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2010 April

News and Updates from our Chapter

30 Apr


‘Innovators in Action’ presents Ric Young

April 30, 2010 | By |

“We are living at a point in history when the need and desire for change is profound…It is a pivotal time. Over the past two hundred years, human society has developed exceptional ingenuities, proficiencies, organizations and systems for the task of making things–from steam engines to microchips. Going forward, we must learn to be equally adept at the task of making change. It’s an essential modern competency.”

– Eric Young, From the Foreword of Getting to Maybe: How the World is Changed

The SiG@Waterloo “Innovators in Action” Speaker Series, presents Ric Young as the first speaker in a five part series that will apply the ideas of social innovation to a number of specific sectors and issues – education, youth mentorship, inclusion, collaboration and cultural change. Each of the keynote speakers will share their experiences of operating at the national level to identify and address the root causes of intractable social challenges. Each keynote lecture will be followed by a local panel discussion that will share their reflections on the presentation and offer insight into their own experiences.

Ric Young’s focus on May 5 will touch on the integral role that culture plays in creating the conditions for social change, understanding the complexity of intractable social problems and exploring the kind of approaches needed to address them.

When: Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Where: The Museum, 10 King Street West, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

Time: 7pm – 9pm

Speaker Bio: Eric Young, President, E.Y.E. | The Social Projects Studio™

Eric (Ric) Young was a pioneer in the field of social marketing. He cut his teeth on the early stages of the PARTICIPaction campaign, and was co-founder of Canada’s first dedicated social marketing agency. He left that company in the mid-90s to start E.Y.E. | The Social Projects Studio™ – a company dedicated to the creation and development of breakthrough social change initiatives. Working with leading government, corporate and not-for-profit clients, he became increasingly frustrated by the inadequacy of the tools, models and methods society has at hand for tackling our most complex problems. This led him, in the year 2000, to propose to DuPont Canada that they embark on an initiative “to foster new mindsets, new skill sets, and a new culture for social innovation in Canada”. He worked with DuPont over several years to develop the Social Innovation Initiative, eventually forging a partnership with McGill University to create one of the world’s first social innovation think tanks. This think tank gave rise to the best-selling book, Getting To Maybe. He is on the faculty of the Boston College Centre for Corporate Citizenship. His current voluntary roles include: membership on the board of Ecotrust Canada, the Canadian advisory board of Right To Play and the editorial board of the Social Marketing Quarterly. He is a fellow of The Royal Society of the Arts, a member of Massey College’s Quadrangle Society, and a fellow of SiG (Social Innovation Generation) at the University of Waterloo.

30 Apr


African Film Focus

April 30, 2010 | By |

At first thought, it’s an unlikely connection: one’s mind generally does not go immediately to films or the film industry when the word Africa is mentioned – unless perhaps it’s to recollect what you saw in ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy’ or ‘The Air Up There’.  Now, not to take anything away from those films, but in my humble opinion, there are a lot more interesting film projects coming out of and about Africa at the moment.

The African film industry is stronger than ever.   ‘Nollywood’, the nick name given to the Nigerian film industry, has become the world’s third largest (behind Hollywood and Bollywood).  Check out Franco Sacchi’s Ted Talk on Nollywoodto get an idea of what the industry is all about and why it’s bringing about transformative change.

Having watched my fair share of Nigerian movies during my four month stay in Ghana, I must say that they took some getting used to.   Just as Bollywood has a distinctly different feel then Hollywood, so does its African cousin.  I remember being initially amazed by the way vast crowds of people were drawn in by these seemingly simple films, then, similarly amazed the first time I found myself being taken away by the story in one.  After a few months I couldn’t understand why no one back in Canada had even heard of these films.

Luckily though, African films aren’t just staying in Africa anymore.  The Hot Docs Festival that kicks off this weekend in Toronto includes no shortage of films with African connections on the menu.  Four of the 25 films selected for the Hot Docs Toronto Documentary Forum (TDF) have African links.  These four films, Africa10, Sembene!, We Own TV, and Connected, will be pitched to industry insiders from around the world as well as accredited observers.  The TDF is internationally considered as the most effective international documentary markets in North America.

For your every day film viewers like you and me, Hot Docs offers the following films with African flavours, playing from April 29-May 9.  Tickets are still available to the public for most of these films.

A Small Act


Congo In Four Acts

Darwin’s Nightmare

Grace, Milly, Lucy…Child Soldiers

I’m Dangerous With Love

Sisters In Law

With all this film focus on and in Africa it’s not that hard to believe that movies are playing an important and ever increasing role in African culture.  I’ll never forget my surprise and subsequent delight, when one evening sitting in the rural village of Naglogu in Northern Ghana, my host asked if I wanted to go to the picture show that evening.  Without electricity in the village, I really had absolutely no idea what to expect, but the kids seemed excited, so I said sure.    That night I sat out under the stars, with about 100 of my closest villagers and watched scratchy video on a 27” TV screen, powered by a small electric generator.   First part of a Nigerian film, then when it broke down, we switched to an “American” film (that indeed had white people in it, but was in a language I’d never heard before) and finally wrapped the evening up with a local Ghanaian movie, filmed in the streets of nearby Tamale.  I didn’t understand anything that was being said, and with the exception of the last film, neither did those around me, but it didn’t really seem to matter.  Through film we were able to laugh, and enjoy and share in the stories together.

Now that experience may be hard to replicate exactly here in Canada, but there are several great opportunities to share in African film, this website being one of them.  I encourage you to take in one of the Hot Docs films, or find a Nollywood movie, and share what you think!

24 Apr


Working Wikily

April 24, 2010 | By |

Social Change Resources on the Web

This week’s recommendation is to devote one of your mouse-clicks to visiting the resources page on the Working Wikily website of the management consulting company Monitor Institute.  There are lots of links here for informative articles and tools about promoting social change using a “network mindset”.  I’d also suggest bookmarking their excellent educational document Working Wikily 2.0.

18 Apr


Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab

April 18, 2010 | By |

Translating Research Into Action

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) is an international network of 44 affiliated professors using “Randomized Evaluations (REs) to answer questions critical to poverty alleviation. J-PAL’s mission is to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is based on scientific evidence” through:

  • “Conducting Rigorous Impact Evaluations–  J-PAL researchers conduct randomized evaluations to test and improve the effectiveness of programs and policies aimed at reducing poverty. There are more than 174 evaluations that have been either completed or are ongoing.
  • Building Capacity–  J-PAL provides expertise to people interested in rigorous program evaluation, and training to others on how to conduct randomized evaluations.
  • Impacting Policy–  J-PAL’s policy group performs cost-effectiveness analysis to identify the most effective ways to achieve policy goals, disseminates this knowledge to policymakers, and works with governments, NGOs, foundations, and international development organizations to promote the scale-up of highly effective policies and programs around the world.”  (Quoted text is from the J-PAL website)

There’s a lot of interesting reading on their site, for anyone involved in action against poverty, whether with small- or large-scale organizations, and whether in your local community or internationally. 

J-Pal’s Esther Duflo, an economics professor at M.I.T., is one of the latest recipients of the MacArthur Genius Grant.  There’s a great article about her on the Global Envision website of Mercy Corps, which is worth a peek in its own right. 

As I’m always keeping an eye out for useful EWB “Member Learning” and discussion materials, I was sure to save the link to the presentation slides from Dr. Duflo’s Barcelona Economics Lecture on January 14, 2009, entitled “Fighting Poverty Effectively: Creating Experimentation in Development Economics.

15 Apr


EWB African Program Staff Applications Open

April 15, 2010 | By |

EWB’s African Program Staff (APS) are a group of exceptional people who have both a passion for creating change with the rural poor in Africa and incredible talent for thinking about development and determining how to make progress on some of the globe’s most intractable problems. Does this describe you? If it does EWB Canada is currently recruiting candidates to join the APS team for departure in Fall 2010 and Winter 2011.

Applications, which are due April 30, 2010, can be found here.

EWB Canada currently works in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Malawi and Zambia to help the rural poor improve their livelihoods and climb out of poverty. Our areas of focus are:

  1. Agricultural value chains;
  2. Water, sanitation and hygiene promotion; and
  3. Planning and rural infrastructure for good governance (only in Ghana).

We work with local partner organizations to help them do what they do better, adding value in a variety of ways:

  • executing on project specific work;
  • building management capacity;
  • improving learning and accountability systems;
  • increasing skills of field staff; and
  • creating stronger connections between different stakeholders.

An APS position with EWB offers professionals and new graduates of any educational background a unique opportunity to contribute to development in rural Africa.  You will use your skills to help change the way human development is approached, both as an individual and as a part of a movement committed to making poverty history.

On a personal note, I found my 4 month, EWB Junior Fellow placement in Ghana in 2005 to be a life changing experience.  I was pushed on both emotional and intellectual dimensions and built connections that will stay with me for a lifetime. Based on this experience, and with a great desire  to once again seek out opportunity for challenge and impact, I recently applied for an APS position with EWB and will be returning to Africa in this role starting in August, 2010.  I encourage you to join me on this adventure by applying to become an APS as well.  You will grow in leaps and bounds as you discover, with EWB’s help, your potential and build skills that will stay with you for your life time. Most importantly, you will work with purpose and contribute to a better world, alongside your African partners.

APS terms run for 12 or 20+ months, with many APS staying on for over 2 years.  All costs for training, travel, and living are provided by EWB. However, if you are an interested recent graduate with outstanding student loan concerns, contact us to explore alternative arrangments before you apply.

Applications are due April 30th, 2010 at midnight. This is the final application round for Fall 2010 and the first of two application rounds for Winter 2011.  For more information on EWB projects in Africa and desired qualities of APS staff, please visit this link.

If you have any further questions,  or would like to discuss this opportunity further, you can:

  • Post a comment below;
  • Contact me, Alyssa Lindsay, here; or
  • Contact Robin Farnworth, EWB’s Director of Overseas Sending

14 Apr


EWB-GR 2010 Professional Junior Fellow Now Selected

April 14, 2010 | By |

EWB-Grand River is pleased to announce Mark Soares has been selected as our community’s Professional Junior Fellow (JF) for 2010.  Mark is our second JF, following in the footsteps of Liz Logan, who was working in Africa in the Autumn of 2009. The JF Program involves a 16 month commitment where Mark will spend four months in preparatory learning, four months working with one of EWB’s African Program Teams in Ghana, Malawi or Zambia, and at least eight months contributing enxperience and leadership upon his return to the Grand River region.

Currently a resident of Guelph, Mark  has been an active member of EWB-Grand River for several years. Most recently he has been focusing on our corporate outreach initiatives and workplace lunch-and-learn presentations.  Mark became interested in volunteering with EWB’s African Programs after attending the EWB Eastern Canada Professional Chapter Retreat in October 2009.  He says he was drawn to EWB’s approach, which focused on local and sustainable ideas along with big-picture project orientations and long term potential. Mark is especially looking forward to working in Africa with our partners to help empower local leaders and create change in their communities.

Over the next few weeks, EWB- Grand River will be continuing to raise funds to support Mark’s work in Sub-Saharan Africa. All  donations to the community through our website at this time will go directly to this cause. In addition, EWB-Grand River will be hosting a series of fundraising events through June 2010. Your participation and support of Mark’s work is greatly appreciated. We hope to see you at an event real soon.

On behalf of the entire EWB-Grand River community: Congratulations Mark! We look forward to contributing to your work, learning and experiencing along side of you during this awesome adventure.

08 Apr


Borderless Music

April 8, 2010 | By |

Sharing a few fantastic African and World Music video clips

Since the launch of our newly redesigned EWB-Grand River website, I’ve been ferreting through useful resources to share here, both with our own chapter members and other interested folk who drop by.  Due to the serious nature of much of the work in which EWB is involved, a lot of the information I’ll be sharing is indeed serious.  However, I think it might encourage people to pop by these posts, if I mix it up a bit and occasionally share some resources that are a bit more entertaining.  For example, I’d like to use some African music and art as an enjoyable and educational component in our ongoing efforts to reinforce and celebrate our connection to Africa. 

I had started looking through some of my African music CDs last week, thinking about putting together a few tracks to play before and after a member learning workshop or a group meeting, to pep things up a little.  Sharing a little African and international music could energize and loosen-up a meeting, while also fostering our sense of connection across the geographical and cultural distances.  It would also be useful to have handy the web links or DVDs of a couple relevant music videos, in case someone in our chapter wants to play some intriguing and inspiring images during those useable but unstructured minutes between the first person arriving and the last person getting seated and our meeting finally getting underway, 

But why wait?  Let me share a couple of my favourite new African music videos with you here.  These are by two internationally popular and acclaimed musicians from Mali.  Please turn up your computer speakers and click each video’s full screen icon “plein écran”.  With some of the Alloclips videos, the toolbar at the bottom of the video window might not be accessible until you are about 10 seconds into the clip.  By the way, when you go to the Alloclips site, the video you play might be preceded by a brief commercial for one of the other albums on the website.

From the incredible Salif Keita‘s album  La Différence, this is the title track video.

The visuals may look a little utilitarian at the beginning of the video, but hang in there, you will soon see where it is going and some of these images are wonderful.   A little background from Wikipedia: 

Keita’s latest album, La Différence is dedicated to the struggle of the world albino community (Keita is an albino) … In one of the album’s tracks, the singer calls others to understand that “difference” does not mean “bad” and to show love and compassion towards albinos like everyone else:  “I am black/ my skin is white/ so I am white and my blood is black/… I love that because it is a difference that’s beautiful … some of us are beautiful some are not/ some are black some are white/ all that difference was on purpose… for us to complete each other/ let everyone get his love and dignity/ the world will be beautiful.”  This phrase “the world (life) will be beautiful” is the repeated refrain “La vie sera belle”.

From Rokia Traoré we have the lovely song “Dounia“, from her 2009 album Tchamantché.

I have quite a few fabulous African music CDs, ranging from very traditional to thoroughly modern, sung in various languages, and from almost every country on the continent.  However, as far as African music videos go, I mostly have only low resolution fan-filmed YouTube-type concert clips.  What I’m a little short of are professionally filmed African music videos with the high resolution images that would stand up to being shown on a large screen using a projector.  If you know of any good ones, whether available online or on a DVD for purchase, do let me know by posting a comment.

Briefly getting a tad off topic, here’s an Alloclips music video for any of you football (soccer) fans eagerly looking forward to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa starting in June – Akon’s “Oh Africa“.   And for hip hop fans, check out this video of the song by Salif Keita and the French rap group L’Skadrille about postcolonial immigration policy in France:  “Nou Pas Bouger” (“You Can’t Move Us”).  

I’m closing this post with an interesting video from Rachid Taha, “Indie (1+1+1)“, that in its own way echoes the message:  though it’s a big, diverse world out there, we are all joined together on the journey!  And remember, please feel free to recommend your own favourite African or “borderless” music videos.   Throughout the year. I’ll occasionally be sharing some more music or art links on the themes of connecting to Africa and uniting across borders.

06 Apr


Why It’s Hard To Be An Innovative Farmer in Africa

April 6, 2010 | By |

“When you’re from the city, two days on a farm can teach you a lot.” exclaims Ben Best in his latest blog post from Ghana. Ben, EWB-Grand River’s Learning Partner, has been working in Africa for the past few months with the Ghanaian Ministry of Food and Agriculture and recently received an invite to stay for a couple of days with one particularly innovative farmer, Musah, who taught him a thing or two about agrarian life in that Sub-Saharan country.
When most farmers are taking a break prior to the busy rainy season, Musah is busy. A quick list of activities, noted below, has been keeping him, and Ben, on their toes:
  • Palm nut cultivation (harvesting and nursing seedlings)
  • Mango grafting and cultivation
  • Orange grafting
  • Cashew cultivation
  • Irrigated tomato and garden egg (eggplant) cultivation
  • Animal husbandry (cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, guinea fowl)
  • Training bullocks
“Needless to say I learned a lot of practicals about farming over the two days.” notes Best. “Besides being an insanely hard worker, Musah is an innovator and an experimenter. Farmers don’t have a lot of insulation from risk here, and even common farming activities such as growing maize and yams are highly dependent on external factors, most notably rain. To invest in new, unproven activities when your family’s livelihood is at stake takes a lot of foresight and guts.”
“Innovation is something we like to talk a lot about in EWB and at [the University of] Waterloo.” remarks Best. “When I think of innovation I think of fast-moving exciting projects, pushing the boundaries and learning quickly. I think of shortening feedback cycles, “failing fast” and constant iteration. Two days with Musah taught me that innovation in farming is a bit different. Watching him meticulously check each of his palm nut trees and grafted mangoes showed me another type of innovation. Innovation where you invest in a seedling and wait three years …before you reap any rewards, before you learn if your experiment worked. This innovation requires patience, doing the small things each and every day with the hope that it might pay off in the end.”
“Being an innovative farmer is hard.” states Best. “Not only do you have to work hard, you need to be willing to experiment, to take risks, and to be patient.”
To read Ben’s complete blog post on his education with Musah, more about the Musah’s experiments or see more photos, visit (and bookmark) Ben’s blog: Ben In Ghana. Although he routinely works in remote parts of the country Ben will be updating the site as often as he can.