Rethinking livelihoods.

This post appeared on the PopTech blog and has been republished with permission. You can read the original post here.

This post is co-authored by PopTech president Leetha Filderman, and Ken Banks, founder of and FrontlineSMS. Together they are co-facilitators of the 2014 Bellagio/PopTech Fellows program. 

We are pleased to announce the 2014 class of Bellagio/PopTech Fellows, a diverse group of designers, social innovators, technologists and writers with expertise in technology, global health, poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability and informal sector economics.

Sean Blagsvedt, Alexice Tô-Camier, Dominic Muren, Robtel Neajai Pailey, Solomon Prakash

This year’s program is focused on rethinking livelihoods. Now more than ever, the world’s population is contending with a multitude of challenges: demographic shifts, environmental stressors, unrestrained financial capital flow, shifting political landscapes, emerging technologies, and changing economic growth patterns and labor markets – all of which are shaping the notion of what livelihoods look like today and may look like in the future.

For two weeks this August the Bellagio/PopTech Fellows will convene at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy. We will collaboratively work to define the notion of livelihood in the 21st century, while simultaneously exploring the challenges, opportunities and complex interdependencies that will impact sustainable livelihood achievement in the coming decades.

Our goal is to initiate a conversation designed to inform and inspire global, national and local efforts to improve livelihoods. Conversations will be complemented and challenged by an incredible group of catalysts, which bring a diverse and unique set of insights to the table.

Areas of exploration will include an examination of the central tenets of livelihoods strategy, the interplay between livelihood productivity at national and individual level, and the opportunities offered by the often-opposing formal and informal sectors. We’ll look at the positive and negative impacts of technology on livelihoods, and how both global security (and insecurity) and the geopolitical landscape impact sustainable development goals. It would be impossible to have this kind of discussion without recognition of the environmental challenges facing the planet, so we’ll be looking at how climate change and other threats could impact livelihoods development now and into the future.

Members of the 2013 class of Bellagio/PopTech Fellows presenting at PopTech 2013

Following their immersion at the Bellagio Center, the Bellagio/PopTech Fellows will reunite in Camden, Maine at PopTech 2014: Rebellion, where they will present their work and explore opportunities for collaboration with the global PopTech network.

About the Bellagio/PopTech Fellows program:
In 2012, PopTech and the Rockefeller Foundation created a joint Fellows program that brings together small, interdisciplinary groups for a two-week immersion program at the Foundation’s renowned Bellagio Center in Lake Como, Italy. Learn more about the inaugural class.

The Bellagio/PopTech Fellows program is designed to be a unique incubator of unconventional collaboration around critical topics relevant to the lives of poor and vulnerable populations, and also serves as a laboratory to study the nature of collaboration itself as a profound tool for creative problem solving and solution development.

New year, new funding, new release

We may only be a couple of days in, but 2010 is already promising to be another exciting year. After twelve months of steady growth (and one which saw us regularly exceed our limited technical capacity), late last month we were pleased to secure significant new funding. A $150,000 grant – our first from the Rockefeller Foundation – will allow us to increase the size of our FrontlineSMS developer team and better service the growing needs of our user, partner and developer communities. A huge thanks to Rockefeller for their support. \o/

The revamped version of FrontlineSMS – originally funded by the MacArthur Foundation in 2007/2008 – has only been available for just short of 18 months, but we’ve already put out two significant upgrades, with a third imminent. Each of these has been shaped by user feedback and requests for new features, all co-ordinated through our active and growing online Community, probably one of our greatest achievements. The latest release includes new language support, a mapping module and extended ability to connect external software applications.

Over the past few months we’ve also been quietly working on a new SMS-based initiative with partners Wieden+Kennedy, Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP) and the GSM Association. Technical development on this Hewlett Foundation-funded project – which will solve one of the biggest challenges faced by many grassroots mobile initiatives – starts next month. More news on that, and the new FrontlineSMS release, soon!