Alltop répertorie de nombreux articles sur l'entrepreneuriat social à travers le monde.

28.11.2015 mPharma

In e-health via StartupBrics:
Elsie Sowah project manager for mPharma in Côte d "Ivoire (left) and  saleswoman at the Grande Club Palm Pharmacy in Abidjan
mPharma connects patients, clinicians and pharmacists so that quality medicines can be found when and where they are needed most. We collect real time market data on prescription trends, adverse drug reactions, consumption, disease and illness locations and more that provides pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, and governments with actionable feedback.

27.11.2015 Invitation to Co-Create: Announcing our Semi-Finalists!

Our global  team of expert reviewers have whittled 157 outstanding entries down to the 45 Semi-Finalists which we think show the most promise of a Co-Creation with Boehringer Ingelheim.  See below for those entries we have invited to develop their Co-Creation ideas in Phase 2 of Making More Health: Co-Creating a Healthier World.


1. Adriana (Spain) - Empowering patients living with chronic illness, ADRIANA is a next-generation mHealth solution for diabetes self-management, identifying symptoms and providing tailored interventions based on patients’ health literacy skills, for secondary and tertiary prevention, to reduce complications.

2. A Global Voice for Autism (USA/Palestine) - A Global Voice for Autism exists to help children in conflict-affected communities communicate independently. The program gives all stakeholders in the lives of children with autism the tools to maintain self-care, and to provide evidence-based support to individuals with autism.

3. Changamka Microhealth (Kenya) - Insurance is poorly understood, unaffordable and inaccessible to the majority in developing countries. Changamka drastically lowers the cost of insurance by using mobile phones for innovative crowd funding demand generation, registration, payments, servicing and claims payment.

4. Clinical Del Azucar (Mexico) - Clínicas del Azúcar is a revolutionary model of “one-stop-shops” that offers high-quality, patient-centered, and cost-effective health care to treat and prevent diabetes. With highly innovative processes, state-of-the-art technology, and sophisticated annual fixed-fee payment plans, the program has effectively created a model to treat diabetes in low and middle-income patients.

5. Color ADD (Portugal) -  Colorblindness, or colorvision deficiency, affects approximately 10% of men and 0.5% of women - around 350 million people globally. ColorADD is raising society's awareness for colorblindness and also providing a holistic solution that helps colorblind to identify colors whenever color is a factor of identification, orientation or choice.

6. Community Veterinary Outreach (Canada) - Up to 25% of homeless people own pets & most place the needs of their pets ahead of their own. By providing preventive veterinary education and care to the animals of those in need, CVO improves not only the health of the animal, but also supports the physical and emotional well-being of their owners or guardians, and contributes to protecting public health.

7. ConnectedCare/Community+ (The Netherlands) - Elderly are a vulnerable group when it comes to medication safety. A growing group of elderly patients in western countries are immigrants. This project aims to support medication safety for elderly immigrants by engaging informal caretakers through community organisations.

8. Deaftronics (Zimbabwe/Botswana) - A major problem in developing countries is not only the cost of hearing aids for hearing impaired people but also the operating costs in the form of hearing aid batteries. Deaftronics’ solar powered hearing aid circumvents these challenges by charging batteries through the free power of the sun.

9. Destok (Brazil) - Overstocked medicines result in waste. An online marketplace that allows patients to search for medicines that are close to expiry, at lower prices, and donate their spare medicines to public healthcare institutions. For pharmacies and distributors, the systems facilitates them to advertise their overstock.

10. DiabetesLab (Italy) - At DiabetesLab, diabetes is treated as a mathematical problem. The product is dedicated to sports enthusiasts who live with insulin-treated diabetes. It improves health and quality-of-life, and reduces complications with expensive treatment.

11. Dry Blood Spot Screening (Spain/Brazil) - Every year about 56 million die around the world. 35 million of these are due to preventable, non-communicable diseases and half of deaths occur from cardiovascular or heart diseases. DBS facilitates early blood diagnosis of infectious and non-communicable diseases at a rate that is affordable for disadvantaged communities.

12. Eau et Vie / Water and Life (France/Philippines) - By 2050, 40% of the urban growth will be in slums. There, families are not connected to the water distributors. Eau et Vie creates social business which builds a water network, equipped each household with an individual tap (connected to an individual meter) and collects the payments at home based on micro-credit systems.

13. Energize the Chain (USA/Zimbabwe) - Millions of children die every year from preventable diseases because the available vaccines aren't reliably refrigerated. Energize the Chain solves this "last mile" cold chain problem by harnessing the energy available at cell phone towers to power up vaccine refrigerators

14. Eyecheck Solutions (Canada) - The reality is that about a billion people lack access to vision care.  EyeCheck is building a vision screening smartphone app and handheld diagnostic tool which will allow anyone, anywhere to provide an eyeglass prescription. Later generations of our technology will detect eye problems like cataracts, glaucoma, and cardiovascular disease.

15. Fight the Stroke (Italy) - Although stroke is perceived as occurring primarily among the elderly, it also strikes infants. FIGHTTHESTROKE has applied some of the most pioneering research on the human brain to improve care for young stroke victims using technology while empowering families.

16. Garbage Clinical Insurance (Indonesia) - Garbage Clinical Insurance (GCI) is a micro health insurance program which uses garbage as a financial resource in Indonesia. Communities pay clinical services by using garbage in an insurance scheme. This way, GCI opens doors to health access because health is fundamental human right.

17. Healthy Egyptians (Egypt) - Protect Your Child is committed to fight the lack of health education in Egypt. PYC does this through the dissemination of health education in innovative ways to different groups of communities with the help of dedicated and enthusiastic young volunteers.

18. Healthy Factories (Kenya) - Healthy Factories increases access to health for vulnerable populations in Nairobi’s informal settlements: informal, casual laborers. Through an annual membership fee, laborers have access to curative care, preventative programs and health education targeting the full family. A certified and trained professional field health team directly at their workplace delivers this program.

19. Irish Community Rapid Response (Ireland) - In times of acute medical need such as cardiac arrest, 70% of patients in rural areas die at home while waiting for emergency. ICRR is focused on saving lives in the “golden hour” - when early intervention can save a life - by networking a highly reactive, mobile unit of volunteer doctors and paramedics in rural communities, thereby bringing the Accident & Emergency (A&E) services out of the hospital and directly to the people who need it.

20. KuPA for people with dementia (Norway) - The number of people with dementia is increasing worldwide and with dementia comes ailments such as anxiety. depression and inactivity. The world does not know how to handle an increasing number of elderly people needing severe care. NOEN helps families map the collective story of a dementia sufferer’s life through a twice-weekly at-home activity program. Families also receive legal advice and education on dementia care to become better long-term caretakers.

21. Letras de Médico (Brazil) - Health-illiterate people don’t understand medical info and how to take meds, complicating their diseases and costing about 60 million dollars/year only in US. LDM unites pictograms/design information with medical info and prescription to help doctors empower patients in a faster and unique way.

22. Leuko (USA/Spain) - Imagine a blood cell count device that needs no blood and has the size of a cell phone. Leuko is a patented optical device and method to obtain quick, simple and non-invasive white cell counts from images of superficial capillaries in the nailfold. Applications range from chemotherapy management to the detection of life threatening infection.

23. Making More Mental Health (Ireland) - MyMind is an affordable and accessible mental health care service with four clinics and an advanced online platform offering a self-referral model. MyMind offers a pay scale to clients, so the unemployed and full time students are able to avail of discounted rates. MyMind’s multidisciplinary team works in over 10 languages, making it accessible for non-English speaking residents and immigrants as well.

24. Medicine for all (Egypt) - Caused and affected by different problems, the Egyptian annual medicine wastes are estimated to be 1 billion Egyptian Pounds. ‘Medicine For All’ is narrowing the gap between the misuse of medicine and the unaffordable medicine for patients, through a unique technique that collects, sorts and redistributes medicine to needy uninsured patients.

25. México Tierra de Amaranto A.C.(Mexico) - A balanced diet enriched with 30 grams of amaranth grain daily can reduce cholesterol and stabilize glucose levels in diabetic patients, as well as improve the immune systems of undernourished children. MTA uses amaranth as a strategy to improve nutrition, health and living conditions in rural communities. It aims to build a culture of growth and sustainability that includes all sectors of society.

26. MicroClinic Technologies: Blue Angel Network (Kenya) - Patients living in low-income peri-urban or rural communities are forced to travel long distances to access care. ZiDi™ is a software developed for point-of-care (POC) tracking of commodities in clinics serving rural and peri-urban communities in Kenya. We are scaling a network of trained youth, Blue Angels, to promote ZiDi™ and improve availability, accessibility, quality and affordability medicines.

27. mdBriefcase (Canada/South Africa) - New diseases are discovered annually. New drugs to treat existing and new diseases are developed annually. This creates a knowledge discrepancy for healthcare practitioners. mdBriefCase is the largest provider of accredited online continuing medical education (CME) in Australia and Canada. In May of 2015, mdBriefCase launched in South Africa, tasked with the mission of providing free online CME to practitioners across Africa & the Middle East.

28. MyDoctor initiative (USA/Syria) - MyDoctor is a virtual clinic where free medical consultations are given to everyone, by device a network that connects qualified Syrian doctors both inside and outside Syria in order to make medical consultations available for all sectors of the Syrian community particularly during the current war. MyDoctor are also spreading awareness of health issues by posting and translating up-to-date articles in Arabic language

29. Noora Health (India) - Patients & caregivers around the world face a similar need–after a major diagnosis, surgery or health event, they are left to care for a family member but do not have the health information, resources or training they need. By training families with simple, low-risk skills, Noora Health enables at-risk families to provide high quality care in the hospital and at home.

30. OGRA Foundation- Action Data Initiative (Kenya) - Data is merely data until it is actionable! Enthusiastic front liners are the only consistent & permanent base-partners in the health continuum. Action Data Initiative is developing ways to use mobile technology & diagnostic data to improve health outcomes across this continuum via front liners.

31. Our Path (UK) - OurPath, a ‘tech for good’ startup, have developed a 6-week behavioural change programme that provides people with the tools that they need to prevent type 2 diabetes. This is provided to people through an online website platform, as well as through smartphone apps.

32. Patients Know Best (UK/Germany) - PKB is the world’s first patient-controlled medical record that allows the patient to gain a copy of their information from the different sources and collate it in one place to share with whoever they trust. The platform enables new interactions with their health network.

33. Plataforma Saúde (Brazil) - Over 155 millions people do not have a private health insurance plan in Brazil.  PlataformaSaúde is a social impact business that uses mobile technologies to provide quality healthcare for underserved communities with limited access to basic healthcare.

34. PREVITA (Mexico) - Previta makes preventive healthcare services, including remote patient monitoring, diagnostic tests, vaccinations, and health-monitoring programs, affordable and convenient. Knowing that technology is transforming industries, Previta has created its own state of the art software called “e-healthtracker” which allows, patient treatment adherence, self monitoring techniques with e-learning and health coaching.

35. Re-imagining health worker training (UK/Liberia) - As the world gets smaller, its population gets larger; the threat of infectious diseases grows be it emerging pathogens eg Ebola, MERS & drug resistant TB. In an outbreak such as we have seen in West Africa, a single mistake can be deadly to carer, patient & communities. MMEI aims to transform in healthcare training using interactive and intuitive simulation underpinned by powerful analytics.

36. Relief Watch (USA) - Reliefwatch connects the developing world with a cloud-based supply tracking system in order to prevent stockouts and drug expirations. By interfacing with the developing world through mobile phones, Reliefwatch uses existing infrastructure to change the way supplies are tracked.

37. ReMeDi (India) - Neurosynaptic’s ReMeDi® platform has demonstrated a solution to healthcare access problem in rural areas at a scale of 2000 e-health centers. ReMeDi’s plan is to now rapidly scale across India in a pay-per-use model, with cloud based solution, additional diagnostics and Business Partners.

38. Safer Mom (Nigeria) - Every 5 minutes, a pregnant woman dies as a result of preventable causes which can be averted through proper health education. SaferMom leverages on the power of mobile technologies and innovative last mile solutions to provide accessible, scalable and affordable mobile health services to women especially in rural areas irrespective of their language, location and type of phone.

39. Siel Bleu Ireland (Ireland) - Modern medicine has improved life expectancies in most populations; however, living longer does not guarantee that older populations are leading independent and active lives. Siel Bleu utilises specialised physical activities to improve the lives of older populations. Our specially designed evidence-based exercise programmes counteract sedentary lifestyles, prevent illness and promote active and healthy ageing.

40. SpotLab (Spain) - More than 1 billion people play videogames. Citizens can contribute to medical diagnosis playing mobile apps with real image samples. We use crowdsourcing, big data and mobiles turned into low-cost microscopes to provide collective diagnosis of global health diseases as malaria or TB.

41. Technotherapy (USA) - When an addict leaves rehab, relapse rates are highest. Continuous long-term Recovery Care models have high success, yet are now mainly for special populations like doctors. Technotherapy’s open-source Virtual Recovery Care platform allows all health orgs to create a personal e-safety net for ALL who need it.

42. The Conversation Project (USA) - The Conversation Project is a public engagement campaign to ensure that each person’s wishes for end-of-life care are expressed and respected. Our ambitious goal is to change the culture from not having these conversations to having them, as early as possible, before there is a medical crisis.

43. Turma Do Bem (Brazil) - Often overlooked, prejudices against oral health can be a silent and powerful form of social exclusion to which thousands of poor boys and girls are submitted. Turma Do Bem is a network of 16,000 dentists: the largest volunteer network of specialized professionals in the world, supported and encouraged by programs and projects specially designed to influence public policy and to mobilize public opinion.

44. ViperMed (Uruguay/Chile) - ViperMed is a patient tele-education platform that empowers our customers: hospitals, clinics, insurances, governments and particulars to educate their patients with curated educative programs delivered by mobile apps with didactical videos that are based clinical evidence provided by BMJ & others.

45. Who is helping Who? (Brazil) - With the longevity revolution coming on us, it is urging to take down the stigma on ageing, dementia and institutionalization. How? By showing bridges of communication. How? Through transferring 15 years of therapeutic clowns with this population in a pedagogy of empathy that would benefit all.


27.11.2015 'Ethiopian Artisans'

From Africa Speaks:
...Makeda Mekonnen and Adiam Asfaha are first generation Ethiopian-Americans who moved back to Ethiopia –a country they consider their native soil –a year and a half ago. Moving to Ethiopia is not new to either of them; incidentally, they previously, on separate occasions for different reasons, had both moved back and had stayed for a few years. On their most recent journey back, their paths crossed leading toward favorable beginnings.

Though Makeda claims it was sheer coincidence, evidently the crossing became the keystone to developing an idea, and perhaps, evoking their passion hidden under a different kind of métier. It seems, they found a good fit in each other, a mixture of talent to start a joint enterprise.

The thought was planted: develop small companies; consult companies on brand development and create an identity for them; give small companies and startups an opportunity, a platform for their finished products; create market linkages and trade. Founded on the principle of enterprising solutions, their objective is to grow the private sector while offering the finest “Made in Ethiopia” artisanal products –foster the artisanal community.

And after further developing the concept, that day came on July 2, 2015 when they launched Ethiopian Artisans an e-market for Ethiopian made artisanal products. It was launched in partnership with Avant-garde Ventures, a for profit enterprise that seeks to act as a market catalyst for trade.
More here

images via Ethiopian Artisans

26.11.2015 Global Experts Say Progress on Climate Change Post-2015 Will Hinge on Business, Governments

This article was first published in GreenBiz and was co-written by Aiste Brackley, Trends and Research Manager at SustainAbility and Alex Lewis, Senior Research Analyst at GlobeScan.

In some respects the Volkswagen emissions scandal could not have come at a worse time. Unfolding two months before the historic COP21 climate summit in Paris, the revelations that the car giant cheated emissions tests reinforced long-held suspicions among some skeptics that the private sector’s buy-in over climate change was superficial. The 2015 Climate Change Survey, GlobeScan and SustainAbility’s most recent survey, reveals that international sustainability experts continue to view the contribution of business as modest. However, if we are to see meaningful long-term progress, national governments as well as the private sector will have to step up, as the two institutions will be critically important for the implementation of the post-COP21 framework.

For the 2015 Climate Change Survey, SustainAbility and GlobeScan polled over 600 global sustainability experts representing business, government, NGOs and academia about their expectations for the COP21 meeting, asking respondents to share insights about the importance of various actors and climate strategies post-2015. Given repeated lack of progress on climate change in recent years and in light of increasingly stark evidence of ongoing climate disruption, there is a palpable sense of frustration toward government. When asked which institutions had made the biggest contributions to advancing climate change solutions over the past five years, just 14% of the experts polled said that national government made a “large” or “very large” contribution, the lowest rating of any institution. The best perceived contributions came from scientific institutions, NGOs and the UN.

Assessment of Recent Contribution to Advance Solutions to Climate Change
Question: Thinking of the past five years, please rate the overall contribution that each of the following types of organisations has made to advancing solutions to climate change.

Source: The 2015 Climate Survey. A GlobeScan / SustainAbility Survey

Experts are reserved about the private sector’s track record in recent years – they are more likely to say that business has done very little or nothing at all than view the contribution of corporations as significant. From those businesses that do take action on climate change, technology and consumer companies are seen as doing the most. Unilever, Tesla, IKEA, Google and GE are considered to be leading the way, mostly as a result of their leadership on renewable energy, technological innovation, commitment at the executive level and advocacy efforts.

Corporate Leadership on Climate Change
Question: Please name up to two companies that you think have made the biggest contribution to advancing solutions to climate change in the past five years.

Source: The 2015 Climate Survey. A GlobeScan / SustainAbility Survey

The private sector will have to do significantly more post-2015 for the international community to move the needle on climate change, the survey indicates. While governments have grown accustomed to being in the hot seat, many companies are still getting used to the idea that they, too, have an obligation to tackle global warming. According to 86% of experts, the role of the private sector in the implementation of the post-Paris framework will be “important” or “very important.” Switching to renewable energy and reducing emissions in the supply chain are seen as the most effective ways for business to contribute.

Expectations for Future Performance
Question: Assuming an agreement is reached at COP21, how important will the role of each of the following organisations be to the effective implementation of the post-Paris climate change framework.

Source: The 2015 Climate Survey. A GlobeScan / SustainAbility Survey

While the role of scientific institutions continues to be seen as important, we are seeing a change in the perceived effectiveness of climate change strategies. Though economic and regulatory approaches remain the most agreed upon ways of achieving change, survey responses indicate a shift in emphasis from science to cooperation and diplomacy. As for the effectiveness of economic instruments, respondents are clear – the governments should take action to abolish subsidies for the fossil fuel industry and introduce taxes on greenhouse gas emissions.

Overall, a cautious sense of optimism prevails ahead of the Paris conference. An overwhelming 92% believe that a pact of some sort will be reached. While only 32% of respondents are confident that the COP21 accord will have binding powers, expectations are high that the December summit will put the international community back on track to containing climate change. The success of post-2015 climate action will not be possible without a more widely shared collective effort and deeper involvement of all actors. However, the efforts of state leaders and corporations will be paramount. The stakes are high and the journey ahead is long – the time to act is now.

26.11.2015 Waste Powered Home

Adele Peters writing in Fast Company:
An abandoned farm in rural Spain, a mile from the nearest tiny village, is the unlikely site of cutting-edge energy technology. The new farmhouse under construction on the property will eventually be powered partly by the owners' poop.

The mini waste-to-energy system takes organic waste—straight from toilets, from kitchen scraps, and from horse manure on the farm—and converts it into energy that can provide hot water, heat, and gas for cooking.

The same technology is becoming more common at a large scale, like a food waste-powered plant in the U.K. (which sends energy directly back to the supermarket that threw out the food). But the new house in Spain was designed to show that the tech is also feasible for individual homes...[more]

26.11.2015 Eneza Education - Spreading Education Everywhere

In Kenya:

Eneza...offers a virtual tutor and teacher’s assistant – a way for both students and teachers to access valuable courses and assessments while interacting with live instructors – all through a low-cost mobile phone. Students can access locally-aligned tutorials, tips, and assessments, as well as a leaderboard, Wikipedia text and live teacher chat through USSD/SMS, an online web app, an offline desktop app, and an Android app. Individual parents, students or teachers can buy a subscription to our courses for a low weekly or monthly fee.

26.11.2015 Consensus Systems - A Blockchain Application Builder

Niran Babalola is the cofounder of:
Consensus Systems (ConsenSys) a venture production studio building decentralized applications and various developer and end-user tools for blockchain ecosystems, focusing primarily on Ethereum.

24.11.2015 Carbon Tipping Points. And Climate Movements. Signals of Hope for Future Generations?

Will Geoff Lye's latest grandchild, Leo, wonder why it took us so long to avert the huge impacts of climate change?

This is the second in a series of blogs Geoff Lye will produce in the run up to COP 21 and through the conference itself. His blogs from most COPs since the Bali conference in 2007 can be found here .

As I wrote this, my latest grandchild arrived in this world. [Thanks. Leo. 9.1 pounds. And both well!]. Statistically, he should still be alive in 2100 – and will, along with the rest of his generation, be wondering why it took us so long to avert the huge impacts climate change will have had on his life and his world. But, as we near COP 21, I am seeing ever more references to tipping points – both good and bad – which will have transformed the climate transition within Leo’s lifetime.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. In my first blog, I reported that we are now half way to the 2°C threshold. In reality, however, we have already committed to a further 0.5°C as historic emissions continue to warm the atmosphere. And, if we rely on the UN and governments to find solutions, we are almost certain to breach the 2°C ‘limit’.

Furthermore, the widely used references to a ‘2°C limit’ (let alone ‘safe limit’) are misleading. Imagine the captain on a flight announcing just before take-off that the amount of fuel on board had been calculated to give a 50:50 chance of not running out during the flight…And then think about the IPCC’s calculation that if the emissions reductions at the heart of the COP 21 negotiations are agreed upon, there is a 50% chance that we will not breach the 2°C threshold and tip into ‘dangerous’ climate change (see the Synthesis Report for Policymakers). In other words, there is a 50% chance that we will!

As a leading NASA scientist, James Hansen, put it: “The target that has been talked about in international negotiations for two degrees of warming is actually a prescription for long-term disaster.” So 2°C must not be seen as the target; nor as a safe limit; but rather as a cliff edge to avoid at all costs. Hence the growing calls to target 1.5°C in line with the Precautionary Principle – and common sense.

But, for the moment, let’s assume success in Paris; and that all countries deliver on their ‘Intended Nationally Declared Commitments’(1); and that, in time, they set themselves even more ambitious targets. Even then, the bottom line would be adverse, unpredictable and with potentially catastrophic impacts.

At this point, we might reasonably ask: if our governments are falling so woefully short of what we need to protect us from avoidable acceleration of global warming, what hope is there? Well, the news is not all bad. Regardless of the outcome in Paris, I see many current, real world developments tipping the balance in favour of decarbonisation of our energy systems, our economies and our lifestyles:

  1. One of most critical thresholds to cross is the point at which renewable energy is cheaper per kilowatt than fossil powered electricity. Even with the recent collapse in oil prices, this critical milestone has been achieved in the UK, Germany and Australia(2); and in virtually all cases, the trend of costs in renewables is declining – in some cases sharply. The market has shifted investment from fossil fuels to renewables; indeed, from 2013, renewables investment has exceeded that spent finding and extracting oil and gas.
  2. The biggest hurdle facing dependence on renewables has been the unreliability of supply as sun and wind fluctuate. The key solution is to be able to store energy when it is abundant and to draw it down in periods of low generation. 2015 has seen remarkable breakthroughs on this front including Tesla’s batteries which deliver up to 300 miles per charge; Morocco’s opening next month of the world’s largest solar plant which uses solar heating to produce molten salt which then drives turbines during the night; and radical innovations such as aluminium and lithium air batteries which dramatically increase storage capacity while reducing weight.
  3. The fossil fuel industry has made a lot of noise about Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as one of the keys to a gradual shift away from fossil fuels, but has failed to deliver a convincing case for its economic viability while facing public concern about how and where the carbon is to be stored. This year, for the first time, I have been reading about CCC – or Carbon Capture and Conversion. The simple aim is to take CO2 (from power stations or directly from the atmosphere) and convert it into products that are otherwise carbon intensive such as plastics. Players in this field include the material sciences company Covestro(3), who is working to transform CO2 into a useful raw material; Novomer, whose ‘net carbon negative’ polymers ‘contain up to 50% CO2 by mass, sequestering this harmful greenhouse gas permanently from the environment; and Newlight’s AirCarbon plastics, which use methane (84 times more potent than carbon dioxide) as a key input material(4).

Separately from these economic and technological tipping points, we are witnessing new trends and movements which are becoming powerful drivers of decarbonisation and climate risk avoidance. Civil society’s activism on climate change saw the world’s biggest march on any environmental issue in 2014; and even with the planned marches in Paris for COP 21 banned, it looks likely that record numbers will take to the streets around the world on 29 November. The online campaigning groups Avaaz (from zero to over 40 million members in 8 years!) and (see their rationale in 90 seconds here) are planning over 2,000 events in at least 150 countries around the world for the weekend of November 29 – the day before COP 21 begins.

Climate is spurring unprecedented mobilisation not just in the streets, but also on campuses and in investment committees and shareholder meetings — putting pressure on boards, pension and other funds to act on climate change. To date, institutions and individuals with funds worth almost $3 trillion (equal to the UK’s annual global GDP) have committed to divest from fossil fuel companies. Investor pressure and shareholder activism have combined to prompt much higher levels of climate risk disclosure; in 2015, the directors of BP, Shell and Statoil broke with the past and actively called for support for climate-related resolutions, obtaining almost 100% of the votes.

Economists, lawyers, bankers and insurers are also more deeply engaged than ever by the risks and opportunities of climate change. I have followed this space closely since I wrote a report entitled The Changing Landscape of Liability which foresaw precisely these sorts of developments. Admittedly, this accelerating interest could not yet be described as a ‘movement’, but when the Governor of the Bank of England links climate change to financial (in)stability, something significant is in the air. He used a recent speech to highlight, in his words, “three broad channels through which climate change can affect financial stability:

First, physical risks: the impacts today on insurance liabilities and the value of financial assets that arise from climate- and weather-related events, such as floods and storms that damage property or disrupt trade.

Second, liability risks: the impacts that could arise tomorrow if parties who have suffered loss or damage from the effects of climate change seek compensation from those they hold responsible. Such claims could come decades in the future, but have the potential to hit carbon extractors and emitters – and, if they have liability cover, their insurers – the hardest.

Finally, transition risks: the financial risks which could result from the process of adjustment towards a lower-carbon economy. Changes in policy, technology and physical risks could prompt a reassessment of the value of a large range of assets as costs and opportunities become apparent.”

Governor Carney very clearly articulates that climate change is not simply an environmental issue but directly linked to economic security. This is a theme I will develop further in my next blog: it will consider COP 21 and its implications for the private sector.

In summary, whilst we need – and hope for – a global ‘Paris Treaty’ which will set a new direction towards a lower carbon future, we should not see this – under even the most optimistic outcome – as anything other than a helpful support to other actors who are already choosing to act unilaterally. Many of these actors, whether in cities, corporations or universities, are driven by societal and business imperatives and should be applauded. Furthermore, they – and we – should be encouraged by the convergence of a range of irreversible carbon tipping points and climate movements. They will disrupt and decarbonise existing business models and markets in ways we cannot imagine but which our children and grandchildren will take for granted. They will just wonder why it took us so long. Apologies, Leo, but welcome to our world!

  1. INDCs have been submitted ahead of COP 21 and are judged to result in about 2.7°C of warming.
  2. See these articles in Fortune and Bloomberg Business for more information.
  3. Full disclosure: Covestro is a ‘breakthrough’ client of Volans where I am a shareholder and director.
  4. See this excellent article by Tim Flannery for more examples of radical new carbon reduction technologies.

24.11.2015 Mr. Jim Goes to Washington (and New York, and Nairobi, and Seoul, and Kampala, and Boston…)

Like many other leaders of nonprofit organizations, I travel an unreasonable fraction of the time. I recently hit three million lifetime miles on American Airlines. Not sure whether to celebrate or mourn this milestone.
Why do I do it? Why do my peers do it? We know that the carbon impact of all that travel is bad for the planet, and the personal impact of all that travel is bad on our bodies.
We travel because we think it’s the most effective way to spread social change. We travel because there is no substitute for human interaction. We travel because we need to raise money, and we won’t get it unless we get in front of the donors.
For the more senior social entrepreneurs, we can travel because we have leaders and teams that are usually better than we are at running the organizations we head and/or have founded. We travel because it‘s the best use of our time in finding the partnerships, insights, and the money our teams need to create more social change. Lastly, we travel to advocate for the world to change, from a position of authority based on the change our organizations are already delivering.
That’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it. However, I thought I’d back up the theory with a brief picture of what this kind of travel looks like in practice. When I travel, I write up detailed notes on who I meet with and what we discussed. After all, if we’re going to invest all of that time and money sending me places, Benetech better get its social good bang for the buck. So, let me tell you about a seven week travel jag I recently completed, where I spent almost 70% of the nights not at home (including weekends). Hopefully, it will give you a flavor of why this travel is worth it to me and Benetech!

New York 

Every year, social entrepreneurs and donors (along with a whole lot of other folks) converge on New York City. It’s the week of the United Nations General Assembly and the Clinton Global Initiative. Even if all you do is spent two minutes in the lobby of the hotel where CGI is held, you have plenty of meetings and events to attend. My trip report mentions 19 different events or meetings, where I talked to at least 40 named individuals, in five days in New York City, and here are some of the highlights:
Skyscraper at night, with partial moon rising right next to it visually.
Empire State Building and Moon in Eclipse
  • Attended events thrown by current funders (Skoll Foundation, the Internet Freedom Program at the State Department), past funders (Omidyar Network), and other funders who I hope will fund us someday (who shall remain nameless for now). 
  • Took pictures of the lunar eclipse next to the Empire State Building(!)
  • Attended a networking events for social entrepreneurs, such as the one organized by the Schwab Foundation (the organizers of the World Economic Forum in Davos), where we brainstormed about different issues. I led a conversation on what big data is going to mean for social entrepreneurs. 
  • Met with current and prospective individual donors as part of my donor cultivation and stewardship efforts, by thanking current donors and explaining what we’ve accomplished with their support, and sharing our activities with prospective donors in the hopes of getting them to support Benetech. 
  • Consulted with some peer social entrepreneurs about whether we could help them with specific technology for their nonprofits. 
  • Met with a big NYC disability services provider about a possible Bookshare partnership. 
  • Met with a major international human rights defender group about our Martus technology and digital security more generally. 
  • Interviewed several candidates for executive positions at Benetech. 
  • Met with the UN Foundation about a major grant they are giving us to bring Bookshare to India. 
  • And much more… 

Washington, D.C. 

I then zipped down to DC for three days. I spent one day with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as they hosted an event for the Technology Partner Network (I’m one of a couple of hundred of tech advisors in the network). It was interesting to hear the latest about the Gates Foundation and their tech directions. We’re a former grantee and we hope that our work and Gates funding priorities coincide again in the future. Mainly, it was interesting to hear the perspective of a bunch of fellow tech advisors and be part of a process of collectively getting smarter.
Next was two days of Capitol Hill lobbying. I spend between four and ten days a year talking to Congressional staff (this year will be at the lower end of the range). I started
doing this back in 2007, when we won our first big federal contract for Bookshare, to take it from 3,000 students back then to more than 350,000 students now. This time I had three agenda items for my conversations with congressional staff:
  • Advocating for funding for special education. We’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years advocating against cuts to the funding that supports our work, by pointing out how amazingly effective this funding is. Even in the tough fiscal environment in Washington, we get good hearings from both Republicans and Democrats. Ensuring kids with disabilities get equal opportunity is, fortunately, a bipartisan issue. 
  • The Marrakesh Treaty. Word is that the Marrakesh Treaty for the Blind has a ratification package completed. That’s all of the legal work-up on a treaty and how U.S. law needs to change to comply with the treaty (the hope is that these changes are minimal). It’s now up to the Obama Administration to decide if and when they ask the Senate to ratify it. This is not as improbable as it might seem: there’s a pretty good chance the Republican-led Senate might approve the Treaty. I had hoped that the package would have already been in the hands of the Senate, but it hasn’t happened yet. I had a joint meeting (both Republicans and Democrats) with the key Senate Judiciary Committee staff who are the copyright experts, and learned a lot about the process. 
  • Student privacy. We recently wrote a piece in Medium on our concerns about new privacy legislation affecting nonprofits that work in schools. I had a chance to meet with staffers involved in the drafting of two key federal bills that are most likely to be adopted, and shared my issues. This is what my team calls a karma gig. Benetech is going to be able to comply with any reasonable legislation around student privacy, and we’re supportive of improved privacy standards. But, we’re concerned about small nonprofits who are not Google, Facebook, Pearson or Benetech, and they aren’t able to show up in a place like DC. So, we fill in for them. 

Nairobi, Kenya 

Next I headed to Nairobi, Kenya. My main commitment was to attend a conference in Uganda (described below in this blog post), but I figured if I was in east Africa, I should take the opportunity to first visit two key partners in Kenya (after having a coffee on Sunday with my cousin's daughter, an MIT grad working on analyzing traffic safety data gleaned from social media in Kenya).
My first visit was with Carol Wanjiku, the CEO of our outsourcing partner Daproim. Carol’s social enterprise in Nairobi employs over 100 students working to proofread books for our Bookshare digital library. Her story is so compelling, I’ve already written a blog post about this incredible woman, entitled Rockstar Nairobi Social Entrepreneur. Enough said!
Alberta Wambua, John Kipchumbah, Jim Fruchterman and Dr. Sam Thenya in front of hospital signs
Gender Violence Recover Unit

The next day I spent with our long-term tech partner, John “Kipp” Kipchumbah of Infonet. Our first in-person meeting was four years ago, but Kipp has been working with Benetech for more than a decade. Kipp has been a leading software developer in the region, creating software around election monitoring and government transparency just to name a few.
We were supposed to start our visit with a very high government official, but instead Kipp took me over to Nairobi Women’s Hospital. This hospital has a specialty unit that focuses on the survivors of sexual violence such as rape, and Kipp introduced me to Alberta Wambua, who runs the Gender Violence Recovery Centre at the hospital. I quickly found myself talking to one of the front-line doctors, Dr. Edwin, who explained the process of completing the standard rape reporting form paperwork while treating a rape victim. In quick succession I met the medical director who oversees the doctors in the hospital, and then the hospital CEO, Dr. Sam Thenya.
Kipp’s idea was that we could take this paper-based rape reporting system and build it on top of our Martus secure human rights software platform. It would have the following benefits:
  • Keeping this highly confidential information safe; 
  • Backing up the information securely into the cloud; 
  • Tracking all changes to the records from the very first time the data is captured; 
  • Allowing the medical experts in the Gender Based Violence (GBV) area to have better aggregate data about the prevalence and characteristics of GBV in Kenya. 
The Benetech team is very excited about helping with this important application: we’ve already built an initial prototype of the app for Kipp and his partners to evaluate.

Kampala, Uganda 

The Sixth Africa Forum was the main reason for my Africa trip. The Africa Forum is the premier meeting of blindness groups across sub-Saharan Africa, and it’s held roughly every three years. It was the third Africa Forum I’ve attended: I went to Accra, Ghana, in 2011 and South Africa in 2004. This time, I had the benefit of help. Our new international Bookshare manager, Terry Jenna, arrived several days before I did and I found myself in a whirl of meetings with international groups, funders, the key disability minister in the Ugandan government, and many others.
Beatrice Kaggya (Ugandan disability commissioner), Terry Jenna, Minister Sulaiman Madada, Jim Fruchterman in office
Visiting the Hon. Sulaiman Madada, Uganda's Minister of State for Gender, Labour and Social Development
The conference was ably keynoted by Professor Ruth Okediji, who played a key role in negotiating the Marrakesh Treaty on behalf of the African delegations. She is a University of Minnesota law school professor who was born in Africa and is a terrific advocate for the Treaty and its empowerment of the blind community. Bookshare was there with two offers. First, Bookshare has more than 200,000 accessible titles in English available to blind people in Africa. So, we’re happy to share the American (and Canadian and British and Indian) content we already have. Second, we’d be happy to provide the digital infrastructure so that African countries can create their own Bookshare collections once they ratify the Marrakesh Treaty.
One moment made a big impression on me. We were demonstrating Bookshare to a person at one of Uganda’s top universities. They have over 100 visually impaired students enrolled, and want to do more for these students. We were sitting in the shade outside the conference facility, but there was good wifi. I brought up our Read Now capability in Google’s Chrome browser and started reading a textbook aloud directly from the browser. The light bulb went off and our guest exclaimed, “That’s exactly what our students need!” A nice reminder of why we do this work!

Half Moon Bay, California

After 2.5 weeks on the road, I got back and slept in my bed for a couple of nights. Then, it was off to Miramar Farms in Half Moon Bay, a community on the Pacific Ocean less than an hour from our offices in Silicon Valley. Benetech has held its annual management team offsite at Miramar Farms several times. We find their restored barn to be a terrific place to step away and brainstorm about Benetech’s plans for the coming years.
The offsite went really well, best we have had. I had a particular brainstorm as a result of some ideas presented by the team, because on the flight back from Africa I had just read Sally Osberg’s new book on social entrepreneurship (coauthored with Prof. Roger Martin). It made a big impression on me, and I am also working on a blog post inspired by her book, Getting Beyond Better.

Seoul, South Korea

After an almost restful whirlwind of meetings in California, it was off to Seoul for the Eighth Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy. This is my first time at this conference, which had been strongly recommended to me by Stanford Professor Larry Diamond and the head of the National Endowment for Democracy, Carl Gershman.
What attracted me to the meeting was Benetech’s expanded focus on social justice and the humanitarian fields in our human rights work. It was a chance to get exposed to a new set of people. It was also important to finally meet some leaders in the field who I had never met in person. For example, Professor Ron Deibert from the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School. The Citizen Lab is probably the world’s foremost group analyzing the attacks on human rights groups by repressive governments. Although Benetech has cooperated with the Citizen Lab for years, I know that meeting Ron in person will take that relationship up a notch.
At the meeting I met with groups from all over the world, including people who have visited Benetech’s offices but who hadn’t met me (probably because I was traveling). One of the most exciting meetings was with Scott Carpenter of Google Ideas, where I got the inside scoop on their ambitious plans to end online repressive censorship. Google Ideas was there in force, and even as a longtime security geek I learned some things by attending one of their training sessions.
Of course, being in proximity to North Korea, one of the most dire countries in terms of respect for human rights, meant that this topic came up frequently. I had a couple of meetings on the topic, including an illuminating discussion with the Transitional Justice Working Group.


Flying directly from Seoul to Boston (via Dallas), I jumped into an experts’ meeting on the Marrakesh Treaty. Professor Ruth Okediji, who keynoted the Uganda conference a couple of weeks earlier, is visiting Harvard Law School this year. She convened a group of noteworthy law professors who are experts on international law, including human rights and copyright law. The chief negotiators of the Treaty for India (GR Raghavender), Brazil (Kenneth Nobrega), and of course Nigeria (Ruth) all participated. The objective of this group is to draft a guide to the Marrakesh Treaty for countries around the world to use as they implement the Marrakesh provisions in their national law. Even as someone who has worked in the human rights field for many years, I learned a great deal from these eminent experts, and hopefully shed some light on the details on how libraries like Bookshare serve people with disabilities like vision impairment or dyslexia.


And now I’m briefly back with my team in Palo Alto, and the season has changed from warm and mild to cool and occasionally even rainy. But, it’s sure a nice place to visit!

24.11.2015 How to Link Facebook Posts to Business Outcomes

The following post is copyrighted by Return On Now - Austin Internet Marketing Consulting Services

Whether you want to increase awareness about your brand, product or service or reach out to new customers, your business goals should motivate how you use Facebook. Some B2B marketers believe that running a few ads will be enough to meet these goals. But the truth is, it comes down to good, old-fashioned strategy. Do you want to use Facebook… read more →

The post How to Link Facebook Posts to Business Outcomes appeared first on Return On Now.

23.11.2015 Democracy in digital times

I'm honored to have had my first ever newspaper article published in Portuguese in the Brazilian paper Gazeta do Povo. It was published as part of the first ever Semana da Democracia - Democracy Week.

The link above will take you to the article, there's a photo below, and if your Portuguese is as bad as mine, the English original is below.

The Demands of Digital Democracy
Lucy Bernholz

            Digital data and infrastructure are changing business, government, and the ways that people help each other out. We now shop, vote, and donate money and time using networked digital connections. In twenty years mobile phone access has risen from 1% of the world’s population to more than 70%. This is the year that analysts predict there will be more mobile phone accounts than people on the planet. 

            In the United States most of the discussion these digital tools are often described as democratizing. As more people gain network access, more voices can be heard, more engagement can be created, and more participation is possible. The democratizing potential of digital tools is one of their greatest selling points.
            Since we’ve now been using these digital tools for almost two decades, we should be able to answer the question of when and how they are democracy enhancing. There is a great deal of data – from political protests to community organizing based on mobile phones to civic technology efforts focused on helping governments be more responsive and engaged with their electorates.

            But all the data do not point in one direction. Despite promises of digital democracy, voting rates are still low and protestors are easily tracked. And with every step forward, to bring more people into the digital conversation, the digital divide moves as well – it doesn’t close, it simply shifts from being about access, to being about skills, to be about voice, to being about power and influence. As people better understand the surveilled nature of digital spaces that knowledge has tempered the enthusiasm of community associations to rely on these low cost tools. Two decades into the digital revolution we are excited and cautious, dependent upon and tired of being always connected, always available.

            How to use digital tools to engage citizens safely, to encourage participation, and to involve and listen to the many new voices now ready to be heard remains a challenge. It is not as simple as just making the technology available. Left to their own devices, people with digital access do not automatically seek greater learning opportunities, take more active roles in their communities, or take part in the public life of their nations. But we know they can’t and won’t take these steps without the tools to do so.

             Digital tools and infrastructure are not innately democratizing. As they’ve become common, the thing they’ve created is a need for more equitable access to them. They will not counteract apathy or powerlessness or structural exclusion. The lesson of the last twenty years is that the tools and the skills to use digital tools well have become a necessity, but access is not sufficient. Greater democratic participation in the digital age depends on a commitment not to digital tools, but to the values of democracy itself.

21.11.2015 Learnings from the 2015 Queen's Smith Innovation Summit

"Winning the Talent Wars" panel, moderated by Social Focus's very own Albert Oppenheimer, admitting a preference for non-business background a business school

7th Annual Innovation Summit just happened and what a great timing as Queen's recently innovated the business school's name thanks to a generous donation from Mr. Stephen Smith. Is a simple organizational name change really innovation? Let's pause for a second, and discuss what exactly is innovation?

1. What is innovation?

Compared to previous iterations, this conference had many speakers that weighed in on what innovation is (and isn't): Alec Morley of mobile payments start-up UGO says that the greatest innovations are "the simplest." Similarly, the opening keynote Eme Onuoha, Chief Innovation Officer at Xerox, said that the most disruptive, not necessarily the highest performing technologies, are the ones that ruled the market. Just because something is simple or doable, however, doesn't mean that you should do it according to lunchtime panel moderator David Kincaid.

Some referred to innovation as more of a process than an end result. Eme refers to the stages of innovation as "dream, design, deliver, disrupt." In reference to both the "dream" and "design" stages of innovation, Trevor Haldenby of The Mission Business, showed us the webpage of fake company ByoLogyc. The purpose of the webpage is to help us tell stories about the future and incorporate feedback when people interact with the page. Jose Ribau, Chief Data Officer at CIBC, alludes to the "design" and "deliver" stages by stressing the importance of big data analytics on "new product development, growth of client segments, and client retention."

Whether it's an outcome or process or both, innovations have to solve problems to generate business value. For example, Alec said that UGO is solving the "fat wallet" problem for people wanting to carry fewer cards. At P&G, Katie Elder said that the global company initially developed a process for purifying water to benefit its supply chain but ultimately learned that the  process was better used to help people get access to clean drinking water. While this can be considered a philanthropic effort, sustainability also has long term business benefits according to Katie.

2. Creating a culture of innovation

For innovation to happen, we need leadership and people according to Eme and the entire "Winning the Talent Wars" panel. To facilitate a culture of innovation, we need three key things: diversity, personal conversations, and failure and learning.

Ian Rosenfeldt, Creative Process Consultant at Cognitive Mix, says that the key to winning the talent war lies in understanding and embracing diversity. Similarly, Jose mentions how CIBC periodically holds a Dragon's Den -type pitch competition to encourage employee-based innovation and crowd source multiple ideas and perspectives.

A culture that promotes personal conversations is also key to innovation, according to Carter Powis, Managing Partner at Spencer Stuart. While technology such as Skype can be used to channel virtual face to face conversations, several speakers caution against the sole use of technology. Leonard Abramsky, Managing Partner at Brookfield Financial and a humorously self-declared member of the "dead" (read: old) generation, suggests to not hide behind e-mails and to pick up the phone. Surprisingly, millennial and recent Queen's grad Christian Alaimo agrees that hiding behind technology is often a sign of being uncomfortable with personal conversations. In the talent wars panel, New York Times best selling author Liane Davey offers a similar sentiment, "technology is profuse but creating superficial connections."

Another important factor for an innovation culture is failure and learning. According to Fraser Stark, VP of Influitive, you need to have both failure and learning as those who don't learn from failure are not getting the benefit from it. This is echoed by George Petropoulos, Vice Chairman at Travelers Canada,
who says that organizations need to create an environment where people feel they can grow. From a leadership perspective, feedback on failure is especially important while you "still believe in the person" - a great gut check, according to Liane. As for frequency of feedback, Leonard suggests more frequent feedback particularly for millennials. Communicating employees' impact as a result of the failure and learning is also important according to Heidi Hauver, VP of HR at Pythian.

Eme Onuhoa, Chief Innovation Officer at Xerox, delivering the opening keynote

While the re-branding to Smith School of Business is simple and disruptive, it probably won't meet most people's idea of "innovation." I think we can agree, however, that the investment will certainly result in attracting more leaders and talent to the school who in turn can facilitate innovation. I'm looking forward to the next Summit where I hope there are even more diverse speakers, great personal conversations, and tons of failure and learning. See you at the next one (or sooner).

For more pictures from the event, check out our Facebook page.

Social Focus Consulting
when it comes to your cause, we mean business

If you enjoyed this article, then read Learnings from and Comments on QSBIS 2012

21.11.2015 Take the field!

These words are by “The First American” , Benjamin Franklin, and perfectly exemplify the philosophy of Vigyan Ashram, Rang De’s field partner in Maharashtra.


Rang De’s Pune team started the month of November by a field visit to Vigyan Ashram in Pabal , followed by a visit to the engineering and fabrication workshop of Ganesh Pawar, a borrower located in the town of Pargaon.


Vigyan Ashram

Vigyan Ashram is a center of Indian Institute Of Education (IIE) Pune, established in 1983 by scientist and educationalist , Late Dr. Kalbag, that caters to the skill development and training needs of the rural youth.Developing entrepreneurial skills is an important part of this educational system. … Read further

20.11.2015 Better Hearing in the Dominican Republic Provided by Hear the World Foundation and Sonova Group

(Camil looking at sister Shenoa. Photo Credit: Michael Isaac)

(3BL Media and Just Means)—Sisters Camil and Shenoa bounce around the playground at Centro Cristiano de Servicios Medicos in a busy neighborhood of Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. They show me how they can do handstands and other acrobatic tricks as their parents proudly inform me of their daughters’ achievements. At just 12 years old, Camil participates in one of the country’s national junior, volleyball leagues. She’s tall and strong and plays the position of “atacador,” she tells me. Her father has high hopes Camil will make a career out of volleyball and is saving money to take her to Puerto Rico for an important tournament.

I ask Camil several questions about what she likes about playing volleyball. I can tell she’s having trouble reading my lips and understanding my accent. Her father repeats my questions slowly and encourages Camil to look at me and answer me directly. She tries, though her responses are broken and muffled. The confident athlete who 15 minutes earlier proudly demonstrated her cartwheels becomes shy and timid as she speaks.

(Camil speaking with me. Photo Credit: Michael Isaac). 

Both Camil and Shenoa were born with severe hearing loss. When Camil was one year old, her mother discovered her unresponsiveness during the annual December fireworks. Shenoa’s severe hearing loss was detected at three months, her mother being acutely aware of the signals for deafness. The cause for the hearing loss in both girls remains unknown, though it does not run in their family.

Miguel Evangelista, Director of the Audiology Program at Centro Cristiano de Servicios Medicos--a robust medical center, offering extensive services to some of the poorest residents in the Dominican Republic--explains to me that Camil and Shenoa received hearing aids in the past, but because their hearing loss is so severe, the aids did not provide sufficient support.

“Both patients have received hearing therapy and came to the clinic today to be fitted with MAX hearing aids,” says Evangelista.

In 2010, Centro Cristiano de Servicios Medicos partnered with the Hear the World Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to enable as many people as possible to enjoy better hearing. Founded by Swiss-based hearing aid manufacturer Phonak, a brand of the Sonova Group, the Hear the World Foundation is financed by Sonova Group and its missional-inspired employees who often fundraise to support projects around the globe. Nicole Hunter, Hospital Administrator of Centro Cristiano de Servicios Medicos, applied for a partnership with Hear the World Foundation when she saw the need for audiology services for the hundreds of children the medical center serves daily. She knew that the island lacked hearing support services and that children with hearing loss were among the most marginalized. However, before the center could provide hearing aids and screenings to patients, Hunter recognized that they needed to build a strong team of audiologists. The first step in the partnership with the Hear the World Foundation was to launch the first audiology training program in the Dominican Republic.

“Our training program brings in new medical students and builds the capacity of the clinic,” says Hunter. “Our goal is to train enough audiologists so that they can serve patients in each of our four sub-centers across the city.”  

So far, 15 Dominicans students have been trained as audiologists, and the Hear the World Foundation has invested $275,000 in hearing aids, batteries, diagnostic equipment and monetary distributions. To me, this piece is corporate social responsibility at its finest: Not only does the Hear the World Foundation provide funding, diagnostic equipment and hearing aids for partners like Centro Cristiano de Servicios Medicos, the Sonova Group also provides employees with paid time off to offer their expertise and training skills.

During my visit with Centro Cristiano de Servicios Medicos, Olga Guzman, a Sonova Group Technical Audiologist from an office in Bogota, Colombia trained new audiology students to properly fit children with Unitron hearing aids. Together with Guzman, Sarah Kreienbuehl, GVP Corporate HRM and Communications at Sonova Group and Board Member of the Hear the World Foundation and Michael Isaac, Director of Media Relations of Sonova Group and photographer, I watched children experience the sound of their mothers’ voices for the first time. Some of the children were startled with the loud and noisy world around them. Others turned their heads quickly as we knocked on walls and doors, responding to a variety of vibrations. Watching a child look up at their mother as they heard her say their name evoked emotion in all of us. These are moments I will never forget. These are moments made possible because of the Hear the World Foundation’s long-term commitments to building audiological infrastructure in the world’s poorest nations.

According to the Hear the World Foundation’s 2013-2014 report and research from the World Health Organization, only 5.2 percent of low income countries have more than one audiologist per million population, compared to 87.5 percent of high income countries. In developing nations like the Dominican Republic where audiologists are few, sign language education and deaf support systems are also rare. Detecting hearing loss in young children is essential because left untreated, the academic and career options for a person with hearing loss are extremely limited, often resulting in a life of exclusion and poverty. It’s not a future Sonova Group will accept.

“We can’t say our vision [at Sonova Group] is to live in a world where everyone enjoys hearing and not do something about creating access for those in developing nations,” Kreienbuehl says. “Our aim is to invest into locally-based partners with the potential for long-term sustainability.”

And they are picky about the partners they choose. They have to be, Kreienbuehl tells me. Hear the World Foundation receives more than a hundred applications every year and looks for specific check points in each one.

“How will the partner reach out to parents? How will they collaborate with local governments? Do they work with the insurance system? If there are in-country experts, do they collaborate with them? How will they support the patients after the hearing aid fitting? How will they create self-sustaining revenue?” Kreienbuehl explains to me.

With a 30-year history of successfully providing medical services to the poor, Center Cristiano de Servicios Medicos was a natural partner for the Hear the World Foundation. Phase two of the partnership includes the launch of the first, newborn screening clinic in the Dominican Republic. In collaboration with one of Santo Domingo’s largest, public hospitals—where 19,000 babies are born every year--a team of audiologists will use high-tech equipment to screen babies for hearing loss, hours after they are born.

“Based on annual birthrates, we can assume a minimum of 400 newborns with congenital hearing impairment per year. The screenings will start with premature babies first because they are at higher risk for hearing loss,” says Hunter.

The newborn screening program will prevent families from haphazardly discovering deafness in their toddlers. Parents like those of Camil and Shenoa won’t have to worry if their daughters will have delayed language development—or hear their volleyball teammates yell from across the court to set the ball.

“Camil has been asking when she was going to get a better hearing device,” her father tells me. “She couldn’t wait for this day to come.”

See the partnership between Centro Cristiano de Servicios Medicos & Hear the World. Read the 2013/2014 Hear the World Foundation Report. Check out where Hear the World invests around the world. Read about Centro Cristiano de Servicios Medicos in Santo Domingo. Like Hear the World on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter and their feed on Instagram. 

Friday, November 20, 2015 - 9:30am