Tag Archives: Business & Social Entrepreneurship

Has the Future Economy arrived?

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By Oakley Brooks,  Ecotrust

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Has the Future Economy arrived?

You know, the one that will help us and the planet survive.

Couchsurfing. CSAs. Neighborhood energy. Local food clusters. Coops. Promising, hip business models are cropping up all around the country.

Do they constitute the new economy we all long for, the one people have been out in the street demanding—the one that delivers social and financial benefits broadly while restoring the environment? I certainly hope so. But unless we take a clear eyed-look at what’s really going on with these new innovations, we can’t know for sure.

That’s why a new round of research just out is hopeful. To better weigh the progress of innovative business models in the new economy, the E3 Network—a national network of economists focused on equity and environment—deployed researchers around the country to separate hype from reality.  Armed with an analytical framework developed by a national steering committee, these researchers looked deeply into how new business models function, what their impacts are, how scalable they are, and how replicable they are.

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A DAY TO RECOGNIZE HEROES

In the spirit of Martin Luther King Day, Two Views is highlighting 5 activists working to secure equal rights and social justice around the world.  Here is our list of 5 tireless advocates who have dared to speak up in the hope of making our lives better:

  1. Fatima Jibrell

 0702jibrellIn a country that lacked a central government for nearly two decades, the fate of Somalia’s environment  would seem nearly futile.  Fatima Jibrell, however, persevered  as an environmental activist working to empower local communities to conserve and  manage their natural resources.  In the wake of Somalia’s 1991 civil war, she co-founded the non-profit organization Adeso (previously called the Horn of Africa Relief and Develop Organization). In recognition of her advocacy of community-driven environmental consciousness, Jibrell was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2002 and the National Geographic/Buffet Award for Leadership in African Conservation in 2007.  Most recently in November 2014, she became Somalia’s first Champion of the Earth, the United Nations top environment award.

  1. Emily Stanger

In 2012, emilyForbes Magazine named Emily Stanger to its Top 30 Under 30 list.  Since then, Stanger has been working in Liberia and Sierra Leone to enhance economic opportunities for women in West Africa.  In early 2014, when many were fleeing Sierra Leone during the peak of the Ebola outbreak, Emily redirected her efforts and became an advisor in the Office of the President in Sierra Leone to combat the rapid spread of the ebola virus. One of Stanger’s many contributions to organizing Sierra Leone’s ebola response was spearheading the transformation of a local hotline into a high capacity call center that answered and responded to more than 2,000 ebola-related calls daily. Stanger continues to work tirelessly with the hope that Sierra Leone will be ebola-free in the very near future.

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Business benefits from human rights violations, right? Wrong.

Authored with Carolyn Blacklock, Resident Representative, International Finance Corporation.

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When one thinks of businesses operating in countries that are still struggling to protect and provide for human rights, a narrative can easily spring to mind involving unscrupulous businesses happily taking advantage of weak labor laws, a lack of minimum wage and poor environmental controls etc.

But, in many places, the reality is very different. Not only is the private sector itself adversely impacted by weak human rights protections but, more than this, businesses are themselves having to take up a leadership role in protecting human rights in order to compensate for weaknesses in governments’ actions.

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Opinions Diverge on Need for a Binding Agreement on Human Rights & Business

This week, the United Nations held the 3rd annual Forum on Human Rights and Business in Geneva (Forum). The Forum is intended to provide a global platform for the implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, a set of principles endorsed by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011 that establish a framework of standards on the “responsibilities of States and businesses for preventing and addressing business-related human rights abuse.” The Guidelines include a set of thirty-one principles that are underpinned by three interrelated pillars:

  • the State duty to protect human rights,
  • the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and
  • the right of victims to access an effective remedy.

At the closing session of the Forum, panelists highlighted areas of achievements and also noted that implementation challenges of the Guiding Principles persist.  The Forum reported on a growing number of states taking real steps to implement the Guiding Principles, including through the development of National Implementation Plans on business and human rights; identified how corporations and business actors are taking practical steps to respect human rights; and noted that the Guiding Principles have been adopted by the World Bank and OECD, among others.

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Can small business entrepreneurs in conflict countries provide for basic rights?

Protecting and promoting rights in conflict affected and post-conflict states is a tricky  order. These are places where violations and non-provision of basic rights- such as the right food, water or livelihoods opportunities -can be a defining character of the conflict dynamics. As part of our Special Series on Business and Human Rights, we look at how the private sector- in particular small business entrepreneurs-can play a critical role in the delivery of public goods and services essential to citizens’ enjoyment of their rights. 

Going where other actors fear to tread
Government institutions -due to capacity and revenue constraints- are often unable to deliver effectively and flexibly during the transition from violent conflict to peace, and while donor relief initiatives may be able to rapidly (at least somewhat more than government!) meet the basic needs of people affected by conflict, they often inadvertently distort private markets and create vulnerability and a long-lasting dependency on aid.

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What do handbags have to do with counter-insurgency?

Bilquis Rafiq’s family is unusual for the village and the part of Pakistan where they live:  each of her three children – two boys and a girl- are in school. The family can afford to pay the school fees for all their children because Bilquis has been earning a living from Popinjay[1], a for-profit social impact oriented enterprise that makes high-end handbags for sale in Pakistan and the USA.

In a country where the education system provides few affordable options for families living on little, many Pakistanis choose to send their children to foreign-funded madrassas – or religious schools- which offer to feed and house as well as educate their students, at little or no cost. The madrassas however are notorious for the highly conservative, often extreme religious doctrines they transmit to their students, and the link between the madrassa system and recruitment of insurgent fighters in both Pakistan and Afghanistan is well-known.  Without the madrassas, many households in rural areas don’t even have a realistic option for sending their children to school.

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