Kyle Poplin

Weekly Roundup – 6/7/2014: Experience is winning the battle with theory, and that’s good news for social enterprises

Aaron Hurst, entrepreneur and CEO of Imperative, caught our eye this week with his Huffington Post blog entitled, “Peace Corps or Harvard?”

He tells the story of Meg Garlinghouse, head of LinkedIn for Good, “who attended the Harvard Kennedy School and was also a Peace Corps volunteer. She shared that if forced to choose between the graduate program at Harvard and her experience as a volunteer, knowing what she knows now, Meg would take the Peace Corps.”

Garlinghouse is far from alone, Hurst points out: “On top of studying on campus, more college students are also studying abroad, interning and volunteering. They find all this necessary to not only land a job at graduation, but to obtain the education and self-awareness they desire.”

The off-campus studying follows a general education trend away from bricks and mortar and toward individualized online education. (It’s like music, George Leef argues in Forbes. For centuries, music had to be experienced live. When technology enabled recordings, the world of music changed forever. A similar upheaval might be coming in education, as more students become convinced that a quality education can be acquired online, versus in person.)

Experience is winning the battle with theory, it seems.

Clearly, billions of people in the developing world – in fact, most people in the developed world – don’t have the luxury of choosing between a Harvard education and joining the Peace Corps. (But increasingly, the proliferation of smart phones is building the bridge to educational content, such as that developed and currated by the Khan Academy for mobile users. And schools are tinkering with it around the world). And here at NextBillion Health Care we work with and hear from lots of social enterprises focused on global health, and it occurs to us that all this self-awareness is good news for these organizations. As more young people see the world and its intractable problems firsthand, more entrepreneurial ideas will bloom.

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Sometimes, one bold idea is all it takes.

That’s the theory behind the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges Explorations grants, which were awarded this week.

Among the 55 winners – and our favorite, based solely on its extremely cool “elevator pitch” description – is the plan by by ISCA Technologies in California to make cows smell like humans. That’s right: cow cologne. The theory is that if mosquitos bite cows instead of humans, then more humans will be spared deadly mosquito-transmitted diseases. Ingenious.

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We were also struck this week by the elegant logic employed by Blair Miller in an NBHC post, via Acumen. She expressed her frustration with the “aid vs. trade” and “profit vs. nonprofits” hand-wringing she’s been hearing throughout her career. Her take: “I am tired of these debates. They are too ideological and too simplistic.”

It’s more realistic, she says, to discuss the best ways to blend the two approaches, with one approach supporting the other when tensions arise. She encourages the study of markets that work for the poor, and redesign old systems “with a combination of philanthropy, private dollars and public funds.”

And, recalling advice she got from her late mentor C.K. Prahalad, Miller makes the point that the high-flying “aid vs. trade” debate is not just theory (there’s that word again), it’s about people’s lives. Keeping things personal, she said, “should remain our most important goal.”

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Speaking of personal, let’s talk about market dynamics.

How is that personal, you ask? Because inefficient markets cost millions of lives every year.

Consider, for instance, that more than 1 million children under age 5 die of pneumonia every year, yet they could be treated with antibiotics that cost as little as 21 cents.

Kanika Bahl of the Results for Development Institute reminded us of these horrific stats this week, and about efforts being made to fix some eminently fixable problems.

Market dynamics in health care boils down to getting products in the hands of those who need them. Bahl describes some of the interventions global organizations are implementing to accomplish this goal.

Her blog is a wonderful addition to our ongoing series at NBHC that looks to encourage discussion and understanding around how markets impact health outcomes. Follow the tag Market Dynamics on NextBillion Health Care to keep up with the series, and we’d love to hear more about how your organization addresses this increasingly important topic.

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Finally, we here at NextBillion would like to express our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of two Aga Khan Foundation workers who were killed on June 1 when their vehicle rolled over an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. The foundation issued the following release and the details are still hard to come by. And we do not know if the staffers killed were working on a relatively new microlending project, which was featured on NextBillion last year. Regardless, we are so sorry to hear of this tragedy and salute the sacrifice of these and all development workers who risk it all to help others.

Kyle Poplin is the editor of NB Health Care.

In Case You Missed It … This Week on NextBillion

NexThought Monday – MNCs, the Grassroots and the Future of the BoP By James Koch

Is Brazil the Country of the Future for Mobile Money? By Judah J. Levine and Chris Connolly

In Market Dynamics, Creativity Matters: Global organizations using a variety of interventions to leverage their work By Kanika Bahl

Reflecting Our Energy for Impact: How can we strengthen the contributions of incubators and accelerators? By James Koch

Roadblocks to Bridges: How municipal governments, NGOs and companies can unlock inclusive cities By NextBillion Editor

Bold Ideas for Big Shifts in Global Health: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awards its Grand Challenges Explorations grants By Steven Buchsbaum

What Makes Toniic Tick?: Part one of an interview with Stephanie Cohn Rupp, CEO of the impact investor network By James MilitzerWDI

Beyond the Aid Debate: Getting smarter about how markets and charity work together is job one for those working in development By Blair Miller

The Rise and Fall of BoP Ventures : An interview with Cornell’s Erik Simanis who sees a silver lining on the horizon By NextBillion Editor

Education, Health Care
skill development, social enterprise