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Partners Both Home and Abroad Help Advance VPI’s BioD Project

Over the years, Vort Port International’s BioD project has truly developed into a partnership between social entrepreneurs and students in the U.S. and in Madagascar. What started off with a handful of engineers and business specialists here in the States has evolved into a team of dedicated students and professionals with a wide range of expertise in both countries.

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BioD strives to implement human-centric solutions to pertinent issues in Madagascar, and is working with two outstanding partners there. Over the past two years, BioD has been collaborating with engineering students at The University of Antananarivo, who have been involved in the assessment, design, and prototyping phases of the project. And within the University’s Institut pour la Maitrise de l’energie, five engineering students seeking their masters degree have constructed a prototype of the BioD and are currently testing the device. All the materials used by this team as well as the inputs for testing come from Madagascar and will provide us with benchmark data essential for scaling up. Over the next two years, as the BioD project progresses to the implementation phase, these students will play a crucial role in the deployment of the biodigester technologies in rural Malagasy communities. Through this partnership we are promoting local knowledge and skill development that will outlast the BioD Project and hopefully inspire other initiatives to improve the standard of living in Madagascar.

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The BioD team has also partnered with the Rotaract Club AVANA, which is based in the capital city of Antananarivo and whose members are young professionals with backgrounds ranging from finance to marketing to information technology. Their focus is to give back to their local community through education and empowerment projects. The Rotaract Club has assessed rural communities in Madagascar where the BioD will be prototyped, which consisted of a needs analysis and a survey of locally available materials, and has initiated a partnership between the BioD Project and our partner communities. The Rotaract Club members are also assisting with the education plan of the project, which seeks to deliver environmental and human health information to community stakeholders.

And closer to home, in September 2013 BioD launched a partnership with the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. This partnership will add the support of students and faculty from their Global Human Development program. The Georgetown team has already submitted the BioD concept for a social enterprise competition through the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA). Faculty members with decades of development expertise will serve as mentors on the project.

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These partnerships and the ones we hope to develop in the future will ensure that the solutions we deliver are culturally appropriate and sustainable in the long run. BioD aims to spark a culture of entrepreneurship in Madagascar that will last beyond our project and take on the challenges of tomorrow.

This blog post was written by Rahul Mitra, VPI BioD Project Co-Director

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VPI Member Spotlight: Patrick Kwiatkowski and Joe Zook

PK and Zook

History is full of dynamic duos — two talented individuals who find that they can accomplish more by working together. Lewis and Clark. Woodward and Bernstein. Aykroyd and Belushi. Kwiatkowski and Zook. Never heard of the last pair? Well you will, or at least you’ll soon know of their work covering Vort Port International’s (VPI) efforts to enable low-income communities globally to gain access to basic necessities through education, training, and innovation of sustainable technology-based solutions.

VPI’s media team members Patrick Kwiatkowski and Joe Zook both grew up in northern Michigan — Kwiatkowski in the tiny town of Cheboygan, Zook in the even tinier town of Reed City. Their paths crossed when they both were students at Grand Valley State University, having been drawn to video production for similar reasons — each wanted to use storytelling as a way to create social change.

“I find it rewarding and invigorating to survive in a natural environment with only the most essential tools,” Zook explains. “But, perhaps paradoxically, I’ve also always been fascinated with media and creating a record of events that can be engineered to tell a story. I eventually developed an interest in combining the two.”

Joe Zook pic

During college Zook had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout China, shooting documentary and anthropology footage of people operating in an environment far removed from the “modern” world of technology and luxuries, and much more reliant on immediately available natural resources. Traversing through the Himalayas and observing the unelaborate lifestyles of small rural communities helped cement Zook’s interest in exploring the ultimate simplicity of human existence through the complicated technological medium of digital video.

Kwiatkowsk also studied film/video production in college, and found that while he enjoyed producing student work in the film program, he was growing increasingly dissatisfied with the industry itself, finding it to be aggressive, self-important, and wasteful. Wanting to explore film as a means of social discourse and public good, he switched his emphasis to nonfiction media and produced two short documentaries as well as promotional material for the United Way of Ottawa County before graduating.

After college both friends ended up in Brooklyn, working in various types of media production. One day Kwiatkowski received a call from Merry Walker, a friend of a friend, who was looking for a volunteer to produce media content for the new nonprofit she had recently co-founded. Kwiatkowski became the media director for VPI, producing video content for the organization and its projects. He soon recruited Zook to help produce promotional content for each project, utilizing footage shot overseas by other VPI members as well as content produced domestically.

“Joining up with VPI was a no-brainer for us,” Zook shares. “Developing media for an organization that supports renewable and sustainable energy initiatives for the base of the economic pyramid was precisely the opportunity that we were both looking for to contribute our skills and passion for media to a cause that mirrored both of our own personal credos.”

Since joining VPI, the team has produced promotional videos domestically for the organization, as well as provided opinions and insight from a media-minded perspective. They also shared some valuable “training” advice (as well as comic relief) during a series of videos leading up to VPI’s EmpoweRun 5K fundraiser last spring.

PK pic

“The case is made overseas, and the projects are welcomed by those we’re aiming to help. It’s now time for these projects to make their case domestically, and that is where Joe and I come in,” says Kwiatkowski. He is currently working on a live-action spot shot in Washington, D.C., which showcases the prototype bamboo bike in use for Bandha Bikes, a project based in Uganda. And Zook, with the help of artist Valerie Light, is producing a short animation piece introducing the BioD project, based in Madagascar. Both are moving quickly to finish promotional material that can help raise much-needed funds for these two projects, and afterwards they will refocus their efforts on a new spot promoting the organization as a whole.

“Working full-time elsewhere, and spread between other video projects, it can be difficult to find the time to produce enough worthy content for an organization doing so much,” Kwiatkowski admits. The team often relies on the footage shot by other members during their assessments overseas (usually on their smartphones), creating some production challenges. In the future, hopefully there will be funds in the budget for them to travel abroad and document first-hand VPI’s trials, tribulations, and successes in order to better tell the organization’s story as a nonprofit and promote the causes of each project.

“It would be a thrill and an honor to produce content hand-in-hand with the people we work with on the ground overseas, and I’m sure one day we’ll get there,” says Kwiatkowski. “Until then, we are happy to do what we can here in the U.S. Producing content with little to work with puts us in a situation that demands creativity. I like to think Joe and I are up to the challenge.”

Kwiatkowski became a first-time dad in July and hopes to impart on his daughter the importance of being a global citizen, and to do one’s part in a world increasingly stretched thin.

Zook couldn’t agree more. “Ultimately, my goal for this organization is to establish and sustain an active, relatable, and provocative media presence that educates, sparks interest, encourages the public to engage with our organization, and inspires them to utilize their own skillsets to contribute to good causes within and outside of their own communities.”

This blog post was written by Susan Patterson, Marketing and Branding Specialist for Vort Port International.

Our Honorary Founding Members

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When Vort Port International (VPI) was conceptualized and incorporated in January 2010 I was fortunate to have the help of five remarkable co-founders: Ellen Faulkner (formerly Creal), Phillip Dixon, David Yeung, Paul Jawlik, and Marianna Oykhman. VPI derived its name from the words “vortex” and “portal,” which conveyed our mission of bringing people, resources, energy, and ideas together to solve fundamental global problems through technology and entrepreneurship. The organization quickly gained followers and members interested in working towards this cause.

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The volunteers who joined soon after VPI’s incorporation truly helped to fill in the gap left as some of the founding members moved on to new endeavors. The hard work and dedication of these members helped shape the organization into what it is today. Being an organization comprised entirely of volunteers, most of the members are in school, have jobs, or both. It takes an extra something to be able to help run a nonprofit organization in addition to a multitude of other responsibilities, but these passionate members stuck around through our ups and downs, squeezing in meetings between classes, on the way to lunch, and late into the night. They used personal vacation time and funds to travel on behalf of VPI. We bounced ideas around on how we could improve, constantly sought feedback from experienced advisors, and worked to continuously improve our operational and project development models.

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By the time that VPI officially received its 501(c)(3) status in February 2011, we had completed our first project and had a membership of 20 individuals. Over the last several years, our portfolio has blossomed into three projects and our membership has doubled, with our scope expanded to three countries outside of the U.S. and our volunteers based in seven cities worldwide. We’ve hosted countless events and increased our online presence significantly. Throughout all this, there have been four integral members who have been with us since the beginning: Shivangi Khargonekar, Patrick Kwiatkowski, Chandni Shah, and Jason Vou.

On behalf of VPI’s three active founding members, Phillip Dixon, Marianna Oykhman, and myself, I would like to thank Shivangi, Patrick, Chandni, and Jason for their hard work by deeming them honorary founding members of VPI. Their selfless dedication and drive toward developing a better world has helped to lay the foundation for our organization, and I’m proud to work alongside them. It’s because of the commitment of these individuals, as well as all of our members, partners, and donors, that we have been able to evolve into a growing nonprofit with the potential to make a real change in the communities we work with.

This blog post was written by Merry Walker, Executive Director of Vort Port International

Woman of Uganda: A Banda Bikes Assessment

Even though it was back in June, I still remember the familiar smell of burnt charcoal that filled my lungs as I stepped off plane and reacquainted myself with the beautiful land of Uganda.  It had been over a year, but I was finally back.   After a 27 hour journey, including a 12 hour layover in rainy London, the boldness of the Ugandan landscape was ever more stunning.  The lush leaves of the trees, the vibrant greens of the grass, and the incredible shades of reds and browns that blended into the soil all reminded me why Uganda is called “Africa’s Pearl”.   Upon arriving in Entebbe International Airport, I searched for my name in the sea of hand-written, cardboard signs welcoming the arriving passengers.   Through my blurred delirium of exhaustion, I finally found a sign that read: “We Welcome Song”. Jackson, my driver, greeted me with a smile that seemed all too familiar.  Of course!  Jackson was the same man who drove me from the airport just one year before.   But this time we weren’t strangers, and we happily caught up with our lives as we drove the 2 hour road to Jinja, Uganda.

With only seven days in-country to conduct a feasibility assessment for Vort Port International’s Banda Bikes Project, I made the best of the little things that would have otherwise driven me crazy – the scorching heat, the lack of clean drinking water, and most of all the aggressive mosquitos.   Those trivial things didn’t matter this time.   I was here for Banda Bikes, a Vort Port project which aims to train local Ugandans to build and sell their own bicycles constructed from locally-sourced bamboo.  Through these bicycles the endeavor hopes to provide disadvantaged populations, particularly women, with greater access to food, water, employment, education, healthcare, and ultimately a greater quality of life.   But in a country that continues to face strict gender norms, such that women are frowned upon for riding bicycles in some regions, implementing this project does not come without its fair share of obstacles.   Still, the benefits of providing bicycles to a community are astronomical, including the potential to increase a household income by 35% or more. [i]

Lukaya Village. Tree of Life Ministries school performance.

Throughout the 4 schools, 4 community-based organizations, and 8 village centers visited, every day was a new adventure.   While in Kibuye Village with Sharon Nyanjura, founder and director of Arise and Shine Uganda, community members shared their dreams of one day learning to build their own bicycles through the project.   Over and over again, the voices of villagers were translated to me, “we are here for you, we will be waiting for your return”.   Although words between us were rarely exchanged directly, our long glances to one another shared the same message, webale (thank you, in the local language).   “Thank you for allowing me into your community”, something I would think to myself throughout my entire journey.

With the support of Real Partners Uganda and Trees of Life Ministries in Lukaya, Uganda, I met brilliant students who shared their dreams of being doctors, lawyers, nurses, pilots, and teachers.   Among them was Iesha, who recognized the value of a bicycle.   She shared with me, “a bicycle is important to me because everywhere I can use a bicycle.  If I had a bicycle, I would use it to fetch water.”  Iesha was one of many female students at Trees of Life Ministries who could envision the asset of a bicycle in her life, despite the opposing gender norms of females riding bicycles in the surrounding community.

For decades it has been recognized by USAID and organizations alike, that women are a force that can transform an entire community.  We also recognize that “countries and companies will thrive if women are educated and engaged as fundamental pillars of the economy”. [ii]   Women continue to have incredible influences on their families and communities, both in developing and industrialized countries, yet the gender gap in equality persists around the globe, including Uganda. [iii]   With the hope of addressing gender inequality with the Banda Bikes project, the voices of women throughout the villages became louder than ever.

Song meeting with the women of Lwanda Village.

In Wakiso District with Katongole Issa of Nansana Children’s Center, I met a single-mother, Fausta.   With her husband having passed away years ago, she is now burdened with raising four children on her own.  With Fausta as the sole financial provider for her children, every day is a struggle.   In a small room which served as the living room, bedroom, and dining room for the entire family of five, I sat with Fausta as she shared her many hardships.   When sales at her potato stand are low, she may make as little as $0.42 a day (US currency), which is the entire cost of her journey back home.  On those rough days, Fausta brings no income home to support her family.

Despite my familiarity with living conditions in the developing world no article, textbook, or lecture can ever prepare someone for the pain and emotion evoked in the eyes of one who actually lives it.   It took a good measure of effort not to shed tears for Fausta as she shared her daily struggles with me.   Fausta reminds me of my own mother and the challenges she faced raising me and my two siblings alone.   Still, two words make the difference between Fausta’s story and that of my mother’s – Government Assistance.  For Fausta, and single-mothers like her, government assistance is a rarity in Uganda, almost non-existent.  I asked myself, “who is here to help these women?”  Across the globe the majority of those living on less than $1 a day are women, regardless of hours worked.   The opportunities for women to earn a living consistently fall short of their male counterparts. [iv], [v]

Nevertheless, as Vort Port International’s Banda Bikes Project further develops, we have in mind the amazing women throughout our partnering communities.  The project will continue to recognize the gender gap and aim to create opportunities for women to learn about, be involved, and eventually build their own bicycles just like their male neighbors.   Until our next visit to Uganda, I will remember fondly the children at Trees of Life Ministries who shared with me their aspirations, and the inspiring people in Lukaya who are waiting for our return.  But most of all, I will often think about Fausta and her beautiful children who remain resilient through their daily struggles, happy and hopeful to have learned about Banda Bikes. The Ugandan communities have helped me recognize the incredible opportunity that exists when local people are provided with support to make a difference in their own communities.  It is their motivation, endless hope, and inspiration which continue to drive Banda Bikes and the people of Vort Port International.  Until my next visit – webale.

Nansana Town. Song with Fausta, children, and friends.

This blog post was written by Song Nguyen, a member of Vort Port International and the project director for Banda Bikes.


[i] Sieber, N. Appropriate transport and rural development in Makete district, Tanzania. Journal of Transport Geography, 6(1). 1998.

[ii] Hausmann, R., Tyson, L., Zahidi, S. The global gender gap report 2011: Insight report. World Economic Forum.  Available at:  http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2011.pdf.

[iii] USAID. Gender equality and women’s empowerment. Retrieved from: http://www.usaid.gov/what-we-do/gender-equality-and-womens-empowerment.

[iv] Murray, A. F. From Outrage to Courage. Common Courage Press. Monroe, ME; 1998.

[v] United Nations. Gender and Human Development. Human Development Report. Available at: http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/global/hdr1995/chapters/.

Bamboo Bicycles

For ages, transportation has transformed societies.  Ever since the invention of fixed wheels on carts (3500 BC), the domestication of horses (2000 BC), and creation of a gasoline engine automobile (Lenoir, 1862), man has relied on efficient design and harnessing energy from external sources  to propel ourselves from one place to another.  In Western culture, automobiles and airplanes provide the luxury to expand businesses, visit loved ones, transport resources, and receive aid when needed.  I frequently find myself annoyed at delays in the Metro system or flights, rather than appreciating the fact that I am able to travel across the country in merely hours.

Vort Port International (VPI) has begun a new project called bamboo bikes, providing much-needed basic transportation for regions around the world that can greatly benefit from a technology such as a bicycle. The new leader of this project, Song Nguyen, spent  some time volunteering in Uganda at a non-profit called Restless Development, Uganda, she noted that in her interviews with Ugandans, one of the items they needed the most was a bicycle. They expressed the ceaseless limitations lacking a bicycle had on their daily lives, from access to basic needs of survival to healthcare. However, the cost of bicycles in Uganda are cost prohibitive for the average family, and the maintenance of the bikes are typically too difficult to access.

VPI is inspired by the Bamboo Bike Project, which was started out of Columbia University, and is working to design, prototype, test, and bring affordable and sustainable bicycles to rural communities that need it most. Bamboo itself is one of the fastest growing, sturdiest plants in the world, with the ability to grow up to 39 inches in just 24 hours. Furthermore, bamboo can be frequently found in the damp, jungle climate of Uganda.

I am excited not only to bring these products to people around the world, but to work with Song and her team to establish an educational plan so that the consumers of the bamboo bikes understand how to fix, maintain, and afford their bikes. In the future, we will explore add-ons to increase the ability for an individual to resources. These bicycles will hopefully bring the ability for a family to access food and water, medications, and critical resources in a timely manner.

This article was written by Merry Walker, who is the Executive Director of Vort Port International. She currently resides in Washington DC.

Uncontacted Tribes of Peru

In February of this year, the organization Survival International and the BBC released stunning aerial footage of one of the world’s last remaining uncontacted tribes, a group of indigenous people living in Peru’s Amazon rainforest. Using camera lenses with long focal lengths, the photographers obtained intimate footage of tribal settlements and people from a kilometer above.

The footage is captivating; images depicting an expansive landscape of immense natural beauty and desperate fragility evoke a kind of wonder tinged with foreboding – much of the world once looked like this. These days, it is a sight unfamiliar to the common viewer.

Looking closer, we are introduced to the subject of the video: the small tribe of indigenous people living, away from the influence of an ever-encroaching society, in the midst of this remnant of untouched rainforest. Truly a part of the ecosystem – not a pressure on it – one cannot help but weigh against these stark images the contrast of more familiar sights: urbanization, oil exploration, deforestation and environmental destruction.

On August 8, various news sources reported that alleged drug traffickers, smuggling cocaine from Peru to Brazil, made potentially violent contact with the tribe depicted in the above video (read the story here). Survival International and the Brazilian government’s Indian Affairs Department both report that the tribe has been driven from their settlement and has disappeared without a trace.

The initial impact of the above footage was immense, for the existence of tribes such as this one was previously dismissed by the Peruvian government. These vulnerable people have historically had no representation in government, no voice in politics, and no defense from exploitation and violent invasion. Without government support, the eventual tragic fate of tribal people the world throughout is inevitable. Today, far too little is being done to protect and uphold the basic human rights of the world’s most vulnerable peoples. Documented proof of their existence is invaluable to their protection, but without social and political reform in areas where tribal people are at the greatest risk, acknowledgment alone is not enough.

Of course, uncontacted tribes are not the only peoples at risk of being hurt and exploited. Nor are they alone those in need of our attention. Mainstream media, consumerism, and the distractions of Western society keep many of us underexposed and uninformed of the plight of the world’s less fortunate. Too preoccupied with our own challenges, many of us simply don’t realize how much we would care – if only our awareness was broadened.

As the world’s natural resources continue to dwindle at alarming rates, the exploitation of vulnerable human beings can almost always be traced back to increasingly desperate means of resource acquisition. Timber, oil, food and clean water dominate the needs of much of the world’s societies, and as governments and corporations further exploit the Earth and its people, those who need help the most continue to receive the least. There is a dire need for a major paradigm shift in the ways our societies consume, as the risk of abiding the status quo has never been so great.

But our ability to reach a broad audience and establish a common thread of progressive thinking has also never been so feasible. With focus and poise, we have both the power and the credibility to continue striving for meaningful change. Simply by caring, you are part of the collective consciousness that longs to make a difference. But action is most powerful, and it comes in myriad forms. Signing petitions. Boycotting exploitative organizations. Making donations to causes. Changing your patterns of consumption. And, perhaps above all, maximizing the potential of the tools of communication before you to help raise awareness of the topics that instill with you the most passion. Talk to each other. Make your opinion known. Spread the word. A sustainable planet is possible.

This blog post was written by Josef Zook, a member of Vort Port International’s Media Team. He currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.

Introducing Our New Teammates!

A lot of good news has been happening around the Vort Port International camp lately. And one thing leads to the next. More funding means more projects, and more projects means we need more help! It’s all very exciting. So today I’d like you to help all of us at the VPI family welcome our new teammates. We’re glad to have everyone and we’re lucky to be working with them to help those at the bottom of the pyramid who need it! So welcome…

First up is a few new additions to the Girls Republic team (with more details on that soon) headed up by Thendo. Joining Thendo is

Jaime Duque: has a BA in business, works with cost benefit analysis that deals with health and safety.

Laura Miller Laura Miller: comes to us filling the role of research officer, all types of fact-finding missions for the projects. Currently works together with Thendo, has a background in journalism media studies.

Song Song Nguyen: will be helping with public health initiatives. Studied Public Health at GW, has a background in family and human development.

Next we have two new members to the communications team:

Kevin Chandler: will be helping with corporate sponsorship development (potential sponsors, talk to Kevin! :))studied journalism and communications at UNC and had a masters in political science and climate change.

Lauren Chiarello Lauren Chiarello: will help with grant writing for the communications team. Lauren works as Director of Federal Affairs for the MS Foundation, and has a background in public healh.

And last, but certainly not least, new help on the operations team!

Li Nie Li Nie: our fantastic new accounting intern.

tanisha Tanisha Govil: serving as internal operations associate, she’ll be helping our Internal Director, Shivangi, with recruiting even more people, interviewing them, and more internal affairs. Tanisha brings an impressive background and knowledge in HR.

So there you have it. Feel free to leave a comment of welcome! Feel free to check out each member’s in-depth bios on our Team Page.

Stay tuned for updates on our projects and some exciting news from this past weekend!

Project: Madagascar Biodigesters

Here’s a look at our Madagascar Biodigesters project.

Madagascar is an incredibly complex country, steeped in beautiful landscapes, endemic species, and vibrant cultures yet also host to high deforestation rates and biodiversity loss, political instability and abject poverty.  With one of the highest population growth rates in the world at 3% annually, and a per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of less than $US2 per day (per World Bank), environmental degradation caused by human settlements continues to grow at alarming rates.  While environmental issues occur worldwide, the impacts in Madagascar are exponentially worse for biodiversity because 70% of the species found there are found nowhere else in the world.  Madagascar is in critical need of conservation programs that do not negatively impact the economic and social livelihoods of the Malagasy people.

One of the most significant threats to biodiversity is deforestation and land use change.  According the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) there are 472 endangered or critically endangered species on the island.  The three primary causes of deforestation in Madagascar are all related to human activity: slash and burn agriculture; logging for timber; and logging for fuel wood and charcoal production.

There are significant challenges to curbing deforestation rates in a country where more than 70% of the population lives in rural areas and survives on less than $US2 per day.  With livelihoods dependent on agriculture and wood the only cheap and accessible fuel source, Malagasy people have few alternatives to continued deforestation.

As a localized challenge with the global ramifications of biodiversity loss and increased greenhouse gas emissions, creative solutions are needed to reduce deforestation rates while providing communities with effective and affordable alternatives to land use and energy production.

Vort Port International has identified the opportunity to bridge the energy divide through the implementation of biodigester technology.  Providing a mechanism to create a renewable and sustainable fuel source from waste products will reduce demand for wood charcoal and therefore lead to decreased deforestation.

Through the establishment of a successful biodigester enterprise, committed to community development and education, VPI will create a replicable model of a cohesive environmental conservation, social entrepreneurship, economic development, and educational program.

Madagascar Biodigester Process

Madagascar Biodigester Process

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

Hello!

This is Merry Walker, Vort Port International’s (VPI)  Executive Director.  I am currently in Cancun, Mexico with Chandni Shah, VPI’s Business Affairs Director.  We have had a great time getting to learn from the various panel events, speaker series, networking with various individuals, and most importantly, listening to the stories of people from around the world.

One main difference I’ve noticed between this Conference of Parties (COP) and last years is the general decreased expectations of outcomes.  I went to a panel event discussing REDD+ and a gentleman from UNDP mentioned that by nature, the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that he interacts with are optimistic.  As I continue to discuss the projects VPI is implementing and aiming to implement in the coming year, people reach with a jaded sense that so many development efforts have traditionally failed.  I am starting to think they have failed because traditional NGOs base their organizational model and funding structure based on philanthropic donations, rather than embracing what is commonly referred to as “social ventures.”  I’m gland and proud to part of an organization that differentiates itself by being non-profit in nature, to promote volunteerism, fiscal responsibility, and transparency, but work to empower people and communities through social entrepreneurship.

On a separate note, a hot topic of conversation is this REDD+, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.  The + means that REDD+ goes beyond just addressing deforestation and the direct impacts of deforestation, but explores and develops programs for sustainable forest management and the establishment of carbon stocks.  Many for-profit and non-profit entities are putting their heads together to create multistakeholder activities to measure (by way of satellite and other intelligent carbon detection technologies), catalog, and monetize the amount of carbon stock with dense forest cover.  These dense forests act as carbon sinks and in some voluntary programs, can have a dollar amount attached to their conservation, and then the that carbon equivalent is traded or sold to companies wishing to offset their carbon emissions.

Now the tough part is getting international binding legislation to have countries commit to an international carbon reduction level so that all the countries are on even playing fields and one country will not benefit significantly more from the carbon market.  Will report back on plenary activities later.

Thanks for stopping by!

Merry

Low Cost Tech for Lowest Part of the Pyramid.

Chances are you’ve got the Monday blues and are more in the mood to be talked to than you are to read some article I decide to type up. Fortunately, I’ve got two great TED talks that will do the trick!

Vision for the Future

Josh's low-cost vision correction

The first you may have seen within the past year, and features Josh Silver demoing some very low-cost glasses (though they still need work) that can be adjusted to the right prescription in a matter of seconds and more than once. There’s a liquid inside the lenses that adjust to the needs of whoever might be wearing them, and as of this talk, they cost $19:

In another demo, Adam Grosser shows off a sustainable refrigerator. It’s low cost and requires no electricity, keeps foods cool–and more importantly, medicines preserved–in remote corners of the world. I hope that wasn’t too much reading for you. Don’t worry, tomorrow’s Tuesday! Enjoy the videos.

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