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Edmond de Rothschild Foundation Fueling Social Entrepreneurship in India

Thu, 01/19/2012 - 12:51pm

The Edmond de Rothschild foundation, based in Switzerland is exploring opportunities to partner with like-minded foundations in India to increase their work in the country.

A network of 12 foundations spread across France, Spain, USA and Israel is at the pivotal point of transitioning from a traditional charity giving approach to strategic philanthropy.

Firoz Ladak, CEO of Edmond de Rothschild Foundation, says, "Our mission statement and putting in to place tools for assessing impact evaluation and engaging closely with the partners. Not in the business of writing checks but engaging with our partners." Ladak an Indian origin investment banker joined the foundation six years ago.

The foundation run by the fifth generation of the Edmond De Rothschild family has been involved inphilanthropy for the past 200 years ever since the industrial revolution.

The overarching focus of the foundation is on education, everything from supporting Ph.D thesis in America, to supporting schools in France to professional training specially when it comes to social entrepreneurs.

For their work in India the foundation is focusing on this latter strand. "We give roughly $15- $20 million a year. Next three years budgeted commitment for a $1 million for India," says Ladak. For him India is a new market and for the past two years they had been piloting investing in social entrepreneurship in the country.

Leading Change in the "New Normal"

Thu, 01/19/2012 - 12:51pm

As we watch business leaders struggling to adjust to the "new normal" of the global economy, we can't help thinking of the economic transition India began almost 20 years ago. The changes that India struggled to cope with, such as slowing domestic growth, increasing globalization, and an uncertain political and regulatory environment, describe global markets today. No one has a perfect model for managing this level of uncertainty. However, we believe that India's (incomplete) journey offers valuable lessons about managing growth and change.

India began morphing from a highly protected economy to a liberalizing one in the 1990s, following a balance of payments crisis. Indian business leaders had to cope with rapid changes on all these fronts at the same time:

a) Competitors: Multinational companies quickly entered the domestic market and few local players were prepared to compete with them. Even large domestic firms were far behind their global counterparts in funding, innovation, and access to markets.

b) Regulations: The regulatory environment, particularly for the banking and financial sectors, went through major changes. The currency fluctuated, exchange controls were loosened, and many tariff structures were modified.

c) Consumers: Companies initially focused on satisfying the pent-up consumer demand of a growing Indian middle and upper class. Today, companies are also focused on reaching the poor at the "bottom of the pyramid," and expanding distribution to the mythical "last mile".

PolyU Announces the Establishment of Jockey Club Design Institute for Social Innovation

Thu, 01/19/2012 - 12:51pm

Backed by strong support from The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) Charities Trust, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has brought together multi-disciplinary expertise for the establishment of Hong Kong's first Design Institute for Social Innovation.

The new establishment will be called the "Jockey Club Design Institute for Social Innovation" (JCDISI). The announcement ceremony for this pioneering project was held today (17 January) on the university campus, with HKJC Chairman Mr T. Brian Stevenson; PolyU Council Chairman the Honourable Ms Marjorie Yang Mun-tak; and PolyU President Professor Timothy W. Tong officiating at the event.

Addressing the ceremony, Professor Tong said the establishment of JCDISI is one of the major events for PolyU's 75th Anniversary celebrations. He is pleased to note that JCDISI will be housed together with PolyU School of Design in the Jockey Club Innovation Tower. The 15-storey Tower is also the first permanent architecture by world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid in Hong Kong.

The construction of the Innovation Tower was approved by the Government in 2009, and PolyU is required to raise one-quarter of the construction cost to cover the enhanced features. In 2010, the HKJC Charities Trust kindly approved a donation of $249 million to support the Jockey Club Innovation Tower project and the set up of JCDISI.

The New Rules of BoP Marketing

Wed, 01/18/2012 - 12:07pm

Santosh Nagar is almost a city within a city. Inside this sprawling slum in Mumbai's north-western suburbs are rows of houses that sit cheek by jowl with each other. Over 20,000 residents run businesses from tailoring to soap making in its narrow, labyrinthine bylanes. There are almost half a dozen schools and hawkers selling everything from brooms to insurance policies. Not to forget the ubiquitous kirana store, one every 15 metres, serving a growing demand for everyday household items, from mosquito coils to popular detergent, from lanterns to shampoo sachets.

Ravi Maurya, whose tuck shop lies amid this hustle-bustle, has been doing brisk business in this urban slum for a quarter of a century. Maurya wouldn't think of moving out of Santosh Nagar. This is where he's always lived - and earned his livelihood, serving countless customers, many of whom transact no more than Rs. 5 at a time. Maurya's merchandise is also tailored accordingly - small pack sizes, lower priced products and lesser known brands. The national brands that get advertised on television don't always make it to Maurya's shop shelf, unless he decides to go to the local wholesaler and buy his supplies. The large company distributors shun stores like his situated inside the slum, preferring to restrict themselves to the larger outlets, about a kilometre or two away. "They just didn't care about us," says Maurya.

So about a year ago, Maurya was pleasantly surprised when a PepsiCo distributor salesman turned up at his door, offering to book orders, supply ready stock and even offer him a week's credit. As a result, today PepsiCo's Lehar range of namkeens and wafers hang from shop fronts in his store - and across most of Santosh Nagar - aggressively competing with locally made brands like Diamond and Balaji.

Citi Microfinance: Social impact key part of investors’ agenda

Wed, 01/18/2012 - 9:35am

Microfinance Focus, January 17, 2012: Bob Annibale is Global Director of Citi Microfinance and Community Development. He leads Citi's commercial relationships with microfinance institutions, networks and investors across the globe. Bob also represents Citi on the Board of the Microfinance Information Exchange, the Council of Microfinance Equity Funds, the SEEP Network, the Microfinance Network and the Executive Committee of CGAP (World Bank).

In an exclusive interview with Microfinance Focus, Bob spoke about the vision of Citi Microfinance for the global microfinance sector.

The interview was first published in Microfinance Focus special print magazine which was distributed at the Global Microcredit Summit 2011 in Spain.

Microfinance Focus: How do you see the investment environment changing over the next few years? Is it going to be different from what it has been?

Bob Annibale: Many factors contribute to changes in the investment landscape, particularly recent global events in the equity and sovereign debt markets and slow economic growth in the U.S., Europe and Japan. In this challenging and complex global environment, microfinance is confronting additional challenges, such as the impact of rising fuel and food prices on their clients, continued income inequalities and the need for funders - philanthropic, public and commercial - to continue to invest in the growth of the sector.

As outreach and growth have been pursued in a number of markets, the scaling of microfinance has been accompanied by similar challenges and trends as in the wider financial sector, including competition, sales and collections practices; the need for greater transparency in product pricing and features; the integration of the sector with credit bureaus; and appropriate regulations and supervision.

In recent calendar quarters, growth has slowed in many countries or regions. Though there may indeed be a slowing in the pace of growth in microfinance investment funds, in some countries this may also be in response to changes in customer needs and demand. While the capacity of for-profit and non-profit investors, specialized funds and institutional investors continues to grow, microfinance institutions [MFIs] must recognize that many donors and investors are focusing on a broader agenda that goes beyond financial access to include financial capability and varying degrees of social impact.

How Oliberté, the Anti-TOMS, Makes Shoes and Jobs in Africa

Wed, 01/18/2012 - 9:32am

'Why or how could anyone want to make shoes in a place full of so much poverty and corruption?'

That's the question many people asked Canadian Tal Dehtiar when he founded Oliberté Footwear, the first company to make premium shoes in Africa using African materials and explicitly linking shoes sold by Western retailers to job creation on the continent. Dehtiar started the Toronto-based company in 2009, and sales increased from a mere 200 pairs initially to 10,000 in 2011. He projects sales of between 20,000 and 25,000 this year.

"At Oliberté, we believe Africa can compete on a global scale," he says, "but it needs a chance. It doesn't need handouts or a hand up. It needs people to start shaking hands and companies to start making deals to work in these countries."

Oliberté shoes are stitched and assembled in Ethiopia with leather sourced from local free-range cows, sheep, and goats-the default in a country with many herders whose livelihoods depend upon ranging wherever grass may be. The livestock haven't been injected with hormones to speed their growth, a common practice in other parts of the world. The result is a light, limber, yet sturdy upper.

The shoes feature crepe rubber soles made from natural rubber processed in Liberia and lined with soft, breathable goat leather. This spring, the company will expand its line to offer leather bags and accessories, some of which will be sourced in Kenya and made in Zambia. It produces woven labels and other branding materials in the African island nation Mauritius.

India To Launch $1B Innovation Fund By June-July

Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:59pm

India plans to launch a $1 billion fund by June-July, with an initial capital of Rs 5 billion, to invest in innovations that can generate services and products to uplift the poor, a top government official told reporters on Monday.

"We need to provide money to those who have ideas but no seed capital," Sam Pitroda, adviser to prime minister on public information, infrastructure and innovation, said on the sidelines of an industry event.

The fund, named India Inclusive Innovation Fund, will invest in sectors such as agriculture, water, energy and healthcare, Pitroda said, after delivering the keynote address at Grid Week Asia Summit, organised by Indian Electrical & Electronics Manufacturers' Association.

"It will have an initial investment, seed capital from the government. The finance ministry has already talked about allocating 100 crore (Rs 1 billion)."

The fund intends to raise Rs 5 billion in its first phase.

Indian Villagers' Lives Transformed by New Energy Delivery System

Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:45pm

It's late December and an icy fog cloaks the northeastern state of Uttar Pradesh. Here, far from the cities, smoke rises in dense, choking spirals from meagre wood fires and scantily-clad children shiver against the cold. These are largely farming families, and their mud huts fortified by the occasional brick wall are for the most part devoid of light, heat or clean water.

But it is here in Uttar Pradesh, one of India's largest and poorest states, far away from the country's straining power grid, that US-born entrepreneurs Nikhil Jaisinghani and Brian Shaad have started to pioneer a wholly different energy system, designed to meet some of the most basic needs of the poorest.

Their company, Mera Gao Power (MGP), provides ultra-low cost lighting and mobile phone charging services to individual houses by building and operating solar-powered micro grids at a village level.

Each household that signs up to their service receives two LED lights and one mobile-charging point in their home at a cost of 25 rupees (£0.301) per week. The setup cost is an additional one-off payment of 40 rupees (£0.48). "This is the kind of price point that the majority of them can afford," Sandeep Pandey, MGP's operations manager, explained.

The benefits of these simple services for a village household are multiple. The lights not only allow individuals to work after dark, providing additional time for activities that generate income, but they permit extra time for children to study.

"I wanted this light straight away, as it enables me to cook after dark," said Muni-devi, a grandmother from the village of Kaharanpura who makes samosas to sell at the local market. "With longer hours to work, I can earn more for my family each day."

Santram Pal, a father of four from the neighbouring village of Chuck, was exuberant, too. "I'm very happy with the lights," he said. "Now my children can study at night and my house won't go so black inside from the smoke. Thieves won't come either."

Howard Weinstein Named Social Entrepreneur of the Year

Mon, 01/16/2012 - 1:09pm

NEW YORK, Oct. 27 /CSRwire/ - Solar Ear founder and CEO Howard Weinstein was selected as social entrepreneur of the year by World Technology Network. The announcement was made at the awards banquet held at the close of the World Technology Summit and Awards in New York City Wednesday night. Weinstein's award was accepted by Nick Laperle, CEO of Solar Ear's technology partner Sonomax.

Solar Ear designs and manufactures a solar-powered, battery rechargeable, inexpensive hearing aid solution. Technology partner Sonomax designs in-ear technology to custom fit earpieces to each patient in a single visit.

Previously Weinstein has been a Tech Award Laureate and was the recipient of the 2008 Humanitarian Award from the American Academy of Audiology.

Innovation focused on the affordable

Weinstein started Solar Ear when he saw the need for an affordable, user-friendly and ecological hearing aid. WHO estimates that approximately 278 million suffer from hearing loss of which 200 million live in developing countries. Adult-onset hearing loss is the second longest cause of years lived with a disability.

"The hearing aid industry is one of the most innovative industries in the world, which is both good and bad," said Weinstein. "Most of the innovation has been misplaced and focused on the wrong things, like developing technology for a $7500 hearing aid. That is completely out of reach for most of the world's deaf population." Only 12% of hearing aids manufactured are in the developing world.

Solar Ear offers hearing solutions for under $100US. The products were featured in "Brilliant Eco-Inventions; Designs to Solve the Worlds Problems," which appeared in the November 2010 issue of National Geographic. Solar Ear products are now included in the collections of the Alexander Graham Bell Museum and the Smithsonian.

Mobile Money to Deliver Cash Aid: Believe the Hype?

Fri, 01/13/2012 - 3:48pm

In the two years since the earthquake, several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have used Haiti's nascent mobile money services to deliver cash to people in need. These programs have been among only a handful of global examples (14 were identified worldwide) of cash distribution using mobile money and represent an important opportunity to learn. Early research suggests that mobile distribution had some tangible benefits for recipients of aid, but they also carried costs that could exceed those of traditional physical and voucher-based transfers. We've put together a set of recommendations that can help NGOs to get the most out of this exciting new platform.

As NGOs in Haiti adopted mobile money, they were aware that this was also new territory and an opportunity to establish some evidence about its usefulness. Two of them actually put parallel aid programs into effect that delivered the same transfers to two groups of people, one using traditional physical or voucher-based distribution methods, and the other using mobile money. They found that mobile money could be faster and safer, but its usefulness as a tool for expanding financial inclusion was less clear.

On the other side of the ledger, using the mobile money platform came with big start-up costs. As a result, the first deployments of cash distribution programs using mobile money carried higher costs than traditional distribution methods. But in the "steady state"-when all one-time costs have been paid-mobile money may yet turn out to be cheaper. And if the use of mobile money spreads among consumers, fees to transfer cash will likely drop as well, further lowering the cost of the platform.

Africa Not Fit For Print; The 'Light' Side Of The 'Dark' Continent

Fri, 01/13/2012 - 3:12pm

A Chinese, Latin American, and North American student are sitting in a classroom. The teacher pulls out a map of Africa, and asks 'tell me what you see". The Chinese student speaks of opportunity and business; South African steel, Congolese minerals, and Angolan oil to power his country's growth, and an endless list of future contracts for Chinese-built roads, bridges, and infrastructure to link the continent. The American reflects on Darfur, the Rwandan Genocide, thatched-roof villages, famine, Bono, Madonna, nonprofit work, and starving children. The Latin American student draws parallels in a tragic reflection of the worst parts of his own country; nefarious warlords, corruption, and poverty.

Who is right, and who is wrong? No one. And everyone. The complexity of this mighty and expansive continent can hardly be confined to a single narrative. Over one billion people. 54 independent states (as recognized by the UN). Nearly 3,000 languages. And as remarkably diverse as the continent is, so too should be the stories that emerge from it.

As I stepped through doorway of my concrete apartment in Nairobi, Kenya the other morning, I had the strange feeling I'd done something terribly wrong. I had just returned from two weeks traveling by local transport -- bus, boat, motorcycle, and foot -- through the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and as it happens, had an incredible, inspiring, and uplifting time.

Before you barrage me with your criticisms, and claim perhaps I'm blind, insensitive, ignorant, or arrogant for eliciting pleasure from my time in the D.R.C., let me explain myself.

The journey went hard against the grain of the typical Congo narrative; I did not pay a single bribe. Immigration officials turned out to be the friendliest and most helpful bunch I met. No men with AK-47s kidnapped me. I spent Christmas day hunting with Mbuti pygmies in the world's second largest rainforest, swimming in crocodile-infested rivers with their children. I met with grassroots NGOs and social entrepreneurs that were changing communities and bringing hope. I encountered warm smiles, and generous hospitality. I saw a beautiful, untold side of the country.

Investing in Impact: Making the Case for Patient Capital

Fri, 01/13/2012 - 2:52pm

Case study highlights challenges facing the nascent social investing sector and explores ways to face them.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.-Social investing. Impact Investing. Patient capital.

That the idea itself has more than one name underscores the challenges facing an industry that seeks to invest in and grow companies that measure wealth both by profit and the ability to solve social problems.

This relatively new sector in the venture capital world is trying to redefine the very mission of capitalism. The idea is that for-profit companies should be judged by more than one bottom line.

But who defines those more intangible bottom lines? How do investment firms discover startups worthy of investment? How does social investing raise funds when it's still in a no-man's-land between philanthropy and traditional venture capital?

Those questions are probed through the lens of San Francisco-based impactne investing firm Good Capital in the case study Good Capital and the Emergence of the Social Capital MarketSupervised by finance professor Gautam Kaul and written by Lauren Foukes, BBA '06/MBA '12, the case won fourth place in the 2011 NextBillion Case Writing Competition.

Social investing is a relatively new idea, especially in the United States, and those involved in the industry have to lay the foundation for their own ecosystem, says Kaul, the John C. and Sally S. Morley Professor of Finance. Leading experts need to set standards-especially on how to measure and value social impact-and need to establish a regulatory framework in the U.S., where the law usually favors the primacy of shareholder value.

Haiti Embarks on Economic Recovery Plan with Help from Private Sector

Thu, 01/12/2012 - 2:59pm

Much of the media coverage of Haiti's post-earthquake rehabilitation has focused on the role played by the international community and aid donors. But on the second anniversary of the earthquake, the island's narrative may be slowly shifting from one of aid dependency to one of proactive self-help. The government is embarking on a multipronged initiative to combat cholera, permanently rehouse the displaced people, improve infrastructure, and stimulate the economy through a drive on job creation.

Haiti's new prime minister, Garry Conille, said the government's main focus will be to join with private sector partners to address key economic and infrastructure needs to kickstart the economy. "We clearly understand that aid alone will not develop this country [so] we're creating a lot of incentives for the private sector to come in and invest," he said.

The government aims to attract foreign direct investment through Haiti's forum on private sector investment, and entice corporate interest in the country with initiatives such as a 15-year tax holiday and generous subsidies for foreign businesses. It is also working with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and USAid to develop Haiti's manufacturing industry - a venture that Conille believes has the potential to create thousands of jobs over the next 12 months.

Work has already begun on a 246-hectare industrial park by the South Korean apparel manufacturer Sae-A, which is keen to capitalise on Haiti's guaranteed duty-free access to US clothing markets. The $78m development in Haiti's North Corridor will provide 20,000 jobs and directly support the livelihoods of up to 120,000 people. As well as providing myriad opportunities for local entrepreneurship, the industrial park will also include a residential development with 5,000 homes.

Note From the Horn of Africa: Leveraging Mobile Technology to Link Somali Youth with Jobs

Thu, 01/12/2012 - 2:56pm

Read the news, and initial reports about the Horn of Africa1 are grim with famine and conflict dominating the headlines. But despite a food crisis and flare-ups of violence, key areas of the economy are growing steadily. Even in the face of limited infrastructure, large numbers of young Somalis are embracing new technology, especially mobile phones. In a single 5-year period, cell phone penetration in the region has jumped by 1,600 percent-an increase that outpaces neighboring Kenya and nearby Sudan.2

Leveraging this trend, mobile phone software venture Souktel has partnered with US-based NGO Education Development Center (EDC) to develop a cell phone-based job information service for youth, called JobMatch. The service is being implemented through funding from USAID as part of EDC's "Shaqodoon" project (which means "job seekers" in Somali). JobMatch aims to tackle youth unemployment by providing real-time, accurate information to youth about where work can be found. The service's underlying logic posits that youth unemployment is due not only to economic conditions, but also a lack of good resources to connect youth with employers. Across the Horn of Africa, web access is low, many communities don't receive newspapers, and social networks are limited. Through mobile technology, youth can leapfrog these obstacles and get regular access to employment information.

The technology itself is sophisticated, but easy to use. As part of training courses delivered by EDC and local NGO partners, young job seekers create "mini CVs" by answering a short series of questions via SMS (text message). These questions ask youth about their location, skills, experience, and more. At the same time, local employers (who learn about the service through EDC staff outreach) create "mini job ads" through a similar process. Both sets of information are uploaded from users' phones to a central database. Then, at any time, youth or employers can text "Match Me" to a 3-digit service hotline to receive an instant listing of all jobs or potential candidates that match the criteria in the mini CV or mini job ad. Once they are matched, employers and job seekers can contact each other directly, using contact details provided in the match message, to set up in-person job interviews.

Rebuilding Afghanistan's Villages, Rug by Rug

Thu, 01/12/2012 - 12:50pm

When Connie Duckworth flew into Kabul for the first time in 2003, the city below "looked like Berlin after World War II," she says. Since that visit with the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council-a non-partisan initiative tasked with supporting Afghan women-Duckworth has devoted her life and career to rebuilding Afghanistan, carpet by carpet. Duckworth founded ARZU, a nonprofit, artisanal rug company where every item produced and donation received helps pay the salary of local weavers and funds social programs to lift rural families out of crushing poverty.

Afghan women need all the help they can get. The combination of gender segregation, violence against women, limited access to health care, and extreme poverty make Afghanistan the worst place on earth to be a woman, according to a survey by the Thomson Reuters Foundation released this summer. And, lest we forget, it's ground zero for a war that just turned 10 years old.

The challenge of getting anything done in Afghanistan, particularly the rural areas where Duckworth chose to set up shop, is compounded by a lack of infrastructure, widespread corruption, and a lack of cooperation between religious and ethnic groups. "When we started there was no central bank," adds Duckworth. "You couldn't wire-transfer money into the country."

So if you can make it in Afghanistan, you can make it anywhere, she says. "I always have viewed community development and international development from a business perspective," says Duckworth, voicing an unsurprising mindset for a woman whose first career was a 20-year tour of duty at Goldman Sachs. Afghanistan is "a proxy for how can you innovate and experiment with new models to empower women globally...You have to develop local, small basic grassroots activity or you don't have a shot for peace."

ARZU's approach has enabled the organization to grow from 30 to 700 weavers-spread  across 13 villages, two religious sects, and four ethnic groups-in just seven years. The core principal of ARZU is a family's subscription to a "social contract." The family of every woman weaver working for ARZU must agree to send its kids to school full-time. Heads of households must allow their wives to attend ARZU's literacy classes for two hours a day. In exchange for compliance, workers receive a living wage and the chance at a 50 percent bonus for high-quality work.

Training and Mentoring Give Boost to Uganda Clean Cookstoves Producers

Wed, 01/11/2012 - 4:01pm

A five-year programme rewards entrepreneurship across East Africa by supporting micro-businesses to establish energy services and create employment opportunities in rural areas.

Willy Bamwenyena, 25, stands out as a young resourceful entrepreneur, who has been able to identify the energy gap in his community, in rural Uganda, and turned the need into a business opportunity. The GVEP-led Developing Energy Enterprise Project (DEEP) has boosted his business - and that of hundreds of other entrepreneurs across East Africa - to make and sell energy efficient cook-stoves.  

Willy's firewood burning stoves are made from locally available materials such anthill soil and clay. The stoves are popular with many householders in Sissa, and up to 90% now own one. A key reason behind their success is that they are affordable and more energy efficient compared to the traditional 3-stone fireplace. In the long run, stove-owners save money that would have been spent buying firewood; and time - spent drying or collecting firewood. The stoves also reduce indoor air pollution considerably, hence decreasing the chronic health illnesses associated with the emission of harmful fumes from open fires.

Spotting this was a profitable opportunity, Willy started making stoves for his neighbours, initially borrowing tools from his friends. His ability to make use of social capital to get his business off the ground attracted the interest of the DEEP's staff, who were recruiting enterprising young people in his area.

His entrepreneurial spirit was nurtured by members of the GVEP Uganda team who invited Willy to receive extra training and guidance on how to expand his business. "I wanted to make more income for myself, create more jobs for others, so I jumped at the opportunity to attend the training sessions", says Willy. 

Waste Ventures Gives India's Waste Pickers Access to Carbon Markets

Wed, 01/11/2012 - 3:23pm

Urban India generates 40 million tons of rubbish each year, a figure that is growing by more than two million tons ever year. Just 25 percent of that rubbish is collected by government contractors and there is little recycling; the rest is dumped and left to rot, producing methane, which is 23 times more harmful to us than carbon dioxide.

Waste Ventures is a social enterprise aims to build a model in waste management that empowers the waste collectors, gives them financial benefit and has a positive impact on the environment. It was founded by social entrepreneur Parag Gupta, who previously worked at the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.

The business has both a non-profit (Waste Ventures) and a for-profit (Waste Capital Partners) division. First of all it is focusing on creating waste picker cooperatives -- business units owned and operated by the waste pickers themselves who go door to door to collect people's and companies' waste. Waste Capital Partners finds investment to feed into Waste Ventures. Waste Ventures takes a minority stake in each of the cooperative businesses in return for mentorship.

Next, Waste Ventures offers these companies incubation, including training in processing waste, learning to compost the organic material, which makes up around 50 percent of the total urban trash. The resulting bio-fertiliser can be sold to rural farms (currently biofertiliser production in India only meets 1.5 percent of the demand).The composting process helps to save 60 kg of CO2 per ton of organic waste.

Help (Businessweek) Find America's Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs

Wed, 01/11/2012 - 3:18pm

We're kicking off our search for businesses to profile in our fourth annual roundup of America's most promising social entrepreneurs. The idea is to find and report on business ventures that advance a social or environmental mission and aim to turn a profit. We're asking readers to suggest candidates using the form at the bottom of this post.

Interest in social enterprise has grown in recent years. The movement has given rise to a slew of investors, incubators, networking groups, and other organizations dedicated to helping mission-driven entrepreneurs succeed. Policymakers, too, are recognizing approaches that combine business methods with social missions. Seven states have passed laws creating new legal structures that give companies more leeway to consider social and environmental missions over financial returns.

While definitions of social entrepreneurship vary, for purposes of this roundup, we are searching for for-profit, scalable companies that exist to solve societal problems. We want businesses with social missions baked into their operations, not tacked on as extras. We want companies that can demonstrate results, both in the marketplace and in their missions. That means we'll only consider companies that will disclose their annual revenues. We're seeking for-profit companies based in the U.S., doing business here or abroad, that meet these criteria.

Submit your company or another you know of using the form here. We'll take suggestions through Feb. 9. Know that there is no need to submit the same company more than once. This spring, we'll post profiles of the 25 our reporters and editors find most promising. Then we'll ask you to vote for the one you find most promising, and announce the five that get the most votes. (For a look at last year's roundup, flip through this slide show.)

What is Social Innovation? [Video]

Tue, 01/10/2012 - 2:42pm

30 Second MBA featuring Yasmina Zaidman, Director of Communications, Acumen Fund.

Social Entrepreneurship: 1 Approach to Higher Ed Bubble Bust

Tue, 01/10/2012 - 2:34pm

Economists are not alone in their worry of an impending higher education bubble bust. Given the drastic increase in cost and decrease in relevance of a college degree over the past decades,Ashoka U Exchange participants - faculty and students across disciplines, administrators and social entrepreneurs - are united in their conviction that cosmetic changes to their institutions are not enough.

Co-hosted by Ashoka, the world's largest association of social entrepreneurs, and Arizona State University, Ashoka will bring together more than 100 colleges and universities from 15 countries to disuss the "so what?" of higher education for an event at ASU, Feb. 10-11.

In debates on the higher education crisis, there has been much talk of the need to cut costs. However, in a world of accelerated change, we can't afford not to educate the next generation of leaders to effectively address the world's daunting social and environmental challenges. Social entrepreneurship education is one approach, gaining rapidly in popularity.

Interest in social entrepreneurship has experienced a mostly quiet, but dramatic growth in higher education over the past few years. Ashoka U Exchange participants see disruptive innovation as an opportunity for colleges and universities to become more entrepreneurial, identifying ways to leverage the entire spectrum of institutional resources for social impact, and creating a world-changing educational experience that makes a difference. Participants come to share new educational methodologies and strategies to catalyze universities as drivers of global social change.

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