Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Leila Janah, Founder and CEO, SamaSource

In 2008, Leila Janah created Samasource to address one of the root causes of poverty - no access to wage-earning work by the 4 billion people who live at the bottom of the pyramid. After working at the World Bank and seeing the flaws in large systems of aid to developing countries, Leila came up with a formula to link isolated women, youth and refugees to computer-based work needed by companies like Google and Linkedin. Samasource has provided jobs to close to 1,000 people who otherwise wouldn't have had access to work.

A more in-depth view into Leila's story and the founding of Samasource (worth the time) is here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dhruv Lakra, Founder and CEO, Mirakle Couriers

In 2009, Dhruv Lakra, received an Echoing Green Fellowship and created Mirakle Couriers in India. He applied his business sense (MBA from Oxford) with a social cause of employing people who are deaf to build a courier delivery service. Over the past two years, he has grown the business from one employee to a cadre of 64 deaf couriers and office workers who who make 40,000 shipments a month.

India, which expects to have half its population under age 29 by 2020, has a television feature on young changemakers. Watch here to learn more about Dhruv's business. Here's another video about this social enterprise.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Katy Payne, acoustic biologist

This month's feature is a bit different from the rest because Katy Payne has not started a new organization or business, and yet, I find her work so fascinating that I wanted to share it with you. Given all the chaos in the human world, it is comforting to remember there are more creatures out there. Katy Payne has spent several decades listening to whales and elephants. She is an acoustic biologist who is able to share with us amazing understandings about her discoveries that humpback whales compose ever-changing songs and elephants communicate across long distances by infrasound. We are treated to a window into those worlds in this interview she did with Krista Tippet. Her incites should also be a call to action to protect the habitats of these magnificent creatures.

Payne is the author of "Silent Thunder: In the Presence of Elephants" (1998) and "Elephants Calling" (1992), a children's book.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shai Agassi, Founder and CEO, A Better Place

This week, in my home state, our incoming Governor killed a long-developed regional high speed rail investment that would have helped get some travelers off of oil. So I'm looking for other signs of hope in a world that needs to transition off oil-based transportation. I found it when I heard Shai Agassi's interview with Charlie Rose - talking about how to run an entire country without oil and with no new science -- today and not 20 years from now. Riveting. This is a brilliant plan to make electric cars, ideally charged by renewable energy, affordable and convenient. The company is building the infrastructure across Israel, Denmark, Japan, and doing a pilot with taxis in the San Francisco Bay Area. This company is combining a smart business with a social mission to reduce climate change.
This is well worth your time to watch!

For a shorter interview, check out this Canadian broadcast.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ranjana Mitra, Founder of Share-IT

If you're reading this, you're using a computer or phone right now. What do you do with your old technology when it no longer works or you've upgraded? If you live in the U.S., which isn't a signatory to the international agreement that bans the shipment of toxic waste, your upgrade may lead to someone in a developing country getting exposed to toxins from the discarded computer. Many discarded computers end up in India, China and Africa where there are few regulations to protect people who dismantle them. In 2004, Ranjana Mitra founded Share-IT to keep used computers out of the waste stream by refurbishing and donating them to poor families. The group is based in Canada, and Ranjana has an interesting story about the link between Canada and U.S. in the shipment of this waste.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ryan Hreljac, Founder, Ryan's Well Foundation

We hear the cold facts - 1 billion people lack access to clean water - but either they fall on deaf ears or we have no idea what to do to help. Some advocate turning water into a commodity and profiting off of water scarcity and pollution, and others try to help develop local, affordable solutions, like building water wells. Ryan Hreljac heard about the need for clean water as a six year old at his Catholic School in rural Canada. Surrounded by clean and abundant fresh water, Ryan was determined to do something to make sure others also had clean water. He started by raising pocket change and raised enough money to build a well in Uganda by the age of seven. A decade later, this work has expanded through Ryan's Well Foundation to serve 700,000 people.
Here you can watch the old footage of him at six and then see the interview with him as a teenager.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Universities Teaching Social Entrepreneurship

I'm excited that my local university, Marquette University, was selected as one of three new universities added to Ashoka Foundation's 10 changemaker campuses that are teaching students about social entrepreneurship.

Campuses can be engines to promote the launching of new social innovators. I remember well the inspiration I received to start Midwest Environmental Advocates when I was a student at UC Berkeley and got to hear first hand stories from social changemakers in the Bay Area. Hearing from others about social entrepreneurship ripped the roof off my concept of the possible. And then the inventing can begin.

I hope to see these universities serving as incubators for our next generation of change makers who can take excellent ideas to scale to solve social problems.