Blog of Author and Consultant Rob Salkowitz
- The Big Push Campaign
By Patrick Doherty
You don't need to be a brain surgeon to understand that basic, accessible healthcare is a human right denied to many of those in the developing world, particularly children. The good news is that we are winning the war against child mortality, as well as being very close to defeating diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
A 2010 TedTalk by Dr. Hans Rosling reframes 10 years of UN data, providing a compelling and enlightening look at the underreported progress we are making against child mortality. Rosling is a world renowned international public health scientist and medical statistician who just this week was named as the winner of 2012's Harvard Foundation’s Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award, "for his outstanding work in analyzing global health care disparities and promoting humane medical equity”.
Digital technology and social media provides opportunities to reach more people, more quickly around the world with health education, information, diagnoses and treatments. Here's 4 initiatives striving to turbo charge a rapid end to some of the world's biggest health problems.
- Medic Mobile
1. Medic Mobile
Medic Mobile works with partner organizations that provide high-impact health services in challenging settings. The project's key areas of focus are:
- Getting People Into Care: Remote Patient Registration and Danger Sign Monitoring;
- Helping People Stay in Care: Notifications for Antenatal Care and Immunizations; and
- Improving the Quality of Care: Stock Monitoring and Data Collection.
Using free and open source software, Medic Mobile claims to have boosted immunization rates by more than 20%, contained disease outbreaks, and made drug stock reporting 4 times cheaper and 134 times faster, which impacts the care of over 600,000 patients.
2. The Big Push
Picture this: A world where no child is born with HIV or where no death is caused by a mosquito bite. As unrealistic as that sounds, in reality, we are much closer to achieving this dream than anyone realizes. But, like every amazing advance made by humankind, this goal needs a Big Push to change the course of history for global health. Initiated by The Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, in partnership with The Huffington Post, The Big Push is a campaign to rally support to achieve global health goals that are now within reach.
3. The Last Percent
Melinda Gates launched this Gates Foundation initiative to eradicate polio. Thanks to childhood vaccines, polio has been reduced by 99% and we are on the threshold of eradicating the second disease in history (after small pox).
The UN Foundation and the American Academy of Pediatrics launched a mobile app at the Summit that allows parents to track their children’s milestones while raising awareness for the need for life-saving vaccines for children globally. 1.5 million children around the world die each year from a vaccine-preventable disease and Shot@Life is the UN Foundation’s newest campaign that educates, connects, and empowers Americans to champion vaccinations. Vaccines are the most cost-effective way to safeguard the lives of children in developing countries against diseases like polio, diarrhoea, measles and pneumonia.
The new mobile app allows parents and followers of the campaign to capture and share the moments of childhood with stylized photos on Facebook, Twitter, or through email. In partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the app also includes a Milestone Tracker that outlines developmental and health-related indicators that typically occur in a child’s life from birth to age five. The app makes it easy for parents and others to become Shot@Life champions and spread the word about vaccines as one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries.
As always, participate where you can and if you have any other ideas worth noting or following, let us know!
- Mary Mwende, Youth Beneficiary, Global Give Back Circle (By Patrick Doherty)
By Patrick Doherty
At the Social Good Summit, many of the speakers stressed the importance of helping women and girls become more educated, healthier, and better protected. Usually the primary caregivers for the next generation, women have great power in educating and nurturing the world's children. But they are the most at risk as these statistics from the Half the Sky Movement highlight:
1. Women and girls account for 80% of the people trafficked across international borders each year, most often for sexual exploitation.
2. In Somaliland a woman faces a 1-in-12 chance of dying during childbirth as opposed to a 1 in 4,800 chance for women in the U.S.
3. Women between the ages of 15 and 45 are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.
Below are six projects focused on the most vulnerable in our global community: women and girls.
1. Half the Sky
The Half the Sky Movement is cutting across platforms to ignite change needed to put an end to the oppression of women and girls worldwide. Inspired by Pulitzer Prize winning journalists Nicholas Kristof (@nickkristof) and Sheryl WuDunn's book of the same name, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide brings together videos, websites, games, blogs and other educational tools to raise awareness of women's issues - namely Economic Empowerment, Education, Forced Prostitution, Gender-Based Violence, Maternal Mortality and Sex Trafficking - and to further provide concrete steps to fight these problems and empower women. Just aired on October 1 and 2 on PBS was a two part documentary Half the Sky: Turning Oppression intoOpportunity for Women Worldwide which you can view online or purchase on Amazon or Netflix.
Working with Asi Burak (@aburak), Co-President of Games for Change, the Half The Sky team is creating a gaming concept, targeting women in the developing world. Three mobile games for feature phones teach women important entrepreneurial, health and business skills by playing casual games. Games for Change is also working with the award-winning developer Frima Studio to produce an adventure game on Half The Sky Movement: The Game on Facebook set to launch November 13, 2012. The experience aims to engage millions of players and transform compelling gameplay into real-world actions and micro-donations.
2. Equal Futures Partnership
Building on President Obama’s challenge at the UN General Assembly in September 2011, the United States will be working with various country partners in a new international effort – the Equal Futures Partnership – to break down barriers to women’s political participation and economic empowerment. The goal of the Equal Futures Partnership is for each member country to expand opportunities for women and girls to fully participate in public life, and to drive more inclusive economic growth.
As part of these efforts, the White House Council on Women and Girls is launching an app challenge: create an app that promotes civic education and/or inspires girls to serve as leaders in our democracy. Notable apps will be highlighted on the White House website and blog.
3. GSMA mWomen Design Challenge Launch: Redefining the User
- Social Good Summit (By Patrick Doherty)
The US Agency for International Development, Qtel Group, the Australian Agency for International Development, and the GSMA Development Fund have announced the launch of the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge: Redefining the User Experience. The challenge calls on the global digital design community to develop products that will make the smartphone user experience more intuitive, particularly for women in developing countries who, because of lack of opportunity, struggle with technical literacy.
GSMA research shows women to be 21% less likely than men to own a mobile phone in low- to middle-income countries. The resulting mobile phone gender gap represents as many as 300 million women in the developing world who do not have access to this potentially life-enhancing tool. A key step towards closing the mobile phone gender gap, according to the study, is to consider the user experience of resource-poor women as being central to mobile device design. About 22% of women surveyed in Egypt, India, Papua New Guinea and Uganda who do not use mobile phones say it is because they do not know how to use the phones. To serve these women, mobile tools must be designed with simpler interfaces that overcome reading and technical literacy barriers.
4. Girl Up
Girl Up is an innovative campaign of the United Nations Foundation that is is now 252,000 girls strong. The campaign gives American girls the opportunity to become global leaders by channeling their energy and compassion to raise awareness and funds for United Nations programs, which help some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls.
5. ONE’s Women and Girls Initiative
ONE, the global anti-poverty group cofounded by Bono, is launching an initiative to drive awareness and action in support of programs that are helping women and girls lift themselves and their families out of extreme poverty.
6. We Advance
Co-founded by actor and activist Maria Bello, We Advance is a movement focused on the health, safety and well-being of women in Haiti. They work in some of the poorest slums in all of the western hemisphere – Wharf Jeremy and Cité Soleil – where security issues deter the work of most international NGOs. We Advance University is a web and mobile site dedicated to connecting local women's groups in remote areas to each other, as well as to non-profit support. The site is a directory in which women can easily find services nearby or simply ask for help. For example, a rape victim can find that "two miles away the Red Cross is doing rape tests and 10 miles away there is a lawyer who can file rape-charge papers," with just the click of a button. The site is also about education and entertainment.
- Angelique Kidjo, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador (By Patrick Doherty)
Let us know of any other cool social media and digital technology initiatives focused on women and girls.
By Patrick Doherty
Last weekend's Social Good Summit (SGS) brought together a vast array of thinkers, innovators, philanthropists, politicians, journalists, social activists and, of course, celebrities to discuss the power of technology and social media in doing good in this world. It's easy for us to be cynical or high and mighty about the ridiculousness of tweets, vanity of Facebook, and the dangers of being online too much.
For once it was refreshing – no, downright inspiring – to spend three days immersed in a conversation about how the digital revolution is revolutionising millions of peoples lives and is a real agent for good in this world.
A first time initiative was the Global Conversation. Summits were concurrently held in Beijing and Nairobi with over 200 Meetups in 100 countries. But most impressive was the effort that like-minded individuals made to hold sessions in places such as Mogadishu, Somalia. A suicide bomb exploding at one of the only Internet cafes in Somalia’s capital last week did not deter the cafe’s owner from speaking on one of SGS Mogadishu’s Global Conversation panels. In fact he insisted, “This is even more important now.”
Other events were held in Rwanda, Uzbekistan and Bangladesh, who even provided live streams of their events. Bhutan broadcast its summit on national TV. The U.N. ensured the security of the meetups, hosting Juba, South Sudan and Kabul, Afghanistan’s sessions on its compounds.
- Jane Goodall, Social Good Summit by Patrick Doherty
There were many high-profile people showing support at the summit. There were messages from Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, and Melinda Gates, interviews with the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano and Professor Muhammad Yunus, Founder, Grameen Bank & 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Winner and surprise vista from President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim to name but a few.
Celebrities in their guises as UN Goodwill Ambassadors or to support their own causes filled out the field of high profile attendees. Presentations by big names included Forest Whitaker launching his PeaceEarth Intitiatve, Mira Sorvino premiering her film, Trade of Innocents on human trafficking, America Ferrera and Alexis Bledel discussing their work with the One Campaign in Honduras, and Maria Bello promoting her We Advance initiative in Haiti.
- Social Good Summit by Patrick Doherty
Jimmy Wales the founder of Wikipedia was there, as was Clay Shirky (near and dear to the hearts of MCDM students). Deepak Chopra gave the audience things to think about in regard to spirituality in the digital age.
The event was capped off by chimpanzee activist and protector Jane Goodall who entertained the audience with chimp sounds which were then sampled by DJ Apple Juice Kid.
While it was fun to see all the big names, the cool part of the summit was the showcasing of people and project working hard to create social good.
With the 220 meetups, over 60,000 tweets, the Global Good Summit trended internationally for all three days and was "Largest Conversation About A Single Topic In One Day," according to RecordSetter.com.
- Peter Gabriel, Social Good Summit by Patrick Doherty
Over the next week on Flip the Media, we will profile 25 projects and the people behind them who are striving to make the world a better place using technology and social media. First are three projects focused around the Environment and Urban Living. Next week we will look at projects Women and Girls, Health, Human Trafficking and Refugees, Giving and Causes and Social Network Alliances and Tools.
1. Map Your World
Map Your World is a multi-platform project that puts the power of new technologies into the hands of young change agents, enabling them to map, track, and improve the health of their own communities – and then share their stories of change with each other and with the world. Map Your World was inspired by the feature documentary The Revolutionary Optimists. The film follows “The Daredevils,” a group of youth in one of Kolkata’s most notorious squatter’s colonies, who made a dramatic improvement in the health of their community, a place that cannot even be found on the map. The Daredevils undertook the project of making a map of their colony. They also have been painstakingly tracking and collecting data around health issues that impact them, such as water, sanitation, and infectious diseases. In 10 years, they have made dramatic improvements in their area: they’ve turned a trash dump into a soccer field, lobbied for electricity, and decreased diarrhea and malaria rates in their neighbourhood.
2. The Climate Reality Project
The Climate Reality Project is bringing the facts about the climate crisis into the mainstream and engaging the public in conversation about how to solve it. Founded and chaired by Al Gore, Nobel Laureate and former Vice President of the United States, The Climate Reality Project has more than 5 million members and supporters worldwide. It is guided by one simple truth: the climate crisis is real and we know how to solve it. On November 14th, join The Climate Reality Project for 24 Hours of Reality: The Dirty Weather Report online. This is the second annual event showing how global climate change is connected to the extreme weather we experience in our daily lives. The entire 24-hour event will be broadcast live over the Internet.
3. Charity: Water
Charity: Water is a non-profit bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing nations with 100% of public donations directly fund water projects. Using a unique fundraising idea, people pledge to give up their next birthday, instead asking for donations in the place of gifts. The story of a 9-year-old girl from Seattle – Rachel Beckwith, who was tragically killed in a motor accident – highlights the power of digitally connected world to bring some good out of darkness. 30,000 people gave more than $1.2 million in one month in memory of Rachel.
Those of us who live at the cross roads of culture, media and technology are uniquely positioned to tell the stories of some of the great work that is being done to create a better world for so many. Check out the projects that caught your eye, spread the word about them and let us know of others – we would love to feature them here on Young World Rising.
- Forest Whitaker, Social Good Summit by Patrick Doherty
By Patrick Doherty
The Social Good Summit kicked off in New York City Saturday. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton sent a special video message to the conference stressing the importance of digital technology and social media in connecting the world and solving many of the world's greatest problems. In encouraging everyone to get involved the global conversation, she said "today anyone can be a diplomat - all you have to do is hit send".
Summit co-sponsors, Kathy Clavin CEO of the United Nations Foundation and Helen Clarke, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme started the program off by reminding us that the UN Millenium Development Goals - set in 2000 are set to expire in 2015. About half of them have been met. Clarke cited the goal to halve global poverty. - which in overall terms will be reached but only because of China's rapid growth. Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa for example still have a long way to go.
With the raid expansion of digital connectivity - particularly, with regard to mobile, the chance for truly global altering change for good in area such as education, remote health diagnosis, inclusive finance, crisis prevention and citizen journalism is beaching a reality. And the day showcased a number of diverse issues and the many digital and social solutions that are helping people and saving lives.
Jill Sheffield, President of Women Deliver talked about the need for family planning education. A woman dies every minute and a half due to maternity complications. Following a conference in London last year, governments have committed $2.6 billion to raising awareness and education levels around family planning. Mobile applications such as the Shot@Life paediatrics app, launched today, will help mothers not only record those special moments in a child's life but provide information and reminders on their health needs.
- Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer, the White House
The government too, is recognising the power of data to drive innovation and entrepreneurialism. Todd Park, the White House Chief Technology Officer focused on open government as a driver of innovation. By releasing the tons of data held by the government on issues such as healthcare, education, public safety and the environment - private individuals and companies are developing new commercial serves and businesses and creating jobs just by using the data that already exists - at no cost to the taxpayer. Park said that since the release of GPS data - now such an integral parti of our our lives - added $90 billion to the US economy alone last year. The government is actively promoting the release and use of data the "datapalooza" hackathons which brings entrepreneurs and government together around key issues. Launching this month is a hackathon around public safety.
The importance of social media as a tool to help government to connect with people was discussed with among some of the most socially active ambassadors in the world and Victoria Esser, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Digital Strategy, US State Department which has over 300 Twitter accounts and 400 Facebook pages alone. The former US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray, talked about his experience when the Zimbabwean government actively started to block his attempts to host community meetings with that countries youth. As a result he started to host online Facebook and twitter discussions which rapidly grew from over 200 participants to more than 7,000 - a sizeable proportion of youth in a country of about 12 million. While his view is that nothing can beat face to face diplomacy - social media is a powerful tool thats importance really comes to the fore when that physical interaction is not possible. This was endorsed by Esser of the State Department who recently held a Google Hangout with citizens of Iran.
One of the key takeaways from the panel that also included the current Mexican and Indonesian ambassadors to the USA was that it's important to not to try to control the uncontrollable. Esser said the State Department policy was to let local missions manage their own social media with some high level guidance and just recognise there will be slip ups from time to time (for example, the recent happenings in Egypt). As she said - the digital age is not a happy place for a control freak.
The power to connect people was also highlighted by TMS “Teddy” Ruge, Co-Founder of Project Diaspora which is seeking to re-connect ex-patriates with their former homelands and encourage them to provide help, knowledge and resources to their fellow citizens. Over 60 million Americans, today are either first or second generation immigrants meaning that powerful ties can still exist that can be leveraged to help those developing countries.
Equally important was an acknowledgment that knowledge is power - and Rebecca Moore Engineering Manager, Google Earth Outreach provided some powerful examples of how by using mapping technology citizens are able to shine a light on issues as diverse as the environmental effects of logging and mining on local communities in the USA to exposing the tragedy of the genocide in Darfur.
- Peter Gabriel
For a bit of star power, Peter Gabriel stopped by and claimed that the internet "Cannot be controlled. And that's why it is so powerful". His hope - that people power will become reality due to the reach of the mobile phone. With the CEO of Ericsson estimating that 80% of the world will have access to 3G mobile by 2017 and there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020 - Mr Gabriel may just get his wish.
The conference continues through Monday and is being streamed live. Over the weekend over 200 Meetups are occurring in 100 countries around the world from Seattle to Mogadishu, Somalia to Kosovo - all working how digital technology and social media can build a better world. On Monday everyone will come together and share their ideas in a Global Conversation. So why not be part of it. As members of the technology community or at least people interested enough to read this article - I am pretty sure you could help too.
By Patrick Doherty
This coming weekend (September 22nd to 24th), the Social Good Summit is on again in New York City and we will be there. Held during UN Week when world leaders gather for the UN General Assembly, the event unites people from around the world around one common theme: the power of social media and technology to solve our world’s greatest issues. The summit is presented by the United Nations Foundation,the United Nations Development Programme, Mashable, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 92Y and Ericsson.
The ambitious centerpiece of the program is Monday September 24th's Global Conversation which aims to be "one of the largest online conversations driven by citizens inside their communities ever to take place." Along with concurrent events taking place in New York, Beijing & Nairobi, the conversation will be opened up to people around the world via the UN Development Programme’s 160+ satellite locations, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s worldwide network, and Mashable’s Meetups Everywhere community.
So far the Summit estimates there will be over 200 meet ups occurring in almost 100 countries around the globe. However, by using #SGSGlobal, anyone can contribute their suggestions, stories, and ideas. The ideas collected on the 24th will be shared globally. The goal is to create an ongoing discussion for the coming year and to ensure the best ideas reach far beyond the hallowed halls of the UN.
It's easy for anyone to join. Those of you here in Seattle can go to the local Mashable Meetup. You can also watch the Summit on YouTube and interact in real-time with the Social Good Summit community with the official hashtag, #SGSglobal.
The line up of speakers and topics at the New York event is impressive, including:
Alongside those speakers, there will also be three ex-prime ministers (New Zealand, Norway, Poland), as well as the usual smattering of actors in their Goodwill Ambassador modes. Other topics covered during the event include battling disease, political unrest, human trafficking, global sustainability and climate change, bridging the digital divide and the role of the millennial generation, and even the ocean - presented by a Cousteau no less!
The Social Good Summit will be a fascinating exercise in bringing the world together to create better outcomes for all people through digital technology and social media. I encourage you to watch the sessions on YouTube and participcate. As smart folks with expertise and interest in the social and digital world, lending your voices and ideas to the global conversation can only improve its chances of success and help create a better world for one and all.
Matthew and Adam Toren have some career advice for young people today: if you want a great job, start a great company. The Torens run YoungEntrepreneur.com, one of the Web's best sites for practical advice on starting, running, promoting and growing a business, aimed primarily at ambitious Millennials. Their first book, Kidpreneurs (which I reviewed at FastCompany.com), managed to distill business lessons into a concise, readable childrens book. Their latest is called Small Business, Big Vision (Wiley, 2011), and it weaves inspirational stories with hands-on guidance to motivate and educate the next generation of successful small business entrepreneurs.
Adam Toren recently sat for an interview to discuss the goals and purpose of their latest book.
What can readers expect to take away from Small Business, BIG Vision?
When we set out
to write the book, it was important to us to provide entrepreneurial readers
with the information they need most. We looked at the most common questions we
hear from entrepreneurs – whether they’re just starting out or have been in
business for a long time – and we provided answers in the book that are
designed to really give the reader the advice and guidance they’re looking for.
Small Business, BIG Vision answers
questions like, “Do I need a business plan?” “Do I need outside financing, and
how do I find it?” and “How do I know if it’s the right time to hire employees?”
We also covered how to use social media to market your business, how to become
a recognized expert in your field, and how to turn around a struggling
provides practical, useful advice on these topics and more, and then it backs up
the advice with profiles of some of the most successful entrepreneurs out
there. Each chapter has advice and lessons from self-made entrepreneurs who
have been wherever the reader is now. It’s very relatable and timely.
You and your brother, Matthew, have been
entrepreneurs your whole lives. How did you get started?
Joe, was instrumental in getting us interested in business ownership. When we
were in elementary school, he set us up selling these little glider airplanes
called Dipper Dos at a local folk festival. We learned how to really wow the
crowd with the tricks we could make the planes do, and we sold out quickly. It
was a great feeling for a couple of 7 and 8 year old kids, and from there we
We were very
fortunate to have the full support of our grandfather and our mother throughout
our early ventures. They never told us we should just get jobs or pressured us
to avoid the risks of entrepreneurship. They encouraged us to work hard and
always do the right thing, and they always let us know they were behind us
100%. Having that kind of support ourselves is a major reason why we wrote the
We want everyone to have the opportunity we had to succeed in whatever business
they choose to start.
Given today’s economic climate, is this
really a good time to start a business?
That’s a great
question. Entrepreneurship comes with a certain amount of risk anyway, so isn’t
it crazy to go into business with the added risk of facing uncertain economic
times? We don’t think it’s crazy at all. In fact, we truly believe it’s the
smartest move anyone can make. Read or watch any news about the economy, and
you’ll eventually come across a story about the massive layoffs of the past few
years and the fact that many people are taking a year or more to find work. And
when they finally do land a job, many are settling for a position and pay far
below that of the one they left.
risk. If my only option was to get a job, and I had no income during my search,
life would be stressful and scary. No fun at all. On the other hand, with the
time most people take to find a job, and the savings they use up in that time,
I can think of 10 businesses I could start right now, and I guarantee I’d end
up in a better position financially and mentally at the end of that timeframe.
An economic climate like we’re in now is the perfect time to start a business.
From all of your experience, what are the
most important entrepreneurial lessons that you can share with our readers?
Two things: 1.)
Follow your passion, and 2.) never give up. In addition to our own experience,
my brother and I have interviewed successful business owners from all over the
world for our websites, and for Small
Business, BIG Vision; and passion and perseverance are the two factors that
stand out most clearly in the most successful entrepreneurs we’ve met.
passionate about what you’re doing, no obstacle is too big, and you never feel
like you’re working. You’ll happily put in all the hours and effort that’s
necessary to see your business thrive. Passion is the fuel that ignites your
vision. And if you have #1, passion, #2 is easy – you’re much less likely to
throw in the towel when challenges come up. We’ve never talked to a single
successful entrepreneur who built his or her business without significant
challenges, and having the perseverance to keep pushing toward their
entrepreneurial vision is what made the greatest difference for them.
Next week, Young World Shining will be officially available as an eBook exclusive. The book combines new and unpublished essays with some shorter pieces I wrote over the past year for various business publications. So why a sequel?
Simply put, the story has evolved. When I first began writing Young World Rising in 2008, the idea that entrepreneurship could be about more than just business creation was an idea at the periphery of the discussion. The world was teetering on the brink of economic crisis that was about to bring down some of the central pillars of global capital, and few had time to notice what was going on at the frontiers of innovation.
Now policymakers, big businesses, NGOs and educators are all placing entrepreneurship at the center of the agenda. People recognize that the efforts of Young World innovators in some of the newly-wired, high-growth economies of Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East have the potential to transform not just their economies, but the entire world.
The past two years have seen the emergence of forces to propel entrepreneurship forward as a vehicle for global change – and hold it back. Young World Shining provides a look at those forces from a ground-level perspective, based on my travels to various centers of innovation around the Young World. It carries the story forward, and ends with a candid assessment of the barriers still remaining if entrepreneurship is to fulfill its potential.
Last week I blogged at Fast Company about how high-tech skills and the knowledge economy can give younger entrepreneurs an edge, despite research that shows that older people are more prolific and more successful as entrepreneurs overall. Today Nathaniel Hindman responded with a piece at Huffington Post.I'm not sure if he takes issue with my larger points, but he concludes with this:
"Whichever entrepreneurs -- young or old -- end up founding the most successful companies, if the past few decades are any indication, it's clear that a small number of innovative startups will grow into billion-dollar businesses and drive economic growth."
On that, I think we can both agree.
Earlier this fall, I made a guest appearance at the Digital Media in Emerging Economies class at the University of Washington, where Young World Rising is part of the syllabus. One of the students, Amy Rainey, was inspired to produce this short film based on some of the stories and ideas in the book.
Net Generation Entrepreneurs: Four Perspectives from Amy Rainey on Vimeo.
Tony Stark, the entrepreneur-turned-superhero from theIron Manmovies and comics may be fictional, but the Tony Stark Innovation Challenge, an award for young entrepreneurs, is quite real. Earlier this month, MIT graduate student Nathan Linder flew off with the $15,000top prizefor his invention of adigital bulbto project Web content onto any surface. The prize was furnished by Audi of America.
The Stark Challenge is only the latest (and most opportunistic) of a booming trend in innovation and entrepreneurship competitions that is helping to bring new ideas to the attention of investors, customers and a public hungry for some good economic news. In the U.S., where entrepreneurial culture and infrastructure are already well-developed, this is an incremental increase in opportunities for the mad scientists and dreamers among us. But in the rest of the world, it's a revolution that's kicking up a new wave of business creation with the potential to uplift billions.
Last month in Lima, Peru,The Innovation Contest of the Americas(TIC Americas, sponsored by the non-profit Young Americas Business Trust in collaboration with the Organization of American States) recognized more than a dozen young entrepreneurs from Central and South America, culled from over 3,200 submissions. Full disclosure: I was a judge in this contest and saw with my own eyes the depth, sophistication, ambition, and ingenuity that is fermenting throughout the hemisphere, from Mexico to Argentina, Chile to Jamaica.
In addition to providing a forum for great ideas, these contests accelerate the flow of resources to promising ventures in parts of the world where venture capital, seed money and incubation are only starting to emerge as alternatives to traditional bootstrapping or family-based financing. "Finance is a big problem," said Luis Viguria, Executive Director of Young Americas Business Trust. "The financial sector doesn't give money to young people because they are too risky. That's something we're trying to fight with TIC Americas: to showcase to the financial sector that investments in our young people will pay back. We need to give them a chance."
In India, one of the world's burgeoning centers of new entrepreneurship, innovation contests are becoming one of the premier venues for attracting attention from private finance, NGOs and government. "Idea competition is very recent in India," said Dr. A.S. Rao, an official in the Indian Ministry of Science and Technology who judges these contests from time to time. "There is a large number of young people and students putting themselves in competition for these idea awards. Their perspective is very different. We feel they probably would be able to fix long-festering problems because of the technology now in their hands."
Typically, the contests showcase the best new ideas in social entrepreneurship and eco-innovation alongside commercial and technology-oriented projects. Sometimes the lines are not so easy to draw.DUTO, SA, the winner of the 2007 TIC Americas award as well as a host of others, invented a sensory-based display that allows visually-impaired people to perceive information on a computer monitor. Their socially-oriented goal is to make the product affordable and accessible to primary schools in Latin America, but DUTO is a commercial business.
Winning an innovation contest brings financial resources and recognition, which are both valuable commodities to startup businesses, but in emerging markets, they serve an even more important function. They validate the risks and efforts of innovators: the long hours and sacrifices that dreamers have made, rather than settling for the traditional paths of advancement or stagnation.
Never mind Tony Stark and Iron Man: the winners of these contests are real-life heroes in their hometowns and role-models for young people hungry for change and new opportunities. Very often, successful entrepreneurs in these regions invest considerable amounts of their time and resources to build, strengthen, and advocate for a local entrepreneurial ecosystem, including better infrastructure, greater attention from the financial sector, and more pro-entrepreneurial policies from the government.