Dr. Paul Polak, 85, is working with the zeal and enthusiasm of a freshly-minted college graduate, but he combines his passion with decades of experience to create outcomes at scale. Polak’s first success was in delivering treadle pumps to farmers in India. Tens of millions of people have used the devices in the 30+ years
Impact investors seemingly have a great deal to celebrate. After decades of promoting the vision that capital should be managed with more than financial consideration alone, actors within sustainable, responsible and direct impact investing are now seeing their agenda embraced and advanced by mainstream financial institutions and investors. We’ve broken the barrier of billion dollar
While emerging technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence can capture our imagination, some of the most game-changing innovations for smallholder farmers are more modest. Seeds. Roads. Electricity. While such technologies may seem mundane, they are anything but. Reaching smallholder farmers in rural areas takes a nuanced combination of appropriate innovations, sophisticated distribution systems, and a human touch.
Do well by doing good. Within the social sector and beyond, that phrase that has become a much-abused cliché and even the subject of some recent controversy. But on university campuses today, it speaks to something very real: Students as a group—a group that we might as well call “millennials”—are more eager than students of preceding generations
All the organizations I have worked with over the past two decades—both NGOs and big business—have had a sense of urgency about making progress on environmental and social goals. All have understood that acting on sustainability is not only in society’s long-term best interest, but also can and should be an economic upside to operations.
The concept of Drivers for Change, which took place for the first time last week, is simple: 100 entrepreneurial and creative 18-25 year olds spend 11 days travelling on buses together to visit social enterprises situated across eight UK cities including Bradford, Bristol, Edinburgh and Liverpool. The trip was inspired by Jagriti Yatra, a train journey which
Over time, with the proliferation of technology and nascent ecosystems, tech-enabled social innovation and entrepreneurship has grown in West Africa. Across the region’s 15 countries, several startups have developed (and are still developing) incredible social solutions that have incredible impact on their locales, people within those locales and the larger ecosystem as a whole. We
With suicide prevention, every minute of response time matters. That’s why the technology team at the well-known nonprofit Crisis Text Line in New York City analyzed some 65 million text messages to determine what words were most statistically associated with a high risk of suicide. This scale of analysis would clearly be infeasible without some
A few weeks ago, the board chair of a great social enterprise called me in distress. A collaboration he had nurtured was in disarray. He’d gotten ahold of an email that called the executive director and staff at his organization “uncollaborative.” He and I tried to figure out what was going on. We talked through the
A skyscraper may not seem like the answer to an entire continent’s agricultural challenges, but the best inventions aren’t always what they seem. In Africa, where 70% of the population lives in rural areas and mostly practices subsistence farming, scraping by on barely $2 USD/day, the scientific advancements of the “green revolution” could introduce modern
Whether it’s bringing quality healthcare closer to those residing in rural villages or providing people with facilities as basic and necessary as toilets, it’s sometimes wise not to overcomplicate things. Frugal innovation, based on the Indian concept of jugaad– innovating when there are limitations in resources – can provide an answer when capital is low, resources
Stolen and lost identification often keeps the 7,000 homeless in Austin, Texas, from getting critical services such as medical care, housing, and potential employment. To help solve such issues, the city wants to use blockchain, the same underlying technology behind bitcoin. The technology could be used to create unique digital identifiers for homeless people, allowing
"I had never heard of social purpose before, but it intrigued me. After learning about it, I was convinced and drafted a social purpose for my business." This quote is from a business leader who recently attended a United Way workshop as part of its new social purpose business series. With this action, the leader joined
In India, the installation of toilets comes with no guarantee that people will use them. Again and again, government agencies and nonprofit organizations have brought clean sanitation facilities to rural villages, only to find that villagers continue the endemic practice of open defecation. Researchers have established that eliminating open defecation is not just a logistical
The Global Opportunity Explorer connects businesses to cutting-edge ideas for solving the world’s problems—and the big profits that come with those solutions. For every threat to the planet, there’s an opportunity for a company to step in with solutions. For every risk to humanity, there’s a potential business model and boost to the bottom line.
Innovation is necessary in the fight toward social progress. Socially conscious inventions have a crucial impact on the world at large, but they often make the biggest difference for vulnerable communities. For people facing inequality around the globe — like those living in poverty — these innovations can be game-changers, helping to tackle problems that