Dawn Levy, News Service: (650) 725-1944, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gordon M. Bloom, Public Policy: (650) 723-6514,
Photos are available on the web at http://newsphotos.stanford.edu. Photo
credit: L.A. Cicero.
Students tackle terrorism, illiteracy, disaster relief and
more in social entrepreneurship contest
student Uri Pomerantz, an Israeli, lost his great-aunt in a terrorist
attack at a Jerusalem bus stop in 2002. Hisham Jabi, a Palestinian now
studying at the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management in
Southern California, lost a cousin to a bullet in 1991 as Israeli troops
quelled a demonstration in Nablus.
losses could have made them enemies. Instead, they chose to become
business partners. To address the economic roots of terrorism, they
teamed up to form Jozoor Microfinance (Jozoor means "roots" in
Arabic). The company grants microloans to young Palestinian men who
could become targets for recruitment to terrorist groups. More than 60
percent of the Palestinian population lives on less than $2 per day, and
the unemployment rate exceeds 50 percent.
On May 22,
Pomerantz, Jabi and Stanford MBA student Delaney Steele's business plan
took first place, winning $7,500, in a competition organized by the
Business Association of Stanford Engineering Students (BASES). This
year's Stanford BASES Social Entrepreneurs Challenge pitted 29 student
teams against each other to create innovative business plans addressing
social needs. The multidisciplinary teams included students working with
alumni and faculty advisers as well as partners from industry,
government and nongovernmental organizations.
trying to build the environment for peace," Pomerantz said in an
interview. "We're not trying to give loans and have Palestinians
suddenly love Israelis. What we are trying to create is an environment
in which people will not resort to violence." Initially using a group
solidarity lending model that has worked in Bangladesh, the company
gives loans of $200 to $600 and basic business training to
members of affiliated groups. The majority of loans support sole
proprietorships such as bakeries, beauty shops and linen services. If
one member fails to repay, the entire group becomes ineligible for
hypothetical case of Khalil, a farmer, illustrates how the loans work.
With security checkpoints delaying the long trip from farm to
marketplace by hours, even days, Khalil has watched a lot of his
cucumbers rot in the sun. To solve the spoilage problem, he takes out a
Jozoor microloan to buy the jars, salt and preservatives necessary to
turn his cucumbers into pickles.
trying to do the opposite of what HAMAS [Islamic resistance movement]
does," Pomerantz said. "HAMAS takes people and makes them into a group
and makes them feel like they are sacrificing their life for an idea.
We're trying to target individuals and make them have something to live
Four of the
five winners of the BASES Social Entrepreneurs Challenge were student
groups from Public Policy 193, taught by Gordon Bloom and Laura Scher.
Bloom is a lecturer in the Public Policy Program of the School of
Humanities and Sciences and a faculty affiliate of the Center for Social
Innovation in the Graduate School of Business. Scher is co-founder,
chair and CEO of Working Assets, a socially progressive company engaged
in long distance, credit card, Internet and broadcasting services.
had an amazing year of work and experimentation, with incredible
students and fellows developing innovative U.S. and international social
sector initiatives," Bloom said. "I'm overwhelmed that the new Public
Policy 193 lab Social Entrepreneurship Collaboratory
is a home to four of the five winning teams for the Social E-Challenge.
Together the participants and teaching team in the lab are creating a
space for these ideas and project teams to incubate and flourish, and
this spring, based in Wallenberg Hall, it really came together."
of a social entrepreneurship collaboratory is closely aligned with the
university's founding mission, Bloom told students on May 29 before they
gave their final project presentations. He quoted Jane Stanford
addressing the university trustees in 1902: "The university was
accordingly designed for the betterment of mankind morally, spiritually
and materially. ... While the instruction offered must be such as will
qualify students for personal success and direct usefulness in life,
they should understand that it is offered in the hope and trust that
they will become thereby of greater service to the public."
finalists from Bloom and Scher's class included Jozoor as well as AIMS
for Humanity, a technology-enabled mapping and humanitarian relief
project ($5,000); ABCDEspañol Oaxaca, a literacy project in Mexico
($750); and Mobile Media, a project using handheld computers to help
create access to social services and voter registration for 22 million
people in poor areas of Brazil ($750).
Humanity is dedicated to improving the speed, accuracy and quantity of
aid to disaster zones. AIMS stands for "Aid Information Mapping
Services." Each year, crises such as war, famine, disease, earthquakes
and floods disrupt the lives of 200 million people. Emergency response
requires extensive coordination but the available information is
often fragmented, confused and outdated. After the war in Kosovo, for
example, the World Health Organization was given satellite-based
information that mistook dry grass for wheat and consequently ordered
insufficient winter wheat.
of AIMS really is to give eyes to the humanitarian community," Victor
March II told his classmates. "We want to make sure they have an
accurate picture ... not just today but five years from today."
project, with pilots in Iraq and Africa, provides crisis workers with
maps using imagery collected from unmanned aerial vehicles and
satellites. Topological maps can be overlaid with street maps, and data
collected in the field can be fed into geographical information systems
using wireless handheld devices. The resulting maps can give a real-time
picture of water needs, buildings on fire, locations of mine fields, or
percent of a population afflicted with illness. Computer science
graduate student Jon McAlister, an award-winning coder, is a partner on
Oaxaca, in contrast, tackles illiteracy by teaching indigenous people to
read and write in their native language in phase one. In phase two, they
learn to read and write in Spanish. More than 5 million Mexicans are
illiterate, and the problem is acute in states such as Oaxaca that have
high indigenous populations.
educator Javier González developed the ABCDEspañol methodology. It has
proven successful in Colombia, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic,
where last year 18,000 people became literate in the span of 8 months.
The methodology employs a game incorporating linguistic principles and
costs about $14 to teach a person to read, compared with the $547 the
Oaxacan government spends to teach one pupil for a year in elementary
students Luis Trujillo, Joe Kirchofer and Jason Fang are working with
the Center for the Development and Study of the Indigenous Languages of
Oaxaca on a pilot project to teach 4,000 people to read and write in
their native language in 4 months.
project, Mobile Media, trains local youths to use wireless handheld
devices to collect data on undocumented persons in Brazil, where 22
percent of the population lacks basic documentation including birth
certificates, voter registration and identification cards. Governments
or nongovernmental organizations would use the data to connect
unidentified people to currently inaccessible services. For example,
grants can be disbursed to families through the nationwide cash-transfer
system, Caixa Economica.
Director Melanie Edwards, a Reuters Foundation Digital Vision Fellow,
works with undergraduates Zachary Pogue and Amy McIntyre and Reuters
Foundation Digital Vision Fellow Daniella Pontes on this project.
winning project, My Two Front Teeth, was not from the Public Policy 193
class. The project, a web-enabled charity service connecting indigent
children with a gift wish, won $5,000. It was founded by former Stanford
students Josh McFarland, CEO, and Dave Selinger, CTO, and is managed
with current Stanford students Susie Cranston, CFO, and Jeff Ota, COO.
By Dawn Levy