THE BLOG

Reporters Uncensored: Underdogs And Social Innovators

08/31/2010 03:03 pm 15:03:40 | Updated May 25, 2011

By Maura Kelly

On October 22, RUTV will launch a new online mini-series, Underdogs and Social Innovators -- global tales of the disenfranchised, the downtrodden and the silent heroes who battle the odds to overcome all.

What do solar energy, human trafficking and potable water have in common? These are just a sample of some of the issues and problems a growing army of enterprising citizens tackle on a daily basis. Whether they work to deliver solar energy to Brazilian villagers, free female slaves in Nepal or build low-cost wells for clean water in Africa, they look for pioneering solutions that change lives, and build human capital. Called "social entrepreneurs" these men and women are leading a quiet revolution where enterprising ideas meet strategic planning; and empathy and integrity for all is paramount.

Each week Underdogs and Innovators will profile "change agents" for society -- individuals who seize opportunities others miss in order to create sustainable solutions around crucial social problems. Working in partnership with local people, they build infrastructure and systems that creates social value and profitable revenue streams.

RUTV met many "change-agents" at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York this past September. In a time where people are cynical about the excesses of capitalism, and corruption in the developing world is rampant, it's refreshing to meet people who use their entrepreneurial spirit in the service of social goals.

This week, RUTV profiles the Ashoka Foundation, a global organization founded by Bill Drayton. Bill, a lifelong entrepreneur helped build the field of social entrepreneurship 25 years ago and remains committed to shaping a dynamic, global citizen sector. Since 1981, Ashoka has elected over 2,000 leading social entrepreneurs as Ashoka Fellows, providing them with living stipends, professional support and access to a global network of peers in more than 60 countries -- including North America. Connectivity is key. For example, if there are 50 fellows around the world working on different aspects of water sanitation, Ashoka will connect them so they can share ideas and build on each others prior knowledge.

Other change-agents we came across:
JB Schramm is an Ashoka fellow who realized that low-income high school students are less likely to get to college than their wealthier peers. By age 25, only seven percent of low-income students earn a college degree, compared to 60 percent by upper-income students. Today, his project College Summit works to close the gap by helping students from low-income families select schools, complete college applications, write personal statements and navigate financial aid.

Another change-agent is the Nepalese Youth Opportunity Foundation's Indentured Daughters Program. Realizing that many poor families in western Nepal have been forced to sell their daughters to work far from home as bonded servants, they came up with an incentive to help keep girls at home. They provide desperate families with a piglet or a goat that can ultimately be sold for a sum equivalent to that of their child's labor.

In today's negative economic and social climate, it's easy to get saturated with tales of despair. The good news is that according to a recent Harris Poll, 97% of Generation Y is looking for work that allows them to have an impact on the world. In recent years, courses in social entrepreneurship have been created in major universities and colleges such as Harvard Business School, Yale School of Management, Duke, NYU's Stern & Wagner, Wharton, Oxford and Stanford.

Join us on October 22 at 5:30pm when we talk with Bill Drayton about this burgeoning field, and his belief that everyone can become a "changemaker." Whatever your passions, however you want to make a difference, Bill believes we can all find a way to make it happen.

Whether it's live or on-demand -- thank you for watching from anywhere and anytime.

Maura Kelly
Emmy-award winning producer and former executive producer at PBS