As a first step in finding some of the brightest, most successful social entrepreneurs who are helping vulnerable people work toward economic independence, we launched a global, open-source competition.
The Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World that Works competition sparked a huge response from some of the world’s brightest, most successful social entrepreneurs who are helping people from impoverished communities work toward economic independence. We received nearly 900 entries from 83 countries – the most ever for a single Changemakers.com competition.
A process of public voting through both a new Facebook application and the Changemakers.com platform narrowed a group of semi-finalists to the top ten finalists. Then, a panel of international experts judged the finalists on innovation, social impact, and sustainability, and determined the five winners. Each winner received a cash prize of US $50,000 from eBay Foundation to invest in scaling their solutions.
We were proud to partner on this program with Ashoka Changemakers, a long-time expert in advancing and scaling social innovations and a vibrant community of action.
Congratulations to the winners!
Founder Sameer Hajee likens his social business to the human spirit - limitless and unrelenting. Nuru Energy provides an affordable, non-polluting substitute for kerosene to light off-grid, rural households. Nuru also enables a new generation of entrepreneurs to emerge from crushing poverty and gain a stronghold on financial self-sufficiency.
Village level entrepreneurs can earn over US $3 per day in profits with their microfranchises. This income lifts the entrepreneurs out of poverty at wages representing three to four times the national average, and villagers save 85% on the cost to light their homes, which is a boon to the local economy. Nuru currently serves 5,000 households, and will scale operations in India and Africa in the next three years.
Solidarium Fair Trade empowers thousands of Brazilian women who produce fair trade goods to participate in the market economy. With a stable income, their goals of improved education, healthcare, and housing for themselves and loved ones are becoming reality.
Solidarium works tirelessly to build an innovative, efficient network of producers, product designers, and allied organizations to achieve successful go to market strategies. They build scale and sustainability through commercial contracts with large retailers such as Walmart. Solidarium has been working with 1,600 local producers in Brazil, helping to increase their income by 80%. Founder Tiago Dalvi anticipates reaching $1 million in sales by June 2012, and positively impacting the lives of over 10,000 people from Brazil’s most vulnerable communities.
The Grameen Foundation envisions a world free from poverty, and positions mobile technology as a powerful tool for economic empowerment. Their Village Phone initiative and AppLab pilot programs in Indonesia promote a new business model of mobile microfranchising. They have already recruited a network of over 7,600 entrepreneurs, of whom100% are profitable, while 46% have doubled their income.
Entrepreneurs trained as "infomediaries" can further increase their income by delivering valuable information to their peers via mobile telephony, such as job search services, a mobile marketplace, mobile financial services, health, and agriculture information. Grameen plans to scale the current network to 60,000 entrepreneurs serving 4,500,000 customers.
Fundacion Paraguay offers a new paradigm for technical/vocational education that is market-based and financially self-sufficient. At the San Francisco Agricultural School, students develop technical and entrepreneurial skills by running on-campus, small-scale enterprises such as dairy processing, organic gardens, and a rural hotel. These enterprises earn enough income to cover all school operating costs. Upon graduation, 100% of students have found jobs, created a business, or continued their education.
Fundacion Paraguay focuses on providing quality, affordable vocational education to youth from chronically poor families in developing countries. They are scaling up the model worldwide in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Africa, and seeking new partners through Teach a Man to Fish based in the United Kingdom.
Anti-poverty program Twin Cities RISE! (TCR) is a clear example of innovation that works on multiple levels. TCR provides an intensive work skills program to help those who face the greatest challenges to employment obtain work and succeed over the long term. TCR also exemplifies a new breed of social programs that deliver a measurable return on investment (ROI), and receive funding based strictly on performance and results, Pay for Performance (PFP).
TCR is pioneering the next evolution of Pay for Performance funding; a model called Human Capital Bonding, where states issue bonds funded by private investors to high-performing nonprofits. This serves to create new sources of funding for groups that serve people in poverty, and also prioritizes funding to highly effective organizations that create meaningful and measurable impact.
Please visit www.changemakers.com/economicopportunity to learn more about our winners.