But when I found myself in Rwanda, working with five Rwandan women to start the country’s first micro-finance bank, I learned that a small group of people really could change the world. We were making history and while that was one of the most difficult periods of my life, especially in terms of sheer loneliness, it also was one of the times I grew most, and it would impact me deeply in terms of who I would become, and how I would come to understand meaning on so many levels.
So you can imagine in 1994 during the Rwandan genocide, what it felt like to watch from afar, having no idea what was happening to the people I had come to love and the institutions I had helped build. As it turned out, the women with whom I’d worked had carried out every conceivable role in the genocide, including being major perpetrators. Our microfinance bank’s first executive director became the Minister of Justice under the Genocide regime. I would visit her for years in prison, and in so doing, had to accept that monsters exist in all of us. Or maybe rather than monsters, we have within us broken parts, secret sadness or shame – and that sadness, that fragmentation, if you will, can be exploited by demagogues who motivate us to label others as lesser than ourselves; and in the extreme, to do terrible things.
I have been blessed to know extraordinary individuals who dared to seek truth, to understand those who are different, to lead lives of immersion.I met Ingrid Washinawatockwhen she was a fellow in the Next Generation Leadership, a program I helped create at the Rockefeller Foundation. She was a Menominee leader, a Native American who worked on behalf of indigenous people around the world. She spoke about our broken systems, about how decisions should be made with the faces of seven future generations looking up at you from the earth…. Ingrid would say we don’t need environmental impact statements, but environmental enhancement statements. That “we need a peace with the earth”In 1999, Ingrid traveled to Colombia at the invitation of the U’was community to help them establish a school to protect their language and culture. Tragically, she was kidnapped by FARC rebels, was tortured and murdered. From that day forward, whenever the NGL fellows met, we would place an empty chair for Ingrid’s spirit ….and I know how many of us hold her spirit alive through our work and conversations.From Ingrid, I learned the power of stories, of respecting those who came before and the generations to come….I learned that Power – when shared - in its best form is not linear but circular and constantly renewing, constantly expanding. And that how we treat the earth is a reflection of how we treat one another. Ingrid understood the importance of looking and planning for the future, though she was also grounded in the past, in those who came before.
2001 – Acumen – building a world beyond povertyOur mission is to create a world beyond poverty by investing in social enterprises, leaders, and ideas.
How to invest in “bottom up” innovation?
Terrible or no infrastructure
Perhaps, our most precious commodity, trust thus is often missing from communities who’ve seen too many failed projects come and go…
It has been thrilling to see that Patient Capital works. Acumen globally has invested more than $74 million in 65 companies. Those investments have leveraged more than $250 million from co-investors and government directly into those companies, created more than 55,000 jobs and served tens of millions. And many of these innovations are changing the way basic services are created and delivered.What is most critical to remember is that each of these innovations – these success stories – was started by one or a few social entrepreneurs who were determined to find solutions to tough problems. I deeply believe that this use of private innovation and financial resources is part of the answer to finding solutions to big public problems. And our most successful investments are indeed the result of effective partnerships between private innovation and the public sector. And this is the promise…
How to bring social innovation to rural areas?Bihar: state of 90M people; Maoist insurgents; $200 pc income; 12th century; corruption; and at night – 16 hours outside the capital, you can drive and drive in total blackness…
[PAUSE]This is a beautiful photograph, it’s a beautiful image, but living like this is not easy.If you use kerosene lamps and open flames, not only do you run the risk of being burned like this woman was at the age of 12. But inhaling smoke is killing 1.5 million people a YEAR – more people than die from malaria.And to add insult to injury, poor people typically spend 10-15% of their income on fuel to cook and light their homes.The Indian government has essentially said that 20,000 rural Indian villages will never be reached. So the Indian government is saying that there might be 100 million people who will never be reached by the grid.[PAUSE] They’ve said that it is impossible
Gyanesh was working comfortably in LA in the semi-conductor industry when he read that the local govt had declared 65M people economically impossible to reach with electricity. They would have to depend on expensive, dirty, highly polluting kerosene.But Gyanesh believes in making the impossible possible – and that is at the heart of entrepreneurship. It wasn’t an easy road – solar, jatropha – risk husk; no skilled workers, terrible infrastructure, political instability (Naxalites)
So he experimented…failed..came upon rice husk…needed to build trust, get the market to work, train employees, work w govt…
In 2009 Acumen made a $375k convertible debt investment in Husk Power Systems, a company that uses discarded rice husk to generate sustainable electricity through a microgrid system. Husk has grown in that time from one power plant to 80. Families can now have access to electricity for the cost of $2 a month. So what kind of impact have we seen from this investment?
Husk has already created 350 jobs directly in the communities they work in. They have the potential to create employment for over 10,000 ‘skilled and semi-skilled’ jobs by the year 2015. The company has set up a training center in Barauni which can provide training to over a 100 trainees at a time and actually has capabilities to provide lodging for 50 today (including some images).
200,000 people with affordable electricity. Among Husk’s customers are not only families but shop owners who can now stay open later as a result of the light. For example, one tailor said that he can work 2 hours longer in the evening. He said he typically works 8 hours, so, this amounts to a 25% increase in his ability to work hopefully at higher productivity levels.
Kerosene currently costs each family $3 for a month’s supply, despite the safety and health hazards.
Power of turning on a switchAnd also… 20-40% of electricity is lost when utility companies deliver it from a centralized locationThe government grossly under-estimates the costs for the distribution backbone at about INR 6.5 lakhs/village with last mile connectivity budgeted for only 10% of the households. This does not include the cost of incremental generation capacity to meet demands. .
Villagers can also gather, for the first time, at night in safety. What our team has heard in conversations with most villages is the idea of progress reaching their door-steps and the sense of being connected to the larger story of growth and progress that is being spoken about nationally. The government has requested that Husk expand aggressively in Maoist hit areas of Bihar specifically to counter their sense of being dis-jointed from the overall progress happening in the nation. The world could learn a lot from Husk Power. India already has, and the US would benefit from more off-grid, locally-driven solutions. Given how entrenched so many of the American systems are, my hunch is that we’re going to see a lot of leapfrogging of technologies in the developing world – and this is needed to build a world where we might finally be able to extend the fundamental assumption that all men are created equal to every human being on the planet.
But just 15 miles away,JawadAslam, a Pakistani-American leads in a different way. He is a man who has chosen a life of immersion, having come to Pakistan after 9-11 because he wanted to make a difference, though at first he didn’t know exactly how he would do it.
In the beginning, he apprenticed for one of the great low-income housing developers, TasneemSiddiqui. He worked for meager wages, refused to pay bribes so it took him nearly 2 years just to register land for a low-income housing development that was his dream. For all that time, he struggled with the idea of failure. He lived a life of Immersion.
It has been a long road, but now the development holds 300 houses where nearly 2000 people live in a thriving community with schools and shops and parks in the center of every 25 houses
Will Social EntreprneneurshipScale?How to make social innovation move from micro experiences to macro?
tanzania = government partnership
Nearly1.4 million people in northern Uganda were made homeless by the fighting, most taking shelter in crowded IDP camps like this one.
I visitedGulu this past spring and met Basil, a 59 year-old man who is growing sesame and cotton to sell to GADC. Basil tells us he has lived in Gulu for only one year now after having spent twenty years in the IDP camps in Masindi. He fled with his wife and 3-year old son when the rebels came to the village, leaving everything but the clothes on his back. He remembers being given only a blanket and a hoe at the time. He’d been a nurse’s aide then, and, though he did a bit of that work as well as laboring for wages on local farms, he did very little else for those twenty years. It is no wonder his face is clouded with sadness.His four brothers refused to leave Gulu and all were killed during the civil war. As for Basil, seeing two policemen killed on his land convinced him to go. Four of his five sisters are still alive. They returned with him, as did his father who lives on the family compound. Most important, Basil returned with eight more children, the same wife and a grandchild. Basil shows us the four huts his family occupies and their fields of crops – sesame, cassava, maize, and soon, cotton. His biggest challenge is reclaiming land that has been taken by neighbors who returned before he did. He’s negotiating with the chief but it is difficult. Twenty years ripped from a man’s life. Twenty years ripped from the lives of 1.7 million who were displaced. In those same twenty years, how much richness did I experience? How much freedom? How much possibility?
“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” “Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but ... life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” ― Gabriel García Márquez“You can't eat hope,' the woman said. You can't eat it, but it sustains you,' the colonel replied.” ― Gabriel García Márquez, El Coronel No Tiene Quien Le Escriba
Construyendo un mundo más allá de la pobreza
Building a World beyond Poverty Jacqueline Novogratz
“Los seres humanos no nacen para siempre eldía en que sus madres los alumbran, sino quela vida los obliga a parirse a sí mismos una yotra vez.”Gabriel García Márquez