Category Archives: Uncategorized

Barefoot College’s evolution and the launch of Bindi Solar, a commercial solar product line

25396224_10155848598355903_1266241389229821444_nBarefoot College (BC), a not for profit, social innovation organization announced in early November the launch of Bindi Solar, the first global line of solar home lighting products fabricated, distributed, sold, installed, maintained and repaired exclusively by women. Bindi Solar products include; low cost solar home lighting systems, portable lanterns, micro grids, DC TVs and fans as well as a range of handheld solar lighting devices. Starting in India, Bindi Solar will be distributed through BC’s ground breaking partnerships with Frontier Markets and GHE as well as the Barefoot Solar Mamas trained across 15 states. Development of the new products has been made possible through the CSR collaborations with Apple, Goldman Sachs, the Phillipps Foundation and working in partnership with The Frey Charitable Foundation and EROL Foundation.

Over the past 5 years there has been a powerful yet smooth transformation at this pioneering and innovative 45 year old organization that has been providing basic services and solutions to the challenges facing rural poor communities with the objective of making them self-sufficient and sustainable, valuing and respecting the knowledge and wisdom they already possess. BC was founded in 1972 by Sanjit “Bunker” Roy, following the life and work style of Mahatma Gandhi. Today, BC boasts a diverse and inclusive team of dedicated individuals from both formally educated and grass roots communities, working side by side towards impact of the critical issues facing rural poor communities in access to energy, water, sanitation, education and sustainable livelihood development. It is an exceptional example of decentralized management philosophy, capacity building from within to deliver what has become know globally as the “Barefoot Approach” to community development.

11427797_10153349217930903_5741614938980520567_n BC has been committed to empowering women as change agents, entrepreneurs and environmental stewards. Believing that placing women at the heart of the development process is the most reliable and effective way to pass on the wisdom, knowledge and skills that all rural poor communities already possess and which are so often undervalued and under utilized. BC engages in building confidence and competence in individuals and entire communities bringing about large-scale shifts in values and sustainable quality of life enhancement. BC is one of the few Indian organizations that has successfully exported its models for development across the Global South through a unique and visionary partnership with the Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs ITEC program. This partnership has resulted in true “Made in India” technology by and for the rural poor reaching 78 countries in the developing world.

Over the past few years this successful organization embarked to scale exponentially its operations in both depth and breadth. This launch of Bindi Solar is only one such example. The powerful yet smooth transformation seen so far is thanks to the amazing team work of Meagan Fallone, CEO together with Bunker and the awesome team of Barefoot College. BC is embracing the latest technologies and ways to work with it, embracing diversity and inclusion while maintaining the core values.

Disclaimer: source of the content of this article: press release by barefootcollege.org, photos from barefootcollege facebook page
the author is a board member of Barefoot College International as well as The Frey Charitable Foundation

Skoll World Forum 2016: Fierce Compassion


The 13th Skoll World Forum on social entrepreneurship took place on April 13-15. It was my 10th Skoll and it was one of my favourite forums so far. There are many sessions that can be seen on video. This year the theme was Fierce compassion and the topics most highlighted were “climate change” and “refugee crisis”.
Highly recommended videos to watch:
Al Gore: A Climate of Change: Fueling a new future
Alexander Betts: Refugees as a Resource
Profile of the 2016 Skoll Award Recipients:
-Mallika Dutt and Sonali Khan (Breakthrough)
-Bryan Stevenson (Equal Justice Initiative)
-Chuck Slaughter (Living Goods)
-Vivek Maru (Namati)
-Oren Yakobovich (Videre)
Sessions:
-Refugee Crisis: Roots and Remedies
-Getting Beyond Business as Usual: Paving the way for social progress

The musical performances during the Forum were just awesome and inspiring starting with Malek Jandali, Syrian-American Composer and Pianist, Juanes, and Sonita Alizadeth.

The most moving performance was of Sonita, rapper and child marriage activist. The two videos Sonita’s performance and the interview that followed are the must sees of this year’s Skoll.

I would like to thank Jeff Skoll, Sally Osberg, the whole Skoll team and the University of Oxford for hosting again such an inspiring and powerful rich content forum.

Change is coming- launch of B Lab UK

IMG_4340bcorp
On Sept 24 B Lab UK hosted the event “Change is coming” the official launch of 62 certified UK B Corps at Proud Galleries in Camden, London. The B Corp movement is gaining momentum and now there are over 1400 companies across 42 countries that are B Corp certified and a number that is growing by the day. In this event it was inspiring to hear the founders of Bridges Ventures, COOK, Fairphone, and Streetlife talk about their businesses and their road to become B Corps. It was also a great gathering to network with the B Corp global community as many leaders were present such as Bart Houlahan, (B Lab Co-Founder), Marcello Palazzi (B Lab Europe Co-founder), and Pedro Tarak (Co-founder of Sistema B, B Corp South America).
There was also a big announcement made by Bart that B Lab is establishing a Multinationals and Public Markets (MPM) Advisory Council as of January 2016 as a strong response for the growing number of multinationals and publicly listed companies that are interested in joining the B Corp movement. In a video message delivered by Paul Polman, Unilever CEO, he announced that Unilever will participate in the MPM Advisory Council and invited others to join them to achieve a collective vision of a global economy where all businesses work to create a more shared and durable prosperity for all. Yes, change is coming!

SOCAP 2014 : Igniting Vibrant Communities

15147307201_c4511ce78d_m15127293496_b1aafcd863_m15149890212_d7dc14440b_m
SOCAP14,which took place on Sept 2-5 in San Francisco brought together over 2500 people (bold entrepreneurs, investors, philanthropists, bankers, as well as government officials) committed or interested to increase social return and impact. The movement continues accelerating: the convergence of the three worlds, private/public/social through new partnerships and collaborations, impact investment and the sharing economy mainstreaming, and the power of social media empowering individuals as well as organizations. There is so much going on and it is great that anyone can see the videos posted on youtube.
Some of my favourite speeches and panels this year include:
1)How is social funding changing the role of financial gatekeepers, for good by Danae Ringelmann, co-founder of Indiegogo.
2)Impact Uncensored, A conversation with Leila Janah, Founder and CEO of Samasource
3)Fast Pitches by Gratitude Awards Finalists
4)Multilingual Leadership=Ignition by Cathy Clarke, Jed Emerson and Ben Thornley. Here multilingual means being able to communicate and be effective across the three sectors: public, private and social.
5)Innovations in Social Finance by Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation
and last but not least….
6)When Life Gives you Lemons, Change the World! by the youngest speaker at SOCAP ever, 10 year old Vivienne Harr, Chief Inspiration Officer of Make a Stand

Skoll World Forum 2014

logoThe 11th Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship took place on April 9-11. This year’s theme was Ambition: Fueling Opportunity, Scaling Progress. It is the 8th time that I had the opportunity to attend and it continues to be an amazing forum to learn, connect and share with people that are innovating new ways and creating partnerships to tackle and solve the world’s most pressing problems. This year’s Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship included organizations like B-Lab and Fundación Capital which are helping the convergence of the private sector with the social sector. Also a special Global Treasury award was given to Malala Yousafzai, the 16 year old Pakistan who survived the Taliban attack and has set up the Malala Fund dedicated to helping promote education for girls around the globe.

Turbulent month in the microfinance world: Death of BANEX and the successful IPO of SKS

This month we have seen the death of a large microfinance institution BANEX (formerly Findesa), once the leading Nicaraguan MFI was forced into liquidation by the Nicaraguan Banking Superintendant (NBS) after defaulting on its creditors. Findesa was founded in 2002 had a spectacular growth and a remarkable track record til early 2008. They were granted the banking licence in September 2008 and changed its name to BANEX. The portfolio quality of Nicaraguan MFIs deteriorated very quickly in the past 2 years due to 1)the negative impact of the global financial crisis especially seen by the decline of remittances from Nicaraguans working in the USA, and 2) the “no pay movement” in the north and central parts of the country. Furthermore, Banex was hit by its product mix with high exposure to small and medium enterprises and high concentration in livestock loans. According to the national newspaper, NBS stated that all 3000 depositors of Banex were paid back in full. For more information please read David Roodman’s excellent writeup and the short note from Microrate
The good news. The long awaited IPO of SKS Microfinance took place and the shares made an impressive debut on the Bombay and National Stock Exchange of India on Aug 16th. The IPO was over 13 times subscribed and the shares closed the first day with an 11% premium. The valuations are much higher than Compartamos and the topic of MFIs going public is actively debated as industry players are divided in their views.

Microfinance continues to grow despite the crisis

Last week as I updated the figures on 2 representative microfinance investment funds, 3 MFIs, and kiva, the online microlending site, I was very pleased and relieved to see that microfinance continues to attract funding despite the current crisis. Although it is a small sample these funds and entities were featured in my book “Kleiner Einsatz, grosse Wirking (small input, large impact)” that was published last April. As I plan to publish the English version soon I thought I shall update some figures. As to the assets managed by the two funds (Dexia Microcredit Fund managed by BlueOrchard Finance and responsAbility‘s Global Microfinance Fund) my text read “the assets of the two funds have ballooned between end of 2004 to Sept 2007. Dexia grew from USD 50 to 207mn and responsAbility’s fund from USD 8 mn to 159 mn” The corresponding figures for July 2009 are Dexia USD 502 mn and responsAbility USD 492 mn! The 3 MFI figures that I updated were: 1) Grameen Bank which had disbursed as of Sept 2007 loans totalling Taka 344 bn or USD 6.5bn. in June 2009, these figures were Taka 458 bn or USD 8.2 bn, 2) FINCA I updated the number of borrowers from 600,000 to 725,000, and 3) Banco Compartamos the figures for June 2007 – loan portfolio of Pesos 3.3 bn or USD 304 mn reaching 705,000 clients. The updated June 2009 figures are loan portfolio of Pesos 6.7 bn or USD 517 mn and reaching 1.3 mn clients. Lastly, Kiva, the online microlending site where anyone with an internet connection can support a microentrepreneur around the world starting with USD 25, continues to register phenomenal growth. In February 2008 Kiva had provided USD 21.5 mn worth of loans from 242,000 lenders. Only 18 months later as of August 2009 Kiva has distributed over USD 85.3 mn loans from 537,000 lenders.
It is a selected group of entities but the growth rates are amazing.

Muhammad Yunus memoir “Banker to the Poor” to be made into a movie!

This story came to our attention through microcapital.
According to the press release of Variety.com, “Banker to the Poor” the best selling book on microfinance and the autobiography of the Nobel Laurete Prof.Muhammad Yunus will be adapted into an English feature film. Marco Amenta, an Italian director and producer is planning to start shooting in 2010 the film in Bangladesh where Prof. Yunus founded Grameen Bank, the bank that provides small loans to poor women for income generating activities.

Responsible investing & giving- Xmas project 2007

As we approach the end of 2007 and the gift-giving season, we look back to see what were the highlights of the year, what have we learned and achieved. I think that one of the things that struck me the most this year was the increase in options available on how to get engaged, invest or donate using the web. It has never been so easy to make a difference or try, at least. For investments in microfinance one can go to Kiva or Microplace. For donations one can start searching with Global Giving. Any topic is easy with the help of Google and Wikipedia. So we launched a modest Xmas project. Instead of Xmas presents to our nieces/nephews and children of our friends we have given everyone a stipend for them to either donate or invest. They first have to research and find a cause or project that appeals to them, donate or invest. At least half of the amount has to be used for the project and the rest they can keep it for their own. Another condition was that they have to give a mini presentation in the new year on how they found the project and why they chose it. The children and youth are in Switzerland, Japan and Australia. I am thrilled to learn from their findings.

Intel launches ICT program for the poor in Bangladesh together with Grameen Solutions

Intel’s Chairman Craig Barette and Muhammad Yunus have signed an agreement on September 4th for the launch of Intel’s “World Ahead Program” in Bangladesh. Intel’s World Ahead Program is a global effort to provide people in developing countries with the benefits of better, faster access to information and communication technology(ICT). It aims to accelerate the access to ICT to the next billion users in the world and it integrates and extend Intel’s efforts to advance progress in 4 areas; accessibility, connectivity, education, and content. According to the press release, Intel and Grameen Solutions will jointly introduce several programs to make it easier for people across Bangladesh to access the vast resources of medical, educational and commercial knowledge on the Internet. They will also deploy a PC ownership program that will offer low cost PCs on easy monthly installments and will launch a project to set up telecenters across the country. The telecenters will enable employment opportunities for rural citizens to offer services such as Internet access, photocopying, printing and PC usage for e-government and e-commerce services. The telecenters will be financed through microloans. Grameen Solutions was founded by Muhammad Yunus to promote economic and social development through ICT and to create affordable technology solutions for ordinary people. The country-wide implementation of this program is also being launched with collaboration with the government of Bangladesh.