Author Archives: Ken Banks

Like writing? Social innovation? Technology? Read on.

If you’re interested in technology – in particular the human face of technology in international development – have excellent writing and research skills, and want to develop our presence on the National Geographic website, then we might have the perfect opportunity for you. For a number of years, kiwanja.net has worked hard to take the ‘mobile message’ to the masses, sharing human stories of how technology is improving lives around the world and sharing them in an accessible format with the general public. “Digital Diversity“ with National Geographic is our flagship effort, and to date we have posted dozens of stories on how different technologies, from mobile phones to solar power, are improving the lives of people everywhere. The series is very popular and has strong support from the National Geographic staff who regularly tweet and share the stories with their millions of followers. The series has recently been managed by a number of volunteers, a couple of which have since gone on to take up full time roles with international development organisations

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Every three seconds

Every three seconds, someone in the world dies from hunger or extreme poverty. In a society where materialism reigns, what is the real secret to happiness? Award-winning filmmaker Daniel Karslake (For the Bible Tells Me So) tells the unforgettable stories of five regular folks – a boy, a college student, a thirty-something and two seniors – whose lives went from ordinary to extraordinary based on one simple decision: to engage. Each chose action over apathy, and in the process, each one has had a significant and lasting impact on two of the most challenging, yet solvable, issues of our time: hunger and extreme poverty.

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The folly of “Designing with the end user”

After years of near-invisible end users, it’s promising to see the beginnings of ‘end-user recognition’ in much of ICT4D‘s emerging best practice. It looks like we’ve made a big stride forward, but we’re not where we need to be yet, despite making all the right noises. To a great extent, we’re still saying one thing and doing another. The international development sector, which includes the ICT4D community, is famously uncoordinated. That’s no surprise to many of the people who work in it.

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International development: A problem of image, or a problem of substance?

The world has problems. Big problems. They need big answers, ambitious projects and innovative solutions. And they cost money. Lots of it.

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Rethinking livelihoods.

This post appeared on the PopTech blog and has been republished with permission. You can read the original post here. This post is co-authored by PopTech president Leetha Filderman, and Ken Banks, founder of kiwanja.net and FrontlineSMS. Together they are co-facilitators of the 2014 Bellagio/PopTech Fellows program.  We are pleased to announce the 2014 class of Bellagio/PopTech Fellows, a diverse group of designers, social innovators, technologists and writers with expertise in technology, global health, poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability and informal sector economics. Sean Blagsvedt, Alexice Tô-Camier, Dominic Muren, Robtel Neajai Pailey, Solomon Prakash This year’s program is focused on rethinking livelihoods

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Time for a Donor Funding Charter?

“Innovation isn’t about green bean bags and whacky idea sessions. It is a long term business development strategy“ Lucy Gower Behind almost every good social entrepreneur you’ll find a donor. These donors come in all shapes and sizes – family members, friends, companies, CSR departments and sponsors are the most typical, increasingly followed by the crowd funders among us. While plenty of great things get funded, pretty crazy stuff does, too.

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Field of dreams

Two years ago this summer, long-time friend Erik Hersman and I took a stroll through this grass meadow in St. Ives, a small market town in Cambridgeshire where I work from a small office above a supermarket. Erik was on holiday, but that didn’t stop us taking a long walk discussing life, family and work. Erik had a few ideas on the boil, and I was entering a new phase after stepping back from day-to-day operations at FrontlineSMS a couple of months earlier. I walk a lot, and often use the time to think, strategise and develop my ideas

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Reflections on two days in a ‘media silo’

I’m sitting in the old German parliament building listening to a plenary discussion on activism. It’s my second day at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum, and I’m in Bonn to help mentor Ashoka Fellows as part of their Globalizer programme, to speak on an Ashoka panel on social entrepreneurship, and to take part in a Vodafone Institute for Society and Communications discussion on how mobile technology is changing society. It’s been a busy three days, and I’ve had to regularly remind myself that I’m at a media-focused event. We’ve had discussions on the future of journalism, new business models for the media, big media vs. social media, how to communicate in disasters, community building, social entrepreneurship, the Arab Spring, mobile connectivity, technology in Africa, democracy building, governance, digital security and privacy, surveillance, big data and how to engage youth in development.

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Tribute to a friend

It’s quite fitting, really, that I find myself sitting in the most unlikely place – the foyer of a five star hotel in Saudi Arabia – randomly reading a tribute to a man who was instrumental in helping get me where I am today. You won’t find anything online about Frederick Richard Vivian Howard Cooper, not even news of his passing late last year. Freddie was an intensely private man. His phone number was ex-directory, and he never gave anyone his contact details. For the vast majority of the time I knew him it was his social club down the road from the housing estate where I grew up in Jersey that gave me the point of contact I needed.

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Enabling a future generation of writers

This post was written by Rebecca Leege from World Vision. When children are acquiring reading skills, good teaching is critical. But just as critical is the opportunity to practice reading. Practice allows children to apply skills learned in class and to expand their vocabulary and content knowledge through reading. Unfortunately, children’s reading materials are rare in developing countries

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Innovation out of necessity is alive and well

(This article first appeared on the Virgin website as part of their special feature on innovation and disruption. The original post can be read here). While much of the West debates the pros, cons, merits and current state of technological innovation, innovators in the developing world just get on with it. And they’ve never been so busy. Innovation out of necessity is alive and well, and on the rise, according to Ashoka Fellow, Ken Banks

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Want to help spread the mobile message?

If you’re interested in technology – in particular the human face of technology in international development – have excellent writing and research skills, and want to develop our presence on the National Geographic website, then we might have the perfect opportunity for you.  For a number of years, kiwanja.net has worked hard to take the ‘mobile message’ to the masses, sharing human stories of how technology is improving lives around the world and sharing them in an accessible format with the general public. “Digital Diversity“ with National Geographic is our flagship effort, and to date we have posted dozens of stories on how different technologies, from mobile phones to solar power, are improving the lives of people everywhere. The series is very popular and has strong support from the National Geographic staff who regularly tweet and share the stories with their millions of followers. The series has recently been managed by two volunteers, who have since gone on to take up full time roles with international development organisations. The series is high profile, and a great springboard for anyone looking to develop a career in communications and/or development.

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Scaling the charts

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Great to see “The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator” hitting the top spot in Amazon‘s best selling ‘Development Studies’ books chart (24th February 2014). 

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Social innovation: Celebrating the unpolished

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“I finished my first book seventy-six years ago. I offered it to every publisher on the English-speaking earth I had ever heard of. Their refusals were unanimous, and it did not get into print until, fifty years later, publishers would publish anything that had my name on it” George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950) Late last year The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator hit the shelves. It was my first taste of publishing, and if I’m honest it really started off as something of an experiment.

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