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Global Witness Report: How Secret Payments Helped UK Firm open African National Park to Oil

September 5, 2014 by

A new Global Witness report says that “British oil company Soco International and its contractors have made illicit payments, appear to have paid off armed rebels and benefited from fear and violence fostered by government security forces in eastern Congo, as they sought access to Africa’s oldest national park for oil exploration.” The report is getting lots of media coverage, including from the Agence France-Presse.

More from the press release:

“The shocking behaviour of one of the UK’s 200 largest public companies is laid bare in a new report released today by Global Witness. Our findings are based on undercover recordings gathered in the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of an investigation by UK film-makers, which have been reviewed by Global Witness.

The material was collected in the course of research for the feature-length documentary Virunga but only some of it features in that film, which will be released on Netflix in November. The material includes audio and video recordings by a court-appointed investigator, community activists and French freelance journalist Mélanie Gouby.

Among the most startling evidence in the recordings are: a Congolese intelligence officer closely allied to Soco offering a park ranger thousands of dollars to spy on the chief warden of Virunga National Park, Emmanuel de Mérode; a senior Soco official and one of the company’s contractors appearing to admit that Soco paid rebels; and a local MP admitting to having received monthly payments from Soco for lobbying in favour of the company.

Activists and park rangers who criticised Soco’s operations have been arrested, and in some cases beaten or stabbed, by soldiers and intelligence agents supporting Soco’s entry to the region. Some of these cases are described in our report and were also documented independently by Human Rights Watch in June this year.There is no evidence that the security forces in question were acting on instructions from the company.”

Read the rest:‘drillers-mist’-how-secret-payments-and-climate-violence-helped-uk-firm-open-african

Some of the media coverage:


Half the Sky, and “Wish You Happy Forever” on PBS NewsHour

September 3, 2014 by

Jenny Bowen, founder of Half the Sky and author of “Wish You Happy Forever: What China’s Orphans Taught me About Moving Mountains” were featured on PBS NewsHour last night. “Sixteen years later, Jenny Bowen heads a group called the Half the Sky Foundation that’s helping transform the way orphans are cared for across China, with the blessings of and often in partnership with the government…The group has so far trained 12,000 teachers and nannies in 27 provinces. We visited in the northeastern city of Shenyang,” reporter Fred de Sam Lazaro said.

The 9-minute segment covered Jenny’s own adopted children from China, the conditions that prompted her to start Half the Sky, and the challenges she faced. de Sam Lazaro interviewed the woman who worked with Jenny in the early days, and a Chinese husband-and-wife team who are currently Half the Sky caregivers. Part of the report was from one of Half the Sky’s Children’s Centers, where we met thriving young children and one of their caregivers.

The story also took us inside a section of a center for “pretty severe special-needs” children, where we met a blind 4-year-old with cancer. It ended with a poignant quote from one of Jenny’s daughters, 18-year-old Maya:

“I did a paper and we could — at school, and it was a research paper, and we could do it on anything, so I chose my mom, because I thought that would be an easy topic. But then, when I started researching and learning everything she did, I was like, wow, like, this goes way farther than I thought. She has, like, a much bigger influence than I ever thought.”

Watch the segment above, and read more from Jenny here: and here:


GoodWeave Launches New Campaign to End Child Labor in Carpet Industry

September 2, 2014 by

GoodWeave just launched a new campaign we’re excited to share with you. Child servitude is a crime committed against 168 million children worldwide. The new short video Stand with Sanju demonstrates how consumer buying power could end child slavery in the carpet industry. GoodWeave’s campaign actions include: Shop, donate, win a free rug and “tell the House of Representatives to take the first step to passing the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2014 (H.R. 4842) by holding a hearing. This bill requires large companies to publish how they prevent human trafficking, slavery and child labor in their supply chains.” A note from executive director Nina Smith:

This Labor Day, many of us are preparing for the start of a new school year and savoring the final moments as a family this summer. It’s with that in mind, that I’d like to make a big announcement about GoodWeave’s newest campaign and debut the inspiring video at the center of it all.

Watch this inspiring video now. Winner of a Stories of Change award from Skoll Foundation and Sundance, this three-minute video depicts the real and triumphant journey of Sanju. You’ll see how she went from being a slave in a carpet factory to the first person in her family to go to school—and how you played a part in making that happen.

In the final scene, elements are beautifully interwoven to make Sanju’s story into a rug—a rug that is actually being made right now by one of the world’s leading designers. It will be given away to someone who joins with GoodWeave at the end of the video.

But the end of the video is just the beginning. Stand with Sanju is the centerpiece of a new campaign that will catapult GoodWeave to fulfilling its original mission by 2020—to end child labor in the carpet industry. It will invite you to take part in a range of actions.

After you’ve watched it, then act and share. One by one, GoodWeave will reach millions of consumers and ensure that all the carpet kids like Sanju left on the looms will soon get ‘back to school’ as well.”

Learn more: and read Nina’s new CNN editorial:



New IPS Amazonia Website Maps Social Progress in the Brazilian Amazon

August 26, 2014 by

We recently shared that conservation of the Brazilian Amazon is threatened by the poor social conditions of its people. That’s the summary of the Social Progress Index for the Brazilian Amazon, published by the Brazilian nonprofit Imazon in partnership with the global nonprofit Social Progress Imperative.

The report measured the social progress of the people living within 772 municipalities and nine states of the Brazilian Amazon. It found that people living there face huge challenges in almost every measure of social progress.

The Social Progress Index built for the Brazilian Amazon combined globally relevant indicators, such as maternal mortality rates, access to piped water, and secondary school enrolment, with customized indicators adapted to the local context, such as deforestation rates, malaria incidence, child and teenage pregnancies, and violence against indigenous people.

This news has been covered by dozens of publications, from Thomson Reuters to the Global Post to Globo. 

Now, the new IPS Amazonia data web site is online, complete with interactive maps and scorecards for each of 772 municipalities across 43 indicators. It shows very clearly that economic development and social progress are not the same.

Learn more at


New York Times Op-Ed: YouthBuild USA Model of Success

August 25, 2014 by

University of California Professor Berkeley David L. Kirp recently wrote a New York Times op-ed and cited YouthBuild USA as an example of success. The article, called “Teaching is Not a Business,” focused on how students “need a champion, someone who believes in them, and that’s where teachers enter the picture.” He continued:

“Every successful educational initiative of which I’m aware aims at strengthening personal bonds by building strong systems of support in the schools…

Over the past 25 years, YouthBuild has given solid work experience and classroom tutoring to hundreds of thousands of high school dropouts. Seventy-one percent of those youngsters, on whom the schools have given up, earn a G.E.D. — close to the national high school graduation rate. The YouthBuild students say they’re motivated to get an education because their teachers ‘have our backs.’

The same message — that the personal touch is crucial — comes from community college students who have participated in the City University of New York’s anti-dropout initiative, which has doubled graduation rates.”

Read the rest:



Global Footprint Network: Our Ecological Footprint Exceeded our Planet’s Annual Budget

August 22, 2014 by

News from Global Footprint Network:

It has taken less than eight months for humanity to use up nature’s entire budget for the year and go into ecological overshoot, according to data from Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability think tank with offices in North America, Europe and Asia.

Global Footprint Network tracks humanity’s demand on the planet (Ecological Footprint) against nature’s biocapacity, i.e., its ability to replenish the planet’s resources and absorb waste, including CO2. Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s Footprint in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. Since 2000, overshoot has grown, according to Global Footprint Network’s calculations. Consequently, Earth Overshoot Day has moved from early October in 2000 to August 19 this year.

Read the rest:



Eric Schwarz’s New Book “The Opportunity Equation” is a Call to Action

August 21, 2014 by

On Sept. 2, Eric Schwarz‘s new book, The Opportunity Equation: How Citizen Teachers are Combating the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools, will be released. It’s available for pre-order and has some great reviews. More about it from Eric:

The Opportunity Equation is part personal story, large part Citizen Schools story, and most of all a call to action to citizens across the country to get active in addressing our nation’s growing opportunity and achievement gaps.

The book is already getting pre-publication reviews and they are encouraging. Kirkus Reviews calls the book ‘a call to action for citizens and educators so that the achievement gap can be closed as rapidly as possible.’  And Publisher’s Weekly said, ‘Combining data-rich statistics with frequently funny and animated accounts of his work with Citizen Schools, including a bracing candor about mistakes and learning on the fly, Schwarz offers…a constructive blueprint for boosting achievement without abandoning public education.’

It is my hope that this book will provoke new thinking about education, build understanding, influence policy, and mobilize citizens to do their part in lifting up opportunity for all children. Stories like that of Alan Su, a whiz kid engineer at Google who taught a computer programming apprenticeship five times at the Clarence Edwards Middle School, and of Margie Tkacik, who allowed me to be the first Citizen Teacher in our program when I taught a journalism apprenticeship in her classroom, will help readers see themselves as key participants in the change that needs to happen. read more


APOPO in National Geographic

August 20, 2014 by

National Geographic just featured APOPO in a story called “Giant Rats Trained to Sniff Out Tuberculosis in Africa.” An excerpt:

“Training rats to detect TB is a relatively new endeavor for APOPO, the Belgian nonprofit organization that’s best known for using rats to find land mines. APOPO began using TB rats in Tanzania in 2008 and in Mozambique in 2013. Currently, the animals work in 21 medical centers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s capital, and double-check 75 percent of potential TB samples from medical centers in the Mozambique capital of Maputo.

Like the battle against land mines, the fight against TB—which claimed 480,000 lives in Africa in 2012, 58,000 of them in Mozambique, according to the World Health Organization—is badly in need of an innovative, rapid, and affordable detection technique.”

Read the rest:, The Anthropozine and Ceres’ new Climate Change Disclosure Tool

August 18, 2014 by

Are you a teacher who wants some mentoring? Do you want to read a new environmental site? How about checking out company filings related to climate-change disclosures?

Three new Skoll awardee microsites can help. We’ve noticed that more organizations are creating these innovative ways to connect and learn, so we’re highlighting some of the newest ones: New Teacher Center debuted video-mentoring; Forest Trends‘ Ecosystem Marketplace launched “The AnthropoZine,” about all things earth; and Ceres’ gives access to SEC climate change disclosure from 3,000 companies.

Here’s a little more:

  • New Teacher Center launched a beta version of  “Ask a Mentor” powered by Torsh, a new mentoring service for teachers. It provides teachers with “just in time,” on-demand access to expert mentors who will give quality feedback and support, along with suggestions for how to continually improve their practice.
  • The AnthropoZine “focuses on the interplay between economy and ecology, between ecology and psychology, and among all of these fields and the hard sciences,” they say. “There is no shortage of environmental news services, and we’re not here to compete with the likes of Ecosystem Marketplace, which spawned us, or GreenBiz or MongaBay, with whom we often share content…In launching The AnthropoZine, my goal is not to re-explain the wheel, but rather to act as a sort of traffic cop: directing like-minded people to the literature that already exists, to add to that literature where necessary, and to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Only by tying together the disparate efforts already underway can we hope to navigate ourselves through this terrain.”
  • Ceres and CookESG Research launched a free web tool for accessing climate change-related disclosures in company filings with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission, which issued formal climate disclosure guidance in 2010. Available at, the tool allows users to filter and customize company 10-K filing excerpts relating to clean energy, renewables, weather risk and climate-related regulatory risks and opportunities. The tool scans filings, automatically identifies climate-related text, and sorts information into renewable energy, physical impacts and other categories. Users can search by industry, and can search for topics such as “climate and fossil fuel extraction,” “energy/fuel efficiency,” and “GHG emissions reduction goals.”

Medic Mobile Launches New Platform; First One Focuses on Prenatal Care

August 15, 2014 by

Medic Mobile just announced a new version of their platform and a new website. Their updated platform is free, designed specifically for last-mile clinics and health workers, and easy to use.

“NGOs, clinics, and grassroots organizations can now sign up as beta testers for the first downloadable version focused on Antenatal Care, and we aim to make it available to everyone who needs it,” said CEO Josh Nesbit.

We’ve taken a tour of the new platform. Here are some highlights:

  • It’s designed for hard-to-reach areas and works with no Internet access and limited electricity
  • It has an easy-to-use inbox
  • It allows you to send a message to all of the health workers at one clinic (or just one!)
  • You can see the full picture with powerful analytics, such as how many women have due dates in a particular month, or how many visits patients have completed

Learn more at their new web site:


Video: Tony Meloto Talks About Nation-Building after Typhoon Haiyan

August 14, 2014 by

November’s massive typhoon in the Philippines left behind much destruction. Gawad Kalinga was there immediately. Now, chairman and founder Tony Meloto shares their success in an interview with Gawad Kalinga mobilized 1.6 volunteers who helped build 1,200 homes, repaired 339 roofs, and gave 613 boats to fishermen by July 2014. By December, GK’s goal is to rebuild 6,000 homes, repair 1,500 roofs and donate 1,500 boats.

“It’s the greatness of the human spirit that we need to unleash,” Tony said in the interview. “And there’s so much of that. So when we see this great devastation, we also see great opportunities for us to be transcendent above our own needs and just rise together.”

Listen to the rest above.



Climate Change and Land Rights: New Landesa Stories

August 13, 2014 by

How are land rights related to climate change, and what can farmers do about it? What is Philanthropy 3.0? And how do land rights in Rwanda help the country reach its development goals? Those answers are in some new stories by and about Landesa.

India Climate Dialogue ran a story about how secure land rights is helping farmers adapt to climate change.

“In India, erratic monsoons are becoming the new normal. According to the India Meteorological Department, this was the driest June since 1901, leading to serious fears of drought; by mid-July the rain deficit was still 36%. Odisha had a 40% deficit in June, the crucial sowing month. This is catastrophic news for over 60% of India’s farmers, who are dependent on the annual June-September monsoon to irrigate their farms. But neither Sisa nor anybody else in her subsistence farming tribal community is worried. They no longer depend on the temperamental monsoon to grow their food.” 

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy ran a blog by Landesa board chair, Chris Grumm, about her “Philanthropy 3.0” philosophy and her involvement with Landesa. This blog mentions the Skoll Foundation.

“Philanthropy 3.0 doesn’t produce results as quickly as giving a child a vaccine. In fact, it isn’t even as fast as educating a girl. Often, it can take decades. But when successful, it can impact millions of families. There are a variety of organizations that do this sort of work, often partnering with governments to implement laws and policies that create transformative, structural change. They are supported by philanthropists such as the Skoll Foundation and the Omidyar Network, which are looking to leverage their investment, maximize their return and redefine philanthropy.”

And Trust Law ran Landesa Africa Program Director Jen Duncan’s blog on Women’s Land Rights in Rwanda. The blog was created to help launch Landesa’s new Rwanda strategy.

“More secure rights for Rwanda’s women are critical not just for women’s economic empowerment, but also to help Rwanda achieve a host of development goals.”


Jockin Arputham Profiled in one of India’s Largest Business Newspapers

August 11, 2014 by

Mint, a business paper from the Hindustan Times in association with The Wall Street Journal, just published a long profile of Jockin Arputham. The piece covered everything from Jockin’s early life to his unique ways of getting local governments to listen. And of course, it mentioned his Nobel Peace Prize nomination. An excerpt:

“Most of the time, Arputham, or “Jockin sir”, as the slum dwellers of Mumbai call him, is every bit a Dharavi man—astute, resourceful and intrepid. Since the 1970s, he has been the voice of Mumbai’s urban poor that successive governments have not been able to ignore. He has made the slum dweller’s life visible in this overpowering, forgetful city. He has guerrilla tactics for “no eviction without alternative” drives—holding on to a stay order till eviction is about to start, causing the police inconvenience; sending unwashed women in a large group to police stations so the officers on duty listen to them quickly and let them go; camouflaging his small frame behind dupattas and saris of women to avoid police arrest; and gathering thousands together to paralyse streets. On paper, Arputham has been arrested more than 50 times…But that alone ought not to have got Arputham the Padma Shri and Ramon Magsaysay awards—both gleaming on a shelf at his Dharavi office—and the Nobel Peace Prize nomination. It has been reported that the Swedish minister for public administration and housing presented his nomination and, so far, he has the support of ministers from Norway, South Africa and Brazil.” 

Read more at:–Light-from-the-matchbox.html?utm_source=copy


CNBC Africa Features KickStart

August 8, 2014 by

CNBC Africa just featured KickStart on their program, “It’s Africa’s Time.” Watch the segment and see how Citi’s working capital loan is helping KickStart trigger transformative change in Africa.



Ann Cotton Speaks at U.S.-Africa Summit Hosted by the White House and Others

August 6, 2014 by

Camfed and the MasterCard Foundation Publish “When You Educate a Girl, Everything Changes”, Collection of Stories Charting the Journeys and Aspirations of Scholars in Ghana

Camfed (Campaign for Female Education), an international nonprofit organization that invests in the education of girls in rural Africa, announced that today, Founder and President Ann Cotton joined an esteemed panel of experts in Washington, D.C. to address the expansion of education, health and economic access in Africa. The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit was hosted by the White House, the George W. Bush Institute and the U.S. State Department.

First Ladies from nearly 30 countries joined Michelle Obama and Laura Bush to share success stories and identify actionable solutions to the challenges women and girls face in Africa.

“It is a great honor to participate in this Summit,” said Cotton. “For more than 20 years, Camfed has supported a generation of African girls and women with access to secondary and higher education, employment opportunities and, ultimately, into positions of leadership. I was asked to share our experiences and discuss ways to replicate Camfed’s success in rural Africa in many more locations.”

Camfed and The MasterCard Foundation are also excited to announce the publication of “When you educate a girl, everything changes”, a book which profiles MasterCard Foundation Scholars in Ghana supported by Camfed. The Scholars share the challenges they have faced in securing their education and their hopes for the future. read more


Tostan’s Work Shared at Reception During Girl Summit

August 6, 2014 by

We recently blogged about the Girl Summit, which brought together leaders from 50 countries to focus on ending FGC and child marriage. Orchid Project hosted the pre-Girl Summit reception in London. The Skoll Foundation provided copies of However Long The Night, along with a note from our CEO Sally Osberg.

Orchid Project, based in the UK, works to shape the dialogue around FGC, advocate for prioritization of the issue, communicate the scale and impact of FGC and how it is ending and support the efforts of organizations working towards abandonment.

“We have partnered with Tostan now for four years, recognizing the long term, sustainable abandonment of FGC that their work brings” said Julia Lalla-Maharajh, CEO and Founder of Orchid Project. “We are currently supporting Tostan’s social mobilization work—teams of volunteers from communities that have already abandoned FGC travel to neighboring communities, beginning a dialogue on FGC, explaining why they have chosen to abandon and supporting wider efforts that are leading to the practice ending.

“The event was really remarkable,” Julia says.”Speaking alongside two UK Cabinet Ministers and the Director General of UNICEF, as well as local activists, in front of 500 people, I was able to use the book to ask attendees to self-brief about how communities themselves are choosing their own futures. In the last few years in the UK, we have seen an incredible uptake of the issue of ending FGC and now we need to build on this progress elsewhere in the world. Using However Long the Night is a wonderful way to support that message.”



Ann Cotton Speaking at U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Today

August 6, 2014 by

As part of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit today, the Office of the First Lady, the George W. Bush Institute, and the U.S. Department of State are hosting a day-long forum focused on the impact of investments in education, health, and public-private partnerships. Camfed Founder and President Ann Cotton was just on a panel called “Education: Creating Opportunities and Investing in the Next Generation of Women Leaders.”

We will write more about her panel soon! Learn more about her fellow panelists:


SSIR: Aflatoun Exploring What it Means to be a Social Franchise

August 5, 2014 by

Skoll Awardee Aflatoun was just featured in Stanford Social Innovation Review, in a long case study illustrating what it means to be a social franchise. The comprehensive piece covers the organization’s beginnings, its success, challenges, and much  more. An excerpt:

“Behind the program lies a broad vision: If children are self-confident, socially responsible, and financially competent, they will be in a position both to improve their own lives and to improve the world around them. To unleash that potential, Aflatoun offers an education program that combines social participation and financial planning…

Aflatoun means “a fireball from outer space,” a phrase that not only appeals to the adventurous spirit of children, but also captures the transformative potential of the program. Years ago, children in the program picked that name, taking their inspiration from a character in a Bollywood movie…In 2005, the organization that oversees the Aflatoun program—an entity that goes by the same name—operated in only one country, India. That year, about 162,000 children in fewer than 1,100 schools and informal training centers experienced the Aflatoun program. Today, nine years later, more than 2 million children at more than 21,000 sites in 103 countries are gaining access to Aflatoun’s brand of social and financial education.

Aflatoun’s journey illustrates the power of social franchising.”

Read the rest:


Camfed Alum Wins Prestigious Award at Presidential Summit

August 4, 2014 by

We got this note from Camfed and wanted to share:

Ruka Yaro De-Liman, a leader of the Camfed Alumnae in Ghana and an Innovation Bursary Scholar, has been awarded $25,000 at the Presidential Summit in Washington DC. This week’s Summit was the final highlight of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. Twenty-seven year old Ruka was one of the 500 Mandela Washington Fellows selected from 50,000 applicants in recognition of her entrepreneurship and community activism, and one of just 36 to receive an Award.

Through Camfed’s partnership with The MasterCard Foundation to support young female entrepreneurs in Ghana, Ruka launched her agriculture and poultry business. Ruka’s vision for Jamilullah Farm Enterprise is in her words, “to become the leading producer of wholesome meat and quality eggs in West Africa and create jobs for thousands of young people on the continent”.

At the Summit, President Obama, Michelle Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry paid tribute to the Fellows and their extraordinary promise as an emerging generation of African leaders. The First Lady spoke to them about major challenges, including girls’ education:….“across the globe, the statistics on this issue are heartbreaking. Right now, 62 million girls worldwide are not in school, including nearly 30 million girls in Sub-Saharan Africa….  And, as my husband said earlier this week, we know that when girls aren’t educated, that doesn’t just limit their prospects, leaving them more vulnerable to poverty, violence and disease, it limits the prospects of their families and their countries as well.” read more


APOPO Featured on CNBC Africa

August 1, 2014 by

APOPO and its work was just featured on CNBC Africa. Watch the segment above. An excerpt:

“In 2000, after three years of work, Bart Weetjens trained his first rats in Morogoro, Tanzania, through his company APOPO. Since then, landmine clearing rats have unearthed at least 3,212 mines, 1,077 UXOs (discarded bombs and grenades) and 26,934 small arms and ammunitions. They’ve worked in two of the world’s most landmine infested countries: Mozambique and Angola. Eighteen more rats will soon be working in Cambodia One rat can clear up to 400 square meters a day. An engineer, with a metal detector, can only do 25 to 50 square meters.”

Read more:


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