Chelsea Clinton champions youth engagement and women’s rights | 

Chelsea Clinton leads a plenary discussion at CGI.
Chelsea Clinton leads a plenary discussion at CGI 2013.

(New York) – Chelsea Clinton recognizes that being the daughter of a former US President and former Secretary State pushes her onto the American political stage.

It is an opportunity rather than a burden for Clinton. In a conversation with a small group of bloggers on the Sidelines of the Clinton Global Initiative last week, she described her interest in women’s rights, national service and youth engagement.

CGI used to host a separate track for women and girls. The idea was to raise the issues concerning the group, but the foundation came to realize that it was not a separate issue. Rather, women and girls are a part of all aspects of development.

“All of our work must have implications for girls and women and for the gender gap,” she said.

The organization now advises its members to consider how they are going to reach women and girls, as well as other marginalized groups, when developing their pledges. The change is working, she said. Nearly two-thirds of all commitments this year included women and girls in their plans. That is up from half last year. Continue reading

UW student activist calls on Millennials to be less dreamy, more political | 

Dean Chahim is a student of Civil & Environmental Engineering and International Development & Social Change at the University of Washington. Chahim co-founded and facilitates the Critical Development Forum, which is having one of its informal forums later today on the issue of climate change.

This is a guest post and the views expressed here are Chahim’s, in case you needed to be told that.


Dean Chahim

A UW student at an Occupy Seattle event asks for less hope, more action

There is the social and political movement of Occupy Wall Street. The Arab Spring. And then there is Seattle’s exploding ‘humanitarian’ community. These are all driven, in part or maybe largely, by the younger generation’s desire for change – for a better world.

At the University of Washington, it’s impossible to miss what’s happening. The youth movement for change operates under many banners and goes by many names: development, humanitarian, philanthropic, global health, global service, social entrepreneurship. Here on Humanosphere, this has been described as a key feature of my “Millennial” generation.

New student-run NGOs seem to start here every week. Information sessions pack in students by the dozen. Flyers litter campus for the latest two-week trip to empower African villagers, help with sustainable projects, and oh yes, see a few waterfalls. They seek to work miracles, changing communities forever “in just five days.”

In between volunteer trips, they might send shoes to the Dominican Republic or bras to Nigeria. Yes, bras. Gently used bras.

There is no denying that some of the work they do has real benefits in the short-term for the poor and marginalized globally. But I would argue that many of these well-intentioned efforts don’t have much impact – and that they distract from the most powerful means to fight poverty and inequity, disease and suffering.


I’m concerned that the way we frame our discussion around these efforts is actually stunting my generation’s view of social change. We dream of helping “one village at a time” through service overseas when, arguably, we could help many millions more through political activism here at home. Continue reading

The UW’s first full year of its global health minor starts … now! | 

Speaking of Millennials, those young people in their 20s and early 30s we in the media have (annoyingly?) labeled as such, here’s more evidence that this generation is intensely interested in doing some serious global good.

The University of Washington’s Global Health Department’s new undergraduate program.

Started last January, mid-school year, the global health minor was launched largely due to undergraduate students’ desire (here’s a story featuring one of the ring-leaders, Sarah Dawson) to get going now rather than wait to work on global health issues as graduate student in public health, medicine or some such.

This week marks the start of the first full year of the UW’s global health minor.

Tom Paulson

UW students wandering around looking for direction at start of 2011 school year

While hordes of students wandered around campus looking for direction, or for those free granola bars from some church organization I’d never heard of, others were hunkered down playing a game of global health and development trivia.

“What percentage of our GDP, our gross domestic product, is spent on overseas development?” asked UW civil engineering student Dean Chahim, one of the organizers of the event. Continue reading

Turning Seattle’s hodgepodge of do-gooders into a community | 

Flickr, papalars

Seattle has become a hub, or more accurately a hodgepodge, of international do-gooders.

To begin with, there’s that internationally oriented foundation based in Seattle run by a couple of mega-billionaires.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropy, has made the Emerald City (do we still call it that?) an epicenter for matters of global health, poverty reduction and such.

But there’s much more going on here than the Gates Foundation. And, well, nobody seems to really have a handle on everything going on. It’s a hodgepodge.

That’s where another internationally oriented foundation in Seattle comes in. Appropriately enough, it’s called the Seattle International Foundation.

“We live in this amazing community where so many people are trying to make a difference,” said Maurico Vivero, executive director at the Seattle International Foundation (aka SIF).

But most of these people, and their organizations, Vivero says, have tended to work in relative isolation on their causes. The goal of SIF, he says, is to encourage collaboration among the literally hundreds of local organizations working globally to fight poverty and improve the welfare of the world’s poorest. Continue reading

Party with a Purpose almost sold out! | 

Okay, you don’t have much more time.

Party with a Purpose is almost sold out. This Friday’s event, sponsored by the Washington Global Health Alliance, is aimed at bringing together mostly young people (and some old people like me) to eat, drink, be merry and focus on a particular global health issue.

Tom Paulson

Last year's Party with a (Poop) Purchase

Last year, they boldly based their social event on diarrhea; this year, it’s tuberculosis and the work of Seattle’s Infectious Disease Research Institute.

It’s more evidence of what I contend is a Millennials’ do-gooder revolution.

“This year’s event will be much more geared toward providing people with opportunities to engage,” said Kristen Eddings, lead organizer of the event for the WGHA. For example, Eddings said, the event will educate attendees about the Global Health Corps and encourage them to apply.

But the event isn’t limited only to those looking for a career in global health, she said. The idea is to provide an entertaining opportunity for anyone to simply come learn more about these issues, find causes to support or get involved as a volunteer. The focus this year is on bringing more public attention to a local effort that few seem aware of, the work done on TB by the Infectious Disease Research Institute.

“We’ve been lousy about getting our story out,” said Curt Malloy, senior vp at IDRI. The research organization, founded in 1993, explores novel approaches to vaccines and therapeutics.

Last fall, as reported by the Seattle Times, IDRI announced plans to begin clinical testing on a new TB vaccine — aimed at boosting the efficacy of the current vaccine. The Seattle firm also recently started testing a vaccine against leischmaniasis in the Sudan and is working on developing faster, cheaper TB diagnostic tests.

Party with a Purpose will also raise money to support IDRI’s research. It may not be enough to fund a vaccine trial. But that’s okay; the sponsors like the Gates Foundation, Sightlife, Vulcan and others are picking up the cost of the shindig so all the proceeds go to assist with IDRI’s work and every little bit helps.

The idea is to increase awareness of what’s going on in Seattle and why we’re now a global health epicenter.

Students ask: Can you save the world? | 

Hundreds of students at the University of Washington packed into a classroom Monday evening for a panel discussion entitled, “Can You Save the World?

Tom Paulson

Finding a place to sit at the UW's "Can You Save the World?"

Sponsored by a new student-run organization called the Critical Development Forum, it was an acknowledged riff on an earlier event we (KPLU Humanosphere) sponsored at Seattle Town Hall called “Can Seattle Save the World?” — this time aimed specifically at the concerns and questions of young people.

I’ve noted before that there’s something special going on with the Millennials and this event only confirmed my suspicion: They actually do want to save the world.

And they know it won’t be easy or simply based on good intention. Continue reading

Connected, aware and committed to change | 

I forgot to tell you earlier why I gave this series of stories about the Millennials its title:

Connected to change.

Maybe it’s obvious, but the first point here is that this generation, also known as Generation Y (though I’m told they don’t like that designation … too close to Generation X), is connected. The impact of the web and other information technologies on this generation is no small thing.

“Our phones are always ringing or sending text messages,” said Autumn Lerner, a Millennial who is vice-president for Seatte’s World Affairs Council. “Most of us don’t know what it’s like not to be this connected.”

And this connection is not trivial. Some experts say the current turmoil in the Middle East likely would not have been able to take off, grow so fast and maintain its momentum without the web, phones, Facebook and other instantaneous means of communicating. Continue reading

Millennials doing microfinance and microphilanthropy | 

Millennials are big on microfinance, and microphilanthropy.

Microfinance is most simply thought of as providing — and managing — small loans or financial services to poor individuals or small communities who otherwise wouldn’t ever get on a regular bank’s radar screen.

Microphilanthropy is similar — philanthropy aimed at helping meet the needs of poor individuals or small organizations that otherwise might get the attention of many large non-profit, humanitarian organizations.

There’s a crisis of confidence in microfinance right now, usually, inaccurately, personified in the recent trials and tribulations of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning economist Muhammad Yunus.

The real crisis is not so much about Yunus as it is due to the rising commercialization and emphasis on profits in this financial scheme. Yunus has criticized some microfinance organizations for acting like “loan sharks,” for losing their focus on the true mission of microfinance — to help people get themselves out of the cycle of poverty.

Here are a few young people in Seattle who remain focused on the true mission.

1) Using tech-industry know-how to help the smallest needs: Nadia and Adnan Mahmud.

The Mahmuds are two impressive and almost accidental microphilanthropists. Their organization is called Jolkona, Bengali for “drop of water,” and until this past March was being run on laptops out of the Mahmud’s kitchen and assorted Seattle coffee houses.

Tom Paulson

Adnan and Nadia Mahmud, of Jolkona

Jolkona was created, I’m not kidding here, partly because Nadia didn’t want to walk back to her dorm room at UCLA and partly because Adnan didn’t want to deal with a lot of email. I’ll get to that in a second, but first let’s talk about what Jolkona does.

In a nutshell, Jolkona helps fund those kinds of projects or individual needs that are so small that the cost to administer them at most large non-profit organizations would be more than the amount of money needed. Jolkona also provides direct feedback so donors can see how their support makes a difference.

Continue reading