Your Details

Your job title:

Founder

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Your organization name:

Asia Initiatives

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https://asiainitiatives.org/

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When was your organization founded?

Registered as a 501 C3 non-profit in 2010, started in Japan in 1999

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In what city, town, or region are you located?

New York, NY, USA
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In what city, town, or region is your organization headquartered?

New York, NY, USA
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In which countries does your organization currently operate?

  • Ghana
  • India
  • Kenya
  • United States
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About You

Why are you applying for The Elevate Prize?

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Measuring everything in financial capital has brought the world to the edge of environmental peril, while 25% of the world population lives in severe poverty and vulnerability. Covid19 crisis has exacerbated this inequality. Social Capital Credits (SoCCs), our community currency for social good, challenges this paradigm and puts people and their social capital, defined as people’s propensity to come together for shared good, at the centre of development. 

People earn SoCCs for helping their communities, and redeem them for their own education, healthcare, upskilling, and micro-credit to transform their lives. All projects start with SoCCratic dialogues, where communities decide their own SoCC Earning and Redeeming menus. SoCC transactions are conducted on the SoCC App, web platform or SoCCbooks, and are supported by local SoCC managers. P2P transactions also enable community members to exchange services and goods using SoCCs, and overcome the scarcity of money. 

We get many requests from communities and local governments around the world to implement SoCCs, but need to improve our technology, local support and staffing to scale up SoCCs and serve 1 million people in 3 years, and then grow exponentially after that. The Elevate Prize would enable us to do that! 

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Tell us about YOU:

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I grew up in India seeing poverty and caste injustice first hand. After working in 11 more developing countries, I realize how prevalent unjust social and economic systems are, and how women and girls suffer from such injustices the most. This drove me to found Asia Initiatives. SoCCs has helped alleviate poverty, empower people, improve public safety and public spaces in India, Ghana, Kenya and the USA. I was humbled when the Fast Company recognized SoCCs as a “World Changing Idea”, and I was recognized as one of the 21 Leaders of the 21st Century by Women’s eNews.

I also co-founded “URBZ: User Generated Cities”, an activist organization working alongside people in informal settlements in India and Brazil to improve neighborhoods. 

In teaching at Columbia University in New York, and lecturing in many countries, I bring the focus on social  and ecological justice to urban design pedagogy, which is too often focused on built form alone.  I also bring this passion to the Boards I serve on, including the Advisory Board of New York Mayor city.

My vision is to forefront social and ecological capital alongside financial capital, and empower marginalized people with agency, for a happier and sustainable world. 

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Video Introduction

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Pitch your organization.

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The World Bank Paper entitled “Social Capital, the Missing Link” concludes that Social capital is the glue that holds communities together and without which there can be no economic growth or human well- being. It is unacceptable that 10% of the population worldwide, and 25% in India, live in extreme poverty. There is systemic poverty even in rich countries like the USA. SoCCs operationalize social capital to create a way out of poverty. Our projects succeed because they are hyper-local and promote people led development, compared to top down aid without real connections to local needs or capacities. 

All our projects are pro-poor, pro-women and pro-environment. For 21 years, I have worked as a full time volunteer alongside my professional paid team to help improve incomes, education, skills and livelihoods in underserved communities. We incentivize local people to create locally relevant solutions to poverty, child marriage, malnutrition and gender violence. We have helped farmers replace chemicals with organic inputs and restore forests and river-fronts. The SoCCs system uses persuasive technology for behavior change to improve food security, water security, school attendance, women’s rights, and more. Our computer networked Knowledge Centers bring  information and technology to remote villages and urban slums. 


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Describe what makes your work innovative.

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We are innovative because we crowdsource and incentivize innovation. We believe that people closest to the problems are also closest to solutions, and must have agency. SoCCratic dialogues unleash people's creativity.

SoCCs is the only community currency we know of that is designed to nurture and build social capital. Every 5 SoCCs earned results in 1 CommSoCC added into the community cache for building a community asset or meeting a shared need. This helps people prioritize what they need, and “own” the projects. 

An example of how we empower people with agency is our Cascade of Learning program, which incentivizes peer-mentoring and homework help for children to stay and succeed in school. Young people earn SoCCs for mentoring someone three or more years younger, and spend these SoCCs on their own college or school fees, and classes at our Learning Centers. While the mentees thrive with individualized attention, mentors also benefit tremendously, and go from being helpless to helpful. They innovate around the given lesson plans, enjoy the trust and responsibility, and create names, slogans and songs for their mentee groups. They help shift the focus from “education” to joyful “learning”. 

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How and why is your organization having an impact on humanity?

We are impacting humanity through SoCCs, a model which can benefit all communities around the world. We provide the methodology, technology, data analysis, guidance and initial financial support if needed. Communities select their SoCC Managers, who we train. 

Just last year alone we helped over 30,0000 people. This includes Covid19 support to 2000 families; 1200 tribals establishing a credit cooperative;  3 villages becoming water secure;  bicycle banks for women established in 32 villages; 2200 children receiving digital, spoken English and life skills training; 1400 women starting organic farming and/or vegetable gardens; 100 women forming a poultry farming cooperative; and 110 starting goat rearing. We also planted 13,000 trees and helped de-silt a dam which provides water to a city of 120,000 people.

Our work is evidence based. Data analysis is built into the DNA of SoCCS since every SoCC earned and redeemed is recorded in our SoCC App and platform. This data is analyzed according to localized metrics to ensure that communities are progressing towards the goals that they set for themselves. Otherwise SoCC Earning and Redeeming menus are tweaked in consultation with the community to get them back on track.

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Select the key characteristics of the community your organization is impacting.

  • Women & Girls
  • Children & Adolescents
  • Elderly
  • Rural
  • Peri-Urban
  • Urban
  • Poor
  • Low-Income
  • Refugees & Internally Displaced Persons
  • Minorities & Previously Excluded Populations
  • Persons with Disabilities
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Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your organization address?

  • 1. No Poverty
  • 2. Zero Hunger
  • 3. Good Health and Well-being
  • 4. Quality Education
  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  • 7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 10. Reduced Inequality
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 13. Climate Action
  • 17. Partnerships for the Goals
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Which of the following categories best describes your work?

Economic Opportunity & Livelihoods

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Solution Team

 
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