In 1965, Paul Petzoldt, a climber and mountaineer, saw a gap in the provision of wilderness education. Legend has it that Petzoldt was on a climbing expedition to K2 that failed to reach the summit, and deduced that in spite of the experienced mountaineering team he was with, their “expedition behavior”, or cohesiveness as a team, was sorely lacking. He came back from that trip and founded the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Lander, WY, with the mission of being “the leading provider of wilderness education.”
Indeed, the curriculum that instructors deliver over a 14-day, 30-day or semester-long course uses the outdoors as its classroom, fully preparing students with the practical outdoor living skills necessary to succeed in their surroundings, with lessons in compass and map-reading, pitching a tent and cooking tasty vittles using a backcountry stove and fry-bake. Moreover, the instructors emphasize leadership principles, weaving these into the expedition experience through formal and non-formal activities and discussions, at the same time, endeavoring to convey that the concepts and methods of communication taught on a NOLS course are applicable and adaptable for front-country living.
In the karaoke zone in Chiang Mai, the northern capital of Thailand, the Can Do bar, sex-worker owned and operated, is open for business.
Launched in September 2006, the bar was the brainchild of partner Empower, the NGO founded in 1985 comprised of sex workers.
Carrying out sustainable business practices, the Can Do bar follows the guidelines of Thai labour and social security laws, offering their employees benefits: a combination of social security, disability and life insurance, a unique proposition in the entertainment industry. Working conditions in most Thai bars that feature women as the attraction subject their female employees to long hours with only one day off per month and stringent “drink quotas” they must reach – meaning the minimum number of drinks they have to sell to customers before they can call it a night.
However, life at the Can Do bar is different. The workers have an eight-hour day with a one-hour break for rest, as well as one day off a week. Overtime is strictly optional, and they are compensated for it. Occupational health and safety issues are upheld to standard government regulations, and there is never any question of their using the bathroom as many times in the day as they need. The employees are encouraged to form a worker’s association or union if they deem it is in their best interests. Empower has also started a community fund for Can Do, where any sex worker can contribute to the fund and become part of the collective ownership.
Sam Goldman and Ned Tozun are hard at work figuring out how to bring light to the more than 1.5 billion in this world without it.
In 2006, Sam, now the CEO, and Ned, the President, founded D.light Design (www.dlightdesign.com) with the assistance of classmates in an entrepreneurship class at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.
Their goal is to eradicate kerosene lamps, a desire bourne from Sam’s experience in the Peace Corps in Benin, after seeing many children burned and scarred by oil lamp spills.
The team views kerosene as a dirty, dangerous, unreliable and expensive form of lighting that current technology should be working to supersede, replace and eliminate.
D.light’s mission statement reads: “We will replace every kerosene lantern in the world with high quality and affordable light and power solutions, thereby providing everyone access to a basic human need: safe and bright light.”
Kigali, Rwanda, is site of one of the latest crossroads of people, planet and profit, with a recycling project as a catalyst for profit, employment and solidarity for HIV+ women.
The project is run by ACEN (Association for the Conservation of the Environment), a local cooperative with funding from UNDP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF). ACEN members are now charging 12,000 families in Kigali between US$1 and US$37 to collect their trash, which they bring to a central facility for the waste to be sorted, dried and pressed into fuel “briquettes.” These fuel-blocks are cleaner-burning, cheaper and more fuel-efficient than wood or coal, thereby reducing pollution and deforestation.
The project has multiple other benefits in addition to greening the environment: The ACEN cooperative provides vocational training, daily meals and monthly stipends to 133 employees from the rural population, two-thirds of whom are women, and half of whom are living with HIV/AIDS.
In fact, the ACEN is hoping to increase production to meet burgeoning demand for this inexpensive and reliable product, which has brought the cost of fuel material down from approximately $25/month to less than $8/month. Coming soon, ACEN also has plans to develop a micro-loan program and market their briquette-efficient stove to everyday households, enabling them to partake in these cost-saving devices.
In the mid-2000s, I worked as a senior grantmaker at a New York-based foundation. In addition to annual or bi-annual due diligence trips we made to visit our overseas partners, the only performance-based evaluation we required of the grantees was to submit a semi-annual and annual report, detailing how they spent the grant we gave them. These reports tended to vary greatly in quality and usefulness.
It occurred to me that we ought to have something more tangible to show ourselves, our donors and our partners in the field, in order to highlight the progress from the investment.
Today I see an interesting cross-fertilization taking place: donors asking for better measures on how their money is spent, and as private sector entities populate a traditionally not-for-profit zone, investors trying to quantify the amount of social benefit gained for their double- or triple-bottom line.
Two groups that have taken steps towards this and presented new assessment tools this year are: Grameen Foundation and USAID. Grameen, in partnership with CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor), has begun creating country-specific indices to measure client poverty levels.