From the “Family Planning and Reproductive Health” breakout session during the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Global Health Symposium on International Women’s Day. Reported by Tiffany Champion for Left Brain/Right Brain Productions.
Q: How do you connect with religious leaders to improve women’s health? Especially if their beliefs may have them firmly entrenched in ideas that can be detrimental.
A: (Danielle Nierenberg): The role that cell phones and the Internet have played in sub-Saharan Africa is amazing. Cell phones from what I’ve seen are really helping break gender barriers because women farmers can now access information on their cell phones that they couldn’t access before – about climate and weather, accessing banking information and trading and investment. All of these areas were once dominated by men. It was men’s work. Now, women can access it without the same barriers. That’s a really exciting thing.
A low technology thing I’ve also seen is the use of theater and soap operas to help eliminate gender barriers. There’s this research group working with a theater troupe in Zimbabwe to use the research they’re developing about women and their access to credit to create community plays and soap operas. Then they travel all over southern Africa, Zimbabwe, other parts of Sub Saharan Africa to teach people about inequality and the struggles women face. These things are helping communities understand challenges women face as teachers, farmers, entrepreneurs, and mothers.
- There is a link between the methods used by nearly half the world’s population (3 billion people) and climate change
- When people cut down trees and cook with firewood, this releases black carbon into the atmosphere, absorbing solar energy, and contributing to climate change and erratic weather
- But black carbon only has a life of 3 weeks, compared to industrial carbon emissions, which stay in the atmosphere for 200 years
- By providing more efficient stoves, we do have the opportunity to have a major impact in a short period of time by stopping the cutting down of trees for firewood
- Clean cooking also improves indoor air quality, impacting women and their families
- On Hillary Clinton’s last day on the job, she signed a deal helping a company in CA in the creation of clean stoves and biofuels in Kenya, with plans to expand in Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda
- In order to scale these solutions, we have to work with governments
- But social entrepreneurs can help scale these solutions even faster
Roger Thurow (@rogerthurow) and Danielle Nierenberg (@daninierenberg) discuss women and small scale farming during the opening session of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Global Health Symposium on International Women’s Day. A synopsis you should pay attention to:
Q: Why do we have to be thinking about small scale farmers in a new way?
A: Small scale farmers are crucial to the future because we’ll have a population increase of 2.5 billion by 2050. This will increase the strain on our food supply, creating a need to increase food production by 60-80%. We have to do this on the same amount of land, using less water, with a rising demand for biofuels. We will also have increased devastation by weather and climate change. So where is the near-doubling in food production coming from?
The small scale farmers – most of whom are women! Small farmers are poised to have the greatest leaps in production. They will also be increasing the nutritional value of the food - feeding their families, their communities, their countries, and their continents.
Women who have been neglected in the past are now recognized as crucially important to the society. Indeed, the most exciting news on global development is what’s happening in agriculture and the empowerment of these women farmers.
We’re super proud to have serial entrepreneur Colleen Egan – our new COO – report on her experience from StartupBus Chicago! The team riding the bus must develop a new company – ready to launch – by the time they arrive in Austin, TX for SxSW… just 72 hours after their departure!
Q: What was the first thought that went through your mind when you found out you’d be on StartupBus Chicago, on its way to SXSW?
A: Holy S%$T, they loved my application, I’m in! And, in less than 36 hours (if boss approves) I will be on a bus with 25 strangers creating a company from start to finish – concept, strategy, site, application, logo, branding – EVERYTHING in 72 hours. I was so excited at the opportunity, but scared to death by the grueling schedule. They must have loved my opening line: “I eat meat off the bone. I drink whiskey – straight up. And I breathe startups.”
Q: In a nutshell – how does your own background and experience give you a unique ability to help the Chicago team?
A: I started my career as a nurse, wanted to “do” healthcare better, and started my first health-based company in my 20′s – which was the second of its kind in the country, and truly before its time. I continued my career, mostly with startups or companies reorganizing or “re-starting” in numerous industries, and have had great success. I have led companies of “firsts.” I was the COO of an educational / edutainment company tackling the lack of science education for 3-8 year olds, and have also led a design / technology company that helped desgn and build orbitz.com – and also led a company that built the largest DOOH TV network in the country. Now, at Left Brain/Right Brain Productions, another first as we grow an already-successful video production company into a full-service social change agency.
Q: It’s a 3-day trip, during which the goal is to develop a viable company to possibly launch at SXSW – how are you feeling about Chicago’s business idea at the end of Day 1?
A: By the end of Day 1, we were already way into the process – and well on our way! During the initial pitches, I knew I wanted to work with the guy with healthcare solutions – but by the time we all sat down, we had distilled a very large, complex idea into an MVP. At first I was a little deflated because, as a former healthcare professional, I wanted to solve US healthcare costs with a dynamic company – but we all knew it had to be distilled to the MVP, and all concentration needed to be focused there. It took me a few hours to wrap my head around the new pitch and dig back in. MyBestRx.com was born – and by the end of day 1, we had a name, branding, logo, url, start of sitebuild, blog, equity divisions, you name it – and, dont forget, during our first 6 hours doing all of this, we had to prepare to pitch to Sproutbox in Bloomingdale, IN. And get slammed in critiques! A great way to boost confidence! We worked from 8am through midnight, and then til 3AM on the start of Day 2. Slept 3 hours, then started all over again.
Q: What’s the coolest idea you’ve heard so far?
A: I like an idea called “NEXT CHAPTER,” which is crowdsource funding for writers, based on an itial chapter, synopsis, idea – which will eventually become funded. I also like a company sourcing recipeAPI – makes the grocery list, gets the ingredients delivered, just in time for dinner. But I also love our suite of healthcare apps, starting with MVP “MyBestRx” – a proactive tool for consumers navigating the complexities of Rx then (physicians and services) as we scale.
Q: Do you plan on getting any sleep?
A: NO! Most teams worked through the night last night. I started failing by 2:30 am and knew I need a power nap- I took 3 hours and by 0600 had an email from the organizers saying “Having fun yet? It’s only gonna get worse!”
Q: Who has impressed you the most with their “Hustle,” and why?
A: Our team Leader, David. He’s an innovative leader at BC/BS Insurance. He’s a machine – and during our initial 25 “strangers” pitches (he intimidated most people), I was immediately drawn to him. For his passion, his ability to distill quickly, and his vision. He’s a hacker, a hipster, and a hustler. But then again, my hustle cred is awesome as well! People like my style, I’ve already been coached to keep it up, to have more of it – or complimented on my “knock you over the head in a very nice, sincere way” style =)
We are now only 29 days away from the reunion of Alex and Ali (featured in our documentary “I am the Water, You are the Sea”). The two met and fell in love in Iran in the 60′s while Alex was serving with the Peace Corps in Iran. After being separated by the revolution, the two stayed in touch, and in love. This May, they are going to reunite for the first time in 35 years.
As with all our projects, this documentary has a social action campaign providing ways for viewers to get involved in creating positive social change around the issues in the film. The social action campaign for “I am the Water, You are the Sea” focuses on two primary social issues which we, here in the United States, are grappling with today – U.S. policy towards Iran (diplomacy, use of sanctions, and the threat of war); and gay rights, primarily around marriage and immigration equality.
During our work preparing the campaign to address U.S. policy towards Iran, I came across a great article by Huffington Post contributor MJ Rosenberg. The article reviewed Trita Parsi’s book “A Single Roll of the Dice,” discussing what happened with the Obama administration’s efforts to engage in diplomacy with Iran immediately following the U.S. presidential election of 2008. The book also includes a fascinating account of Iran’s attempt to approach the Bush administration in 2003, as well as the effects and aftermath of Iran’s controversial 2009 elections on diplomacy.
If you’ve been following the progress of the film, and would like to learn more about the history and current state of U.S. policy towards Iran, I encourage you to read the book, as well as get a quick summary of the issues by watching Trita’s interview by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. You can also learn more about the current work being done to address U.S. policy towards Iran by checking out the NIAC website.
What I admire about the work of IFYC is how inclusive it is, without asking for participants to water down their beliefs in order to get along. Their mission – making interfaith cooperation a social norm – requires that participants bring everything about who they are to the table, rather than leave those parts that are perceived as being at odds at the door. And what’s exciting is that when everything is brought to the table, people find out just how much they actually have in common. Much more so than the things which divide!
Maura remarked at how vibrant and expansive the conversations are, with very little judgment. The fact is, no one in the world can possibly get by only interacting with people who are just like them, who believe exactly what they believe. So by normalizing interaction with people of different faiths – by bringing these young leaders together from all walks of life, giving them concrete ways of interacting, allowing them to learn from one another – learning how to speak, play, collaborate, even debate – that behavior becomes normal. Instead of thinking that religion breeds conflict, THEIR experience shows that religion brings people together, unites them through shared values, and provides a way of making the world a better place. Like their campaign says – we’re “better together.”
In September, I was privileged to witness and film the Entrepreneurs’ Organization gathering in Amsterdam. The energy and optimism in the hallways, and from speakers such as Kofi Annan, Slava Rubin, and Dr. Muhammad Yunus stands in contrast to much of what we hear today. The world is not just falling apart. There are people creating positive change through business across the globe.
Over 500 entrepreneurs signed a manifesto declaring their commitment to making the world a better place, and so can you.
A metropolis of 30,000. Rolling hills, uninhabited – beautiful, but desolate. Skirt suits.
If you had asked me exactly a year ago where I would be on October 7, 2011, I would have painted the description above. Upon entering my senior year of college, I thought I was destined to put my journalism degree to good use in Boise, Idaho, or somewhere in North Dakota. Local news, I believed, was the only way to begin my career as a journalist.
Luckily, I got involved with my school’s nightly newscast and quickly realized that the route I presumed I had to take was a one-way ticket to a life of therapy and sedatives (not necessarily in that order). My empatheic nature was a fault in the newsroom. Caring showed subjectivity, the number one sin of a reporter.
Suppressing my disdain for the injustices in my community to ensure objective reporting could only last a semester. It was time for a new plan (that conveniently needed to be drawn up in 2 months – my poor parents, I know). Through a fortuitous series of events (meeting my mentor, paying attention in my Social Entrepreneurship class, studying theory of social enterprise, etc.) I got my head on straight.
And that is when the fateful Google search “social change production company” led me to where I am now. Left Brain/Right Brain Productions. Drawn to the company because of it’s mission to enact and promote positive social change through visuals, it instantly became a perfect fit. I would be road-tripping from Arizona to Pennsylvania in June, and Chicago easily could be on the way. On a whim, I reached out to Malachi asking if he had interest in hiring a recent graduate. Needless to say, it all worked out.
This new stage of life combines visual story telling and saving the world. No longer do I have to report on a family whose house is in foreclosure, pack up my equipment, give a, “good luck!” and never turn back. I have the ability to stand up for oppressed and speak for those who cannot do so themselves. The ethics I had to painstakingly abide by in the newsroom have transitioned into the ethical life I wish to live. And, most importantly, my nightmares of wearing matching pants suites have ceased.
Left Brain/Right Brain Productions is fantastic place to work, grow and thrive. The scope of what we do and the clients we are so fortunate to work alongside of are remarkable. This 22-year-old has found her home in Chicago and her place with the Left Brain/Right Brain family. I look forward prospering with and assisting in expanding our business and thank all who have been and will be a part of that.