Local Economies

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What Non-Profits Can Learn From Coca-Cola?

Melinda Gates, through her travels for the Gates Foundation in the developing world, sees that poverty-stricken areas do not have a lot of things we take for granted- clean surroundings, clean water, sanitation or electricity. But she is astounded by what they do have- Coke. At TEDxChange, Melinda Gates makes a provocative case for nonprofits taking a cue from corporations such as Coca-Cola, whose plugged-in, global network of marketers and distributors ensures that every remote village wants — and can get — a Coke. Why shouldn’t this work for condoms, sanitation, vaccinations too?

December 21st

NURU Energy Provides Cheap, Efficient Night Lighting to Rwanda and Promotes Social Entrepreneurs

NURU Energy is replacing expensive, dangerous, and unhealthy kerosene in rural Rwandan households by introducing a cheap, safe, and clean night lighting solution, known as the NURU Light. The poor’s sources of energy are dirty and inefficient, and on a per-kilowatt basis they cost anywhere from 5-100 times more than modern fuels and electricity. The paradox is that the poor are spending a disproportionate share of their income on a product that richer people can get cheaper and of high quality.
The NURU light is multifunctional, modular, efficient, bright and durable. It can be recharged in a number of ways – using pedal power, power grid or through a solar charger. The distribution model is based on helping local residents to start small businesses that rent out and recharge lights. NURU’s practice is to partner with micro lenders — financial institutions that make small loans to citizens— in order to teach and help would-be entrepreneurs become NURU franchisees.

October 18th

Trash to Cooking Fuel: Recycled Paper Can Replace Firewood in Haiti, Save Forests

Growing and cooking food presents different problems in different parts of the world. In poverty and disaster stricken Africa, energy to meet cooking needs is a complex problem that has led to complicated environmental, economic and social situations.
In disaster stricken Haiti, International Lifeline Fund’s program, is working to wean the country off this lethal addiction. Throughout Haiti, 95% of the population relies on wood and/or charcoal for cooking. This cooking method has ravaged the environment, and poses a huge economic cost to families as well. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the cost of charcoal accounts for approximately 40% of the income of the typical Haitian family.

ILF’s initiative in Haiti seeks to address these urgent problems by providing fuel saving stoves that is designed to run on either wood or briquettes that is recycled paper compressed into briquettes. This is part of a two-part solution to the problems of fuel demand and excessive waste. When using briquettes made from waste, stoves save 100% of wood or charcoal that would have been previously used. When briquettes are unavailable and wood is the only option, the stoves save 60-80% of wood as compared to cooking on a traditional fire or charcoal stove.

October 15th

Local Orbit Makes Local Produce Easy to Buy and Sell in Detroit

Locally grown food is the rage these days, with more and more consumers clearly concerned about where their food is coming from. There is an increasing demand for farm produce and growing need to connect directly with producers. But sometimes its not always easy to get local food. What do you do if you want locally grown produce, but cannot visit week-day farmer markets?

Local Orbit is a new way to buy food and other local goods direct from producers in your community, if you live in the greater Detroit area. Erika Block is the founder of Local Orbit, an Ann Arbor, MI-based tech startup that facilitates the distribution of local, sustainably farmed food and expects to roll Local Orbit out to many more markets nationwide by 2012 – 2013.

September 26th

The Cleanweb Hackathon Invites Innovative Minds to Do Social Good Via Technology

The CleanWeb Hackathon is an upcoming gathering (September 10 & 11th) in San Francisco to demonstrate the impact of applying information technology to resource constraints. The goal is to organize a competition to build apps and hacks exploiting new sustainable business models while leveraging the mobile and social web. The hackathon is an interesting concept that builds on creative thinking and information technology.
The hackathon challenge attendees on what they can do in 24 hours with utility, transport and smart grid datasets that might just change the world just a little bit. At the end of a marathon hack session, teams will demo their apps and hacks for the audience and a group of select judges. It’s a fantastic opportunity to develop something great, learn about CleanWeb and meet like minds.

September 5th