Friday, March 28, 2008

The power of one

(image courtesy of

This post will combine topics from all the past posts - field work, technology, the power of voice and media...

Often people come and tell me (and even I sometimes think this)..."I am only one person, what can I possibly do to make an impact?" How can I change the world??" This applies even to folks who say "how can I get field experience without any resources??"

Like Jessie M. in my previous post, I'll try to highlight people as I come across them, particularly earlier in the stages of doing something...people who are starting small, but whose ideas are on the verge of "snowballing." Or even otherwise, hopefully the stories behind people whose ideas have "snowballed."

Today I'll give you three examples of people who have come up with simple ideas that are making waves. (I must add here that this does not mean these are model methodologies of social enterprise. You don't have to do what they've can come up with your own. These are just modelable examples of people making a difference in the best way they know how).

A few of the major commonalities between them is that these projects are young (less than 2 years old), with young founders (early 30's and below), were self-funded, and are using a business model (where the selling of a commodity is involved) to raise money (if they are raising money).

1. Inspired by a speech given by Jeffrey Sachs (noted economist, author of The End of Poverty, and Professor at Columbia University), Notre Dame graduate student Shawn went to Bangladesh on a short, self-funded project to find his own answers to what caused poverty. He created short videos or "thought journals" of his search, which are archived on his site and on YouTube. He's also kept a blog. Its interesting to watch how his thinking has evolved over time. Already his media has caused a mini-snowballer. In his latest post, he actually asks people not to send him supplies and money...rather on focusing on making being aware and better people a priority in their lives!

Here's a sample of one of his videos:

2. Charity: Water: This organization was started by 30 y/0 photographer Scott Harrison, who had an epiphany when drinking a $16 margarita in NYC. Scott had just hopped off a boat where he had spent a year volunteering for Mercy Ships . In that minute, he saw opportunity...$16 would have paid for an African family's meals for a month. (Prior to his stint in Mercy Ships, he had spent 10 years as a marketing/brand manager for the fashion industry).

So he started Charity:Water. People could buy a $20 bottle of drinking water, and all the profits went to drill wells in some of the poorest countries in the world. In two years (I think...his site doesn't make it clear when charity: started), Scott has drilled 470+ wells in 9 of the world's poorest countries. Check out their blog and site. Here's a great preview:

3. Source Chocolate: In 2005, Jeffrey W founded an organization to reduce road traffic injuries in Africa. Turns out that road injuries are the leading cause of death for children between ages 10-24 (WHO, 2004). Who would've known?? Well, Jeffrey decided that he had to do something. But his programs were costing money and he didn't want to keep begging for money from foundations. He had just started a program in Ghana, and Ghana is the world's largest producer of cacao. So he decided to sell high-end chocolate sourced from Ghanaian cacao into U.S markets and use 100% of the profits for programs. It was Ghanaian farmers helping their own children. Thus was born Source Chocolate Co. Source is only a year old, but you can buy some of their yummy chocolate on their site. Also check out's work. (image below courtesy of

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