Amherst, Massachusetts-based Verite provides high-quality audits that uncover factory violations for clients such as Tommy Hilfiger, Disney, and Timberland in 66 countries. At the same time, Verite also forges productive partnerships that encourage companies to promote better working conditions. Its work goes far beyond inspections. Verite works with companies to fix the problems audits uncover.

Microlending giant ACCION International's strategy alleviates poverty -- and pays for itself. The key: partnerships with non-governmental organizations and banks that lend to the poor. Partners get funding, expertise, and access to ACCION's debt and equity tools. "We don't need to give people charity," says Maria Otera, ACCION's CEO. "We need to give people opportunity and access."

Aspire Public Schools, which manages 16 charter schools in California, shares its business plan with anyone who wants it. Aiming to double the number of poor children who get college degrees, Aspire is working with the Boys and Girls Clubs to build a new school, and is dividing land in Stockton, California, between a new school and low-cost homes. "The idea isn't to hold on to the competitive edge -- it's to share," says executive director Don Shalvey.

City Year believes that today's young volunteers will be tomorrow's leaders. Change has to come from grassroots projects -- and from kids. So City Year digs deep into 15 urban communities to recruit young people from across the social spectrum to work together tutoring kids, tending community gardens, and more. "If national service worked at scale, every generation would be the greatest generation," says cofounder Alan Khazei.

When the cofounders of ApproTEC learned that the only irrigation pumps on the market in Kenya were expensive motorized ones meant for larger plots, they developed a treadle pump that could handle the hills and valleys of sub-Saharan Africa. Most rural farmers had previously used simple buckets. The MoneyMaker is produced and distributed by independent, for-profit companies. And ApproTEC's three-year expansion could produce 39,000 new businesses in Kenya and Tanzania, penetrate other markets in the region, and expand sales of its products to wholesalers worldwide.

Many high-school students don't go to college -- not for lack of ability, but because no one at home encourages them. College Summit founder J.B. Schramm started by giving four underprivileged high-school students informal "kitchen table" support that helped them get into college. Now, College Summit holds workshops for kids and their teachers, offering the tools and support to successfully apply to college. 79% of the 5,000 or so peer leaders College Summit has trained went on to enroll in college

Radio-based enviro-advocacy is one of the savvy initiatives being deployed in 30 developing nations by an unusual conservation group called Rare. Rare works with 120 environmental groups and governments to support 70 frontline conservationists running imaginative, region-specific initiatives. The organization creates impact through three major programs. Rare Pride uses guerrilla marketing to inspire conservation. Rare Radio's serial dramas are powerful platforms for education in conservation, family planning, domestic violence, and other important issues. And Rare Enterprise leads ecotours to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, preserving the park and strengthening the area's economy.

One reason the working poor remain poor is that they earn too little to save anything after the bills are paid. San Francisco-based EARN provides financial counseling and mathing funds to help them open savings accounts. Executive director Ben Mangan believes assets are a more lasting fix to poverty than higher incomes. Individuals invest up to $6,000 in an Independent Development Account to build equity against mortgages, small-business financing, or education loans.

Venture catalyst Endeavor Global scouts out entrepreneurs in emerging economies, then pairs them with advisers, mentors, and investors. Endeavor ensures the success of its inherently risky bets by building strong private networks in countries first and then applying a rigorous selection process that, among other factors, assesses a candidate's willingness to give back. The businesses of over 195 Endeavor Entrepreneurs support an average of 125 jobs and have collectively generated revenues of more than $655 million.

First Book has built a powerful, technology-driven supply chain to deliver children's books from publishers to literacy programs to poor children. Its "provate-sector way" to get books into the hands of children awards grants to child-care programs to buy from a catalog of discounted books. It also handles actual distribution. The idea: Align the interests of everyone. In 2004, First Book expected to deliver more than 30 millions books.

When Rob Waldron became CEO of Jumpstart in 2002, the organization was sending Americorps volunteers and college students from 33 universities to teach at HeadStart programs in cities such as Boston and Atlanta. His mandate was to make Jumpstart grow -- without losing the unique and personal touch that made its approach to early childhood education so effective. Waldron decentralized decision making, ceding power to regional centers and encouraging employees to bring their best ideas to the table.

Grameen Foundation USA, a Washington, DC-based microfinance engine, provides microlending institutions with financial resources -- and also focuses on technology and tools. The foundation raises millions to support the next generation of microlenders while providing technologies to support their operations. Its Technology Center in Seattle borrows from some of the best minds in computing and business, including Amazon.com's former CTO. "People want to engage their minds, not just their pocketbooks," says president Alex Counts.

Boston-based Housing Partnership Network knows that building affordable housing is a tough job -- from raising funds to insuring the project. So HPN, an ambitious group of 80 nonprofit housing groups, created its own instruments -- a new lending company and insurance institution, both backed by the nation's leading banks -- to ensure its members could be as competitive in their markets as private-sector real estate companies.

New Leaders for New Schools recruits and trains entrepreneurial leaders to become principals of urban public schools. NLNS selects individuals who have teaching experience, know kids well, and demonstrate leadership potential. It gives them 10 weeks of intensive training and support, plus on-the-job coaching during a yearlong residency program.

The Program for Appropriate Technology in Health improves health conditions in poor countries by focusing on innovation, while relying on larger organizations to distribute its products and ideas. Instead of simply delivering services to areas in need, PATH teams up with existing public-health systems.

Room to Read works with villagers in Cambodia, Nepal, India, and Vietnam to build libraries. The school builder builds in communities that invite it, ensuring commitment. Villages are required to contribute land, labor, or cash, which Room to Read matches with finds raised from donors in the United States and elsewhere. On average, it opens 11 libraries a week.

Rubicon Programs Inc. provides a one-stop shop for the homeless, offering housing, employment, and mental-health services. And it does so by running successful businesses, including a gourmet bakery with national distribution that ultimately trains the formerly homeless in jobs with upward career paths. Rubicon's bakery, a lawn-care service, and a health-aide business generated 43% of its $12.5 million budget in 2003.

Eyewear provider Scojo Foundation makes affordable reading glasses available to the 1.6 billon people in the developing world whose decline in eyesight as they age prevents them from reading and sometimes costs them their work. Scojo sells via a network of women entrepreneurs because they're more likely to reinvest money into their families and communities -- and their entrepreneurship creates a self-sustaining platform for tackling health problems.

Kids living in poverty have a better shot at college if their environment supports the education process 24 hours a day. So Washington, DC-based SEED Foundation is building public boarding schools in urban areas. SEED's holistic approach and 24-hour-a-day involvement allow it greater control over student outcomes by addressing academic and environmental issues in addition to after-school activities. 100% of SEED's first graduates in 2004 went on to four-year colleges.

Social Venture Partners introduces philanthropic newbies to the world of civic engagement, while channeling critical support to local nonprofits. Groups of partners research issues and make investment decisions. They're aided by workshops and other resources to make them more effective community leaders, and most volunteer with nonprofits who receive grants. "We put all the pieces -- volunteering, grant making, and our philosophy -- together," says executive director Paul Shoemaker.

While many nonprofits focus on unemployment, Springboard Forward addresses underemployment. It provides on-the-job coaching to low-wage workers to help them out of the poverty cycle. The point is to create opportunities for individuals while meeting employers' needs. Partners such as Home Depot and Stanford get higher employee-retention rates; their workers build skills and, ultimately, wealth.

Fair-trade advocate TransFair USA allows farmers in developing countries to sell crops for a livable wage by giving them collective power. And it has emerged as a powerful consumer brand in its own right. This matters because companies like Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Wild Oats Markets, and Dunkin' Donuts want a "Good Housekeeping" seal on their sustainable products that customers will recognize and respect.

The Vera Institute of Justice incubates programs to serve those entangled in the justice system. The folks at Vera look for new yardsticks that help everybody win -- for example, measuring the relationship between crime rates, prosecutions, convictions, and rehabilitation sentences. Then they help governments create new processes to make these indicators a reality.

The brainchild of rocker Peter Gabriel, Witness helps activists capture human-rights abuses on camera. Witness is all about leverage: It doesn't produce films but gives others the tools to do so. It counsels 12 to 15 "core partners" to advance specific advocacy goals with video footage, making connections with international media outlets, government officials, policymakers, activists, and the public. More important, it has trained workers at more than 200 human rights initiatives to make videos.

Fast Company

2005 Social Capitalist Awards

Amherst, Massachusetts-based Verite provides high-quality audits that uncover factory violations for clients such as Tommy Hilfiger, Disney, and Timberland in 66 countries. At the same time, Verite also forges productive partnerships that encourage companies to promote better working conditions. Its work goes far beyond inspections. Verite works with companies to fix the problems audits uncover.

Add New Comment

0 Comments