Friday, September 11, 2009

Vote No on 1 in Maine!!!

OK, so I suck at blogging, but what better way to start again than with something as important as this for my beloved state.

Must request my absentee ballot immediately. What could be LESS about positive social change than this shit. Lies about what it means to have equal rights for all people!

I don't know Bill Nemitz, but I will vote with him!

To Maine for being so forward thinking and well done Protect Maine Equality for fighting the good fight!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Yunus on the Financial Crisis

The year started so OK for blogging...alas, I need to re-group, start again and remind myself why I (try to) blog. I will still give it a go, if only for the effort to share topics and ideas that keep me thinking.

I have reorganized the RSS feeds I follow. One of the better ones is the news feed on the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (British spelling!) site. I don't usually think through social change from a human rights angle, but really appreciate the collection of resources on this. I found several interesting leads in the past few days.

One was an article highlighting recent comments on the financial crisis by Muhammad Yunus, who was speaking at the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture (and Nelson Mandela's 91st birthday). His comments realign my thoughts to some of the reasons I started this blog.
...Yunus noted that even if the problems springing from the global financial crisis were overcome, the world would still be left with some fundamental questions about the effectiveness of capitalism in tackling many other unresolved issues.

"There is only one concept of business in the whole world and that is the purpose of business is to make money."

He said the interpretation of the human being in this theory treated people as one dimensional human beings.

"Capitalism and the marketplace that has grown up around the theory make no room for the selfless dimensions of people ... what about starting a business on the base of selflessness?" he asked.

Yunus proposed a second type of business alongside the existing one, calling it "social business."


"Whenever I see a problem I start a company to solve that problem," Yunus said.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Brother, Can You Spare (half) a Dime?

Always with a soft spot for something that pokes the inspir(red) campaign, I was pleased to find a new blog (thanks Melindochka!) While there is no "about blog" link, it appears Mr. Easterly and others at NYU are now blogging about international aid on "Aid Watch". One for the blog roll.

I didn't do my own search of Starbuck's web page for results of their (RED) efforts, but am pleased Easterly is pointing out that companies need to go a bit farther than just the marketing ploy. Anyone with more energy than I have is welcome to pass along results.

Friday, March 20, 2009

"If it's not social, then it's bad business."

Global X, blogging on Social Edge has some good videos. Whenever I am feeling like nothing really matters, this is a good place to go.

I like that quote - the title of this post - from this inverview with Laila Iskandar, especially since she is running a "for-profit/non-profit hybrid organization".
CID is a recognized pioneer in approaches which integrate private, public and civil society interests to create new and sustainable opportunities for growth. We take a holistic approach to business development and are committed to helping build healthy organizations that contribute to Egypt's development.
Let's MicroFranchise it!

Change Has Come To!

I knew there would be a gestures of good will. I didn't realize you would be able to stream Nowruz greetings with Persian subtitles from the site.

While I get that words alone, don't matter, Mr. Javanfekr, at least we have a leader invoking and teaching us about Saadi Shirazi. Peace in the Middle East, it is not. But it is a step in the right direction.

Happy Nowruz, everyone!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cramer v. Stewart

I debated putting this on my less-serious blog, but think it belongs here as John Stewart has crossed over the line from comedian to more serious stuff, as evidenced by clips on PBSs Frontline (an old Frontline about Cramer 10 or so years ago) and NPR and here. Even the non-profit media is covering the story! The full March 12, 2009 interview is certainly worth seeing if you missed it.

Even if the tactics were somewhat unfair in this unconventional style of "journalism", I think the Daily Show continues to do an exceptional job reminding the media that their jobs are not only to sell advertising, but that there must be some principles in there as well. Late for work again, I will leave it at that very undeveloped thought.

Microfranchising - Building on Good Ideas

It is certainly not new (I learned that I should have been reading more carefully three years ago... their new look is great!), but diving into the topic of MicroFranchises today, I found some new ideas.

First, the BYU Economic Self-Reliance Center "broadly define MicroFranchises as small businesses that can easily be replicated by following proven marketing and operational concepts. The overall objective of MicroFranchising is to promote economic development by developing sound business models that can be replicated by entrepreneurs at the base of the pyramid; therefore, the start-up costs of MicroFranchises will be minimal. The key principle is replication, replicating success to scale."

This led me to another article I missed in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. This article, as an online PBS report on health care solutions, focuses on CFW Shops in Kenya.

I am still thinking through my reaction to this idea. It stirs up my interest in social marketing and social enterprise. I am very attracted to the idea that, at least in the CFW Shops, franchise owners are vetted, supported and trained. It seems to address the frequent criticism of Microfiance that its loans remain too small to really have an impact that money alone doesn't make an entrepreneur. On the other hand, the challenge of quality control seems to linger. Can you really take away a franchise in Kenya if the owner cuts corners in a time of crisis? (This is discussed in the PBS video.)

One graduate of BYU has set up a blog on microfranchising and the head of the Economic Self-Reliance Center, Jason Fairbourne, has written a book on the topic (cover above) and runs the university's wiki, which explains their MicroFranchise Toolkit.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Everything Online (...but I still want my books!)

Continuing with a topic that interests me - all information, all the time - Brewster Kahle's efforts to take on Google in the area of making the online collection of human knowledge is a thought-provoking read. A lot of challenging ideas related to open source development, copyright and who should control that big internet library.

I also found this video of Kahle on Nerd TV. My wife is bound to like that, even if it appears not to be running any more.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

An Open Book Blog...on Microfinance

Via Global Development: Views from the Center blog, I learned of this project by David Roodman, who is writing his next book with an eye on getting feedback along the way through a blog, his Microfinance Open Book Blog. An experiment worth watching in all my "free" time.

Philanthropically Speaking

The good thing about delicious tags are that you have less of a chance of forgetting something you glanced at and closed before considering further...

...for example, "The Sin in Doing Good Deeds", and op-ed by Nicholas Kristof just before the New Year holidays, that wrestles with a recent book called Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential.

I like the feature on the NYT website that gives selected reader comments. There are some good ones and they point to a lot of the issues related to social enterprise, which I find terribly interesting.

Oh, and Uncharitable has a time to look now as I am late to work! I shall tag if for later...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours

"Fears of a Clown" was not to be missed. Tim Egan, NYT writer, highlights the wave that is Rush Limbaugh in the Republican party.
Once upon a time, you could drive to the most remote reaches of the United States and escape Rush Limbaugh. But from the Mogollon Mountains of New Mexico to the Badlands of South Dakota, where only the delicious twang of a country tune or the high-pitched pleadings of a lone lunatic came over the AM dial, there is now the Mighty El Rushbo.

As someone who spends a lot of time on the road, I used to find Limbaugh to be an obnoxious but entertaining companion, his eruptions more reliable than Old Faithful. But now that Limbaugh has become something else — the face of the Republican Party, by a White House that has played him brilliantly — he has been transformed into car-wreck-quality spectacle, at once scary and sad.
My cynical side likes Rahm Emanuel's tactic of saying Rush Limbaugh was the "voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party." But this is akin to wishing a curse upon your neighbor. I am waiting patiently for the "have you no shame" moment when someone tells Limbaugh that change has come to Washington, or so we maintain hope.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Am I a "Desk Killer" Too?

Back on March 06, 2006, when this blog started, I started with an idea of complexity. While researching Kashagan and other really, really ridiculously interesting off shore oil platforms with questioned performance on environmental and social responsibility, I came across an organization in London called Platform, "promoting creative processes of democratic engagement to advance social and ecological justice". All good...

...and they I read a bit from their project "Desk Killer":
In post-war Germany’s attempt to come to a reckoning with the Holocaust, particularly after the trial and conviction of Adolf Eichmann in 1961 the term 'schreibtischtaeter' was coined. This can be translated as 'desk-murderer'. Strangely this term has hardly ever been used outside Germany, despite its clear relevence [sic] to much 20th century and contemporary capitalism.

This concept is at the heart of the desk killer's argument. International trade has never been less personal. The vast majority of BP's or Shell's workforce in London will never see the oil pipeline in Colombia or Nigeria that they work on daily from their desks, let alone meet the villagers intimidated, displaced or killed in order to enable those valuable pipelines to operate. This distancing creates the greatest imaginative challenge - how is it possible to link the BP head office at Finsbury Circus to Casanare? How is it possible to enable human beings in London to feel linked on a personal basis with human beings in Colombia? Or to link the people at the Shell Centre with people in Southern Nigeria?
It sounds a bit like Lev..."The main reason for the terrible cruelty between men today, apart from the absence of religion, is still the refined complexity of life which shields people from the consequences of their action."

But the reason I like Tolstoy and squirm at something like Desk Killer is that when I read Tolstoy, I see myself in the text, whereas Platform makes me think I am somehow disconnected from BP and Shell, which I don't think I am, even if I ride a bike instead of own a car. Still, the concept the "refined complexity of life" is an idea that has intrigued me for years. I hope they publish it soon.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dambisa Moyo and "Dead Aid"

Yes, not secret that I am not a fan of Bono (neither his music nor work on aid effectiveness). But I fear the arrival of "Dead Aid" isn't going to help stimulate the debate in a good way.

The author, Dambisa Moyo, makes some good points in the interviews I have read and heard. And she's right to call on African countries to innovate during the financial crisis. But it isn't so black and white and while her critique needs to be considered very carefully in any effort to improve aid effectiveness, calling for an end to aid in Africa in "five years" is just irresponsible. Some aid keeps people alive. That doesn't mean the points are not valid, but I worry that Moyo's conclusions will only polarize.

While I appreciate her plug for, that's only one solution that needs to be used and it isn't enough, which I trust even Kiva would admit (though I do hope they get more donations as a result of her work!). Kiva cannot reach some of the poorest people as a result of poor infrastructure and bad or non-existent governance. So, we have to demand that aid changes, not demand that it stops completely. Even Moyo admits, "it is not to say there are not some good aid projects on the ground", in this interview.

And she's wrong when she claims there is "nobody" who feels sorry the poor in China. I feel sorry for the 300 million Chinese people who live in substandard conditions and a lot of others do as well. We just don't here about them as much due to many factors beyond the topic of this post.

More and more, I find myself agreeing with Paul Collier. Here's his review of Moyo's book.
I think that African societies need international help to overcome these problems; it is just that the help they need is not predominantly money. Aid is not a very potent instrument for enhancing either security or accountability. Our obsession with it has detracted from the more important ways in which we can promote development: peacekeeping, security guarantees, trade privileges, and governance.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Anastasia Baburova

The Economist has long fought with Russia and its politicians. But this Why did Anastasia Baburova die? caught my eye today. As one who adores Russia, this alarmed and chilled me. I have seen the fascism in Russia during my two years in Vladimir and Astrakhan. While young thugs are chilling in any country, the complicity of authorities is different in Russia's case.

Russia's 'Open Season' of Murder Continues.

This doesn't happen in the same way in the rest of Europe.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Political Implications of the Cognitive Surplus

Via Zopa, where I think the old lady and I will invest, I realized I have a cognitive surplus.

Yikes! A Whole New Internet?

From Do We Need a New Internet? This sounds like a movie plot. Wake up Neo!
Conficker remains a ticking time bomb. It now has the power to lash together those infected computers into a vast supercomputer called a botnet that can be controlled clandestinely by its creators. What comes next remains a puzzle. Conficker could be used as the world’s most powerful spam engine, perhaps to distribute software programs to trick computer users into purchasing fake antivirus protection. Or much worse. It might also be used to shut off entire sections of the Internet. But whatever happens, Conficker has demonstrated that the Internet remains highly vulnerable to a concerted attack.

“If you’re looking for a digital Pearl Harbor, we now have the Japanese ships streaming toward us on the horizon,” Rick Wesson, the chief executive of Support Intelligence, a computer consulting firm, said recently.
I think anonymity on the Internet has a purpose, so I can't say the total loss of anonymity comes free of costs. But on the whole, I think most are willing to give up the right to hide for the peace of mind that comes not working about conficker and Mr. Smith.

Monday, February 02, 2009

"...first environmental activist group that 'the capitalists' DO like"

I am not ashamed to say I got there via The Economist. Carrotmob is thought-inducing and entertaining, somewhat cheeky, which always helps when pondering new ideas. Not sure what will induce all the other liquor stores in the video to change their light bulbs now, but know that I am thinking of it in a slightly different way, even if I don't find this anything like being INSPIR(RED) by Bono.

"Army Worms" Sounded Bad Enough

As if this story couldn't get any more horror movie-ish..."Pests that have ravaged crops in Liberia and sparked a national emergency, while threatening other countries in West Africa, are not army worms and remain unidentified, the ministry of agriculture said on Monday."

Friday, January 30, 2009

2009 House Cleaning

God, blogging is hard. I could have added it in my new year's resolutions, but I am tired of always have the same new year's resolutions. "Blog more", one says on January 30. Anyway, have gotten in at least one January post. Have updated all my blog roll with things that I hope will inspire me at a time needy for inspiration! Nice to have a good blog from the White House!