Remembering the Father of Social Entrepreneurship

Just eight months after SNHU’s interview with the father of social entrepreneurship, James Gregory Dees passed away from respiratory failure December 20, 2013.  Professor and co-founder of Duke University’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship, Dees contributed more than 60 cases, authored or co-authored over 100 articles, and co-authored two books.

A little over a decade ago, the topic of social entrepreneurship was hardly considered mainstream.  With a fresh, new approach to tackling tough world in life, social entrepreneurship has become the niche everyone is looking toward for solutions to these challenges.  Major businesses, newspapers, universities all have this common goal—innovative change—simple ideas that bring about concrete resolutions that will change people’s lives, change communities and change the world.  It’s an exciting time for new ideas in this second decade of the new millennium.

The media has caught the wave of enthusiasm, and CNN is posting a series on people who develop and implement plans of change, such as Andrea Coleman and her husband Barry Coleman who mortgaged their house to bring Riders for Health to Somalia to solve some of the health care problems there.  NPR has its own series, Social Entrepreneurs: Taking on World Problems, and they even have podcasts available.  Forbes offers tips to aspiring social entrepreneurs and other articles.  PBS, Huffington Post, The Guardian—the list is exhaustive when you want learn about the people involved in this exciting new field.

Dees shared his passion and his vision with all of us.  He gave to us a legacy of his ambition and foresight to solve the challenging puzzles of the world’s problems.  He ignited a spark in us and started a new revolution of change–one with promise, hope, and desire to make a better world around us.  Dr. Dees was indeed the ultimate example of a social entrepreneur.  He will be fondly remembered.

Medic Mobile – How Josh Nesbit is Changing Healthcare

Josh Nesbit

Photo Credit: Kris Krüg, Flicker

In the early hours or February 20, 2009, John Nesbit penned the mission statement for his company Medic Mobile.  He was 21 years old.  Forbes named him as one of the top 30 social entrepreneurs in 2012—he was the youngest of the group.

When many young adults are thinking their next steps after graduating college, Nesbit was setting out to change healthcare in Africa.  What was his motivation?  He met Dixon, a community-health volunteer, who was walking as much as 35 miles a week to update the medical files of patients in the area for the local doctor.  Many diseases went untreated because the travel to each patient was so vast that it would take a full month to return to the clinic to report the findings. There are so few doctors, in this part of Africa, that they can have up to 100,000 people each in their health community.

During dinner with Dixon one night, Nesbit looked down at his cell phone and saw he had all six bars filled up.  The cell strength was better in Africa than back at home in San Francisco.  That was the spark—the dawning moment—that all social entrepreneurs get when their new ideas come to light.  It was so obvious . . . if these health workers had a cell phone, there would be no more trekking the 35 miles every week.

Medic Mobile has equipped these community-health workers with inexpensive mobile phones run on small solar panels.  Each worker has 100 homes to monitor and send information back to the doctor.  Nesbit calls this a “hub-and-spoke” model of simple healthcare.  Having cell phones in Malawi and Kenya, they have found they can track infectious diseases 134 times faster than before.  Instead of hearing about a measles’ outbreak in two weeks, they can report it in 15 minutes.

Hope Phones is another company that Josh Nesbit started to provide low-cost phones to the people in this outreach program, as well as keeping older phones, that are no longer used, out of our landfills.

In addition to being named in Forbes’ 30 Top Social Entrepreneurs, he was also selected by Devex (the world’s largest community of aid & development professionals), for their 40 under 40 awards, and has received the Truman Award for Innovation from the Society of International Development.