New Charity Invites Female Millionaires To Donate — And Get Involved

There’s a lot of talk about helping the girls and women of the developing world, but there’s not a lot of money to back it up.

According to a 2014 report from the United Nations Population Fund, “less than two cents [of] every international development dollar is spent on an adolescent girl.”

The Maverick Collective hopes to change that breakdown. It’s a philanthropic organization that was publicly launched this week at the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen. Its 14 members, all women, have each contributed at least $1 million to fund a specific project in the developing world that tackles a women’s health issue: domestic violence, maternal health, cervical cancer. The goal is to come up with projects that get good results, then build them up to a bigger scale.

And it’s not just about writing a check. Each donor is involved with the project she is sponsoring. The women have traveled to the countries where the project is going on and are tracking its progress.


The group’s CEO is Kate Roberts, who was a top advertising executive before becoming senior vice president of the nonprofit PSI — Population Services International. The co-chairs are Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway, who is also the co-founder, and Melinda Gates. (As our readers may know, the Gates Foundation is a funder of NPR.)

We spoke with Roberts in Copenhagen to learn more about this new organization. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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Why Social Entrepreneurship Is Not Enough

The term “social enterprise” is far too limiting, says Laurence Brahm.

“Why shouldn’t business be profitable?”

Rightly so, it should, he says.  But the aim of business has to be so much more than just profit.  It has to solve problems, he goes on to explain.  He’s referring to big global problems like the environment, food security, poverty, inequity.

Brahm is a lawyer turned activist.  His CV is far too long to detail all his achievements but can be succinctly described as a lawyer who built a fruitful entrepreneurial career and in the process, got absorbed into policy, even serving as a member of the UN Theme Group on Poverty and Inequality.  Most interestingly, though, he’s an American who has been advising the Chinese government on how to do growth differently — not the American model.

In the meantime, Brahm also built the Himalayan Consensus and African Consensus, two approaches to growth and development that go beyond GDP (check out this YouTube video for a detailed explanation).

“We’ve been using GDP since WWII.  We need a new way to measure growth and prosperity.  We need to look at growth all over again: do we want exponential growth?  No,” he says.

Brahm has spent years, if not decades, setting up social enterprises in the Himalayas; these are small, community-based ventures that create jobs and don’t harm the surroundings.  For instance, he helped revive old Tibetan structures in Lhasa by turning them into hotels, run by local Tibetans and showcasing their culture.  Otherwise, these buildings would have been converted into cookie-cutter hotels by larger companies, destroying years of history and the indigenous culture.

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Can a Chef From One the World’s Best Restaurants Fix School Lunches?

At 28, Daniel Giusti had the most coveted job in the culinary world: He was the head chef at Copenhagen’s Noma, one of the world’s best restaurants.

Late last year, he left that post. Now, instead of cooking meals priced at $300 a person, he has shifted his attention to concocting public school lunches for less than $3. Giusti left Denmark to start his own venture, Brigaid, a company that aims to bring chefs into American school kitchens.

“Let’s be real. There’s no 18-year-old in culinary school that’s saying, ‘I want to go into school food,’ ” he said jokingly in a phone interview from New York. “But I’m at that point in my life where I just don’t care anymore. It may seem crazy. But I’m ready for a challenge.”

His company would employ chefs, but they would work in school kitchens alongside existing staff as third-party purveyors of sorts. His aim is not to eliminate those who are already employed in food service in schools.

“We would go in, take on that staff, which consists of six or seven generally. But also employ a chef or bump up a food service manager who could take on that responsibility,” he said.

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Fixing Supply Chains: The Future Of Social Entrepreneurship And Business Itself

This month’s Harvard Business Review features an essay by Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS.  It’s an inside look at how he stepped away from his flagship TOMS shoes to found TOMS coffee — and what he learned in that break.

But is TOMS 2.0 the future of social entrepreneurship?  Reading the essay by Mycoskie, I wondered if this was an accurate portrayal of where the “industry” of social innovation is at today and where it’s headed.

TOMS, as we know, has been a forerunner in the social entrepreneurship world.  In many ways, TOMS can be credited with taking the concept of social entrepreneurship to the mainstream. It’s been accepted and celebrated for a decade now, by the biggest names in philanthropy.  Bill Gates first cited TOMS as an example at World Economic Forum back in 2008 when he spoke of conscious capitalism — an idea that’s finally gaining steam today.

TOMS, however, has dealt with its fair share of criticism of the one-for-one model, questioning whether or not they’ve actually made a strong social impact through donations.  As TOMS has added more products to their marketplace and introduced TOMS coffee, the model has stayed the same: simplifying a purchase for a donation.

Yet, that seems to go against the grain of today’s entrepreneurs who are digressing away from charity to actually building businesses that address serious gaps in society — be it lack of jobs, poor wages, environmental pollution, food waste, etc.

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Feel Better, Millennials—Matt Damon Says His Generation Was Terrible

Anyone experiencing fatigue over millennial bashing may find actor Matt Damon’s take refreshing.

“My generation had our heads up our own asses. That was Gen X. Today’s generation is so much smarter and interested in fixing these issues,” he told journalists at the Sundance Film Festival this week.

The issue the Bourne Identity actor is interested in is a water crisis that has left 663 million people without access to clean drinking water. Damon spoke of becoming a cofounder in 2009 of, a nonprofit that delivers microfinance loans to water-deprived communities.

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This School for Child Brides Is Delaying Marriage and Providing Education

Last year, the Veerni Institute received 209 applications for seven vacancies.

That’s because the school is a safe house for child brides in India, a country that has an estimated 240 million child brides, or one-third of the world’s child bride population, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Many of these girls are married off well before the legal age of 18; some are as young as nine or 10. But they’re not sent to their in-laws’ residence until 15 or 16. Even then, they usually don’t attend school in the interim years while they’re still at home.

“We have found a loophole in the system,” says Mahendra Sharma, the director of the Veerni Institute. The gap he’s referring to is the lack of a secondary education for young women who have been married. “We firmly believe that it is of prime importance for all girls to complete senior secondary education in class 12.”

The Veerni Institute is set up as a boarding school, offering not only a place to stay but also health care, daily meals, uniforms, books, computer training, and access to sports. The annual cost for each girl is $1,560. However, the girls attend for free, because the fees are covered by the school’s philanthropic partners: the Global Foundation for Humanity in the U.S. and the Association du Projet Veerni in Switzerland.

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Look Out, Potholes! This 67-Year-Old Retiree Is Out To Fill You

“You shouldn’t be out there filling potholes at your age.” That’s what Venkateswari Katnam tells her 67-year-old husband, Gandgadhara.

He doesn’t listen.

Over the past five years, he estimates that he has filled around 1,100 potholes on the streets of Hyderabad. He carries bags of gravel and tar in the trunk of his Fiat, along with a spade, two brooms, a wire brush and a crowbar. When he spies a pothole — or learns of one from a Facebook message — he can usually fill it in under an hour. He clears out any debris or standing water, pours in the mix of gravel and tar, levels it off and waits about 30 minutes for it to set. He puts up red flags in English, Hindi and Telugu to make sure no one steps or drives in it.

"If we want to see change," says pothole opponent Katnam, "we have to start doing it ourselves."

And when he’s done, he takes a selfie to add to his collection of filled potholes.

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