In memory of those who lost their lives in the terrible and unnecessary violent attacks at the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, today I thought it would be appropriate to share some good news from Kenya about a business working to transform the sanitation business model in Nairobi slums. Sanergy a company founded by a group of MIT MBA alums has created a sustainable business model to turn “poop into profit” literally turning human waste into biogas and fertilizer and selling it for a profit. The company has earned its share of accolades and press coverage including being profiled in the FT special edition on urban ingenuity and in the most reputable science magazine in the US; the Scientific American. Read on to learn more. Continue reading
On a recent morning eating breakfast and getting ready for work in Sao Paulo, Brazil I was watching the local news. An interesting feature popped on the screen. The news channel was profiling a citizen movement in the city aimed at improving living conditions and citizen safety. Basically citizens were building man-made signs and leaving them in locations where theft, rape or other violent crimes had taken place. In doing so advising citizens of the potentially dangerous locations and commutes and taking citizen safety into their own hands where the police wasn’t up to the task. What a neat idea I thought. If only they also had such civic engagement for non-emergency problems around the city. Well it turns out they soon might. In the USA, there is an innovative company which has created a tool to help citizens engage local government and media to fix non-emergency problems around their communities. Things like graffiti, open potholes and uneven sidewalks, etc. SeeClickFix, which started in New Haven, CT, and since expanded into more than 10 American urban centers including Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia. Today it is the largest citizen reporting tool in the United States. It is doing so well that it was recently backed by Omidyar Network and O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and is gaining interesting to expand abroad to places like Australia, Singapore and the UK (and I hope Brazil soon too). Read on to find out more.
I normally like to listen to podcasts (yes I still listen to podcasts) when I go for my long runs on the weekend. One of my favorite podcasts is the Stanford University entrepreneurial thought leaders podcast. It is an audio recording of live lectures given to some of the brightest young and aspiring entrepreneurs in Stanford’s undergraduate engineering program. In addition to having top names come and give lectures it also often features some very thought-provoking material from the social impact space. So I figured it might be interesting to share the story of one of the NGOs it recently featured. The Last Mile is an entrepreneurship accelerator for prisoners in San Quentin state penitentiary in California. It is a program designed to help ex-offenders become technology entrepreneurs. Sounds interesting, right? Well it has also gotten a lot of positive attention having been written up in the likes of Forbes Magazine, Tech Crunch and the Atlantic Monthly. It also has been successful enough that they now plan to expand the program to 5 other prisons. With a final goal of partnering with the government and technology luminaries to launch a nationwide program to alleviate the financial mess in prisons once and for all. Read on to find out more.
As Google Glass is soon to be released and will perhaps be the hot new thing for 2013, today I would like to profile a creative social business also providing an innovative business solution using eyeglasses. VisionSpring has been operating for more than a decade to provide eyeglasses and job opportunities to people without prior access at the base of the economic pyramid in Bangladesh, El Salvador, India and South Africa. It has used an innovative human centered affordable product and delivery design model built in partnership with IDEO to sell eyeglasses to more than one million people to date. Its business model has been proven to provide productivity benefits to its customers and it has been featured in the New York Times and recently won a large grant from USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures fund.