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Showing posts from January, 2010

The Davos Blur

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The Davos scene is nonstop: it starts with breakfast meetings at 8 am and ends typically after midnight. You rush from session to session, often jumping a shuttle from one hotel to another or back to the Congress Center. In between the meetings, there’s the powerful force of serendipity. In the hallways, you’re as likely to run into the head of an international NGO, as CEO of a Fortune 100 company, as a renowned professor as the foreign minister of a major country. And, everybody is working on something and usually is interested in several issues. Every table conversation brings a new perspective and a new idea: whether it’s new knowledge, a great contact or a new extension to the idea under discussion.

I spend time desperately trying to capture some of these insights myself, or give someone an action item (send me an email on that and I’ll do it). Each hour there’s something memorable.
Today was an example of this. In the morning, I attended a session put on by the Young Glo…

Three Fabulous Conversations

The WEF is all about having a critical mass of incredible people. This enables great conversations: the serendipity effect is huge. I just wanted to highlight three conversations I had today, each of which shows why this is such a great opportunity for Benetech to attend.

Conversation One
Just as I finished my breakfast, I looked across the way and saw Larry Brilliant, the new head of the Skoll Urgent Threats Fund. That shortchanges Larry’s background: he was the key leader in the campaign to eliminate smallpox in India, cofounded the Seva Foundation and a couple of high tech companies, and was most recently running Google.org.

We then spent an hour in a wide ranging and stimulating conversation about the new Fund, its first grants, how to help social entrepreneurs we both know and admire, the energy coming from college and grad students eager to make a difference and the challenges of bringing more measured conversations back into a global society faced with enormous issues with si…

First day in Davos

I’m joining many other social entrepreneurs on our journey to Davos, home of the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum. The journey itself is magical: you take a series of trains getting ever smaller, until the final hour meanders through the middle of mountain villages with a foot to spare on either side of the train, through tunnels and beneath spectacular mountains. Although this is my sixth time to Davos for the WEF, the train trip never fails to enchant me.

And then we're in a small ski village in Switzerland!

The Schwab Foundation arranges for the social entrepreneurs to stay in the Schatzalp mountain hotel. This is the hotel made famous in Thomas Mann’s book The Magic Mountain: it’s 600 feet up the mountain above Davos, and you ride a funicular railroad to get to it. The benefits of collocating the social entrepreneurs in one place has been proven in past years: a large amount of the value of attending the WEF is meeting with global social entrepreneur colleagues, a…

The Mismeasure of War

Our human rights team cares deeply about the issue of truth in human rights reporting. They just posted a response to a major debate on the question of whether deaths in war have been steadily declining. I think this well captures our approach to the question of truth and are worth repeating in the Beneblog.

A guest Beneblog by By Anita Gohdes, Megan Price, and Patrick Ball
Several media organizations including Reuters, Foreign Policy and New Scientist covered the January 21 release of the 2009 Human Security Report (HSR) entitled, “The Shrinking Cost of War.” The main thesis of the HRS authors, Andrew Mack et al, is that “nationwide mortality rates actually fall during most wars” and that “today’s wars rarely kill enough people to reverse the decline in peacetime mortality that has been underway in the developing world for more than 30 years.” This claim is based in large part on the authors’ graphical representations of pre- and post-conflict mortality rates for…

Social Enterprise Alliance Summit

As I head off to the WEF Summit in Davos, I'm also excited about the Social Enterprise Alliance Summit coming up in San Francisco at the end of April. The membership of the Alliance are "my people," folks who speak both social and business fluently.

The response to the early bird registration was incredible. We had to extend the early bird a week (actually, from last Friday to today) for member organizations to make sure everybody who wanted to register early got their double-discount (being a member and being an early bird). Benetech is sending four of our team, including me. We're really looking forward to it.

This year's Summit is special because we're cohosting the Social Enterprise World Forum, which was held in Scotland and Australia the last two years (I got to go to the first one in Scotland: it was incredible to see how vibrant and successful the movement is in the UK). So, we're expecting a great turnout from our international peers in th…

Going to Davos to Redesign the Planet

My latest post on HuffPo is now up: Going to Davos to Redesign the Planet, about my proposal to the WEF's Global Redesign Initiative.

I've included the post below, but comments are best done on the HuffPo site above.

How would you try to change the world if you had the chance? What would you propose to global leaders to make humanity better off? The Global Redesign Initiative is one of the core themes of next week's annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

I made a suggestion and got invited to Davos to discuss it. That's not an endorsement of my proposal by the WEF, but I am certainly looking forward to going next week!

My proposal is that the world's knowledge should work for all of humanity. Some folks call newly developed knowledge "intellectual property," but this obscures the fact that we don't treat ideas and content the same way as we treat a house or land. We give inventors and authors a time-limited qualified monopoly …

Human Rights Trainings in Nigeria

A Guest Beneblog by Vijaya Tripathi

As outreach coordinator for Martus, Benetech’s secure software application, I travel to many countries where human rights defenders need tools to gather, organize and back up information about human rights violations. Over the past few years, I have seen human rights groups become much more sophisticated about how they use technology to document human rights abuses.

My most recent visit to Nigeria confirmed this trend. While visiting the country, I met with members of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) who are using a growing collection of technology tools to confront reported human rights incidents. Nigerian security forces have been accused of a series of abuses including extrajudicial killings, election violence and vote rigging.

During my first visit to the Nigerian capital of Abuja last April, I learned that a member of the NHRC who had been monitoring local elections had been beaten and unlawfully detained. Human rights monitors in Nige…

Bookshare in Chennai

A guest Beneblog by Viji Dilip
International Bookshare Program Manager

Every morning braving the heavy Chennai traffic Maria wheels into Worth Trust to start her work as a proof reader. Maria was raised by the sisters of the local Chennai Church, given a basic education and was sent off to Worth Trust to learn life skills. Two years later, Maria who was affected by polio at the age of one and has to use a wheel chair and calipers, is now soon to be married on Jan 18th, 2010. The proud bride to be is full of smiles and happy that the Worth Trust- Bookshare partnership has given a new meaning to her life, she is full of confidence ready to face the world. She says, “This job has greatly increased my self-esteem. I now feel even I can help people living in America!!”

Thanks to a generous grant from the Lavelle Fund for the Blind, Bookshare has been able to work with Worth Trust, a nonprofit with offices in Chennai, India. The project's goals were to work with organizations that provi…

Happy New Year (to the Benetech team)

[On New Year's Day, I wrote this to the Benetech team after literally waking up thinking about this, and thought it was worth sharing here.]

I awoke this morning a little later than normal, with NPR on the radio. The first news item was about the latest suicide bomber killing dozens of people: kind of a depressing start to the new year. But then, I remembered that we’re doing something to make the world a better place, and that cheered me up.

It’s easy to forget in the daily grind just how unusual Benetech and our people are. We’re working with groups right now on the front lines of human rights abuses around the world. Environmental activists and organizations are busy saving endangered species (and the planet) with our assistance. And we’re helping schools and teachers and parents and most of all people with disabilities get access to the information they need for school, work and society. We’re working on some of the biggest and toughest problems in the world, and we’re h…