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Showing posts from May, 2013

Caltech: Founding Values

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Address on receiving Caltech’s Distinguished Alumni Award May 18, 2013
Caltech was founded to give back to society through science and engineering, to discover knowledge and apply that knowledge. There was tremendous optimism about the value of training engineers and scientists and how that would benefit all of humanity, especially in the southern California of a century ago which was reshaped through the wonders of technology.

Caltech’s small size makes its faculty and students incredibly agile when it comes to understanding a broad array of fields: there is a need here to be able to explain your work, and to understand the work of others. That’s the Caltech advantage! Richard Feynman once tried to reduce an advanced physics concept to a freshman lecture. When Feynman found he couldn’t do so, he said that meant “that we really don’t understand it.” The first lecture I heard as a freshman at Caltech was delivered by Feynman on the topic of liquid helium three, and I was certain he did …

Martín Burt’s Best Kept Secret

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Martín Burt is one of the greatest social entrepreneurs I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for many years. So I was recently taken by surprise when I discovered by mere coincidence that he had become the Chief of Staff for the Interim President of Paraguay, Federico Franco! It turns out Martín was asked by Franco to join his administration when he took office in June 2012. He will serve in this position until Franco finishes his term in August 2013. I found it incredible that almost no one in the social entrepreneurial field knew about this and decided a blog post was in order!

Martín is a pioneer in applying microfinance, youth entrepreneurship and economic self-reliance methodologies to address chronic poverty. A citizen of Paraguay, he is the founder of Fundación Paraguaya, a financially self-sustaining social enterprise that promotes entrepreneurs in Paraguay and Africa through microcredit and entrepreneurship education. He is also one of the creators of the environmental protectio…

Technology for All: From Gandhi to TED - Part 2

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Technology has the potential to improve the lives of millions across the world. Unfortunately, most companies won’t pursue projects without the promise of big profits and the people who need tech tools the most often can’t afford them. In this two-part series I explore the concept of “Technology for All” and Benetech’s commitment to both ensuring that the technology required to meet a social need is developed and that it reaches far beyond the richest 10 percent of people who can most afford it.

You can read Part 1, here.


It all started with the TED’s opening session, “Progress Enigma.” The session posed the questions: “What is the future of work?” and “Is the innovation growth accelerating?”

In his TED talk, Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon replied to these questions with the argument that innovation isn’t likely to get us out of the global economic stagnation and that economic growth itself – contrary to the assumption that has become nearly universal since the 1950…

Technology for All: From Gandhi to TED - Part 1

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Technology has the potential to improve the lives of millions across the world. Unfortunately, most companies won’t pursue projects without the promise of big profits and the people who need tech tools the most often can’t afford them. In this two-part series I explore the concept of “Technology for All” and Benetech’s commitment to both ensuring that the technology required to meet a social need is developed and that it reaches far beyond the 10 percent of people who can afford it.


Gandhi, Technology and Economic Justice

I often travel to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness and advocate for the work we’re doing here at Benetech. On a recent trip to Washington, I had the pleasure of meeting with retired Senator Harris Wofford (D-PA). It was an incredibly memorable meeting—one I took much away from.

Sen. Wofford is remarkable, having performed so many exemplary deeds of service for our nation. He volunteered for the Army Air Corps in World War II and was a friend and adviser to Martin…

Poisoning the Treaty for the Blind

The Obama Administration is turning its back on people with disabilities--and I'm outraged. I'm an engineer and social entrepreneur, trying to make the world a better place for people with disabilities, and I rarely step into the role of vocal advocate. But when you see behavior that is so unjust, you just have to speak out against it. Here is what is happening.

For years, international negotiations have been moving forward on what many have come to know as the "Treaty for the Blind." The goal of the treaty is to make it possible for people who are blind, or have other print disabilities, to get access to the books they need for education, employment and inclusion in society--no matter where they live. It's something we already do, with great success, in the United States. Early versions of the treaty embodied this principle, and in addition, would ease the international transfer of accessible books for people with disabilities.

In the end, a good treaty would …