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May 29, 2007

The 'Biggest' Change Since the Agricultural Revolution?

That's what Bill Drayton told NOW Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa in an interview last week. Drayton was talking about how social entrepreneurs -- people with innovative solutions to vexing social problems -- fit in to today's global situation. Drayton, often credited with coining the term "social entrepreneur," founded Ashoka, an organization that fosters social entrepreneurship around the world. In an interview posted on NOW last week, Drayton talks about how social entrepreneurs give governments some healthy competition, why the number of such innovators seems to be expanding exponentially right now, and more. To listen to the interview, click here.

Below are some more excerpts from Hinojosa's interview:

“I think we're in the middle of the biggest structural change in society since the agricultural revolution, and the social entrepreneurs and business entrepreneurs are right at the heart of it."

"What does an entrepreneur do? The first thing is they've given themselves permission to see a problem. Most people don't want to see problems ... Once you see a problem and you keep looking at it you'll find an answer."

"It's the combination: big idea with a good entrepreneur: there's nothing more powerful. That's just as true [for] education and human rights as it is for hotel or steels."

"The citizen sector is now growing jobs at three times the rate of the rest of society."

"The social entrepreneurs are governments' best friends ... Yes the social entrepreneurs are challenging the governments, but that's very healthy."

"Two of the last three Nobel [peace] prize winners have been social entrepreneurs. This is a recognition that our field is maturing."

Inventions to End Poverty: Solar Kitchens, Wi-fi Mopeds and More

Today's New York Times carries a brief article worth reading called Design That Solves Problems for the World's Poor. While many social entrepreneurs take traditional businesses and use them for social benefit, some, like the man profiled in this article, actually invent new ways of doing things. Dr. Paul Polak, who runs an organization that helps rural farmers around the world, explains his focus on design for the world's poorest citizens: "All of the people who design things in the world spend all their time designing things for the richest 10 percent of people in the world." There's also a nifty video called "Tools for Better Living" where you can see some of the inventions. And you can see them in person if you visit the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in Manhattan.

May 24, 2007

Breaking News and Happenings

Maybe the "breaking news" teams at CNN or ABC don't pay much attention to people using innovative ideas for public benefit, but we do. And here is where you'll find the latest news about these "social entrepreneurs"—people who think outside-of-the-box and devise solutions to daunting social problems. Notices of major grants awarded, competitions won, projects launched, debates fueled. And we want to hear from you, too. We'll read your comments and consider whatever tidbits you send our way. Thanks for reading—and for participating!

NOW on YouTube: Thousands Served

Friday night's episode of NOW on PBS marks the beginning of the broadcast version of Enterprising Ideas. Host David Brancaccio and producer Dan Logan traveled to Kenya to report on an inspiring project that uses a franchise model to deliver accessible, affordable and reliable healthcare. There's a great clip of the show on YouTube right now: http://youtube.com/watch?v=nm9Q304wZxU. Watch it, recommend it and watch the whole thing on Friday night!

May 23, 2007

More than Linkin Park and Lindsay Lohan

Did you know MySpace has a contest for its members who are making a positive difference in their world? Neither did we. Thanks to the with-it people over at SEblog, we just learned that one of this month's Impact Award nominees is a group for young social entrepreneurs, called Youth Venture. Winning the contest is nothing to sneeze at, either. The MySpace prize includes a $10,000 gift! Click here to see the MySpace voting ballot.

Youth Venture was started by Ashoka, the organization that fosters social entrepreneurship around the globe. Ashoka founder Bill Drayton says that Youth Venture gives young people the opportunity to see "their idea, their team, their impact" and ideally empowers them become "changemakers" in the future. Some of the projects started by Youth Venture include a program to help nursing home residents use the Internet and e-mail to stay connected and an abandoned-lot rehab in Flatbush. In addition to the $10k, the winner of the Impact Award gets free promotion by MySpace, which is worth a lot in itself.

May 22, 2007

Eating for Change

If you've heard the term "social entrepreneur" at all, it's likely been applied to people and projects outside the United States, like the microfinance visionary Mohammad Yunus. You may be surprised that there are social entrepreneurs using innovative projects to address pressing social problems right here in the U.S. of A. For example, meet Denise Cerreta of Utah who runs One World Café.

Cerreta is a social entrepreneur who developed the idea for One World Café—a restaurant that serves tasty, organic food to the hungry, eliminates waste in the food industry and pays employees a living wage. In this video interview posted on YouTube, Cerreta talks about how she is expanding the OneWorld café model to other cities around the country. Inventing a program that is replicable to other communities is a hallmark of social enterprises. Watch this inspiring interview with the founder of One World Café: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vi1U9CnXrCQ