It's hard to match the image of wanton recklessness with the soft-spoken, thoughtful 18-year-old Lucas we talked to recently. He has transformed, thanks to a service learning program that's teaching young convicts -- including hardened gang members -- about global issues, social justice and community activism.
TRIGGER WARNING: On the day of her terrible assault, Brynn Chleirich's nine-year-old twins were the first to come home and see their mom with a black eye. Her voice cracks remembering the fear and pain in their faces as they tried to make sense of what had happened. "Are there bad people in our neighbourhood, mommy?" one asked, terrified.
The idea of the impact centre is global. The Hub, which began in London, UK in 2005, is part of a network of 77 such organizations, with 11,000 socially-conscious members, in cities around the world. But to incubate social change, impact centres offer a lot more than just a place to plug in your laptop.
Our world doesn't look much like the ones envisioned in sci-fi flicks like Star Trek or Back to the Future, let alone the latest installment of Star Wars. Kids aren't buzzing around on flying skateboards, and we aren't dueling with light sabers. But who needs movies when real-world innovations are way cooler -- especially the ones poised to radically transform humanity's eco footprint.
Over the past 15 years, Tanzania has made a concerted effort to immunize its children -- and has achieved a remarkable vaccination rate of almost 90 per cent. That's not good enough for the government and health organizations, though. They want to get as close to 100 per cent as possible. But figuring out which children have been missed is a huge challenge in a country where many families still live nomadic lives in remote areas. Enter Seattle health organization PATH and Canada's own Mohawk College, in Hamilton, Ont. They're helping out, not with more vaccines or nurses, but a database.
A social impact bond provides a novel way for governments to tackle issues from unemployment to the environment by leveraging the power of private capital. Investors buy into a project just as they might a business start-up. The model is a powerful tool for increasing impact, forcing organizations engaged in social programs to measure their outcomes.
When Craig visited Dadaab, Kenya, four years ago and met Ali, he witnessed hundreds of families lined along the road to the world's largest refugee camp. Most weren't fleeing violence, they were fleeing the weather. As climate change advances, disasters like the drought that ravaged East Africa in 2011 are becoming more frequent and severe.
Whether it's a home-based mom-and-pop craft business, or a large multinational corporation, B Corp certification helps build better businesses, and helps caring consumers make ethical choices. This is an important edge in a marketplace where numerous studies show more consumers want to give their dollars to businesses that give back to society.
Innovative business approaches, like social enterprise and public-private partnerships, hold the key to solving some of the trickiest global health challenges. Business often gets a bad rap -- especially in the area of high-profit pharmaceuticals. But if there's one thing we've seen time and again, it's that business models can offer the most effective and sustainable solution to global social challenges.
Of all the developments we have read about in the Syrian tragedy, the rising tide of child labour is one of the more concerning. We've worked on the issue of child labour for two decades, interviewing hundreds of too-young workers and learning about the long-term challenges they will face without an education. These kids want to help ease the burden poverty for their families now, but it will cost the Syrian people even more in poverty in the years to come. If there are no income opportunities for refugee families, we won't break the cycle of child labour.
Our culture has developed a powerful myth about why we succeed or fail in life. Disproving what most believe, numerous neuroscience studies out of institutions like Harvard University's Centre for the Developing Child show that strong, resilient brains are not born, they're built. The environment around us and every experience influences brain growth and our ability to cope with stress as adults. That which does not kill us, can damage us for life. It's time to put away the old myths of resiliency and character and learn what it really takes to build a healthy brain.
"Research shows the earlier and longer youth spend in the system, the worse the outcomes are," says Peter Leone, a professor at the University of Maryland who has studied juvenile justice measures around the world for more than 20 years. It costs approximately $100,000 a year to incarcerate one young person in Canada. If that individual becomes a hardened life-long criminal, the amount will exceed a staggering $2 million, according to a Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada.
The traditional purpose of business is to increase shareholder value. Yet companies large and small are increasingly proving they can make a profit and help solve a systemic social problems by embedding this mission into their business strategy. It's the evolution of corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Simon Kuzents, the economist who developed the GDP measurement, warned it was not a good meter stick for national well-being. Still, that's exactly how the GDP has been used globally since the 1940s. GDP is the total value of all the goods and services a country produces in a year. So, creating jobs and producing equipment to clean up an oil spill, for example, adds to the GDP. As does producing guns and bombs for war. GDP is blind to factors like unemployment, living conditions and environmental degradation. Make sense? Not really. Whether it's genuine progress, national happiness, or a system that blends the best of both, the global community must agree on a more holistic way to measure our nations' progress that doesn't just count the money we make.
The heart-rending image of Alan Kurdi dead in the sand, as though sleeping peacefully, sparked a global mobilization to aid Syrian refugees. But while they number more than four million, Syrians still only represent one-fifth of the almost 20 million refugees in the world today -- the greatest global refugee population since World War II. While Canadians open their homes and wallets to Syrian refugees, here are some of the others we cannot allow to be forgotten.
As Canada's streets fill again with yellow buses, we're reminded how fortunate Canadians are in the educational opportunities available to our children -- opportunities that do not exist for millions of others. And while the world has made great progress on education over the last decade, there are alarming signs we're losing some of the gains we've made. When the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to end extreme poverty were launched in 2000, the United Nations recorded more than 196 million children and teens not attending school. The biggest barrier is poverty -- And for many children, schools are far from their homes, requiring much more in boarding costs.
The bomb blast ignited the hut's roof. Flaming thatch fell into a foxhole full of cowering children. A young brother and sister died horribly, and six more children suffered terrible burns. These children were among the thousands of casualties of a months-long indiscriminate bombing campaign that the Sudanese government carried out in that country's southern Nuba Mountains this past spring -- supposedly to attack rebel guerrillas. We have yet to see a single report in Canadian media about this horror. The shocking absence of this story in our news highlights a worrying trend: the decline of foreign reporting.
Every day we witness the power of young people to transform their communities and the world. The potential lost when a child is handed an AK-47 instead of a schoolbook or soccer ball is one of the greatest tragedies imaginable. But as governments stop recruiting children, over the past year militias and terror groups like the Islamic State, or ISIS, in Iraq and Syria, and Boko Haram in Nigeria, have horrifyingly indoctrinated thousands more. And the way these militias use their children is changing in terrifying ways.
One year later, what has #BringBackOurGirls accomplished? It didn't bring the girls home. Second-hand reports suggest that 57 of the girls escaped their captors, but the rest are still out there, likely sold off as child brides (or sex slaves). Recently, a UN official said there's evidence they may be dead. It's a sad illustration of the limitations of "clicktivism" -- the use of online media to advance causes. There must be a plan to engage supporters once they've clicked, and keep them engaged, even after the hashtag stops trending.