Feast on Good Blog: Development through Stock Exchange

A new form of investment may be ushering in a new era where we can weigh investments based on financial returns, impact, and transparency. In response to the growing demand for more companies that have a triple bottom line, financiers and social entrepreneurs are working to provide you with this new option for investment, called Retail Impact Bonds. Retail Impact Bonds will help investors and entrepreneurs to start comparing returns on your investments through not only financial data, but also impact..

Shujog, a company based in Singapore that identifies and reviews social enterprises, works with them to scale their businesses, helps them develop strategies to measure their impact, and instructs them on better ways to reach their audiences, and its sister company IIX are trying to change the landscape for social entrepreneurs. Their impact measurement system aims to provide more transparency to an industry as we compare key players in fields like sustainable agriculture.

IIX is the stock exchange that lists Asian Social Enterprises and sells Retail Impact Bonds to investors who want to issue capital to business working industries like clean energy, sustainable agriculture, and education. IIX is clear – it is not collecting donations: these bonds are still financial tools intended to return capital to the investor while improving access to capital for social enterprises. These bonds give social entrepreneurs access to capital to help scale their businesses, and investors are promised returns on their investments as well as clear information about how this company functions and measures its impact.

Social stock exchanges are intended to be more than points of sales or trades for financial tools. They are also meant to give the public better access to information about social enterprises, see what issues are being addressed, and allow the public to support these businesses through conscious investment decisions.

Besides IIX in Singapore, the U.K, the U.S. and Canada also have their own social stock exchanges. All of these platforms seek to provide a better platform for social enterprises to reach interested investors and improve outreach towards potential volunteers and supporters.

While there is currently interest in building these sorts of platforms and improving access to capital for social enterprises, each of these stock exchanges is struggling to define its priorities, develop financial tools that will keep these programs sustainable and keep attracting investors, and have social enterprises register their companies. Social enterprises have different reasons for wanting to preserve their privacy or they may have trouble navigating the regulations necessary to list themselves. There are also major concerns that the return on investments for the stock exchanges might not be enough to go through the trouble of getting a social stock exchange up and running.

Social stock exchanges are not the only programs having trouble recruiting businesses; a number of new national stock exchanges demonstrated low registration rates. In many countries, there are significant hurdles for businesses to prove that they are reputable, including a company’s limited access to clear financial data or hesitation to release financial data publicly. Cambodia, for example, launched its stock exchange in 2011 and by June 2014 only had two companies listed.Sierra Leone launched its stock exchange in 2009 and also has trouble getting companies to list publicly, despite substantial investment in the iron and other natural resource driven industries, because many companies are hesitant to disclose financial statements.

One major barrier to entry is that these exchanges need to establish their businesses and financial tools as legitimate investments. Canada’s exchange and the U.K’s exchange both benefit from significant government support as they seek to establish themselves. It will take further interest and support from the public, for both social enterprises with enough resources and growth potential and the social stock exchanges themselves to get the programs to grow and operate independently.

These programs are certainly novel and offer promising direction for social enterprises seeking funding and support. While Shujog and IIX have developed one proposal for measuring impact and comparing social enterprises with different functions/goals, another challenge all of these groups face is how they can present “impact scores” along side financial return data.

The Retail Impact Bond may be the first serious proposal for socially minded financial tools. As an investor or interested supporter, would you purchase a bond that may promise lower returns, but also promised capital towards a cause like clean energy research and transparency in the impact your capital had within an organization?

By Diana Enriquez

Diana studies informal economies, social enterprises, and economic systems at Locus Analytics. She spends a lot of time exploring new neighborhoods, especially in Latin America.

See Original on Feast on Good

Visas, Civil War and Other Culturally Relevant Material

I am on the cape for a long weekend for a family reunion that I’ve had to miss for the last couple of years. It’s always interesting — we have a very quirky family. Our interests range from an encyclopedic knowledge of rap artists between here and the Middle East, a journalist who just returned from a year long assignment in Afghanistan, a geneticist, a modern art curator, and several other characters. And yes, I would describe all of my family as “characters.” (In a good way!)

This morning’s coffee table conversation, as people were waking up and joining the rest of the group, was about Syria. Not in the typical “Obama should do this… or that…” conversation.

This is about a group of refugee women who wrote and perform a play called “Syria: the Trojan Women.” This group of women adapted the play “Trojan Women” by Euripides to tell their stories and explain what it is like to live in a city after it has been sacked.

The group was invited to perform at Georgetown University by my aunt, Cynthia Schneider and then they were set to perform at Columbia University. They offered another perspective about Syria and what life is like during Civil War based in the community living it, rather than the material curated and presented by ISIS.

The story was picked by the Washington Post and then went live through Scott Simon’s NPR segment. We listed to the feed when it went live this morning. We tried to think through next possible steps to help the women come to the US, despite the State Department’s denial for their visas. There might be other ways to help!

For now, Georgetown is still finding ways to host the event, even if it means video calling the women while they are still abroad while hosting other guest speakers.

If anyone has any ideas or thoughts about how we can continue with this event or help the women with their visas… please let us know!

[The image is from the NPR story that went live this morning]

Writing: Hearing You Loud and Clear

One of the most influential classes I took at Yale was my English 115 class… a class intended for Freshmen and Sophomores who wanted to learn to write very clearly and concisely.

I took it as a senior while I was writing and editing my thesis. It was funny — I was the “class senior.” The other students asked me about my thesis with curiosity and interest (I was writing about cartel activity in Colombian politics and other black market activities). I appreciated the enthusiasm, after spending months with other seniors huddled in 24 hour cafes, surrounded by our respective piles of books and rarely sharing more than “please pass the coffee/pen/goodnight I’m going home.” In this respect, it was definitely refreshing.

The other piece of it was that this very demanding class was extremely helpful to me while I was editing. Professor Andrew Ehrgood is an amazing professor, editor and listener for the period in which I was only able to complete the homework for his class (I really cared about learning and doing good work in this class, despite taking it Credit/D/Fail) and cranking through rounds and rounds of edits and improvements on my thesis.

Perhaps the best part is that I still think about the class and the principles it taught me… now that I am learning to program. This is the poem written about Python by one of the language’s core developers:

The Zen of Python, by Tim Peters

Beautiful is better than ugly.

Explicit is better than implicit.

Simple is better than complex.

Complex is better than complicated.

Flat is better than nested.

Sparse is better than dense.

Readability counts.

Special cases aren't special enough to break the rules.

Although practicality beats purity.

Errors should never pass silently.

Unless explicitly silenced.

In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.

There should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it.

Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you're Dutch.

Now is better than never.

Although never is often better than *right* now.

If the implementation is hard to explain, it's a bad idea.

If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.

Namespaces are one honking great idea -- let's do more of those!

Apart from the very code specific pieces… this sounds a lot like the principles we used in Ehrgood’s English course.

The same principles matter beyond English papers — I think about them when I am writing emails, explaining my research in a presentation and now programming. I am a huge advocate for clear, concise language. I’m not perfect with it; it’s something that I am constantly learning to do better.

Especially in a city where no one has time to read through overly wordy, imprecise project proposals or emails. New York is an interesting city. Words are thrown around to make projects, jobs, events, and places seems more appealing than they are in real time experience. Marketing language argues that more is better. Brighter words, more description, over the top compliments…

But I’d rather be loud and clear.        

Reforming Health Education Through Community

[Originally posted on the Feast on Good Blog]

Community Health Blog post imageimage via

Typical health class models are changing and growing through community input. Cities across the country are promoting social and community reform through health classes that go beyond the basics and help students make informed decisions about their lifestyles.

At first, local governments tried to address the need for health education. Every state in the United States has a different way of handling or recommending health education programs in public schools. Some states, like California, have specific guidelines for the topics that must be covered and when they are to be taught in schools, for example, HIV/AIDS prevention instructions between 7-12th grade and parenting education in 7th or 8th grade. Others are much less strict about the material and expected outcomes.

State funded health education programs are also facing major budget cuts. For some, health education in school is the first time they learn about nutrition, mental health, and negotiating healthy relationships with future partners.

Today, locally communities are building curricula to meet the needs of their students and provide up to date information about medical services. There are a number of great organizations like Yale’s Community Health Educators or the Peer Health Exchange that try to create safer spaces for young adults to discuss and learn about health issues like nutrition, STIs, and mental health. These programs target teens and young adults to give them tools to make informed decisions about their health.

Some communities have begun to answer the need for health education by pooling their own resources and building health curricula. Community Health Educators (CHE) was started 1999 when a teacher from Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven and a group of Yale students developed a comprehensive health curriculum for high school students. Today, CHE is a group of 150 volunteers, teaching health education courses in 24 middle schools and high schools in New Haven. The program regularly reevaluates its materials to make sure that they are relevant, up to date and ready for their audience. Teachers from the host schools are involved in the material evaluations and reform, to make sure it fits the audience.

CHE strives to give students tools to make their own choices about their health and relationships. Michael Solotke, a former Coordinator for the program, says that the curriculum “is designed to empower students with skills and knowledge to help them make healthy decisions throughout their lives.”

The presentation of the material may be just as important as the material itself. “We really value being able to teach on a peer-to-peer level,” says Katherine Rich, one of this year’s coordinators for Community Health Educators. Rich believes the peer relationships between educators and students helps open up conversations around challenging topics like sexual and mental health.

The Peer Health Exchange (PHE) grew out of the original CHE to address gaps in health education on a national level. Colleges in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and many other cities across the United States partner with PHE to provide similar comprehensive health education in schools that are also under resourced. PHE reports that 92% of their high school students said that they will use information from the program to inform their health decisions and another 68% said they had already used information from the program to make a decision regarding their health in the last six months.

The Peer Health Exchange is also growing quickly with the support of local communities: 97% of the principals in the schools that offer PHE programs said that they would recommend this program to other schools. New York City is one of the largest markets for the program. While Barnard College, New York University and Hunter College, among others, have already partnered with the program to send volunteers, PHE and CHE could always use more help.

Both programs rely heavily on volunteers who enjoy teaching and talking to students about health. Their biggest challenges lie in building relevant material that their students can relate to and finding the right educators to engage with these student groups. Interested in doing more? Check out what your local school district offers in terms of health education options and see how they are trying to grow this year!

By Diana Enriquez

Diana studies informal economies, social enterprises, and economic systems at Locus Analytics. She spends a lot of time exploring new neighborhoods, especially in Latin America.

Learning to Program!

In the spring, I decided it was time to understand a little bit more of the mechanics behind the analytics programs I was working on. I decided to learn some python.

I started with a weekend class with the NYC Data Science Academy (which I would highly recommend) and finished up the course with a project on a remittances data set I contributed to a few years ago. It was great to see what I could do with the data I had collected… even if it meant some really late evenings fighting with my computer and ultimately a lot of help from my programmer friends.

I have other friends working through programming classes and inspiring me to keep going with it, even when the going gets rough. Perhaps the funniest/most encouraging is my friend Kyra, who is a fellow informal economic researcher and beginner programmer. She runs a blog called How to Code a Sentence. (Side note: She’s also started this wonderful program called Snail Mail, check it out!)

Since then, I’ve been digging into some programming textbooks, going to more of the General Assembly Python classes, bothering my boyfriend about books that communicate the thinking behind computer algorithms to non-Caltech-Computer-Science-students (he’s working on finding me something), and trying to learn more about the thought processes behind the language.

It fascinates me because it is so different from the way that I think through problem solving and conceptualizing my projects. I am really enjoying developing my tool set, even when it feels clunky and awkward and requires a few hours of me staring at a terminal page trying to understand what is happening.

If you’re looking for an interesting side project, learn to code! I’m having a great time!

Visual Storytelling (from the Feast on Good blog)

Visual Storytelling, Diego Rivera Mural 1
image via

Growing up in Mexico, scenes from Diego Rivera’s murals in the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City were often copied into storybooks. These murals were a crucial piece of Mexican history as the country transitioned from revolution to a unified nation. It helped a population that spoke hundreds of languages piece together aspects of a shared past. This type of visual storytelling created timeless cultural pieces that allowed me to explain these stories beyond my community; I constantly learned to communicate better from them.

Stories help us become bridges between our communities. We can create and recreate those “Aha!” moments, where a concept or an idea briefly connects us to the person sharing it with us. While these murals mean one thing for me and another for someone else, we are able to share the experience of the story.

Social media makes it easier for our communities to grow across time zones, requiring us to engage with a wide variety of learners. The key to success lies in the presentation of the material. Kickstarter helps independent storytellers produce films that contribute to awareness/educational campaigns, like Preston Stringer’s “LGBT Queerstory: a Gay History Web Series.” This project tells stories about the Gay rights movement through claymation to encourage others to keep fighting for equality.

Visual storytelling is also making important strides in classrooms: one teacher, Aaron Reedy, tweeted that the lesson he gave in his biology classes on sex determination only reached about 1000 students in the 7 years he offered the class. After he produced a video version of his lesson on TED-Ed, he was able to reach 13,000 viewers in 3 days. The TED-Ed brings teachers together to make learning fun and engaging for all kinds of learners. Other platforms like InfoViz also take on concepts like the elements through playfully animated videos,designed to help students engage with the material.

How to feed the world? on Vimeo.

Similarly, businesses like Bridgewater produce videos that explain the diversity of the “economic machine” in 30 minutes to help consumers approach finance and investment opportunities with more clarity.

Today, we have the opportunity to brainstorm with talent across the globe – could telling your story through a visual language be the key to connecting your community to another, allowing you to learn from and progress with one another?

How have you seen visual storytelling used in creative, impactful ways?

By Diana Enriquez

Diana studies informal economies, social enterprises, and economic systems at Locus Analytics. She spends a lot of time exploring new neighborhoods, especially in Latin America.

Originally posted on the Feast on Good Blog