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Posts tagged “Social Entrepreneur

Eco Lifestyle Visionary | Blake Mycoskie

Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes fame offers some candid insights on the condition of today’s environment and society, and the opportunities that exist for business to rethink their business model to include a “give back” component and do more. Green-thinking is here to stay, and is still evolving, touching a mere tip of the iceberg of the sheer possibilities. Mycoskie and his TOMS (the two brands are really inseparable!) are truly inspiring, a clear pioneer of a new way of business thinking.


Grassroots Innovation | Alleviating poverty ~ one bike at a time

By Dian Hasan | October 10, 2010

Innovation that brings good to the people and makes a measurable and quantifiable difference always fascinate me. So without further ado, I’ve chosen to zoom in and share stories from around the world of innovative ideas and initiatives that help alleviate global poverty.

And although on the surface this may seem like a tall order, the stories bring forth some very unusual and random ideas that seek to attack the problem at the root.  My hope is that the stories will be inspiring that we can all make a difference.

Here’s a look at what is being done in RWANDA, AFRICA. And the tool of choice: BICYCLE.

The cargo bike that will replace the wooden bike and help any coffee farmer tremendously. Project Rwanda is helping establish a program of bike ownership.

The functional but unreliable wooden bike that will be replaced by the cargo bike.

The “Wooden Bike Classic” race, an event initiated by Project Rwanda to sustain the tradition of handcrafted bikes and create an ecotourism event.


US-initiated Moss Landing, California-based PROJECT RWANDA. Founder: Tom Ritchey


  • the bicycle can be an important tool in rebuilding a country, building national pride and addressing local issues facing Rwanda and other African nations.


  • furthering the economic development of Rwanda through initiatives based on the bicycle as a tool and symbol of hope.
  • use the bike to help boost the Rwandan economy as well as re-brand Rwanda as an attractive and safe business and ecotourism destination.
  • provide a program to replace traditional wooden bicycles with better-performing modern bicycles, while concurrently sustain the traditions of the handcrafted wooden bicycles.


Coffee-Bike Program: cargo bicycles can solve the transport problem if a program could make the bikes available to coffee farmers for a reasonable price on credit and where quality premiums would cover the bike’s cost.

The Rwandan coffee sector has enormous potential to create a dynamic and prosperous rural economy through the pursuit of extreme-quality specialty coffee for the U.S. and European markets. This will drive the Rwanda’s rural economy, empower the population, create employment and generate increased revenues.

Cargo bikes are provided through a collaborative venture between Project RwandaRitchey Design, and Rwanda Smallholders Specialty Coffee Company (RWASHOSCCO).


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…)

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

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

Alleviating poverty, one book at a time

There are those individuals out there who’s work, or personal experience can be so inspiring. They see the world, its contents and all her inhabitants from a different perspective. They are perfectly embody the notion of what impossibility is often just that… a word!

I have a few inspiring people who I admire. One of them is John Wood, Founder of Room to Read. A former Microsoft executive whose life direction changed dramatically after a fortunate hike in the Himalayas. There he saw the simple life, where school children were happy with the few books they had to share amongst themselves, where they appreciated the little material things they had and the opportunity to attend school and dream of a better tomorrow.

He returned to the US and was determined to do his part. He started a campaign to collect used books from family and friends, which quickly snowballed into a much greater effort, as people flooded in to help.

This then led to John’s establishing a non-for-profit organization, Room to Read, authoring a book about his life-changing experience, “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World” (2006), and the rest… as they say, is history. Here’s John’s story as appeared in Men’s Journal. And if you ask what became of his Microsoft career, he decided to leave and dedicate his life to helping provide books to disadvantaged school-age children around the world, and promote the love of reading.

Social Entrepreneur: Wood hands out books to children in Pokhara, Nepal. His nonprofit Room to Read has distributed close to 5 million books around the world.

In life, most people take care to not burn their bridges. Others prefer to detonate them, all at once, in a career version of shock and awe. John Wood falls into the latter camp. Wood, 44, had been a successful exec at Microsoft, heading up the software giant’s business development in the greater China region and leading a comfy expat life with a high salary. He threw it all on the bonfire after returning from a life-changing trip to Nepal. On a trek in 1998, during a rare break, he came across eager-to-learn children in a village who had few books. Wood made a simple promise: He’d find them some. He tapped his network of friends, family, and colleagues, and returned later that year with 3,000 books saddled onto the backs of eight donkeys. “I watched the reaction of the kids, and it set something off in my head that I could really make a difference,” Wood remembers. “It didn’t take much effort, but it made a huge impact on their lives.”

Microsoft had taught him to think big, and so Wood did just that. He decided to leave the company altogether and start a new life running a charity full-time. Thus began his organization Room to Read (, which has since established more than 5,600 libraries in developing countries and put close to 5 million books into the hands of kids.

Though Room to Read has become a resounding success, at the time he started it, Wood wondered if he was certifiably nuts. He turned to advisers to bring him up to speed on the basics of the charity world, such as applying for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status with the IRS. He hired a right-hand woman and an office manager but paid himself nothing at first, eating away half his savings until grants and donations started to come in.


Alleviating poverty, one basket at a time

By Dian Hasan | September 13, 2010

Founder Theresa Wilson

Theresa Wilson, Founder of Blessing Basket. Empowering African women in remote communities to keep girls in school

Sometimes the inspiration to a higher calling, can come from seemingly random daily matters, or from one’s own personal tragedy. But as stories like these will demonstrate, there exists a coterie of people with an ironclad determination that truly make a difference in the world.

These are commendable examples of ordinary citizens taking on extraordinary tasks of alleviating poverty and suffering, through very original ideas.

One such person is Theresa Wilson of Blessing Basket. From her own difficult personal past, she empowered village communities in impoverished countries like Ghana, Madagascar and Bangladesh to alleviate poverty through basket weaving. Spearheaded by women, Theresa specifically targeted uneducated women which were at the heart of the poverty challenge.

Her weapon of choice: BASKETS!

Some of Blessing Basket’s achievements, delivered through their unique Blessing Basket Project, making baskets directly from source, in the villages and communities where the craft can empower entire villages, instead of importing them from China in bulk. In the villages, artisan weavers are paid higher than fair trade wage. Resulting in additional income that brings better food to the table and keeps children (especially girls) in schools. To learn more about Blessing Basket and how to help, donate or volunteer click on

One of our Bengali weavers, ELG, and her family has been blessed from you purchasing her baskets.
Elg Shorker is a 28 year old mother of two from Western Bangladesh. She is seen here with her son John, her daughter Urnika and her husband Barnabas. While both of her children are in school, it has been a constant struggle to pay school fees. In fact, at times, poverty has forced Elg to turn to prostitution to ensure her children’s education. Your purchase of a Blessing Basket® changes all that.


Social Entrepreneurs ~ in a league of their own

By Dian Hasan | September 13, 2010

Muhammad Yunus, Founder of Grameen Bank, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize 2006 for his poverty alleviation work via micro-financing

Bunker Roy, Founder of Barefoot College, eradicating poverty through education

Ann Cotton, Founder of Camfed that focuses on empowering women in Africa through education

We’d like to shed light on some very special enterprising individuals, who have conceived businesses that seek so much more than mere profit. The main purpose that is built into their business model is ultimately to “give back” and “make a difference”, in the communities and the environment they touch (or work in). This is the “social mission” that we don’t often see in a pure profit-oriented model of a business.

Such model has existed for a while, but has never really had a generally-accepted name. And as we all admit to liking common terms (and names) that we can all comprehend perfectly, this business model now has a name: Social Entrepreneurship. So it begs the question: what exactly does it mean. Here’s an excellent description, with examples of Social Entrepreneurs, taken from The Skoll Foundation:

Entrepreneurs are essential drivers of innovation and progress. In the business world, they act as engines of growth, harnessing opportunity and innovation to fuel economic advancement. Social entrepreneurs act similarly, tapping inspiration and creativity, courage and fortitude, to seize opportunities that challenge and forever change established, but fundamentally inequitable systems.

Distinct from a business entrepreneur who sees value in the creation of new markets, the social entrepreneur aims for value in the form of transformational change that will benefit disadvantaged communities and, ultimately, society at large. Social entrepreneurs pioneer innovative and systemic approaches for meeting the needs of the marginalized, the disadvantaged and the disenfranchised – populations that lack the financial means or political clout to achieve lasting benefit on their own.

Alleviating poverty ~ one pair of shoes at a time

By Dian Hasan | September 12, 2010

Blake Mycoskie, TOMS shoes Founder, donating shoes to needy kids in developing countries

Sometimes the inspiration to a higher calling, can stem from such simple daily objects, or from one’s own personal tragedy. But as stories like these will demonstrate, it is people like this – with their ironclad determination – that truly make a difference in the world. These are commendable examples of ordinary citizens taking on extraordinary tasks of alleviating poverty and suffering, through very original ideas.

One such person is Blake Mycoskie, a Social Entrepreneur from Arlington, Texas. His weapon of choice? Shoes!

Mycoskie was struck by the condition of children without shoes that he saw during his many travels in the developing world. It was also during his travels that Mycoskie stumbled upon traditional shoes in Argentina. Inspired by the shoes’ design, Mycoskie tinkered with the shoe design and set up TOMS Shoes in Santa Monica, California. From inception, Mycoskie built in a charity component, through his non-profit subsidiary, donates a new pair of shoes for a child in need.

Who knew a pair of shoes could make such a formidable impact. By year end 2010, TOMS Shoes is forecast to have donated their new goal of 1,000,000 (one million) shoes!

”I always thought I would spend the first half of my life making money and the second half giving it away. I never thought I could do both at the same time.” ~ Blake Mycoskie