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Showing posts from September, 2008

Celebrating 20 Years of Hadley China!

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We came to Fuzhou for a celebration. Celebrating 20 years is a big deal in China. As you might imagine, it's unusual for a U.S. nonprofit to have been in China for this length of time. The big celebration was held in our hotel, which I think is the nicest hotel in Fuzhou.
Many top folks from around the country came for an all-morning event with more than a dozen speakers. They included representatives from different schools from around the country, the U.S. Counsel General, a Vice President from the Disabled Persons Federation and a delegation from Hong Kong. A lot of this was celebrating the achievements of Mr. Xia Rongqiang (Chester), the founder and principal of Hadley China.
The main curriculum at Hadley China is around teaching English. One of my favorite speakers was a young Hadley student who was quite talented and appealing. As we went around the country, we kept running into former Hadley students and teachers. It's clear Hadley has had a great impact on the bli…

Fuzhou

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My first stop in mainland China isFuzhou - 福州, the capital of Fujian Province. I had heard of the province, but was flabbergasted to not know the name of Fuzhou. Imagine overlooking a city of over 6 million people (described by a Fuzhou native as a "medium-sized Chinese city!"). That's the size of the entire San Francisco Bay Area.

I was also surprised by the wealth of this city. My first afternoon in town, I wandered the central shopping district. The products and prices seemed similar to what I'd see in the United States. I mean, the Nike shop and the camera shop had the same products and same prices as I'd expect to pay at a mall in California. In addition to the products and brands I knew, there were quite a number of China-specific brands (like 361 degrees and Sept Wolves). The department stores reminded me a lot of Macy's.
One of the key leaders I met described China as "Europe in the cities, Africa in the countryside." Since I didn'…

Dragonair Hauls Rami off the Plane

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Our flight from Hong Kong to Fuzhou on Dragonair was made much more interesting when we had a ringside seat on a disability rights demonstration!
Rami Rabby is famous in the American blind community as the first blind foreign service officer working for the US State Department. It wasn't easy for him: he had to sue them because they wouldn't hire him even though he was highly qualified.

It might come as no surprise that Rami is attuned to discriminatory practices and willing to stand up for himself. Rami had been assigned a window seat even though he wanted to sit on the aisle like your typical frequent flier. So, he asked to switch seats with Jimmy Young (son of Hadley School's CEO, Chuck Young).
This caused some consternation among the airline staff. Apparently, they have a little manual that says blind people have to sit in a window seat. So, they asked Rami to move, claiming this was standard operating procedure (which it isn't, since we'd all travelled aro…

First trip to China

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I'm now on my first-ever trip to mainland China, thanks to the Hadley School for the Blind twentieth anniversary of their China school. It's unusual for a U.S. nonprofit to have a China branch, but truly amazing that it's been there for twenty years. Hadley's brand of distance education for the blind (and people who care about blind people) has been adapted to focus on teaching of English in China.I've always wanted to have a reason to go to China, but there never was a strong enough reason to go for Benetech. Because of Hadley's reputation, their twentieth anniversary was the nexus for many of the top blindness folks from China to come help them celebrate. Since we're a partner of Hadley's (our goal is to be the school library for their students), Hadley's president, Chuck Young, invited me and other Hadley supporters to accompany him and his staff on this celebratory trip.

We started our visit in Hong Kong, visiting the three main nonprofits th…

More users for Bookshare.org

It's typical to think of Bookshare.org as being for blind people. But, we keep mentioning that there are more people with print disabilities than people with visual impairments. People with physical disabilities such as those from cerebral palsy often get significant benefits for access to alternative text.

We recently had a big article in SpeakUP, the journal of the United States Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. These folks create specialized systems to provide speech to people who cannot speak (or can't speak clearly) without technical assistance. Many users of augmentative communication devices also have a hard time using printed books. We're starting to work with the makers of these devices to add support for Bookshare.org books, since they typically have text-to-speech capabilities built into them already.

We're glad that SpeakUP is spreading the word about Bookshare.org to a new community of people who can really take advantage of acces…

Fish Tale Has DNA Hook

I've written about Dan Janzen's idea for a DNA barcoding device, which you could use to identify the different kinds of life you encounter.

I recently was forwarded a post from David Duthie (of the UN Environment Program) that spotted a new application: truth in sushi labeling.

I have been a "fan" of DNA barcoding for a while now and believe that when DNA can be linked to the power of the Internet (DNA-museum-Google Earth) via a hand-held barcoder/barcorder - as suggested long ago by fellow BIOPLANNER Dan Janzen - then maybe biodiversity will have gained the power to truly inspire the general public and becoming an important "way of thinking" about the world around us.
Below is a story from the New York times that gives us a glimpse of what that world might be like - where two high school children, albeit with some good connections, can demonstrate that some NY sushi is not "kosher" - offering farmed tilapia at tuna prices. A few days earlier, I re…

Samasource wins contract with Bookshare.org

We're busy expanding Bookshare.org with the help of social enterprises all over the world. We recently signed a deal with a group in Kenya, and they were very enthusiastic about it!

Samasource wins contract with Bookshare.org

Zerodivide seeks new board members

I am on the board of the Zerodivide Foundation, which is an extremely cool foundation serving the underserved of California with technology. We're seeking new board members.

ZeroDivide™ Board of Directors Position Description
ZeroDivide is seeking candidates for its Board of Directors to serve for a three-year term commencing on February 1, 2009.

ZeroDivide Background

ZeroDivide invests in community enterprises that leverage technology to benefit people in low-income and other underserved communities. As a foundation, we do more than just write a check; through our community, philanthropic and corporate partnerships, we help nonprofit organizations find new revenue sources to become more self-sustaining.

We focus on technology. Whether the divides are social, economic, political or cultural, it is often technology that can help overcome these divides. Since our inception in 1998, almost $50 million has been invested through us in overcoming community-building barriers. But access to…

ISIS - Internet Sexuality Information Services

Through the Full Circle Fund, where I spoke recently on a panel with Premal Shah of Kiva.org, I had the chance to meet the third panelist, Deb Levine of ISIS. It's great to meet a new technology social entrepreneur who is so on top of the latest social technologies! [Kiva's cool, of course, but everybody already knows that!]

ISIS has a mission around sex ed and STD prevention, and has an array of clever and innovative uses of the web and mobile communications to advance their mission. One social enterprise I was impressed with is their inSPOT sex partner STD electronic greeting card service. This service is supported by public health agencies to encourage notification of sex partners when someone is diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STD). ISIS manages to get a very high click-through rate for this important notification.

Deb and I had a great brainstorm a few weeks after our panel, coming up with ideas for helping each other's projects. I think this is th…

Social Enterprise World Forum 2008 - Part Two

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The Social Enterprise World Forum 2008 was great for gaining a perspective on an island with a great deal of innovative social enterprise. My guess is that roughly 80% of the attendees were from Scotland and the rest of the UK. Even though the legal regime is somewhat different, I found many parallels with social enterprisers here in the United States and around the world.

One of my biggest concerns about social enterprise is how unknown we are in the U.S. to the general public and to policy makers. Here in the UK, I have a vision of where social enterprise in the United States could be in ten years. That's the length of time that Jonathan Bland, CEO of the Social Enterprise Coalition in the UK, said that he and his group have been at it. As I noted in the previous post, it's a major part of UK and Scottish government strategy to invest in and expand the social enterprise sector.

In the opening session of the conference itself, we heard from representatives of both the U…

Social Enterprise in Scotland: the World Forum

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I’m here in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the first-ever Social Enterprise World Forum. There are over 400 attendees from twenty-five countries, all here to talk about how to use business to accomplish social outcomes. And Scotland is a logical place for such an event. “Social enterprise is a key part of the Scottish government’s social strategy,” says Ruth Parsons, Director of the Public Sector (Scottish government). Plus, the Social Enterprise Alliance is a cosponsor of the event, and we're scheduled to host the third world forum in San Francisco in 2010.


One of the fun aspects of social enterprise conferences is to visit the social enterprises. Before the conference was formally opened, there were three different study tours available to attendees. I visited the One World Shop and learned about the history of the fair trade movement. The UK is probably the leading country in the world for consumption of fair trade products, mainly because fair trade has become a mainstream co…