Last night at CU Boulder the 27 new Fellows from the 2011 Unreasonable Institute cohort gave ~2 minute quick overviews of the amazing social entrepreneurship projects that they are involved with, primarily in the developing world. The Fellows, who have just arrived in Boulder, have gathered for an intensive month of brainstorming and working with mentors to hone their projects and skills and then tackle anew the challenges of poverty, climate change, inequalities and oppression that they have sought to address.
The presentations by the Fellows and leadership from the Institute was a moving whirlwind of incredible ideas, dynamic personalities, enormous, daunting challenges and, universally, a “can-do” entrepreneurial spirit that is super-inspiring and brilliant.
The Unreasonable Institute, which was incubated largely through the Deming School for Entrepreneurship at the Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder and held a similar event in 2010, describes itself as “Giving the World’s Most Unreasonable Entrepreneurs Wings- Intensive training, effective collaboration, international exposure, and expert guidance from the world’s best ensure that the ventures we work with take flight.”
All the Fellows are without exception impressive and are already changing the world, focusing on finding effective means of addressing practical and systemic problems. Most are geared toward helping the poorest and most vulnerable populations in the world, people who live on a few dollars a day and have limited and sometimes no access to clean water, safe cooking fuels, or basic health and education opportunities.
A few of the highlights:
Anne Githuku-Shongwe from South Africa who, after twenty years working for the United Nations, left to start The Afroes Transformational Games project to help inspire and inform young people in Africa.
Donna Morton who, recognizing that many First Nation peoples in the Arctic spend absurd amounts of money on diesel fuels for heating and lighting, established First Nation Power so that communities can use renewable energy to light and heat their lives.
Gaurav Manchanda, who established One Degree Solar, which is “a supplier of solar energy and lighting products created specifically for individuals and small businesses in developing countries” that uses “innovative SMS technologies throughout the entire lifecycle of our products, from advertising to after-sale support, in order to have direct contact with customers, build customer loyalty, and maximize revenue per end-user.”
Maria Rodriguez, working in Guatemala and Mexico, whose Worms 4 Change was founded after she learned about how worms can help transform degradable waste. She writes that after learning about vermiculture, “all I became interested in was worms and how to develop a professional business plan inspired by vermiculture & vermicomposting to end rural poverty in Guatemala.”
Moses Sanga from Uganda, whose Eco-Fuel Africa, a “social enterprise determined to eradicate over dependence on wood-fuel in Sub-Saharan Africa by making organic charcoal from agricultural waste.” They use proceeds to plant trees in Africa, with the target of at least a quarter of a billion trees by 2020.
Nathaniel Koloc, who established TerraShift after seeing too many talented people, especially young ones, not be able to use their skills and passion to help the world. ”We believe that talented young people shouldn’t have to choose between making a living and making a difference.”
Patricia Compas, an engineer by training who, frustrated by the delay of providing fresh water to people impacted by disasters and the disease and deaths that resulted, co-invented a waterbag of freshwater that can easily be delivered to those in need. She founded DayOne Reponse to products to “help relief workers to be more effective and disaster survivors to maintain their dignity and independence.”
Our mission is to retain in school girls who are at risk of dropping out, or have never been schooled, and to give them practical, income-boosting skills. Our innovative curriculum provides participants the tools and training to launch their own handcrafts micro-enterprises. The profits fund their education, breaking the cycle of poverty and illiteracy.
Scot Frank, who established One Earth Designs, which is, among other things, helping promote SolSource, “a lightweight solar energy device that provides users with a low-cost and portable means of cooking, heating and electricity generation.”
These are just a few examples of the projects the Fellows are involved with to demonstrate the diversity and enthusiasm of these entrepreneurs who are tackling unreasonable problems with creativity, passion and humor.
The Fellows will spend the next month is a huge house in Boulder, living and eating and working together, getting input and feedback from world-class mentors, and then heading back into the world with new insights and a global network of friends and collaborators to draw support and ideas from.