Beats | August 31, 2017

Can business go high, South Africa’s independent media, globalization and social entrepreneurship…

The team at


Greetings, ImpactAlpha readers!

#Featured: ImpactAlpha Original

From ‘condemn and disband’ to ‘invest and transform.’ Was the mass resignation of the country’s top CEOs from the Trump Administration a momentary reflex? Or the catalyst for collective and purposeful social leadership from business on the grand challenges of our time?

American CEOs took collective action to reject Trump’s message. Now it’s time for them to make sustainable, inclusive prosperity their common cause, at home and abroad.

Read, “From ‘Condemn and Disband’ to ‘Invest and Transform’” by David Bank on ImpactAlpha:

From ‘Condemn and Disband’ to ‘Invest and Transform’

#Dealflow: Follow the Money

Media Innovation Program to cultivate independent media in South Africa. Free and independent media was limited under South Africa’s decades-long apartheid regime and is an increasing concern under the government of embattled President Jacob Zuma. The South African Media Innovation Program will provide funding and business support for new and existing digital media outlets that are building sustainable revenue models. The three-year, $4 million partnership brings together Open Society Foundation of South Africa, Omidyar Network and the Media Development Investment Fund. “The space to report clearly and credibly outside the framework of vested political and commercial interests has narrowed sharply in recent years,” says Open Society’s Fatima Hassan. An innovation challenge will identify viable news and information products for local and underserved communities. Applications are due October 31.

Impact First bets on GivingWay to scale “voluntourism.” The notion of committing vacation time to boost social and humanitarian causes has taken some hits (see: Savior Barbie). GivingWay, an Israeli tech startup, wants to improve the current models, which mostly rely on placement agents who take a sizeable cut to connect volunteers to local organizations. GivingWay connects volunteers with organizations directly; its platform includes more than 700 organizations in 80 countries. Israel’s Impact First Investments, a tech-focused impact venture capital fund, made an undisclosed investment in GivingWay to support its expansion. Impact First’s four earlier investments were in special needs and health tech (see, “Turning Israeli technology toward sustainable development”).

Sumdog’s educational games get backing from Nesta Impact and Scottish Investment Bank. Sumdog’s math and reading games are used by three million students, many from underserved communities, in U.K. and U.S. schools. The Scottish company aims to “close the educational attainment gap by helping all children reach their full potential” and hopes to reach 15 million students by 2022. The £1.4 million of funding to expand in the U.S. comes from the Scottish Investment Bank and Nesta Impact Investments, a £17.6 million impact investment fund supported by Big Society Capital, Omidyar Network and innovation foundation Nesta.

See all of ImpactAlpha’s recent #dealflow.

#Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Jonathan Lewis on globalization and social entrepreneurship. Globalization has fallen out of favor in a time of “My Country First.” But the international movement of goods, capital and people continues apace. The “people” part of such global mobility, in particular, has become a convenient scapegoat. That makes all the more noteworthy activist and social entrepreneur Jonathan Lewis’ full-throated embrace of global interconnection in his new book, The Unfinished Social Entrepreneur (Red Press). “Immigrants are the living manifestation of our social entrepreneurial commitment to the unfettered flow of human capital and to the free exchange of ideas, traditions and knowledge,” Lewis writes. Other choice tidbits from the book:

  • “When an Indian software geek, a Mexican farmworker, a Filipino nurse or a single mom crosses an American border, our reservoir of human capital is replenished, refreshed and rejuvenated.”
  • “Globalization is routinely, and wrongly, faulted for disappearing jobs (mainly caused by robotics, computerization or corporate consolidation) and wage stagnation (mainly caused by trickle-down economic policies that don’t trickle).”

Read an excerpt from “The Unfinished Social Entrepreneur,” by Jonathan Lewis, on ImpactAlpha (or download the whole “Globalization” chapter free here.) ImpactAlpha readers can get a 50% discount on “The Unfinished Social Entrepreneur” at the Red Press by using the discount code ImpactAlphaAug.

Globalization and the Unfinished Social Entrepreneur

#2030: Long-termism

After the rains stop. The scenes from Houston have global echoes in Niamey, Niger where extreme floods have also affected tens of thousands; or in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, where torrential monsoon rains are affecting tens of millions. Last year, natural disasters caused $175 billion in damage worldwide and $46 billion in the U.S. (Harvey is projected to more than double that.)

Financial institutions are experimenting with ways to mitigate the costs and rebuild faster. Earlier this month, the World Bank issued $360 million in “catastrophe bonds” to Mexico to protect the country against the impact of earthquakes and tropical cyclones. Insurance giant Swiss Re rolled out a new insurance product, also in Mexico, to protect coastal coral reefs.

Each new disaster puts a spotlight on the future of urban planning too. Hurricane Harvey has exposed the potential tragedy of unchecked, unregulated development and put a spotlight on the recent rollback in environmental regulations for new infrastructure. And on “where we’re putting our pavement, where we’re putting homes in these low-lying vulnerable areas,”according to Sam Brody, a professor at Texas A&M, Galveston.

But even Houston’s weak zoning laws offer more in terms of security and standards than the sprawling, haphazardly built urban slums that house more than 800 million worldwide. The U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goal №11(“Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”) calls for greater adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reductionby 2020, to enlist public and private stakeholders in disaster resilience. Some of the solutions have nothing to do with drainage. In Mukuru, one of Nairobi’s biggest slums, residents are building resiliency to flooding with better housing, water, sewage and other infrastructure investments. With the urban population forecast to reach five billion by 2030, cities — and slums — will be at the forefront of climate change. Around the world, ambitious experiments in housing and infrastructure, water and sanitation and flood control are helping slum residents adapt. The first step: secure land tenure.

Onward! Please send any news and comments to [email protected].