By John Geddes - Friday, February 15, 2013 - 0 Comments
For a decade now the Ottawa-based group Digital Opportunity Trust has been sending interns trained in technology and business into very poor places to try to pass on their skills to locals struggling to make a better living. It’s a version of the development model called “social entrepreneurship,” and today, DOT’s founder and CEO, Janet Longmore, won a major award in the field—the sole Canadian among 24 global “social entrepreneurs of the year” named by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.
That’s Schwab as in Klaus Schwab, better known as the founder of the World Economic Forum, best known, in turn, for its annual Davos, Switzerland confab of global leaders. Schwab’s foundation is a prime promoter of businesslike ways of fighting poverty. So winning the Schwab award, beyond being a nice accolade, links Longmore’s goup to an influential network. She spoke with Maclean’s about what it means, what DOT does, and the state of Canadian social entrepreneurship.
Q: What does this award do for DOT?
A: It allows us to engage with the leaders and stakeholders who are part of the World Economic Forum and the Schwab Social Entrepreneurship Foundation. We’re at a point in our model where it’s ready to scale. We want to have conversations with leaders in government and private institutions. They are looking for different way to solve the social problems they are facing in their countries and communities.
By John Geddes - Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
UN’s millennium development goals
When world leaders converged on the United Nations last week to talk about what must be done to achieve the UN’s millennium development goals, Prime Minister Stephen Harper wasn’t alone in stressing the need for “accountability” and “real results.” In trying to keep donor countries committed to the targets for dramatically reducing global poverty by 2015, the UN is battling skepticism fostered by frequent reports of funding being siphoned off by corrupt regimes or wasted in stopgap programs.
Only a few days after the conference in New York City, the MasterCard Foundation was in Ottawa touting a $5-million donation to a little-known Canadian group that’s pursuing a strategy that seems to avoid those foreign-aid pitfalls. Founded in 2001, Digital Opportunity Trust hires university graduate “interns” in developing countries, and puts them to work close to home teaching their skills in information and communications technology to potential small-scale entrepreneurs. “The communities they go into are the communities where they’re from,” says DOT founder Janet Longmore. “The critical thing was to make it locally owned.”
Longmore says relying on local talent and ideas has helped DOT grow fast, to about 400 interns in 11 countries, from Lebanon to Ethiopia, overseen by a small staff in Ottawa. (The group also runs programs to bring technology to schools.) The $5 million from MasterCard is earmarked to allow DOT to hire 500 interns to foster IT-based entrepreneurship in Kenya and Rwanda—everything from crafts co-operatives and artists creating websites, to community newspapers and small-scale tourism operators going online. It’s a path to self-sufficiency that’s attracting attention—and serious money—from donors looking for alternatives to old-style development assistance.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistakenly identified the MasterCard Foundation as U.S.-based. In fact, it is headquartered in Toronto.