By Nicholas Chan
I’m writing this from Washington
Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS), where our 12
inaugural Blue Engine Fellows are wrapping up their three-week training. The heat
is sweltering on the non-air conditioned fourth floor of this public school
building, but these folks are beyond intrepid.
everywhere in between (Kentucky, Missouri, South
Carolina, Ohio, Massachussetts, Pennsylvania (2), New
Jersey). They turned down opportunities at Teach For
America, law school, and the National Institute of Health to work for $1200
a month (before taxes) in the US’s most expensive city. Their
day starts at 7:30am when high school students roll into
WHEELS (where 90% of the students are Dominican and 90% of students are eligible
for free lunch), into the day, into afterschool programming, and into the night
as they prepare for their next 7:30am day. Nearly 200 applicants applied for
the Blue Engine Fellowship and after a lengthy, 3-part application process, these 12 Fellows
will pioneer Blue Engine’s first year.
Our 12 Fellows come from as far away as California (2,3), as nearby
Blue Engine’s mission is to harness
the power of national service to advance educational excellence and equity – to
help all students, regardless of background or income level, be not just eligible to go to college, but ready to graduate from college on time.
The Fellows are an integral part of this – as
Algebra teaching assistants for all 8th and 9th grade
students, they supplement the work of WHEELS teachers by helping smaller groups
of students master the material. In the future, Blue Engine will expand to
other subjects, grades, schools, and cities, but for now, the program centers
on Integrated Algebra classrooms at WHEELS. Blue Engine’s theory
of change is based on evidence that the strongest predictor of
college success is the academic rigor of one’s high school program. You read
that right – your high school program (especially Integrated Algebra, which
often determines whether students continue in higher math) is key to determining
your college future. Many of our
youth enter college woefully underprepared. After
struggling in remedial classes (where they receive no credit), many drop out,
several thousand dollars in debt. Blue Engine, with the help of our Fellows,
was founded to meet this challenge head on.
The last stanza of Shel Silverstein’s poem “The Little
Blue Engine” (where the organization gets its name) reads “if the
track is rough and the hill is tough, thinking you can just ain’t enough”. Some
interpret this line cynically, but Blue Engine believes it has a positive
message. Rather than merely telling students they can succeed in college, hard work
and preparation is required before they even set foot on a college campus.
School starts on September 8th. The Fellows have worked together for
only a little over 3 weeks. But they are clearly up to the challenge of
preparing the youth of WHEELS to succeed in Integrated Algebra and beyond. Follow
their journey through our website and our Facebook
By Keren G. Raz, NYU Law Social Enterprise Fellow and Apollo Management’s Socially Responsible Investing Associate
Karnani, Professor of Strategy at the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross
School of Business, made the case against corporate social responsibility (CSR)
in the Wall Street Journal. Hundreds
of comments flowed in arguing the case for CSR. Having spent the past few
months deeply immersed in the CSR world as Apollo Management’s Socially
Responsible Investing Associate, I thought I would weigh in on where Karnani is right in his case against CSR and what he gets wrong.
TRUE: In practice,
business goals do conflict with CSR program goals, and where they do, business
Karnani wrote, “In circumstances in
which profits and social welfare are in direct opposition, an appeal to
corporate social responsibility will almost always be ineffective, because executives
are unlikely to act voluntarily in the public interest and against shareholder
interests.” Karnani’s statement that profits and social welfare at times
conflict has been criticized as outdated. One person wrote in response, “We see
from experience that profit and public interest are interdependent.” This
critic’s comment through is an oversimplification.
Generally, the two may be
interdependent, but Karnani is looking at the situations where the two
conflict. He is right: business and CSR goals will experience conflict at some
point in time for any given company. A hypothetical illustrates this point. Company
A has hired a manager to oversee its operations. The manager now has a choice
to make as he/she puts together a budget. He/she can retrofit all of the
company’s smokestacks with new and expensive carbon-reducing technology that
the company can barely afford, or the manager can leave the current smokestacks
alone. Regardless of your opinion on what the outcome ought to be, it is
crucial to see that there is a conflict here between business goals and social
welfare goals. An acknowledgement of this conflict arms us with additional
information and provides us with a good starting point as we determine the root
causes and most appropriate solutions to a problem.
ERROR: Karnani leaves stakeholders out of his analysis
In discussing how we might arrive at a solution to social problems, Karnani lists government regulation, citizen activism, and corporate self-regulation as the main players. Crucially, in this statement, Karnani leaves out the stakeholders who also play a role, constituencies including consumers, employees,
suppliers, and others who are necessary for a business to succeed. Employee
strikes in China make poor working conditions unprofitable for corporations.
Consumer preferences for organic foods make putting organic food on the shelves
a smart decision for Wal-Mart. Cheaper energy saving technologies, provided by
suppliers, motivate companies to buy them and save on costs. In other words,
where profits and social welfare conflict, stakeholders may hold the answer to
realigning incentives such that the two no longer oppose each other.
Stakeholders are not only
noticeably absent in Karnani’s piece, but also detrimentally so, for the
absence affects his analysis. Where a corporation is vigilant about its
consumer CSR interests and desires that affect long-term demand for its
products, the corporation designs a good CSR program to anticipate these needs.
In this way, a good CSR program identifies strategic social and business
opportunities. While there may not be a perfect match at times between business
interests and public interests, a CSR officer can find the synergies that
continue to ensure alignment. Thus, for consumers and other stakeholders who
want to see companies act as good corporate citizens and for companies that
want to stay relevant, a CSR program is now vital. Stakeholders and CSR programs also hold the keys to solving problems.
By Alexandre Carvalho
The Jester. Weird and fascinating invention of Middle Age courts: a tradition that in some places lasted as late as the 19th century, and with some incredible stories behind it. For instance, there are references indicating that Queen Elizabeth I reprimanded her official court jester for not being severe enough with her on his ridicule. Jesters were irreverent and did not spare anyone in their jokes and crass. Even though the role had no credibility for “serious matters”, there are accounts of court jesters that were advisers to the monarchs in affairs of state – after all, no euphemisms, omissions, silence or half truths were necessary.
The jester was in a privileged position: due to his discredit and lack of reputation, he was the only one in the court who could freely speak truth to power and don’t be beheaded in the process. To this day in power circles or wherever there is substantial accumulation of power, the presence of an official or natural jester is not uncommonly noted. Someone has to cry out that the king is nude.
But ‘what the j’ has to do with Social Entrepreneurship, motivations, or whatever else that was up there in the title? Well, lots. First, sometimes he appears randomly in society and inappropriately writes about things uncalled for, in a manner that is also uncalled for; so the buffoon kind of asked this humble writer to give out the disclaimer. On his words, “give this son of Dionysus a break, for freaksake!”.
Second, the jokester said that it has nothing to do with the individual that impersonates the fool: he is poetically taken by the zeitgeist and has to write out stuff under strict disorders of Puck. Yeah, Puck – our building mascot (Puck is a jester too, by the way: make a prayer-joke when entering 295 Lafayette).
Ok. Now that a ridiculous sound case was made for starting this essay talking about jesters, let’s move to what moves you. Why we do what we do? Why we say we want to change the world and obsessively chase after dreams, sometimes at the cost of our health, romantic relationships, and even lives? Who do you serve? yourself or others (or a blended value of both)? What do you seek? fame, glory, recognition? did vanity or ambition took the best of you or is it perfectly human to have them inside? what you search in the night is purpose, meaning, significance?… – is it about legacy, a footprint that enables you to feel special? you know, so later you have the legitimacy and authenticity to tell your children that you indeed lived the ideals that you now preach them?
The question is sharp as a blunt knife. Why do you do the things you do? Moving beyond motivations, why do the things we do if in the end death takes you into dissolution? It feels as if life is about pushing a huge rock high up a steep mountain so to see it roll back again (and again) to the valley.
Albert Camus, the French existentialist writer, wrote and discoursed about this human condition on a book called “The Myth of Sisyphus” where he asks if suicide was a logical answer to this trickster riddle (and the Jester is back). To this humble non-depressed/non-famous writer, suicide is not a logical option. Though everything is apparently meaningless, each time we push the rock we change and change everything and everyone around us in the process.
Change is the giver of sense. Change is possible and happens at every breath. It hurts but if your social entrepreneurial project received a deathblow or had a huge setback taking you to the startup line, remember: when you forced that boulder uphill, you may have influenced a whole lot of people and definitely changed zillions of chaotic initial conditions that will reverberate. So dear jester, change is what gives meaning to life – social change then, even better.
“The struggle itself… is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
be one phrase that unites every Reynolds Fellow, Scholar and Alum- “I am not ok
There seems to
Amita Swadhin is not ok with child abuse and the exploitation of power.
Magogodi Makhene is not ok with the lack of financial resources available to
medium sized businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa.
For me that
phrase popped up when I walked into a filthy, poor orphanage in
about five years ago. I met ill children
covered in sores and drinking green water from a nearby well. I’m not ok with
that, children have no business living in filth; children shouldn’t be
suffering in abject poverty.
That is why I
co-founded Global Volunteer Network Foundation (GVN Foundation), an
organization that raises money for community based organizations around the
world. The bulk of our partners and programs focus on projects that serve to
assist children living in poverty.
I also believe
that there are a lot of people around the world who honestly don’t realize that
abject poverty affects most of the world’s population. Therefore, to raise
awareness, and funds for our work throughout Africa, Asia and South America GVN
Foundation started the fundraiser ‘Eat So They Can.’ We ‘Eat So They (the
children we serve) Can’… receive medical care, an education, immunizations or
access to clean water.
This is the
fourth annual Eat So They Can and it will take place October 16-17, 2010.
People around the world will host a dinner party, invite their friends, discuss
issues surrounding poverty, and ask their friends to donate. Because we believe
that people should see for themselves what we are doing around the world, any
host that raises $500 or more will be entered into a drawing to win an expense
paid trip to join us as we distribute Eat So They Can funds to projects in
either Haiti, Vietnam, Peru or Kenya.
Our goal is to
raise half a million dollars this year for women, children, anti-trafficking
efforts, and emergency relief projects we are working with in Kenya, Uganda,
Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Africa, Rwanda, Nepal, Vietnam, Peru and Haiti.
joining us at: www.eatsotheycan.org
And here’s to
all the people who say ‘that is not ok,’ and get to work changing the system!
By Kate Otto
Greetings from Bandung, Indonesia, where this Reynolds
Scholar has been working as a Program Consultant for grassroots HIV/AIDS
organization “Rumah Cemara” over the past year.
I am writing today to announce with pride that Rumah Cemara
has been named a Finalist in the “Changing Lives Through Football”
Ashoka Changemakers Competition!
For a grassroots community still new to the term “social
entrepreneurship”, it is a huge thrill for them to see their work
recognized by such a prestigious institution as Ashoka for its value and
Why is Rumah Cemara’s Football Program so impressive, you
might ask? Start with the facts
that Indonesia already has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Asia, and
because of burdensome social
stigma towards people living with HIV, it difficult for the estimated
333,200 Indonesians with HIV to open their status. If HIV/AIDS is stigmatized further, the disease will surely
continue to spread, not only within the still concentrated populations of drug
users and sex workers, but into the general population as well.
The Rumah Cemara Football Program was created to break this
cycle of stigma, and stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in Indonesia by hosting weekly
football matches that engage both HIV-positive and HIV-negative players.
The Program’s impact on people already living with HIV has
been significant: Over the past two years, 100 people living with HIV have
played regularly on the Rumah Cemara team and on the five additional teams they
have helped to form across West Java, including two teams based at provincial
prisons. Playing with Rumah Cemara increases the players’ confidence,
motivation, and ability to live a healthy life with HIV.
Adit Taslim (pictured right), who serves Rumah Cemara as Keeper on the
field, and Grants Manager off the field, explains, “Rather than approach the
public with the controversial language of HIV/AIDS, we use a universal language
that is accepted around the world. It is the language of football.”
Rumah Cemara was selected as a Finalist from nearly 300
organizations across 60 nations worldwide who use football for social change,
and is the only Finalist from the Asian region.
If selected as a Winner, Rumah Cemara will use the prize of
up to $30,000 to increase the number of teams and number of weekly players in
the Program, from HIV positive and HIV negative communities, as well as from
professional football teams. By
2012, Rumah Cemara aims to have transformed the Program into a formal,
recognized Provincial Football League of people living with HIV, also serving
as a forum for HIV/AIDS education.
Rumah Cemara also hopes to add at least four female teams to its
currently all-male roster.
In order to win the monetary prize, Rumah Cemara must
receive the most online votes of all 12 Finalists.
The voting deadline is August 18, 2010, and as a Reynolds
Scholar who deems this organization and their program as a highly effective
mechanism of social entrepreneurship, I urge you to vote for Rumah Cemara
Football Program here: http://www.changemakers.com/node/76731
Thank You / Terima Kasih!
Reynolds Scholar 2006
*More About Rumah Cemara: Rumah Cemara is the largest
network of people living with HIV and people who use drugs in West Java. By December 2009, Rumah Cemara’s
membership includes 4,317 people with HIV/AIDS and drug users, and 1,276 people
affected by HIV/AIDS within 61 peer support groups, including 3 office
locations in Bandung, Sukabumi, and Cianjur. Additionally, the Rumah Cemara Treatment Center has already
treated 200 people who use drugs since it’s founding in 2003. www.rumahcemara.org
** Photography by Reynolds 2006 Scholar Bobby Sukrachand
To the friends, supporters, and customers of Cycles
We want to begin by expressing our
warmest thanks to the NYU Reynolds Program and Youth Venture for the grand
prize award in the “Be a Changemaker Challenge.” After ten months of hard work
and dedication and with the help of so many incredible mentors and supporters,
we have turned our idea for a bicycle-run delivery service from urban farmers
markets into a reality. In September 2009, after months of struggling to carry
our purchases home from the Union Square Greenmarket, we realized the demand
for a sustainable delivery service from the market. Our goal was to increase support for local
organic farmers and their environmentally sustainable practices. Today, we have
transformed Cycles Delivery into a fully licensed Limited Liability Company,
with everything from a custom-designed delivery tricycle to the proper
insurance, legal representation, and volunteer network to help us succeed.
We are writing to share a story
with you of the recent roadblock in Cycles’ development. Last month, when we
entered the Union Square Greenmarket to launch our service, we found that
another bicycle-run delivery service, “From Earth to Kitchen,” had just begun
operating. We were undeterred by this until we found out that they had known
about us and made a deliberate attempt to start two days before we did. Our
bicycle designer told us that From Earth to Kitchen had requested that he build
bikes for them before finishing ours. While we structured Cycles as a profitable
business, our main goal has always been to increase support for sustainable
farmers. To be treated as competitors by a group of people who claim to share
this goal was disheartening.
Despite this, we began offering
deliveries in Union Square for the month of June. However, it has become
increasingly difficult for us to continue.
Because the owner of From Earth to Kitchen has worked at a previously
existing stand for several years, he has significant influence in the market. Many
that they could not send us customers because they did not want to hurt their
business relationship with the owner of From Earth to Kitchen. We recognize
that it’s impossible for Cycles to support the farmers in the market if they
are afraid to send us customers.
Despite our roadblock, Cycles is
still pedaling through. We are not unaccustomed to challenges- we began with no
business experience, no money, and no connections, and we’ve made it this far
already. We’re not going to stop now. We have found a new farmers market to
work with and are very excited to begin running Cycles there. We’ve learned
from our past experiences and are holding off on publishing the name of the new
market until all of the details are worked out, but we will post updates on our
Facebook, Twitter, and website as soon as we can. Please check back soon for
more information and thank you so much for all of your support.
Ashley & Michelle
By Alexandre Carvalho, 2009 Fellow
Yesterday morning i
was surprised by synchronicity. Let me explain the threads first, so
you can see and maybe agree with me that the universe does conspire
serendipities here and there. Lately I’ve been reading and reflecting
about McLuhan’s work on media and how it encompasses us, particularly
how all media works us over completely, how it becomes an extension of
human physical or mental faculties. Computers and the internet,
iPhone, Twitter, email, teamworks, Facebook, iPads, laptops – or even
more ancient inventions such as the radio or the wheel – oh my! they
all become embedded in the fabric of who we are collectively and
You may protest. You
may deny this. But let’s be frank and do some recollecting: remember
that day when you left home and forgot your cell phone, or when the
battery went dead and you suddenly realized the preposterous crime
you’ve made, forgetting your life behind, or omitting on the
duty to bring along the charger, the feeder and nurturer of modern
existence? How could you? And how helpless did you, dear homo sapiens contemporaneus, feel?
Our stuff becomes part
of ourselves. This is no new thought. It can be seen in proverbs that
say that if you want to know someone, just look at his or her books,
music LPs (LP’s, my god), or paintings in the wall. And if you want to
know human history, dear curious reader, just peep at the stuff or as
McLuhan would put it, the media that walked by the monkey’s side. The
history of human evolution is a history of media.
Dear reader, when the email was
invented, no one could do a business case for it, people complained,
tried to keep things as they were, but two decades later it is
impossible to live in our current world without it. Below is a curve
that shows this “innovation adoption pattern”, and this can be applied
to all human innovations in fields as far ranging as management,
sciences and the arts.
At the same time, no
innovation is free of compromises and trade-offs. And some of those can
take tolls in our families or personal lives. A recent article in the
NYT revealed some of the
pathological symptoms that we face as a result of the excess dependence
on devices. Since i’m a physician, i’ll take the liberty to tag – i
mean, name – the condition as “virtualosis”, or the temporary
withdrawal to an abstract virtual world of information, a plugged-in
state, that once on takes a while to break off from, even after you
turned the gadgets off or stopped briefly using them (to have a
conversation with someone, for example). And this does not relate to
facebook or other singular platform per se but to the whole lot of our gizmos that we are dependent upon to work, relate, or even feel.
The question then
becomes, do we have a choice? Is this under our control or are we
immersed in a new era of media that is extending our faculties and
freedoms but paradoxically restraining our ability to live without it?
What a disconnected life means? How strange it appears to be, when we
observe that the world’s never being so connected but so detached at
the same time?
Well, gotta’ go. Sorry
to keep you for so long; see you around, have to check my email, my
tweeter, my iPhone, facebook, my online newspaper, my…
By Eliana Godoy, 2009 Reynolds fellow
Recently I had the privilege of attending the first Social Entrepreneurship Summit of the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation, held in Washington D.C..
Acumen CEO Jacqueline Novogratz set the tone for the conference by highlighting the importance of addressing issues of power dynamics and analyzing the structural systems that are preventing development in the most marginalized communities and populations. Mrs. Novogratz alerted us to the fact that our efforts to alleviate poverty will not be significant unless we also address the roots of the problems. She concluded her presentation by reminding us of Dr. Martin Luther King’s words:
“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
Standing in Washington, amid people who, on a daily basis, make decisions that affect the nation and even the world, was itself an introduction to the display of power, which I hope led me to question in the way that Dr. King intended.
General Colin Powell focused a great deal on the wealth generation as the means and end to addressing our world’s most pressing problems. After sharing his own story, from his roots in the South Bronx to reaching the highest ranks in the Reagan and Bush administrations, he concluded that all the answers lie in market-based solutions, citing the success of globalization and industrialization as prime examples. He further advised us to go out there and make money, while creating jobs, because we too, one day, can become philanthropists.
I found his lack of systemic analysis extremely dangerous. As I gathered the strength to address General Powell in a polite and coherent manner, I was proud to hear the words of one of my peers as she challenged his glorification of globalization by sharing the story of someone she had met in Chiapas, who has a different take on globalization because of his community’s struggles.
In Washington power is present in all its attributes, with its virtues and flaws, with the positive, the negative and the in between. But, one thing is certain: there is a place in politics for those who want to give voice to the voiceless and to employ the power that Dr. King admired and advocated for – the power full of love.
As U.S. congressman and long time civil rights hero John Lewis told me that evening, “The work of public service must be guided by hope. Keeping the hope alive is what inspires you to continue defending people’s rights.” It is certainly hope that inspires me but what really drives me full force are the people in the communities I represent, those affected by the very broken and oppressive structures that often limit them from realizing their own visions of growth.
See Eliana’s full post here.