Working Towards a Healthy Malawi One Village at a Time

Eric and John working with Village Health Workers in Malawi

Eric and John working with Village Health Workers in Malawi

8/18/15 – This guest post is written by Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA students John Garvey and Eric Harry, who spent a month working with Partners in Health on their Village Health Worker program in Malawi.

Nine years ago in Malawi’s remote Neno district there were only five people receiving anti-retroviral therapy (ART). Today that figure stands at 6,800. Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo (APZU), the sister organization of Partners in Health here in Malawi, has vastly increased detection and treatment of HIV, and its Village Health Worker program has been the cornerstone of that success.  Things in the field may seem to move a bit slow on some days around here, yet real change doesn’t occur overnight. Nor does it occur without cultural competence. APZU has accomplished a tremendous amount since breaking ground in 2007, and the organization’s new initiatives promise much more.

On our second day here we were fortunate to attend a SHARC screening. This has nothing to do with marine biology: SHARC stands for Screening for Health and Referrals in the Community, and has helped identify hundreds of cases of health conditions such as hypertension, tuberculosis, diabetes, HIV, and malnutrition. Working alongside a dedicated (and extremely good humored) team of professionals in the tiny village of Lumbe, we helped to screen 137 people (including 64 children) for five common yet very threatening illnesses. The team issued 13 medical referrals, representing the potential to intervene early in disease processes before they become debilitating or fatal. If necessary, Village Health Workers will follow up on the referrals.

SHARC and other programs complement another major initiative APZU is undertaking with our assistance: shifting the VHW program to a more proactive household model. In a nutshell, VHWs previously trained in the detection and treatment of HIV/AIDS and TB will be retrained to help extend access to medical services to healthy individuals. This is a major step toward the goal of bringing comprehensive primary healthcare to all 151,000 people in Neno. We expect that our continued assistance will help the organization roll out a successful program, avoid potential “growing pains,” and identify strategic opportunities.

Much more to come!

– John & Eric

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Experience and Expectations: Yukos Hospital in the Classroom and in Real Life

Colorado State University Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise student Charles Jeza

GSSE MBA Student Charles Jeza

8/3/15 – This guest post is written by Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA student Charles Jeza, the Co-Founder and CEO of Yukos Hospital, based in his hometown of Nairobi, Kenya. Their business model is a for-profit private hospital with a foundation offering fistula care based on a percentage of profits and partner donations.

As part of this MBA program, I have experienced important learning both in the classroom as well as in the field. For class, I learned how to create a Business Plan and present business ideas to potential investors. In the class setting the “investors” were the judges in what we called “Line of Fire” sessions. This helped me a lot in the field; I was always prepared meeting up with all the potential partners for Yukos Hospital. In a meeting with the top management of the NGO Project C.U.R.E. at their headquarters in Denver, I had answers to all the questions that were posed to me at the drop of a hat. This impressed everyone in the management team and I got the feeling that I was more than prepared for them. Looking back, working on the business plan in detail, from the beginning to the end, enabled me to answer questions and give explanations about the business, the history of the hospital, current and future plans, and financial projections.

In addition to the coursework, a core component of the GSSE MBA is the summer practicum requirement to validate propositions, which for me did not require travel since I started the hospital in 2014.  One thing I learned by working on getting the hospital operational, which I couldn’t have ever really learned in class, is that the biggest challenge to starting any business is that no matter how focused you will be on it, everything will end up changing in due course as a result of factors such as compliance issues, laws, financial requirements, obligations etc. I believe no class training can prepare you for that kind of business reality; you just get to experience it out there.

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Chaka Fibers: Finding Markets for Alpaca Fiber in the Altitude of the Andes

7/27/15 – This guest post is written by three students in the Global, Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program at Colorado State University, who are co-founders of Chaka Fibers. Chaka is working this summer in Peru, getting to know the entire alpaca fiber supply chain.

Claudia Molina and Emily Fifield, two of the three co-founders of Chaka Fibers, with the alpaca ranchers in the Peruvian highlands.

Claudia Molina and Emily Fifield, two of the three co-founders of Chaka Fibers, with the alpaca ranchers in the Peruvian highlands.

Far away from the warmth of the Colorado summer, we have been busy working in remote Peruvian alpaca ranching communities at altitudes of 14,000 feet.  We are here to test the feasibility of a business model that connects alpaca ranchers to international markets in order to help alleviate rural poverty in the Andes.  NGOs have a strong presence in Peru and play an important role in working towards this same aim, but we see business-based solutions as key to moving towards more sustainable, long-term progress. This belief has only been reinforced during our time in Peru so far.

The difficulties facing alpaca ranchers, or alpaqueros as they are called here, are complex and multi-faceted and require solutions that address this complexity. DESCO, the Peruvian NGO that has been assisting us in our fieldwork, has been working for decades to do just that in remote Andean communities.  Their projects include alpaca vaccination campaigns, training ranchers in improved breeding practices, and working on strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change on alpaca production.

An alpaguero - alpaca rancher - with his flock in the Peruvian Andes.

An alpaquero – alpaca rancher – with his flock in the Peruvian Andes.

This organization does great work to improve the lives of the alpaqueros, but it didn’t take long for us to see that gaps exist in their work that could be best filled by business-based solutions. Over the past week, we’ve been interviewing alpaqueros to learn more about their production systems and the challenges they face as they work to support their families.  All of the alpaqueros we’ve interviewed are participating in DESCO’s alpaca breeding program, which trains them on methods to improve the health of the animals and increase the quality of their fiber in order to capture higher prices in the market. We asked our interviewees if they have seen improvements in quality over the past few years, and all of them responded proudly that they have had more uniform coloring and finer fiber than what they produced before.

However, when we ask how they are now selling this improved fiber, we begin to see the limits of the good work being done by DESCO and other NGOs in these communities.

In the absence of other market channels, the alpaqueros continue to sell their fiber as they always have: through middlemen that pay them a low price based solely on the weight of the fiber, regardless of the quality. Thus, they are receiving no reward for the improvements they’ve made to their product and are in the same economic situation as before. DESCO’s work to improve alpaqueros’ practices is a critical first step, but without access to a market that compensates the alpaqueros for the resources and effort they have invested into improving their product, it does little in the long run to improve their livelihoods.

We believe a business-based solution that builds upon the work of NGOs like DESCO can provide these alpaqueros with options to make a better life for themselves and their families. We at Chaka Fibers intend to fill this gap by connecting them to markets that will pay them a fair price and reward them for their efforts to create a better product.

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How Biogas is Improving Lives in Ethiopia: Focus on the Customer

(B)energy logo7/21/15 – This guest post is written by three GSSE MBA students who envision an entrepreneurial future involving biogas.  This summer, they are partnering with the Ethiopian branch of the social business (B)energy.  Biogas is a clean-burning cooking fuel generated through the decomposition of organic material such as manure, kitchen scraps, agricultural residues, and human waste.  In countries that are livestock-rich and energy-poor, biogas may just be the perfect cooking solution.

Although nothing could have fully prepared us for our hands-on work in Ethiopia, our GSSE coursework equipped us with certain tools to get the most out of our time here.  Most notable among these tools was IDEO’s human-centered design framework, which includes creative ways to conduct market research in foreign markets less infiltrated by western commercialism.  The basic idea is that, when you are trying to provide new solutions, you need to talk to the actual people that might want those solutions in their own locales.  You need to observe how people function in their everyday lives.  In the end, products should satisfy needs from the perspective of their users, not from the assumptions of their inventors.

(B)energy Ethiopia’s Yodit  Balcha, getting the low-down on cooking with biogas

(B)energy Ethiopia’s Yodit Balcha, getting the low-down on cooking with biogas

For the (B)energy team, this means leaving our office in Addis Ababa to visit rural families and businesses of many kinds: those aware and those unaware of biogas, owners of (B)energy biogas systems, owners of competitors’ systems, and people who cook in the traditional way on three-stone fuelwood fires.  Our goal is two-fold.  First, we want to know how people cook.  What do they expect out of their cooking, where do they cook, what are they unhappy with?  This will help us adapt our products to satisfy local needs.  Second, we want to use these case studies to help our local partner, Yodit, by formulating a profile of the ideal Ethiopian (B)energy customer. Thus far, we have been blown away by Yodit’s capabilities.  She is a fast learner with a knack for connecting to people of all kinds.  She understands how the information we are gathering will be invaluable to her in the future, and she is completely capable of conducting observational interviews on her own after we leave.

Cafe manager, Shitye, joyfully serving up a beautiful Beyaynetu dish

Cafe manager, Shitye, joyfully serving up a beautiful Beyaynetu dish

One case, in particular, strengthened our faith in the powerful combination of biogas and entrepreneurial vigor.  In the small village of Akaki-Kality, we found a small café with a very small manager, Shitye, who was visibly overflowing with pride.  She had a reason to be proud, for her restaurant was teeming with hungry, then very full Ethiopians.  The food was fast but delicious: Injera topped with colorful vegetables and sauces of all kinds.  But this café was different than most.  It was run by biogas!

Shitye demonstrating how they feed the biogas system

Shitye demonstrating how they feed the biogas system

The facilities, including the kitchen and biogas system, were all donated by a local NGO, Emmanuel Development Association in partnership with the international non-profit WaterAid.  True, we at (B)energy prefer market-based solutions to charity, but we can’t help but acknowledge this particular project for its entrepreneurial spirit.  The café is, in fact, now self-sustaining and employee-owned.  Besides Shitye, 22 women work at the café and every one of them knows how to operate and maintain the biogas system.  Yodit shared another bit of insight about these women.  Before the café, they all worked as trash collectors, one of the lowliest positions in the country.  They formed a self-help savings group and approached Emmanuel with their dream of owning a restaurant together.  If that’s not entrepreneurial, we don’t know what is.

Team member, Savannah Miller, taking notes at café interviews

Team member, Savannah Miller, taking notes at café interviews

We left this site impressed and inspired.  Perhaps small restaurants, where saving on cooking fuel means increased profits, are a great target market segment.  We have learned tons about the potential for an Ethiopian biogas market, and our learnings will help us in any market we may decide to enter in the future.  Our team will be gaining more Ethiopian biogas insights until early August. Follow our journey on our The Biogas Revolution Facebook Page!

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From the Barnyard to the Bedroom: A Cultural Divide

7/16/15 – This guest blog post is the second written by The Humane Business Developers, a Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA student start-up that seeks to create unique business models for the animal shelter industry. The Humane Business Developers are conducting their summer field work with the Humane Society of Grand Bahama. You can read their first post here.

This summer our business, Humane Business Developers, has taken us to the island of Grand Bahama to work with the Humane Society of Grand Bahama. While in the field we have learned many things, but perhaps none is more important than learning cultural differences when it comes to the treatment and perceptions associated with dogs and cats. In the United States, the transition from barn yard to bedroom occurs very often with our furry friends. When we planned our pilot here in the Bahamas, we knew we would not encounter the same situation as the United States, but we underestimated the cultural differences that are linked with raising companion animals.

GSSE Student Julia Hebard educating youth at the Potcake Pals summer camp

GSSE Student Julia Hebard educating youth at the Potcake Pals summer camp

After several weeks of working at the shelter it became evident that the treatment of animals is ingrained deeply into cultural history. The island dogs are mixed breeds, and are commonly referred to as “Potcakes” because they used to eat the scraps that are caked onto pots after cooking. The large dogs are referred to as “yard dogs,” while the smaller breeds are “house dogs.” It has also been a commonplace misconception here that dogs are wild and can survive in the wilderness, and that neutering an animal takes away its masculinity. Cats are not even regarded as pets on this island, but more as pests that come around for food every once in a while.

Due to these perceptions, we have realized the importance of education regarding the proper care and treatment of animals. We have been fortunate enough to work with the Humane Society during their annual Kids Camp entitled “Potcake Pals”. The Kids Camp is an opportunity for children ages 4 to 12 to learn proper care for animals and to interact with the shelter animals. Getting young children involved with animal welfare is a necessity when it comes to creating long term cultural change.

HSGB Educational Posters Spay & Neuter

HSGB Educational Posters Spay & Neuter

In addition to hands-on education, we have been working with the Humane Society to create new advertisements, campaigns, and public service announcements to spread animal education throughout the island. By designing ads that appeal to locals, we believe that we can have an impactful and long lasting effect on the perception of dogs and cats on the island. The Humane Society is not only a shelter, it must also act as a school. Of course, overcoming cultural differences via an education campaign is a long-term approach, but one that hundreds of future pets are very eagerly depending upon.

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Gaining Trust: Working Hard Alongside Your Clients

Puppy up for adoption at the Humane Society of Grand Bahama.

Puppies up for adoption at the Humane Society of Grand Bahama.

7/1/15 – This guest blog post is written by The Humane Business Developers, a Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA student start-up that seeks to create unique business models for the animal shelter industry. The Humane Business Developers are conducting their summer field work with the Humane Society of Grand Bahama.

This summer we arrived in Freeport, Grand Bahama to a warm welcome from Tip Burrows, Director of the Humane Society of Grand Bahama (HSGB) and all the staff.   The HSGB serves a crucial function on Grand Bahama, and without their services, the overpopulation of animals would affect the lifeblood of the island: tourist dollars. The Humane Society of Grand Bahama shelters nearly 200 dogs and 100 cats at any given time, but has many inefficient processes and doubles as a junkyard. As animal shelter consultants, we, the Humane Business Developers, aim to help the HSGB improve their processes and systems which will ultimately improve the biodiversity of Grand Bahama and protect the tourism industry.

The Human Business Developers literally getting their hands dirty cleaning out kennels.

The Human Business Developers literally getting their hands dirty cleaning out kennels.

When people hear the word “consultant,” they often associate it with advice given to top management – but we operate differently than typical consultants. Prior to arrival, we spent months researching best practices. Before we could implement any of those new processes though, we had to jump in, get our hands dirty, and prove ourselves. So, for the first two weeks of our pilot, we engaged in many hours of sweaty, hard, manual labor to beautify and clean the four acres that the shelter sits on, as well as many rooms in the building. It was dirty, filthy work that involved scrubbing floors, multiple trips to the dump, and some days being covered with and smelling like animal waste. However, it garnered us the respect of all the shelter’s employees.

The shelter industry is filled with wonderful individuals who truly care and are passionate about the well-being of all animals. These employees work very hard and expect all others around them to work hard as well. After cleaning the shelter top to bottom, we are no longer seen as merely consultants. Instead, we are seen as a group of people who are willing to persevere towards a common goal: saving animals’ lives. Through this experience, and backed by employee trust, we are now able to look at more systematic changes. Important lesson learned thus far: true education comes in the form of “getting your hands dirty.”

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The Global Story Project: Capturing Tradition in Sri Lanka

6/24/15 – This guest blog post is written by the Global Story Project, a Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA student start-up that documents stories from cultures that Global Story Project Logoare at risk of being destroyed or altered due to colonization, westernization and globalization. The Global Story Project is conducting field work this summer in Sri Lanka and South Africa.

Far away from where we stand now in sweaty Sri Lanka, we’ve spent the past 6 months developing ideas and building what’s evolved into the Global Story Project.

We’re candidates in the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program at Colorado State University where our studies focus on building entrepreneurial skills and ventures that aspire to achieve positive social impact. Our passions: sustainable ways of living, peace building, and the type of knowledge you can only gain from experience. The Global Story Project was seeded from a deep respect for culture and the knowledge that westernization and colonization has been a catalyst for the destruction of cultural values, identities and ways of life.

In her book EcoVillages, Karen Liften proposes that these intentional communities geared towards forging sustainable ways of living hold some of the answers for the future. She proposes a simple solution: sharing “.. skills, stories, ideas and dreams amongst others, [so that] we can apply these lessons in our homes and communities.”

This is where The Global Story Project comes in, creating a space where all of this can be shared and simultaneously preserved through digital documentation, to be celebrated for generations to come.

Co-founders Bianca and Taylor exploring with a coordinator from Sarvodaya

Co-founders Bianca and Taylor exploring with a coordinator from Sarvodaya

It’s important to us that our project creates a full value cycle, so selecting to work with strong partners is crucial. A series of emails and skype calls put us in touch with Sarvodaya, Sri Lanka’s largest organization with an impressive resume of peace building accolades and successful community development programs. Sarvodaya has been in operation for the last 50 years and its network extends to 15,000 Sri Lankan villages.

Directing the unit for international programs is Bandula, a short man in his mid 40s with a cracking sense of humor and an affinity for providing excellent hospitality. Within the space of a moment we felt strongly welcomed; we were greeted over the phone upon our arrival and the next morning with a hug. He is just one of the inspiring characters we’ve had the pleasure of meeting since our arrival.

Sarvodaya is built around Buddhist and Ghandian principles, and they work tirelessly to achieve the strategic goals of consciousness, economics, and power. They believe that working with ‘who’ is just as important as working in alignment with the ‘why.’

A traditional healer in the Kurunegala District

A traditional healer in the Kurunegala District

There are a number of reasons why working in partnerships is necessary – particularly for us as graduate students.

  1. Building long lasting impact. Partnering with organizations with a proven track record of developing and implementing programs in their home country means that work and impactful program development can be continued long after we’ve left.
  2. Logistical support. Working in a foreign country comes with additional challenges and a lack of knowledge about the local context (not to mention language) can mean that getting off the ground can be a slow process. Working through Sarvodaya has helped us to connect with their network, arrange logistics in country and achieve a working productivity that we wouldn’t have otherwise.
  3. Building strong relationships is necessary to connect with the people who we’re hoping to listen to. Sarvodaya are a deeply trusted organization in Sri Lanka, and by association we’re able to facilitate a relationship that would otherwise take decades to build.

We’re excited to be embarking on this adventure with Sarvodaya, gleaning lessons learned from their long-standing community development programs and developing a documentation project for the future. We’ll be on the ground through the end of June providing insights and stories from the people we meet along the way. Stay tuned to follow our progress on our Facebook page.

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Mothers, Radio, and Market Research: The Jolt Model in Guatemala

Jolt logo6/18/15 – This guest blog post is written by Jolt, a Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA student start-up that provides market research services through text message technology and targets parents with children from the ages of 0 to 4. Jolt is conducting field work this summer in Guatemala.

This summer, our goal is to understand mothers, radio, and the context in Guatemala. We need to create a database of subscribers, observe consumer purchasing behavior, and ultimately understand what influences parents and children to listen and participate in our radio programming. Our subscribers will receive early childhood education tips from our radio programming that encourages parent and child interaction. Furthermore, our subscribers serve as candidates to participate in mobile market research, which will help incentivize them to continuously participate in Jolt’s radio programming.

How do we propose to do this in 40 short days? Our journey this summer includes one focus group in San Cristobal and four workshops with mothers across the country. We will also visit 3 radio stations throughout Guatemala City in order to establish and identify a partner to broadcast our radio programming. Through these events, we expect to capture the preliminary information needed to implement our business model here in Guatemala in the Fall of 2015.

Jolt co-founder Andreana Castellanos conducting a focus group in Guatemala

Jolt co-founder Andreana Castellanos conducting a focus group in Guatemala

The great news is that Jolt has hit the ground running. Soon after arriving, we hosted a focus group in Guatemala City with 9 parents and 10 children. The participants genuinely enjoyed the program and were eager to provide feedback for future programming. From there, we traveled to rural city of Panyebar Santa Clara on the picturesque Lake Atitlan to conduct our first workshop. While expecting only 25 mothers and their children, we were shocked to see 40 mothers and 50 children pack out a local church to partake in Jolt’s workshop. The results were clear: mothers were willing to provide their personal demographic information, radio preferences, specific likes and dislikes of Jolt’s current radio sample and what they would be willing to pay to receive future tips. Our journey continues on as we implement our second radio sample based off of the feedback received thus far. Check our Facebook page for more photos, and regular updates.

Jolt workshop with mothers and their children in Guatemala

Jolt workshop with mothers and their children in Guatemala

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Ready, Set, Field Work! Student Entrepreneurs Getting their Hands Dirty

Lindsay Saperstone on her GSSE field work in Bolivia, literally getting her hands dirty.

Lindsay Saperstone on her GSSE field work in Bolivia, literally getting her hands dirty.

In a few weeks, 20 students in the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program at Colorado State University will initiate on average 40 days of field work. This experience is a key differentiator of this MBA program, but also crucial for the students as they work quickly to develop their ventures. Every year, thanks to generous donors, we have an internal grant round to help support the costs of conducting the field work, which often requires quite a bit of international travel. Many teams also run their own crowdfunding campaigns to enable their teams to stay longer and accomplish more while in the field. Here are three teams and their crowdfunding pages – perhaps their unique stories and videos will inspire you to help them reach their goals:

  • (B)energy: Bring on the biogas revolution, starting in Ethiopia.
  • Chaka Fibers: Fair income for Peruvian alpaca ranchers through improved access to markets.
  • Jolt Radio: Incentivizing parents to become educators, starting in Guatemala.

There is also an alumni venture running a campaign that will help them return to India:

  • Ascent: Producing high quality iron pills in calendar pill packaging for India’s poorest pregnant women.

Watch for team updates published here over the next 3 months!

-Kat

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Just a Girl in the World

College of Business, Colorado State University:

Wonderful post by Chrissa Percival, a student in our Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program, who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana.

Just a girl in the world

Originally posted on CSU Global Connections:

By: Chrissa Percival

I had been working in the rural village of Adaklu, Ghana, West Africa for a few months before I met Verone.  She is a woman in her mid-20s with a bright smile and a kind heart.  As a mother of two daughters and one son, guardian to her niece, and receiving little help from a husband struggling with alcohol abuse, Verone works tirelessly to maintain their one room dwelling, provide enough food to eat and be able to send the children to school.

At a young age, her family pulled her from school to work on their subsistence farm and help her mother at market.  Without an education, Verone is unable to get a job with decent pay or properly manage a small business of her own.  The consequence is that her family often goes without and her daughters and niece are frequently out of school for…

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