time around.

The number of participating investors grows each year, too. The first CDP was sent with the signatures of 35 investors; the second listed 95. This year, 143 investment firms have signed on to the Project. The investors (scroll down) include numerous global asset management groups and reinsurance companies; only a few are explicitly "socially responsible" in their approach (and few WorldChanging readers will be surprised to find that Swiss Re is on the list). Institutional investors and reinsurers need to focus on the long term, and are rapidly becoming the shockwave of sustainability in the business world. This much institutional money asking the 500 biggest companies about climate change issues can force the issue onto corporate agendas far faster than pickets and petitions.

The previous years' responses are available by company, as lump documents, or via a search page. The Carbon Disclosure Project lists which companies responded and which did not; some of those declining to participate may come as a surprise. (Amazon, Costco -- what's up? WalMart, Dell, and even ExxonMobil responded, why can't you?) Answers to this year's questionnaire are due by May 31st, 2005. If you're a shareholder in the companies that declined to respond last time around, think about leaning on them to participate.

Unfortunately, much of the site's material is available only in Microsoft Word .doc format, including this year's questionnaire. If you'd like to see examples what they're asking -- and the Project encourages non-FT500 companies to answer the questions, too -- a few of the questions are reproduced in the extended entry.

Continue reading "Carbon Disclosure Project" »

February 25, 2005

Kyoto as a Model for Medical Innovation

Open Access News points us towards an interesting proposal: a global Medical R&D Treaty (PDF) which obliges signatory nations to spend a certain percentage of GDP in support of core medical research, including the development of biomedical databases and tools, vaccines and drugs, and evaluations of those products. The Treaty, intended to replace current and planned trade agreements that focus on drug patents and prices, also includes a tradable credit scheme explicitly modeled on the Kyoto climate treaty to allow signatories to meet the requirements.

Additional credits can be earned by engaging in research on:

  • R&D for neglected diseases and other priority research projects,
  • "Open public goods," such as free and open source public databases,
  • Projects that involve the transfer of technology and capacity to developing countries,
  • The preservation and dissemination of traditional medical knowledge, and
  • Exceptionally useful public goods.

Open and globally collaborative research is thereby encouraged, without being absolutely required.

Continue reading "Kyoto as a Model for Medical Innovation" »

March 11, 2005

Clean vs. Alternative vs. Renewable

Would you prefer "alternative" energy or "renewable" energy? What about "clean" energy? Thrown together like this, you probably recognize that they all refer to more-or-less the same thing. Used in isolation, however, they tend to prompt different reactions from people. Clint Wilder, contributing editor at Clean Edge, argues that "clean" energy tends to get the best reaction, based on a recent study:

In opinion research conducted last year in Rhode Island, the Clean Energy States Alliance and marketing consultancy SmartPower found that the label of “clean” energy had a much more positive public reception than “green” (too political), “renewable” (too niche), or “alternative” (too much of an implication that its users must adopt a new lifestyle).

If you read WorldChanging closely, you'll notice that we rarely use the term "alternative" to describe wind, solar and other non-polluting energy sources. That's intentional (at least for me): "alternative" cedes the ground to polluting sources, because if they're not the alternative, they must be the mainstream choice. In the Bright Green future we see as happening, sources such as wind, solar, tides and such won't be the other choice, they'll be what we all increasingly will rely upon. I've tended to use "renewable" instead, but Wilder makes a good point. "Renewable" is probably a bit too focused on a technical aspect (as with "fossil fuels"); "clean" energy is a clearer meme, and I'll be sure to add that to the editorial mix in my posts.

Wilder's essay is well-worth reading, although it centers a bit too much on "reframing." If there's a political meme destined soon to join "soccer mom" and "NASCAR dad" in the purgatory of "shoot me if I read it again," reframing is it. We're guilty of using it ourselves, of course, and the concept it describes -- changing the course of an argument through the use of new terms with different underlying contextual connotations -- remains valid. But don't be surprised if it disappears from the language landscape in the not-too distant future.

April 7, 2005

The Declaration of Leadership

decofleader.jpgSustainability Sundays contributor and WorldChanging Ally Gil Friend spoke this week at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club. His talk had the somewhat staid title "Business and Sustainability: Risk, Fiduciary Responsibility, and the Laws of Nature," but from all accounts, it was very well-received. Joel Makower (another Sustainability Sundays contributor and WorldChanging Ally) was there, and let's us in on Gil's big idea: the "Declaration of Leadership" for sustainable business.

The Declaration itself is a colorful and well-constructed document -- I have a hardcopy given to me by Gil in front of me now -- and the text itself is stimulating and even a bit provocative. Gil hasn't put a downloadable copy on his site yet, but Before Gil got a chance to put a copy on his website, Joel went ahead and typed in the text. You can read the whole thing over on Joel's site; here's a taste of it:


  • The well being of our economy fundamentally depends on the services from nature that support it;
  • Business activity has a profound impact on the ability of nature to sustainably provide those services;
  • We are committed, as business and community leaders, to the well being of both economic and ecological systems, of both humans and other living things;
  • We believe that these goals are compatible (and where they seem to be incompatible, we are committed to finding better ways to do business that make them compatible).

    We envision our company, suppliers and customers, and our community doing business in ways that:

  • Preserve, protect and ultimately enhance the living systems -- of this region, and the planet -- that sustain our business and the larger human economy;
  • Provide ever greater value in meeting the real needs of our customers, suppliers and communities;
  • Meet human needs in the most efficient and economical means possible, in order to include the greatest percentage of humanity.
  • The Declaration is a clear statement of what it means to run a sustainable company. Nothing listed is outrageous or radical, yet as a whole it describes an outlook on business which would be revolutionary if -- when -- widely adopted. I look forward to Gil giving us more details about the Declaration in an upcoming Sustainability Sundays post, and over at his own weblog.

    (UPDATE: As noted above, Gil tells us in the comments that he has now put a PDF of the Declaration on his website. Check it out.)

    April 8, 2005


    Achieving the Millennium Development goals won't happen without support from governments, the private sector and NGOs. The challenge is daunting, and pathways to success non-obvious. But the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) thinks it has a solution: basic, straightforward projects with an explicit emphasis on the needs of the poor supported by cooperation between governments and business. These "pro-poor public-private partnerships" -- referred to by the UN group as "5P" -- are helping rural communities in various Asian and Pacific countries get closer to the Millennium Development Goals, and are doing so in environmentally sustainable ways.

    In 2003, UNESCAP started four "5P" projects, each emphasizing a different key Millennium Development Goal category: water, electricity, health care and biodiversity. A brochure detailing the projects can be downloaded here (PDF).

    Continue reading "5P" »

    April 19, 2005


    plumpy.jpgOne of the big problems with fighting malnutrition in refugee camps and areas of extreme poverty is that the standard foods used for treating malnutrition -- powdered milk formulas called F-75 and F-100 -- require mixing with clean water, which is often not in abundant supply. Moreover, in order to make sure they're mixed properly, these powdered milk formulas are usually only administered at hospitals and feeding centers, often requiring miles of travel to reach, and where crowding can lead to the spread of disease. Milk-based products are also prone to bacterial growth. F-75 and F-100 are far better than nothing, and can be enormously beneficial, but this situation clearly calls for a new solution.

    Nutriset SAS, a French maker of therapeutic foods, thinks it has that solution: Plumpy'nut.

    Plumpy'nut is a peanut-based paste with the nutrition value of F-100 milk formula. Tasting like a slightly sweeter kind of peanut butter, it's far more palatable than earlier efforts at a food based treatment for malnutrition. Plumpy'nut requires no preparation or mixing -- it can be eaten right from the bag, actually -- and is categorized by WHO as a Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF). Because plumpy'nut doesn't require monitored mixing with clean water, it can be distributed directly to affected communities.

    Plumpy'nut's first major use was in Darfur, where over 300 metric tons have so far been distributed; as a result, malnutrition rates there have been cut in half. Plumpy'nut was also used in tsunami relief efforts, and in Malawi, "Project Peanut Butter" is making plumpy'nut with local materials:


    Mark Manary, a pediatrician at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis established Project Peanut Butter in Malawi, in southern Africa. To reduce costs, it uses local ingredients as well as a mix of vitamins and minerals supplied by Nutriset. Dr. Manary hopes to crank out 150 metric tons a year to treat Malawi's estimated 15,000 severely malnourished children.

    Dr. Manary initially used Plumpy'nut he'd received as a donation in 2001. Recovery rates soared to 95% from 25%. "We didn't need a statistician to tell us this was better," he says. "We figured if we wanted to continue, we needed to make it locally."

    [...] Despite the competition, Nutriset says it is open to local production. The company is hoping to establish a franchise network of local producers; it would supply its nutritional mix for a fee and offer advice on production and quality.

    A simple idea, well-executed, with significantly positive results and opportunities for local empowerment. Plumpy'nut may have an odd name, but it's clearly a worldchanging idea.

    July 23, 2005

    Elephant Pump

    pumpaid.jpgReal globalism: a 2,000 year old Chinese design is now helping to bring clean water to poor rural Zimbabweans through the efforts of an Englishman.

    Rope pumps have been around for centuries, emerging first in China. A loop of rope, if driven at sufficient speed, can pull water up from a well more efficiently than standard pump designs. The rope can be made from any material, and the volume brought up by the rope's motion can be increased with pistons spaced along the cable. The Elephant Pump is an improved version of the rope pump, designed by a group called Pump Aid, founded by Ian Thorpe. Their goal was to make a clean water system that would be as efficient, as inexpensive, as locally-appropriate and as sustainable as possible.

    The community contributes some materials for construction of the pump, including sand and stones for building, hand made bricks for the pump housing and labour to assist in tasks during the building process. Ongoing maintenance costs are minimal since major components of the pump such as the axle have a lifespan of 50 years. The cost of maintenance and capital cost of the pump are far exceeded by the potential for income generation through small scale irrigation. [...]

    Continue reading "Elephant Pump" »

    July 25, 2005

    Women Against Biopiracy, in Africa

    sa_biodiv.jpgDespite recent court rulings, "biopiracy" -- non-locals patenting treatments based on plants used by indigenous communities -- continues to be a problem. Construction of databases and knowledge archives about native group uses of local plants is an increasingly popular way of combatting biopiracy (by establishing "prior art," and blocking patents), but such projects are not easily accomplished. Indigenous knowledge is often an oral tradition, and remote communities in the developing world may not be willing to share that knowledge with outsiders.

    The Management of Indigenous Knowledge Systems Project is a South African effort to identify and protect the unique local biosystems used by local communities as medicines, based the authority -- and knowledge -- of female traditional leaders. The result has been something even greater than a knowledge archive:

    Continue reading "Women Against Biopiracy, in Africa" »

    July 26, 2005

    Open Source Warfare

    IED-mobilephone.jpgGlobal Guerillas may be the best weblog that I hate to read. I hate to read it because the author, John Robb, is terrifically insightful when it comes to seeing how emerging forms of networked communication, information-dense environments, and bottom-up, emergent organization have transformed the world of warfare and conflict. It's painful to see the ways in which these forces -- which we tend to consider catalysts of positive change -- can be used instead in the cause of violence. (Alex mentioned Global Guerillas, and one of Robb's concepts -- "systempunkt" -- back in January.)

    I've been reading Global Guerillas for awhile, but Robb's series of posts on the London bombings reminded me of the power of his central concept: that the "open source" model, when applied to political violence, can be as disruptive to incumbent institutions as open source software is to existing software markets. In the world of the Global Guerillas, the West=Microsoft.

    The Open Source Warfare concept takes the developmental model for free/libre/open source software (FLOSS) and applies it to how guerilla movements learn and expand. Robb elaborated on the idea last September:

    Continue reading "Open Source Warfare" »

    July 29, 2005

    HIV and the Developing World

    In the developed world, antiretroviral treatments (ART) are the standard therapy for HIV infection. But such treatments are rarely simple, often involving numerous drugs that need to be taken at precise times. It's not unusual for those receiving ART to see the therapy lose efficacy due to insufficiently diligent adherence to the treatment regiment.

    One common sense reaction to this risk is to emphasize the importance of ongoing attention to the patient by doctors, therapists and the patient's social circle. In the developing world, however, with fewer resources available to medical professionals, this common sense reaction becomes an assumption that ART efficacy will be lower, simply because the patient will receive less persistent attention from his or her doctor. Louise C. Ivers, David Kendrick and Karen Doucette at the University of Alberta's Division of Infectious Diseases decided to test this assumption, and their results could have significant impact on how HIV is addressed globally.

    Continue reading "HIV and the Developing World" »

    August 3, 2005

    Dropping Knowledge

    droppingk.jpgIf you could ask the collective wisdom of the world any question, any question at all, what would it be?

    Absent a post-singularity realtime network of our unconscious minds, Dropping Knowledge may be the closest we get to such an opportunity.

    Dropping Knowledge describes itself as "an educational resource and online network that connects people around the globe seeking to exchange ideas and solutions to the most pressing issues of our day." Participants are encouraged to ask questions of the collected wisdom of the assembled crowd about the nature of the world and human society. These questions will be combined with a broader international poll, seeking to build a "social issue framework." A thousand participants will be assembled to form a web-based research group to start to frame answers; this frame will be used by a group of over a hundred global leaders (including Umberto Eco, Bill McDonough, Nelson Mandela, and Bono) to assemble more specific answers. The results will then be put into an interactive online archive, designed to encourage further discussion.

    If this all sounds ambitious, it is. Dropping Knowledge claims to have no underlying bias, and to seek only to reflect a multiplicity of viewpoints; the spectrum of perspectives represented by the 112 leaders is somewhat debatable, but the list does include a greater number of non-US and non-European names than one typically finds in these kinds of events. They claim that "generating wisdom is the ultimate goal" of the project. The website goes into great detail about their agenda, and if they are even close to successful, it will be a remarkable accomplishment.

    I do wish, however, that they had greater trust in the assembled wisdom of non-famous people. I'm quite sure that the chosen participants will come up with compelling and fascinating ideas, but I want to hear more from voices who don't normally have an international stage.

    Maybe what we need is a Wikiwisdom project.

    (Thanks to Joel Makower for the tip.)

    August 9, 2005

    Ethiopia Lives

    EthiopiaLives.jpgAs powerful as words can be, the human mind is often more easily moved by images. Reading stories of hope or despair can be gripping, but pales in comparison to witnessing the moments in a person's life leading to such emotions. When the images that bear witness to these moments are captured by the individuals themselves, "powerful" becomes "worldchanging." Zana Briski's Kids with Cameras project -- documented in the award-winning Born Into Brothels movie -- is one example of just how meaningful such efforts can be, but today I found another: Ethiopia Lives.

    Nineteen Ethiopians turn their cameras onto their own lives and invite you to share their very personal perspectives. From diverse backgrounds and different parts of the country, their photographs give a rare insight into life in Ethiopia now.

    Continue reading "Ethiopia Lives" »

    August 17, 2005


    CIMI_boat.jpgStories about positive change in present-day Iraq suffer two big challenges. The first is that the insurgency continues to unleash horrific violence against both foreign soldiers and Iraqi citizens, making news about political or social progress pale in comparison. The second is that reports of efforts to improve the lives and conditions of Iraqis are frequently treated as political footballs: supporters of the war seem to latch onto these stories as "proof" that going to war was the right decision; opponents of the war can dismiss the stories as exaggerations, isolated cases, or irrelevant in comparison to overall problems. It's difficult, at times, to see such reports simply as examples of people figuring out new and meaningful ways to try to do the right thing.

    The Canada Iraq Marshlands Initiative -- CIMI -- is precisely such an example.

    CIMI is an effort led by the University of Waterloo in Ontario to "contribute to the restoration of the ecological, socio-economic and cultural values of the southern Mesopotamian Marshlands" and to "improve the living conditions of the people living in and around them." The marshes are home to thousands of different species, some on the brink of extinction, as well as the cradle of the Babylonian and Sumerian civilizations five millennia ago. Restoration of the Mesopotamian Marshlands has enormous historical, ecological and, yes, political value; efforts to bring back the marsh ecosystem have potential benefits for both the local marsh dwelling communities and water management across the Tigris-Euphrates region, from Kuwait to Iran.

    The CIMI program is taking a decidedly science-based approach to marshlands restoration, trying to steer clear of any perceived ideological bias. Much of their effort will focus on building up capacities for monitoring, information analysis and collaboration -- all familiar topics for WorldChanging:

    Continue reading "CIMI" »

    September 1, 2005

    Architecture for Humanity on the Aftermath of Katrina

    AFH.gifReaders who were around for the December tsunami will not be surprised to learn that Architecture for Humanity -- the non-profit architecture and design group run by WorldChanging contributor Cameron Sinclair and his partner/AfH co-founder Kate Stohr -- is already looking at what it can do to help the recovery and rebuilding efforts in New Orleans and the gulf coast. Cameron is currently traveling in Sri Lanka and India, looking in on the post-tsunami construction, while Kate is holding down the AfH fort; she has generously allowed me to quote from a letter that she sent to the American Institute of Architects on what AfH's experience teaches about how best to respond to this disaster.

    I am wondering if we shouldn't direct our donations to housing assistance and reconstruction rather than on short-term relief and recovery. I say this only because in our experience with Bam, Grenada and the Tsunami, we've found that though a great many groups will aid and fund emergency/relief efforts there are very few places families and communities can turn six-months, a year, or two-years after a disaster for housing assistance and for help in rebuilding.

    Continue reading "Architecture for Humanity on the Aftermath of Katrina" »

    September 3, 2005


    Longtail-empty-fuel-cans.jpgA typical retort to those who advocate greater reliance on bicycles as a primary mode of transportation is that they're not very useful when trying to go to the grocery store. Admittedly, most bikes that one can buy in the US are ill-suited to carrying much of a load. But there are many places throughout the world -- primarily in developing nations -- where bicycles are the main form of transportation; how do bicycle users in these places handle heavy loads?

    So-called "cargo bikes" are the usual solution, but they often are little more than standard bicycles with trailers. Although this configuration can carry quite a bit, it does so at a high price (as it needs two more wheels, the costliest part of a bike) and tends to be fatiguing over longer distances. In the late 1990s, Xtracycle started to sell an add-on that would allow bikes to carry larger loads; the non-profit arm of the company, XAccess, makes this add-on available at low or no cost through the developing world. Over the subsequent years, the XAccess team improved the design, and eventually came up with "utility bicycles" made specifically to carry heavy loads. This April, XAccess started a 10 month trial of its "Bigga Boda" bike in Kenya, a vehicle able to carry hundreds of pounds of cargo or two additional passengers easily, and at a substantially lower cost than other forms of human-powered utility vehicles. XAccess intends the Bigga Boda to be available to end-users for around $30 -- 5% of the cost of a bicycle rickshaw.

    Continue reading "XAccess" »

    September 7, 2005


    Although a good case can be made for the idea that science has an important role to play in the process of global development and the abolition of poverty, scientific journals quite often focus upon subjects and research of greater interest to the developed world than to the developing regions. To an extent, this is not at all surprising: the bulk of the research happens in the West and in Japan, and scientists do tend to work on issues that are important and interesting to them. Yet there are large numbers of working scientists in the developing world, too; how can their voices be better heard?

    That's the goal of AuthorAid (PDF), a proposal from the editors of the Journal of Public Health Policy (JPHP), with the backing of the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research and the Council of Science Editors' (CSE) Task Force on Science Journals, Poverty, and Human Development. AuthorAid recognizes that talented scientists in the developing world are doing outstanding research on locally-relevant subjects, but often cannot get published in the mainstream science journals for reasons of language expertise, laboratory support or basic access. AuthorAid links developing world authors with volunteer editor/scientist mentors around the world, on a manuscript-by-manuscript basis:

    Continue reading "AuthorAid" »

    September 8, 2005

    Design, Disasters and the Value of Thinking Big

    As the aftermath of the December tsunami, hurricane Katrina, and countless other recent disasters demonstrates, we've done a pretty lousy job of late planning for catastrophe. Since the next major disaster to hit -- anywhere in the world, not just the US -- is likely not to be a hurricane and flood combination, we should be cautious of attempts to "learn the lessons of Katrina" that focus too closely on the kinds of responses that could have saved New Orleans, but would have little utility elsewhere. Instead, we need to be thinking about the kinds of guidelines for response that could be applied more universally -- our response capacities, if you will. And we need to be thinking carefully about making sure that as many people as possible can play a role.

    Figuring out how to maximize both capability and usability is very much the role of a designer. In late December, we addressed the question of Disaster-Secure Design by discussing a handful of guiding rules that could prove useful when figuring out how to build systems for emergency response. It's worth revisiting that list, and seeing what might be added in light of this latest disaster.

    Continue reading "Design, Disasters and the Value of Thinking Big" »

    September 13, 2005

    Mental Health and the MDGs

    The latest issue of the open access Public Library of Science - Medicine journal includes a provocative article with a relatively staid title: "Achieving the Millennium Development Goals: Does Mental Health Play a Role?" The authors, J. Jaime Miranda (Wellcome Trust Research Training Fellow) and Vikram Patel (reader in International Mental Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), argue that the likelihood of successfully meeting the Millennium Development Goals is dramatically undercut by the lack of recognition of mental health as a factor in a number of development arenas. For the authors, by not addressing mental health, the MDGs miss an important aspect of sustainable community development.

    Miranda and Patel assert that, in developing countries, mental-health-related conditions are among the the most important causes of sickness, disability and (in some age groups) premature mortality. Although this seems on its face a surprising claim (one might expect physical diseases to play the greatest role), they point out that mental health conditions contribute to the likelihood of seeking out care for physical illnesses, reduce the incidence of mothers breast-feeding their children (in turn reducing their overall physical health), and increase the likelihood of risky behavior that could lead to harm.

    Continue reading "Mental Health and the MDGs" »

    September 22, 2005

    A Refugee Camp In The Heart Of The City

    camp300.jpgFew Americans (or Western Europeans, for that matter) truly know what it means to live in a refugee camp. Some of the problems that arise from such conditions can be easily recognized from television news, such as lack of access to food or sanitary latrines. Some may only be visible upon deeper reflection, or through actual experience -- for example, how does one store sufficient amounts of water in a communal shelter?

    Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has developed a program called "A Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City," bringing a small but accurate version of a typical refugee facility to cities in the West. The exhibit includes examples of shared housing, food distribution centers, and a health care clinic, as well as information about sanitation and malnutrition. Most importantly, the MSF refugee camp brings stories from real refugee camp survivors from around the world. First constructed in 1995, where it traveled across Western Europe, the MSF camp has been visited by thousands. An exhibition in 2000 toured around the United States, bringing the educational program to audiences from Manhattan to Santa Monica. A 2005 version -- updated to include information about refugee experiences over the last five years -- was set to open this week in Central Park, in New York.

    That opening has been postponed until 2006, and for good reason.

    Continue reading "A Refugee Camp In The Heart Of The City" »

    September 30, 2005

    Paisanos al Rescate

    rescate.jpgClose to 300 people -- adults and children alike -- die every year from dehydration and the effects of the scorching desert sun crossing the desert along the border between the United States and Mexico. Over the last year, 229 people died in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico alone; regardless of one's views on undocumented immigration, it's imperative these tragic deaths be prevented. A volunteer organization called Paisanos al Rescate (countrymen to the rescue) is working to do just that, using an aging Cessna to bring water and hope to those crossing the desert.

    Armando Alarcon founded the group in the summer of 2004, and he and his volunteers fly over the borderland desert multiple times every week, looking for signs of people crossing over. When immigrants are spotted, Paisanos al Rescate drops water in parcels, sheathed in heavy bubblewrap, attached to nylon-webbing parachutes normally used for Army signal flares. Two liter bottles are dropped for every person in the group, along with instructions for how to signal distress. The goal isn't to aid undocumented migrants to get into the US, but to prevent needless deaths. According to volunteer Luis Rivas, interviewed by Gisell Velazquez for the latest Pop and Politics, the US Border Patrol has come to welcome their efforts:

    PP: Does Paisanos al Rescate ever come into conflict with the Border Patrol or other such government agencies?

    LR: No. Andy Adame, a Border Patrol spokesman, was quoted as saying that we are one of the better humanitarian organizations out there. We work in cooperation with the BP. We will notify the BP if we encounter anyone in distress. The BP will send the BORSTAR team (Search and Rescue) and provide aid to those in distress.

    Many of the deaths of migrants come as a result of smugglers simply abandoning to the desert those who are injured or too slow to keep up. Deaths resulting from something as minor as a sprained ankle are far too common. Illegal immigration is a complex issue, but saving the lives of people at risk of a slow, painful death is not.

    October 11, 2005

    Taking on the Neglected Diseases

    sleepingsickness.jpgThere's little question that one of the triggers for pervasive poverty in the developing world is disease. HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria afflict millions, and correspondingly receive most of the attention -- and research money -- from international development and donor agencies. But these "big three" diseases aren't alone; so-called "neglected" tropical diseases also ravage populations across South America, Africa and South Asia, but receive far less attention. Compounding the tragedy, these neglected tropical diseases are far more readily (and inexpensively) treated than the big three.

    Drs. David H. Molyneux, Peter J. Hotez, Alan Fenwick, all three specialists in tropical diseases, write in the current issue of Public Library of Science: Medicine that low-cost "rapid-impact interventions" against these neglected diseases could dramatically improve the standard of living across the developing world, and would serve both to bring nations closer to the Millennium Development Goals and make interventions against the "big three" diseases a bit easier.

    There are 13 tropical diseases generally considered to be "neglected" diseases, with insufficient money spent on researching and/or distributing cures (see the footnote inside for the difference between "neglected" and "orphan" tropical diseases). These include parasitic illnesses like leishmaniasis and hookworm, as well as bacterial diseases like trachoma and leprosy. Molyneux, Hotez and Fenwick argue that the 13 all have some fundamental traits in common -- not in terms of their biology, but in terms of their societal characteristics:

    Continue reading "Taking on the Neglected Diseases" »

    October 17, 2005

    Conservation Agriculture and Global Warming in Africa

    ACTN.jpgIt reads like a story from decades past: experts are trying to get African farmers to change their farming practices. But this time, the experts are also from Africa, and the modest changes they suggest are to encourage the conservation of quality soil and water. But while the changes may be modest, they hint at a much more dramatic question: how long can traditional farming methods withstand an era of climate disruption?

    The African Conservation Tillage Network, based in Zimbabwe, is assembling a manual on "conservation agriculture," a set of agricultural practices based on the specific needs of farmers in Africa, intended to reduce erosion and to save water. ACTN has pilot projects underway in Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Ghana and Zambia, all trying to implement conservation and sustainability-focused agricultural practices. In each location, the overall model of "conservation tillage" is adapted to particular regional needs. The manual, which is still in preparation, provides an overview of the desired practices:

    African farmers could boost yields and save money by taking simple steps to conserve soil quality [...] The manual recommends breaking the soil only where seeds are to be planted, as ploughing entire fields can degrade soil. Farmers are also advised to rotate crops to increase soil fertility and grow 'cover' crops along with their main crop to prevent runoff.

    Continue reading "Conservation Agriculture and Global Warming in Africa" »

    October 21, 2005

    Distributed, Collaborative... Microfinance

    kivamicrocredit.jpgThe microcredit concept is based on the idea that a small loan to an individual, family or community in the developing world can kick-start a business, allowing the loan recipient to become a self-reliant economic actor; in time, the loan will be paid back, with a modicum of interest, thereby enabling the microcredit institution -- generally an NGO -- to underwrite another start-up. While there is some debate about the potential of microloans to affect the lives of the very poor, the concept is generally considered to be a success. Microcredit NGOs have a goal of reaching 100 million people by the end of this year.

    But the notion of do-good institutions doling out money to recipients has something of a 20th century character. While there are open-source models for microfinance, they generally seem to be intended to assist the creation of more microcredit NGOs. A new microfinance group, Kiva, intends to take a different course: they've built the world's first peer-to-peer, distributed microloan website.

    Kiva's first country of focus is Uganda, where the Internet is available even in poor rural areas. Lenders may loan money through, which lists businesses in need of funding and provides background on the entrepreneur starting the enterprise. Individuals may makes loans in increments as small as $25, and can expect to receive repayment, without interest, at the end of the loan term, which typically runs between six and 12 months. Since Kiva's source of capital is charitably-minded individuals, it is able to provide more flexible loan terms than traditional financial institutions.

    Continue reading "Distributed, Collaborative... Microfinance" »

    November 29, 2005

    Howdy, TEQs

    stepsdown.jpgProblem: we need people to reduce their individual carbon footprints.
    Solution: we need to give them an incentive to do so.

    David Fleming knows what that incentive should be: he calls them "TEQs" -- Tradable Emissions Quotas. Under the TEQs scheme, individuals would be issued a quota of allowed emissions on a weekly basis, and would have to charge any purchase of carbon-emitting materials (chiefly fuel) against that quota. If the week's purchases amount to less than the quota, the remainder can be saved up for a carbon splurge (like a long flight) or sold off to other, less-efficient, participants in the program.

    If this sounds a bit familiar, it should; it's essentially the same idea as the Domestic Tradable Quotas proposed by the Tyndall Institute in the UK (we've talked about DTQs here and here). What makes the TEQs model different is that David Fleming first originated the tradable quota concept back in 1996, and has spent the last decade working on the idea. He's spelled out in some detail how the TEQs program would work in a Creative Commons-licensed pamphlet entitled Energy and the Common Purpose (PDF).

    At the start, a government registry issues TEQs quota units to companies and to individuals on a per capita basis, probably via an electronic smart card:

    When consumers (citizens, firms or the Government itself) make purchases of fuel or energy, they surrender units to the energy retailer, accessing their quota by (for instance) using their TEQs Card or direct debit. The retailer then surrenders TEQs units when buying energy from the wholesaler. Finally, the primary energy producer surrenders units back to the Register when the company pumps, mines or imports fuel. This closes the loop.

    Over time, the number of TEQs units allotted to each person and company gradually reduces, so that one's efficiency has to continue to improve, albeit gradually.

    Continue reading "Howdy, TEQs" »

    December 5, 2005

    Renewable Energy as a Human Right

    knowyourrights.jpgThe World Renewable Energy Assembly 2005 (WREA) just finished up in Bonn, Germany, and one of the documents emerging from the conference is something called "The Human Right to Renewable Energy." It's a communique that manages to be both awkward and inspiring, as its old-style 20th century activist prose doesn't quite match some of the document's more provocative and forward-looking ideas. The communique captures the transition now underway for global environmentalism, the shift from demanding a cessation of problems to encouraging the development of solutions.

    Follow the link to read the text of the communique. It's brief, just about 700 words, and raises some very interesting issues even as it rallies against traditional environmental bugbears.

    In the spirit of focusing on solutions rather than problems, I'd like to explore a bit several concepts raised by the communique that I think merit greater consideration: a "Renewable Energy Proliferation Protocol;" micro-finance for renewable energy in the developing world; and the concept of renewable energy as a human right.

    Continue reading "Renewable Energy as a Human Right" »

    December 12, 2005

    Worldchanging Voice Mail

    payphone.jpgWe've talked quite a bit about the utility of mobile phones as a tool for global development. Programs like Grameen Phone make possible communication, information, and even employment in some of the most destitute parts of the world. Although similar programs might prove useful as assistance for the very poor in the industrialized world, the existing communication network makes possible a simpler alternative: free voice mail.

    Community Voice Mail is a non-profit providing voice mail services for poor and homeless individuals needing work and housing in 37 cities across the United States. One of the thorniest problems with being extremely poor is that the mechanisms for pulling oneself out of poverty often assume access to seemingly commonplace items: clean clothing, a mailing address, and (often most importantly) a phone number. Without a number at which to leave a message, there's no way for a potential employer to get in touch. But for the homeless, or people who are forced by financial conditions to change places of residence frequently and unexpectedly, this seemingly simple requirement is often beyond reach. Community Voice Mail breaks that cycle:

    The Big Idea
    Give unemployed and homeless people a telephone number that stays constant even if they can’t. The theory: they’ll find work much faster.
    The Test: Our workers brought this idea to a Seattle-based voicemail company called Active Voice in 1992. The company thought their idea had merit, and donated a voicemail system. The workers distributed voicemail numbers to 145 people over 6 months, and a whopping 70% found jobs within 2 months!

    In 2004, in a particularly weak national economy, CVM served over 44,000 poor and homeless people in the US. Of those, 55% of CVM users found jobs, and 65% of homeless CVM users found housing. 24,000 people found jobs that they otherwise couldn't have simply by having voice mail. It's a stark reminder of just how important these simple communication tools are to our community and economy.

    CVM is looking to expand the service to 65 locations by 2008, with a projected use by over 65,000 people.

    (Via BoingBoing)

    December 20, 2005


    watercone.jpgUniversal access to clean water is one of the fundamental Millennium Development Goals, and inventors have come up with a variety of solutions for making non-potable water clean and drinkable. Some are shiny and high-tech, and others are terrifically simple. One of the easiest tools for making brackish or sea water usable requires little more than sunlight and time -- the Watercone.

    Made of a rugged, transparent plastic, the Watercone is incredibly easy to use: fill up the base plate with salt water, place the cone over the plate, and wait. 24 hours later, a trough around the edge of the cone will contain 1-1.5 liters of fresh water, produced by evaporation/condensation. Pour the water out, and start again. Individual units are expected to cost around $50 apiece, although that will depend in large part on who manufactures them.

    And that's the big problem. The inventor of the Watercone, industrial designer Stephan Augustin, is having trouble finding someone to make it. This is a bit surprising, as the Watercone has won numerous design awards over the past three years, has passed preliminary tests by CARE Germany, and is currently featured in the SAFE: Design Takes On Risk exhibit at the NY Museum of Modern Art. Apparently, previous licensing agreements have fallen through, and Augustin is once again looking for a manufacturer to bring the Watercone to the people who need it.

    (Thanks for the tip, Corey Birnbaum)

    January 25, 2006

    Building Ecological Networks Where They're Needed Most

    african_elephant.jpgScience is inherently collaborative. Fiction may be filled with researchers working in isolation to make some discovery, but the vast majority of real science happens because scientists can communicate and share ideas with each other. Such communication is all the more important when the research area is an intrinsically interdisciplinary field, such as ecology. But in an era when understanding the interrelated systems of the planet's environment is of growing importance, some parts of the world lack even basic organizations for ecological scientists to learn of each other's work. Fortunately, the British Ecological Society wants to change that.

    The Society has just announced the opening of its Building Capacity for Ecology Fund, an effort to support the creation and expansion of ecological organizations in impoverished areas.

    The Building Capacity for Ecology Fund will make £500,000 available over five years to support the establishment and development of ecological societies in Africa and Eastern Europe.

    Continue reading "Building Ecological Networks Where They're Needed Most" »

    February 13, 2006

    Dignity, Humiliation and Changing the World

    humandhslogo.jpgOpen up a typical political science textbook, and you'll see many potential drivers for conflict: contested resources; ideological differences; fears about security; lust for power. What you're unlikely to see is the inclusion of "humiliation." Yet, as we've witnessed in Europe over the last week or so, the belief that one's dignity has been insulted in a way that implies that an individual or group is unworthy of respect can be a powerful catalyst for unrest, anger and violence. Humiliation is an incredibly intense emotion, yet the differences between how different societies and cultures perceive it seem to be poorly understood -- and this lack of understanding can have tragic consequences.

    An NGO calling itself Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies (HumanDHS) seeks to change that. A global network of scholars and social practitioners, HumanDHS is...

    ...committed to reducing - and ultimately help eliminating - destructive disrespect and humiliating practices all over the world. Our work is inspired by universal values such as humility, mutual respect, caring and compassion, and a sense of shared planetary rights and responsibilities.

    Hard-nosed realist types may dismiss this language as fluffy goodness, but HumanDHS recognizes that the emotional manifestation of culture can lead to a starker division between societies than any ideological conflict. Put simply, issues around ideology largely concern our sense of the world around us; issues around dignity and humiliation concern our sense of how we are treated by that world.

    Continue reading "Dignity, Humiliation and Changing the World" »

    March 7, 2006

    Worldstock (Updated)

    worldstock.jpgNew Update: Upon further examination of the activities of the parent organization, and some internal discussion of the history of Worldstock, the suggestion that Worldstock is even "potentially worldchanging" is hereby revoked.

    This post will remain up, at least for now, because of the really good and insightful commentary that it provoked. I'm sorry for presenting Worldstock as something worth paying attention to, but I am not sorry to have inadvertantly catalyzed a really good discussion of what it means to be an ethical mediary between developing world artisans and global markets. You folks rock.

    Continue reading "Worldstock (Updated)" »

    March 8, 2006

    Worldchanging Reputation Network

    Okay, it's clear: Worldstock is not worldchanging. But the entry and the resulting reader dicussion points us to something that could be of great value, and definitely worldchanging: a way of telling each other what companies are on the up and up, and which ones aren't what they seem.

    Ideally, it would be a collaborative, bottom-up website, giving people a chance to tell others about what they've experienced or discovered about putatively green/ethical/responsible companies, both good and bad -- it wouldn't be worldchanging if we just focused on the bad!. Readers who have different views could argue back with their own posts or comments, and regular contributors would be rated by readers on reliability. It would be something similar to ePinions, but for companies, and with a distinctly worldchanging focus.

    Read on for more discussion of the idea.

    Continue reading "Worldchanging Reputation Network" »

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    This page contains an archive of all entries posted to WC Archive in the Social Entrepreneurship category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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