December 04, 2013
 ■  Update on impact investing


Some recent great reads
1) Willy Foote's article on agricultural finance, How To Help 450 Million Poor Farmers--Without Destroying The Earth
2) WEF's report on mainstreaming impact investments: From the Margins to the Mainstream
3) Morgan Stanley's commitment to Investing with Impact platform, 5 year target 10bn USD of client assets

November was a month of conferences with TBLI, EVPA and Lugano Fund Forum. The first two are very much focused on impact but LFF is a more conventional Fund Forum for accredited investors and wealth managers in Ticino and Italy. It was therefore great to see that they incorporated a panel for Impact Investments where I had the opportunity to give a presentation introducing this topic "Managing Wealth for Impact and Profits"

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September 26, 2013
 ■  Bunker Roy receives the prestigious Clinton Global Citizen Award

kathrin 126 (2).JPG
Last night Bunker Roy, founder of Barefoot College was one of the 7 recipients of the prestigious Clinton Global Citizen Awards. . The awards were presented at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York,

..the honorees are chosen based on their innovative and effective approaches to making positive global change, and on their work’s potential for scalable growth and sustainability. They are leaders whose efforts transcend borders, change lives, and set an example for us all...
( source: Clinton Global Initiative)

Congratulations Bunker!

Posted by microfinance : 05:46 PM
September 09, 2013
 ■  What's new in Impact Investing

SOCAP 13 (Social Capital Markets, at the intersection of money and meaning) conference took place last week. I could not attend this year but it is great that the videos have already been made available on their website. A platform launched during this conference is ImpactSpace, an open data and resources platform. Their mission is to accelerate impact investing by making information available about the impact market (companies, investors, deals, people) to everyone and maintainable by anyone. It looks already a very helpful and promising resource.

Regarding recent articles and reports in this field that are highly recommended to read are;
1) "When can impact investing create real impact?" by Paul Brest and Kelly Born that appeared in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. The article and the responses by industry experts give a great insight on this topic.
2) "Making Impact Investible" by Max Martin of Impact Economy is a solid and rich working paper that provides a clear framework to understand the industry, all actors and also provides recommendations on how to scale up the industry.

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July 11, 2013
 ■  Changing mindsets... importing innovative models made by emerging and developing economies

Just back from the "Partnering for Global Impact" a two day forum by EBD Group in Lugano. Key areas covered were agriculture, education, healthcare housing, financial services and water.This forum facilitates outcomes in impact investing and philanthropy through one to one meetings alongside great keynote addresses (such as Sir Ronald Cohen) and panel discussions. It was a well organized event with very good content and great for networking.

Having attended numerous events on impact investment and philanthropy and having been fortunate to learn from outstanding social enterprises over the past 10 years I believe that one new topic should be added to these events.

These great forums such as Skoll World Forum, SOCAP, TBLI and PGI are playing a critical role in helping to solve the most serious problems we face through bringing together ideas, people, capital and promoting the more efficient use of resources. Find sustainable solutions which are working in emerging economies and scaling it. Funding and capacity building to be provided by impact investors, philanthropists and development finance institutions. It's great but maybe we could do even better.

One different angle should be added. What could WE in the developed world learn and import from the emerging market innovative models that have been successful? Who has developed or is developing low cost high quality services in education, financial services and healthcare? There are successful education models developed in Latin America that could be used for low income communities in the USA. Perhaps vocational school systems or microfranchising business models that could be useful in reducing youth unemployment in The European Union? The increasing applications of mobile technology for payment systems in Kenya? There is so much innovation happening in emerging economies and we should be pragmatic and maybe a bit humble and change our mindsets to search and learn from the best available solution.
I talked about this idea to some veterans in this field, Suzanne Biegel from Catalyst at Large and ClearlySo, Jed Emerson of ImpactAssets and Blended Value and to Hans Wahl of INSEAD and they all thought it made sense! This topic is worthwhile to dig in further and much more research is needed I hope it will be included in future forums.

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March 17, 2013
 ■  What's new in crowdfunding, crowdinvesting

Crowdfunding platforms are continuing to be launched and according to industry sources there are more than 500 platforms. Of the 4 types of crowdfunding sites (donation-based, reward-based, loan based and equity based) this year we are likely to see a surge of equity based crowdfunding sites (in particular in the USA) that would allow for investment in startups. This is due to the passage of the JOBS Act last year that includes the Crowdfund Act. A recent article titled Crowdfunding Clean Energy by David Bornstein gives an excellent insight on the recent trends in this area. In addition to Solar Mosaic described in this article there are several new green crowdfunding sites that look appealing. Impact Crowd, Abundance Generation, OnGreen

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February 11, 2013
 ■  Learning Creative Learning a live/online course of MIT Media Lab

I am taking part in this experimental course Learning Creative Learning offered by MIT Media Lab. It is awesome that nowadays one can learn from wherever one is (as long as one has internet connection) an amazing number of different courses and many of these are for free. It is the start of the democratization of education. The MOOC (massive open online courses) revolution is certainly changing the way we learn and interact with the teachers and classmates and the way schools and universities operate. For anyone interested in seeing what kind of courses one can apply checkout Coursera you will find over 300 courses online by top universities around the world.

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September 10, 2012
 ■  Update: Solar electrification of Kandwi, Zanzibar by Barefoot solar engineers

fatima_patima.JPG Last August I accompanied Bunker Roy of Barefoot College to Zanzibar where he was selecting grandmothers in the village of Kandwi who would be travelling to India to be trained as solar engineers.(see entry)
This project named "Women Empowerment Project" was supported by Giving Women. Just 12 months later, the women solar engineers are installing the solar panels and LED lights for 100 houses in Kandwi. It is remarkable to see the changes in these women too. It is impressive that the whole project cycle from visiting the village, selecting the grandmothers, getting the village approval, preparing them to go to Tilonia for training, the 6 month training, getting back and preparing the maintenance workshop, getting the solar equipment out of customs and solar electrifying the village houses all this has been achieved in 12 months!
Congratulations to Fatima, Patima and Mwashamba the three solar barefoot enginners, the villagers of Kandwi, Barefoot College and Giving Women for their great work! (video showing the installation, courtesy of Kathrin Legg)

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August 14, 2011
 ■  Barefoot Women Solar Engineers (Zanzibar)

IMG_3775.JPG Bunker Roy, founder and Director of Barefoot College visited Zanzibar from July 31 to Aug 3 to select the women (young grandmothers) in rural villages who would be trained to become solar engineers. I have been a fan and supporter of Barefoot College for some time especially after I visited them in Tilonia, India in early 2009. (visit report) Also as part of Socential, we have been promoting and funding solar electrification projects in Africa and Central America. IMG_3766.JPGI was very happy to be able to join Bunker in Zanzibar thanks to the invitation from my friend Meagan Carnahan who is a member of Giving Women, a Swiss based philanthropic organization and the leader of their Zanzibar Barefoot women solar engineers project. It was facinating to see Bunker at work. IMG_0065.JPGAt the end of his short stay we had achieved to 1) select 2 women from the village of Kandwi which was approved in a meeting with the entire village and in the presence of the Indian Consul General H.E. D.S. Singal (top foto second from right). These 2 women will be travelling in September to Tilonia for the 6 month training program. 2) Meagan wrote a press release of this event which was published in the section of Zanzibar in The Guardian, a major newspaper in Tanzania. 3)The selection of one woman in the village of Matemwe was also made in a village meeting and the second candidate will be approved by the village chief (These 2 ladies will be attending the 6 month training in March 2012)
Barefoot College has solar electrified over 1000 villages in 37 countires (28 countries in Africa) saving 4.6 million kerosene a year, reducing carbon emission of 7 million kg a year, lighting over 34,000 house and training 683 solar engineers.

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April 24, 2011
 ■  Skoll Forum 2011

A belated report on the Skoll Forum 2011. This year's main theme was "Large Scale Change" . Lots of content. I recommend the selection of superb blogs, and in highlights you can find all the sessions and plenaries as video or podcasts. It was nice to have been able to attend Skoll forum for the 5th time in a row as initially I planned to be in Japan teaching social entrepreneurship for the YES Japan Creating Drivers for Sustainability program (which was understandably cancelled due to the triple disaster). My takeaways: of course the optimistic, positive energy that always flows at Skoll Forums, networking, the interactive meetings at Oxford Jam and last but not least connecting with Shino (Japan Research Center), Ichi (Social Media) and Patrik Meier (Crisis Mapping, Ushahidi) to discuss and share information on how to support Japan in the wake of the recent triple disaster.

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March 26, 2011
 ■  Rebuild Japan! Social Entrepreneurship Fund launched


We (at Socential) have launched an initiative to help rebuild the lives of the Japanese people impacted by the triple catastrophe (earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant damage) that hit northeastern Japan on March 11. The fund aims to mobilize youth and social entrepreneurs to create initiatives/projects for the rebuilding of the infrastructure and to help the families and children impacted in northeastern Japan to rebuild their lives. The fund also aims to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit in Japan and to provide much needed hope by encouraging them to work and engage for their future. Socential is teaming up with trusted partners in Japan in the area of social entrepreneurship (Ashoka Japan) and sustainable development to select the initiatives. Please join us in our efforts by spreading the word, donating for this project and/or praying for Japan.
For more information go to Rebuild Japan! Social Entrepreneurship Fund.

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January 28, 2011
 ■  Impact investments...going mainstream in 2011

Looks like 2011 will be a breakthrough year for impact investments. A recent report by J.P. Morgan/Rockefeller Foundation and Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) defines impact investment as "investments intended to create positive impact beyond financial return". In other words, investments intended to; improve or provide access to energy, water, education, health, housing, and financial services for the poor, create jobs or mitigate climate change while also providing a financial return.
The term "impact investments" only surfaced less than 3 years ago and now thanks to the impressive efforts of the Rockefeller Foundation and GIIN it is emerging as an asset class. It is capturing the attention of investors in all segments from philanthropic foundations, high net worth individuals, financial institutions and governments as they all seek to make more efficient use of their capital, achieve better returns (social, environmental and financial) and help solve the world's social problems. Estimates on potential market size (investment capital) over the next 5 to 10 years range from USD 400bn to USD 1 trillion. Major efforts have been made also in developing standardized metrics with Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS) and more recently on ratings the Global Impact Investment Reporting Standards (GIIRS) is testing its rating methodology with 25 pioneer funds. Impact investments has been featured in conferences such as Skoll World Forum, Clinton Global Initiative and SOCAP last year and certainly this year it will take center stage.
Suggested readings
Impact Investments- An emerging asset class (J.P.Morgan, The Rockefeller Foundation, GIIN)
Impact Investing: A Framework for Policy Design and Analysis (Pacific Community Ventures, Harvard University)
Money for Good (Hope Consulting)
Investing for Social and Environmental Impact (Monitor Institute)
related blog What is impact investment?

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December 07, 2010
 ■  Book Tips: 3 awesome books I read in 2010


My favourite books this year may seem a bit biased geographically as all authors are living in California.

-Switch-How to change things when change is hard- by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
-The Dragonfly Effect -quick, effective and powerful ways to use social media to drive social change by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith
-the Mesh -why the future of business is sharing- by Lisa Gansky

I was very fortunate to have been able to attend the lectures of Chip Heath and Jennifer Aaker when I participated this summer in the Stanford GBS Executive Program in Social Entrepreneurship (EPSE). Both are remarkable lecturers and their books are fun, effective, full of amazing examples and inspiring. Switch is about how we can effect transformative changes by understanding the two competing systems; the rational mind and the emotional mind. The Dragonfly Effect is a how to guide on driving social change (by using social media). I picked up Lisa Gansky's book, the Mesh, while attending SOCAP10 in autumn. The Mesh explains one of the "big ideas" or one of the most important trends that is shaping new businesses logic providing products and services through sharing.
Happy reading!

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November 17, 2010
 ■  The microcredit crisis in Andra Pradesh, India

The microcredit crisis in India has been unfolding since mid October when the state of Andra Pradesh issued an ordinance to crackdown on microlenders. The ordinance required that all microlenders cease disbursing and collecting loans, register to the authorities and declare the interests charged. The state was concerned with the explosive growth of loans and around 50 suicides reports by rural men and women that were attributed to overindebtness. Although some of the MFIs have been able to resume their activities this kneejerk reaction by the state of Andra Pradesh has sent the industry into a crisis and is more likely to do harm than protect the poor borrowers. Shares of SKS Microfinance which had a successful IPO in August this year has been plunging and is currently less than half of its peak in September.The Indian microcredit industry is the largest in the world. The state of Andra Pradesh is the center of microcredit in India and home to India's largest MFIs such as SKS, Spandana, BASIX and Share Microfin as well as the government nurtured Self-Help Groups or SHGs. There has been excellent writeups on this subject and background which I can highly recommend.
- Indian Microfinance Crisis of 2010: Turf War or a Battle of Intentions? Intellecap White Paper
- Who is the Culprit? Accessing Finance in Andra Pradesh, CGAP
- India's Microfinance Crisis is a Battle to Monopolize the Poor, Vineet Rai, HBR
- Backgrounder on India's Microfinance Crisis, David Roodman

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October 18, 2010
 ■  SOCAP 2010 Mainstreaming Impact Investments

SOCAP 2010 took place in San Francisco on Oct 4-6. Over 1200 participants. Energetic, lively, sharing, innovative. Impact investments took center stage.Watch these amazing videos of Jacqueline Novogratz (Acumen Fund) Matt Flannery (Kiva) and many more The first SOCAP Europe will take place in Amsterdam May 31-June 2, 2011.

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September 20, 2010
 ■ extends it services and start (pilot) offering student microloans

student_loan_link.png, the world's first microlending website announced today its entry into the education field by offering a pilot for student microloans in 3 countries. So beginning today anyone can make a loan starting at USD 25 to students that are selected by Kiva's first 3 education field partners; Fundacion Paraguaya (Paraguay) IMPRO (Bolivia) and Ameen s.a.l. (Lebanon). an innovative social enterprise created a movement to connect people around the world through lending to alleviate poverty. In only 5 years, has provided over USD 160 mn in loans to 415,000 microentrepreneurs around the world and these loans (which are as little as USD 25) have come from close to half a million lenders spread in 206 countries!

"The pilot was born as a natural extension of Kiva's mission to connect people, through lending, to alleviate poverty. Kiva Student Microloans give recipients the opportunity to gain new knowledge and skills through higher education or vocational training. As a result, these individuals will be better positioned to find jobs, support their families and grow their communities -- and ultimately make a real difference in the relief of global poverty." (source: Kivablog)

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May 02, 2010
 ■  Reflections after 2010 Skoll World Forum

This year's title (theme) of the Skoll World Forum was "Catalysing Collaboration" and I believe it fully lived up to it. The program reflected and encouraged much more interaction than in previous years. No doubt the OxfordJam programmes running parallel to the forum and the fact that many of us got stranded due to the volcano eruption resulted in further discussions and collaboration. There are many videos and podcasts for anyone who would like to see or hear some sessions. One of the most inspiring speeches was from Caroline Casey delivered at the closing plenary. Blog discussions after the Forum (see socialedge ) are also very interesting to follow. There seems to be an amazing energy and momentum which is expanding the sphere of social entrepreneurship from a "small club of unreasonable people" to mainstream. Perhaps the definition of "social entrepreneur" might not be enough to accomodate the many people that are joining the movement. Call them changemakers (as Bill Drayton refers to them) or maybe a new word like social interpreneurship (see Peter Deitz's blog): what matters is that with more people trying to make a difference and with more interaction and collaboration there is renewed hope to tackle the enormous problems that society faces today.

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April 14, 2010
 ■  Socential: a Swiss start-up launches marketplace for social entrepreneurship

(Disclosure: the author is in the management team and in charge of social investment management at Socential)
Socential, a Swiss start-up has launched an online platform to connect social investors to social entrepreneurs projects aiming to empower system changing solutions to the world's social problems. The platform was launched as a pilot in January this year featuring Swiss social entrepreneur's projects and the latest release this April has featured projects from the internationally acclaimed social entrepreneur Bunker Roy from Barefoot College.

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February 28, 2010
 ■  Visit to Room to Read school in Laos


On February 8th we visited the offices of the Room to Read in Laos and the Napheui Primary School (90 minutes by car from Vientianne) which we supported to build with some help from our friends in Switzerland. Walking up towards the school building and hearing the children either reading out loud, responding to questions posed by the teachers, or just simply giggling made us smile. By the way, the school building has 6 rooms – 5 classrooms and a library. In Laos, primary school takes 5 years. P1090298small.jpg
Even though we knew that Room to Read works effectively together with the community and the local government, actually seeing how the stakeholders collaborate was a great experience. We were received like “dignitaries” by students, local government officials and senior representatives of the village.

P1090330small.jpg Some statistics that we got from the village chief’s presentation: The population of the village is 891, there are 140 families, 104 children attend “our” primary school. Officially, 57 girls, the rest boys. (p.s. it felt like there were quite a few more girls than boys at least on the day we visited) We are extremely happy that we could be part of such a wonderful project. See more pictures of the visit.

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November 10, 2009
 ■  Kiva's growing pains

Today's NY Times article on Kiva describes the recent online debate started a month ago by David Roodman's blog titled "Kiva Is Not Quite What It Seems" which criticized Kiva's misleading marketing on person-to-person microlending. Matt Flannery, Co-Founder of Kiva responded and reacted (by updating and improving on how Kiva explains itself to its user) to David's blog and to the NY Times article in an admirable way. As a supporter, promoter and lender to Kiva I believe that these online debates are healthy as it promotes transparency and makes innovative enterprises like Kiva an even stronger organization. Kiva has been a poster child for social entrepreneurship and in only 4 years have been able to create a platform that facilitates individuals (over 580,000) of all ages to participate in alleviating poverty with USD 25 (just recently crossed the USD 100 million mark). The phenomenal growth and its success also attracts attention. Constructive criticism is healthy, bad PR is harmful. I believe and trust that Kiva will emerge stronger from these controversies.

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October 12, 2009
 ■  What is Impact Investing?

“Impact investments aim to solve social or environmental challenges while generating financial profit. Impact investing includes investment that range from producing a return of principal capital to offering market-rate or even above-market financial returns. Although impact investing could be categorized as a type of “social responsible investing” (SRI) it contrasts with negative screening which focuses primarily on avoiding investments in “bad” or “harmful” companies -impact investors actively seek to place capital in businesses and funds that can harness the positive power of enterprise.” (source:based on GIIN)
I first heard this expression in spring 2008 at the Skoll Forum in Oxford described by Antony Bugg-Levine of the Rockefeller Foundation. (I thought I finally found the proper word to describe what I do, I am an impact investment advisor) A year later at the 2009 Skoll Forum, the Monitor Institute presented an excellent report titled Investing for Social and Environmental IMPACT and also A. Bugg-Levine announced that the Global Impact Investment Network (GIIN) was being formed. In Sept at the SOCAP 2009 in San Francisco one could confirm that “impact investing” had become the widely accepted expression by the rapidly growing social capital investment industry. On Sept 25th 2009, GIIN was officially launched and announced its 25 founding members of the GIIN Investor’s Council at the Clinton Global Initiative. A recent article in the Economist also profiles impact investing.
Over the past few years many new expressions have been created to describe investing for social and environmental impact and financial return. These include double or triple bottom line investing, blended value investing and BOP investing. Needless to say microfinance investments is one of the leading and successful examples of this type of investment. All these expressions are valid in their own right; however, it confuses the investors and makes it difficult to build the market mechanisms for this nascent industry to efficiently grow. It is great that we now have a clear terminology and definition and an institution such as GIIN which is dedicated to increasing the effectiveness of impact investing. Other great initiatives in this area include The Global Social Investment Exchange (GSIX) and Nexii, the electronic transactions and communication platform for the social and environmental markets.

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August 27, 2009
 ■  A MUST READ- The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz

Jacqueline Novogratz is founder and CEO of Acumen Fund a very successful and fast growing nonprofit venture capital firm for the poor that invests in sustainable enterprises bringing healthcare, safe water, alternative energy, and housing to low income people in the developing world. She founded Acumen Fund in 2001 and by the end of 2008 this firm had approved more than $40 million on investments in 40 enterprises serving the poor, creating through these enterprises 23,000 jobs providing basic services like water and life saving malaria bed nets to millions of low income people around the world. Her book The Blue Sweater -Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World-is an inspiring memoir of a woman who left a career in international banking to spend her life on a quest to understand global poverty and find powerful new ways of tackling it. Many important lessons can be learned just by following her heartbreaking and hilarious stories of starting a microfinance institution and a bakery in Rwanda. Also the book is packed with examples that teach us humility and that good intentions alone are not enough as described through some failed programs of traditional charity that have left the poor people in the same or worse conditions. One also learns about the Rwandan genocide through the stories of the survivors that Novogratz had worked with. The book is inspiring, educational, entertaining and a must read for everyone and especially for those who aspire to make a difference.

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July 13, 2009
 ■  Solar-aid, fighting climate change and global poverty

SolarAid is an innovative enterprise that aims to combat two of the major threats that humanity faces today; climate change and global poverty. They do so by providing clean renewable energy to the poorest people in the world. According to SolarAid about 2 billion people have no access to electricity-they rely on burning kerosene and wood which are highly toxic and expensive. SolarAid aims to replace these carbon-emitting products with solar power which is more economical and environmental friendly. Their projects include 1) Sunnymoney Micro-franchising (training microentrepreneurs in Kenya to assemble/repair and sell solar products that would reduce their dependency on harmful and expensive kerosene. 2) Solar powered water pumps- this project will test a new solar powered water pump, that will allow families to access clean water for drinking, washing and irrigation 3) electrifying Malawi communities with solar energy.
Although SolarAid is a relatively new venture it is worth keeping an eye on as they are in one of the most interesting areas tackling both poverty and renewable energy.

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June 06, 2009
 ■  Framework for a better future: lecture by Muhammad Yunus

Prof. Yunus, Nobel Laurete and founder of Grameen Bank gave an inspiring lecture titled "A Framework for a better future: the promise of social business" on May 29th at the British Council. He continues to strongly promote the creation of social businesses as these can address and solve the problems of poverty, health care and environment. Prof. Yunus gave examples of social businesses he has been creating in Bangladesh. In addition to the well know Grameen- Danone (joint venture manufacturing affordable yoghurt full of micronutrients for children in Bangladesh) he mentioned Grameen-Veolia (Veolia is a French water company) creating small water treatment plants and BASF-Grameen which will be providing treated mosquito nets at very little cost. He also mentioned the eye hospitals and a healthcare program to create a nursing college as a social business. In the area of environment Grameen Shakti has been providing affordable solar home systems in Bangladesh for the poor.
Prof. Yunus call for social business is very timely as the current financial crisis is forcing us to think how can we improve or rebuild the financial system so that it is an inclusive system that would include the majority of the people. You can see the transcript and videos (youtube) of the lecture.

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April 01, 2009
 ■  Skoll Forum 2009

The 6th Skoll Forum, a gathering of leading social entrepreneurs took place in Oxford on March 25-27th. Prominent figures of the social, corporate, policy, academic area engaged for 3 days in discussions and debates to accelerate, innovate and scale solutions for the world most pressing issues. This year the mood was slightly less euphoric due to the current crisis but one could feel an even stronger and powerful level of energy in the air as social entrepreneurs are becoming even more important players, in Jeff Skoll words, they are likely to come out of this crisis not as survivors but as leaders. He pointed out that social entrepreneurs are masters in leveraging; in producing results with limited resources, they have the abilitiy to do more with less, in choosing which assets can be most efficiently used to meet the objectives, also they maximize resources by collaborating. He could not have expressed it better. Many sessions can be watched in videos and also many blogs are available of the event. This year there were 9 Skoll Awardees. I was especially delighted to see Jordan Kassalow of VisionSpring, formerly Scojo who we have covered in this journal and in my recent book being one of them.

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February 13, 2009
 ■  A visit to Barefoot College- Tilonia, India

Barefoot College (registered as the Social Work and Research Center) was founded by Bunker Roy in 1971 in Tilonia, a small village 350km southwest of Dehli, India. The college follows the lifestyle of Ghandi and it is built by the poor, for the poor and managed by the poor. The college empowers the rural poor by assisting them to develop their capacities and skills so they can serve their own communities better which enhance their self confidence and self reliance. The college trains rural people who are illiterate or semiliterate to become barefoot educators, doctors, teachers, water engineers, solar engineers, architects, designers, hand pump mechanics and accountants to serve their communities while generating income. The college runs pre-schools and night schools that are taught by barefoot teachers. They have also been replicating its approach not only throughout India where 20 colleges have been established in 13 states but also around the world! Pictures of the visit.

Mr. Laxman Singh who has been working with the college for 20 years showed us around. In the older part of the campus where the activities were initiated in 1972, we visited the ladies assembling solar cooker stoves, children and women practicing in the internet learning room, the crafts center, and the living and training facilities for barefoot solar engineers. There is a 6-month training program for overseas rural women. Although it was Sunday morning we saw ladies from Malawi, Uganda, Ethiopia assembling solar lamps. These ladies go back to their respective countries after 6 months to electrify their villages. The new large campus that incorporates a hospital, administrative offices, meeting facilities, and the crafts shop was designed and built entirely by barefoot architects from 1986 and it was completed in 1989. We met Bhanwar Jat an illiterate farmer from Tilonia who was overseeing this whole project. Barefoot College is fully solar-electrified and all the roofs of the buildings in the campus are connected to collect rainwater in a huge 400,000- liter underground tank. This roof top rainwater harvesting system is a representative case of applying the traditional knowhow (as rural people have been harvesting rain water for centuries) and developing it as a viable and low cost way to provide drinking water and sanitation to rural communities.

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January 01, 2009
 ■  A great book to start 2009: Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman

hot_flat_and_crowded.jpgHappy New Year!
Hot, Flat and Crowded-Why the world needs a green revolution-and how we can renew our global future- by Thomas L. Friedman is an extremely educational and simultaneously an entertaining and engaging book. He takes a provocative look at two of the most serious challenges we face today: global environmental crisis and America's loss of focus and purpose since 9/11. He explains where we stand now, how these two challenges are linked and proposes how we can restore the world and revive America at the same time. Friedman explains in relatively simple language the crisis we face due to the convergence of global warming (HOT), the explosive growth of the middle-class and the leveling playing field thanks to technology (FLAT) and the rapidly increasing population-forecasted by the UN to grow from the current 6.7bn to 9.2bn in 2050- (CROWDED). He advocates that it will soon be too late to fix things unless there is a global effort to replace our inefficient energy practices with a strategy for clean energy, energy efficiency and conservation- i.e. Green Revolution. A timely contribution that raises the awareness on the critical environmental issues and the urgency to act. Highly recommended.

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October 17, 2008
 ■  Safia Minney and People Tree

Last week while I was in Japan I picked up a book written by Safia Minney, a pioneer in fashionable and ecological fair trade. The book seems to be only available in Japanese but there is plenty of information on the web on Safia and People Tree, the fair trade company/brand she founded in 1995. People Tree (PT)works with more than 60 fashion and handicraft producers in 16 countries including India, Bangladesh, Peru and Kenya providing design and technical assistance based on traditional skills. PT sells their products through catalogue, internet, and also through 400 shops around Japan and 100 in Europe. Safia is an inpiring social entrepreneur that has been recognized by various organizations including the Schwab Foundation of Social Entrepreneurship where she was selected in 2004 as one of the world's "Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs". She has not only raised consumer awareness of poverty alleviation, ecology and fair trade but also has built a business of fashionable and ecological fair traded goods. PT's sales have surpassed 7.5 mn USD for 2006. Another remarkable social business, a win-win example.
Her blog is highly recommended and there is also a YouTube clip where Safia's presents People Tree in her own words, a presentation that she delivered in London in Sept 2008.

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October 16, 2008
 ■  SoCap2008 -Social capital markets conference

SoCap2008 , a conference designed to bring together the entrepreneurs who want to change the world and the capital that wants to make it happen took place this week Oct 13-15 in San Francisco. Unfortunately I could not attend this year but it is possible to follow some of the inspiring discussions through the many blogs available. Especially the team of nextbillion did a wonderful job covering the conference.

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September 15, 2008
 ■  Hapinoy Stores: a promising microfranchise (microventure) from the Philippines

Hapinoy envisions to become the largest chain store (franchise) of small convenience stores (known as sari sari stores or variety stores in the Philippines). Their aim is to empower microentrepreneurs and help them grow their business. There are roughly 700,000 sari-sari stores in the Philippines and the idea is to convert some of these stores into Hapinoy branded stores. The microentrepreneurs who join this franchise will have access to microfinance (business loans) as well as training for standarized operating systems. Another benefit would be the opportunity to increase sales through new businesses and services brought in by Hapinoy through partnerships. Hapinoy works closely with MFIs (CARD-MRI, TSKI, Kasagana-ka, LMPC) and also partners with manufacturers and service providers (Nestle, Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive, Smart Communications etc).
Hapinoy is the first venture by MicroVentures Inc, a social business enterprise founded by Philippine leaders from the social development sector and the business sector. MicroVentures seeks for positive change in the Philippines through empowering microentrepreneurs and pushing the social business enterprise agenda believing that making profit and creating positive change can go hand in hand.
Hapinoy is a promising venture that one should keep an eye on. I learned about Hapinoy as I met Markus Dietrich who will be working for Hapinoy as a consultant based in Manila for one year starting this October.

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August 14, 2008
 ■  Citi and Ashoka's Changemaker launch a global competition "Seeking Financial Solutions for All"

Ashoka's Changemakers and Citi have launched a competition titled " Banking on Social Change- Seeking Financial Solutions for All" to invite entrepreneurs from around the world to find and create innovative projects that will enable everyone to have access to financial services. Entries are accepted until October 1st.
Ashoka is a leading innovator for social change as it finds, fosters and connects the world's leading social entrepreneurs-men and women with system changing solutions for the world’s most urgent social problems. Changemakers, an initiative by Ashoka, has been building the first online "open source" community that co-creates and implements the best solutions for social problems through collaborative competitions. Changemakers hosts competitions on a wide spectrum of social problems where innovative solutions are desperately needed. The current competition was launched in mid-July and in the first 4 weeks 34 entries from 11 countries have been submitted. Anyone can view the entries, enter a discussion or nominate a project. If you would like to showcase your innovation, share your insights or simply learn about solutions go to Changemakers.

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June 04, 2008
 ■  BlueOrchard and Morgan Stanley's BOLD2 elected as FT's "Sustainable Deal of the Year Award"

from the press release: BlueOrchard Finance SA

The 2007 BlueOrchard Loan for Development, BOLD 2, was elected “Sustainable Deal of the Year” on June 3, 2008, at the FT Sustainable Banking Awards Ceremony hosted by the Financial Times and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group. The BOLD 2 transaction is a landmark deal that has helped to broaden microfinance as an asset class for mainstream investors, while simultaneously providing credit to tens of thousands of individual borrowers at more favourable terms.

BlueOrchard Finance S.A. of Geneva, Switzerland, and Morgan Stanley launched BOLD 2 at the end of April 2007. BOLD 2 is a Collateralised Loan Obligation (CLO) of unsecured loans amounting to USD 110.2 million, of which the equivalent to USD 106.7 million were lent to 21 microfinance institutions based in 11 emerging countries (Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Peru, Russia).

These funds were on-lent by the microfinance institutions (MFIs) to approximately 70,000 low-income people - over half of them women - for entrepreneurial activities.

Congratulations to both BlueOrchard and Morgan Stanley for mainstreaming microfinance and increasing the outreach of loans to the poor.

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May 03, 2008
 ■  Visit to Aravind Eye Hospital in Pondicherry, India

naoko.jpgOn April 16th, I visited Aravind Eye Hospital in Pondicherry one of the 5 eye hospitals of Aravind Eye Care Systems (AECS). AECS was founded in 1976 by the late Dr. Venkataswamy (Dr. V) with the mission to eliminate needless blindness by providing compassionate and high quality eye care.AECS today is not only the world largest eye care facility but the world leader in eye care delivery. It encompasses 5 hospitals, a manufacturing center for ophthalmic products (Aurolab), an international research foundation (Aravind Medical Research Foundation) and a resource and training center (LAICO). During the 12 month period to March 2007 AECS treated 2.3 million outpatients and performed 270,444 surgeries. AECS is a profitable institutions although only 40% of the patients pay between US$ 50-300 for catarat surgeries while 60% are non-paying patients.
I was taking part on Unltd Learning Journey 2008 visiting social entrepreneurs in Southern India and although this was not part of the official program it was great that I could visit one of the institutions that I respect so much and have featured in my new book (see entry below). Renjith who is a manager for out-patients organized an efficient visit so that we could have an overview of how patients (both paying and non-paying patients) were examined and treated. We also had a chance to talk to Dr. Ravindran (picture above), the Chief Medical Officer about Aravind expansion plans. Aravind is busy expanding and replicating its model due to the many inquiries and requests from many places both in India and abroad. Yunus Muhammad is opening this month the first Grameen Eye Hospital in Bangladesh modeled after the Aravind Eye Hospital.

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April 02, 2008
 ■  New book: Kleiner Einsatz Grosse Wirkung (Beyond Microfinance: The Movement of Making the World a Better Place) by Naoko Felder

Fairbournejacket.jpgThis book introduces the new innovative social/business models that are making the world a better place and portrays the inspiring people behind them.
Starting with an update on microfinance, it covers other innovative market-oriented models such as base of the pyramid (BOP) businesses, social enterprises and microfranchises. These models together with microfinance are improving the lives of the 4 billion people living at the BOP. The last section covers in detail a remarkable example in this area, Scojo Foundation. Scojo is developing the market for affordable reading glasses at the BOP through microfranchising.The book provides the author's insights on 1) how the business (for-profit) and social (non-profit) worlds have been converging, setting the stage for these new models to emerge, 2) how these models, the people behind them, and the advent of Web 2.0, are creating a strong and positive movement towards a more responsible, sustainable and kinder world and 3) how all of us could make a difference.The book has been published in German language by rueffer and rub with the title >Kleiner Einsatz Grosse Wirkung. (Small input, big impact - thus,the red chilis of the cover) This book illustrates a giga trend, the powerful movement of making the world a better place.

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March 31, 2008
 ■  2008 Skoll Forum Highlights

The 5th Skoll World Forum for Social Entrepreneurship took place last week in Oxford. This powerful, inspiring forum led by Jeff Skoll and Sally Osberg celebrates and connects social entrepreneurs to the world and is making "social entrepreneurship" known to governments as well as businesses. This year's highlights were the speeches of Lord Anthony Giddens (climate change: opening plenary) former President Jimmy Carter (keynote: Skoll Awards Ceremony) and Paul Farmer and Al Gore (both in the closing plenary). There were 11 Skoll Awards given out this year and Kiva (Matt Flannery and Permal Shah) was one of them. This was the second year in the row that I attended Skoll Forum and it is an awesome experience to be 3 days in a place where you see over 700 people trying to make a world a better place. One of the ventures that I was very impressed about is E+Co which empowers local enterprises in developing countries by providing business services and financing so that these enterprises can deliver clean and affordable energy to households, businesses and communities. There are several sessions that are covered by video and are all highly recommended.

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March 12, 2008
 ■  Goldman Sachs to invest in business/management education of 10,000 women

Goldman Sachs launched last week 10,000 WOMEN, an amazing initiative that will deliver business and management education to 10,000 underserved women predominantly in developing and emerging markets. Goldman Sachs will commit $100 million over the next 5 years (in addition to the time and expertise that the GS people will be dedicating on mentoring) to this initiative supporting partnerships between universities in the U.S. and Europe and business schools in emerging and developing economies. The initial partnerships are working on pragmatic, flexible and short term programs resulting in business and management certificates. Brown,Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge, University of Michigan, and Wharton have already initiated academic partnerships with business schools in Africa and the Middle East for this program.

The initiative has two goals: increasing the number of underserved women receiving a business/management education and improving the quality and capacity of business/management education around the world. Expanding the entrepreneurial talent and managerial pool in developing and emerging economies -especially among women- is one of the most important means to reducing enequality and ensuring more shared economic growth. (Executive Summary)
It is a remarkable initiative addressing effectively one of the most difficult obstacles for sustainable economic growth. The initiative will provide many microentrepreneurs with the much needed business/management skills that would enable them to build and expand their businesses and thus, contribute significantly to the economic growth of their countries.
10,000 Women Fact Sheet
Press release

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February 29, 2008
 ■  Book:Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism by Yunus Muhammad

Creating a World Without PovertyMuhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Price winner, in his continuing fight to make poverty history promotes a new type of enterprise which has as its objective to make a difference. These social business enterprises will be self sustainable, in his words “no loss, no dividend enterprises”. He refers to two types of such enterprises one having investors like the latest joint venture between Grameen and Danone, an enterprise providing fortified yoghurt to malnourished children. Investors will get their capital back, but, profits will be injected back to the company to continue to achieve its objective. The second type of social business enterprise is a for-profit model but owned by the poor such as Grameen Bank.This book goes in depth explaining his "Next Big Idea" social businesses and also present some ideas on how corporations and individuals can take part in achieving a "world without poverty". It is inspirational and of course uplifting. Highly recommended. Past related entry on this topic, "Muhammad Yunus promotes social businesses"

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January 27, 2008
 ■  Bill Gates Calls for "Creative Capitalism"

On January 24th at the WEF in Davos, Bill Gates made a call on "creative capitalism" a new system that "would have a twin mission: making profits and also improving lives for those who don't fully benefit from market forces." He pointed out that "To make the system sustainable, we need to use profit incentives whenever we can. At the same time, profits are not always possible when business tries to serve the very poor. In such cases there needs to be another market incentive- and that incentive is recognition... In markets where profits are not possible, recognition is a proxy; where profits are possible, recognition is an added incentive.The challenge is to design a system where market incentives including profits and recognition, drive the change" He cited examples like Bono's RED Campaign which has generated in 18 months $50mn for the Global Fund to Fitght AIDS TB and Malaria, a Dutch company which holds the rights to a cholera vaccine that retains the rights in the developed world but shares those rights with manufacturers in the developing world, and a new law in the USA whereby drug companies that develop a new treatment for a neglected disease like malaria or TB can get a priority review from the FDA for another product they have made. He called on businesses, governments and the non-profit world on to take up on projects that works both to generate profit and solve the world's inequities.
This is a great call on what is also referred as BOP businesses and "double or triple bottom line businesses" and the work done by many social entrepreneurs. The new name is good and easy to understand. The best part is the potential impact of this call as it comes from one of the most powerful business leaders and one of the most influential philanthropist of today. The webcast of this speech is available from the WEF site.

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January 19, 2008
 ■  Topics for 2008: Mobile Banking at the BOP

An exciting area of growth is mobile banking as it is accelerating the outreach of financial services at the BOP. The increasing use and diffusion rate of mobile telephony in developing countries is creating low cost alternatives for people to make deposits, remittances and payments. Smart Money and Globe’s G-Cash in the Philippines, Wizzit in South Africa and M-Pesa in Kenya are some of the innovative mobile transaction systems. Africa has witnessed a spectacular growth in mobile phone subscriptions from 15.3mn in 2000 to 198mn in 2006. The penetration rate in this period soared from 1.97% in 2000 to 21.48% in 2006! (Penetration rate of fixed lines in the same period went from 2.48% to 3.09%). CGAP is covering this area with a slightly broader scope. They have published very interesting notes on “branchless banking” which they define as “the delivery of financial services outside conventional bank branches using information and communications technologies and non-bank retail agents (merchants, supermarkets, post offices)”. The notes published so far cover India, Kenya and Pakistan. Mobile banking/branchless banking is a hot topic for 2008.

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