International Development

News reports on Michael Brown’s death: how do mourners become a “mob”?

My Hearts in Accra - Mon, 2014-08-11 03:15

Around noon on Saturday, an 18-year old African American teenager, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a local police officer in Ferguson, MO, a suburb of St. Louis. Accounts differ as to the events that preceded the shooting. The St. Louis County Police Department has said that Brown and another man struggled with an officer and pushed him back into his squad car, then attempted to seize the officer’s gun; a witness says that a police officer told Brown to walk on the sidewalk instead of the street, grabbed Brown after he exchanged words with the officer and shot the young man, shooting Brown again after the young man had his hands in the air.

After Brown was shot, members of the community gathered to mourn and protest his death. As a crowd gathered, more than 100 police from 15 different departments arrived at the scene. Videos from the scene show peaceful protesters chanting, facing a group of officers and police dogs.

The facts surrounding Brown’s death will be the subject of an investigation, and there are likely to be many accounts of community and police reactions after his death. I have no insights into what actually happened, though I will be watching closely over the next days. However, we do know how news media reported on the events.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch ran a story on the shooting and community response initially headlined “Fatal Shooting by Ferguson police prompt mob reaction”. Perhaps realizing that referring to a group as a “mob” incorrectly connotes violent behavior on part of the protesters, editors revised the headline. The current headline reads “Anger, confrontation after fatal shooting of teen by Ferguson police officer”. The initial title is apparent from the URL of the story: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/fatal-shooting-by-ferguson-police-prompts-mob-reaction/article_04e3885b-4131-5e49-b784-33cd3acbe7f1.html


A Google News search for “Ferguson” the day after the Michael Brown killing

Other stories about the shooting focused on the crowd reaction. Two stories about an “angry crowd” have had their headlines subsequently edited: ">“Police Confronted by Angry Crowd in Ferguson” has become “Officer-Involved Fatal Shooting in Ferguson”, while “Fatal Shooting by Ferguson Police Draws Angry Crowd” is now “Anger, confrontation after fatal shooting of teen by Ferguson police officer”. (In both cases, we can see the original headline through Google News and through the story URL.) Other stories focused on the crowd have run without changes to their headlines. An AP story on the shooting and response by Alan Scherzaiger ran on numerous websites with the headline “Crowd shouts ‘kill the police’ after cop fatally shoots teen”.

It’s concerning that what makes Michael Brown’s death newsworthy was not the death of an unarmed teen, but the idea of police officers facing off against an “angry crowd”. The “mob” framing suggests that the crowd was violent, as does the widely circulated headline that makes a call for vengeance the key element of the story. Other reports suggest that the chant “No justice, no peace” was misheard or misreported as “kill the police”, or note that reporters heard chants demanding justice, but only second-hand reports of chants of “kill the police”.

It matters whether the people protesting Michael Brown’s death are mourners, activists or part of a mob.

In studying how news gets made, we need to consider both agenda-setting and framing. Agenda-setting is the process through which media, PR people, activists, politicians and other actors work through the question of what gets to be news. When Trayvon Martin was killed, it took several days before national media picked up the story – after a brief burst of local news, there were no reports on Trayvon’s death until his family found a pro-bono PR firm that was able to put the shooting onto the national media agenda.

It seems clear that Michael Brown’s death will be the subject of a national conversation, coming as it does on the heels of the death of Eric Garner in New York City at the hands of the NYPD. What is not yet clear is what frame will dominate media coverage of Brown’s death, what language and concepts we will use to understand . That one of the first frames reached for was that of mob violence suggests something deeply uncomfortable about our reaction to a group of people of color demanding their rights in the face of apparent police violence.

My student Alexandre Gonçalves just wrote a brilliant masters thesis analyzing Brazilian media coverage of a set of protests called “rozelinhos”, literally “little strolls”. In rolezinhos, black and brown youth from low-income neighborhoods showed up en masse in shopping malls to hang out, take photos and shop. To the extent that rolezinhos are protests, they are mostly a way that young people can claim a right to be present in public space. The media reaction to the rolezinhos was striking – journalists explained that the phenomenon was a revival of “arrastão“, or “dragnet”, a form of theft in which gangs of youth surprised beachgoers and robbed them. The “arrastão” framing of rolezinhos lasted until mall owners, fearing a loss of business, took to the press and explained that no one had been robbed in the rolezinjos, as in an arrastão.

In other words, confronted with a new social phenomenon, Brazilian media reached for a frame through which to understand the situation. That they reached for a frame about theft when no theft occurred suggests deep-seated biases around race and age in Brazilian society. When people of color asking for justice initially described as a mob, or an “angry crowd” threatening the police, it tells us something very uncomfortable about the biases in American media.

Gonçalves was able to study the reframing of rolezinhos in Brazilian media because the articles written about arrastão remained online after the framing had changed. (He explains that, after realizing that these protests weren’t thefts, a frame emerged describing Brazil as an apartheid state and the movements as a protest against that apartheid. When it became clear that the protests were taking place in neighborhoods where non-whites were the majority, that frame was also abandoned.) In the case of US media, editors have quickly edited stories to remove the initial “black crowd = mob” framing. That’s probably a good thing, as that framing prompts readers of newspapers to focus on the crowd reaction, not the killing. But the rapid editing of these stories makes it hard to for us to have a conversation about a media portrayal of a community response that reveals more about media bias than about how the citizens of Ferguson, MO reacted to the death of one of their own.

The biography I’m waiting for: Bambaataa and the parallel universe of hip hop

My Hearts in Accra - Tue, 2014-08-05 00:38

I wrote a book review, of sorts, last week about Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs and my concern that biographies, as a genre, celebrate a “great man” theory of history. While I remain convinced that we need more biographies of teams, of successful collaborations (an idea that Nathan Matias furthers in his post today on acknowledgement and gratitude), I do have a dark secret to admit: I periodically dream about becoming a biographer.

This isn’t because I believe in the biography as a form. It’s because there are people I find so fascinating, I’d enjoy spending a couple of years thinking about how they became who they are or were, and how their personal stories give us a picture of what was possible at different moments in time. I asked a room full of students and colleagues who they’d most like to read a biography of, and the responses were a fascinating picture of my friends as individuals and as part of a group trying to invent the field of civic media.

When the question came around to me, I told the room that I wanted to read the biography of Afrika Bambaataa, one of a few men who can reasonably claim the title “Godfather of Hip Hop”. What I didn’t admit is that I’ve periodically considered dropping my academic pursuits and researching this fascinating figure.

We’re getting to the moment in history where thoughtful popular books are being written about hiphop’s early years and innovators – Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop Won’t Stop is extensively researched and thoughtfully written, and Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree has a visual style that recalls the early 1980s better than any text could.


Ed Piskor talks about his Hip Hop Family Tree project

Throughout volume one of Piskor’s beautiful history, Bambaataa recurs as an iconic figure, looming over an interchangeable crowd of short-lived MCs and DJs, as a future-looking visionary. Bambaataa was a leader of the Black Spades gang in the Bronx before deciding to dedicate his formidable charisma and organizing skills towards building the Universal Zulu Nation, a group that was part hip hop music and dance crew and part consciousness-raising Afrocentric cosmopolitan social club. Raised in the Bronx River Projects by his activist mother, he traveled to Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and the Ivory Coast after winning an essay contest run by the New York City housing authority, leading Bambaataa to adopt the identity of an African chieftan, leading his crew of former gangsters into a new artistic life of “peace, love and having fun”.

Throughout the early years of hip hop, Bam was a step ahead of his rivals. Other DJs would look over his shoulder to determine which eclectic selections Bam was using as beats – adopting a trick from DJ Kool Herc, Bam would soak the labels off his records and replace them with labels from unrelated albums, leading rivals to purchase legendarily bad albums in the hopes of replicating his sound. (It’s hard to know whether tales of Bambaataa rocking a party with two copies of the Pink Panther theme are authentic musicology or an unintentional consequence of this tactic.) While other DJs sets had MCs asking the audience their zodiac signs (early hip hop was a direct descendant of disco), Bam was playing Malcolm X speeches over his beats. (I like to think of Keith LeBlanc’s No Sell Out, sometimes cited as the first recording featuring digital samples, as a Bambaataa tribute.) When everyone else followed Bambaataa into the crates, crafting their tracks around James Brown and P-Funk, Bam had moved on sampling Kraftwerk, building “Planet Rock” and inventing the entire genre of Electro.


Planet Rock, 1982

At some point, hip hop stopped following Bambaataa. After about 1986 sampling ruled hip hop, blossoming until it was killed by the Bridgeport Music decision. Electro has influenced every generation of dance music since the early 80s, but you can instantly place any track with rapping and chilly synths as coming from the lost sonic territory of 1982-1985. More tragically, after Bam led gang members out of the streets and into the dance club, Ice-T, BDP and NWA led hip hop out of the clubs and back into the gang life.


“Surgery”, (1984) World Class Wreckin Cru, featuring Dr. Dre. Yes, THAT Dr. Dre. Look it up.

Somewhere there’s a parallel reality in which Afrika Bambaataa is the best known name in hip hop and Dr. Dre is a little-known electro DJ. It’s an alternate dimension where Bambaataa added laser fusion propulsion to P-Funk’s Starship and flew music into orbit around Jupiter rather than having it crash in South Central. In that parallel universe, the Universal Zulu Nation got Angela Davis elected president in 1988 and Bambaataa DJ’d the year-long party to celebrate the intergalactic peace accord of 1999, in which all interpersonal conflicts were put aside towards the shared goals of
peace, unity, love and having fun“.

Instead, Bambaataa has remained an honored and (insufficiently) celebrated hiphop pioneer, best remembered for one unforgettable track than for his epic social hack in the Bronx or his subsequent activism (including Hip Hop Against Apartheid and Artists United Against Apartheid.) Fortunately, the man is starting to get the respect he deserves, from an unusual corner: academe.

In 2012, Cornell University gave Bambaataa a three-year visiting scholar post. Bambaataa responded by donating his legendary record collection to Cornell’s Hip Hop Collection. This has presented an interesting curatorial challenge – the collection contains 40,000 albums, many of them with notes, flyers, press releases or other materials attached, all of which need to be scanned or digitized for posterity. For the past year, archivists have been cataloging the collection, sometimes in public, in Gavin Brown’s gallery in Greenwich Village.


From a slideshow of the Bambaataa collection on Okayplayer

The public archiving project has attracted a raft of contemporary DJs desperate to spin the Godfather’s discs. ">Joakim Bouaziz was one of the lucky DJ’s to be invited to the gallery, and he recorded part of his set spinning his favorites from the collection and recording the experience. No need to kick yourself for missing the gallery show – Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow are touring the US and Canada this fall, spinning the records live as part of their work building a Bambaataa tribute mix.

As for the biography? Bambaataa has been promising an autobiography since the mid-1990s. Let’s hope the revival of interest in his records leads to some helpful pressure on the man to put aside pressing Zulu Nation business for a few weeks and explain to us all What Would Bambaataa Do.

While I’m waiting for a Bambaataa autobiography, my guess is that a book that answers the questions I have would need to be biography of social movements at least as much as the story of a single individual. It’s not a coincidence that hip hop grew up in the Bronx at a moment when New York City’s physical infrastructure was crumbling and the Bronx had become synonymous with danger and decay. (Fort Apache, The Bronx came out in 1981, two years after Rappers’ Delight.) The physical and conceptual isolation of the Bronx from the rest of the city and the world allowed a culture to evolve in comparative isolation, which means that a history of Bambaataa needs to be a history of urban planning, of urban poverty and systemic racism, of the US’s housing projects. It would be a history of street gangs in New York as well as a history of Afrocentric philosophy and resistance. It would reach back to The Last Poets and ahead to Native Tongues, explore the rise of P-Funk’s Mothership and Sun Ra to understand “the Afro-Alien diaspora”. It’s more book than I am capable of writing, but damn, I hope someone takes it on.

For a taste of what those Bronx parties sounded like in 1982, here’s a collection of live recordings of early Bambaataa sets.

How do you write a biography about collaboration?

My Hearts in Accra - Thu, 2014-07-31 19:37

A friend recently posted a video on Facebook, a 1997 news story from ABC’s Nightline about Tripod, the social media company I helped build in Williamstown MA from 1994-1999. The video sparked a wave of reactions in me: nostalgia for those past days, pride in the accomplishments of the friends I’ve kept up with, regret for losing touch with others, and bafflement that I would choose to wear flannel and overalls to show off our company to the world. (Perhaps my favorite moment in watching the video was discovering that we’d been interviewed by Deborah Amos, NPR’s Middle East reporter, who has subsequently become a respected friend.)

I’m not proud of all of the emotions that I experienced traveling 17 years into the past. Seeing Bo Peabody, our co-founder and CEO, skateboard into the office and declare that we sold “eyeballs” gave me a wash of anger, envy and frustration that characterized much of my time at the company. Bo playing CEO – something he did splendidly – was often intolerable to me when I was in my twenties, and surprisingly uncomfortable for me to watch in my forties.

Like many companies, Tripod was run by a team of executives who worked closely together – Tripod was somewhat pioneering in that our executives were mostly in their mid-twenties, often working our first serious jobs. (I realize that all promising tech companies now recruit VPs from middle school and issue them standard-order Zuckerberg hoodies in kids sizes, but this was still pretty radical in 1997.) Our company succeeded to the extent it did (never profitable, but sold at a good price for our investors, and still survives as a service almost twenty years later) because we had a small, close-knit team of smart people with complementary skills, (One of those people now directs product design at Facebook. Another became chief marketing officer for Adap.tv and Rubicon, two pioneers in online advertising.)

I saw the team, its strengths and weaknesses as core to Tripod’s success. But whenever a journalist did a news story, it became the story of Bo, the founder, the solitary entrepreneurial genius who’d built our company.

I hated this. I thought it misrepresented our company, disrespected not only the contributions of the management team but the work done by the 60 smart people who built our products and served our users. Hearing me rant about this one too many times, Kara Berklich, our head of marketing pulled me aside and explained that the visionary CEO was a necessary social construct. With Bo as the single protagonist of our corporate story, we were far more marketable than a complex story with half a dozen key figures and a cast of thousands. When you’re selling a news story, it’s easier to pitch House than Game of Thrones.

Bo, to his great credit, understood that it was his job to play this role and was good about separating the character and the reality – his reflections on Tripod, Lucky or Smart?, make clear that Bo knew he was lucky enough to assemble a smart team and smart enough to let the team make the important decisions. Having taken on that visible visionary role at nonprofit organizations, I also now understand how often that job sucks, how being the avatar for a vast project forces you to try and manifest qualities that the company has and which you, personally, lack.

I was thinking of this ancient history last week as I worked my way through Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. (In defense of my choice of beach reading – I read several better books on paper that week. But Audible’s selections are a lot more limited, and I wanted something to “read” as I walked on the beach.) Isaacson’s biography, written with Jobs’s cooperation and hundreds of interviews with Jobs, his family, friends and colleagues, is an enjoyable and uncomfortable read. I found it enjoyable because it’s another personal time machine of sorts – reading it, I remember my first time using Apple products, from the venerable Apple II through the laptops and phones I use today. It’s uncomfortable because it becomes increasingly clear that Steve Jobs was an angry, manipulative asshole who slashed and burned his way through the lives of most people he encountered.

Sue Halpern reviewed Isaacson’s book for NYRB and does a better job than I could ever hope to, raising uncomfortable questions about Jobs’s attempts to be both corporate and counterculture, reminding us that Apple’s “Designed in California” is made possible by being “Assembled in China” under often troubling circumstances. My favorite of her observations is that Isaacson manages both to canonize Jobs while revealing his most damning flaws: “.. it is possible to write a hagiography even while exposing the worst in a person.” Jobs saw himself as an artist, Isaacson reminds us, and artistic geniuses are often too strange and pure to peacefully coexist with us lesser mortals.

When Jobs chose Isaacson to write his biography, it’s fair to assume he was aware of the author’s previous subjects: Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Henry Kissinger. The first two are routinely cited as exemplars of genius, and Kissinger may have his own dark claims to genius. It’s not hard to read Jobs’s selection of Isaacson as a way of inserting himself into the Pantheon.

Isaacson is happy to assist. The book was rushed into print when Jobs died, and Isaacson wrote a coda, excerpted in the New York Times, to cover Jobs’s death, funeral and legacy. In the New York Times excerpt, Isaacson makes clear that he saw Jobs as a genius, even if he wasn’t always conventionally smart. It was Jobs’s ingenuity and creativity, his ability to see a brilliant technical idea and turn it into something that consumers wanted that characterized his genius, Isaacson argues. One of the major themes of the book is the intersection of the sciences and the humanities – Jobs saw himself as standing at that crossroads, using his acutely honed sense of taste to predict the technical future and inspire the technicians to invent it.

This unusual form of genius, if that’s what it was, makes Jobs a particularly accessible role model for the tech industry. Many people who work on technology for a living are not Wozniak-level programmers. We flatter ourselves that we can contribute to the industry by helping those more gifted at writing code understand the needs of users, the importance of usability, the applicability of technical breakthroughts to unexpected new markets. Perhaps, like Steve, we can “put a dent in the universe” by connecting someone’s technical innovations with new markets.

People who can bridge between engineers and end users are important, necessary and often hard to find. It’s harder than it might appear to build these bridges in ways that respect and appreciate all those involved in building and marketing new technologies. In finding ways to bridge constructively and respectfully, Jobs is a lousy role model much of the time. The answer to “What Would Steve Jobs Do” is often “bully someone” or “throw a tantrum”. Unfortunately, it’s often easier to emulate Jobs’s less attractive personality traits than it is to replicate his design sensibilities.

Taking a break from Isaacson’s book, I read a thoughtful essay by Joshua Wolf Shenk, a preview of his new book, Powers of Two. Shenk argues that the myth of the solitary genius has dominated much of our thinking about creativity and obscures the fact that many people we know as geniuses worked in pairs or in larger teams. Shenk is particularly interested in creative pairings, pointing out that Einstein worked through the theory of relativity with Michele Besso, that Picasso invented Cubism with Georges Braque and that Dr. Martin Luther King co-led the civil rights movement with Ralph Abernathy and others.

There’s a way to read Isaacson’s biography in support of Shenk’s argument. Jobs was most productive as a serial collaborator, and was often disastrously unsuccessful when he wasn’t challenged by a strong partner or a team he respected. Jobs built Apple Computer on the brilliance of Steve Wozniak’s Apple computer, led Pixar to dominance over Disney’s animation business by hitching his star to filmmaker John Lasseter, and reinvented Apple as a music and phone company by partnering closely with Jony Ive. (Search for any of these men and you’ll find a wealth of articles and books declaring them geniuses.) Jobs has been good about crediting these collaborators and, occasionally, teams of collaborators – he saw the Macintosh as a team effort and honored team members at subsequent Apple product launches until his death.

When he didn’t have a strong collaborator or team, Jobs was often lost, as he was when Woz disengaged from Apple after the Apple II, when Jobs founded Next, or during the years Jobs dumped tens of millions into Pixar as a technology company, before Lasseter’s films demonstrating Pixar hardware took the company out of obscurity. In retrospect, this is obvious – Jobs didn’t write code or build prototypes. Instead, he shaped and guided the work that others did, making it better. Without a worthy collaborator, Jobs’s deeply impressive skillset was insufficient and often irrelevant.

It doesn’t lessen Jobs to recognize that creative genius comes from collaboration. Letting go of the idea that Shakespeare was a solitary genius writing masterworks in an attic without outside input and accepting that he was a member of a popular theatre company, incorporating the influences and feedback of other writers and actors into his creations makes him more fascinating to me, not less. Since we don’t have much access to the historical details of Shakespeare’s life, it’s easier to see these collaborative dynamics in modern biographies. Jobs may be one of the best examples of the collaborative genius idea, as the solitary genius narrative simply makes no sense in considering his history. We can imagine Shakespeare alone in a garrett or Einstein puzzling out equations alone at a blackboard, but Jobs alone is just an angry vegan too picky about design to furnish his own mansion.

In writing a biography, it’s natural to lionize the protagonist, if only to explain why she or he merited the author’s attention. Isaacson is better than some in featuring Jobs’s collaborators and influences, but the form ultimately dictates that the book is about a single individual, not pairs and teams of collaborators. The narrative arc is that of Jobs’s life, not the life of the companies he built, the products they created or the industries they influenced.

How do we tell the stories of partnerships and collaborations? Shenk’s book promises to tell the stories of creative pairings, both visible ones like Lennon and McCartney and invisible ones like that of Vladimir and Vera Nabokov. But his essay hints at the intriguing problem of telling stories of more complex collaborations, like the one I experienced at Tripod. How do we tell a story about creativity and collaboration at Wikipedia that doesn’t become a biography of Jimmy Wales? Is there a story about Linux that’s not a portrait of Linus Torvalds, an examination of Free Software that isn’t a character sketch of Richard Stallman? Not only are humans creatures who think in terms of stories, we are social beings, which means there is nothing we are so attuned to as the life stories of successful people.

Nathan Matias, a brilliant poet, literary scholar and software developer (who happens to be my doctoral student) has been working on better systems to acknowledge and credit the dozens of collaborators he’s worked with on his various projects. His personal website features almost a hundred collaborators – clicking on the icon for any of us reveals projects we’ve worked on with Nathan. It’s a first step towards a broader effort at designing acknowledgement on the web, and a key part of Nathan’s research on collaboration that leverages cultural and cognitive diversity. If we want to encourage diverse collaboration (and the end of Rewire makes a case for why we need to do so), we need to figure out how to recognize and celebrate people who work as creative teams, not just those who demand to be celebrated as geniuses.

Steve Jobs changed the world, or at least some highly visible corners of it. The story of his life, his successes and his failures is an important one for anyone who designs products and tools for large audiences. It would be a shame if the message we took from Isaacson’s book were that success comes from arrogance, self-certainty and cruelty. Until someone discovers a better way to write biographies of collaboration, that’s a message many readers will take away.

Free Zone 9 Bloggers

My Hearts in Accra - Thu, 2014-07-31 15:25

Once upon a time, there was a blog.

It was written in Amharic, the dominant language in Ethiopia, by a team of young journalists and thinkers who wanted to have an open, public conversation about the future of their nation.


Pictures of some of the Zone 9 bloggers

It’s not especially easy to talk about these issues in Ethiopia. Africa’s second largest country has been ruled by a neo-marxist government (EPRDF – Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democracy Front) which overthrew a brutal military dictatorship in 1991, instilling one-party autocratic rule in its place.

Part of EPRDF’s strategy of control is the silencing of dissent. When students protested rigged elections in 2005, the government blocked all SMS traffic for two years, claiming that opposition activists were using SMS to plan their campaigns. (They were. The real issue is that Ethiopia saw opposition political activity as a threat to regime stability.) Ethiopia briefly had a thriving and energetic blogosphere, but government censorship and harassment of bloggers quickly silenced many of those voices. The country’s independent press has been crippled by Ethiopia’s strategy of imprisoning the strongest journalistic voices, including PEN prizewinner Eskinder Nega, in the country’s notorious Kaliti Prison.

Tens of thousands are held in Kaliti prison, in the outskirts of Addis Ababa. Journalists and other political prisoners are held in Zone 8 of the prison, and they jokingly refer to the rest of the nation, itself in a prison of sorts, as “Zone 9″. Thus the name of the blog: the Zone 9 bloggers are writing from the outer ring of the prison, the nation itself.

Zone 9 member Endalk explains:

In the suburbs of Addis Ababa, there is a large prison called Kality where many political prisoners are currently being held, among them journalists Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu. The journalists have told us a lot about the prison and its appalling conditions. Kality is divided into eight different zones, the last of which — Zone Eight — is dedicated to journalists, human right activists and dissidents.

When we came together, we decided to create a blog for the proverbial prison in which all Ethiopians live: this is Zone Nine.

Ethiopia sees itself in danger of splitting into rival, warring parts. This fear is not unfounded – Eritrea broke away from Ethiopia in 1991 after a thirty-year war, taking Ethiopia’s seacoast with it. (Sadly, Eritrea is also a one-party state notorious for jailing journalists.) Ethnic Somalis in the Ogaden region and ethnic Oromo have been seeking independent states – their armed movements, the ODLF and the OLF are seen as terrorist organizations by the Ethiopian government.

The Ethiopian government does face a real threat from armed militants. But it has a disturbing tendency to label anyone who expresses dissent as a terrorist. Consider Eskinder Nega. Nega’s crime was to report on the Arab Spring protests and to point out that Ethiopia could face similar protests if the government did not reform and open up. He was charged with “planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement and attempt” of terrorist acts and is now serving an 18 year prison sentence.

The Zone 9 bloggers were understandably scared by Nega’s arrest and prosecution, and the blog went silent for over a year. This spring, they decided they could not remain silent any longer. On April 25th, the government responded by arresting 6 members of the blogging team, and three journalists the government saw as “affiliated” with the bloggers.

The charges against the bloggers give a sense of what the Ethiopian government is fighting: dissent, not terror. Much of the charge sheet focuses on accusations that bloggers traveled out of the country to receive training in encrypting their communications, specifically through using Security in a Box, a package of Open Source software compiled by Tactical Tech, an organization that helps free speech and journalistic organizations protect themselves from surveillance. The Ethiopian government accuses the Zone 9 bloggers of using these tools in an attempt to “overthrow, modify or suspend the Federal or State Constitution; or by violence, threats, or conspiracy.” In fact, the bloggers were using such tools to coordinate their reporting work, hoping to avoid detection and arrest by a paranoid government.

These charges give a sense for how hard it is to work on free speech issues in repressive countries. Global Voices worked with Zone 9 in 2012 to create the Amharic edition of Global Voices. (That edition hasn’t been updated recently due to the imprisonment of our partners.) Four of the bloggers held in Kaliti are Global Voices volunteers. Other members of the team who work with Global Voices are in exile and would be arrested if they returned home. Knowing how dangerous it is to report from Ethiopia, we helped our volunteers find resources like Security in a Box. Our attempts to help create a safer environment for free speech in Ethiopia are now part of the case against our friends.


Obama and Zenawi share a laugh

Compounding the sadness and frustration we at Global Voices are feeling is the fact that Ethiopia is a massive recipient of foreign aid, hosts the headquarters of the African Union and is a key military ally to the US, seen as a stable, Christian bulwark against Somalia. Meles Zenawi enjoyed a warm relationship with the Obama administration (the President’s statement on Zenawi’s death included a cursory mention of human rights after praising Zenawi’s focus on food security), and there’s been little evidence that the State Department has any plans of getting tough with Ethiopia on issues of free speech or human rights.

At Global Voices, we are trying to call attention to the plight of the Zone 9 bloggers, hoping for action from the US State Department to seek their immediate release, and an easing of Ethiopia’s war on independent media. We are asking friends to join in using the #FreeZone9Bloggers hashtag, and to direct tweets to @StateDept.

This is a hard time to call attention to this situation, we know. Ellery Biddle, writing for Global Voices, notes that her Twitter client autofills the hashtag #Free____ with half a dozen choices, many of them our community members. It’s an appropriate time to tweet the State Department to demand Israel protect the safety of civilians in Gaza, or to demand that news media cover the ongoing catastrophe in Syria. In asking for help, I don’t want to lessen anyone’s outrage about other injustice, but to ask for help bringing visibility to the plight of our friends who are otherwise likely to be forgotten in international diplomatic circles.

Investments Intern - Boston Spring 2012

Next Billion - Thu, 2012-01-19 18:08

Organization: Invested Development

Location: US

Overview Title: Investments Intern
Start/End Date: Spring Semester 2012
Schedule: 15 hours per week
 Pay: Stipend
Location: Boston

Invested Development is looking for a highly motivated business student at the junior or senior undergraduate level. The ideal candidate enjoys learning about technology startups and businesses that create impact in emerging markets. Specifically, an interest in international business, investing, entrepreneurship, and mobile tech and/or alternative energy startups is preferred. The intern should possess a strong commitment to social enterprise.

Job Description

The intern will report to the ID Marketing and Research Manager. Primary tasks will include compiling key findings documents from research reports, online research, sourcing pipeline, lead generation, and creating deliverables for internal and external use.

Initial assignments will include:

  • Updating and creating an intuitive, robust system for tracking and sorting online pipeline leads and lead sources.  
  • Identifying hotspots and trends in pipeline and communicating the trends in different ways (written, orally, visually).

Skills/Requirements:

  • Demonstrated research skills and analytical savvy. 
  • Attention to detail and highly organized. 
  • Excellent communication skills, both oral and written.
  • Works well independently and in a start-up environment by taking initiative. 
  • Takes responsibility for and pride in his or her work.
  • Can create user-friendly Excel sheets and visuals to present qualitative and quantitative data. 
  • Microsoft Office proficiency. Advanced PPT skills and graphic design skills are a plus. 
  • Is adaptable and punctual.

Apply

Send resume (PDF preferred) and cover letter to Christina at ctamer[at]investeddevelopment.com. Use “ID Intern - first name last name” as the subject. Please note that only shortlisted candidates will be contacted for an interview.

About Invested Development

We are a for-profit, impact investment fund manager sourcing and funding the most impacting solutions to global poverty. We invest in seed stage social enterprise with mobile technology and alternative energy solutions that are affordable and scalable in emerging markets.

Read more...

India Country Director

Next Billion - Thu, 2012-01-19 18:06

Organization: Waste Capital Partners

Location: IN

INDIA COUNTRY DIRECTOR

Waste Capital Partners, a solid waste management company with a social mission, is seeking a country director for its India operations. Waste Capital Partners employs waste pickers to conduct doorstep garbage collection while also utilizing the collected garbage to create and market compost and recyclables. We are a rapidly growing young international company with a focus on delivering better livelihoods for waste pickers, cleaner cities, and a better environment. We seek an experienced professional that has strong field operational experience and is now seeking to build a high-performing business working with marginalized communities.

OVERALL RESPONSIBILITIES

Manage Waste Capital Partners’ two service lines in India: Household and Municipal Solid Waste Management Services.

  • Recruit and train operation managers, execute waste collection service across multiple sites, evaluate business data, and tweak operations as required 
  • Establish household demand for waste management services and willingness to pay 
  • Coordinate Waste Capital Partners technical and management staff to provide support to operation managers and partners to set up and execute solid waste management at scale 
  • Conduct market analysis, establish waste processing sites, and market compost and recyclables to drive profitability 
  • Establish a metric dashboard and maintain meticulous management of accounting system for donors, investors, and corporate headquarters

QUALIFICATIONS

  • Required 10+ years of demonstrated performance with a track record for performance, including 2+ years in the field in India working at a social enterprise or field office of a corporation including demonstrated ability to work with marginalized individuals (preferably as producers) 
  • Strong academic aptitude preferably with a post graduate degree
  • Exposure to Indian municipal systems is a strong plus
  • Past experience creating a new service line or organization is a strong plus – tweaking a failing service to succeed is an even stronger plus 
  • Experience raising finance and exposure to international work environments
  • Experience in solid waste management a plus but not required

REQUIRED SKILLS

  • Able to speak, read and write English and Hindi (ability to speak/ write another language such as Tamil or Kannada is a strong plus) 
  • Excellence in Microsoft Office and financial reporting (Familiarity with accounting software like Quickbooks is a plus) 
  • Demonstrated leadership of a team of at least five and outstanding communication skills
  • Eager to spend considerable time at the ground level and getting one’s hands dirty

COMPENSATION is competitive and will be a combination of salary and vesting stock.

LOCATION is flexible Please apply by submitting your resume and cover letter at http://www.wastecapitalpartners.com/jobs

Read more...

Social Entrepreneurship in Egypt: Challenges and Opportunities

Next Billion - Thu, 2012-01-19 11:00

Authored by: Myra Valenzuela

(Pictured: Abduallah Abdel Qassim, 47, a partner in aluminum shop making window frames that received microloan from Social Welfare Fund for equipment. Image credit: World Bank Photo Collection).

Editor's Note: This post originally appeared on the World Bank's Development Marketplace blog, where updates on this competition will posted. 

High rates of youth unemployment across the Middle East and North Africa were a major catalyst for the Arab Spring revolutions. To help address this pressing issue, the Development Marketplace is preparing for a country-level competition in Egypt early next year. The proposed DM competition will focus on social entrepreneurs with projects that have a strong impact on creating sustainable job opportunities, especially for low-income and marginalized groups. The main focus of the Egypt DM will be on supporting projects in the agricultural supply chain sector.

In order to understand the bigger picture of social entrepreneurship in Egypt, I spoke with Ehaab Abdou, who recently joined the Development Marketplace team to develop the Egypt DM program. Prior to coming to the Bank Ehaab was an Ashoka Fellow and advisor for the Middle East Youth Initiative at Brookings. For Ehaab, there are three main challenges facing social entrepreneurship in the MENA region and in Egypt in particular:

  • Social entrepreneurship infrastructure is missing. There are few supporting intermediaries that are present in the region, such as SE incubators, angel investor networks, replication funds, etc, that SEs require to develop and go to scale.
  • Policy and regulatory frameworks are restrictive. Capital market laws must be amended to encourage social investment funds to participate in the region. In addition, under current laws, NGOs are not allowed to be self-sufficient through hybrid models; they remain heavily donor-driven. 
  • Cultural mindsets and educational systems don't provide a supportive environment for SEs to flourish. Few would argue that critical thinking and analytical skills are essential for building a new generation of social entrepreneurs. However, schools in the region need to encourage critical thinking and reasoning skill sets to develop in the classroom. Additionally, a greater emphasis on community service would expose budding entrepreneurs to recognize and find solutions to the problems in their local communities.

Although the social entrepreneurship field in Egypt has its challenges, there have been some recent positive trends. The SE ecosystem is growing; for example, Technoserve is likely to expand its work to Egypt, joining other major players like Ashoka, Acumen, Endeavor, Schwab, and Skoll Foundation, all of whom have been working in the region for the last few years.

Plans to hold public-private dialogues around the restrictive regulatory framework are in the making. Additionally, civil society groups interested in becoming implementing partners of the Egypt DM program have expressed a desire to work collaboratively and not competitively. There is a strong sense of urgency now to build on this recent momentum and offer social innovators in Egypt the support they need to transform society. (Pictured: A Yemeni woman entrepreneur who rents the use of this pool table to the residents of her town. Image credit: World Bank photo collection). 

As Ehaab asserts:

"For social entrepreneurship and inclusive business models to thrive and play their desired and much needed role in the region's development, we have to create the necessary ecosystem which includes the missing intermediaries as well as addressing the restrictive legal and regulatory framework." 

Please like NextBillion on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and/or join our LinkedIn group.  

Investor Relations Associate

Next Billion - Wed, 2012-01-18 18:26

Organization: Calvert Foundation

Location: US

Calvert Foundation seeks an Investor Relations Associate to work closely with impact investors supporting low-income communities throughout the US and around the world. The Associate will support the organization’s work with investors, donors, and financial professionals at the cutting edge of investing for social impact.

The Associate will be a primary point of contact and provider of administrative support for impact investors. The successful candidate will be a talented and socially-committed individual, with strong communication and administrative skills, a sharp attention to detail, and a can-do spirit.

Principal Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Primary Customer Relations Contact for Calvert Foundation – Responsible for helping individual and institutional investors and financial advisors with their questions related to Calvert Foundation and impact investing. 
  • Investor Administration – Primary contact for all investors in the servicing of their accounts. Handle investor communication and reporting, including mailings and supporting the Social Impact Reporting process. Use Salesforce to document activity and communicate with team regarding key relationships.
  • External Relations – Support business development and external relations efforts to help meet organizational goals and build the impact investing industry. This includes representing the organization on the phone and at in-person events.

Qualifications, Skills and Required Experience:

  • Interest in using the power of investing to support community development and social enterprise 
  • College Degree 
  • Excellent Communication and Customer Service Skills 
  • Strong Computer Skills including Microsoft Excel and familiarity with databases, experience with Microsoft Access and Salesforce preferred 
  • Ability to accomplish multiple tasks while maintaining attention to detail
  • Desire to work within a team framework and take initiative

Comments: This position is full-time with generous benefits that include medical, dental, life, PTO & sick leave, 401(k), transportation subsidy, and more. The position is based in Bethesda, MD. No phone calls please. Interested candidates should send a resume and cover letter to jobs@calvertfoundation.org with “Investor Relations Associate” in the subject line.

Read more...

New Businesses Manager - Kigali

Next Billion - Wed, 2012-01-18 18:26

Organization: H2O Venture Partners

Location: GB

What is H2O Venture Partners? H2O Venture Partners (www.h2ovp.com) is an exciting, ground-breaking business in the field of social entrepreneurship and impact investment.

Based in Oxford, UK, but with activities in India and Africa, we are a team of ten entrepreneurs and support staff. We style ourselves as ‘pre-business plan investors’ who then run a full, highly creative process of business creation. Increasingly we apply our skills to impact investment: creating sustainable, profitable enterprises benefiting the poor of developing countries.

As part of H2O’s East African agricultural program we are establishing processes for identifying and mentoring a cadre of local entrepreneurial managers who can work to validate nascent commercial opportunities and, if appropriate, develop these into full businesses.

What is the Job?

We are recruiting a New Businesses Manager to be based in Kigali to identify and recruit entrepreneurial managers in-country (supported by executive search consultants) and thereafter to support the business development activities of those managers on their individual projects, including:

 

  • Establishing and managing an office. 
  • Identifying and engaging consultancy expertise as required to support individual projects. 
  • Managing the reporting process for projects to ensure interim reports and draft business plans are produced to time. 
  • Liaising with the UK-based Programme Manager, who will travel monthly to Kigali.

 

The New Businesses Manager will also undertake some travel to provide business development support for other H2O projects in the region.

Who Are We Looking For?

Educated to first degree level or higher in a relevant subject, you preferably have experience of working in the region.

You are a creative self-starter, who enjoys working autonomously and with considerable discretion to deliver high level outcomes. You are an experienced pair of managerial hands, able to run a process to tight timescales, willing to identify and address problems promptly, and able to work effectively with a range of people of different backgrounds, personalities and skill sets.

You will have a strong ability to communicate in written and spoken English, and a good grasp of Excel and PowerPoint.

Experience of business development is also highly desirable, but for candidates with demonstrable entrepreneurial potential the post will provide an opportunity to gain considerable exposure to the excitement and challenges of business creation.

What are the terms of employment?

 

  • A 50 week contract, initially. 
  • Based in Kigali, Rwanda. 
  • Remuneration package commensurate with experience.
  • Country allowance and home leave travel expenses.
  • Start date: as soon as possible.

 

Please respond with a CV and covering letter to Dr. Antonia Cardew

Closing date: we will run a rolling recruitment process, but in any case, please submit applications before 16 February 2012.

Read more...

Centre Manager

Next Billion - Wed, 2012-01-18 18:26

Organization: Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship

Location: GB

The Skoll Centre is looking to hire an entrepreneurial leader to help grow the Centre as the Skoll Centre Manager. This is a senior position within the team dedicated to designing and driving forth overall strategy and its operational implementation. They should have deep experience in global social entrepreneurship and a proven track record of managing teams and organisations.

The Manager will work directly with the Centre Director in all external facing efforts in building a collaborative network, including partnership and business development, as well as relationship management across Oxford University, the Skoll Foundation, and other investors.

The Manager oversees all operational aspects (including budgeting, marketing, finance, human resource and reporting) whilst also serving as a strategic advisor on the Skoll Centre activities, especially its Developing Talent portfolio.

The right candidate will need to know how to spot opportunities, manage people and key relationships, and create structures in flexible and open environment. They will be a collaborative self-starter, an excellent written and verbal communicator and an experienced ambassador for social entrepreneurs.

Full details available here.

Closing date February 10, 2012

Read more...

Decentralized, Distributed and Disruptive: The New Diseconomies of Scale

Next Billion - Wed, 2012-01-18 11:00

Authored by: Stuart Hart

Editor's note: This post originally appeared on Stuart Hart's blog.

Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, economies of scale have ruled the day, with massive investments in power plants, pipelines, factories, transmission lines, dams, and highways to more efficiently serve the burgeoning consumption needs of the rising consumer classes. Industrial-era technologies (such as electricity, petrochemicals, and automobiles) were also closely associated with mass production, the assembly line, and centralized, bureaucratic organization, resulting in the rise of organized labor, worker alienation, and growing social stratification. 

As we enter the second decade of the new century, however, the "dark satanic mills" of the Industrial Revolution are giving way to a new generation of technologies that promise to change dramatically the societal, economic, and environmental landscape. The information economy powered by the microchip has already begun to revolutionize society by democratizing access to information and empowering the repressed. Indeed, YouTube, Twitter, and the rapid emergence of the "blogosphere" have spawned a bottom-up revolution in user-generated content. 

Continue reading this story...

Mobile Money Payments: Why It's Time to Move From P2P to Me2Me

Next Billion - Tue, 2012-01-17 11:00

Authored by: Ignacio Mas

Mobile money helps people pay for things in two ways. Directly, by sending value to suppliers of goods and services; and indirectly, by getting remittances from friends and family members which can be used to pay for things. Mobile money works best when there is a coincidence of timing between sources and uses of funds, as then the transaction is immediate. But when there is separation in time between when money is available and when it needs to be paid out, mobile money has so far proved less useful.

The separation in time can occur for two main reasons: (i) if the payment needs to be made on a specified future date (e.g. rent, school fees, electricity bill, seeds for planting), or (ii) if the payment is sizable relative to income flows, such that there needs to be an accumulation of funds prior to the commitment of the expenditure (e.g. buying a motorcycle or new farming implement). These expenditures constitute spending goals, and people will use a variety of mechanisms to achieve them.

Bridging that gap is the role of the store-of-value account in a mobile money system, except that it appears that most people don't leave much value in there. That is probably to a large extent because for regulatory reasons mobile money is usually not marketed as a savings vehicle. But it could also be that people find mobile money too liquid, too easily available: like cash in the pocket, it is best gotten rid of in favor of something valuable (a chicken or a pig), lest it comes to be used for something superfluous.

Since these spending goals represent future expenditures, one could use a system of deferred payments to apply current income to these future goals (see this detailed paper, Savings as Forward Payments: Innovations on Mobile Money Platforms, written by Colin Mayer and myself). Think of these as Me2Me payments (across time), instead of the garden-variety P2P payments (across people, in real time). All it takes to create them is one additional optional field in the standard money transfer menu: the date when the transaction is to take effect. (Immediate execution could be the default, if no date is specified.)

Thus, if I had a good day and made $5 today, I'll cash in the $5, send $2 to myself for February 28 because that's when school fees are due, and another $2 to myself for June 30 because that's when I aim to buy a bicycle; the remaining $1 I'll keep in my liquid mobile money account for daily expenditures. Or if I am a farmer, I'll cash in the value of my crop at harvest time, but can then send good chunks of it to myself to those dates when I need to pay for the rent of the land for the next season, and pay for soil preparation and seeds at planting time. With the remaining value, the farmer could even create monthly payments to himself emulating a salary until the next harvest.

Me2Me payments to future dates are functionally equivalent to commitment savings sub-accounts, each of which is associated with a particular future date. Through this scheme, there is no need to pre-define or open multiple accounts. In the customer's mind, each date, and hence each sub-account, would be associated with a purpose. In this fashion, mobile money providers can create an easy-to-use commitment savings platform that maps out how people think about their needs and their money.

Most people save because they want to buy something. Applying a payments logic to savings behaviors makes it more tangible and relevant for people. It's parking money for a purpose, it's pushing it forward until you have enogh. It's reinforcing the positives (the spending goals) rather than the sacrifices (savings).

Enabling Me2Me payments is a value add for mobile money providers. But more importantly, it can help soften the brutal network effects that are inherent in the early phase of development of P2P networks. With Me2Me, mobile money may be a very useful even when few other people are on the network, because it helps people manage their own money. 

The Second Wave of Social Entrepreneurs?

Next Billion - Mon, 2012-01-16 19:00

Authored by: Blair Miller

Editor's note: This post was previously published on the Acumen Fund blog. 

I had an interesting moment of reflection the other day about the field of social entrepreneurship. We are reaching a point where we are seeing a second wave of professionals moving into this space. I look back to about 7-10 years ago when I started pursuing this work. We were all entrepreneurs in our own right trying to define a career path that just didn't fit with the mold. We all came at if from different angles and were experimenting in different sectors, geographies, and educational degrees.

The other day though I began to realize that the field of social entrepreneurship is becoming more professionalized. We have people prescribing their careers. First consulting out of undergrad, then a one year stint at an NGO or social enterprise abroad, then B-school, then they land a "job" at an organization in this field. It is so interesting that people are pursing "jobs" in this space, and it is also exciting to see as it is demonstrating that the industry is growing and becoming more institutionalized.

So as I observe this shift, there are two things I am thinking about.

First, what does this mean for the level of innovation pumping in and out of the industry? With a more "traditional" career path into this field, will it stifle the entrepreneurial drive of our industry and/or bring in the systems and processes we need to really grow?

Second, while there is a more traditional path into the field, there are still not traditional career progressions within the field. I find that many people who come into the field for a "job" struggle to see what their career path beyond that job looks like. That aspect of our industry is still very entrepreneurial: the people who are successful at staying in this field understand how to move in and out of sectors and organizations.

With this in mind, it is interesting to see how our field will evolve...

Please like NextBillion on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and/or join our LinkedIn group.  


NextThought Monday: SABMiller, Providing Beer at the BoP

Next Billion - Mon, 2012-01-16 11:00

Authored by: Marc Gunther

In the developed world, brewing giant SABMiller, whose global brands include Miller, Peroni, Grolsch and Pilsner Urquell, competes with the even bigger brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, which owns Budweiser, Beck's, Stella Artois and Michelob. They're the Pepsi and Coke of beer, which, by the way, is the world's third most popular drink, after water and tea.

But in Africa, SABMiller's biggest competitor is the guy (or gal) who makes beer at home. That's a big reason why the company, which had revenues of $28 billion last year, recently began selling Impala, a beer made from cassava, in Mozambique. Similarly, for about a decade, SABMiller has been selling Eagle Lager, a beer brewed with sorghum, in Uganda.

Using ingredients local like cassava and sorghum crops appeals to local tastes, supports local farmers and keeps costs down so SABMiller can price its beer lower to compete with homemade brews.

"By using locally-sourced raw materials, we can make high-quality, but affordable products for consumers who would otherwise be drinking informal or illicit alcohol. So the long term commercial opportunities are significant," Andy Wales, SABMiller's global head of sustainability, told me in an email interview.

Beer at the bottom of the pyramid, you could call it.

Continue reading this story...

Scaling Up Impact Investing In China

Next Billion - Fri, 2012-01-13 19:59

Authored by: Tracy Elsen

Editor's note: This post was originally published on the WRI Insights blog. 

Opportunities in China for impact investing are growing, where investors look to create positive social and environmental benefits alongside returns. Impact investors actively choose to put their money into companies that address social and environmental issues through their business models. Tao Zhang, the Chief Operating Officer of New Ventures, WRI's center for environmental entrepreneurship with local operations in China and five other high growth markets, answers questions on the country's current investment climate for environmentally-focused small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Is there a culture of impact investing and impact-focused companies in China?

Zhang: Impact investing is a very new concept in China and most companies remain very commercially focused. Many companies with environmental and social benefits inherent in their business models are not yet familiar with the impact investing concept, and thus are not in a position to present themselves as "impact" companies. At New Ventures, which is led in China by Country Director Walter Ge, we have worked with companies that have only realized the environmental impact they create after they have gone through an exercise to help them manage their environmental performance. In this exercise, New Ventures helps companies to quantify the positive impacts of their products and services, such as reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

However, on the other hand, there are many companies that provide real environmental solutions in China, such as those that we work with in the energy efficiency, water quality, and recycling sectors.


How big is the impact investing opportunity in China?

Zhang: There is abundant opportunity in China for impact investing, particularly relating to the environment. A lot of the big business decisions in China are driven by government, not by the private sector. However, there is a huge demand and room for the private sector and investment, particularly SMEs, to help implement the government's goals for environmental protection and poverty reduction. The government has a "top down" approach, and it makes sense to add in a "bottom up" approach, which is where SMEs and their investors can play a significant role.

Who are the investors in China right now putting money into companies creating impact?

Zhang: Right now it is very much commercial capital, as I don't think there are many self-declared impact investors. There are a few trying to gain traction, but they face challenges building capacity on the ground to source deals and interact with entrepreneurs. These developments will require significant time commitment from investors. Impact investors from more mature markets in the U.S. or Europe do not have enough resources to set up an office or hire staff on the ground in China. And it's hard to find and hire the right type of people in China because qualified investment professionals tend to choose to work for more traditional investors.

What needs to take place in China for impact investing to grow?

Zhang: Given the need for China to create sustainable economic growth over the decades to come, impact investing has an important role to play and should gain traction in the country.

The government has an opportunity to develop policies that encourage more investment into Chinese impact companies both internationally and domestically. Specifically, policies relating to foreign investments in Chinese start-ups need further clarity. Investors have been finding it challenging to convert their money into local currency upon entry and vice versa when they repatriate the capital upon a successful exit.

Meanwhile, organizations that promote impact investing can do a better job marketing its potential benefits. When one talks to different stakeholders in China, including government officials, about impact investing, time and energy is required to explain to them what it is all about.

The good news is that some Chinese cities, like Shanghai, are starting to pilot foreign limited partner-friendly policies to improve the investment climate for international investors. This growing trend in China will potentially make international investors feel increasingly comfortable investing in local companies.

The government is also starting to take notice of impact companies. At the recent China New Industrial Development Forum in Shenzhen, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced a report on the "Green Impact of Chinese SMEs", which is scheduled to come out in March 2012. The report, which makes extensive use of the environmental performance indicators that New Ventures uses, will collect and analyze the financial, environmental, and social performance of Chinese green SMEs, highlighting their environmental and social contributions to the economy.

What is New Ventures planning to do in China to grow the impacts of the environmental companies it works with?

Zhang: New Ventures China recently received funding from a Hong Kong-based foundation to look into the feasibility of creating China's first genuine environmental impact fund. The objective of the study is to look at the macro picture and figure out how to take advantage of New Ventures China's portfolio of environmental enterprises to either set up or help facilitate a fund.

Hopefully, New Ventures can help provide these companies not only with technical assistance but also the necessary financing to help them scale up to the point where they are sufficiently attractive to traditional venture investors.

We will also work with the Information Centre of MIIT to tackle the barriers to the growth of environmental entrepreneurship in the country. By sharing best practices from New Ventures China's high-impact environmental SMEs, we are well placed to develop recommendations for policy-makers and investors to accelerate environmental entrepreneurship and green investment in China.

Please like NextBillion on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and/or join our LinkedIn group.  


Director, Centre for Impact Investing

Next Billion - Fri, 2012-01-13 19:32

Organization: MaRS Centre for Impact Investing

Location: CA

Position Type: Full-time
Location: ON - Metro Toronto
Application Deadline: 2012-01-30
Category: Executive

Position Overview:

The Director, Centre for Impact Investing will provide strategic direction for the Centre’s programs and initiatives, manage the operations and staff of the Centre, and manage an extensive network of external stakeholders and partners.

About the Centre for Impact Investing

Building upon the foundational work of the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance, which was supported by Social Innovation Generation (SiG) and MaRS, the Centre for Impact Investing is a national social finance hub dedicated to advancing impact investing in Canada. The MaRS Centre for Impact Investing will increase awareness, develop and share knowledge and expand the effective application of social finance, by catalyzing new partnerships, mobilizing new capital, attracting and developing talent, and stimulating innovation focused on tackling social and environmental problems in Canada. The Centre will support the growing, vibrant network of players active in social finance across Canada, and help connect Canadian partners to the active global community working in the field of impact investing in both developed and emerging markets. The Centre will be active in market and product development, as well as develop and deliver programs and services focused on research and policy, impact measurement, education and multi-sector engagement initiatives to mobilize private capital towards public good. The Centre will also deliver current MaRS programs such as the Social Venture Exchange (SVX), the Canadian B-Corp licensing hub, and SocialFinance.ca.

For more details, visit: http://www.marsdd.com/careers/directory/director-centre-impact-investing/

How To Apply:

Interested candidates should forward their resume and cover letter to careers@marsdd.com by January 30th, 2012.

MaRS thanks all candidates; however, only candidates selected for an interview will be contacted.

If you have any questions about the position, please contact Allyson Hewitt, Director, SiG@MaRS and Director, Social Entrepreneurship. Allyson can be contacted via email at ahewitt@marsdd.com.

Read more...

Lending Analysis Assistant

Next Billion - Fri, 2012-01-13 19:32

Organization: Root Capital

Location: US

SUMMARY

The Lending Analysis Assistant supports the growth of the analytical capacity of the Lending Team by providing additional analytical capabilities to the Lending Analysis Manager and to the Junior Analyst. He/she will also support ongoing projects between the Lending Analysis and the Impact Assessment team as appropriate. This position will work closely with other members of the lending team, accounting team, and supervisors. Through his/her work, s/he will reflect the organization’s belief that a well-supported and well-informed strategic team will be the most effective in achieving RC’s mission.

MISSION AND HISTORY OF ROOT CAPITAL

Root Capital’s mission is to grow rural prosperity by investing in small and growing agricultural businesses that build sustainable livelihoods in Africa and Latin America. Root Capital is a nonprofit social investment fund that grows rural prosperity in poor, environmentally vulnerable places in Africa and Latin America by lending capital, delivering financial training, and strengthening market connections for small and growing agricultural businesses.

RESPONSIBILITIES

  1. Provide ad-hoc analytical assistance to support management on strategic decision making 

a. Conduct analytical analysis for portfolio management and reporting purposes.
b. Assist in identifying and creating a set of reports for different levels of lending staff.
c. Assist in the updating of the Lending Model by providing background and trend information.
d. Provide ad-hoc analytical support on a case by case basis for different projects.
e. Provide analytical support for the 2013-Annual planning process.  

2.  Collaborate and co-manage other interns in the construction of a "Lending Team Master Database"

QUALIFICATIONS AND EXPERIENCE

  1. An Economics, Statistics or other related major is preferred  
  2. Proficiency in Ms Excel and PowerPoint is a must 
  3. Experience analyzing large data sets 
  4. Conversational level Spanish a plus 
  5. Enjoys working in a multicultural, international environment. 
  6. Passion for Root Capital’s commitment to worldwide poverty alleviation and environmental conservation. 
  7. Applicants must be authorized to work in the United States.

SALARY: Commensurate with experience.

APPLICATIONS AND NOMINATIONS

More information about Root Capital is available at www.rootcapital.org

Applications are due by February 29, 2012. Candidates are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

Applications including resume and a cover letter describing your interest, qualifications, language abilities, salary requirements, and how you learned of the position should be sent to: jobs+laa@rootcapital.org. Please type “Lending Analysis” followed by your name (Last, First) as the subject line of your email (e.g. “Lending Analysis – Marrero, Marc”).

Read more...

Best Ideas of 2011: 2012, the Year of Archimedean Entrepreneurs

Next Billion - Fri, 2012-01-13 14:00

Authored by: Eric Kacou

2011 will live in history as the year Africa made a dent in the world, to paraphrase Steve Jobs. As previously discussed in this NextBillion series, The Economist, a 'beacon of afro-pessimism', headlined "Africa Rising" late last year. What a jump from "The Hopeless Continent" in 2000. 

Thankfully, the cover underscores solid empirical evidence. Africa leapt forward at 4,9 percent last year in a growth starved world. While the Arab Spring heralded a new era of accountability, inspiring - some might suggest - the occupy Wall Street movement. 

Moving beyond the Survival Trap

Anyone visiting Africa would be hard pressed to see Africans celebrate this feat. This is not for being an ungrateful people. Rather, it is because the growth spurt has not materialized into tangible improvements in the life of the average African citizen. At least not yet...

Who is the average African citizen? It is a young woman (or man) living off subsistence farming on a very small plot of land in a rural area. This citizen feels stuck scrapping to survive in the pre-industrial age while the rest of the world moves forward in the digital age.

In reality, most Africans are still mired in the 'survival trap', a vicious cycle that makes individuals, businesses and nations react to short-term crises instead of developing long-term strategies for prosperity.

This where Haiti and Africa share a lot more than meets the eye. Beyond a shared history and deep cultural roots, one realizes that their development indicators are very similar.

Today's greatest challenge is the struggle for prosperity. It is also, arguably, today's greatest opportunity.

Make no mistake: Freeing the 2.7 billion people struggling on less than two dollars per day from the survival trap is not optional. In reality, it is not only a moral imperative, but it is also an economic one.

Continue reading this story...

Toppling a Paradigm, Building a New One in Europe: From Subsidies to Investment

Next Billion - Thu, 2012-01-12 18:53

Authored by: Renee Manuel and Felix Oldenburg

Over the years, financial indicators and quantitative metrics have grown in importance in evaluating society's competitiveness. In spite of this, the most important indicator remains remarkably simple: How many changemakers are there?

As representatives from Ashoka, we talk about making a world where "Everyone is a Changemaker" - empowering people to engineer social change in a way that no one has thought of before. From 30 years of experience searching for leading social entrepreneurs, we have learned two things:

1. Social entrepreneurs emerge in every society, no matter how progressive or traditional, and often from the most unlikely backgrounds.

 2. As resilient and creative as they might be, the speed of growth of their innovations depends on whether we can create and support the needed infrastructure for their ideas to scale.

But what happens when the financial ecosystem in which social entrepreneurs work is fundamentally broken? Where, for instance, the financing structures that are offered encourage dependency, organizational growth, and shrinking salary pools to pay top level talent?

Instead of empowering social entrepreneurs to unleash their innovations on the market, the current forms of capital hinder citizen sector organizations and box their ideas into programmatic grants and traditional non-profit models, or offer loans and equity at conditions that threaten to undermine their social purpose.

Continue reading this story...

The View from Canada: Impact Investing 2.0 - Your Money, Your Way

Next Billion - Thu, 2012-01-12 13:50

Authored by: Carmelina Macario

When you start to think about investing your money to save for retirement or to grow your net worth, you are faced with a lot of questions: 

How much do I put aside every month? Who do I trust with my money? I am a high- or low-risk investor? What do I want to invest in? Enter the financial advisor - they can help answer those questions, set up a portfolio for you and give you piece of mind. But what about when they can't offer you something you want to invest in? What happens with even Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) funds don't met your needs?

Enter impact investing. Of course it isn't a new concept (NextBillion has covered it extensively) but it is a concept that is gaining popularity in the investment community. For the uninitated, impact investing is the act of investing your money into projects that will have a positive social or environmental impact and getting a return for it. Impact investing experts credit the gain in popularity to among other things: the instability of financial markets, the creation of a common framework for reporting on impact investments and to the shift of donors lending money to causes rather than giving money to causes.

Continue reading this story...

Syndicate content