ken-blog-header

Breakfast with explorers

I’m sitting on the top deck of a 747 after British Airways kindly decided to upgrade me to First Class. After a week in Washington DC it feels like a fitting – if not fortunate – end to a crazy and hugely productive, thought-provoking few days. The main purpose of my trip was to attend the National Geographic Explorers Symposium, but that ended up being sandwiched between various meetings for the Global eHealth Foundation, a CARE International workshop, and coffee with a number of old friends and colleagues. There’s nothing like a bit of diversity in your working week.

The Symposium itself is a bit like Christmas – you sort of wish it would come round every week. Hundreds of Explorers and Fellows converge on the Society’s headquarters for five days and share new and exciting updates on their work. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you do, or how far up or down you are on the fame ladder. What makes the week special is that, for a while at least, everyone is equal. (Example: On the first night at dinner I sat next to Bob Ballard. For those who don’t know who Bob Ballard is, he discovered the Titanic).

The National Geographic Explorer family

The National Geographic Explorer family

During the week I had the chance to catch up with some older acquaintances, including Meave Leakey (who picked up a Hubbard Medal, the Society’s highest honour) and John Francis, the ‘planetwalker’ – both fascinating, approachable, humble people. And I bumped into Lee Berger, who picked up Explorer of the Year award for his discovery of a new hominid species. Given my passion as a child was conservation and exploration – not unlike many others, I don’t suppose – Explorers Week finds me pinching myself almost hourly. It truly is an honour and a priviledge to be a member of this family.

I had the opportunity this year to share my latest work and decided to focus on my writing and work on altruly, a new kind of mobile giving app. Education came across as a strong theme during the week, and much of what I find myself doing at the moment – writing, speaking and mentoring – proved very complimentary. I also managed to hand out some free copies of “The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator” (which carries three National Geographic endorsements) to help push the message further. Nothing beats a free book. And after a couple of productive meetings I’m hopeful for a future collaboration with National Geographic Education. Watch this space.

Although I come away energised and inspired, I also come away frustrated and impatient – not just at the problems and challenges of the sector I work in, but in my own progress and ability to make a positive dent on them.

When you meet people at the very top of their game it makes you question the one you’re playing. That’s exactly what Explorers Week does, and one of the many things that makes it so special.

We’re (part-time) hiring! * NOW FILLED*

After a great response, this position has now been filled. Thanks for your interest!

Late last year we secured angel investment for an exciting new kind of mobile giving app. Called altruly, we’re looking to reimagine how people give, manage and monitor their personal giving portfolios. App development started last month and we’re looking at early summer onwards for an official launch. There’s a holding page up on the altruly website, but we’re holding back on releasing more information until nearer the time.

altruly Icon on Wet Window Small

As part of our preparations for the earlier Beta release, we’re looking for some help building a database of projects and causes people will be able to support through the app. The online data entry side of things has already been built, and is good to go and easy to navigate and use.

We need someone part-time for three months, starting any time between the middle and the end of May, to help find and enter projects into the database. You’ll get guidance and support with this – we want to be strategic about who and what is made available to users early on. And we’ll be looking to meet up regularly over coffee to share ideas and discuss progress.

We’re looking for someone who:

  • Is interested in social innovation and helping drive social change
  • Can use a web browser, can type accurately, and is comfortable using a computer
  • Has access to the Internet, or who can get somewhere with access
  • Is enthusiastic, reliable, ideally looking to forge a future career in the social sector
  • Is available to start within the next couple of weeks or so
  • Can commit to 15 hours per week throughout June, July and August
  • Is happy to work remotely most of the time
  • Is happy to work under a short-term contract, billing us monthly for their time
  • Ideally lives in Cambridge or London (or near by) for ease of regular meetings

This work would suit a student looking to keep busy over the bulk of the summer, but also keep some free time for other activities and interests. Hourly pay will be determined by experience, but in any event will be well above the minimum wage.

If you’d like to apply we’re looking to keep the process as short and sweet as possible:

  • Applications will be through our contact form, so no attachments or lengthy letters
  • In a couple of paragraphs, tell us about you and why you’re applying for this role
  • If you use Twitter or other social media, feel free to share the details
  • Feel free to ask any questions, which we’d be happy to answer via email
  • Before you sign off, confirm when you’re available and where you live

This position will remain open until we find the right applicant. Good luck!

Revealing inside stories of social innovation

It all started as a casual conversation about a new book idea over coffee last March. Despite being self-published with no marketing budget, my first book, “The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator“, had gone down particularly well and I had been encouraged by how well it had been received, particularly in academia. It turns out there aren’t many books like it – ones that give the true, authentic voice of the social innovator and their life, work, achievements and struggles in their own words. I was happy with the book, but the feedback – great as it was – told me I could do better.

The end result, exactly one year later, is “Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation: International Case Studies and Practice‘. It’s been a long, challenging (and rewarding) exercise, and more work than I ever imagined, but the end result is everything I wanted it to be. And this time I have one of the largest publishers of academic books in the world behind it to make sure it goes as far and wide as possible, which is good. These stories need to be heard.

Case-Studies-Social-Innovation-Cover

The book kicks off with my introduction, which touches on the concept of social entrepreneurship, the value of empathy, my own story and work with kiwanja.net and FrontlineSMS, the reason I decided we needed this kind of book, and some advice and tips for people wanting to help make the world a better place. Thirteen case studies follow, covering a wide diversity of people and projects from around the world, written by the innovators themselves.

Chapter 1
‘Wonders of the Solar System: Reducing Maternal Mortality in Developing Regions’
Laura Stachel of We Care Solar

Chapter 2
‘Closing Latin America’s Digital Divide’
Rodrigo Baggio of Centre for Digital Inclusion (CDI)

Chapter 3
‘Patent Wars: Fighting Big Pharma to Enable Access to Drugs for All’
Priti Radhakrishnan of I-MAK

Chapter 4
‘Data Science, Technology and Design for Social Justice’
Jessica Anderson and Joumana al Jabri of Visualizing Impact

Chapter 5
‘Bringing the Silicon Valley Revolution in Technology and Business to Global Health’
Joel Selanikio of Magpi

Chapter 6
‘Food Waste Meets Food Poverty: Closing the Loop’
Kelvin Cheung and Michael Norton of Foodcycle

Chapter 7
‘Innovation in Africa’s Silicon Savannah’
Erik Hersman of Ushahidi

Chapter 8
‘Touch-Based Treatment for Autism’
Louisa Silva of Qigong Sensory Training Institute (QSTI)

Chapter 9
‘Reconnecting the Disconnected: A Story of Technology, Refugees and Finding Lost Family’
David and Christopher Mikkelsen of Refugees United

Chapter 10
‘Let a Billion Readers Bloom’
Brij Kothari of Planet Read

Chapter 11
‘Keep Calm and Dream in Tunisia: Supporting Sustainable Development in Tunisia and North Africa Through Empowering Youth, Women and Farmers’
Sarah Toumi of Dream in Tunisia

Chapter 12
‘The Reluctant Geneticist’
Sharon Terry of Genetic Alliance

Chapter 13
‘Power to the People: Re-engineering Democracy’
Tarik Nesh Nash of GovRight

Continuing the theme of story telling, I’m also excited to announce that we have two Forewords in the book – one from musician and humanitarian, Peter Gabriel, and the other from Bill Drayton (CEO and Founder of Ashoka).

gabriel-drayton

These complimentary Forewords come from two people who have made significant but different contributions to the field of social innovation. Peter Gabriel gives the ‘outsider’ humanitarian perspective, while Bill Drayton – often cited as the ‘Grandfather of social entrepreneurship’ – gives the ‘insider’ line. I am hugely grateful to them both for their support, time, friendship and encouragement.

Publication is set for early March 2016. You can read more, and place orders on the publishers website or on Amazon, or drop me a line in the comments below, or email me. If you’d like to reach out to any of the chapter authors I’d also be happy to make introductions.