Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spark MicroGrants Selected as a Semi-Finalist for the 2012 Buckminster Fuller Challenge

March 21, 2012 – Spark MicroGrants has been named a 2012 Semi-Finalist in the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, the prestigious annual design science competition named "Socially-Responsible Design's Highest Award" by Metropolis Magazine. The Challenge awards $100,000 to support the development and implementation of a whole systems-based solution that has significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems.

After an initial rigorous vetting process by BFI’s multi-disciplinary review team, which included an in-depth interview, our project was chosen from a pool of hundreds of entries from around the world, to be one of 18 Semi-Finalists this year. It will now be featured as a top tier project in BFI’s Idea Index and featured on their website for the remainder of the program cycle.

Semi-finalists will be reviewed and discussed by a board of 8 distinguished jurors, which includes Kenny Ausubel and Nina Simons, founders of Bioneers; John Fullerton, Founder of the Capital Institute; Helen and Newton Harrison, leading pioneers of the eco-art movement and Alice Rawsthorn, design critic for the International Herald Tribune.

The Buckminster Fuller Institute wrote a glowing review of the Spark MicroGrants approach and team.

"The micro-loan model, once touted as a panacea, has recently been revealed to have serious potential pitfalls, and many aid initiatives have high administrative costs and ultimately fail to pull communities out of poverty. The innovative approach to development offered by Spark MicroGrants, a highly efficient model that achieves a lot with very small amounts of money, could be very timely and have a significant global impact on grassroots development models."

Finalists will be announced in May and the winner, runner up, and honorable mention will be announced at the conferring ceremony in New York on June 6th. Read the complete BFI review here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

CGI U and Introducing Maternal Health MicroGrants

Hello everyone and happy International Women’s Day! It’s Natasha, one of the Spark MicroGrant’s interns from this past summer, and I have an exciting announcement!

In honor of International Women’s Day, I am happy to announce that I have been accepted, along with Spark MicroGrants as my partner organization, to the Clinton Global Initiative University , to implement a maternal health microgrant in Rwanda!

CGI U is an annual conference where students make a Commitment to Action (CTA) to affect positive change in their communities and around the world. The CGI U conference will be held in Washington D.C. from March 30th - April 1st, where I will have the opportunity to present the maternal health microgrant project and meet some inspiring leaders in the development field- including President Bill Clinton!

The CTA that Spark MicroGrants and I submitted is to implement a maternal health microgrant in Rwanda in an effort to improve rural maternal health. As this will be the first public health related microgrant, my CTA was submitted as an idea for how to revolutionize rural public health in a way that puts power and health development projects back in the hands of the people.

While Rwanda has made remarkable strides in improving maternal health, there remains a strong need to improve maternal health specifically in rural settings, where women do not have easy access to clinics or health care workers. Rwanda still faces high maternal mortality rates- 383 out of every 100,000 live births leads to a mother’s death. The infant mortality rate is even higher- for every 1,000 births, 50 do not survive. In addition, only 69% percent of women give birth in a health clinic or in the presence of a health care worker.

This summer Spark MicroGrants and I will work with a group of mothers and health workers at a rural clinic in northwest Rwanda to implement our CTA. Working with health workers, we will lead the mothers in a discussion about their most pressing maternal health concerns. The mothers will then determine one health issue to address and break into groups to design project proposals. Then the mothers will vote on one project idea, receive their microgrant, and implement their project. Hopefully through this process they can solve one of their maternal health challenges!

I hope that you guys are as excited as I am for this next chapter of Spark Microgrants! Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to receive updates on the maternal health microgrant projects- plus I will be live tweeting from #CGIU!