The Skoll Foundation – Environmental News This Week
I hope you were inspired by my recent articles on the difference an individual can make. Today, here is some more inspiring environmental news – great ideas from the Skoll Foundation (if you’ve never heard of it, no problem, the details are at the end).
But first, let me tell you about the difference the Skoll Foundation is making.
Sweeping changes are often made by the most unlikely, seemingly small ideas and events. (Like Earth Hour when it started in Sydney, Australia – see my article).
New ideas which could make a difference abounded at the Skoll Foundation’s World Forum, held in Oxford, UK last week.
Two of the ideas I really, really like are ideas on how to improve rural village life in permanent ways.
The first of my favourite ideas concerns grandmothers. Many people have looked at training the youth in rural villages – a good idea. They gained skills, which enabled them to offer value, and thus they could get jobs. But that meant they went off to the cities to make their fortune. The villages were left as poor as ever.
So this initiative by the Skoll Foundation’s social entrepreneur Bunker Roy trained semi-literate grandmothers across India to maintain and repair solar power grids. The difference? Grandmothers stay where their children and grandchildren are. And no matter where in the world they live, grandmothers want their offspring to have a better life.
Review What we Do
The second of my favourite ideas reminds us just how important it is to regularly review what we do, why, and see if it can be improved. That was the approach used by the Skoll Foundation entrepreneur Tim Hanstad to change the lives of women in India.
If you buy land in India, there is one line on the Title Deed for the name of the landowner. Mostly, that’s the head of the household. And mostly, that’s the man.
Which would be fine, except that it causes all sorts of problems.
For example, if the man dies before his wife, she would often be evicted from her home. Even if there were a quarrel between husband and wife, the wife could be left destitute. In-laws could lay claim to the property and show no mercy to the widow or her children, leaving them homeless and with no source of income.
Yet often, women had contributed to the land purchase, either by dowry or their own money, and continued to contribute by providing valuable services to the household.
Such a Small Change….
A simple idea – adding a second line on the title deed for the names of the land owners – is helping to change this. With their names also listed, women have more bargaining power, for example to ensure that profits from a home business or agricultural produce from the plot are used to make sure the children are well fed and attend school.
Both husband and wife can now apply for loans to make improvements or to start a new business. Both have more security. And so do their children.
By adding this extra line to the title deed – the Indian government agreed to the simple proposal – the lives of rural families have been changed forever.
I find it totally inspirational that lives can be changed so radically by such simple innovations!
What is the Skoll Foundation? It was founded by Canadian Jeff Skoll, who now lives in the US. He was the first President of eBay, the world’s largest on-line marketplace. He founded the Skoll Foundation as a way of giving back, by encouraging social entrepreneurship. Judging by the presentations in Oxford last week, he’s created a very successful Foundation!
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