Oct 10

How Women Help Move an Economy?

Coco Chanel once said in The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World’s Most Elegant Woman –“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.”

Many women today have taken that advice quite seriously. In today’s times the world is witness to an extremely upgraded version of the feminine brigade that is ready to take it to the next level.  Women have stepped into different professions and have made a mark for themselves. So much has their contribution affected the professions that they land in, that they are even being considered one of the driving forces for the corresponding economic revenue.

Catalyst, a leading research and advisory organization working to advance women in business, found in an analysis of Fortune 500 companies that those with a greater representation of women in management positions delivered a better total return to the shareholders than those with a lower representation. Research also shows that, not only in the professional or industrial background, but also on the household level, women have proved to be the money channelizing force that brings in profits on a family as well as a societal scale. However, what really makes a woman more productive for any kind of economy than men? What are the qualities that make women a better (hiring, management, leadership, etc.) alternative in a money oriented environment than their male peers?

First, the basic quality that sets a woman apart from her male counterpart is the way she approaches a situation before her. Men, on the one hand, often arrive to conclusions by making comparisons with the most obvious and latest similar experience they have had. Women judge situations on the basis of experiences over long women econ pic 1time spans as well as using these experiences on a 3 dimensional level where they can form a web-like data and inter-relate it to arrive to a conclusion.  Women accomplish all of this in the same time frame as men.  Basically, women come to a more realistic and reliable decision based on instincts and prior knowledge.

Brigham Young once said, “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”  Knowledge and education play an important role in this and it has held true. Research estimates that in the BRICS and N11 countries’ investments in female education could yield a ‘growth premium’ that could bring about a GDP growth trend of approximately 0.2% per year. Statistics also suggest that most women in managing positions have show a high regard for their mentors whom they idolize and in many Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 08

Housing First Model for Homelessness?

Is it time to start thinking differently about homelessness?  There’s a broad spectrum of approaches and opinions surrounding homelessness in the US and its assumed you are somewhere on that continuum.  The Veteran’s Administration and Barack Obama have declared to end veteran homelessness by 2015, although results and progress remain to be seen.  What if I told you, there is a state in the Union that is on target to eliminate homelessness by 2015?  Is this a worthy goal and what are we really talking about here?

Since 2005, Utah has quietly begun to diminish homelessness and is on track to eliminate it by 2015.  In the 8 years since it’s inception, Utah has dropped homelessness by 78%.  What’s most interesting about it is that there blog.pic.3.24bwas no universe-shattering solution which defies the laws of economics, it was simple arithmetic.  Legislators discovered that the annual cost of ER and jail visits cost almost $17,000/year per person while providing the same with an apartment and a social worker cost merely $11,000.  Consequently, Utah began giving the homeless apartments and a case manager with no strings attached and the results are self-evident.

Typically, homelessness in America has been addressed through street outreach, food pantries, shelters, and religious activities. While this band-aid approach can alleviate some of the symptoms of homelessness, it rarely cuts to the root of the problems or provides a lasting solution.  The Housing-First, also known as Rapid Re-Housing can provide dualistic benefits that improve the wellbeing of the homeless as well as the wellbeing of the neighborhood.  By providing stable housing to the homeless, this program not only assists them by protects and improves the red-light Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 17

Armed with technology, would you help homeless youth?

Our video explores graphic facts of homelessness and the options for concerned citizens to explore.  NPR reports that the number of homeless in the US declined in 2013, however these statistics are often difficult to track from the transient and elusive nature of the populations under study.  Their report indicates that in 2013, around 610,000 people were homeless on the night under study.  Homeless numbers are many times inaccurate as youth and others who are homeless often avoid shelters, couch-surf, commit crimes, or visit ER’s and other “non-shelter” institutions to obtain housing.  It is generally understood that at least half of the homeless population in the US are under the age of 21, which would indicate on this night that at least 305,000 young people were without stable housing in the US: equivalent to roughly half of the state of Vermont.

So, do any solutions exist for the homeless youth populations?  With the prevalence of smartphone use in America today, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs has launched a contest for app developers to assist in aiding homeless veterans.  Project REACH (Real-Time Electronic Access for Caregivers and the Homeless) requested app developers to put all the vital information for homeless individuals in one easily accessible and rapidly Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 03

So is Voluntourism the Road Better Traveled?

Voluntourism, as discussed in a previous blog, To Go Or Not To Go, provides a unique impact and scope compared to traditional donations.  The second part of the series seeks to uncover the road of donations as compared to voluntourism in terms of reaching the destination, community impact, and the values of overhead.  The analysis of voluntourism was shown to not only expand the value of the dollar by nearly 500% but also allow 93% of value to have direct impact and use to the destinations of interest. Alternately, the financial performance of donations, particularly the Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund, presents significantly more hurdles to uncover the behavior and value of donations.  I will attempt to unravel the highly politicized, somewhat confusing, and sometimes misleading information regarding the Red Cross’ spending in Haiti to present a balanced view as much of that contentious speculation is outside the scope of this comparison.

Charity Navigator, as well as the Better Business Bureau, both report the Red Cross’ Administrative and Fundraising Spending to total 8%, while 92% is spent on direct programming.  While these were relatively easy figures to find they do not provide a complete picture of the donations’ financial activity.  Researching reports Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 21

Bridging Social Capital for your Community

The United Nations is currently developing comprehensive assessments of the impact of social capital in communities and purports that volunteerism is the heart of social capital.  As such, it is significant for volunteers Blog Pic 1.11and those creating volunteer opportunities to be mindful of the approaches and opportunities being created.  To create bridging social capital requires a diversity sometimes not seen in volunteer opportunities as the very nature of an opportunity draws like minded people from similar backgrounds and resources.  For instance, neighborhood or playground clean-ups draws individuals from the neighborhood together and, of course, generates social capital, however does not necessarily expand the cultural, professional, or geographic boundaries of the participants.


While social capital remains a somewhat diffuse concept for social entrepreneurs and innovators, alike.  Change agents seeking community impact can improve outcomes through consideration of social capital in whatever interventions they attempt. Bridging social capital refers to groups of individuals of different skills, resources, and other attributes that come together and the interaction is mutually beneficial.  Simply put, bridging social capital connects diverse groups and consequently enriches both.


Another accessible opportunity that provides bridging social capital in an easily replicable model is the Great American Clean-Up.  Annually, 4 million volunteers across the United States sign-up to participate in this day of service.  A result is a broad geographic, cultural, and socioeconomic array of community members who interact over the course of a day.  The opportunity is present for these diverse individuals and organizations to develop the connections necessary for a social capital network.  These networks consequently strengthen a broad range of community ties and ideally lead to greater community action and mutual support.  To become involved in this event as an individual or organization visit their affiliate locator to sign-up and acquire further details.

In another instance, the impact and importance of bridging social capital can also be seen in the reintegration of schools where children of deficient abilities are no longer segregated from other school children. This model of bridging interactions of diverse social skills is shown to improve development of all the children.  Likewise, it increases the social skills of socially impaired students as well as the empathy of the other school children.  The mental health systems of the State’s have also enacted similar practices which produces improved outcomes as the diversity of social interaction spurs and supports mental health.

         To implement bridging social capital can be as simple as advertising in various locales to draw a wide socioeconomic variety or as complex as organizing a multicultural fair celebrating the diverse foods, music, and wares of your surrounding region.  As a volunteer organizer in what ways can you implement social capital in your opportunities?  If seeking to volunteer, All For Good and  Serve.gov provide immense opportunities for local involvement as well as appending opportunities you create.  To seek diverse opportunities get involved with organizations and events that may not typically interest you and you may find broadened horizons as well as what your skills, attributes, and perspective can add to any array of communities.

Oct 21

Getting the Truth in Syria

Syria has, understandably, been a top point in the news lately as conflict continues to rage.  Indeed, I’ve written quite a few posts on Syria in the past, and could continue to write about the country for some time while only barely scratching the surface of the issues.  A quick Google search for news in Syria turns up with hundreds of articles just written in the past week or so on a variety of topics: continued calls for ceasefire, airstrikes in Damascus, possible polio outbreaks, and the death of a top military officer, to name just a few.  But in all the noise about Syria, how accurate is the information we have about what’s happening on the ground?

Journalists have a variety of techniques for reporting in conflict zones.  Secure browsers like Tor allow journalists and dissidents to send information despite hostile governments, the UN and other organizations work to protect journalists, and protection for journalists and other media personnel does exist under international law.  Reporting in a conflict zone is, however, an extremely dangerous task, particularly in Syria.  You may recall from a little over a year ago when journalist Marie Colvin, a veteran at reporting from conflicted areas, and photographer Remi Ochlik were killed during a shelling in Syria, which resulted in an international uproar.  Earlier this year, on the anniversary of their deaths, the campaign A Day Without News? was launched to raise awareness of the dangers that journalists face in areas like Syria, and announced that this past year has been the deadliest year for journalists in war-torn areas, with 90 reporters having been killed.   Overall, according to the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, at least 116 journalists have been killed since the conflict began in 2011.

Conditions for reporters in Syria haven’t improved in the intervening months, unfortunately.  Not only do journalists in Syria face the danger  of being hit by gunfire or shelling, they also have to worry about being kidnapped.  Reporters Without Borders has announced that at least 16 foreign and 60 local journalists are currently missing, with many more cases potentially unreported.  Indeed, many rebel groups are actively being encouraged to snatch foreign journalists, who are often accused of being spies.  As a result, many reporters have stopped entering rebel-held territories, and some newspapers, like the Sunday Times, have requested that people stop sending in photographs from Syria in order to discourage risk-taking.

This is, of course, beneficial for war correspondents, as, naturally, they are considerably safer if they do not venture into dangerous areas.  But what does this mean for news from Syria?  Voluntary news blackouts have become quite common, and reporters who do go into dangerous areas typically only stay long enough to get just as much information as they need.  Therefore the information coming out of Syria is a bit spotty at best, and quite biased towards the relatively calm capital of Damascus.

This has created an opening for untrained civilians and activists to act as journalists, sending in photos, videos, and information to the major news outlets.  It is difficult to verify these stories, however.  Common sense would suggest that people are not fabricating the tragedies they send in, but in fact multiple videos and photographs purporting to be of troubles in Syria have been debunked as images from other years and even countries that are instead being used as propaganda.  We may never know the truth of the situation in Syria, if foreign journalists are forced to remain on the sidelines and untrained civilians send in unverifiable information.  Not having a clear view of the situation will certainly shape views of the conflict, both for the general public and for international leaders.

What is your opinion of the situation for journalists and civilian reporters and how the lack of accurate information shapes public perception and policies?  Let me know in the comments!

Oct 01

UAA: Is it Enough?

This week I stumbled upon some thrilling news: The Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA). This fancy little piece of legislation goes into effect July of 2014 and may be a push in the right direction for addressing the loopholes in existence within the international adoption process.

So what is the UAA? This document, signed by President Obama in January of 2013, requires that all individuals who wish to participate in intercountry adoption must use an accredited agency or individual throughout their UAA#1adoption process. While unaccredited individuals may continue to assist people in their intercountry, adoptions, they must be supervised by an accredited agency while overseeing a case. This legislation will also require that all families or individuals must receive a certain amount of educational hours before travelling to bring their child back to the US and that all parties involved must be specifically concerned with the best interest of the child. This is a huge step forward for the adoption process! Essentially these agencies are ensuring individuals interested in adoption that they are complying with the Hague Convention standards and are, therefore, accredited, and able to assist a family with their international adoption process.

In the past, parents were able to work with a licensed attorney in securing a child to adopt from overseas. This meant that documentation indicating how the child was “orphaned” was not required and no follow-up reports on the well-being of the child after the adoption were necessary.  With the establishment of UAA, agencies hope to be able to eliminate the selling or trafficking of children into orphanages as a means to make money. This piece of legislation will also require post-adoption reports to occur when the child returns home with their adopted family. Depending on the requirements of the country the child is adopted from, will determine how many reports, and over how long a time period, these reports must be documented. For example, some Eastern European countries require that an annual post adoption report is completed until the child is 21 years of age. Other countries, like Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 24

Literacy in Bangladesh

Sunday (September Eight) was first International Literacy day. Twitter was alight with quotes about the power of reading, infographics, and uplifting stories, and it really got me thinking and wanting to learn more about literacy rates around the world.

In honor of International Literacy Day the United Nation Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published a study on literacy rates around the world. While the results show an overall improvement in literacy rates, there is still no doubt that the world has a long way to go within the specific field. Among the data, the most striking piece of information is that:

“…774 million adults (15 years and older) still cannot read or write – two-thirds of them (493 million) are women. Among youth, 123 million are illiterate of which 76 million are female. Even though the size of the global illiterate population is shrinking, the female proportion has remained virtually steady at 63% to 64%.”

There are many reasons why girls fall tragedy to illiteracy, but luckily many countries are continuing to work on tackling illiteracy in their citizens. Bangladesh is one of these countries. According to eh UNESCO report, Bangladesh has a literacy rate of 57% for adults and 78% for youth (under 15).

However, Bangladesh isn’t settling for these numbers. In 2010 Bangladesh set the goal of providing all citizens with the opportunity to receive a quality education. This had been achieved by increasing the national budget being spent on education, but also through the help of NGO’s and UK aid that helps to education adults – particularly women who were married off at a young aged and forced to stop their education.

Bangladesh is taking the goal so seriously that the Prime Minister running for reelection has pledged to bring the Bangladesh Adult Educationcountry a hundred percent literacy rate if elected  for a third term. The promise itself was a made at a rally held at an all girls school, and one of the top schools in the nation.

Even when faced with difficult challenges, like helping to bring education to extremely poor families in rural areas, Bangladesh is doing it’s best to serve all of their citizens. For the last nine years Bangladesh has been running a program called Reaching out-of School Children to help combat illiteracy and lack of education within primary schools. . Yet, the program still misses many children and relies on NGO’s to help fund and support the program. Still, according to studies somewhere from 75-100 percent of children – depending on who you ask – are enrolled in schools in Bangladesh. The way I see it having seventy five percent of children enrolled in school is a still a great feat considering that in many countries the completion rate of primary school is much lower than that 75 percent.

To me, what is so amazing about Bangladesh is that the movement is coming from those in charge of the country and the communities. While they have help coming in from NGOs and other organizations, I believe that part of what has made Bangladesh successful so far is the fact that there are governmental institutions behind the movements. All too often we hear about countries that are unable to make real progress simply because the country is torn into two fractions.

While Bangladesh has come a long way on it’s own, there are still ways that you can get involved in helping the country come closer to it’s goal of literacy and education. The most noticeable of these ways is BRAC (formerly Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee and Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee).  Having started as an NGO specific to Bangladesh and organization has now spread to over ten other countries yet still focuses heavily on aiding Bangladesh. Below is a video that features their innovate school boats that help rural children attend school.

Through BRAC you can donate money to help projects like this one and others, and help Bangladesh realize it’s goals of education and literacy and help inspire other nations.


Sep 20

To Go or Not To Go: Voluntourism

With the advent of global media and an increasingly connected world, the average citizen is drastically more informed and aware than yesteryear’s counterpart.  This media saturation combined with man’s natural tendency to travel has produced a budding practice coined voluntourism, where socially conscious travelers are able to incorporate humanistic ambitions with new and exciting experiences at home and abroad.  From disaster relief, To go or not to go imagearcheology, and construction to conservation, organic farming, and education, the conscious traveler can now find an abundance of opportunities to participate globally. Volunteer South America, Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and Volunteer Planet list nearly endless opportunities spanning the globe, but the question still remains; to go or not to go, and in going is any good being done?

In an era of text message (SMS) donations, buy one give one business models, and seemingly nonstop fundraising infomercials that make donating to a cause as simple as picking up the phone, is there a need or even justification to spend thousands in airfare and expenses to volunteer for a few days or weeks when the same amount could possibly do exponentially more if simply given to the charity of our choice?  In my opinion: go!

Incidentally, unlike Robert Frost, I’ve been able to choose both roads and found the road of voluntourism to make all the difference.  In 2010, through organizing efforts I was able to raise and donate $2500 to the Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund in hopes of supporting reconstruction prompted by the catastrophic mixture of abject poverty, poor building methods, and an earthquake.  Later in the year, utilizing $3200, I was able to voluntour with several groups in South America.  In this two-part blog, I will compare the performance of dollars in terms of reaching the destination, community impact, and the values of overhead between these two personal instances of philanthropy and voluntourism.

Voluntourism presents several shifts of experience when compared to donating to a charitable organization and still presents some pros and cons, previously presented by Michelle Bovée.  Congruent with her instructions, I to go graphcontacted local organizations at my destinations of interest and inquired about their need or desire for volunteers.  In my case, luckily, both grassroots organizations, Pisco Sin Fronteras and  Escuela Katitawa, had demand for volunteers and presented long term, sustainable, and community inclusive projects.  Furthermore, these were “no-cost” volunteer organizations that were entirely volunteer led and driven, substantially reducing the overhead.  Of the two volunteer compounds I resided during my trip, both requested a donation equivalent to 15 USD per week which provided shelter and two meals per day.  Outside of this, the third meal typically cost 2 USD and was bountiful.  Further monetary contributions to projects were up to volunteers to determine and I happened to support several projects while in country totaling $200 spent on materials.  In all, the engagement with the volunteer organizations totaled 12 of the 14 weeks in South America costing 548 USD and producing 600 volunteer hours, which, in my home country, is valued at $13,284, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

The remaining two weeks were spent traveling by bus to various destinations and effectively disbursing the remaining $1,452 with the bus companies, street vendors, hostels, attractions, and merchants while being completely absorbed in the destination country’s economies.  Likewise, room and board and the project donations supported local markets and hardware stores respectively, contributing mildly to sustaining local agricultural efforts and distributions.

I look forward to exploring this further in the 2nd part of the blog.  Meanwhile, if you’ve volunteered some time anywhere and you’re interested in the value of your contribution, the Independent Sector provides national and state-by-state values for volunteer time and the Hands On Network provides more specialized values by trade.  In all, it appears this voluntourism trip had exponentially increased the value of the dollar by nearly 500% when including values of volunteer time.  Could simply donating the $3200 to a charitable organization performed better in terms of sustaining local economies, funds reaching the destination, and the volunteer values supported?   Can you think of other ways and places to voluntour and explore?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!


Sep 20

Thailand’s Deep South

Some people might wonder why I am writing a blog post about the South Thailand Insurgency. It is well known that this Islamic insurgency took place in 2004 and had experienced its peak in 2007. It may seem like an outdated conflict that had dissipated throughout the years, but it is in fact still an ongoing conflict. Drive through shootings, bombings, and other attacks on civilians and military personnel are still persistent in this region.

Before I jump into analyzing the current conflict, I will first give you an overview of the insurgency. Although the start 300px-Souththailandmapdate of the insurgency took place in 2004, the conflict was present in Thailand since its early days as an independent state. The southern part of Thailand, which is known as the Pattani region, was annexed in 1906. This region, touching the borders of Malaysia, is majorly inhabited with Malay Muslims who learned the national language of Thailand and were given Thai names. According to the International Crisis Group study reported in 2008, the Malay Muslims who have been living in a Buddhist majority country accumulated a profound sense of alienation. Since then, the tensions between Thai Buddhists and Malay Muslims started to increase, resulting in attacks and insurgencies led by the Malay Muslims. Many of these attacks have been in the forms of shooting, bombing and decapitating people. Over 5,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the conflict and people are still being killed today.

Until recently, these insurgent groups were only targeting Buddhists, but reports have shown that they are now targeting anyone that is in Southern Thailand.. Their former intentions were to seek recognition and representation of their ethnic group, but now the intentions are blurred. The insurgency group is very secretive of their operations that even some parents do not know that their children are part of the group. This has complicated the intentions of the insurgency group and have left many officials perplexed on how to reconcile the issue.

Many steps have taken place by the governments to resolve this conflict throughout the past. A hand full of development and social programs have been initiated to show that that the 80% of the Malay Muslims that live in the southern region are an essential part of the state. These programs have cost Thailand over $7 billion but, insurgent groups have overlooked such propositions and are still continuing their course. With the help by the Malaysian government, this spring the Thai government and one of the largest insurgent group, Barisan Revolusi Nasional, engaged in a mediated peace talk, but violence grew as other insurgent groups felt anger as the BRN was not a representation of all insurgent groups.

As seen above, it is pretty clear that this ethnic or religious separatist insurgency is very deep rooted and complicated. The Thai government has spent a large amount of money to help solve the problem, but nothing has worked. Then what can be done to end this almost one decade long conflict? Read the rest of this entry »

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