Bo M. Karlsson Foundation

March 9, 2015

While books like Lean In and Girl Boss have helped to renew a positive conversation about feminism in America, movements like Girl Rising, Half the Sky, and The Malala Fund, are pushing the plight of girls in developing countries further to the forefront of the public eye than ever before. To the benefit of millions of girls, the resulting discussion is evolving from viewing the gender gap in education less as yet another social ill for charitable giving to alleviate, and more as a global responsibility to eradicate.

Because it is more complicated to change the hearts and minds of those that have the power to hold women and girls back than an impassioned plea for their equality, among families, communities, and federal institutions, it is important to target a concern they share: capital.

In families of poverty, it is common for boys to be sent to school while their sisters remain in the home to complete household chores or work the land. While parents often focus on the opportunity cost of sending their girls to school as lost income in the short term, the true return on investment comes from allowing them to continue their education, obtain better employment, and bring in more income for the family.

As studies show, “Every year of schooling increases a girl’s individual earning power by 10 to 20 percent, while the return on secondary education is even higher, in the 15 to 25 percent range.” For struggling families, these gains can be significant enough to help change a culture of keeping girls at home.

Not only do girls need to attend school, they need career counseling to direct them toward their options. Attendance is only the first step of breaking into the benefits of education. In communities where girls are the first in their family make it to, let alone complete, secondary school, they do not have the mentorship from family that others with higher economic means enjoy. By investing in simple programs that help girls envision a future for themselves and inform them of the path that will take them there, a degree becomes less of a piece of paper, and more of the key to becoming a future leader.

When it comes to struggling economies, governments are being forced to see the harm in not utilizing more of their human capital. For India, the loss of GPD from girls dropping out of school is as much as $30 billion in annual growth.

Not only does educating girls provide economic gains, it reduces economic losses. The enrolment of girls in school has been known to delay sexual activity, marriage, and childbirth; has been linked to lower rates of HIV/AIDS and reproductive morbidities; and a reduction of hours spent working domestically and in the labor force.

Luckily for donors in higher income countries, educating a girl and, therefore, transforming her community, takes very little. The return on investment is truly inspiring when considering that as little as $50 can provide the transportation costs for a girl while attending university in Nepal for one year. A mere $500 a year can create thought leaders, like journalists and teachers. By taking advantage of the extreme difference in purchasing power parity of countries like Nepal and the United States, relatively small amounts of investment can help create a new generation of progress and hope in the way of gender equality and human potential.

Original Post

GlobalWA on the Ground: Spreeha Bangladesh Foundation


January 2015

For those who have never visited Bangladesh, what they know of the country is likely limited to the sparse media coverage of a devastating string of garment factory disasters. For travelers who have had the opportunity to ride in one of the 400,000 rickshaws that weave chaotic paths through Dhaka, the capital and largest city in Bangladesh, they may know of the country’s extreme human suffering.

For those who have had the opportunity to see the work of Spreeha Foundation, however, what they know is that these things are only a portion of the true Bangladesh.

To walk through the slums of the world’s most densely populated city is to wade through suffocating air pollution, to breathe the smoke of burning trash, to dodge vehicles powered by both man and machine, and to tiptoe around human sewage.

Amongst this in Mohammadpur, however, are countless laughing children running through crowds like streaks of light, many of whom are on their way to Spreeha.

The children run up steps and pass the Spreeha clinic on the first floor. During the majority of business hours, this clinic is packed with patients — women receiving maternal care, children receiving vaccinations, and treatment for malnutrition prevention. While the clinic and its labs are simple, it has become a well-oiled machine in order to accommodate approximately 500 patients weekly. Many of the services are free, and the pharmacy offers half-price medications.

“Healthcare alone is not enough,” said Spreeha Founder Tazin Shadid, which is why in recent years the organization has expanded its services. The second floor is home to the education department that coordinates classes for three-to-five year-olds in four preschools throughout the community.

“Our primary goal is to make students love school,” said Saifuzzaman Rana, Spreeha’s Head of Education. “We want to get them laughing and having fun while learning to read and write.”

Spreeha also offers afterschool classes to enrolled students. Many of these classes are taught by older students who are moving into their Higher Secondary Certificate curriculum (the equivalent of eleventh and twelfth grade).

In addition to providing children with the opportunity to enter and complete mainstream education, Spreeha is also dedicated to empowering community members through skills training, including sewing classes, computer instruction, and an adolescent girls club which gets girls talking about their physical changes, their rights, early marriage, and their hopes for the future. Of Spreeha’s emphasis on the empowerment of girls, Shadid said, “We want them to be the changemakers in their communities.”

Spreeha has worked hard to integrate itself into the community. Part of its approach has been to model itself after the Lean Startup Method that emphasizes flexibility and adaptability, which are essential to development work of this nature. After witnessing children race each other up Spreeha’s front steps each day, it is obvious that the organization has cultivated a safe and positive environment for community members.

To spend time with the students of Spreeha is, to put simply, inspiring. Despite the fact that most of them have only known extreme poverty, their dreams go far beyond those of their circumstances. When asking a group of girls about their career goals, we heard: doctor, teacher, engineer, photojournalist, police officer and politician.

Of this, program officer Riyadul Haque said with a smile, “This is the success of Spreeha.”

Photos of Spreeha's students and the slums it has dedicated itself to improving can be found here.

Original Post


Georgetown University

December 12, 2016

In September of 2014, the Obama administration launched the “It’s On Us” campaign to address the ongoing epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses. “One in five,” the president repeated, referring to the average number of female undergraduate victims (Somander). However, according to respondents of Georgetown University’s 2016 Sexual Assault and Misconduct Climate Survey, over 30 percent of female and 10 percent of male undergraduates had been sexually assaulted, with the amount rising to nearly 40 percent for female seniors (Georgetown). While there is differing opinion among some as to with whom responsibility resides for these crimes, and, therefore, how to address them, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault identified bystander intervention as one of the “most promising prevention strategies” (“Not Alone”).

This is concerning, when, of the Georgetown University survey participants that “witness[ed] a drunken person heading for a sexual encounter,” over 75 percent did nothing. Of the 17 percent of participants that saw someone become sexually aggressive, 50 percent did nothing. In both instances, approximately 24 percent said their reason for inaction was not knowing what to do (Georgetown). While there are varying psychological barriers to intervening, lack of knowledge is something that can and should be addressed for the sake of young women and men on campus.

As an undergrad, I was required to complete an online training course in order to register for classes. I recall it being dry and ineffective in its message. However, the concept presents a valuable opportunity to teach students vital information. To explore its potential, I would like to use the methods of Professors LeMasters and Barba in answering: Can simulations in mandatory online sexual assault prevention training for students help reduce bystander inaction on college campuses?

In his lecture, Professor LeMasters focused on learning through simulations and games. By taking his approach, I envision a game being developed to educate bystanders about concerning behaviors in scenarios where students may be susceptible to sexual assault, as well as to equip bystanders with various ways they can step in. It would allow them to choose from different options of a bystander’s response to a situation, allowing them to see a simulation of the possible consequence to that choice. A/B testing could be used to incorporate a random control group in which one party receives the simulation as part of the training, while the other does not. A brief survey, likely a quantitative satisfaction-style survey, would be administered at the end of each version to help determine the perceived effect of the simulation on increasing intention to intervene as a bystander.

Professor Barba’s method of iterative prototyping, followed by interviews and focus groups could be beneficial in moving beyond if the simulation reduces bystander inaction, to how the audience-simulation interaction could be improved upon in order to most effectively decrease inaction. The prototypes could test various aesthetic choices, like animation style or level of realism, in the simulation, and/or interaction methods for eliciting audience responses necessary for the game’s progression. Where the previous method surveys students in their natural test-taking environment, this method would require a separate study group in order to receive prolonged qualitative feedback.

Both of these methods have their own pros and cons, as well as those that they share. In the LeMasters-inspired method, by creating a game requiring audience input, versus videos, it may help mitigate people’s tendency to let videos play out in another browser tab or while the viewer steps away from the computer. Similarly, though, it is also possible that wanting to hurry through the course may lead to choosing random answers, rather than thoughtful ones. Along this vein, as LeMasters said, “You can’t make people play.” Therefore, you need participant buy-in, which is something Barba’s method may be able to help develop.

While the Barba-inspired method requires a simulated training course experience, the ability to collect long-form answers from participants may be worth being a step removed from the authentic student experience. In addition to questions about aesthetics and content meant to focus on what would grab and maintain their attention, students could be asked about whether wanting to get the course over with was a distraction from the lessons. The answers to these questions could inform the results of the first method. However, due to the sensitive nature of sexual assault on college campuses, participants in this method may feel uncomfortable answering questions honestly, for fear of judgment by the interviewer or other members of the focus group. An anonymous questionnaire may make people more comfortable.

Because of the complimentary data these methods collect (quantitative and qualitative), they seem to work well together. However, their key shared shortcoming is that “only measuring one’s intent to intervene as a bystander in sexual violence situations, is not necessarily a good proxy for one’s actual bystander behavior,” (McMahon 47). The other barriers to intervention, such as sense of responsibility and fear of judgement from others, must be considered (Bennett et al. 486). It would be worth exploring whether these could be incorporated into the simulation, but as the DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women said, “Research is clear that using multiple tools for a multi-pronged approach to prevention is best” (OVW).


Bennett, Sidney, et al. "To Act or Not to Act, That Is the Question: Barriers and Facilitators of Bystander Intervention." Journal of Interpersonal Violence 29.3 (2013): 476-96. Web.

McMahon, Sarah, et al. "Predicting Bystander Behavior to Prevent Sexual Assault on College Campuses: The Role of Self-Efficacy and Intent." American Journal of Community Psychology 2nd ser. 56.1 (2015): 46-56. Web.

Not Alone: The First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault. U.S. Department of Justice, Violence Against Women. Apr. 2014. Web. 06 Dec. 2016.

Protecting Students from Sexual Assault. OVW, Department of Justice. U.S. Department of Justice, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2016. https://www.justice.gov/ovw/protecting-students-sexual-assault

Report on the Georgetown University Sexual Assault and Misconduct Climate Survey. Rep. Office of Assessment and Decision Support, Georgetown University. 16 June 2016. Web. 06 Dec. 2016.

Somander, Tanya. "President Obama Launches the "It's On Us" Campaign to End Sexual Assault on Campus." The White House. N.p., 19 Sept. 2014. Web. 06 Dec. 2016. https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/09/19/president-obama-launches-its-us-campaign-end-sexual-assault-campus



January 2014

In a conflict that has seen little reprieve since its start in March 2011, Syria’s Civil War has had a catastrophic impact on its citizens, approximately 4.5 million of whom have been internally displaced and an additional 2,358,1802 who are now refugees in the surrounding region. Of the neighboring countries bearing the burden of this war, Lebanon and Jordan have seen the greatest number of refugees (approximately 862,000 and 576,000, respectively), with Turkey close behind. As with most humanitarian crises, the children of Syria have been disproportionately affected by the struggle between President Bashar Al-Assad and the Syrian rebels. With nearly 50 percent of Syrian refugees under age 18, and 37 percent under age 12, the war-stricken country is in danger of developing a generation of children who fall through the cracks of the education system.

Forced from their homes amidst grave violence, these children have no choice but to restart their lives outside of their homeland. For many, education has become a port in this tumultuous storm. As one young refugee stated, “Without education, there is nothing.” However, a staggering number of children have been unable to enroll in formal education. Despite the Jordanian and Lebanese governments’ substantial contribution toward the education of Syrian refugee children, and the attempts of UNICEF and UNHCR to cover the remaining expenses, for some, the cost of schooling is too great for the humble means of their parents. One study states that 46 percent of refugee parents in Lebanon keep at least one child home from school due to financial hardship.

Another barrier to educating Syrian refugee children is the alarming rate at which they drop out of school: twice that of the typical rate seen in Lebanon. Miled Abou Jaoude, an emergency coordinator for GlobalWA member organization Save the Children, identified that the biggest obstacle to educating refugee children in Lebanon is the language barrier between refugees and the rest of the students. While Syrian children have been taught solely in Arabic, they enter a new school system that teaches primarily in English and French. As older children are challenged in picking up a new language quickly, many teenagers drop out of school when they fall behind their peers.

Another factor that weighs into student decline is the way in which refugee children are treated by their peers and teachers. Many teachers find it difficult to deal with the psychological affects that their foreign students are enduring. These children have fled their homes to escape a raging war, witnessed atrocities committed against their own family members, and yet are expected to behave as any well-adjusted child. They often suffer from problems with sleeping, flashbacks of previous trauma, speech difficulties, bedwetting, and constant crying. “Our brothers are dead. How can we focus on school while our families are being slaughtered,” asked a seventeen-year-old refugee.

Ill-equipped for trauma of this magnitude, teachers are undergoing coaching on psychological counseling to help support these troubled children. Some teachers, however, are the cause of additional suffering, as children have reported verbal and physical abuse at the hands of their instructors. One child confided, “[the] hardest thing about school here is that we don’t feel safe.” Despite the issues that refugee children face on a daily basis, education is one of the only defenses against the growing refugee child labor crisis. According to UNHCR, “an assessment of 11 of Jordan’s 12 governorates found nearly one-in-two refugee households surveyed relied partly or entirely on income generated by a child.”

Groups dedicated to advancing education for the 1.2 million Syrian refugee children are becoming more and more creative. One NGO in Lebanon, Ana Aqra, has created a program called “Classroom in a Bus” which brings education to students, with books, supplies, and qualified teachers. Other children are benefitting from Catch Up classes, which seek to bridge the gap for the many children who have been out of school for months, or even years. Summer classes, made for the same purpose, have been highly effective in their reach, with 71,000 children in Lebanon and Jordan benefitting.

Informal education rates are up, as well, because of overcrowding in public schools and various restrictions on enrollment preventing many children from entering the formal education system. Remedial classes in literacy, numeracy, and languages have helped children struggling in those areas, while vocational training in car mechanics, computer training, hairdressing, and electronic maintenance have helped prepare older children for the job market.

The crisis in Syria is far from over but, by prioritizing education for the children victimized by this conflict, all may not be lost. As the late Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” After the trauma that these children have undergone and continue to brave, perhaps it will be their education that will rebuild the country they once called home.

Original Post



October 2014

As the Pacific Northwest readies itself for the chilly showers of fall and the icy roads of winter, Thailand is preparing for the end of its monsoon season, bringing with it clear skies and an influx of international tourists. While many will head to the Andaman coast, pulled by the allure of its paradise-like beaches, organizations like Mangrove Action Project (MAP) are drawn by the importance of its coastal forests.

Nearly 520 miles south of Bangkok, in what guidebooks describe as Thailand’s “Deep South,” is the city of Trang. Remote enough to appease its operations budget; serviceable enough to access Bangkok by plane, train, and automobile; and a stone’s throw from the mangroves the organization has dedicated itself to preserve and restore, the city has been a convenient home for MAP Asia’s operations.

As interns, we spent the last month hungrily absorbing information from conversations about mangroves, conservation and government-relations in Thailand, eagerly accepting any chance to accompany the staff into the field in an attempt to understand MAP’s on-the-ground presence. What we discovered over countless iced coffees and bowls of hot noodles is a group of people who live and breathe the work they do.

“People always think we’re much bigger than we are,” said Jim Enright, Coordinator for MAP Asia, with a laugh. This undoubtedly is a testament to the level of dedication the staff of three puts forth every day in the office and out in the field. Most days the lights are on until 10:00 in the evening, if not later, with the sound of typing heard from MAP’s two adjacent offices, as projects are fine-tuned, logistics are sorted and relationships are developed and maintained via email and Skype.

Much of MAP’s work surrounds the concept of Community-Based Ecological Mangrove Restoration (CBEMR) wherein, as it sounds, community participation is paramount. From the planning stages in community meeting rooms and the homes of local project leaders to the physical work of digging canals, members of the local communities in which MAP operates are involved in every step of the restoration process.

Part of its relationship-building process has been the introduction of alternative livelihood programs. While certain people have the ability to take off work to attend a project meeting or to provide manual labor, that is oftentimes a luxury not afforded to subsistence farmers or fisherman.

To mitigate this, participants are compensated a day’s wages, which in turn displays MAP’s commitment and allows community members to take ownership of the conservation efforts that will restore the ecology of their villages, creating countless returns in the process. Ning Enright, Field Project Manager in Thailand, said, “They have to feel like it is their project too because, when we finish a project, the work is still there. They’re the ones who will need to continue.”

Working to ensure the posterity of their projects, MAP also involves the children of the villages. While taking time lapse photos to mark the growth of the trees, we clumsily traipsed around the mangrove restoration site, watching with admiration as the children ran from point to point among roots, crab dwellings and mud that clung like thick molasses, racing each other to be in the next photo. Por Nakornchai, a GNF Project Manager working with MAP, described their dedication to involving children. “I think of teaching conservation at a young age like teaching a language at a young age. We want kids to grow up fluent in their knowledge of protecting the environment.”

MAP Asia’s efforts have led to a strong relationship between the organization and engaged local community members, which is the backbone of any sustainable field project. The passion of the MAP Asia staff seems matched wholeheartedly by the kind and enthusiastic community members with whom we were fortunate enough to meet, talk with and shovel beside. In our eyes, these communities and the people of the Mangrove Action Project deserve each other.

Original Post

Rwandan Genocide 20th Anniversary: A Plan for “Never Again”


May 2014

Twenty years ago, Rwanda confronted the limits of evil within humanity and chose to define itself in another way. Amidst the genocide of 800,000 men, women and children in a span of only 100 days, this country of cheated, abused and tortured individuals chose forgiveness over revenge, grace over spite and strength over weakness in the face of horror.

Hate can fester and spread within the body like a virus. It can be a formidable force and, within a nation, can decimate development, drain capital and deplete potential. The ability of Rwanda to emerge from the darkness of its past to its victories of today is nothing short of a rebirth.


After Belgian colonists appointed the Tutsi minority the power to create an indebted class within their new territory, the Hutu majority found themselves the victims of systematic discrimination. Inevitably, revolution erupted in the mid-twentieth century as the oppressed began to fight back. Over the next quarter century, violence escalated to an unprecedented degree, fueling the Rwandan Civil War and ultimately resulted in the extremist Hutu Government’s systematic plan to eradicate Tutsis.

This concerted extermination effort simultaneously created a global debate in semantics. Similar to the calculated avoidance of the word “coup” by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney et al to describe the military overtaking in Egypt in 2013, the international community has a history of circumventing action by refusing to define crises by their true names. In 1994, that name was genocide.


After the world’s super powers let time run out on the people of Rwanda, it was clear to the ravaged country that it would have no one to rely on but itself for building a better future. While its regeneration has not been without struggles, the energy it has devoted to healing the country has been admirable.

“Rwanda’s efforts toward reconciliation have been remarkable and unprecedented. That is not to say reconciliation and forgiveness are complete, or that it was a perfect process, but it is incredible how far they have come in such a short period of time,” said Suzanne Sinegal McGill of GlobalWA member organization Rwanda Girls Initiative (RGI).

Where at one time the proximity of Hutus and Tutsis resulted in violence, twenty years later, according to McGill, they are calling one another neighbor, friend, and even man and wife. “As I said, it isn’t perfect, nor would you expect that, but there seems to be an acknowledgment by many that we must move forward to survive.”

Born from the ashes of an ethnic cleansing within the new Rwanda, Peter Thorp, founding Head of School of RGI’s Gashora Girl’s Academy, explained, “People really do not talk about their ethnicity and are encouraged to identify as ‘Rwandan’ to be unified.” He continued, “There is unity among people with a common goal of never returning to the days of horror.”

Because more than half of the country was born after the genocide, great efforts are taken to keep younger generations educated about what occurred, according to McGill. Thorp explained, “Rwanda will not allow its citizens to forget, painful as it is for so many of them to remember.”

Proud of the strides they have made over the last two decades, “Rwandans do not want to be defined by the genocide,” said McGill, but rather as “one of the fastest growing economies in the world [ 8.1 percent], low corruption, one of the few countries that will achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the world’s first female majority parliament, and dramatically lowering child and maternal mortality [seventy percent and sixty percent, respectively].”

Rwanda has truly become an example of development improvement despite seemingly insurmountable evil. As history tends to do, however, it is repeating itself in the Central African Republic. According to McGill, “Rwanda provides a model for the world to understand more quickly what genocide really means.” It is a lesson that the international community owes Rwanda to have learned to inform its current and future interventions.

McGill said, “‘Never again’ cannot just be empty words we say; we must work to have that result.”

Original Post



April 2014

April 1 marked the official beginning of a first-of-its-kind component of India’s update to its 1956 Companies Act: a mandate that companies that have more than $830,000 in net profits are required to spend 2 percent of those profits on so-called “corporate social responsibility (CSR)” projects.

“These guidelines would be applicable to close to 8,000 companies,” said Sunitha Viswanathan, an associate at Unitus Seed Fund in Bangalore, India. Unitus is a Global Washington member.

What does this mean for development in India? According to Viswanathan, the mandate could result between $2-2.5 billion being set aside for CSR in the first year. “There are more than 400 million people in India who live on less than a dollar a day,” she said. “The current requirement to reduce this disparity is huge and the first year’s spend of $2.5 billion will not be able to cover for this.”

The goal, however, is not to solve India’s poverty struggles in the first year. “The idea is that the corporations are going to increase their net profits, which will ultimately lead to five years down the line, the amount may be $10 billion or $15 billion, and that’s something that’s going to significantly help all of the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and the social enterprises,” said Viswanathan.

While the 2 percent CSR spend is a mandate, there are no official penalties for failing to comply. Companies are simply required to explain their lack of spending in their annual report. While this has many people worried, Viswanathan believes the social repercussions are enough to keep most companies in line. “This is not something that would be perceived very well in the market. It sends out an entirely negative signal in terms of corporate governance.”

Others, according to Viswanathan, worry “that a lot of corporates might just window dress and start accounting for things that are not really a CSR spend.” Some believe this type of green washing could be, in part, aided by the mandate’s vague description of CSR.

However, Viswanathan said the most pervasive worry in India surrounding the mandate is the potential inadequacy of many of India’s NGOs to properly scale up their operations. “A lot of NGOs are not run as professionally as most of these corporations would want them to be.”

The bridge that is being built between businesses and NGOs is vital. Not only do development challenges require funding, they also require effective programming. The partnerships forming in the wake of the CSR mandate are providing NGOs and social enterprises “the chance to tap into the brains of some of the most intelligent folks right now, which they probably didn’t have before,” said Viswanathan.

Because companies will share in both the successes and failures of the organizations they support, Viswanathan believes the relationship will greatly improve their efficacy. “This will actually necessitate a lot of discipline, making them a lot more stringent, and hold the NGOs accountable because corporates are not going to let them off the hook that easily.”

While it’s likely that India’s CSR mandate will see struggles in its first year, the potential rewards of its success will have a powerful effect on development in India, effects that may possibly motivate other nations to adopt similar requirements.

“I think when you bring about something as different as this, there’s going to be a lot of backlash, there will be hurdles and roadblocks as you go ahead, but there had to be a starting point and this is probably a good way to start,” said Viswanathan.

Original Post

Featured Organization: Splash


April 2014

On Seattle’s Capitol Hill, nestled between two colorful storefronts, is the door to Splash. Behind it is a staff with an unwavering dedication to the role clean water plays in the health and education of children in the developing world. “We know what clean water means for them,” explained Director of Strategy Peter Drury. “Healthier lives, more school, greater economic opportunity, and as adults, they’re going to demand clean water in the future.”

From its early beginnings as a manifesto on the pages of Founder and Director Eric Stowe’s notebook, Global Washington member Splash has become a formidable force behind clean water projects in some of the most impoverished regions in the world.

For example, Splash began working in China in 2007 with a focus on its more than 1,000 orphanages in 31 provinces. “By the end of this year,” said Drury, “we’re going to have secured clean water in every orphanage in China.”

To reach efficacy at such scale requires an austere examination of the practices within global development. “A great deal of international development work is focused on an initial gift, an act of seeming benevolence,” explained Stowe, “and then post-implementation there’s really this quick reduction of services for these same communities which often results in failed projects.”

With sustainable solutions as its objective, Splash commits a minimum of 10 years to its water projects, a guarantee comprising the hiring and creation of local teams, as well as all ensuring ease for spare parts, peripherals, water quality tests, service, and maintenance of its equipment, according to Stowe.

The quality of water is dependent upon Splash’s filtration systems, the same ones that global food-chains like McDonald’s use, which target biological contaminants. According to Stowe, the likelihood of the smallest bacteria (approximately .2 microns) getting through the .015 micron filter is akin to a basketball’s ability to penetrate a straw.

To ensure the continued quality of water to both the affected communities and to donors, in-country staff go to these sites every three months for the first two years, and every six months thereafter, according to Stowe. Reports on the projects they conduct are published on Splash’s online system for accountability, Proving It. This includes – and calls out transparently – the ones that fail.

“This transparency is meant to ‘lift the firewall’ between the organization and its donors,” said Stowe. “Every project we’ll ever undertake is going to fail at some point. It’s how you respond in the wake of that failure that makes the difference.”

Stowe’s devotion to transparency includes the sincerest form of flattery: the imitation and replication of successful strategies employed by other organizations in both the nonprofit and private sectors. At Splash, they ask themselves, “Is there a way that we can analyze how they’ve done what they’ve done, how they’ve scaled, how they’ve hired, how they’ve accredited, whatever the case may be, and adopt their practices accordingly?”

Splash recently launched operations in India, where the obstacles required the organization’s “look for the best; learn from the best” model. Where the Splash model in China benefits from Beijing’s unequivocal authority in determining ubiquitous national regulation, in India “every single state, and within those states, the regions, districts and cities, are acting so differently from what the national standards are,” said Stowe. “We don’t view it as one monolith; we view it as multiple types of development engagement, and are positioned to customize accordingly while still preserving the ability to scale.”

After analyzing the social and cultural landscape of India, Splash determined its proof point would be in Kolkata, India’s third largest city, and that the most urgent – yet solvable – need was within public schools. “In terms of numbers of children, in Kolkata alone, we’ll be in 2,000 schools serving half a million poor kids. Just think about that,” said Drury.

“In India, the goal is to recalibrate what the national quality standard is, and to eventually leverage Splash’s work in India as the model,” said Stowe. Splash has identified that the amount of funding by the Indian government toward similar projects is comparable to the needs of establishing the organization’s model at scale, an extremely promising fact.

As Stowe explained, the process of transforming water “from insanely nasty to incredibly safe” is the most straightforward of their tasks. It is governmental buy-in that will make or break a program’s longevity.

Combined with the “incredible chessboard” that is navigating behavior change, governmental advocacy, community mobilization, and the relationship building with staff and neighborhoods, Splash’s mission of achieving 100 percent coverage in its India program is nothing short of ambitious.

As Drury puts it, however, “We’re just getting started.”

Original Post

Digital Study Hall

Mona Foundation

May 2015

In a country where, according to some calculations, the national poverty rate is just shy of 30%, and the rural average is even higher, one of India’s hardest hit sectors is education. While many Indian children struggle to attain a quality education, so too do their teachers struggle in receiving adequate training.

In Lucknow, however, a program called Digital Study Hall is working tirelessly to empower both educator and pupil via technology’s power of information dispersal. Since 2005, DSH has been recording and distributing videos of the most highly trained and experienced teachers to underserved rural and urban schools.

After finding the program at its start as a small and fledgling operation, Mona Foundation has proudly invested resources and watched this program grow into what is now a model for the surrounding region, as it serves 20,000 teachers and students throughout India. Digital study Hall is now internationally recognized as a leader in this field and has received the top prize in the category of education in the Tech Museum of Innovation’s 2008 Tech Awards, as well as the 2007 ACM Eugene Lawler Award for Humanitarian Contributions within Computer Science and Informatics.

Over the past ten years, many of DSH’s students have seen great improvements in their young lives. Sahida, for example, at thirteen years old, has benefited greatly from DSH’s empowerment program. As is common in developing regions for girls, Sahida found herself at the base of the family hierarchy, subservient to her brother and oftentimes voiceless to her parents. Because of the impactful work to combat gender discrimination in the home by DSH, Sahida has told her instructors that she now knows that fair and equal treatment are not privileges, but part of her fundamental rights.

The Farm Bill and Its Implications on International Food Aid Reform: Insights From Oxfam America’s Jonathan Scanlon


February 2014

On February 7, President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014, or Farm Bill. This legislation provides reform to its previous version from 2008, ending the two-year gridlock amongst members of Congress. While the news cycle has been inundated with negative coverage of this bill from both sides of the ideological aisle, there is a portion of the bill worth celebrating that has not received much attention: international food aid reform. For anyone who has not been following this issue, here are the major takeaways of the domestic side of the Farm Bill:

It ends the $5 billion-a-year direct payments to farmers, which now only kick in when they incur losses.

It increases crop insurance for farmers by $450 million per year, covering 60% of premiums, which insure 86% of farmers’ revenue.

It cuts SNAP program funding by $8 billion over 10 years, reducing approximately 850,000 households’ benefits by $90 per month.

It increases funding to food banks by $200 million.

While the majority of the Farm Bill coverage has been focused on the negative domestic implications of its passing, the largely ignored international effects are being deemed a victory by many in the international development field. Oxfam America’s Jonathan Scanlon called the reforms modest but a good start to fixing a very inefficient system. He described two main points of the reform: Local & Regional Food Aid Procurement (LRP) and Food Aid Monetization.

Almost exclusively, prior to the passing of this bill, and largely, still, with the new reform, when a natural disaster occurs abroad, the government must purchase food from American farmers, at which point it is then shipped on American vessels to wherever the disaster has occurred. While it may not appear circuitous, this system creates a barrier to millions whom are denied aid due to its inefficiencies. “Half of every dollar is lost to overhead in this system,” said Scanlon, which, according to Oxfam and American Jewish World Service’s US Food Aid Reform report, is the equivalent of wasting “$491 million in US tax dollars per year.” In addition to the loss toward the already meager food aid budget, the requirement of US transport often causes aid to be four to six months late to a crisis.

To address these shortcomings of the food aid legislation, reforms in the 2008 Farm Bill included funding for the USDA Local and Regional Food Aid Procurement Pilot Project, to which the 2014 Farm Bill will provide $80 million for expansion. This changes the system drastically, as food aid can be bought locally in developing countries, reducing costs for shipping overseas, higher costs for shipping regulations, higher prices for purchasing from preferred US growers, and overhead.

What this means for people on the ground: local economies will benefit from the purchase of their crops, aid will reach its destination fourteen weeks sooner, and 1.8 million more people will receive life-saving aid for the same price.

Another aspect of the food aid reform is monetization, which this year’s Farm Bill attempts to reduce. This is the process of the government buying crops from US farmers, giving it to NGOs to sell in local developing markets, wherein they can use profits to fund projects of their choosing. Of this, Scanlon warns, “It undermines agricultural production in developing countries.” When US crops are sold in developing markets, local crops must compete, which “could drive food price inflation, pushing the costs of food beyond the reach of consumers.”

In the process of spending money to buy commodities in order to sell them for ultimately less money, there is a loss in value, causing a reduction in potential aid. To put this into perspective, in 2010, approximately $300 million of food aid commodities was monetized, with an estimated $91 million of potential aid wasted. This year’s Farm Bill raises the cap on the percentage of cash aid from 13% to 20%, meaning “we can provide cash instead of commodities to fund projects,” said Scanlon, a valuable step in the direction of streamlining our aid program.

While most Americans believe the US spends upwards of 28% of its GDP on foreign aid, the fact to that fiction is that foreign aid comprises less than one half of one percent of the federal budget per year, meaning we and the people that most need it, cannot afford to waste any of the food aid budget on inefficient supply chains. While there are going to be substantial domestic consequences due to the Farm Bill, the small victories in its food aid reform will have dramatic impacts on the lives of millions more people in need because of its passing.

Myanmar: The Politics of Humanitarian Aid


March 2014

On February 27, the Union Government of Myanmar ordered Médecins Sans Frontières Holland (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, to cease its activities in the country, leading to a full closure of all MSF clinics the following day. On March 3, the organization was granted permission to resume activities on a limited basis. In a move driven by the ethnic tensions in the Rakhine and Arakan States, what may seem like a few inconsequential days of interrupted services is, in actuality, indicative of the detrimental unrest in Myanmar.

At the epicenter of the ethnic turmoil are the Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority from western Myanmar that has largely become a refugee population due to what Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned as crimes against humanity by the Arakanese Buddhists, who have called for the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas. According to the UN, “the Rohingya are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.”

Clashes are believed to have sparked from the rape and murder of an Arakan woman by three Muslim men in late May of 2012. Retaliation took place less than a week later when “a large group of Arakan villagers in Toungop stopped a bus and brutally killed ten Muslims on board,” according to HRW.

The deadliest incident of the clashes took place in October of 2012 when, according an HRW report and other sources, the Arakanese Buddhists carried out a massacre on the Rohingya Muslims; “Among the dead are at least 70 Muslims massacred in Mrauk-U, including 28 children.” Of the incident, the Burmese government acknowledged twelve deaths.

Much of the Rohingyas’ vulnerability stems from the 1982 Citizenship Law, which identified eight national races, and excluded the Rohingya. This determination forces them to provide “conclusive evidence” of Burmese lineage prior to 1948, which HRW describes as “a difficult, if not impossible task, for most Rohingya families.”

Because the Rohingyas are not considered ethnically Burmese, the government refers to the minority as “Bengali” (because of their racial and linguistic similarities), “so-called Rohingya,” and the derogatory “kalar,” according to HRW.

In addition to the Citizenship Law, further systematized discrimination has been identified. After analyzing “12 government documents from 1993 to 2013,” a report by Fortify Rights “found that government policies imposed ‘extensive restrictions on the basic freedoms of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar's Rakhine state,’” such as, restricting “movement, marriage, childbirth, home repairs and construction of houses of worship.”

The result of violence for many has been to seek reprieve in refugee camps on the Thai-Burma Border and Bangladesh, a fact neither region supports. Of the camps, HRW said they “lack adequate food, shelter, water and sanitation, schools, and medical care.”

While MSF has chosen not to disclose the reasons of its suspension, a spokesman for Myanmar President Thein Sein accused the humanitarian organization of straying from “neutrality and impartiality,” regarding the ethnic tensions. “When they give treatment to people they prefer to emphasize on the Bengali people. Sometimes Rakhine people visit their clinic seeking help and they’re refused,” an accusation MSF denies.

Reports, however, speculate “that the ban was triggered by MSF statements contradicting the official government’s account of a recent massacre alleged to have occurred” in January, wherein forty Rohingya Muslims are believed to have been killed.

In a statement on March 1, MSF said it “remains extremely concerned about the fate of tens of thousands of vulnerable people in Rakhine state who currently face a humanitarian medical crisis,” despite the partial lift of its suspension.

Why Women and Girls Count: Using Data to Help Build Changemakers


March 2014

What does it look like when three of the country’s most influential women come together to empower women and girls? On Feb. 13, Melinda French Gates, philanthropist and co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and her daughter Chelsea Clinton, sat down at New York University to launch a new collaboration called “No Ceilings: A Full Participation Project.”

No Ceilings will aggregate hard data to identify gaps in gender equality as a way to target resources and to fuel an international dialogue about why investing in girls is vital to development. Using the Beijing Conference on Women of 1995 as a marker for progress, No Ceilings will measure gains and losses in gender equality to inform future programs.

“The data is very prescriptive,” said Gates. “Data makes a huge difference in terms of where you make investments and where you can see you’re making progress and where you’re not.”

One of the most difficult barriers to cross in obtaining data is knowing where to look. “Women are in the informal economy, which nobody measures,” said Secretary Clinton. Of our responsibility to these women, she said, “We need to be valuing the work women do and we need to be opening doors so that more women are able to participate in the so-called formal economy.”

Regarding the domestic gender gap, Secretary Clinton and Gates touched on the lost ground the U.S. has seen in the percentages of female graduates in computer science. Gates explained that at the time she graduated with her degree in 1987, women made up 33 percent of graduates; by 2001 the percentage had dropped to 20 percent, and by 2011 the number was even lower at 16 percent.

“Where we lose girls are those critical middle school years, where girls and boys start to lose their self confidence, but girls usually first,” said Gates. Adding to this, Secretary Clinton said, “This is a period when women begin to doubt themselves, when they, unfortunately, develop the perfectionist problem.”

Gates and Secretary Clinton spoke of the importance of women holding up other women, but agreed on the necessary role of men in gender equality. “It takes men using their voices and their positions to both mentor and sponsor women, to then pull them up,” said Gates. On the role of women to be the changemakers in their own lives, Gates advised, “If you’re a changemaker in the world, you’re usually up against something tough – I don’t care what your field is – so, have a base of support back home that you can rely on, that you can try your ideas out on first.”

In what should be an anthem for any woman wanting to empower herself to make a difference, Secretary Clinton urged, “Start with a passion for what you want to do, what you want to change. Become as well educated as you possibly can. Get all the evidence. Practice your arguments. Don’t assume just because it’s the right thing to do people will do it … and then work on your own confidence and your own ability to withstand the inevitable criticism that will come your way.”

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Changemaker: Theo Chocolate's Dennis Macray


June 2014

When President John F. Kennedy signed an Executive Order to kick-start the Peace Corps program in 1961, he was undoubtedly hoping it would be people like Dennis Macray that would take up the mantle for global service.

After graduating with a degree in Political Science from Harvard University, Macray completed his two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in the western highlands of Guatemala, where his passion for fair trade and sustainable environmental practices in coffee and cocoa took root.

“When you’re young and impressionable you think, ‘This is a huge issue,’ and you realize you have to do something about it,” said Macray of his reaction to harmful coffee production methods and practices he witnessed while in Guatemala.

While those years of service are often life changing for volunteers, it is safe to say that Macray’s continued pursuit of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in agricultural supply chains throughout his career is both unique and admirable.

Inspired by his experiences in Central America, Macray chose to attend UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business because of its CSR program. “What I was looking at,” he explained, “was how do you get the private sector to be more responsible, and support a new model of social enterprise?”

While at Haas, in addition to attempting to answer that question, Macray was a founding member of Net Impact, or as it was known at the time, Students for Responsible Business, a membership organization with a mission “to make business different.”

“Today I see business schools around the country competing to have the best CSR program,” explained Macray. “That didn’t exist when I went to business school so, at the time, it was a pretty radical idea we had.”

Since graduating from UC Berkeley, Macray has spent considerable time working with farmers in dozens of developing countries, and has become a go-to expert for many of the most influential organizations in his field. For the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a GlobalWA member, Macray consults on its East African Coffee Initiative, as well as its Cocoa Livelihoods Program in West Africa.

For the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), his consulting is largely based on setting metrics. According to Macray, “The WCF is unique in that it was established to address the needs of everyone along the value chain in the cocoa industry,” making his contributions vital to the WCF’s efforts to track progress in sustainable cocoa production.

Integral to his knowledge base were the eight years he spent at Starbucks as the company’s Director of Global Responsibility. While there, he utilized his experiences at Conservation International, helping fledgling enterprises choose sustainable income over destructive environmental practices as a means of survival, to strengthen the company’s sourcing policies for coffee, cocoa and manufactured goods.

“In developing C.A.F.E. Practices [Starbucks ethical sourcing program for coffee], I wanted to make sure we had very rigorous requirements for preserving the environment in coffee production and keeping that as a core principle for all of the coffee that Starbucks purchased,” explained Macray.

Recently, Macray made a big move to a much smaller company, Theo Chocolate, another GlobalWA member, where he is Vice President for Sustainable Operations and Social Impact. Of his role, Macray explained, “I have the responsibility for looking across all aspects of the company to ensure that it is committed to its mission and to sustainability.”

To partake in Macray’s tour of the Theo factory, and to listen to his explanation of its processes, is to understand that his dedication to Theo Chocolate and to the principles on which it holds itself up is unimpeachable. So, when Macray says, “We have a very strong focus on making lives better where we do business,” he means it.

Of his passion for sustainability and fairness along the value chain, Macray said, “My dream is that more people will start to ask questions about where a product came from and how it was produced.”

He continued, “Rather than having a race to the bottom in global trade, we should all be racing to the top, and consumers can make that difference.”

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