Opportunity International Spins Off Insurance Company

Jacob Chikayiko (right), a farmer in Malawi, bought insurance from MicroEnsure to protect against crop failure caused by inclement weather. (Photograph by Opportunity International)

Many people in the developing world are one failed crop, one illness, or one emergency away from financial ruin. In 2008, Opportunity International started MicroEnsure to provide low-cost insurance to the people the microfinance charity serves.

“If something happens and they run into a season where they have a poor…


Impact Investors Report Satisfaction—and Cite Challenges

Most foundations and other institutions that make investments that seek both social and financial returns say the approach is meeting their expectations on both counts, according to a new report published by JPMorgan and the Global Impact Investing Network.

In the survey of 99 organizations that each manage at least $10-million in so-called impact investments, 84 percent said that those investments were meeting their expectations when it comes to social and environmental benefits. Fourteen perce…


10 People Honored for Using Technology to Improve Social Good

The SXSW Interactive Festival has announced the 2013 winners of its Dewey Winburne Community Service Award. Ten social entrepreneurs who are using technology to tackle tough problems like educational inequity, environmental degradation, and poverty will be honored in March at the social-media industry event, in Austin, Tex.

The awards are named after one of the festival’s co-founders, a teacher who was devoted to helping disadvantaged youths learn technology skills.

The winners are:

• Madhura …


Cash Rewards Spur Poor Communities to Pay for Sanitation Projects

Children try out a new hand-washing station. (Photograph by East Meets West Foundation)

An international aid charity is taking an unorthodox approach to helping people in Cambodia and Vietnam improve sanitation and hygiene: It asks beneficiaries to help pay for the construction of latrines and hand-washing stations, but then gives them cash rewards when they get results. The effort will now spread, thanks to a $10.9-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The East Meets West Foun…


Update: Retreats on Trademarking ‘Social Enterprise’

The software giant has announced that it plans to withdraw its applications to trademark the term “social enterprise.”

The company, which had sought the trademark in Great Britain, Jamaica, the United States, and the European Union, has been using the term in its advertising for the last two years to describe how businesses use social media to connect with customers. In its announcement, pointed to the outcry from nonprofits and socially minded businesses as the pri…


The Fight Over Trademarking the Term ‘Social Enterprise’

The United States Patent and Trademark Office rejected’s request to trademark the term, “social enterprise”—and the nonprofit Social Enterprise Alliance wants to make sure the agency doesn’t change its mind.

The alliance is calling on supporters to write letters supporting the trademark office’s denial of the application during its comment period, which ends September 9.

In the United States and around the world, tens of thousands of businesses whose primary goal is social or envi…


Why Today’s Challenges Require Nonprofits to Be Nimble

Book cover of Resilience, by Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy

To tackle problems in a rapidly changing world, nonprofits need to adopt a new mind-set, one that emphasizes improvisation, ad hoc networks, and adaptation, says Andrew Zolli, executive director of PopTech, a New York charity focused on innovation, and co-author of a new book, Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back.

Because the world has entered a period of “extraordinary volatility” and the problems society faces are increasingly complex, he argues, figuring out why some individuals, organizat…


Harnessing the Internet to Provide Low-Cost Higher Education

A University of the People student from Haiti (Photo courtesy of University of the People)

University of the People has an ambitious goal: to use the Internet to provide an extremely low-cost college education to students around the world. And the nonprofit’s big idea is starting to gain traction with grant makers.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded $500,000 to support the university’s effort to gain accreditation. The grant comes on the heels of recent awards by the William and Flo…


Evaluating Programs? Ask Clients What They Think

Nonprofits need to get a lot better at asking clients what they think — and acting on the information they receive, says Peter York, director of research for TCC Group, a management-consulting company that advises charities.

Information from beneficiaries can help organizations improve their programs and spark new ideas for fighting tough problems. For real-world examples of charities using client feedback to strengthen their programs, read an opinion piece from The Chronicle’s current issue.



‘Random Hacks of Kindness’ Uses Technology to Solve Problems

Programmers in San Francisco and Berlin got together recently to attempt to build a system that would allow immigrants to tell their families they’ve arrived safely at their destination without anyone else finding out.

In Nairobi, a similar group worked on a system to report election results in real time,  including incidents of election violence and accusations of voter fraud.

In Toronto, others worked on a system that could allow Nepali women to send ultrasound pictures via mobile devices.