Three Ways to Change the World
I was a volcano refugee last week, but you shouldn’t feel sorry for me. I was stranded in Oxford England, the most pleasant refugee camp you could imagine. And to make matters even better, I was stuck with the most remarkable collection of people I’ve ever met.
The occasion was the Skoll World Forum, a unique event that brings together social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, writers and aid workers and asks them “How are we going to change the world?” I am, even in my best moments, a hard-nosed sceptic. And being surrounded by so many optimists will always put me in a bad mood. But what made this such an exhilarating experience is that everyone there had one distinguishing characteristic: a track record. This is because the Skoll Foundation focuses on only inviting organizations that make things happen. As a result, I can count on one hand the number of time I heard the usual aid mumbo-jumbo like “empowering stakeholders in a collaborative grass roots process of dynamic yaddah yaddah yaddah.” Instead I heard about some great stories.
Like Matt Flannery, one of the founders of Kiva who has demonstrated the stunning ability to scale impact using the e-commerce model. His good idea has led to over $130m in micro-finance loans to the developing world, changing millions of lives. It has also raised awareness in the developed world about the power of micro-finance.
Or Leila Janah, the mind behind SamaSource, which off-shores “micro-work” to women in refugee camps. How? You send SamaSource a data-entry project, they break it into small pieces and send it to their partners in places like Sudan and Haiti. There, women, youth and refugees complete the work, which is recompiled by Leila’s team and delivered back to the client. Simple, smart, and effective.
There was also the EcoPeace team of Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians who are brilliantly using the environmental crises in the Middle East as a mechanism to bring people together, to work towards solutions. Not only is this helping the ecology of the Jordan River valley, but it is a shining (and rare) example of cross-border cooperation in the region.
There is a tremendous amount of waste in the aid community. And by tremendous, I mean most of it. But if you want to be sure your donations are going to be used, used well, and change the world, then start with these three.