Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A College Enterprise...

A great, innovative enterprise to feed the hungry:

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

"On one hand we have people who need food, and on the other we have us... who don't need all this food... so we kind of put it together..."

Simple concept- big impact.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mentors Inc.

Many of our Seminar students expressed interest in youth issues.  We had discussed various ideas, but how about a structured mentorship program?  A few days ago I went to a celebratory dinner for Mentors Inc., a Washington DC mentorship program, and was moved by the impact the program had on all participants- mentors, students, and staff.  

Since 1987, Mentors Inc has matched 4,000 DC public school students to mentors.

The mission of the organization is to increase the graduation rates and success of Washington D.C.'s public high school students by pairing them with caring adult volunteers in structured and enriched mentoring relationships that promote their personal, academic and career development. 

See their website for more information:

Would an organization like this be able to make an impact in Jeddah?  If so, who could the audience be, and would the mentor-relationship be welcomed or pose a challenge to cultural norms? 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

One for One

In 2006 an American traveler, Blake Mycoskie, was travelling in Argentina and noticed that children were lacking one simple thing that could improve their health: SHOES.

He decided to create a company (TOMS) that would give away a pair of shoes to a child in need, for every pair that he sold: "One for One"

Later the SAME year... Blake returned to Argentina with a group of family, friends and staff with 10,000 pairs of shoes made possible by TOMS customers.

Since 2006, TOMS has given over 140,000 pairs of shoes to children in need through the One for One model. TOMS plans to give over 300,000 pairs of shoes to children in need around the world in 2009.

Why shoes? Read THIS.

More about their Movement

Monday, May 18, 2009

Art in Public

A number of students from the Introductory Seminar had expressed an interest in "Youth issues"... I've been keeping my eyes and ears open for interesting ideas and programs, so here is one for you:

Voices of Youth: Art in Public

The competition seeks to identify ideas that will generate well-designed, sustainable public art that expresses the voices of youth in Pittsburgh.

Could something like this work in Jeddah? If so, how could Art be integrated into the Saudi cultural context?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Beyond Profit

There's a new magazine out, and I am lovin' it so far...

It's called Beyond Profit, and their mission is:

"... to bring you the most interesting and unique stories, people and ideas from the social enterprise sector. Learn about the individuals who are working to change the world through social entrepreneurship and find out how they are doing it."

In the current issue, they address 3 interesting topics:
  • Shaping For-Profit Enterprises Through Disruptive Innovation
  • Can We Teach Social Entrepreneurship?
  • 10 New Ideas That Can Change the World

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Get funding for your social enterprise!!

Last week I attended the Accelerating Social Entrpreneurship Conference co-hosted by The Phoenix Project and Corporation for National and Community Service.

The conference focused on the theme of opening doors to social innovation through technology, and convened a "who's who" of social enterprise in the United States. I was proud to share our experiences from Saudi Arabia.

One of the many wonderful people I met at the conference is Ian Fisk, head of the William James Foundation. The Foundation "supports entrepreneurs who are launching and running mission-driven businesses." They are best known for their premiere and effective model for Socially Responsible Business Plan Competitions. Theirs accepts plans from all over the world.

Their 2009 competition just ended, and entries for 2010 start in October, so keep your eyes peeled to their deadlines and your thoughts open to how your social enterprise might qualify to be the next big winner! Prizes include cash and in-kind donations from marketing, legal, financial, and business planning experts.

The first prize winner this year is PowerMundo, an organization that is committed to the triple bottom line: measuring returns in profit, environment, and social contribution.

The Power of Local Stakeholders

In the book Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson leveraged local support and committment to the schools he was building. One man in particular is a great example of the impact of dedicated local contacts:
Zaman, a local contractor, turned down a construction job for the army and led the effort to build a beautiful U-shaped stone school... Zaman did an incredible job. In one of the most remote villages of northern Pakistan, he built a school in twelve weeks that was vastly superior to anything the Pakistani government could have built, and at half the cost of the project that would have taken the government years to finish.

While this can be interpreted as a private V. public sector argument- it seems pretty clear that governments (as well-intentioned as they may be) can often slow the process of implementation. By hiring a local stakeholder that believed in the program, Greg was able to build schools in record time in one of the most challenging environments in the world...

... just think what you can do- you ARE the local stakeholders...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

A perfect case-study of a social entrepreneur... If you have not yet read this book- READ IT.

Even after his adventure in Central Asia, Greg Mortenson used his book as a social enterprise as well- Read about how.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Social Innovation at the Time 100 Gala

Last night, at the Time 100 Gala (in honor of 2009's 100 most influencial people in the world) Michelle Obama delivered a speech announcing the new "Social Innovation Fund" proposed by the administration.

An exerpt from the speech:

Mrs. Obama spoke of the importance of public service in her own life, and then announced that the president's budget proposal for next year will include $50 million to help promote national service and advise nonprofit groups... The money would be startup capital for the new Social Innovation Fund, she said, designed to help nonprofits think about service in new ways and approved by Congress as part of a national service law...

"The idea is simple: Find the most effective programs out there and then provide the capital needed to replicate their success in communities around the country," the first lady said.

"By focusing on high-impact, results-oriented nonprofits, we will ensure that government dollars are spent in a way that is effective, accountable and worthy of the public trust."

The Social Innovation Fund seems to be a domestic program, but I hope the idea catches on world-wide!

Forum ladies: How can something like this be applied to the Saudi context? Do you think it could work? Moreover- do you think it could be a woman-led initiative?

photo from AP, Getty and Patrick McMullan

Let Her Get Fat!

"Let her get fat!" is the new cry from the women of Saudi Arabia who are challenging a a recent clampdown on female-only gyms.

Following a recent increase in unlicensed female gyms, the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs recently closed two in Jeddah and one in Dammam for not having a license.

Why? Female gyms have no official authority overseeing them, so while male gyms get licenced by the government, female gyms are technically illegal.

In a religious opinion published in Okaz newspaper, Sheikh Abdullah al-Maneea (member of the official Supreme Council of Religious Scholars) explained that "Football and basketball are sports that require a lot of movement and jumping," and suggested that such excessive movement may harm girls who are still virgins, possibly causing them to lose their virginity.

According to an article from Reuters, "women's gyms can only exist inside hospitals as 'health centres' supervised by the Ministry of Health but prices are so high, at least 1,000 riyals ($266) a month, that only the affluent can afford membership. Cheaper versions have sprung up under name 'beauty salon' or 'studio' but now their future is in doubt."

Madawi Al-Hassoun of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce said the chamber has been trying for three years to find a government body prepared to take on board licensing female gyms.

Considering the high rates of diabetes and even bone frailty among women, and the fact that the Ministry of Health says it does want to combat these issues, is there any way to solve this issue without upsetting religious clerics or government entities?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Youth Marketing & Social Enterprise

As discussed at the Forum's first event (the Introductory Seminar) one of the most difficult parts of starting a social enterprise is... well, starting.

In 2001, 2 young professionals founded Livity- a youth-centered marketing agency that has become a "maverick force in youth communication and understanding across the private and public sector."

The idea was borne over a cup of coffee, and has in 8 short years transformed into a highly sought after marketing agency with clients such as Redbull, Penguin and the BBC.

It was a simple idea: “We wanted to use youth marketing to achieve positive outcome for young people across the nation beyond just selling products..." (Co-Founder, Michelle Clothier, 37)

Co-Founder Michelle Clothier went on to describe why they chose to set up a social enterprise:
How could we take the successful techniques we’d created for young people and use them for social benefit? Our social ambitions have grown with our experience and we’ve evolved to create solutions for the on-going challenges that face the young people whose lives we’d became involved with. You could say social enterprise chose us.

Co-Founder Sam Conniff, 32, says:
If we as a society don’t take the responsibility for our young people, we are not taking responsibility for our future... Many organizations that are interested in youth usually hold focus groups. Some might have interns and others invest in trend following research to understand young people, but very few make the time or space just to listen to real young people... By opening up our office we were lucky enough to have met young people that trust us and choose to spend their time with us. In return, we share our experience, contacts and opportunities... We work with young people who provide an excellent melting pot of experience, which combined with a very broad range of experiences from the adult staff, really breeds innovation.”

Clothier is confident in the enterprise and its future: “There’s nothing stopping us... We have a clear mission, an absolute passion for what we do and a brilliant team of people to help us achieve our goals.”


More about:
Made in Brixton
About Made in Brixton

Monday, May 4, 2009


In honor of Cartier's 100th year in the United States, the company has launched a new charity bracelet, which will donate $350 for each bracelet purchased to ServiceNation.

ServiceNation is a non-partisan campaign to expand citizen service opportunities, solve problems through service, and make service a core ideal of society. It is a grassroots campaign, and participation of citizens is vital to the success of the campaign, and with the help of the new administration, social consciousness, CSR, social enterprise and community service will be integrated into our daily lives.

Check out their blog here: BeTheChangeInc

The enthusiasm and energy around service is spreading in the United States- how can we build collaborative, international efforts to elevate the importance of service around the world in ways that do not interfere with local culture, customs and traditions?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Women and "Wasta"

"Wasta", an Arabic expression that loosely translates into ‘who you know’ or 'clout', refers to using influence or connections to get things done (such as quick renewal of a passport, waiving fines/tickets, and acquiring sought-after jobs).

While "wasta" is deeply ingrained in Middle East culture, it is not unique to Middle Eastern culture- dare I say... a global phenomenon... or perhaps even a global tradition?

AmericanBedu (a blog by an American expat living in Saudi Arabia) discussed the issue on her blog this week. She says:

I know of several western women who are married to Saudis and have been in the Kingdom for more than 25 years. They not only are married to prominent Saudis but they also are successful and influential in their own rights. These women certainly do have their own WASTA network. They have shared that they do need to be watchful of who approaches them. It is not unusual for others (men and women) to seek such women out not for who they are as an individual but due to the perception that association with such women raises their own status in the Kingdom and falsely ensures them of having WASTA as well. Examples of how foreign women are approached and asked to exert WASTA include in finding jobs for others; facilitating healthcare and getting appointments with doctors who are usually booked up; assisting in marriage approvals; assistance with transferring iqamas or receiving no-objections; assist with getting children admitted to specific international schools.


While I understand how this phenomenon works in other parts of the world, I am less familiar with the way it works in the Arab world- and more specifically in Saudi Arabia. I am curious:
  • how do women develop "wasta"?
  • is it passed via marriage?
  • what about non-Saudis?
  • what about those who were not born into priviledge?

Photo courtesy of Springglobe's photostream