Making a Difference

Saturday, September 11, 2010

PAWS - Performing Animal Welfare Society

Who would have thought I'd hang out with an Asian bull elephant, 4 Asian female elephants and 4 African female elephants, five Lions and something like 30 Bengal Tigers in the Sierra Foothills near San Andreas, California. Well, I did and the experience was magical. These animals had all had miserable lives before coming to this idyllic setting not too far from the Calaveras County Airport (KCPU). Nicholas the bull elephant and Gypsy, one of the Asian females had been forced to live together, in a 15 by 15 foot cell, when not being forced to perform in a circus. To think of the 10,000 pound, 11 foot tall Nicholas being forced to peddle a tricycle brings tears to my eyes. Anger wells up inside me at the circus workers and owners who inflicted the jabs and beatings that left scars on his skin and unimaginable injuries to his mind and spirit.

But, fortunately for Nicholas, Gypsy and the others, they will now live out their lives in peaceful and humane conditions at PAWS, the Performing Animal Welfare Society's captive wildlife sanctuary; a place where abandoned, abused, or retired performing animals and victims of the exotic animal trade can live in peace and dignity. For more than twenty years PAWS has been at the forefront of efforts to rescue and provide appropriate, humane sanctuary for animals who have been the victims of the exotic and performing animal trades. PAWS investigates reports of abused performing and exotic animals, documents cruelty and assists in investigations and prosecutions by regulatory agencies to alleviate the suffering of captive wildlife.
Founded in 1984, by former Hollywood animal trainer and author, Pat Derby, and her partner, Ed Stewart, PAWS maintains three sanctuaries for captive wildlife - 30 acres in Galt, California, 100 acres (The Amanda Blake Wildlife Refuge) in Herald, California and 2,300 acres of pristine, natural habitat (ARK 2000) in San Andreas, California.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The War Over America's Lunch

Two IBD alumni, Kristin Groos Richmond and Kirsten Tobey, were featured in a recent Time article:,9171,1982347-1,00.html

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, their IBD projects involved a school feeding program in Ghana and a food security project in Ethiopia.

They, and their company, Revolution foods are doing great things!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network

The Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN) is a global community, made up of conservationists, businesses, producers and harvesters, that is dedicated to the development and marketing of products that conserve threatened wildlife while contributing to the economic vitality of rural communities.
The Network sets the global standard for wildlife friendly enterprise and assists members to reach new and dynamic markets. Their mission is to protect wildlife in wild places by certifying enterprises that assure people and nature coexist and thrive.

Check out WFEN at

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Saving wolves - NRDC is asking for your help

In just a few weeks, the mass killing of wolves could begin in Idaho and Montana -- and not even newborn wolf pups and their nursing mothers will be spared.

We cannot stand by while this slaughter unfolds. On May 4, the wolf's federal protection will be lifted, and government agents will be free to open fire. After that, the states will launch public hunts, targeting wolves.

We must act now to call off the guns!

That's why NRDC is launching "The Big Howl" campaign to mobilize Americans everywhere to protect wolves in the Northern Rockies from the crossfire.

Add your voice now to our campaign. Tell Interior Secretary Salazar to reverse his decision to kick wolves off the endangered species list.

This is absolutely the wrong time to rip away federal protections from these struggling wolves. Over the past year, the wolf population in Yellowstone National Park has declined by
27 percent, with more than 70 percent of wolf pups succumbing to disease.

One pack alone lost all 24 of its pups!

If the federal protections are lifted on May 4 as planned, newborn wolf pups and their nursing mothers traveling outside national parks will be in the line of fire.

That's why NRDC and our partners are filing suit in federal court to block this disastrous policy. But we must do more: we must raise a nationwide outcry that the Obama Administration cannot ignore.

And so we're calling on everyone who cares about wolves to take part in "The Big Howl" campaign.

Please call on the Interior Department to go back to the drawing board and submit this cruel plan to the kind of rigorous scientific review the Obama Administration has promised.

After you send your own message, I will let you know about an easy way to spread the word to your friends and family. We need at least one million messages to save the wolves -- so get ready to rally your friends and family to add their own voices to "The Big Howl."


Frances Beinecke
Natural Resources Defense Council

P.S. Hearing the wolf howl after you take action is a poignant reminder of why we must act swiftly to save these treasured icons of the American West -- before their federal protections are lifted on May 4. So please speak out today, and then tell everyone you know to take part in "The Big Howl."

Monday, December 1, 2008

MedShare International

Each year thousands of patients in the economically developing world cannot receive medical aid because no resources exist. Meanwhile, while many suffer from lack of health care, U.S. hospitals discard hundreds of millions of dollars worth of medical supplies they can no longer use. There has to be a way to build a bridge between that need and this surplus. The bridge is MedShare International.

Monday, October 20, 2008

BareFoot College

In northern India a unique school is teaching women the skills to build sustainable tools for their community and a better live for themselves. Fred de Sam Lazaro reports on the work of Sanjit 'Bunker' Roy, who has spent more than 30 years teaching the poor to tackle some of the gravest challenges facing their communities including drinking water quality, girls' education, health and sanitation, rural unemployment, income generation, electricity and power. See Fred's story at:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Streetwires, Cape Town, South Africa

Streewires is a company that produces art from wire. An art form born in the shanty towns and townships of South Africa, it has now become a career for the wire artists of Streetwires.

Unemployment is a major hurdle facing South Africa, leading to numerous other social ills in the form of crime, poverty and the hampering of community growth and development. One of the primary aims of Streetwires is to create sustainable, meaningful long-term employment for as many unemployed and needy South Africans as possible.

See their web site at:

Monday, June 30, 2008

LoveLife, South Africa

loveLife is a national HIV prevention programme for youth in South Africa. loveLife has brought together a broad based coalition of international foundations working in HIV/AIDS prevention, major South African media organizations and private corporations, the government of South Africa, and leading South African non-government organizations with one shared goal – to turn back the epidemic of HIV/AIDS, and related epidemics of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, among South Africa’s young people.
Founded in 1999 and with U. C. Berkeley grad, David Harrison as CEO since 2000, loveLife seeks to substantially reduce the HIV infection rate among young South Africans – and to establish at the same time a new model for effective HIV prevention among young people.

Friday, April 25, 2008

World Malaria Day

On World Malaria Day, Stop a Ruthless Killer.
Malaria kills more than a million people each year—most of them children.
Even though significant progress is being made with new medications, education, and bed net distribution efforts, there is still more to be done! Please help put an end to this disaster—as part of World Malaria Day (on April 25th) please support Freedom from Hunger’s Malaria Initiative.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tzu Chi, Maseru, Lesotho

She's almost 70 years old. Her children have all died of AIDS. She lives in a clay hut with a thatched roof and an open fire for cooking and, perhaps, minimal warmth. She's raising her grandchildren. by herself. Sadly, I don't recall her name.

Her grand-daughter (back turned to the camera) is 16 years old. She has a daughter herself; the product of rape. And, incredibly, she's pregnant again from a second rape.

Such is life in Lesotho for many women and children. HIV is rampant. So is rape.

Except for the kindness of Jennifer Chen, CEO of Shining Century textile company in Maseru, Lesotho ( ) and, perhaps more importantly, a member of Tzu Chi ( ) a Buddhist charity, this family would not even have the hut nor the blankets and clothes keeping out the winter cold (There is snow on the ground when we visit.) Jennifer and her Tzu Chi partners visit the family regularly to provide care and assistance.

Another recipient of Tzu Chi care is a single mother of two teenage children. Now in her late 40's, she lost the use of her legs at the age of 30. She navigates the rough roads of her village in a wheelchair and uses a hand powered sewing machine to produce pillow cases and other items for sale. Her 12 year old son and 15 year old daughter built the hand-hewn stone addition to their simple house, by themselves.

Shining Century employs hundreds of Lesotho workers in its clothing factory. This alone provides much needed income to this impoverished nation. But Jennifer does much more for her adopted homeland. She became a Lesotho citizen some time ago. She is dedicated to making a difference in a small country whose name most people can't pronounce, even if they know where it is.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Afghan Music Project, Kabul, Afghanistan

Adam Gouttierre and Chris Becherer, two Haas MBAs (06) spent a week in Kabul working with Afghan musicians and recorded a full-length 11 track album of traditional Afghan music. Available through iTunes, the Afghan Music Project ( sales benefit the music teachers of Kabul and encourage more young students, especially women, to study music. The project was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle in January, 2008 ( There's also a write-up in the HaasNewswire as well as an interview on MSNBC. Their trip to Kabul, in 2005, was partially funded through a Clausen International Business Fellowship.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

School Feeding Using Locally Grown Food, Ghana

Sometimes moving a good idea forward can be a slow, complicated process. But, when the goal is an admirable one, it is important to keep working towards it. Such is the case with an incredible project in Ghana. School feeding programs have been around for a long time. They are designed to keep children in school by providing them with meals. By doing so, the children receive an education and improved nutrition at the same time. Often however, the food used in the program comes from overseas aid. Tons of rice, corn, etc., are shipped in to feed the kids. But, very frequently, some of this food is sold in the local markets in order to generate cash to pay for transportation, wages, storage, fuel, etc. Sounds reasonable at first. But, the sudden influx of such food into the market can be devastating to the farmers in the area. Suddenly they are unable to compete with the imported goods and their livelihoods are devastated. Time and again we've seen this happen.

So this program offers a new twist. Food isn't imported. Instead, local farmers are encouraged to grow extra food for sale to the schools. The money paid for the food enters the local economy and increases the livelihoods of the villages in the immediate vicinity of the schools. Sounds easy. But, implementing this in an entire country is tough. We've been helping such an effort in Ghana for the last three and a half years. The Dutch government has committed $25 million a year, for ten years towards the purchase of locally produced food. From 8 schools, the program has grown to well over a thousand. But that's only about 500,000 kids. We're aiming for up to 4,000,000. But, the locally produced food aspect of the program is lagging. See one comment at: An example of problems can be found at: There are plenty of hardworking, committed people trying to solve the problems. We've had five IBD teams assisting them over the previous 3 years and a sixth one will be in Ghana in May and June, 2008. A retired Unilever Senior VP and a retired Time Warner executive are working hard to make this a success. So, stay tuned.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

IPODERAC, Atlixco, Mexico

How do you support a home for 72 orphans/street kids in Atlixco, Mexico? Well, if you are IPODERAC (Puebla Institute of Rehabilitation) the answer is obvious. Goats. Or, more precisely goats' milk cheese and goats' milk soap. IPODERAC initially got into goat raising as a training program for its boys. But, it soon became apparent that raising goats, like the rabbits and other ventures that preceded the goats, required more attention, if they were to be profitable, or at least revenue generating. So, with the help of a retired Nestle executive a cheese production "factory" was established. The quality was great, but the sales and marketing efforts needed assistance. Enter teams from the Haas IBD program, financially supported by my good friend Surry Roberts. (Surry and I go way back and have travelled a bit of the world together. But, that's another story. Surry has also sent IBD teams to the Czech Republic and Zimbabwe, but these too are other stories. Surry trekked across the Australian outback on a camel, but that's his story.)

For about 5 years, each May, a team of IBD consultants worked on some aspect or other of the organization's strategy, operations or marketing. One team even uncovered efforts to defraud the organization, by a customer, and eventually managed to recover a significant amount of the fraudulently transferred funds. See the story of one team's project in journal format.(

A Harvard case, somewhat dated now, has also been written about IPODERAC. The people behind IPODERAC, including the former Managing Director, Agustin Landa, are making a huge difference in the lives of these abandoned or orphaned kids.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pick 'n Pay, Cape Town, South Africa

In July, 2007, twenty EWMBA students and I visited the corporate offices of Pick 'n Pay (, one of South Africa's largest retail companies. Amongst other executives, we met Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, Transformation Director for the company. That's right, transformation director. Not a common title for corporate directors. Her mandate is ( in my words, not hers or the company's,) to make Pick 'n Pay the most socially responsible, ethical company that it can be. Pick 'n Pay was one of the first companies in South Africa to make a strong commitment to corporate socially responsibility. But long before that, in the Apartheid era, the company founder (and Suzanne's father) Raymond Ackerman treated his black and colored employees on terms that violated law, because he refused to agree to Apartheid.

Quoting from the company's own site: "In tandem with a fundamental transformation which has taken place in the broad context of South African society over the past decade, significant changes have also taken place within Pick 'n Pay during the past three years. These changes are based on a fundamental belief that our ability to achieve service excellence for our customers is directly proportional to our capacity to establish a climate of dignity, respect and freedom amongst every employee in our Company. To achieve this, we embarked upon a fundamental change process called Vuselela or Rebirth which has brought about a dramatic change in relationships and the rehumanisation of our places of work."

It is Suzanne's job to implement this and, from what I saw, the results have been incredible. In the USA we're used to thinking of American companies as leaders. Well, we can all learn a lot by studying this South African company.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Ashesi University, Accra, Ghana

Patrick Awuah left his native Ghana to attend Swarthmore College in the USA. Upon graduation, he was hired by Microsoft where he worked for some years. But, he always wanted to do something for his country. So, in 1997 he left Microsoft to pursue an MBA at Haas. But his objective wasn't simply to get a degree. It was to prepare himself to establish a private, not for profit, university, in Accra, that combined a sound liberal arts foundation with specialities in computer science and business.

In 1998 Patrick enlisted a team of classmates from the IBD program at Haas to carry out a feasibility study of his dream. Based on their findings, he and Nina Marini, a classmate, established the Ashesi Foundation in Seattle. After a few years of fund-raising and preparatory work, they established Ashesi University ( Since then, Ashesi has become a model for higher education and leadership development in Ghana and for Africa. It has graduated three classes and is gaining recognition for its approach to the development of the next generation of leaders. Cited in White Man's Burden, by William Easterly as one of the best examples of what can be accomplished in Africa, Ashesi is posed to make a great contribution, not only to Ghana, but to the world.

I have been pleased to be able to serve on Ashesi's advisory board. As well, since that first IBD team, almost every year a new team from the IBD program has helped Ashesi on some aspect or other of their planning and operations.

Monday, March 3, 2008

IUDs that Save Lives, Helsinki, Finland

For a malnourished woman, living in a less developed part of the world, her monthly cycle can be much more than an inconvenience. Possibly already anaemic, the blood loss can lead to a serious loss of productivity that means further malnourishment, not only for herself, but also for those depending on her. Furthermore, should she give birth at some point, post-partum bleeding can be life-threatening.

This problem is being addressed by Tapani Luukkainen of Helsinki, Finland. An MD and PhD, who developed the levonorgestrel-releasing IUD, Mirena (, Tapani is working to make a similar device available, at low cost, to the poor women of the world. The IUD releases the hormone and this, in turn, reduces blood loss dramatically, both for periodic and post-partum bleeding.

I have explored, with Tapani, various ways in which a suitable device might be produced at low cost and in sufficient quantities for distribution to women in need. However, as of now, various legal impediments remain. Mirena, now produced by Bayer Health Care (and formerly owned by Scherring, which had itself purchased the Finnish company that originally produced it) is still priced so high as to be impractical for the use intended by Tapani.

Tapani, effectively retired, continues to devote his time, energy and efforts to this cause.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sewalanka Foundation, Sri Lanka

Your country is being ripped apart by civil war. Thousands of people, including entire villages, are being displaced from their ancestral homes by the fighting. What do you do? Well, for Harsha Kumara Navaratne, the answer was to establish an organization to try to help the most vulnerable communities. Thus, the Sewalanka Foundation ( was borne in 1993. Over the years, the organization has evolved to meet the changing needs of the rural communities. In December, 2004, when the Tsunami devastated much of South East Asia, including Sri Lanka, Sewalanka stepped up its activities and expanded its services to include the Tsunami affected areas.

In the days following the Tsunami, Anne Marie Edwards (Haas MBA 05) and I developed a method, in cooperation with Acteva ( to raise funds and deliver them to Sewalanka in a timely manner. See story: (

Two teams of student consultants, from the IBD program, have also worked with Sewalanka to help improve their sustainability and to bring income generating opportunities to the displaced villagers.

While recovery from the Tsunami has come a long way, there is still much to do. The civil war has heated up again and killings are on the rise. For Sewalanka, there are still many people to assist. Harsha and Sewalanka continue to do what they can.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Rapa Nui Heritage Society - Easter Island, Chile

Sergio Rapu is a man of amazing energy. A former governor of Easter Island, a Rotary International Peace Scholar, an archaeologist, businessman and entrepreneur, he has started various companies, researched the origins of the famed Moai statues that have come to symbolize Easter Island and operated tourist services. What do all these activities have in common? They are all focused on making things better for the people of the most remote, inhabited island on earth. More than two and a half thousand miles from Chile and about the same distance from Tahiti, this "navel of the earth" is truly "away from it all."

I have been fortunate in getting to know Sergio and working together with him on a number of projects. Together, we've established the Rapa Nui Heritage Foundation ( as a vehicle to help preserve the cultural heritage of this unique place.

The Longevity Project - Ghana

So what does a successful lawyer and business advisor do to make a difference in her native Ghana? Well, for Anna Bannerman-Richter, it was to set up The Longevity Project ( with the mission: "To increase the life expectancy and quality of life of Ghanaians."

The Longevity Project is an educational organization that disseminates information about prevention and treatment of life-threatening diseases, nutrition, diet, sanitation and fitness.

As both a fundraising and educational event, The Longevity Project is sponsoring the Accra International Marathon ( on September 28, 2008.

An IBD team helped Anna develop a strategic plan for the Longevity Project. Anna and I are currently working on a case study, to be delivered at a conference in Sacramento in May, on youth and leadership development in Ghana and how the Longevity Project can help in this area.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Berkeley Darfur Stove Project - Darfur, Sudan

Another person making a difference is Ashok Gadgil, of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories. He has developed a cook stove specifically for the refugees in Darfur, Sudan. The Berkeley Darfur Stove Project ( is saving lives. Refugee women, in order to collect wood for use as fuel for cooking, need to leave the relative security of the camps. Venturing outside is dangerous. Many are raped and killed. But the need for wood is great since they cook on inefficient 3 stone fires. The much more efficient Darfur stove, reduces the demand for wood and thus lessens the need to venture beyond the camps. While not addressing the root cause of the danger faced by the women, the stove reduces the amount of time during which they are at risk.

The methodology used to devise the stove is important. It looked at the cooking styles of the refugees, the pots used, the fuel characteristics, the food to be cooked, etc. Only after understanding all of these points was a prototype designed. This was then tested and modified.

I've been serving as a mentor/advisor to some of the students working on the project, under Ashok's direction.

So, with his permission, I've "stolen" Ashok's work. In cooperation with COMACO (see previous post) a team of IBD consultants is working on the adaptation of the Berkeley Darfur stove to the needs of rural villagers in Zambia. Rather than trying to reduce rape and murder as is the case in Darfur, in Zambia we're trying to reduce the pressures on the environment. By more efficiently utilizing the wood used as fuel for cooking, we hope to reduce the deforestation of the region, decrease resulting erosion and generally lessen the pressure on the environment.

Stay tuned!

Comaco - Community Markets For Conservation - Zambia

One of the pleasures of my work is meeting people who are really trying to make a difference in the world. One example is Dale Lewis, who has started an incredibly effective organization in Zambia. Called COMACO for Community Markets for Conservation ( this organization has created income generating opportunities for villagers in north-eastern Zambia. In order to participate in COMACO, the villagers must agree to stop poaching of animals in nearby Nungwe National Park.

A number of teams from my International Business Development (IBD) program ( have worked with Dale to develop and update COMACO's business plan. I was so impressed with COMACO's work that I travelled to Zambia in August, 2007, to see it first hand. As a result of my visit, I agreed to serve on COMACO's advisory board.

I believe that this model could be a prototype for many other poverty alleviation, hunger reducing and environmental conservation initiatives. It is well worth studying.