Today’s Fuel Explosion in Nairobi

September 12, 2011

I’ve got a special place in my heart for East Africa, having visited there three times and with investments in Pengo Loans and Think Impact, both with operations in Kenya. After visiting the Kibera slum in Nairobi in 2009 to see the work of Carolina for Kibera, I feel especially for those who are living day-to-day in the slums of Nairobi and other parts of the developing world.

Today in a Nairobi slum called Sinai a fuel pipeline starting leaking. Immediately hundreds of people gathered around, grabbing every container they could to capture the fuel. Soon thereafter, the pipeline caught fire and exploded. At least 100 people immediately burned to death in the explosion and ensuing house fires in the densely concentrated slums. Another 120 went to the hospital with severe burns.

Below is a news video of the story from the local Kenyan NTV. Take a look at the living conditions of these communities. Often without electricity, running water, and sewage. Yes, it’s true that 39% of the world survive on less than $2 per day (a per capita income of $730 per year), and yet so few people are aware of this. For those of us in the United States living on an average of $130 per day (the U.S. per capital income as of 2011 is $47,240), this type of existence is surely hard to fathom.

And here is another video from NTV showing some of the burn videos in the hospital (warning: graphic):

Here’s the NY Times article.

You’re Invited: A Metropolitan Safari for Rwanda at iContact

November 2, 2010


I wanted to invite Dare Mighty Things readers to a special event coming up at iContact. We are hosting a “Metropolitan Safari” on Monday November 8th at 6:30pm at our new offices in Morrisville.


We will have as guests two remarkable women from Rwanda who will share with us their perspective of the Rwandan genocide, how the country has turned their economy around through technology and entrepreneurship, and the role of women in rebuilding the country. We will also be giving the grand tour of our beautiful new space and offering rides on our new slide.


We will have African food, African music, and an open wine and beer bar.


Tickets can be purchased here. You can also RSVP on Facebook. You can use the discount code “ICONTACT” when you register if you wish. All proceeds from the evening will benefit The Akilah Institute for Women in Kigali, Rwanda. More information is in the invitation below. I hope you can come. Thanks for helping us spread the word!


You can also download a PDF invite for the event.


Sincerely,

Ryan


You’re invited to join us for a very special evening at iContact’s new offices in Morrisville, NC


What: iContact’s “Metropolitan Safari” Fundraiser for the Akilah Institute for Women Rwanda


When: Monday, November 8th, 2010 6:30pm to 8:30pm


Where: 5221 Paramount Parkway, 2nd floor, Morrisville, NC 27560


Purchase tickets here


(You Can Use Discount Code “ICONTACT”)

Join us November 8th and see iContact’s new offices in Morrisville for the first time while supporting a great cause.


We’ll be giving the grand tour of our brand new building on the Lenovo Campus that gives us room to grow to 550 employees and offering free rides on our slide.


We’ll start out with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the 2nd floor at 6:30pm then going upstairs for the Akilah presentation. I hope you will join us for this special evening.


Ticket Information


(Use Discount Code “ICONTACT”)

All proceeds from the evening will support the Akilah Scholarship Fund and empower young Rwandan women to become leaders in their communities.

About the Akilah Institute for Women

Akilah empowers young women to transform their lives by equipping them with the skills, knowledge, and confidence needed to become leaders and entrepreneurs in East Africa. Learn More | Make a Direct Contribution

Maximizing Social Return from The Giving Pledge

July 18, 2010

I originally wrote this post for the Social Entrepreneurship Section of Change.org. You can find the original Change.org post here or read below.

A Vision in a Time of Peril

It’s hard to see the big picture in times of turmoil. Let’s go back to Wednesday, March 4, 2009. That day, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, the richest individuals in America, wrote a letter to David Rockefeller, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. The letter suggested a gathering of their billionaire friends to discuss giving.

The letter was mailed in the backdrop of a tumultuous week. By that Friday March 6th, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached its lowest point in twelve years, free falling 52.9% from two years before in the good ‘ole days of 2007 prosperity.

March 6th, 2009 brings back vivid memories. I was visiting the White House with a group of young entrepreneurs with The Summit Series. The White House Office of Public Engagement had put together the session to discuss their plans for the Economic Recovery Act. As Jason Furman, the Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, spoke to our group, the market was in freefall.

While the media was anointing The Great Recession and debating whether it would become a depression, Gates and Buffet had the fortune and foresight, to bring together their friends for dinner in New York to discuss how to give back.

The Launch of The Giving Pledge

Out of this meeting in New York came an initiative called The Giving Pledge, “an effort to invite the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.”

So through The Giving Pledge Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffet are encouraging other billionaires to give at least 50% of their net worth away.

In fact, instead of the recommended 50%, Warren Buffett has pledged to contribute 99% of his net worth to charity within 10 years after his death, all to be used for immediate need and none for endowments. Laudable indeed. Buffet writes in his usual matter-of-fact style,

“The reaction of my family and me to our extraordinary good fortune is not guilt, but rather gratitude. Were we to use more than 1% of my claim checks on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced. In contrast, that remaining 99% can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others. That reality sets an obvious course for me and my family: Keep all we can conceivably need and distribute the rest to society, for its needs.”

How Much Money Are We Talking About?

Mr. Buffet will perhaps give around $50 billion to philanthropy by the time of his death. Through The Giving Pledge, he and Gates have the opportunity to leverage their influence and connections to multiply their giving many times over and set the example for other billionaires, who can no longer give away just 10% of what they have and feel good about themselves.

The total net worth of the Forbes 400 in 2009 was $1.27 Trillion. If Gates and Buffet convince 20% of these billionaires to give half of their net worth away, they’d be able to drive another $120B into philanthropy, doubling the amount of they themselves can personally give away.

So let’s say The Giving Pledge is successful and it generates another $120B in giving over the next twenty years, or about $6B per year for the next twenty years.

While an additional $6 billion per year can certainly make an impact, this amount pales in comparison to the $3.8 trillion proposed spending in the U.S. Federal Budget for 2011. It also pales in comparison to the $303B in total annual private giving by U.S. citizens.

The Goal: Sustainable Economic Prosperity

The two issues in our world today that are causing the greatest threat to a secure and stable human society with access to opportunity for all are extreme poverty and environmental sustainability. Most people don’t know that 39% of the human beings on this planet live on under $2 per day. If our goal is global stability, not to mention justice, this cannot be allowed in our world. And most of us by now get the global economic and natural disaster that will be caused if we keep increasing our annual consumption of goods without decreasing our carbon emissions.

As an entrepreneur and social entrepreneur, I believe that our mission, challenge, and opportunity as a generation is to create sustainable economic prosperity for all. We will never have a truly secure or stable world until we do. So how can this extra $6 billion per year be used to get the maximum return toward this goal of sustainable economic prosperity?

While humanitarian aid is absolutely necessary and moral, providing funds with this extra private capital for short-term gap filling needs caused by the symptoms of these issues won’t solve the issues themselves.

How Can This Money Make The Biggest Positive Impact?

So how can these funds best be used to generate the highest Social Return on Investment (SROI) and work toward sustainable economic prosperity for all?

The funds of these Giving Billionaires can either be given to address immediate need or invested to change much bigger systemic issues that are at the root cause of so much human suffering. While I do not know which will generate the highest return, I believe that by investing in changing global public policy (in a few select areas mentioned below) to reduce the incentive structures that are at the root cause of much suffering, lack of access to opportunity, and environmental damage these new Billionaire Givers will generate the highest SROI.

In order for this relatively small amount of additional capital to have the biggest positive impact, it must be leveraged. Philanthropic money can be leveraged by investing it in changing how other, larger, capital flows occur within our global system.

To effect real long term global change this $120B should be directed to:

1) Change U.S. domestic policy so we stop spending on the very expenditures that block access of the poorest countries to the market and creates need for more humanitarian aid and philanthropic giving in the first place (e.g. farm subsidies, trade tariffs, some military spending);

2) Influence a change in International Financial Reporting Standards and laws of nation-states so that companies can no longer off-balance sheet their negative environmental externalities;

3) As Nathaniel Whittemore has recommended, invest in social entrepreneurs who can leverage these dollars and markets (the largest capital flow of them all) to create sustainable change with dignity; and

4) Launch a campaign to encourage not just billionaires, but millionaires, to make a giving pledge and generate many trillions of additional dollars to invest in one through three.

Leverage Point 1: Invest in Domestic Policy Changes to Gain Social Return

Imagine the social good that could come from a concerted effort focused on lobbying to reduce the gargantuan $721B per year U.S. military budget (which as of 2008 was 48% of the world total military spending and larger than the next 45 countries combined) by 25% so that we could increase the salaries of every teacher in America by more than 50%.

There are 6.2 million elementary and secondary school teachers in the U.S. according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2000 Census. The average U.S. teacher salary was $51,009 according to American Federation of Teachers Survey and Analysis of Teacher Salary Trends 2007. So in total, the U.S. spends around $316 billion per year on teacher salaries. Hence a $180 billion re-allocation from defense to education would enable us to pay teachers 57% more.

Having this type of dollars and cents carrot might just enable Chancellors to negotiate out the single requirement of Teacher Unions that is the most damaging to our children’s education–the inability to fire a teacher who is not performing due to the tenure system, allowing the best teachers to be paid well above $80,000 per year.

Take a look at the below graph showing the allocation of 2009 U.S. Federal Taxes and you’ll see where our priorities seem to lie as a nation (of course noting that most funds for education come from State Taxes). A few billion dollars per year spent on influencing our Government to re-allocate this pie a bit more toward butter and a little less toward guns might just provide a huge return.


Source: Friends Committee on National Legislation Budget Chart for FY 2009

Leverage Point 2: Invest in Global Policy Changes to Gain Social Return

If these giving billionaires that join The Giving Pledge really wanted to get a large social return they would allocate dollars to change the public policies that drive the economic incentive structures that are the source causes of many of the issues.

One of the biggest problems in the world today is of course environmental sustainability. Six billion dollars per year, if the funds were focused, might just be enough to lobby the largest world governments to make a change to their accounting principles.

If companies across the world were required by law (that was enforced) to pay for the replacement of any environmental resource that they utilize such that each company had a net neutral impact on the environment, we’d remove much of the incentive structure that causes investors to seek out companies with the highest returns, which often are companies that unethically but legally have off-balance sheet environmental externalities that are simply passed on to all human beings.

Any philanthropist who can begin to create a tipping point for governments to stop accepting off-balance sheet negative environmental externalities that are not reported in GAAP or IFRS statements would enable the return on their investment to be leveraged many times over.

Change the economic incentive structure and you’ve changed the flow of trillions of dollars of private capital that billions of dollars of philanthropic capital simply cannot compete with.

Leverage Point 3: Create an Investment Fund for Triple-Bottom Line Entrepreneurs

As Nathaniel Whittemore suggested two weeks ago, some of the funds from The Giving Pledge should be directed to a Social Private Equity Fund. Nathaniel writes,

“What I can imagine is an institutional actor whose specialty is helping great social businesses with good revenues get even bigger while retaining their social and environmental missions. These types of firms would bring companies into their portfolio by acquiring some of the stock that had previously been held by investors and founders, in that way providing that liquidity that is missing from the current social finance system without compromising the social mission. This would create more incentives for early stage social investors, and provide social entrepreneurs more plausible returns that could increase the variety of the people thinking about social businesses.”

I agree with Nathaniel that late-stage capital for socially responsible businesses would be a help to provide liquidity, and thus returns, to the early stage investment funds already investing in triple-bottom line entrepreneurial companies.

I would add however, that any company that gets to $30M or $40M in EBITDA positive revenues, regardless of whether it has a core social mission or not, will be able to raise private equity and provide liquidity to shareholders. I don’t think the gap in the market is lack of funding for profitable at-scale social ventures.

The gap in the market is lack of funding and assistance for small-scale socially-responsible businesses that have the desire and dream to grow their impact and their revenues but don’t know how–both in the developed world and the developing world.

The biggest market gap I see is investment dollars in for-profit businesses in the developing world, where “microequity” investments of $5,000 to $50,000 along with some guidance and incubation can generate huge returns for a local entrepreneur who requires capital greater than a microfinance organization can provide but isn’t able to take on the $50,000 to $300,000 that organizations like Acumen Fund are able to invest.

And so, to maximize both financial return and social return for the Billionaire Givers, I would recommend not just a late-stage PE firm for social ventures, but also expanding capital investments in existing or new growth stage funds for socially responsible companies, particularly those in the developing world.

The second area of leverage I see within the world of private capital markets, is to invest in putting pressure on publicly-traded companies to implement strong CSR programs and actually live up to them. A few billion dollars spent buying mass media advertising to publicly encourage (read:shame) large MNCs so they live up to global CSR standards would be dollars well spent for social return.

Leverage Point 4: Invest in The Giving Pledge for Millionaires

While I applaud Gates and Buffet’s effort on The Giving Pledge, in order to enable this pledge to truly make a substantial impact, part of the funds should be directed to extend the effort beyond billionaires and create a new social norm where it is simply expected that anyone who makes way more than they need will contribute half of their net worth by the time they die to making the world a better place.

For the millionaires out there, it will just screw up your kids if you leave too much money to them. So why not ensure your legacy by committing now, publicly, to giving at least 50% away?

There are 10 million millionaires in the world, with a total net worth of $39 trillion according to the 2010 Merrill Lynch and Cap Gemini World Wealth Report. The average millionaire has $3.9 million.

Excluding the $1.3 trillion of the Forbes 400 from this $39 trillion, there is $37.7 trillion in assets among millionaires globally. What if there were a Millionaire Pledge?

If through a directed effort we can get 20% of global millionaires to commit to give half of their wealth, instead of an extra $120B for philanthropy, we’d have an extra $3.8 trillion. If we invest much of this $3.8 trillion in the three key leverage areas to fundamentally change our global economic and public policy system and use the rest to invest in filling short-term societal needs we can make a truly meaningful impact in the world.

Every multi-millionaire should commit to giving at least 90% of their wealth away by the time of their death. I made a commitment to do this in 2008 (in my book Zero to One Million) and will uphold this commitment. You can’t take money with you.

So who will take up this charge? And what do you think about these four areas of recommended investment?

Why Poverty?

November 20, 2009

As I sit on the 28th floor of a hotel in San Francisco I am angry, yet hopeful.

I wonder why in a world with as much wealth as we see, as much luxury that we experience, should 40% of the human species live on under $2 per day?

2.56 billion human beings, people just like you and I, live on under $2 per day. On average, 24,900 children under 5 die each and every day in the developing world, often from preventable diseases and starvation. 24,900 children under 5. Check out the sources below. This is absolutely unacceptable.

Why does no one talk about this?

Were you aware of this? Please comment…

-Ryan

——-Sources——-

1 – 2008 World Development Indicators: Poverty Data Supplement, World Bank

From p. 10: “…the number of people living on less than $2.00 a day has remained nearly constant at 2.5 billion. From Table 3: “People living on less than 2005 PPP $2.00 a day (millions), 2005 – 2.564″

2 – UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2009

From p. 121, Statistical Tables, Table 1 Basic Indicators, Summary Indicators, Developing Countries “Annual Number of Under 5 Deaths (Thousands), 2007 – 9109″ We arrived at 24,956 deaths of children under 5 per day by taking the 9,109,000 total deaths per year for children under 5 in developing countries and dividing by 365.

25 Facts on Global Poverty

August 1, 2009

25 Facts on Global Poverty

August 16, 2009 · Print This Article

One of the challenges I’ve faced as I’ve sought to learn all I can on global poverty over the past few years has been how challenging it is to find accurate, trusted statistics on the topic. I spent a few hours tonight beginning a compilation of stats on global poverty, which I’ve added as a new page on The Humanity Campaign web site.

What do you think about these facts? What can we do to end extreme poverty in our lifetime? Please feel free to comment at the bottom of the page.

Special Thanks:

Thank you to the site GlobalIssues.org for their work in collecting verifiable facts and statistics on major global issues. Their page “Poverty Facts & Stats” was of great help in compiling these statistics. Thank you also to the World Bank, UNICEF, UNICEF Cananda, and UNDP for vital reports neccessary for the compilation of these statistics. The United Nations report “The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009” was also particularly helpful.

A Collection of Sourced & Verifiable Facts on Global Poverty

To make it on this list a statistic must be from a trusted primary source with a clear “as of” date. All statistics are sourced and cited at the bottom of the page.

  1. As of 2008, 79.8% of humanity lives on less than $10 per day. (5.15 billon people) (1)
  2. As of 2008, 48.6% of humanity lives on less than $2.50 per day. (3.14 billion people) (1)
  3. As of 2008, 40.2% of humanity lives on less than $2 per day. (2.60 billion people) (1)
  4. As of 2008, 21.7% of humanity lives on less than $1.25 per day (1.40 billion people) (1)
  5. As of 2008, 13.6% of humanity lives on less than $1 per day. (880 million people) (1)
  6. As of 2008, the world’s richest 20% consume 76.6% of private consumption (1)
  7. As of 2008, the world’s richest 10% consume 59.9% of private consumption (1)
  8. As of 2009, 25,000 children under 5 years old die each day due to poverty (2)
  9. As of 2006, access to piped water into the household averages about 85% for the wealthiest 20% of the population, compared with 25% for the poorest 20%. (3)
  10. As of 2007, every year there are 350–500 million cases of malaria, with 1 million fatalities: Africa accounts for 90 percent of malarial deaths and African children account for over 80 percent of malaria victims worldwide. (4)
  11. As of 2007, 1.6 billion people — a quarter of humanity — live without electricity (5)
  12. As of 2007, the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (567 million people) is less than the wealth of the world’s 7 richest people combined. (6, 7, 8 )
  13. As of 2009, the poverty line in the USA for a single individual is drawn at $10,830 per annum or $29.67 per day. (9)
  14. As of 2006, 10.6 million children die every year from causes that are easily preventable – equal to 29,000 children every day (10)
  15. As of 2006, half of these deaths 29,000 daily deaths of children occur in just six countries – China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Pakistan (10)
  16. As of 2006, 2 million children die every year from pneumonia and other acute respiratory infections, making it the leading cause of death of children under five years of age (11)
  17. As of 2006, 1.6 million children die every year from Diarrhoeal disease, primarily from the resulting severe dehydration that can quickly result in the failure of vital organs in young children (11)
  18. As of 2006, 1.1 million children die every year in Africa from malaria, making it the largest cause of death for children under five in Africa. (11)
  19. As of 2006, 657,000 children under the age of 15 are infected with HIV every day, most through transmission of the virus from mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding (11)
  20. As of 2006, 500,000 children die every year from measles. (11)
  21. As of 2008, on the whole, people are healthier, wealthier, and live longer today than 30 years ago. If children were still dying at 1978 rates, there would have been 16.2 million dealths of children globally in 2006. In fact there were only 9.5 million such deaths. This difference of 6.7 million deaths is equivalent to 18,329 children’s lives being saved every day. (12)
  22. As of 2007, each year, more than 500,000 women die from treatable or preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth. (13)
  23. As of 2007, in sub-Saharan Africa, a woman’s risk of dying from complications from childbirth over the course of her lifetime is 1 in 16, compared to 1 in 3,800 in the developed world. (13)
  24. As of 2005, an estimated 15.2 million children had lost one or both parents to AIDS (14)
  25. In 2008, net disbursements of official development assistance (ODA) reached $119.8 billion. That is equivalent to 0.3 per cent of developed countries’ combined national income. (15)

Global Poverty Facts in Graphs

width=500

width=500

width=544

width=500

width=500

Global

Source: UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2009, p. 51

Global

Source: UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2009, p. 52

Sources:

  1. World Development Indicators 2008, World Bank, August 2008
  2. UNICEF State of the World’s Children, 2009
  3. 2006 United Nations Human Development Report, pp.6, 7, 35
  4. 2007 Human Development Report (HDR), United Nations Development Program, November 27, 2007, p.25.
  5. UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2007, p.44
  6. World Bank Key Development Data & Statistics, World Bank
  7. Luisa Kroll and Allison Fass, The World’s Richest People, Forbes
  8. World Bank’s list of Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (41 countries)
  9. www.hhs.gov“. The 2009 HHS Poverty Guidelines. http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/09poverty.shtml.
  10. UNICEF Canada 50 Year Progress Report 2006, Overview Sheet
  11. UNICEF Canada 50 Year Progress Report 2006
  12. World Health Organization, World Health Report 2008, p. 14
  13. UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2007, p.16
  14. UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2007, p.20
  15. UN Millennium Development Goals Report 2009, p. 48

The Great Challenge of Our Generation

February 1, 2009

Print This Article

I write as my roommates watch the sci-fi movie Anti-Body through the amazing new Xbox/Netflix partnership in a cold and icy Chapel Hill…

This weekend I had the opportunity to speak at StartingBloc’s Greater New York Institute for Social Innovation at Yale University in New Haven. I had the chance to speak after Tom Szaky, the 27 year old CEO of TerraCycle, who is good work on upcycling waste into usable products.

In attendance were 150 of the smartest, most ambitious, and most caring individuals I’ve met, all from age 19 to 30. 25% were undergrads, 25% were grad students, and 50% were young professionals from firms like Goldman, JP Morgan, Acumen, Ashoka, McKinsey. They were all social entrepreneurs or future social entrepreneurs. If you’re under 30 and interested in social responsibility you should apply for their future Institutes in New York, Boston, or London.

StartingBloc has now reached 1000 fellows who have gone through their program. I first met their founder, the 27 year-old ebullient Kenyan Jo Opot last May in New York. She and their Director of Programs Taryn Miller-Stevens are examples of committed, driven, caring world changers.

I challenged the group to over the next 50 years, work together to create a world in which…

  1. There is no killing of humans on a mass scale (genocide or warfare);
  2. All humans have access to the basic human needs of clean water, nutritious food, shelter, and primary education;
  3. We end preventable diseases like malaria, TB, and measles; and
  4. We are environmentally sustainable

This challenge was based on the key simple principle from the Gates Foundation that all lives have equal value. I first shared the great challenges we face in the world including the most difficult economic news we’ve seen in our lifetimes, then the great opportunities (subsequent post on these coming soon) to frame the debate.

So, can we actually end genocide, warfare, starvation, and preventable disease in our lifetimes?

And can we actually provide accessible clean water, food, shelter, and primary education to every human in our lifetimes?

Your thoughts?

Sustainable Capitalism and The Role of Aid vs. Trade in Prosperity Creation

October 23, 2008

/

I picked up a glossy investment prospectus from a firm called Legatum Group at up at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference today. A statement inside caught my eye. It stated:

“While aid can play an important role in alleviating immediate needs, its impact is naturally limited since it is neither sustainable nor scalable.” Separately, it states, “Quite distinct from the limited scope of charitable initiatives, businesses are both self-sustaining and scalable. Legatum directs its attention towards promoting entrepreneurship and business for all its social benefits within developing communities.”

I wanted to to take a chance to think more about the nuance of the right type of aid vs. the right type of trade and investment.

I feel presently that the answer to reducing poverty and increasing access to opportunity and prosperity in developing nations is three fold. The answer is A) for-profit private capital investment into sustainable companies that are socially responsible (or at least not socially irresponsible) AND B) direct “aid with standards” to community-based non-profit organizations run by local social entrepreneurs that are efficiently serving the needs of their communities AND C) efficiently run transparent government that creates and protects a system of law and property rights.

The question that should be asked cannot be as black and white of aid vs. trade. It’s not aid OR trade. It’s accountable aid AND sustainable trade AND efficient goverment. It’s a public/private/community partnership that does not succeed without participation from each sector. The questions that we as a society should be asking is how to make direct aid measurable and accountable AND how to make trade and investment sustainable AND how to make government efficient and transparent.

These methods of human and capital investment are on the spectrum of socially responsible venture philanthropy that builds human capital, infrastructure, and standards of living through education, medicine, nutrition, and technology that enables us to do more with less resources. At the end of the day–all private sector and public sector investment should come back to efficiently serving the needs and desires of the local population in a sustainable manner.

What the answer to prosperity creation seems not to be is the traditional bi-lateral government to government aid (read: loans that local populations will have to pay back to buy our stuff from our companies) nor traditional private capital investment in companies that are not socially responsible and end up hurting local environments. This of course is the very common and very key “aid vs. trade” question that so many like Sachs, Easterly, Collier, Stiglitz, Pralahad, and Gates have debated.

So what is the import of this debate and why is a tech CEO talking about it? The great war of ideas of the 19th and 20th Century between pure communism (total state control of the economic sector) and pure capitalism (total market control of of the economic sector) is giving way to an “end of history” state that could be simply called “Sustainable Capitalism.”

Sustainable Capitalism could be defined as a state in which competitive market economies that are based on environmental sustainability, democracy, transparency, communication technology, an educated populace, and a government with a limited but very important role in setting the rule of law, thrive while efficient social entrepreneurs with services that produce a public good are invested in with capital with measured returns and public servants integrate the same communication and ERP systems of the best-run companies in the world.

In this new Zakarian model of economic system, companies that destroy the environment, provide a negative net benefit through off-balance sheet externalities, or exploit their populations are video blogged and written about and pressured through market forces to reform or wither. This is perhaps somewhat idealist today–but it is the path I believe we are on. The fact that all companies must be sustainable soon enough for the system to scale and prosperity to be possible for all humans is clear. This trend will accelerate as we enter into the coming age of ubiquitous broadband and improved technology of the citizen blogger and as resources become less available. Governments, non-profits, and businesses will have a much higher level of accountability. This assumes of course people have incentives to work toward shared prosperity that can continue beyond the short-term, and I think that is a fair assumption and a vision shared by the global connected youth of today that I know.

What’s the common denominator for human invesment in either the public or private sector? Return on invested capital, as long as the definition of return is broadened to include social returns and the definition of cost is broadened to include environmental degradation. This is the Net Domestic Product (NDP) approach versus the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) approach.

So am I criticizing the Legatum brochure statement? No, not really–I just hope they share the belief–and I am sure they do–that prosperity in the developing world and continued sustainable improvement can only be possible if we find methods to enable entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, and public service entrepreneurs to transparently, efficiently, and sustainably make investments that maximize individual utility, return on investment, and the public good.

The effort toward sustainable capitalism and efficient government requires an improved ability to communicate, collaborate, and measure results. There’s a digital generation of entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs that gets this who will be the global leaders sooner than you might imagine.

Thoughts on Uganda

July 10, 2008

Print This Article

/

I was in Uganda from June 29-July 6. I was there to visit two non-profit organizations I have been involved with and contributed funds to in the past. It was my first visit to Africa, and definitely will not be my last.

Uganda really is a beautiful country. It has lots of challenges, yet lots of real opportunities. Seeing the extreme poverty that exists there first hand was difficult, yet instructive and very helpful to my understanding of the issue. 89% of Ugandans are currently subsistence farmers, so a great majority of the population lives in rural villages. It was very common to see families of 6 to 8 living in mud and stick one-room shacks with tin or grass roofs with dried dung floors with no running water, toilet, or electricity. The primary school we visited in Mityana in the West had neither windows nor doors and had dirt floors.

Even more difficult is the realization that the difficulty of the living conditions I saw in the rural areas pale in comparison to those in the refugee camps 300 miles to the north in Northern Uganda, centered around Gulu which was the center for the LRA activity, which has significantly calmed since the 90s. I was amazed at the extent to which the children and most adults living in these most difficult conditions maintain such a level of happiness and non-complaint.

It was a bit unnerving to see out front of every bank and gas station an armed security guard with a rifle or shotgun. The traffic is absolutely insane, enhanced by the pavement ending at times. At one point we were passing a car that was passing another truck, and got driven into the shoulder on the other side of the road. That type of experience was common. There are no medians and the highways are all two lanes. There are just three stop lights in Kampala and none elsewhere in the country.

The thousands of Boda Bodas (motorcycles) and Matatus (bus taxis) all over and the pedestrians crossing allover add to the confusion. And not to mention the cows, which are often in the road calmly walking across. Cows and goats tend to be tied up to the side of the roads so they can be used for mowing. Babies run around naked or just wearing shirts, often with no parents in sight, and kids from 3 to 12 wearing bright purple, yellow, green, or blue school uniforms can be seen walking along the side of the roads for miles around 8am and 5pm each day. The kids would often smile and yell out “Muzungu” which means white person when we drove by.

The current Museveni administration has been in power since 1986 and while it seems to be succeeding in providing some basic services, the roads are still very spotty and the electrical grids shut off a few hours per day outside Kampala. Many are calling for him to leave, not because he’s doing a horrible job but because he’s been in power 22 years. They seem to have a good freedom of speech there and an opposition newspaper. People we spoke to were not shy to offer their criticisms. Many people were speaking about Mugabe and his visit to the African Union last week and hoping for his ouster.

The economy is growing. The competition between CelTel, Warid, Uganda Telecom, and MTN for cell phone was intense. All the services sell Airtime Credits rather than monthly subscriptions since most Ugandans do not have a fixed postal address nor a credit card. These four companies advertise literally everywhere, including painting in exchange for compensation thousands and thousands of buildings and homes along the side of all the roads.

Uganda now has GPRS service which allowed me to access my Blackberry email without a problem most of the time even in very rural areas.

They also are deploying 3G service in the major cities. I saw a number of iPhones there among lawyers and professionals. The biggest employer in Uganda is interestingly Coca Cola. There are tremendous opportunities to invest in alternative energy production, especially in regards to biomass. Roey and I had a chance to visit Torero Cement, the largest cement factory in Uganda on Friday as he’s working with them to supply biomass so they can reduce their coal usage. The economy remains a cash economy. I did not find a single store or company that accepted credit cards outside of the airport.

We stayed with an investment banker who runs Daro Capital on Friday night in Kampala. He help a get together of a group of technology execs and professionals on Tuesday night, including a gentleman who is starting an SMS marketing service. I spoke to a number of people to get a sense of the ripeness for email marketing. Rough statistics, but it seems right now about 25pc of Ugandans have email addresses, though most check them via Internet Cafes. Broadband access is only available via Satellite at a cost of USD$1000 per month, so even the professional class and wealthy have only dial up or GPRS access. A T1 is being installed in Uganda in 2009 after which access will go substantially up.

We visited Entebbe and Kampala on Day 1, Mityana on Day 2, Mbale on Day 3 and 4, and Torrero on Day 5, and Mukono on Day 6. We also drove though Jinja and saw the source of the Nile river.

In Mityana, we visited Nourish International Students working at Naama Millennium School, a school funded by Dr. Christopher Kigongo, who now lives in Durham most of the year and was the former Director of Health Education for Uganda. In Mbale, we visited the Foundation for the Development of Needy Communities (FDNC) which has a vocational school and special needs school founded by Samuel Watulatsu, who presented at a Entrepreneur & Social Entrepreneur Meetup at our house in Chapel Hill last October.

On the way there I spent a day layover in Dubai. Dubai is one of the 7 emirates in the United Arab Emirates, so it’s the size of a county and has 6-7 cities in it, that have names like “Internet City, Media City, and Sports City.” The amount of construction and cranes there was immense. The Emirate boasts an indoor skiing area, and man-made islands in the shape of a palm tree and one in the share of the world. They have built the largest building in the world, the Burj Dubai, shown in picture 4. It is still being finished. When it is done next year it will be 166 floors and 2100 feet tall.

Bottom line, the experience has caused me to be even more dedicated toward spending the rest of my life working to increase access to education, healthcare, food, and technology and working toward ending warfare and ensuring sustainability. I look forward to going back again soon.

width=300width=300width=300width=300width=300width=300

Project Polaroid: Giving A Child Their First Picture | Dare Mighty Things

May 23, 2008

Print This Article

How do you get the attention of a large global company (Polaroid) and convince them to reverse a key strategic decision? Hopefully, like this…

The Birth of Project Polaroid

Nine months ago, in early January, I was hanging out in Charlotte with a friend of mine named Carly. Carly is just 20 and a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill. She is an entrepreneur and a social entrepreneur who runs a photography business, Carly Brantmeyer Photography. We were brainstorming. She wanted to do more than be a student and photographer. She wanted to use her talents and abilities to give back.

Carly had just returned from a Christmas family trip to Costa Rica. There, she took lots of beautiful digital photos. The children were eager to see the picture she just took of them on the back LCD display. She wanted to be able to give the children a copy of their photo, but couldn’t. There was no easy way.

She thought, “If I had a Polaroid camera with me I could give them a copy of the picture right now.”

She returned and while brainstorming at her house in January she came up with Project Polaroid. She would bring hundreds of Polaroid instant film with her to developing countries and give children a picture of themselves–something most of them would never seen before, yet alone owned.

Project Polaroid in Colombia

Carly had the opportunity to visit Colombia over the summer to try out Project Polaroid for the first time. She borrowed my Polaroid camera that was given to me as a gift in 2007 and bought some film. Here are some of the inspiring pictures she took. Take a look especially of the one of the mother, holding a picture of her beautiful young daughter for likely the first time:

width=500

/

/

width=500

width=500

/

Project Polaroid in Uganda

In July, I went to Uganda for a week. Carly had returned from Colombia so I got my camera back the night before. Here are some of the pictures I took.

width=500

/

width=370

width=414

I was able to take about 60 pictures there while in Uganda while in 4 different locations. Each time I noticed an interesting phenomenon. In one of the locations, I found myself in a small village near the Mirembe Kawomera Peace Coffee Cooperative. This place was about 30 minutes down a dirt road from Mbale, Uganda. I took my first photo of a child and gave it to her. She was very confused as to what it was. I told her to shake the picture. She then ran away, nervous it seemed.

Exactly, on the dot, 3 minutes later, a group of at least eight kids came running around the corner jumping up and down with excitement. The picture had developed! Each time I began taking photos with just one or two children. They would go away, wondering what I had gave them (most Ugandan children in villages speak little English), then come back with their whole crew just 2-3 minutes later when they realized what had been given to them. This run away, see the photo develop, and bring back more children would happen every time. Sometimes, as Carly has experienced, you get surrounded by as many as 40 or 50 children within minutes.

In the village outside of Mbale I also gave away some of the soccer jerseys and shorts that had been donated by Sports Endeavors of Hillsborough, NC, the owners of Soccer.com and Eurosport, through the U.S. Soccer Foundation Passback Program. The children created such a commotion that the villages lone police office came over hurriedly, thinking the children were stealing from the van.

Project Polaroid in Ghana

This fall semester, Carly is living and studying in Legon, Ghana at the University of Ghana, with a study abroad program from UNC. She has received a number of donations to help expand the program and has brought dozens of packs of film. Here are some of the photos she’s taken so far in Ghana:

/

width=500

/

Polaroid Will Stop Selling Polaroids in Early 2009

For background information, back in 2001, Polaroid Corporation, the makers of the famous Polaroid Cameras and instant film filed for bankruptcy. It’s assets ended up being purchased by a private investment firm, Petters Group Worldwide, in 2005.

Very unfortunately for Project Polaroid, Polaroid announced back on February 8 that it will be phasing out production of its instant film and that it will be completely off the shelves by early 2009. We were of course a bit saddened by this announcement. Polaroid will no longer sell Polaroids. It’s a travesty of sorts and will certainly make the project difficult to scale. Polaroid has said that it will be willing to license its instant film technology to another firm should another firm be interested. Here’s hoping Polaroid somehow comes across this story and they realize the immense value that Polaroid film has to their brand.

Carly writes on her detailed travel blog.

“The idea is simple. $1=1 Polaroid photo, for 1 kid, that will last a lifetime. So many children around the world have never even owned a single photo of themselves. What could be more precious of a memory than a photo of you/your family?”

How You Can Help

When she left, Carly raised money from her family and community. She was able to take a few dozen packs of film with her. A month into the trip, Carly is now running out of film. If you would like to contribute, the best way would be to mail her a pack of two of Polaroid 600 film. She would very much appreciate any help. She will be at the following address until December:

Carly Brantmeyer
University of Ghana
c/o International Programs Office
International Student Housing II
Room #127
Legon, Accra, Ghana

Update: If you’d prefer you can send them to Charlotte where Carly’s mom Lisa has offered to collect them and mail them in one package to Ghana. The address is: 14803 Davis Trace Drive, Charlotte, NC, 28227.

Overall, I am excited to see Project Polaroid in Ghana and look forward to her getting back in January and brainstorming how to scale the project to many more developing countries. Being in Uganda myself in July and seeing the impact owning a simple picture can have in the life of a child and the parents of that child has made a lasting impact on me. One of the children was 3 and didn’t have pants–just a long shirt. He lived in a thatch hut near a school Roey and I were speaking at with his brother, sister, and mother. He didn’t have pants but he was overjoyed with happiness to have the picture. Hopefully we can convince Polaroid to sponsor the project in the future and keep producing instant film.