Where do the products we buy come from and how do we know that their production doesn’t leave a wake of environmental damage or exploited workers? Even brands we think we trust are often linked to suppliers with questionable or downright abusive practices, as exemplified in the November factory fire in Bangladesh, where 112 workers were killed at a factory that supplied Walmart, Sears and even the US Marine Corps, though all claim they had no idea that apparel produced there was destined for their stores.
As we enter 2013, I’ve reached out to a handful of my knowledgeable colleagues to hear their version of a New Year’s resolution in response to this prompt: If you had a magic wand and there was one thing you could change in the ecosystem for social impact, what would it be?
Thank you for being a part of our community of social innovators committed to building a better world for future generations. Imagination, experiences, and relationships spark innovation all around us every day. May you stay inspired in 2013.
This time of year offers the opportunity to express our care for friends and family through shared traditions and the exchange of gifts. Shopping can spin into a frenzy of purchases, but with a bit of thought it’s a great opportunity to put our money where it can make a difference. Last year’s “Shop and Give for a Better World” column was well-received, so I’m making it an annual tradition.
In this quarter’s column, we look at a common gift-giving practice: giving away a present you don’t really want. “Regifting” is generally regarded as a taboo, but is this practice really as offensive to the original giver as people think? And is there a way to shift cultural norms so as to promote this sort of gift recycling and reduce the trashing of perfectly good items?
Digital textbooks, online lectures, innovative software, learning games, laptops, tablets, and smartphones have all made it possible to customize content, enhance instruction, and improve assessment in the educational arena. This convergence of possibilities could really revolutionize the way students learn. But the landscape is decentralized and complicated, and leveraging what’s possible to really move the field of education forward will not be easy.
Can we break the vicious cycle of youth incarceration that many communities in the US face? A resounding "ABSOLUTELY!" is the answer from Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY). During the summer, I learned an incredible amount about running a successful and impactful non-profit. I would like to share two insights that I took away.
A few weeks ago, as part of Acumen's work with a coffee social enterprise, I attended the Rwanda Cup of Excellence awards ceremony, the culmination of a two-week contest to identify Rwanda's best specialty coffee. With an auction for the winning coffees where prices will climb to more than 10 times the average export price, this was a huge day for Rwanda's smallholder coffee farmers. During the ceremony, one particularly inspiring story unfolded.
When Ami first tried launching her flower business, her father refused to loan her 50,000 rupees ($1,000), saying he would rather get her married. Priyanka was studying to be an entrepreneur, when she was forced to drop out as 4th year engineer student so that she could get married. And when Nayna* was launching her chocolate factory, her husband reminded her daily that it was a bad idea.
As discussed in my first blog post, this summer I have had the immense privilege of working at Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The hospital was forced to function massively over capacity, which is particularly impressive considering it sees over 130,000 patient in a normal year. While I was there the overflow of Dengue Fever cases forced us to set up beds in our hallways and turn classrooms into temporary wards.