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From the Blog

Observing partners of The 1010 Project in Kenya, as well as listening to our indigenous leaders, I’ve discerned three elements that must be present for a social innovation to succeed.

  • Aptitude: A social entrepreneur’s skill or competency which they are offering to their community and to the marketplace.
  • Business Acumen: Knowledge of basic business principles and strategies
  • Capital Investment: Resources for startup costs, including financial, intellectual, and human capital

In metaphor format, if the entrepreneur and their skill is a Computer, Capital is the hardware and Business acumen is the software.

Development at times has focused primarily on the third element, Capital Investment. And it is true that  hardworking, creative social entrepreneurs in impoverished countries have remarkable aptitude but often lack access to basic capital.

However, as Michael Nyangi of LOMORO reminded me in February, many of these community leaders have not received the kind of business knowledge we take for granted in the United States. The average American would have a primary understanding of concepts like budgeting, marketing, and finding your business “niche.” In my experience, the same assumptions cannot be made in the developing world.

My experience in Kenya has created gratitude about my homeland, the US.

  • A government that actually functions
  • Smooth, wide roads
  • Toilets that always work
  • An amazing selection of food options

It has also created envy about some of the treasures they have here.

  • Community and the way all of live is lived together
  • Happiness independent of one’s circumstances
  • Their “deer” are antelopes and zebras
  • Resiliency in the face of incredible daily challenges

A half-built house in Njiru near where I am staying

The growing Eastlands of Nairobi is dotted with half-built houses. As you walk through the brick/cement/stone structures so typical of the developing world, you will see neighborhoods where perhaps 3 out of every 4 houses is roofless and vacant. The doors and windows will be piled up with loose rocks, to discourage squatting. One of my hosts explained that Nairobians build as they have money. So the building process is lenghtly and at times unpredictable.

This was another of those visual reminders of the importance of credit in a healthy economy.

The United States is coming off triggering a massive global recession for the opposite reason: the excess of credit. Multitudes of homeowners were sold mortgages they had no business receiving, without having to prove adequate income.

The density of population here is staggering. And unlike the dense urban centers in the US like New York, there is vastly inadequate infrastructure. That last sentence just doesn’t convey how utterly overburdened Nairobi is, like a bicycle carrying 40 mattresses. Fred Afwai, our Kenyan Country director, explained that the city planning for Nairobi was for 200,000 people. Think Boulder, Colorado. The current population is somewhere close to 5 million. Think the entire population of Colorado.

Bank accounts and loans are only available to those who already have money. To open an account is costly, and simply out of reach of our friends here in the eastern, poorer part of the city. This means that overcrowded population centers in Nairobi will remain crowded while half-built houses remain empty.

This is article one of a two-part series on credit in Kenya

“You will never walk alone.”

It is a rallying cry for Liverpool FC, a soccer team in the English Premier League that is very popular here in Kenya (and the arch rival of my team, Everton FC). It could also be a theme for life here in Kenya.

I’ve been here now for 4 days, and have never spent a moment alone. All of life…traveling, eating, worshiping, they are all community events. As I found out yesterday, so is death. Death is a regular part of life in the developing world.

Several days ago, the wife of a pastor in this community was killed in a failed robbery attempt. After church, a dozen of us packed into the husband’s tiny living room and sat with him as he shared the story.

In America grief, like so many other things, is considered a private affair. So yesterday it felt as if I was intruding in some way. And there were some things about the experience that are confusing, that I am still emotionally processing. However, I realized the power of the presence of others for this man. His community came to be with him. Only one other person spoke, his mentor and  fellow pastor Fred Afwai. The rest of us were just…with him.

Together in life…and in death.

In my web design business, we have a great client over in Edinburgh Scotland. Ed and I were talking this morning about the projects, and I threw in some of our normal schpeel about how we will be a good partner for them…help maintain profits on both sides…blah blah blah.

Our Scottish friend who is about the same age thought that was just hilarious, and talked about American sales-speak just “rolls off your tongue.” So in response, I created a conference to help the Scots learn from us smooth Americans.

In business, Scots are known for their medieval style communication. They communicate with grunts, and offer to barter meat and food in exchange for services provided.

eye9 Design is proud to present “SalesSpeak for Scots,” an exciting new way to learn the smooth American style of Sales. Contact us today, and we’ll throw in a free American flag and a hamburger.

scottish-sales-speak

Denver is the place people in the US desire to live above any other city, according to the article in Forbes magazine.

The city– known for its skiing, culture and bustling singles scene–is where Americans would like to live the most, according to a recent survey conducted by Washington, D.C.-based group Pew Research Center.

San Diego, Seattle, Orlando and Tampa, Fla., are the other most popular cities.

In the next installment of things that tell me snowballs’ chances in hell are improving: Rush Limbaugh wrote a great article regarding the stimulus package about how to balance the Keynesian (spend to stimulate) and supply-side (cut taxes to stimulate) theories in a bi-partisan compromise.

There was no derogatory comments about minorities, no references to reverse discrimination, no mockery, and only mild narcissism. Anyone thinking…ghost writer? (more…)

I believe in the power of restoration and reconciliation. Obama’s father may not have been able to be served in a DC restaurant as a young man, but his skin color is now no longer a barrier to the highest office in the land.

Obama’s Muslim middle name (Hussein) sends shivers down many American’s spines, but it is my prayer that he will lay a foundation of reconciliation between the Arab world and the west. He took the first step giving his first televised interview to Al Arabiya. (more…)

Interesting article from one of our neighbors to the North.

Tribute To The United States
From a Canadian newspaper
America: The Good Neighbor
Widespread but only partial news coverage was given recently to a remarkable editorial broadcast from Toronto by Gordon Sinclair, a Canadian television commentator.  What follows is the text of his trenchant remarks as printed in the Congressional Record:
“This Canadian thinks it is time to speak up for the Americans as the most generous and possibly the least appreciated people on all the earth.  Germany, Japan and, to a lesser extent, Britain and Italy were lifted out of the debris of war by the Americans who poured in billions of dollars and forgave other billions on debts..  None of these countries is, today, paying even the interest on its remaining debts to the United States.
When the Franc was in danger of collapsing in 1956, it was the Americans who propped it up, and their reward was to be insulted and swindled on the streets of Paris.  I was there.  I saw it.
When earthquakes hit distant cities, it is the United States that hurries in to help.  This spring, 59 American communities were flattened by tornadoes.  Nobody helped.  The Marshall Plan and the Truman Policy pumped billions of dollars into discouraged countries.  Now newspapers in those countries are writing about the decadent, warmongering Americans.
I’d like to see just one of those countries that is gloating over the erosion of the united States dollar build its own airplane.  Does any other country in the world have a plane to equal the Boeing Jumbo Jet, the Lockheed Tri-Star, or the Douglas DC 10?  If so, why don’t they fly them?  Why do all the international lines except Russia fly American planes?
Why does no other land on earth even consider putting a man on woman on the moon?  You talk about Japanese technocracy, and you get radios.  You talk about German technocracy, and you get automobiles.  You talk about American technocracy, and you find men on the moon – not once, but several times – and safely home again.
You talk about scandals, and the Americans put theirs right in the store window for everybody to look at.  Even their draft-dodgers are not pursued and hounded.  They are here on our streets, and most of them, unless they are breaking Canadian laws, are getting AmericanDollars form ma and pa at home to spend here.
When the railways of France, Germany and India were breaking down through age, it was the Americans who rebuilt them.  When the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central went broke, nobody loaned them an old caboose.  Both are still broke.
I can name you 5000 times when the Americans raced to the help of other people in trouble.  Can you name me even one time when someone else raced to the Americans in trouble?  I don’t think there was outside help even during the San Francisco earthquake.  Our neighbors have faced it alone, and I’m one Canadian who is damned tired of hearing them get kicked around.  They will come out of this thing with their flag high.  And when they do, they are entitled to thumb their nose at the lands that are gloating over their present troubles.  I hope Canada is not one of those.”
Stand proud, Americans

This time for a church retreat for our simple church network, Ancient
Paths Church Network

From a 10 mo old African American baby to a 65 year old Native
American woman, with yuppie Caucasians like me in between, it was a
celebration of the unity from diversity in God’s family