Category Archives: international development

12 wonderful wishes you can share for 2012

As we tick down another year and look back at all the milestones of the past year and plan for the next, it is time to also consider some of the wonderful organizations that are making an impact around the world.

Here is my list of a dozen that are making a difference in no particular order. Most of them are young organizations that are just getting started and an opportunity for you to get involved and help them on their way.

  • Greentown Labs http://greentownlabs.org/ An incubator for clean technology ventures that allows entrepreneurs to get down and dirty constructing their next generation green machines. Setup as a nonprofit and collaborative, Greentown provides a unique location for startups that need to build stuff.
  • Sol Solution http://www.sol-solution.org/ A nonprofit that helps underprivileged schools to save on expenses by installing solar solutions to offset their electricity expenses.
  • Social Capital http://www.socialcapitalinc.org/  Social Capital inc has worked over the past 10 years to strengthen communities by connecting diverse individuals, neighbors and organizations and bringing them together through civic initiatives
  • ABAN http://www.aban.org/ Is a young organization that I came across during a visit to University of North Carolina that was started by a team of passionate students that works with the street girls of Accra to help them learn a trade, make a living, and secure a future as well as helping them transform their city into a healthier environment.
  • Space with a soul http://www.spacewithasoul.org/ is another innovative nonprofit that provides shared office space and services to nonprofits. A great landing place for emerging nonprofits as they get started.
  • Peace First http://www.peacefirst.org/site/ Peacefirst works to build a safe and productive environment at schools by teaching students the skills of conflict resolution and civic engagement.
  • Samarthanam http://www.samarthanam.org/ Samarthanam is a nonprofit registered in India and the US that provides quality education, accommodation, nutritious food, vocational training to help empower the visually impaired, disabled and underprivileged in India. It runs a free middle school for underprivileged youth including the visually handicapped.
  • Merrimack Valley Sandbox http://www.uml.edu/mvsandbox/default.html Launched in 2010 November by the Deshpande Foundation, the Merrimack Valley Sandbox works with students in the Lowell/Lawrence area through partnerships with colleges and community organizations to build leadership and entrepreneurship within the Merrimack Valley.
  • LifeCity http://mylifecity.com/  LifeCity helps encourage green businesses in Louisiana through its membership organization where customers get discounts to green businesses and products and green businesses certified by LifeCity get greater visibility and support from LifeCity members.
  • Peacetones  http://peacetones.org  Peacetones supports talented, unknown artists from developing nations build their careers while giving back to their communities.
  • Vision Aid http://visionaid.org/ VisionAid works to help people with visually related disabilities in underserved areas to lead a life of independence and dignity.
  • Ummeed http://ummeed.org/ is a nonprofit that works with children with developmental disabilities in Mumbai and is one of the few that helps bring professional support to this segment of society in India.
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Using cell phones to change the world

Jhonatan Rotberg, was sent to MIT by Telmex, one of Latin America’s largest telcos, and teaches NextLab where he tries to bring cellular technology to the other 90 percent of the world. One of the labs startups, CelEdu, offers cellphone-based games and quizzes to teach basic literacy skills in India. Ranjani Saigal from the TIE Social Entrepreneurs Group helped connect CelEdu students to Tara Aakshar. You can see some of their work in progress at the CelEdu site


A great article in the Boston Globe highlights the many ideas that have spun out of this lab. Some excerpts below – click here for the entire article.

In NextLab, Rotberg challenged students by asking, “Can you make a cellphone change the world?’’ And students have responded, creating nearly two dozen projects and three start-up ventures that have been working with communities in developing countries like India, Vietnam, and Mexico.

Dinube, a NextLab spinoff that was tested in Mexico last summer, provides payment services to people who don’t have access to traditional banks. “One of the powerful things about cellphones in Mexico is that there is a 75 percent penetration rate,’’ said Jonathan Hayes, a cofounder of Dinube. “But only 25 percent of the population has a bank account. So a cellphone-based system can fill a huge, important gap.’’

TIECON Social Enterprise Track Provides New Perspective

For the first time TIECON EAST – TiE Boston’s annual conference on entrepreneurship and innovation – had a dedicated track on Social Enterprise. The three panels in the track – ‘Healthcare Innovation in a Global Village’, ‘IT & Communications for the Developing World’ and ‘Feeding 9 Billion people’ – were all well attended and engaged the attentive audience with the incisive discussions. Here are some excerpts from an article I wrote for Lokvani about the sessions. Continue reading

How to multiply your social impact 2X to 6X

In 2005 Kiva launched a website that allowed individuals to provide small loans to needy entrepreneurs around the world. The money was directed through microfinance institutions (MFIs) to their customers. When the site launched it had only 7 businesses in Uganda. Then their story got picked up by the Daily Kos and donations started flooding their site. With all the subsequent publicity Kiva was unable to line up beneficiaries fast enough to keep up with the donations coming in and for a while had to put a hold on its site.

Fast forward to 2008, Bala Vishwanath, an alum of top Indian tech and management schools – IIT and IIM – saw an opportunity to unstick the Kiva bottleneck and to multiply the social impact of every dollar. He quit his job and worked to setup www.UnitedProsperity.org United Prosperity helps provide loan guarantees that enable poor entrepreneurs to borrow from Microfinance Institutions to build their enterprises in developing countries. Continue reading

Reply to comment about Rural Indian Consumer

In response to my recent post on Rural Consumers, Joost Bonsen of MIT commented.

Thanks much for your survey of the rural consumer landscape in India. I’m curious how what you’re observing either reinforces or differs from the Hart-Prahalad BOP thesis and the cases they give, such as Hindustan Lever, etc. Plus how much of the consumer goods sector is dominated by MNCs or affiliates versus homegrowns? And finally, what’s the rural analog to Walmart or the old Sears Roebuck catalog or other innovations in the distribution systems?

I got to thinking about what he had asked and decided to write up a separate post instead of replying as a comment. So here goes. Continue reading