Little Travel Lies

One View of Downtown Durban, South Africa

I am an avid traveler and like most travelers, I enjoy taking photos of the places I visit as a reminder of what I saw and experienced. When I returned from a trip to South Africa, a friend remarked that she was surprised because my pictures didn’t look like they were of “Africa.” There were two things that caught me off guard by that statement. First, what is Africa supposed to look like and secondly, what part of “Africa” is she referring to.

Of course I say this already knowing the answer. She expected some safari image, swollen bellied babies and thatch-roofed huts. Instead, she saw my pictures outside a Westin in the middle of high rises in downtown Cape Town or with friends in Soweto outside their middle class home, that easily could have been in any city in America. She saw my picture on North Beach in Durban and wondered if I was in Los Angeles or Miami.

Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book.

~ excerpt from Binyavanga Wainana’s,“How to Write About Africa”

We could blame the media, but we have to also hold ourselves accountable. Continue reading

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No More Dumb Development

The Administrator of USAID spoke yesterday at an event hosted by the Center for Global Development. For those unable to venture to Washington or to gain access to the event, it was streamed live on the new USAID website celebrating 50 years for the agency (http://50.usaid.gov). This new site highlights the achievements of the last 50 years and outlines plans for the future work of USAID.

Dr. Rajiv Shah has been leading the agency for just over a year and is working diligently to change the way that development works within USAID. With a focus on measurable outcomes and local empowerment, he wants to eliminate strategies that produce what Dambisa Moyo calls Dead Aid. He also wants the agency to run more cost effectively and shortly after entering his position eliminated costly senior positions in high priced cities such as Rome, Paris, Tokyo and Madrid.

Dr. Shah’s comments were right in line with our thoughts, on the need for Continue reading

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Awareness building through music

I have shared how we are losing a battle as the number of suicides increase. A huge factor in this is the persecution and bullying that gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual individuals face because of their lifestyle and sexuality. One method of increasing tolerance is to build awareness and to show how our actions impact others. Marsha Ambrosius has created a music video for her new single “Far Away” that does an excellent job of showing how ignorant we can be towards each other. For her lead character, he is only accepted when he is assumed to be heterosexual. Nothing about him changes except who he is walking hand in hand with. It hopefully will lead people to think about how their reactions can have a lasting impact on the life of another. I am a huge fan of her music and am now even more impressed that she has used her platform to bring much needed awareness to this issue…Enjoy!

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We Are Losing

This past weekend another young person took their life. This news is starting to become all too familiar and the stories are starting to run together. A child is bullied for being different (gay, new, small, big, quiet,promiscuous, prude, black, white, purple etc.) and constantly tormented by their peers. These bullies never leave them alone. They harass them at school, online, via text messages and over the phone. The young person, unable to see how this will ever get better, makes an unfortunate decision to end their life rather than continue to face this situation any longer. And society loses the possibility of what that young person could have become.

We have to start winning.

Teen suicide continues to increase and we have to start looking at new ways to support and encourage young Continue reading

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Avoid Band-Aids – 10 Commandments for Social Entrepreneurship

So last week, we asked Social Entrepreneurs to Dig Deeper and to make sure that they had all the information they needed to start their venture. Our next commandment,

Thou Shalt Avoid Using Band-Aids

So you have a great idea, and now (since you dug a little deeper) you know that you have all the background information to really understand your issue. Now it is time to develop your plan of attack. Your approach should be innovative and truly add to the methods of addressing these issues. Sometimes this means that you will need more time to acquire the adequate resources, partners and funds to implement this strategy. It may also mean that though this problem is serious, you cannot accomplish anything for quite some time.

Avoid being pulled into the enthusiasm of just starting and addressing surface issues. You want, as much as possible, to address root causes. Does this mean that you don’t feed the person who is hungry today because you haven’t figured out a way to permanently eradicate his hunger? Continue reading

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Pick up your sign…

As we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the MLK holiday, I have been reflecting on the work of individuals during the Civil Rights movement. The Civil Rights movement was a battle that included policy makers but was lead by those on the ground dealing with the injustice on a daily basis. It was individual people sitting in, facing hoses, angry crowds and lynch mobs that brought national attention to the South and the country. Their individual risk and voices brought monumental change. They picked up a sign for a cause they believed in, got out their house and marched.

If we were having this struggle today what would it look like?

With technology, (and the ways that awareness campaigns use social media) one could probably text or tweet to donate to a large campaign full of celebrities and policy makers. There probably would be large televised lobbying events in Washington and special events to raise awareness. The 24/7 news coverage would show the marching, the sit-ins, the shouting. That is if any of that still occurred… Continue reading

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Youth Entrepreneurs and the value of combining business and social sector work

In a webcast on Tuesday, as part of the Social Entrepreneur Empowerment Series, Ashoka CEO Bill Drayton shared insight into his feelings about social entrepreneurship. He defined social entrepreneurship in this way; “the most powerful force in the world is an idea in the hands of a great entrepreneur.” I would add that this entrepreneur should be the perfect combination of humility and confidence that allows for them to be open to constantly learning and truly motivated towards change. To Bill Drayton, empathy is a skill that must be learned and with the Ashoka Youth Venture program they hope to create a new generation of entrepreneurs that care about the good of all. In his vision there would be an end to hierarchies and everyone needs to be a changemaker in every society. This idea I completely agree with and think that too often we look only to foreign leaders, big businesses, celebrities and politicians to bring about change. Some of the best ideas for social change are found in the communities facing these issues and in the hands of everyday people. This initiative to prepare youth is exciting and encouraging for where the work of social entrepreneurship is heading. Continue reading

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Making tourism better

“Our everyday life is someone else’s adventure”

~ Greg Richards, Cultural Tourism: Global and Local Perspectives

This is the basic foundation for all tourist activities. People leave their homes to travel, and in the process, seek out the opportunity to see and experience life through the eyes of another. Some take that more seriously, working to participate in the most authentic experiences possible, while others are satisfied to just experience the staged activities, beaches, shopping and food of another locale. Regardless of the type of tourist experience, the tourism industry is an extremely powerful multi-billion dollar force in the global economy. “As the largest business sector in the world economy, the Travel and Tourism Industry is responsible for over 230 million jobs and over 10% of the gross domestic product worldwide” (The International Ecotourism Society, 2006, p. 1).

Tourism has been used as a model for economic development and cultural preservation around the world. It is seen as a way to bring foreign dollars into the local economy and as a way to create employment and monetary gains for the citizens of the destination. Unfortunately, tourism has not lived up to its promised benefits and often other foreign nations, and not the destination, benefit from the economic resources generated by tourists and tourism. “Although mass tourism was originally embraced by many countries as a ‘smokeless’ (nonpolluting) industry that could increase employment and gross national product, evidence quickly grew that its economic benefits were marginal and its social and environmental costs high” (Honey, 1999, p. 9). Continue reading

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Our Arrogance is Partly to Blame

It would seem that to address social problems around the globe requires celebrities and western donor nations. When the earthquake hit Haiti in January of 2010, it appeared as though nothing would happen unless you donated to a big American charity. For of course, Haitians would be unable to do anything without us. In the view of the media coverage and awareness campaigns, without your dollars and support the entire Haitian nation would crumble.

Yes, the need was great and it was assisted by an influx of money from powerful nations but on the ground digging through the rubble were Haitian neighbors and organizations trying to save the people they know and love. NGOs that have been in Haiti for years, struggling to meet incredible needs with minimal resources, were still there, trying to take on the incredible burden. Many never received your dollars. Though they probably know more about the people, the culture and how to bring about change within the country, they would need to go through ten levels of bureaucracy to access your funds. Instead individuals that have never worked a day in Haiti were running around trying to device on the spot plans in the middle of chaos. Continue reading

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Dig Deeper -10 Commandments for Social Entrepreneurship

We are starting a weekly series of suggestions for would-be Social Entrepreneurs interested in developing social ventures called the 10 Commandments for Social Entrepreneurship. This series will cover initiatives that are designed to address any social problem around the globe and include 10 things that every socail entrepreneur must think or do before they jump in. This week we command that:

Thou Shalt Dig Deeper

So you see a problem. This problem bothers you immensely. You wish that you could do something to change and/or stop this problem. You are passionate about it and you talk to your friends and family all the time about this problem. One day a light bulb goes off and you realize you know exactly how to solve this problem. You write down this idea and it expands to a plan that you see you could, personally, implement. You begin to pull together the necessary resources, the people and the systems that you need to address this problem and you think you are ready to jump in. At this point or hopefully sooner, you should stop, take one more look and see if you can go deeper.

Are there any other people or organizations on this earth doing this work that you don’t know about it? Have they tried a similar method and learned there is a barrier to achieving a positive outcome? For many big (and even little) social Continue reading

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