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Social Entrepreneurship

Quotes + Thoughts | On redefining poverty

If we stop thinking of the poor as victims or as a burden and start recognizing them as resilient and creative entrepreneurs and value conscious consumers, a whole new world of opportunity will open up. ~ C.K. Prahalad

Inspiration: Exela Ventures, Ideas Inspiring Innovation


Eco-hero | TOMS’ new sustainable business model

By Dian Hasan | September 29, 2010

I don’t have enough good things to say about Blake Mycoskie, TOMS shoes founder. He’s brought to life a whole new way of looking at business, one that seeks a balance between Profit, People, and Planet. This is the way I view his business model, attaining profit to empower people’s economy and give back to the communities, while lessening the burden on the planet.

TOMS shoes’ model of One-for-One, donating a pair of shoes for every pair purchased is not only commendable, but as he has demonstrated – is a profitable sustainable business model! And that makes it one heck of a COOL COMPANY! Blake’s title on his business card says it all: “Chief Shoe Giver”!

Here’s another story on Blake Mycoskie from The Huffington Post:

Etsy ~ an online global marketplace and community that connects craft makers and buyers

By Dian Hasan | September 19, 2010

Etsy: a thriving eBay-like aggregator of handmade crafts sold by their makers.

Etsy has a million members who buy from 185,000 artists, 96% of them women. Each day, 4,000 new customers and 400 new artists join (2008 data).

This is a lot more than a movement, it’s a necessary and fundamental shift in the way commerce works.
Rob Kalin, Etsy founder

  1. What inspired you to create Etsy? We want to create new ways to shop that are only possible using the Web as a medium. The industrial revolution and consolidation of corporations are making it hard for independent artisans to distribute their goods. We want to change this.
  2. How long did it take you, from start to finish, to get Etsy off the ground? When did you launch?Rob, Chris, and Haim built Etsy in two and a half months. We launched on June 18 th, 2005.
  3. How did you get funding for the project? We have been funded by a pair of angel investors here in Brooklyn.
  4. How do you sustain the usage costs of Esty? We charge a flat 10 cent listing fee and a 3.5% sales fee.
  5. (more…)

Migrant Women in the Struggle against Poverty

The choice to migrate, to leave loved ones behind, to venture forth into the unknown, represents for millions of impoverished women, a heart-wrenching, first-step towards poverty’s end.

Today, there are over 200 million migrants working abroad. Half are women. Each year, they remit some US $300 billion to developing nations, building homes, feeding families, and educating children.

These migrants and their remittances are a pivotal force in poverty eradication, argues Dr. Sarah Mavrinac, president of aidha, a Singapore based social enterprise.

Inspiration: Qi Global

Alleviating poverty ~ through the eyes of designers

It is a known fact that good design can bridge aesthetics and functionality, and act as a communication conduit  between cultures. Design In Kind, is one such organization, a collaborative network of designers who want to change the world.

Their work is best explained through some of their projects, to understand how sustainable design addresses a cultural issue.

Project: UN Millennium Village Project – HEALTH
Client: Earth Institute

Project Goal: To create tools to train and support a new strata of local health care workers in 72 villages in Africa and Asia. These health care workers will be trained and equipped to perform 70% of necessary services through household visits – shown to be the most effective means for reducing infant mortality. This project will significantly increase the number of healthcare providers, allow for doctors and nurses to focus on more complex problems and bring life saving services to over 500,000 people in the next two years.

Design in Kind conducted an interesting project in Uganda. They developed a set of training tools for community health care workers in Uganda who were being trained to perform household visits.

We designed illustrated cards for health care workers, to serve as cheat sheets that trigger their memory on the field. The nutritional cards, for example, were designed for different groups of the household, i.e., one for adult male, one for pregnant female, one for child, etc., each outlining the dietary needs of said group.

We ended up having to redesign the cards, because we found that culturally, the men of the household always insisted that their own dietary needs would be the family norm in a food scarce society, making the other cards obsolete.

Addressing these cultural and socio-economic design problems makes you examine your own global preconceptions.

Inspiration: The Uniform Project

Alleviating poverty ~ clothing for one slum child at a time

By Dian Hasan | September 16, 2009

There are social climbers, and then there are social visionaires. Those who dream of making a difference in the society, giving out a helping hand to bring about social change. Sheeena Matheiken is the latter. Her mission of choice: draw attention to the plight of India’s millions of “invisible” slum children. And she worked for her mission in a most unique way ~ pledge to wear the same outfit for AN ENTIRE YEAR!

And of course being a lady, she’d accessorize, as any lady knows best.

Starting May 2009, Sheena pledged to wear one dress for one year as an exercise in sustainable fashion. Sheena Matheiken’s The Uniform Project is inspiring women to make the most out of what they have in their closets while raising awareness for a cause very close to her heart. Each day Sheena reinvents the dress with layers of other clothing, stockings, socks, covetable shoes, rocking accessories, you name it.

This non-profit organization was founded in Mumbai in 1990 through the volunteered efforts of college students devoted to bringing education to slum children. The Indian government spends an average of $360 on one child’s schooling, of which 80% drop out before reaching the 10th grade. Akanksha vows to spend the same amount on every slum child to afford them a better, more well rounded education.

Good Cause 2.0 ~ how social media empowers giving [2]

In the advent of web 2.0 technology (that’s all the Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Crowdrise, and a plethora of other social media networks), it was just a matter of time when online communities started to use it to promote social causes. Ranging from searching for blood donors in the neighborhood, to more serious causes of helping keep young African girls in school, to empower them as solid foundation of communities to alleviate poverty, break the cycle of injustice and gender inequality, and reduce the spreading HIV/AIDS.

So how exactly does it work? Here are some excellent examples from around the world (written by Fred Stutzman from AOL Developer Network), among which the most notable is probably

You will note that the story is from 2007, and in internet (read: social media network) technology is “eons” ago, in the dinosaur age. As social media has proliferated in the last 3 years… beyond recognition:

Web 2.0 technologies are impacting many of our lives in interesting ways. Whether it be the broadening or deepening of friend relationships with social networks, or the sharing of our thoughts and opinions with blogs, many of us have been impacted by the Web’s social revolution. The Web is evolving into a tool that fundamentally feels right to humans, and many people are taking note.

One of the more interesting areas where we see the impact of Web 2.0 tools and methodologies is in the online philanthropy space. Of course, organizations dedicated to doing good have been involved with the Web since their earliest days–the Web’s unique ability as an outreach and fund raising tool has proved very attractive to these organizations. With the advent of the social web, however, we are seeing new and interesting developments in this space, which I’ll explore in this article.

Using Networks To Do Good

Forward-thinking philanthropic organizations have long relied on networks to sustain their missions and accomplish their goals. Networks are required to mobilize, to spread information, and to raise the funds necessary to move organizations forward. The Web has long fostered the creation and maintenance of networks; even before Web 2.0, our web communities were inherently network-centric. With the advent of Web 2.0, the notion of the Web as a set of connected networks became more prevalent; as a result, philanthropic organizations are using the Web in new ways to organize those looking to do good.

Browsing the home page of, I am asked “What do you want to change in the world?” and presented a search box. Below, a list of issues is displayed as a tag cloud–issues such as universal health care, stopping child abuse, and protecting civil rights appear prominently. The purpose of is to bring together individuals who share a common issue or interest, and then provide them all the tools necessary to go forth and work on their cause. From the Save Public Broadcastingpage on, I can find out about fellow supporters of the issue, explore educational resources, find politicians friendly to my issue, and find organizations to which I can donate. (more…)

Good Cause 2.0 ~ how social media empowers giving [1]

Hollywood A-lister, actor Edward Norton, creator of Crowdrise

In the advent of web 2.0 technology (that’s all the Facebook, Twitter,Foursquare, and a plethora of other social media networks), it was just a matter of time when online communities started to use it to promote social causes. Ranging from searching for blood donors in the neighborhood, to more serious causes of helping keep young African girls in school, to empower them as solid foundation of communities to alleviate poverty, break the cycle of injustice and gender inequality, and reduce the spreading HIV/AIDS.

So how exactly does it work? Here is another example from the newly created Crowdrise (please also see my previous post on the same subject), as appeared in Social ROI.

Crowdrise was founded by Hollywood actor Edward Norton and three partners, who saw a powerful link between social media and giving back.

Crowdrise aims to make raising money for a cause not just easy, but also fun. Setting up a page to support something you care about takes less than a minute. Then, friends and family can be invited to be sponsors by donating any amount of money, large or small. You don’t have to run a marathon. You can volunteer at a soup kitchen or do whatever strikes your fancy. But Ms. Wittenberg, who has already sent her e-mail to 33,000 runners based in the United States and will soon send one to the 27,000 or so based elsewhere, hopes that anyone running in New York on Nov. 7 will use Crowdrise to do it for charity.

Inspiration: Social ROI and Endangered Eden

TOMS reaches milestone of donating 1,000,000 shoes

Following a visit to Argentina while competing on The Amazing Race, Blake Mycoskie was inspired to build a business that helped the shoeless children he met there. He launched TOMS Shoes in 2006 with design inspired by the Argentine Alpargata. The company runs on the one-for-one model: every pair purchased here, will pay for a pair in the developing world.

This week, four years later, they hit 1,000,000 pairs of shoes sold and donated. BRAVO!!

It’s an incredible milestone, thanks to the support of customers and fans, changing lives of disadvantage children by providing them with much-needed shoes. Proof of a new business model – Social Enterprise – and the success of the One for One model.

Inspiration: Good

How philanthropy, innovation and entrepreneurship are transforming the social ecosystem

Willy Cheng, Chairman, The Lien Centre for Social Innovation

The social ecosystem comprises a broad range of players that have come together for the common mission of changing the world for the better. But as much as the social ecosystem is about change, it is also beset by the forces of change.

Neo-philanthropists entering the social space bring along new market and business practices, some of which appear to be at odds with the values of the social world. From within the sector, new heroes — the social entrepreneurs — are emerging to create social change on an unprecedented scale in new pattern-changing ways.

Meanwhile, the power of technology and innovation to foment disruptive change is enabling new possibilities and outcomes. The demands of accountability placed by civil society players on corporations and governments are also rebounding on them. All these factors, and more, are transforming the social ecosystem even as it seeks to transform the larger world.

Inspiration: The Lien Centre for Social Innovation