A Collection of Thoughts & Discoveries

Technology, Business, Giving, Etc.

  • “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Ernest Hemmingway
  • “Judge each day not by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson
  • “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Gandhi
  • “Noble deeds that are concealed are most esteemed.” Blaise Pascal
  • “A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.” Ayn Rand
  • “If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.” John D. Rockefeller
  • “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” Thomas Jefferson
  • “Sense shines with a double luster when it is set in humility. An able yet humble man is a jewel worth a kingdom.” William Penn
  • “There is a great satisfaction in building good tools for other people to use.” Freeman Dyson
  • “You don't know what you can learn until you try to learn.” Ronald Coase
  • “Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” Mark Twain
  • “Create more value than you capture.” Tim O'Reilly

Category: Giving

Asian University for Women: A Triumph of Hope over Despair

Amit Chakma, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Western Ontario, has a post on The Globe and Mail opinion page regarding the Asian University for Women (AUW). In that post Dr. Chakma expresses his belief in the importance of education as a means of improving conditions in regions of the world which are suffering from abject poverty, discrimination and oppression.

In fact, it’s clearly evident that, for societies to be able to make progress, women must be given equal opportunity, and they must be allowed to play leadership roles.” Amit Chakma

In the article, Dr. Chakma shares that he was a boy from a tribe in the hills of southeastern Bangladesh, stating that neither he nor his parents would ever have dreamed that he would one day become the president of a 133 year-old university in Canada. The context is that opportunities provided by organizations like the AUW are essential to helping people break away from the cycle of poverty and despair through access to education. Check it out. end of article icon

Related Posts:
Cherie Blair Takes Position as Chancellor of A.U.W.
The Asian University for Women: A Special Cause

Posted on Saturday, March 12, 2011 in Giving

The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz

Jacqueline Novogratz is the founder and CEO of Acumen Fund, a nonprofit venture capital fund committed to investing in business models which help to empower the poor. The Blue Sweater is a chronicle of the events in the author’s life which led to her eventual establishment of Acumen Fund.

The dialogue begins by describing the sweater she received as a gift from her uncle when she was a young girl. Jacqueline loved the sweater, but after being harshly teased in school she donated it to Goodwill. Many years later, while trying to sort out what she would do with her life, she met a young boy on a street in Rwanda who was wearing her sweater. This was a seminal moment that would mark the beginning of an amazing journey.

After more than 20 years of working in Africa, India, and Pakistan, I’ve learned that solutions to poverty must be driven by discipline, accountability, and market strength, not easy sentimentality. I’ve learned that many of the answers to poverty lie in the space between the market and charity and that what is needed most of all is moral leadership willing to build solutions from the perspectives of poor people themselves rather than imposing grand theories and plans upon them.” Jacqueline Novogratz

In the book, Jacqueline humbly shares the events that would teach her so much about cultures in Africa which differ greatly from what she experienced growing up in the United States, as she learned how to cope with and grow beyond her naiveté. Though her college education and work on Wall Street prepared her for certain business challenges, she was not prepared for many of the challenges presented her while working for non-governmental organizations (N.G.O.) in some of the poorest regions of Africa. Her work centered mostly around teaching women how to engage in business in a land where women have little or no self-identity or personal rights. Respecting local customs and truly listening became as important as skillful business artistry in working to affect meaningful and lasting change in African women’s lives.

The author provides detailed descriptions of everything from scenery to the clothing people wore, giving the reader a sense of participation. As one who travels outside of my home-country often, I enjoyed the imagery provided by these descriptions.

The Blue Sweater is a wonderful and inspiring read, although there are parts which are difficult to read without emotional response. The almost unimaginable poverty and harshness of genocide are provoking, but they are juxtaposed with stories of strength, triumph and dignity.

I love how Jacqueline continuously fought with bureaucrats in defense of practical solutions to ensure lasting improvements in women’s circumstances, preferring micro-finance lending over handouts. She didn’t always win, but at least she tried–and sometimes she learned why some of her methods were ill-conceived and naive. The Blue Sweater should be required reading for all N.G.O.s and charities.

When Jacqueline Novogratz was a young girl she knew she wanted to change the world, and she has done so in a very positive way. The Blue Sweater allows us to join her on her inspiring journey.end of article icon

Posted on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 in Giving

Cherie Blair Takes Position as Chancellor of A.U.W.

This week, former United Kingdom first lady, Cherie Blair, has taken the role of chancellor of The Asian University for Women (A.U.W.) in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Mrs. Blair is widely recognized as a staunch supporter of, and advocate for, the advancement of women’s business, entrepreneurial and educational opportunities. Much of this support is provided through her foundation, and now will also continue through her leadership role at the A.U.W.

I fight, personally and professionally, for women’s equality because I passionately believe it is a fundamental matter of principle and justice. It is clear that AUW’s trail-blazing graduates will provide young women across the region with much-needed examples of leadership, raising ambitions to help unlock more potential.” Cherie Blair

Mrs. Blair is just one of many successful and influential women (and men) participating in the empowerment of women through education at the A.U.W. You can read more about the A.U.W. in an earlier post here.

I firmly believe that projects which empower women, especially those in the Middle East, Africa and Asia (such as the A.U.W. and The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women), as well as programs which help business-mined individuals in developing regions around the world (like Acumen Fund), are a major part of the solution to many global problems. Through education and opportunity, the leverage of strife and oppression is removed as a tool used by those exploiting people in troubled areas. Everyone benefits when good people are given opportunity to learn, work, and share their visions – contributing to the betterment of a global community.end of article icon

Posted on Saturday, January 22, 2011 in Giving

The Asian University for Women: A Special Cause

A friend of mine introduced me to The Asian University for Women (A.U.W.) recently and I was very moved by what I learned of the organization. It’s located in Chittagong, Bangladesh, south of Dhaka near the Bay of Bengal. The founder and acting vice chancellor is Kamal Ahmad, and from what I understand from my friend and further reading, he is quite a special guy. Mr. Ahmad and his team have assembled an impressive group of administrators, teaching faculty, advisors and supporters. You can check them out via the links at the bottom of this post.

The university is geared toward educating young women from throughout Asia, many of whom come from socioeconomic circumstances that would otherwise likely preclude them from accessing such quality education. This year (academic year of 2010-2011) students represent 13 Asian countries. Some of the background stories of the young women attending are quite moving. While the school is not free, a full 75% of students in the “Access Academy” (preparatory) are provided full-funding, and others are provided aid based on need. This assistance continues as the students continue their education through graduation.

Guest lecturers from Harvard, Stanford, and other respected institutions speak at the A.U.W., as do experts in various professional fields from around the world. The diversity of material covered and quality of the participants is impressive.

Here’s a brief video which provides an introductory overview of the university:

The school has been operating in rented facilities, but construction of a new campus designed by Moshe Safdie is to begin very soon. There is information and an artist's rendering on their website. (Edit: I linked to a video of Mr. Safdie explaining his vision of the new campus in the comments here.)

Offices for the A.U.W. Support Foundation are located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A. The chairman of the foundation is Jack Meyer, who has a significant background in money management on a large scale—another example of the quality of the team behind the A.U.W.

Here are some links to pages on the A.U.W. website (one can read annual reports and other materials by drilling deeper on the site):

First, a link to a brief introduction to The Asian University for Women, in PDF form.

And here are the A.U.W.’s International Council of Advisors and Council of Patrons.

The purpose of posting this is that I hope it helps (in some small way) to expose the A.U.W. to more people. Perhaps you too will be moved by the cause and think of some way to have a positive influence on it—whether giving through direct donation, or presenting it to someone else who can make a donation or sponsor a scholarship. Supporting the university can be done in several ways, and depending on one’s location and circumstances, donations may be tax deductible. Here’s a link to information on their site about such support.end of article icon

UPDATE: The A.U.W. hosted an international symposium January 20th through 22nd, 2011, in Bangladesh. Ms. Marina Mahathir has published an article outlining many of the happenings from that event. There was also a groundbreaking ceremony at the new campus site at Chittagong. Check out Marina’s blog for her post about the progress she sees at the A.U.W.

Related Post: Cherie Blair Assumes Roll as Chancellor of A.U.W.

Posted on Saturday, December 25, 2010 in Giving

Wokai: Micro-loans for China’s Poor

Two young American women who studied Chinese in Bejing have created a fund for helping China’s poor who struggle even while the economy is growing there. The wealth being generated by the growth in China is said to not be trickling down to many of the country’s poor.

Wokai lends small amounts of money to entrepreneurs (micro-loans of a few hundred U.S. dollars) so that they can make changes in their businesses necessary to achieve their goals. The money is then returned to Wokai for distribution to others. Read more at the Wokai website.

The BBC has a brief video about Wokai HERE. Kudos to Casey Wilson and Courtney McClogen for setting this up. I hope they get the additional funding they seek to expand their project.end of article icon

Posted on Monday, December 20, 2010 in Giving

Chris Anderson: Crowd Accelerated Innovation

Chris Anderson is the director of TED. In this inspiring video, Chris presents his take on how crowds contribute to more rapid innovation and provides great examples.

By the way, Chris’ wife, Jacqueline Novogratz, is the founder and CEO of the non-profit venture capital fund called Acumen Fund, which invests in entrepreneurial projects in poor and developing nations. I like what they’re doing and recommend that you take a look at them too.end of article icon

[via: Josh Zúñiga]

Posted on Sunday, December 12, 2010 in StartupGiving