Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Blog Action Day 2012: It starts again

I suppose if there is an appropriate time to breathe life back into this blog, there’s no better time to do it than on Blog Action Day 2012.  It’s been four years since H and I started this blog, and more than two years since our last post.  Needless to say both our personal and professional lives have radically changed since.  H is now a proud owner of a neat little piece of paper that certifies her academic prowess in mastering the science of forensics.  I have bid farewell to my first work “home”; the five year tenure over both London and New York offices nurtured a loyalty, unbeknownst to me, that lingers with faded sadness a year onward still.  I also turned down an opportunity to move back to my beloved UK, a decision that leaves me in awe when I think about it, so I don’t (because my defense mechanism says so).

Since my declaration of commitment to New York a year ago, I have become more active in exploring the pockets of social goodness so prevalent in this majestic city.  A quick search on Meetup can fill your calendar in no time with corporate social responsibility panels, microfinance happy hours, or eco fashion conversations.  It was at a meetup event on the future of eco fashion, where the panelists (most, if not all, were younger than me) took turns sharing their challenging but impactful journeys as social entrepreneurs.  One panelist, Dave of Holstee, empathically stressed that while they are in the business of selling products (see line of wallets made from recycled plastic bags from New Delhi), it is also equally important to challenge their customers about consumption.  So much so that they have incorporated the following message to pop up as online customers are about to make their purchases: Do you really need what you are about to buy?  The exuberance of such passionate convictions was infectious, and to someone whose entire spending habit was centered on the thrills on scoring good bargains, to say I left the event overwhelmed would be an understatement.  And so begun the shift on my values on consumption, which I look to revisit in future blog posts. 

On that note, I will leave you with the Holstee Manifesto. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)

While researching for a project on social competitiveness indices, I came across an article that emphasized the importance of transparency in fighting corruption. The article specifically cites the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and below is their introductory video:

EITI - Making resources work for people from EITI International on Vimeo.

It is encouraging to see that a simple governance process such as independent reconciliation between company records and government records builds the necessary infrastructure to reduce corruption.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Party for a Change

About three weeks ago, my dear friend Jackie emailed me to spread the word about Party for a Change, a non profit recently started by her friend Michelle. The idea behind Party for a Change is to combine networking events and charitable causes. Its kick off event was happy hour to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Unfortunately I had a clash that night but I replied to Jackie and asked her to put me in touch with Michelle for an interview. Jackie did just that and a couple of emails with Michelle later, we have the interview below. Let me just note that I have yet to speak to Michelle, but her enthusiasm for Party for a Change is definitely evident in our emails. It's quite infectious and I am excited to share the interview below!

Hi Michelle, thank you for agreeing to do this. So let's start off with you. what is your education and work background?
In 2006, I graduated from Manhattanville College with an International Management degree and Sociology minor. During my four years there, my peers and I were constantly surrounded by the concept of volunteerism and giving back to the community. Most of my time was devoted to all the clubs and activities I became a part of. After graduating, I still loved and cherished the wonderful things my peers and I had accomplished and I wanted to keep at it. So I ultimately decided to go to the New School University and obtain my Masters in Non Profit Management.

During the time between graduating from undergrad to graduating from graduate school, I was able to get a real grip of the non-profit sector - from small nonprofits to large foundations. I had an internship at a youth exchange program where high school students from Muslim countries got to study abroad in the US for a whole year to help break down the cultural barriers and stereotypes. I also wanted to gain a sense of what a larger organization's work would be like. I received an opportunity to intern at President William J. Clinton's Foundation where I was able to learn about the massive amount of work an organization takes on an international scale. Also how much time, effort and constant devotion it will take to accomplish that. I also had the chance to work at various part-time positions at different organizations just so I could gain experience and get a better sense of day to day operations.

The day I graduated from the New School, I got a call from the Michael J. Fox Foundation and was offered a position in their Research department. In July, I was then offered a position on their Development team where I am still currently working and absolutely love my job!

What timing! So Party for a Change, what is is all about?
Party for a Change is to enhance young professionals' ability to network and expand their professional circles while promoting awareness to various charitable causes. Through social networking events, young professionals seeking to network with others in various fields can also begin to build their foundation for individual giving. Proceeds from these social events go directly to the selected charity/non-profit organization of the evening. We network and give back - the fun way!

What inspired you to start Party for a Change?
During the beginning of this year which was also my last semester of graduate school, I found it be a very tricky time as were a lot of other people. I was constantly applying to different positions to get my foot in the door. By the time May rolled around, I was tired of trying but still stayed hopeful. I stopped applying the week of my graduation and then told myself that I should just start my own non-profit. With the economic climate in an uneasy state, I had some time to truly reflect on my future aspirations and that is when the light bulb went off and Party for a Change was created.

When thinking of what type of non-profit I wanted to create, I really couldn't decide. I had some many different interests and I just wanted to help them all. I wanted to create something different. Something fun and not the typical organization. So I thought to myself -- what do people like to do thats fun? Well, going to parties for sure. And since I was so indecisive about what type of cause I wanted to support I thought to myself - why not support them all? Why not have parties and support all different types of organizations?! Why not? I didn't understand why this wasn't the next best thing. So I passed the idea along to a few of my friends to see if they would actually ever go to an event like this. They all gave me positive feedback which truly inspired to actually get the ball rolling.

What was the hardest part about starting Party for a Change?
The hardest part is building the foundation. Getting all the small pieces together to lay out that ground work. All the planning and the reaching out to people and contacts.

Tell us a little more about Michael J. Fox foundation as your first selected charity.
I currently work at MJFF and since all the resources I needed were at my fingertips, it would have been a shame not to take advantage of it. Since it was our first event, we wanted to make it as simple and basic as possible. We wanted Party for a Change's mission to get across to those who attended and had some interest of what we are trying to do. Using MJFF as our first donation is also really special to me because even if I did not work there, it is an excellent organization that can and will do great things.

How did the first event go?
The first event went very well. It was very intimate and it was a great chance for us to meet new people, gain positive and negative feedback and build our contact list. Also, sending out invites and e-mails to attend the event gained more interest for future events. It was overall a great time and we raffled off some great prizes which everyone seemed to really like a lot!

What can we expect from Party for a Change in the upcoming months?
Currently, we already have December lined up with a Toys for Tots event the week before Christmas and in January and February are in the works of supporting two great organizations! Stay posted! 2010 will be a great time and we can't wait!

For future organizations that are interested in having Party for a Change be one of their selected organizations, please feel free to contact us. As of now, we have already been approached by peers and colleagues that have suggested their favorite causes and we think that is really important because people who have a connection to organizations make events like these all the more worthy and meaningful.

What advice do you have for someone that is interested in starting their own non profit?
Spend a lot of time differentiating yourself from other similar organizations. Create a nonprofit that is different - that people will remember. Patience is very important and this will not be an overnight success. It takes a lot of time and energy but definitely worth your efforts. Don't be afraid to ask for help/advice. Lean on your friends/contacts. Keep learning about the whole non profit sector. Read Read Read!

Thanks again Michelle! Looking forward to more updates from you on Party for a Change!

Party for a Change: Toys for Tots, Thursday Dec 17th, 2009, 6 to 10pm
@ Sidebar, 120 East 15th Street, NY, NY 10003

Become a fan of Party for a Change on Facebook.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

EVENT: Business Innovation to Fight Climate Change and Poverty, Dec 2nd 2009

While researching on corporate social responsibility some months ago, I stumbled upon Business Fights Poverty, a free network for professionals to exchange ideas on how to fight poverty through good business. Since joining the network, I have received many invites for events that I would love to attend. Unfortunately the majority of events are based in London. I am definitely entertaining the thought of coinciding my next trip to London with an upcoming event.

For those of you that live in London or happen to be in town on December 2nd, do take the opportunity to check out the following:

Location: Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London

Time: December 2, 2009 from 5pm to 6:30pm

Repost from events section: "The event will showcase leading climate-change impacting organizations that work in the global South such as Toyola (a manufacturer of carbon-efficient cookstoves in urban and rural Ghana) and Selco (a solar panel manufacturer for the rural poor in India). Climate-change innovations by leading businesses will be highlighted, such as Allianz whose micro-insurance products in health and life insurance have been proven to provide better post-emergency outcomes for the poor (such as post-tsunami and post-cyclone in India). Leading foundations, such as the Shell Foundation, will also share their climate-change practices in the global South that finance emerging environmentally-friendly businesses ranging from biofuels to carbon-efficient transport."

I am most interested in the microinsurance products and how effective they are in lifting and keeping the poor out of poverty. Though the other topics are just as interesting and I am curious to see how these products have impacted the business models. I would love to hear feedback if you attend. And if you cannot attend, do check out the website and sign up to be a member. You have nothing to lose and all the ideas to gain.

Friday, June 19, 2009

WEBSITE: United We Serve

President Obama is asking people across America to get involve in giving back to their communities. This website provides volunteer opportunities according to the location and type of work. It also has tools and a wealth of information for those who would like to start their own service project and/or event.

Check it out here: Serve.gov


Free course materials for a variety of topics from the Art of Rock Climbing to Information and Communication Technology in Africa. This is a great site for people who don't have the time or money to take courses, but wouldn't mind just learning on their own and at their own pace.

Having free access to learning materials that are typically taught in the undergraduate and graduate levels of universities would give others, who may not be able to afford to attend college to still learn on their own. This is also a great way to have an open discourse on course materials being taught among academia to improve and fine tune theirs.

Check it out here: MIT OPEN COURSEWARE

Saturday, June 6, 2009


I found out about Wokai from one of the volunteer coordinators at work. I mentioned my interest in microfinance and she said there is an up and coming organization that is similar to Kiva but with a focus on rural China. That was a couple of months ago and my involvement with Wokai has not progressed much other than joining their Facebook group. A couple of days ago I got an email from the group asking the members to blog about Wokai as part of a campaign called "Blogging For A Cause" by Zementa. So please check out Wokai, which translates to "I start" in Chinese, and its mission statement below:

What is Wokai?
Wokai delivers an internet microfinance platform that allows individuals to provide Chinese microentrepreneurs with loan capital. Our organization acts as an intermediary in this process, transferring funds from contributors abroad to microentrepreneurs in China through our field partners.

Who does Wokai support?
A typical Wokai microentrepeneur is a female rural inhabitant, living on less than $1/day. Her microfinance loan, ranging from $150-$300 dollars, provides her with the capital to start a small business. Her business varies by location, raising sheep in a rural grassland or operating a small fruit stand in a city center.

With her income, she accumulates savings, which allows her to allocate money towards long-term investments like education and health. By the end of her loan cycle, she has experienced increased financial independence, bolstered self-confidence, and a strengthened sense of community.

Learn more and contribute today at http://www.wokai.org.

This blog post is part of Zemanta's "Blogging For a Cause" campaign to raise awareness and funds for worthy causes that bloggers care about.