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Showing posts from August, 2007

Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI)

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My eldest son, Jimmy, and I were able to attend a portion of the Global Social Benefit Incubator at Santa Clara University last week. We were able to hear the elevator pitches of more than a dozen social entrepreneurs from literally all over the world. Oh, and Jimmy's 21 now so we can drink beer together in a public place!



Jimmy's quite interested in social entrepreneurship. Long term readers of the Beneblog might remember Jimmy's post from Davos last year, (the most popular Beneblog post I ever or never wrote!) when the Schwab Foundation allowed me to bring him along to their Social Entrepreneur Summit in Switzerland. Jimmy's changed his major to international studies with a focus on social issues: my peer social entrepreneurs got him very excited.

I think the GSBI program tackles the exact issue Jimmy noticed in Davos: all these great people doing great things, and the world hardly knows. The team at SCU's Center for Science, Technology, and Society a…

Program Related Investments

Social capital formation is a hot topic for me. I want to see us have the same kind of positive environment for social ventures as we have in Silicon Valley for high tech ventures (but they have to make a lot of money), where great social ventures are rewarded with better and lower cost capital.

An under-used tool for foundations is the program-related investment (PRI). PRIs are supposed to be for mission (program) reasons first and financial return second (although you can make a return). One concern about PRIs that I've seen is the high cost of doing them: you have to spend a lot of time and legal fees structuring the transaction.

That's why I was glad to see MicroCredit Enterprises and Silk Adler & Colvin release the Program Related Investment (PRI) Primer and Toolkit. It explains a complicated topic well. Plus, they are encouraging other people to use their materials:
In the spirit of partnership, MicroCredit Enterprises offers this Primer and Toolkit into the p…

Darfur: An Atrocity That Needs No Exaggeration

The Benetech team read with great interest the recent Op-Ed in The New York Times, entitled An Atrocity That Needs No Exaggeration. The Op-Ed notes the recent ruling in Britain against the Save Darfur Coalition for overstating the number of dead in Darfur. Britain's Advertising Standards Authority found that Save Darfur's estimate of 400,000 killed in the conflict is based on flawed research.

We know well the difficulties of estimating the numbers of people killed in large-scale human rights crimes. Our Human Rights Data Analysis Group is one of the leading teams that helps countries around the world answer the question "Who Did What to Whom?" Our job is to use science to arrive at the best possible answers to this question and generate facts that will withstand attack from those who seek to downplay the scale of real atrocities or defend human rights abusers in courts and tribunals.

We need to recognize the principled nature of some of these arguments. If you are th…

Cassettes linger long after expected demise

One of my big themes is how social applications of technology lag behind business applications by years (if not decades!). One recent example was the article in USA Today, Cassettes linger long after expected demise. One of the main remaining uses of cassettes is: accessible books for the blind. It's hard to switch technologies once you have invested in them, especially in a field where the payback times are long or potentially forever.

We're hoping to help make digital content the standard for people with disabilities, so that they can get their accessible books over the network for PCs, cell phones, MP3 players and the like. It will lower costs and improve access. We need to kill off the cassette player!

Visit to University of Washington

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I just got back from a short jaunt to the University of Washington in Seattle. Not only is it the school my son Andy attends (beam, beam), but it is also a hotbed of activity around advancing people with disabilities. My long-time friend Professor Mari Ostendorf (who was a grad student with me at Stanford) was running a summer research program for engineering students with disabilities.

My talk there was on "raising the floor," my new theme around delivering access to everyone on the planet with a disability (and everybody else, too). It was well received, and I had lunch with the students and talked about disability rights and technology.



I also got to visit with different grad students and professors doing assistive technology research, and was quite impressed. There were several projects that I saw immediate applications to practice, and a couple that could directly help Bookshare.org users.

These kinds of visits are really energizing. It's a reminder that we&#…