Americas

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Flickr/CC/Jennifer at sweetonvegcom

By Maria Bennici

As the world becomes increasingly connected, it gets easier to try foods from around the world, many of which have a plethora of health benefits and provide a ton of variety for your palate. However, the rise of the popularity of superfoods, especially with regards to quinoa, has wreaked havoc on the original ecosystems that produced the foods. As an example, quinoa, which was standard fare for poor Bolivian farmers, now costs more per pound than chicken, in part due to skyrocketing demand around the globe.

Eating local has started to take off as a trend as well, but there’s no reason why your meals can’t take inspiration from around the world while using local produce with less food miles. Check out this list for healthy and local alternatives to popular superfoods as well as recipes to try!

  1.       Instead of quinoa, try millet, lentils, or oatmeal.

Millet is native to the Great Plains territory in the United States and boasts being gluten-free and high in protein, according to NPR. Lentils are popular around the world, and they are full of dietary fiber and lean protein. Finally, oatmeal doesn’t have to just be for breakfast for kids—considering its fiber content, oats are well worth an appearance in bread, cake and cookies.

Recipe to try: you can use lentils to make mujaddara, an easy and popular dish in the Middle East.

 

Flickr/CC/Daniella Segura
Flickr/CC/Daniella Segura

 

  1.       Go nuts with peanuts rather than almonds.

It takes a gallon of water to grow a single almond, according to Mother Jones, and although there are certainly arguments to be made about the high value of almond production despite high water consumption, there are other alternatives. Try using peanuts, which are certainly cheaper and provide a lot of Vitamin E.

Recipe to try: You can use peanut butter outside of sandwiches—try this South American Peanut Pork recipe!

 

  1.       Eat your greens by avoiding asparagus and going for broccoli or green beans.

Peru is a major asparagus producer, but unfortunately, water resources in the country’s Ica Valley have become extremely depleted due to the industry, according to The Guardian. Broccoli (rich in Vitamins K and C) and green beans (full of Vitamin K and copper) can typically be used as a substitute in recipes.

Recipe to try: Toss some green beans with this Asian-inspired stir fry!

 

Flickr/CC/Brendan DeBrincat
Flickr/CC/Brendan DeBrincat

 

  1.       Use blueberries instead of acai berries.

Acai berries, grown in the Amazon rainforest, have become very popular through health smoothies and snacks; however, harvesting the berries can be dangerous since workers have to climb trees and chop the berries off with machetes, and the cost can be prohibitive to consumers as well. Try blueberries instead, and even out of season, frozen blueberries have the advantage of having fewer pesticides.

Recipe to try: These mini galettes are the perfect addition to your next garden party (or breakfast, if we’re being completely honest).

 

Of course, no food is entirely perfect in its production, marketing and harvesting, which is why it is essential to research the foods that you are interested in and determine what you are willing to support with your dollar. Furthermore, it is possible to enjoy the superfoods as well—just take some time to look up providers of the product that do it through environmentally and economically sustainable ways. Bon appétit!

 

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Flickr/CC/Procsilas Moscas

By Pia Chatterjee

Be it for a birthday, dinner you’re invited to, Christmas or some other happy occasion, you’ll always find someone, somewhere, to give a gift to. Why not use this massive proliferation of chronic gift-giving for a good cause? There now exists a social enterprise for just about every gift on the market, and some products even more creative than the conventional kind. You could much too easily kill two birds with one stone by buying your presents to benefit a social or environmental purpose. Here are 5 socially conscious presents you could make people in your life happy with:

  1. Divine Chocolate: Divine chocolate is co-owned by 85,000 farmers, members of the cooperative Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana. You can find a number of mouthwatering recipes for desserts, cookies and cocktails on their site, and even order some delicious looking bars of chocolate for less than 5$. Keeping the producers of the product remunerated for their hard work (perhaps) a long way from you are, you would also be able to allow someone to enjoy some fantastic fair trade chocolate
  2. Rocking Ur Teens: Don’t let the name fool you, this isn’t some run of the mill band camp for your kids. Rocking Ur Teens is Community Interest Company (CIC) based in the UK that aims to bring teenagers together for them to connect with each other and look towards a positive future. Intending to globalize within 5 years, the firm intends to organize teen conferences annually with different themes every year. The conferences give teens between 12 and 14 years of age (usually years 8 and 9 at school) the opportunity to meet each other and create the support system they need to flourish. This year, they focused on providing girls in the UK this opportunity. With the next set of conferences on March 17th, 2016 to include conferences for boys as well, try to pay the 10 pounds to send your kid to participate in this incomparable experience.
  3. Scarves by Counting Flowers: Counting Flowers produces unique, handmade scarves and shawls, fruit of the hard work of many talented artisans from a number of developing countries such as Afghanistan, Bolivia, Ethiopia, India, Laos, Madagascar and many more. In competition with more large-scale modes of production in their own countries, these artisans who are often members of cooperatives managed by women are given the opportunity to survive in their craft. The quality of their work is also impressive: you can choose between alpaca wool, cashmere, cotton, mohair, pashmina, sheep wool and many more materials to customize your scarf and even filter your gift by the country you would like your purchase to benefit. Purchases currently help 33 artisans and cooperatives in 18 countries. What’s more, everyone can wear scarves – that means you’ve found the dream generic gift!
  4. Belgravia House of Gifts’ Gourmet Gift Box: This is the perfect present for that one foodie friend. BHG is another CIC that supports and funds local initiatives that try to empower disadvantaged groups. They primarily work with 4Wings, a non-profit that aids women at risk by providing them with employment opportunities and creative therapy to raise self esteem. Their Gourmet Gift Boxes contain only the finest ingredients of the region are packed in a beautifully designed package. Extremely portable, the gift box could even serve for a flawless romantic picnic with your significant other. Each box also comes stocked with a specially designed postcard ready to be stamped with your handwritten and personal touch.
  5. Global Seesaw’s bags, jewellery and accessories: Give in to the temptation of buying this awesome belt made of recycled tyre. It was made by Global Seesaw, a fairtrade business that functions ethically on all fronts: it creates sustainable employment for women who have been victims of human trafficking, all their profits are re-invested into the cause and they also look into the most modern designs and the possibilities of creation available with recycled materials. When their materials aren’t recycled, they’re perfectly environmentally friendly and organic. You can buy just about anything from Global Seesaw – from bags, jewellery and accessories to bath and body products and homeware. You could redecorate someone’s entire life with things produced by them, and have them feel great about it!

 

Now you know of top quality socially conscious gifts that will leave both sender and receiver in the highest of spirits, and the world just a step further in the right direction. Happy shopping!

 

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Pexels/CC/ gratisography.com

By Santiago Martínez

The Internet has become an equalizing tool in many respects all across the globe. One of the big effects it has had is that ordinary people with great ideas have a platform to communicate in a relatively easy manner. You don’t need a big budget, nor a studio production, in order to build a programme. You just need a smartphone with recording capability and a computer to upload it to.

The social enterprise sector has taken advantage of this as new voices with projects, tips, interviews, blog posts and analyses have risen to give a sense of what the landscape looks like. As with every social movement, social entrepreneurship rides the wave of new ideas coupled with a revolutionary technology, like the Internet, and Latin America has hopped on as well. New podcasts, blogs and YouTube channels have been popping up from Latin America, as Spanish is the second largest language spoken globally, and thus has given the opportunity to connect all these potential listeners.

Here are 5 digital media platforms that give a voice to this new movement in Latin America.

Kunan TV (Peru)

        Kunan is a media platform that has 3 lines of action: serve as social enterprise incubator, connect social entrepreneurs through social media, and inspire through communication. Kunan TV is the result of the latter. While it is relatively recent and has only 5 episodes under its belt right now, it gives an in-depth look at projects that are changing the social landscape of Peru.

Maud Gurundian, the host of the show, goes and visits a specific project, whether it’s saving manatees in the Amazonian jungle or teaching entrepreneurial skills to poor communities, and interviews them while watching them in action. Furthermore, they give tips after every show of how to help the particular project. Kunan TV has a great production design, which makes it very accessible as a communication platform. Click this link if you want to subscribe in YouTube.

Disruptivo.tv (Mexico)

Disruptivo started as a podcast conducted by Juan del Cerro in which he interviews entrepreneurs with a social impact. During his 73 programs, he has interviewed people from all over Latin America, especially Mexico, that address all kinds of issues, whether it is education, women’s empowerment, poverty, etc. His clear manner of speaking, as simple and as inviting as possible, makes it very accessible for not only social entrepreneurs, but the general public as well.

However, after growing its audience and vision, Disruptivo became a whole media platform called Disruptivo.tv. On this website they publish videos, blog posts, event invitations and news alongside the podcasts. As an objective, Disruptivo.tv seems to become a central digital media platform for the Mexican social entrepreneurship landscape.

EmprendeSocial (Latin America)

        Founded in 2011 by Andrea Maria Cornejo, EmprendeSocial is the first publication dedicated exclusively to social entrepreneurship efforts across Latin America. The main objective of the publication is to create a community and culture that revolves around social entrepreneurship as it begins to gain ground around the region.  It thought of as a journalistic effort to bring to light efforts, conferences, workshops, events and other stories.

        The organization is comprised of an international team that comes from Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and the United States. Their writing style evokes simple, yet highly informative, snippets that revolve around what is going on the social entrepreneurial landscape. They often promote interesting conferences and events, or giving a detailed profile of some projects that have had high impact.

While the content might take a while sometimes to get out, a similar website called Pulso Social with a more tech/entrepreneurial focus, has a more persistent publishing schedule and has an English version. Click here to see it.

Flickr/CC/Remi
Flickr/CC/Remi

Nexso (Latin America)

           Nexso is more than just a communication platform, but literally a place of connection. First and foremost, the website is dedicated to people in the medium that are looking to other stories and solutions for inspiration. Its objective is to create a vibrant community of entrepreneurs through the free market of ideas that the Internet provides. Nexso does this through three strategies: providing challenges, having a catalogue of solutions and a blog space.

        The latter two are the ones that are part of this movement of social entrepreneurial communication. In the catalogue of solutions, thousands of inspiring efforts that have been done in the past at a local or regional level. There you can find solutions such as generating digital content for kids using local cultural identity, or using bio-digestive technology to transform waste into fertilizer.

        The blog takes exceptional stories of these solutions and projects and gives them a voice through a writer in the community. They also  provide information about news and events that are happening in Latin America and Spain.

Ashoka México, Central America & the Caribbean

        While this is not an alternative media source, per se, but the YouTube channel of the Ashoka chapter in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, the content of this channel is consistent and diverse. It provides users with insightful interviews, helpful tips, discussions on social problems, talks, enterprise profiles, etc.

        The strength of this YouTube channel is how it provides a landscaped view of the Ashoka community in the region. As part of digital media platform, it is a great way to know the medium, to connect with other Ashoka fellows, and to understand some issues that are crucial to tackle. Also, it is accessible enough so newcomers can understand the basic concepts of social entrepreneurship and be inspired by some projects.

Social enterprises are often credited with being the gears towards social impact; however, digital media has an important role to fulfil. Through communication and inspiration, social media has the possibility to instil ideas, something so powerful that can bring about action.   

           

 

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Flickr/CC/Camila Tamara Silva Sepúlveda

By Maria Bennici

Looking for a great place to cozy up with a book, your statistics homework, or with some friends while watching the leaves change? Check out these cafés, which offer the perfect tastes to go with the autumn season and some pretty awesome ways to support people in your community.

 

The Monkey & the Elephant (Philadelphia, PA), reviews, Instagram:

This café provides a program for youth who have aged out of the foster care system, giving them access to mentors, a job, and training that enhances their skills for school and future employment. The program runs for 8 months and teaches them skills such as oral communication and cash register handling.

What to try: The cheesecake brownie and a mocha.

Cafe 458 (Atlanta, GA), reviews:

This café, located in the Old Fourth Ward, is staffed entirely by volunteers, thus allowing all proceeds to go directly to the Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency. This organization supports homeless men and women in the community, and the café supports your desire for a delicious Southern brunch!

What to try: The fried chicken and waffles, with a rosemary twist and Georgia peach preserves.

Purple Door Coffee (Denver, CO), reviews, Instagram:

This café is similar to The Monkey & the Elephant in that it provides a training program for its employees; however, this program is 52 weeks long. Teens and young adults are eligible, and three are hired at a time, and the program specifically focuses on those who were homeless and wish to leave that lifestyle behind for future employment and education.

What to try: The iced almond milk latte with a pumpkin croissant—perfect for the fall.

Café 54 (Tucson, AZ), reviews :

Mental illnesses can often be so challenging to its sufferers that maintaining a daily job can be extremely difficult. Café 54 pays its trainees, all of whom cope with a variety of mental illnesses, and provides them with training in order to be able to handle future independent employment. The café also provides assistance in finding psychosocial support and in finding the trainee’s next employment in the community.

What to try: The Hero’s Gyro.

East Van Roasters (Vancouver, Canada), reviews, Instagram:

Located in the Rainier Hotel, a residence that helps women suffering from mental health and substance dependency issues, East Van Roasters is another social enterprise from the PHS Community Services Society, a nonprofit that advocates and provides opportunities for marginalized residents of Vancouver. This café provides training and employment to the residents of the hotel, so while you’re enjoying your organic chocolate and coffee goods that are prepared right at the site, you’re also helping women in need.

What to try: The Mayan spiced hot chocolate with the chocolate tasting flight.

Flickr/CC/Roland Tanglao
Flickr/CC/Roland Tanglao

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Wikimedia Commons/CC/Markus Leupold-Löwenthal

By Santiago Martínez

As the social business model gains track in Latin America, entrepreneurs all around the region decide to join in the effort of revolutionizing markets and social realities. Newcomers and veterans alike have been impacting their own countries, regions and communities as they break barriers of traditional frameworks.

Here are some social enterprises to look out for, whether new or old, in the coming years as they attempt to change the realities of their surroundings for the better.

 

UPE Places

Wikimedia Commons/Public domain/Tarrazu
Wikimedia Commons/Public domain/Tarrazu

Be a traveller, not a tourist. That is UPE Places’ motto, a Costa Rican travel organization veering away from traditional tourism, highlighting sustainability and social impact. By staying with local families in their homes, they go to the traditional eco-tourist destinations in the country, while also immersing themselves completely in the local culture. Additionally, they developed a new concept called “Voluntourism”, in which the traveller volunteers with local organizations while getting to know the country from the inside out.

The founders, Omar Castillo, Aldo Protti and Andrés Hernández, have won recognitions back in their home country and abroad. In 2014 they were selected by I3 Latam, an initiative organized by the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development, Ashoka, Hystra and New Ventures, as one of the social startups with great promise in the region.

Kiwa

Martín and Natalie Acosta decided to promote healthy snacking and fair trade as their business model for Kiwa. Starting just after their honeymoon, this project began in 2008 in an attempt to further the economic development of the small farmers in Ecuador. Kiwa sells snacks, such as Kiwa’s Vegetable Mix, which come directly from farmers without intermediaries. Not only will clients enjoy nutritious snacks, by eating Kiwa they are making sure that the producers have received fair pay for their work. They have received numerous achievements over the years in operation, including the “Changing Markets Award” by Green and Inclusive Businesses, Best Project with Corporate Responsibility by the Ecuatorian-German Chamber of Commerce, and have been mentioned in the book Inovación Impacto, as one of the 15 most important agricultural projects.

Instituto Chapada de Educaçao e Pesquisa

One of the oldest organizations in this list, Instituto Chapada de Educaçao e Pesquisa (Chapada Institute of Education and Research), tackles the problem of public education in Brazil. Founded in 1996, ICEP has used a combination of teacher capacity-building and political pressure on local governments to improve the rural public schools in the country. Being born in a rural community in Palmeiras and coupled with extensive field research, the organization understands the necessities and the methodologies to approach the rural communities regarding education.

Flickr/CC/Escola Duarte Coelho
Flickr/CC/Escola Duarte Coelho

As of 2014, 3800 teachers, 370 pedagogical coordinators, 230 school directors, 61 technical supervisors and 15 secretaries of education have been involved with the program. This extensive work has affected over 61,000 students in rural communities in Brazil. The great impact garnered the organization the Schwab Foundation 2013 prize of Social Entrepreneur of the year to the founder: Cybele Amado.

Pro Mujer

Continuing with veteran organizations. Pro Mujer, an organization born in Bolivia in 1990, has the objective to empower women to overcome poverty as a social malady through a multifaceted approach, which includes financial services, healthcare and training. The organization, founded by Lynne Patterson and Carmen Velasco, has operations in countries other than Bolivia including Argentina, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru.

The Schwab foundation also named Rosario Perez, the former CEO of the company, as a 2014 Social Entrepreneur. Other recognitions, such as certification of “Client Protection Practices” and their participation in the Clinton’s Global Initiative, have bolstered Pro Mujer as a ground-breaking organization that has had a widespread benefit to the women in the region.

Fundación Escuela Nueva

Fundación Escuela Nueva is the second education-focused organization in this list. This organization, however, focuses on a new methodology of teaching developed in the 70s by the founder, Vicky Colbert de Arboleda. This education model concentrates on the educational development of communities as unit, while also focusing on the child as the main component of the model, not the teacher. Designed initially for rural schools in Colombia, the model is developed thinking in low density populations, where the same one or two teachers can be the teachers for multigrade education.

This innovative model gained international recognition in the 80s and 90s, and even today. The WISE foundation, the Schwab foundation, the Global Citizen Award and Ashoka are just some of the organizations involved in its recognition. It even now holds operations in other countries outside the region, such as East Timor and Vietnam.

México Tierra de Amaranto

Amaranto is amaranth in Spanish, a broad leafed plant that is distinctively present in the Americas and Asia with great nutritional properties. Its seeds are rich in protein, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins and minerals. Also, in the Mexican market, amaranto is cheaper than other products of similar protein intake, such as eggs or milk. Mexico Tierra de Amaranto is an enterprise in Central Mexico that promotes the importance of this plant by commercializing amaranth products, investing in research and raising awareness. The company also works directly with the farmers, both commercially and training, to produce a sustainable amaranth economy.

Flickr/CC/John Lambert Pearson
Flickr/CC/John Lambert Pearson

Founded by Mary Delano, this organization also is part of the Ashoka fellows and has been involved with over 30 communities in the production of amaranth products.

 

Latin American efforts in the social business field have been proven to be fruitful, thus we will have to keep an eye on these to see where they will end up.

 

 

Correction                                                                                 *An earlier version of this article stated that Rosario Perez was the CEO of Pro Mujer. We’ve corrected it to reflect her position as former CEO.   

 

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Flickr/CC/Daniel Stockman

By Maria Bennici

 

It has been said that a dog is a man’s best friend, but do humans really treat dogs, and its animal brethren, with the same sort of love? Unfortunately, animals receive a lot of abuse and can even face untimely deaths at the hands of humans, from the murder of wild exotic animals to 3.4 million cats and dogs being euthanized in 2013. Luckily, these organizations promote the health of animals—and humans as well—in inspiring and innovative ways.

  1. WOOF Program (San Francisco, CA): During the economic recession, the San Francisco Animal Care and Control and its rescue partners were overwhelmed by the number of dogs left at their centers, causing a rise in overcrowding and risk of euthanasia for dogs that could have been adopted if they received more training. As a result, Wonderful Opportunities for Occupants and Fidos (WOOF Program) was born, pairing dogs that need special attention and care in order to become more adoptable with foster parents who had been homeless and/or had lived in a shelter before. Although there has been controversy over pairing animals in need with homeless people, the WOOF Program is only open to foster parents with stable housing, and the parents are forbidden from panhandling. Furthermore, the program gives parents essential dog training, such as housetraining and basic obedience, as well as more human life skills, such as job readiness and banking tips.
  1. Virginia Woof (Portland, OR): This doggie daycare is a non-profit which operates with Outside In, a Portland-based organization that provides opportunities to homeless and at-risk youth. At the daycare, youth are properly trained to be able to help and supervise the dogs, eventually becoming eligible for internships at the center and potentially jobs in the animal care field afterwards. Not only do at-risk youth gain job experience and have the chance to form bonds with animals, but the dogs also get quality care, providing a safe place to socialize with other dogs.
Flickr/CC/SharonTroy
Flickr/CC/SharonTroy
  1. n:philanthropy (Los Angeles, CA): Launched by Yvonne Niami in 2015, this womenswear clothing line is in its second collection, and 10 percent of sales are donated to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (SPCALA) and Children’s Hospital. This giving spirit is showcased inside the pants, which says “BTW—you just helped a child and animal in need—good work!” in the lining.
  1. Heartland Farm Sanctuary (Madison, WI): This idyllic farm, a non-profit which began in 2010, offers support to both animals and humans in need. Dozens of abused and abandoned animals, such as chickens, pigs, ducks, and goats, have been rescued by the sanctuary, which either provides a home for the animals for the rest of their lives or finds the animal an adoptive family. Additionally, the sanctuary provides therapeutic animal-assisted services to adults and youth with special needs or a background of trauma, giving them a chance to form a bond with creatures that will neither judge nor harm them.
  1. Rescue Chocolate (Brooklyn, NY): This chocolate company uses an annual beneficiary model to donate its proceeds to various animal welfare organizations, but it also partners with rescue organizations by either giving back $1 on every item sold or allowing the organizations to re-sell the chocolate, earning about $2 in profit on each product sold. The chocolate is vegan and kosher, and the company is B Corporation Certified.
Flickr/CC/Compassion Over Killing
Flickr/CC/Compassion Over Killing

 

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Niranjan and Devan, photo courtesy of Myclo

By Maria Bennici

Looking for a sweet way to keep the sun out of your eyes while keeping American small businesses afloat? Check out MyClo, a for-profit social enterprise founded by Niranjan Kumar and Devan Anderson, two people brought together by a common love for entrepreneurship and fashion. The company, which focuses entirely on hats, uses an innovative microfinance model in partnership with Kiva Zip in order to provide loans to American entrepreneurs in need, while providing adjustable hats to customers with an ethical and trendy streak. I talked to Niranjan and Devan to delve into their experience and hear their story.

 

Backstory:

While an economics student at UC Berkeley, Niranjan went to Honduras to work as a microfinance consultant, returning with not only experience but the inspiration to start his own entrepreneurial venture.

“I just really wanted to pursue something that was very different and jump into entrepreneurship,” said Niranjan of his post-graduation plans. After being introduced to Devan by a mutual friend, the two of them instantly hit it off and began to plot what sort of social enterprise they could collaborate on, gradually focusing more on “high quality products that look really good but also make a significant impact in the lives of others.”

“Before we focused on American entrepreneurship and American headwear, we were all over the place. We wanted to create T-shirts, jeans, pants, shorts, sweatpants—we didn’t know really, but we knew we wanted to create an impact model,” said Niranjan of the early planning days.

Niranjan said that he had always been interested in “using fashion as the vehicle to promote microfinance.” Luckily for him, Devan already had experience with fashion, from graduating from fashion school to working as a consultant for various clothing brands. In fact, Devan had already pulled off an entrepreneurship venture of his own, specifically focused on hats, and that guided the two of them to ultimately deciding on MyClo centering around hats. But why hats?

“Hats don’t really have a gender construct to them,” said Devan when describing their decision process. “It’s a versatile piece. If we go with an adjustable hat, we open up the availability to everyone else. We need to start with that crown, with that piece that makes you proud to be who you are.”

Using their own money from savings and previous work, Niranjan and Devan launched MyClo, with the dual purposes of making hats and using the loan structure to build a community for entrepreneurs.

 

How it works:

With each MyClo purchase, a $10 microloan is generated for an American entrepreneur. These microloans are collected for two weeks, and at the end of the fortnight, Niranjan and Devan aggregate the loans generated by the sales and personally choose the entrepreneur benefiting from the loans through Kiva Zip. Afterwards, the entrepreneur pays MyClo back, and the returned loans make their way into the hands of a new entrepreneur.  So far, five entrepreneurs have benefited from MyClo loans, including to a store that suffered a devastating robbery and to a family-style Mexican restaurant. This model is powered through Kiva Zip, a mobile-to-mobile zero interest payment platform that works with American entrepreneurs.

As of yet, no entrepreneur has defaulted on their loan, but MyClo isn’t blind to the possibility. According to Niranjan:

“It’s the reality of the world, right? In entrepreneurship, the odds are really stacked against you. The most you can do is help an individual, create a community, surround them, and support them. We would notify our customers and let them know that the loan defaulted. I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s a failure on the customer’s part, on our part, or the entrepreneur’s part. That’s just the way entrepreneurship works. That’s the reality. So for us, when the money comes back, we were going to give the money out to someone else anyway, so it’s not like we are losing something from it.”

Photo courtesy: MyClo
Photo courtesy: MyClo

Successes and Outlooks:

Prior to the interview, MyClo had already sold out of the maroon line of hats, but this isn’t the only marker of success to the founders.

“So far, success has been that positive reception from entrepreneurs because at the end of the day, they’re the ones that we really want to help and they’re the ones that matter to us most,” said Devan.

Of course, the road to a successful enterprise hardly runs smooth, from the many iterations that a business model can go through to building an online presence.

“We’re e-commerce only, and as an e-commerce company, your biggest obstacle is going to be how you get your company’s face in front of a customer and how you get a conversion. That’s the biggest problem, for most e-commerce companies–finding that space and creating a customer dialogue early on and online,” said Niranjan, adding that Instagram, Facebook ads, and Mailchimp have been instrumental to their success so far.

 

Next steps:

Not many social enterprises focusing on microfinance for Americans are currently operating in the United States, which makes MyClo a fascinating company to watch, especially considering their long-term ambitions.

“We’d love to see our dreams of community realized,” said Devan. “We’d love to be really impacting and fulfilling entire loans, multiple loans, for entrepreneurs. So something goes up on Kiva and we can just fulfill it. ‘I need 10 grand for my new oven, I make pizzas.’ ‘Okay cool, here’s your oven.’ That would be”—

“The dream.” Niranjan interjected. 

Photo courtesy: Myclo
Photo courtesy: Myclo

With that kind of entrepreneurial spirit (and enthusiasm for Mexican restaurants and pizza ovens), hats off to Niranjan and Devan! Check out their hats here, and keep an eye out for them at various pop-up events in the Bay Area.

 

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Flickr/CC/Freedom House

By Maria Bennici 

The Syrian Civil War has stretched for more than four and a half years with no end in sight, and one of the unfortunate consequences of this war has been the displacement of more than 7.6 million Syrians. More than 4 million Syrians are refugees in neighboring countries, and an increasing number are now heading to Europe, often through means as dangerous as they are desperate, in order to find sanctuary. With the death of Aylan Kurdi, the little Syrian boy who drowned as his family tried to reach Greece, more attention has been brought to the refugee crisis, with pleas for help from governments and people around the world.

Eager to help refugees but don’t have the money, time, or expertise to help in the field? Check out these ways to support refugees without even needing to own a passport.

Flickr/CC/EU Commission | Domiz refugee camp, northern Iraq
Flickr/CC/EU Commission | Domiz refugee camp, northern Iraq
  1.       Volunteer in Your Community: Research small grassroots NGOs and nonprofitsnon-profits in your area to see if they offer help to refugees. For instance, the International Rescue Committee operates in 22 cities throughout the United States.
  1.       Donate money: Cash donations are an efficient way to give to organizations that are able to work immediately with refugees. With cash, the organizations are able to allocate the money to the greatest needs, plus cash doesn’t come with shipping and handling fees. You can donate to large organizations like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or with smaller organizations with a more specific focus that appeals to you personally. UNHCR also has partnerships with a variety of organizations, including IKEA and UNIQLO so you can support refugees through shopping with these partners. If your company or organization is also interested in supporting refugees, plenty of refugee NGOs form private-sector partnerships as well.
Flickr/CC/Freedom House | Syrian boys 2012
Flickr/CC/Freedom House | Syrian boys 2012
  1.       Educate yourself: The Syrian refugee crisis is a complex and nuanced situation, with plenty of challenges to understand, including the difference between “refugee” and “migrant,” government obligations to provide asylum and why Syrians can’t just “go back home.” Read this article, which describes how the situation has gotten out of hand, watch this Last Week Tonight with John Oliver episode, and explore this section of Human Rights Watch.  
  1.       Speak out: Unfortunately, the lives of refugees are not magically fixed once they reach sanctuary; often, they are faced with truly staggering amounts of xenophobia and racism. With the new knowledge you’ll have gained through step three, speak out for refugees when you hear ignorant, bigoted comments being made about them.
  1.       Donate items with care: Many people are moved to donate items they no longer need to those in need. While this generosity is admirable, sometimes donating items can be detrimental to the rebuilding process (this editorial, published after the Nepal earthquake in April 2014, explains more). If you absolutely must donate items, research organizations in your area and find out what items they actually need in order to avoid inundating their space and ability to organize.

 

Bonus: Refugees Welcome, an AirBNB-like website that allows Germans and Austrians to open their homes to refugees, is currently in the process of opening in other countries. Get involved here!

 

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Flickr/CC/Blake Patterson

By Santiago Martínez

        Smartphones changed our world. They changed how we interact, how we administer our finances, how we travel and how we get our news. Mobile applications play a huge role in these changes as they  combine accessible interfaces and attractive designs with creative use of mobile data. So, if used right, could apps change societies? These next apps sure attempt to do so, as their Latin American developers venture into innovation, creativity and, above all, social impact. The apps focus on various issues, ranging from nutrition to transparency and have one thing in common: the desire to bring improvements to a complex region in the world. 

  1.     allGreenUp – Chile

Environmental issues are a concern all over the world. The main difficulty is trying to coordinate individual efforts to protect our environment. Chilean Javier Luongo and his team developed an app trying to solve this problem through three functions: monitor individual environmental impact, inform the user and provide discounts to environmental-friendly people. Through a point-based system, you are able to earn discounts depending on the actions you take to take care of the planet.

  1.     colab.re – Brazil

In healthy democracies, most people forget that besides transparency, rule of law and security there is another simple, yet crucial, characteristic: a healthy, thorough communication between the government and the citizens. Bruno Aracaty, founder of colab.re, understood this. He developed an app with his team in which the citizen post report issues, suggest solutions and even rate governmental actions. Governments, on the other hand, respond to suggestions, ratings and so forth. This app is not only helpful for citizens, but also for government institutions. Using colab.re they can make polls and promote direct engagement between voters and the administration. It is now working in several municipalities in Brazil, hoping to expand to the rest of the country.

  1.     Oincs – Uruguay

Colab.re demonstrates how democracies can become healthier through government-citizen communication, but citizen-citizen communication is just as essential. The Uruguayan app Oincs attempts to bring about security in the road through live reports made by other drivers, not only communicating traffic jams, red lights and so forth, but also crime and security. Marcelo Wilkorowski and Rafael Cavestany were the developers of this project, which was based off of Twitter account @chanchosuy that reported traffic issues on the road.

  1.     CIVICO – Colombia

CIVICO is a Colombian attempt to make Bogotá, Santiago and Mexico City lively communities where the people themselves upload their favourite places, libraries, coffee shops, movie theaters, fast food stands, etc. With also a point-based system involving missions, they offer discounts depending on the amount of places you discover in the city AND that is verified by the developers themselves. This is a great way to make people interactive with each other and make the cities themselves as part of them as they are part of the city. That is how you build a community of millions of people, my friends.

Flickr/CC/Jesus del Toro Garcia
Flickr/CC/Jesus del Toro Garcia
  1.     Colombia Games: SIA Collection – Colombia

Ok, so we cheated. This is not one SINGLE app, per se, but in fact, a collection of apps that have the same objective: to get back in touch with the indigenous identity. Through the SIA (Ancestral Indigenous Knowledge) Collection, these apps introduce kids to the different ethnicities in Colombia, their languages, their myths and their different stories. They make the approach attractive, appealing and even mystical, in some ways. Sadly, Latin American indigenous groups are usually marginalized, economically and socially, but this is just one great step in order for different communities to link again.

  1.     Manuvo – México

So yes, we are cheating twice in a row. Sue us. Manuvo is not an app, but a digital media company, and a unique one indeed. They are composed from programmers to storytellers and even anthropologists. Their whole purpose is to enrich people’s lives with “digital experiences”. These include learning an indigenous language through beautiful animation and effective lessons, developing the digital interface of an ancient Aztec Codex, animating literary marvels of poets such as Octavio Paz and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and providing digital resources for mathematics courses for children. The vast variety, yet the single purpose of “enriching life”, is how the Mexican company got in the list.

  1.     Dilo Aquí – Venezuela

A great effort to fight off rampant corruption, NGO “Transparencia Venezuela”, sponsored by Transparency International, launched an app that allows for the user to send live reports of corrupt practices. The app allows for people to report on different categories, from real estate to health and public services using notes, video, and pictures, that can be used as evidence. This demonstrates how a cell phone becomes a weapon against malpractices and corruption, empowering citizens to change what they don’t like about the system. Cleaning up Venezuela, one report at a time.

 

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Flickr/CC/Mark Strobl

By Maria Bennici

Although the release of Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte moves earlier every year, it is finally, officially, the autumn. Eager to fall for all the smells, foods and clothes the season has to offer? Check out this list of fair-trade items, which are kind not only to their creators but to your wallet—nothing is over $200.

  1.       This orange-cinnamon soap: Orange and cinnamon is a killer combination, and not just in breakfast rolls. After jumping in crunchy leaves all day and doing yard work, what better way to smell like heaven than to use this soap? Produced by All Pure Nature Ventures, the soap is handmade by Ghanaian women and is made with shea butter harvested from their homeland.
  2.       This cozy wrap sweater: You could go to yoga class or stay home and curl up with a book in this comfy sweater. The company, prAna, is committed to sustainability and Fair Trade principles.
Flickr/CC/Steven Depolo
Flickr/CC/Steven Depolo
  1.       This cinnamon: This ingredient is the mainstay for all of the best fall food culinary options, from pear pies to pumpkin cheesecakes and even apple cider donuts. Why not acquire this cinnamon, which hails from Sri Lanka and boasts a more delicate flavor than the normal cinnamon used? Bonus: even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, cinnamon can be used in savory dishes as well, such as this curry.  
  2.       This adorable dress: The length and cut is perfect for work, PLUS it has pockets. Made by the social enterprise Assisi, this company provides job opportunities for deaf, mute and economically disadvantaged Indian women.
  3.       This chic leather bag: It will go perfectly with all of your blanket scarves and riding boots, and it’s a comfortable size for bringing a book with you. This product, like all made by Altiplano, was made by Guatemalan artisans who now benefit from fair wages and jobs.
  4.       This simple and gorgeous golden bracelet: Combined with the dress from #4, this could be an awesome look. This jewelry is also produced through a fair trade organization in India.
  5.       These classic shoes: Slide these on with skinny jeans, a cream cable-knit sweater, and a scarf (obviously), and you’ve got a great outfit for hunting in the pumpkin patch. All shoes are made in Ethiopia, and its factory was the first Fair Trade Certified footwear factory.

Flickr/CC/Shubert Ciencia
Flickr/CC/Shubert Ciencia
  1.       This snuggly blanket: Football games, cooking s’mores on the campfire, and falling asleep to Scandal are all ideal places to use this blanket, which was made in the longest-running wool mill in the United States.
  2.       This homey garland: Let’s face it, when will you have time to make the DIY garland on your Pinterest? Use this one instead (it has quinces!).  

 

Flickr/CC/Bea Represa
Flickr/CC/Bea Represa
  1.   These toasty drinks: Fond of your pumpkin spice lattes but trying to save money? Try these pumpkin spice K-cups, which will give you your hit of pumpkin coffee without actually having to leave the house. Not fond of coffee? This chai spice will provide all sorts of delightful autumnal tastes and smells, and you only need milk and sugar with it.

 

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