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Showing posts from January, 2006
Jimmy Does Davos

At the suggestion of Victor D'Allant (Mr. Social Edge), I've invited my 20-year-old son to comment on his experience accompanying me to Davos. Jimmy wasn't admitted to the core Forum events, but was able to attend about half of what I did.

My Davos Experience
-Jimmy Fruchterman

I really wasn't sure what to expect coming to Davos. When my father offered to take me I accepted without hesitation. Who would pass on Switzerland, not to mention a short jaunt to Austria and Liechtenstein? I tried not to prejudge the adventure, but of course I thought I'd see some famous people, go to some meetings which could be cool but I wasn't entirely confident I'd understand. Some of my expectations came true, some not.

I had the privilege of attending all the social entrepreneur sessions, and learned a number of things. Everybody there is smart, passionate, and doing wonderful things for the world, but they're still human. Many don't yet have the s…
Social Responsibility in Davos

I attended a great breakfast this morning on the digital divide. Now, digital divide has been a buzzword for a long time, but we've learned a lot from different initiatives and the ICT industry is very interested in continuing to work on the issue from a lot of angles. This morning's breakfast was a very active discussion with about fifty people from industry, government and NGOs (the nonprofit sector), ably moderated by David Kirkpatrick of Fortume Magazine. Many attendees were CEOs, SVPs and CTOs from their companies, as well as ministers of ICT. The discussions were interesting because groups that are normally at each other's competitive throat are trying to figure out how to advance social issues in the developing world like education, economic development and health, issues that redound to their long term business interests, but are not tied at all to next quarter's results!

Davos rules are that these conversations are off record…
The Value of Attending Davos

Trying to explain the value of being here runs a real risk. I call it the name-dropping risk. There are so many cool people here, and in many cases this is my main opportunity to say hi to them in a year. The other thing is that I'm almost exclusively talking to people with an active interest in social entrepreneurship or a particular social cause. Serving society actively engages the great majority of people who are attending Davos.

For example, I got to talk to Sir Richard Branson (with a dozen social entrepreneurs), and Peter Gabriel. I went to a lunch with young global leaders with the guy who heads the Xbox360 project for Microsoft, Brian Behlendorf (Mr. Apache, the open source web server), as well as sitting next to John Wood, founder of Room to Read, and next to him was an gold medal winning Olympic athlete who works to help poor kids in war-torn countries learn to and have access to play. John Wood is writing a book on his experiences to …
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The Voices of Davos


This meeting is all about conversations. It's an opportunity to connect with interesting people from around the world, all with important perspectives. I just want to share some of the voices I've heard so far this week. These are based on my contemporaneous notes. It will give you a great idea of why this is such a blast.

Zanelle Mbeki (first lady of South Africa), talked about the opportunities in market failure. Pointed out that most of the public does not know what social entrepreneurship is, and that in the nonprofit world it is such a buzzword that all groups seeking funds are saying they are social entrepreneurs.

Paolo Coelho (Brazilian author, The Alchemist) talked about what we aren't willing to talk about: the role of love in what we do. He pointed out three kinds of love: eros, agape and philos. He focused on the last, philos, love of your neighbor, pointing out that this word is related to philanthropy.
He made it clear that we need t…
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Putting the Social Into Davos

I arrived in Davos Sunday night for the Schwab Social Entrepreneur Summit. Dr. Klaus Schwab has made social entrepreneurship his cause, and over the past five year has brought social entrepreneurs into the World Economic Forum. That's easy for him to do because he founded the Forum!



Forty Schwab SEs are here, and a bunch of them are new. Many were picked through national efforts co-managed by the Schwab Foundation and major press outlets in each country. One of the highlights of any gathering of social entrepreneurs is simply getting together and swapping our experiences. For example, one of the issues we talked about was succession planning. How does a socially entrepreneurial organization grow and thrive when the founder moves on? It also touches on the fact that part of becoming a really successful organization means that you have to move beyond being so tied to the founder as an individual. I had the benefit of sitting at the table with Chri…

Anti-WEF Protest in Zurich

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Anti-WEF Protest in Zurich



I'm not supposed to start blogging about Davos and the World Economic Forum until Tuesday, but the WEF found me in Zurich on Saturday night. My son, Jimmy, and I were wandering through the old town to find dinner and we ran into a good-sized protest against the WEF by a couple of hundred folks in black ski masks. They stopped right in front of us (outside the Zic Zac Rock Hotel) and someone did a five minute harangue in German over a megaphone. The protesters were pretty well behaved, and I didn't see a police presence.

The protesters lit off some fireworks: first time one went off I nearly jumped out of my skin.




The main thing the protesters were doing illegal was spraypainting hammers and sickles and anti-WEF slogans. I really liked the "Dance Out WEF," but we didn't find that part of the protest.
Online Memorial to Iranian Victims

Roya and Ladan Boroumand might be the first to say that they are not "techies". But you would hardly know it from looking at the beautiful website they just released. Their website, found at http://www.abfiran.org/english/memorial.php, is an on-line memorial honoring over nine thousand victims allegedly killed by the Islamic Republic of Iran since the revolution in 1979 and an extensive library of documents relating to human rights and democracy.

Roya and Ladan are the founders of the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation (ABF) named in honor of their father, Abdorrahman Boroumand, an Iranian lawyer and pro-democracy activist who was assassinated allegedly by agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Paris on April 18, 1991.

Our Human Rights Program has been advising and working with the ABF since 2002. They are using our Analyzer human rights database system to collect information about the victims in Omid, which is then published to the website…

Uncovering the truth about deaths in East Timor

Uncovering the truth about deaths in East Timor

One of Benetech's biggest Human Rights projects has been our work for Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR). The report has been completed, but not released publicly. There have been many articles about what the report does or does not say, and Benetech human rights team has not been able to comment because of the still-confidential nature of the report. However, some of the results we helped create are starting to be released. On January 4, some of the key statistical findings were disclosed in a press release that corrects some of the incorrect press reports.

This is very important work for us. We helped the CAVR with the most technically challenging and advanced statistical work of any truth commission to date: understanding what happened over the 25 years since the Indonesian army invaded East Timor. It reminds me of the Caltech motto: "the truth shall make you free." Truth is a di…

Four Big Questions about the Future of the Web

Four Big Questions about the Future of the Web

I am part of supporting Compumentor's big NetSquared event, and they asked me to answer four key questions about the future of the web and the nonprofit sector. I had fun answering the questions, and also tapped the considerable brainpower and experience here at Benetech in answering the questions.

I'll just quote the last question and my answer, because these are really critical issues!

What's the bad news? What are the greatest barriers preventing web-based technology from producing social change?:

What's the great barrier to producing social change in general? Funding availability, especially to the most capable and dynamic groups. The web-based modifier doesn't change that fact.

A second issue is the difficulty in designing effective software for the social sector. The sector is reasonably balkanized, and market incentives don't provide enough push to make better software, with a few exceptions (i.e., fund raisi…

Donated Servers

Donated Servers

We just received several servers donated by an anonymous investment firm in our area over the holidays. These are going to come in handy for experimenting with new server projects, as well as being a backup for our main in-house server. We really appreciate this kind of support: in-kind technology donations of things we need are very helpful!