Innovation in Sanitation: The Man Who Wore A Sanitary Napkin

Arunachalam Muruganatham at his desk working away on his award-winning sanitary napkin machine.

Lack of toilets and water during a menstrual cycle can mean huge drawbacks for women and girls. They can’t travel or get their work done on a regular basis; families that rely on a woman’s income will often starve during those days when she probably needs it most. Young girls often drop out of school because they can’t use the bathroom when they need, and this has lasting repercussions. Sanitary Napkins have traditionally been out of reach and too expensive for the poor.

Bring in Arunachalam Muruganantham, a poor handyman from a village in India and a high school dropout who was brave enough to take on the project to address the issues his wife was dealing with. It nearly cost him his marriage and made him the laughing stock of his community, but he stuck to his principles. Today, he has pioneered cheap and effective sanitary napkins for the poor in India and potentially the world. Watch his amazing story in his own words here:

Rounding up the week on Education: Sweden’s Newest School with Classroom

 

Who wouldn’t want to go to a school like this??

No doubt you’ve heard about this already, if you have been trawling the internet. If not, read on…

 

From Architizer:

The young—and the young at heart—have a seemingly infinite capacity to project fantasies unto ordinary spaces. It is this kernel of wide-eyed creativity that carries on into adulthood, fighting to stay alive and to push us to keep imagining new and better worlds. Swedish educators seem to have had this in mind when they commissioned the architects at Rosan Bosch to build a wholly original kind of schoolhouse. The Swedish Free School Organization Vittra has been pioneering a new kind of pedagogical space, specifically one without walls. Gone are the classrooms and their rigid alignment of desks, and in their place emerges a colorful, seamless landscape of abstractly themed learning environments.

Also read about the following alternative schools:

John Hardy’s Green School

African Leadership Academy

 

 

Struggling to Startup Your Own Social Enterprise?? Here’s a great resource…

Need a blueprint for starting a social enterprise?? Look no further!

Starting a social enterprise is not easy; some might argue that because the field is so “new”, fewer resources mean that its harder than a regular startup.

So if you are wondering how to do it and are struggling, there is a resource that might be perfect for you…

Echoing Green Alumnus, TED Senior Fellow, MIT graduate, inventor, tinkerer, and founder of Social Tech Enterprise AIDG, Peter Haas is putting together a great webinar on “How to Set Up your Own Social Enterprise“. The workshop is aimed at teaching novices tools to be successful in the field of social enterprise.

“Are you frustrated trying to start your social enterprise. Struggling with sustainability, financial planning, impact reporting? This webinar is an overview of running a social enterprise. It takes from the experiences of some of the lead social entrepreneurs of our day to give you guidance on lessons learned and practical tools to help you overcome your obstacles. It will save you hours of work and research. Don’t reinvent the wheel, leverage some of the best practices of some of the best social entrepreneurs in the world today.”

 

To register, go here.

 

AWESOME FREE class from STAR Development Economists: 14.73x The Challenges of Global Poverty

Star Development Economists Banerjee and Duflo to jointly teach a free class on Global Poverty

MIT’s EdX is offering an awesome MUST-register class by JPAL geniuses, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo to teach an intro class on Global Poverty.

Duflo and Banerjee are the founders of the Jameel Poverty Action Lab (JPAL), behind the most interesting and fascinating new research on poverty issues in the Developing World, and are having a significant impact on international aid and development interventions.

Their courses are generally hard to get into (I can personally attest to this), and expensive. But now you can get it for free. Definitely check it out!

Further reading: Tworque/JPAL

Free Online Education is Leveling the Playing Field for Economically Challenged Communities

 

What if these women were watching a lecture by a professor from MIT or Harvard?? Its now a reality…

Now that opensource thinking has proliferated the technology space, a whole slew of products have emerged. Now all you need is an internet connection of some sort, a pair headphones and a phone with video capability and suddenly a person from Somalia or an innercity kid from Nairobi or South Central Los Angeles can be educated  in the same class by a professor from Harvard.

Several years ago, MIT had decided to put all their courses up for free on something called OpenCourseware (OCW). I didn’t particularly enjoy the material on there, but I soon realized I was in the minority. During my travels, I came across several people from around the world, particularly parts where a lack of financial resources and good universities abounds, who had successfully used the material and even learned it better than me.

Since then, several others have emerged that can run the gamut of education from grade school (the Khan Academy, TED-Ed) to university education (EdX, the new MIT-Harvard initiative to replace OCW,  Coursera from Stanford, Udacity), and beyond (Udemy).

I’m slowly wading my way through all the different programs, and trying to figure out what works for me. But its super cool that finally the developing world has almost equal access to anyone else anywhere else. Hurrah to the future of education. Now if we can just get more women access to this, and we will see the world change for the better.

Xylem’s Innovative Water Convention

The Xylem World Water Show’s entrance page…look at the virtual classroom that you can “walk” into on the right.

The connective power of the internet and more powerful tools like smartphones and computers are both increasing innovation in otherwise stale areas, as well as decreasing barriers to entry for players who previously couldn’t come to the playing field for a variety of reasons.

Xylem, Inc is a company I had scarcely heard about until recently when I came across their World-Wide Water Show, a virtual trade show and convention that you could attend from the comfort of your living room.  Access to an internet browser and a dial-up connection gave you access to a whole world of international technology, and speakers. Suddenly, third-world citizens have the same access to opportunity as those from the first-world.

The one-day show on Nov 29, 2012, meant that you could attend at ANY point in the world’s 24-hour cycle. Like any convention, there was a calendar and agenda for when things were being showcased at what times. You could “wander” into a conference room that had a live speaker who was being simulcast; there were moderated forums for chat during the speech and a space to ask questions. Or you could go to the trade floor and “meet” virtually with experts from sponsor companies who “displayed” their wares and answered any questions. Forums or “live chats” took the place of face-to-face interactions.

Xylem also worked hard to incorporate features that made you feel like you were in a conference room or trade floor, by looking at the screen and letting you play like you were in a “Second Life” style setting.

If you are interested, the content and features are still up for another 85 days. Highly recommend it!! Go hereregister and click on the “on demand” button.

I’ll be honest… even as a water engineer, it is a little boring, so I didn’t stay too long. But its still worth visiting to check out the idea in action, the platform and the overall design/user experience…it was extremely innovative and brilliantly done at a fraction of the cost of a real convention. Granted there was no face-to-face interaction…but this could easily lead to that through.