Justice, Peace

Thirty years in the making: keeping the peace on the Island of Ireland

Securing and preserving the peace between the governments of Northern Ireland and the Ireland Republic (Fellows and their spouses from the 1989 Island of Ireland program)

2019 marks 30 years since EF’s historic Single-Area Program brought together Fellows from Ireland’s North and South. Choosing cross-community conciliation in a divided society, they played key roles in the negotiations that produced the Good Friday Agreement and the efforts to preserve the peace on the Island of Ireland since then.

Watch pioneers from the Good Friday Agreement and Eisenhower Fellows from the 1989 Island of Ireland program share their story here.

Northern Ireland Fellow Tom Frawley (’89) shares his life lessons learned and how he made an impact after his Eisenhower Fellowship here in an interview conducted by Eisenhower Fellow Rabia Garib (Pakistan ’07).

2019 Island of Ireland Fellows while on fellowship in the U.S.

Listen to 2019 Northern Ireland Fellows experts Katy Hayward and Stephen Rusk discuss what Brexit means for Northern Ireland in this podcast conducted by our partners at Knowledge@Wharton.

Read Trudy Rubin’s article in the Philadelphia Inquirer on how Eisenhower Fellows were involved in building the Good Friday Agreement.

Prosperity

Economist increasing global connections and growth for the heart of North America

El Paso, Texas

Patrick meeting with the Shanghai International Shipping Institute during his fellowship to China in 2018.

An economist specializing in international trade and leading a university-based research center, Patrick Schaefer (USA/Zhi-Xing ’18) forged a partnership with China’s premier government think tank, the Shanghai International Shipping Institute. Patrick’s center — the Hunt Institute for Global Competitiveness at the University of Texas, El Paso — produced research for the Shipping Institute that put the bi-national Paso del Norte region (which includes Texas, New Mexico and northern regions in Mexico) on the map as a major influential trade hub that is significantly impacted by recent trade wars between China and the U.S. The data will be used by local, state and federal decision-makers who are at the helm of opening opportunities that will strengthen economic growth in the U.S. and China.

Every morning, Patrick watches the shipping containers from Chinese and other Asian companies pass by his office window on the Union Pacific rail lines. With nearly 48% of all import products arriving at the Los Angeles port coming from China, this lion’s share of goods eventually makes its way into the rest of North America by passing through the Paso del Norte region. This hub represents connection points between the U.S. and Mexico and between the east and west coasts of the U.S., and has historically been a point of convergence for many people of different backgrounds, continuing through today’s times. A border town of recent U.S. news spotlight, El Paso in particular prides itself on being a city where two different cultures, languages and ways of life can live in easeful confluence.

Maritime trade routes between Asia and the U.S.

How do these cultural lessons influence international trade agreements and relationships?

With cultural knowledge and awareness of how to effectively and respectfully approach a foreign government, Patrick came prepared to hit the ground running in China. Before arriving in China, his center produced a report that analyzed U.S.-China maritime trade flows, and had it translated into Chinese. With the Chinese version of the report in hand, Patrick successfully convinced the Shanghai International Shipping Institute to consider a partnership or agreement with his center. The result was the commissioning of a follow-up report that shows the specific effects of recent U.S.-China trade policies and tariffs.

This relationship with China brings a new dimension to his work at the university that goes beyond bi-nationalism. Patrick has not only exposed China to the importance of the Paso Del Norte region, but he has brought China to El Paso, including to the students that he works with at the university, lawmakers and government administrators. The ultimate goal is to use data to “break away from isolation” and help “distant parties to learn about each other,” according to Patrick.

Patrick piloting a vessel simulator into the Port of Hong Kong at the Shanghai Maritime University
Patrick with his China-based Program Coordinator, Li Dong

Learn more about the importance of the Paso del Norte region here through Patrick’s TED talk.

Watch Patrick in action with counterparts in Beijing and Shanghai while on his #EFjourney.

Change & Innovation, Prosperity

Financier invests for environmental and social good

San Francisco, California

Ted Levinson (USA ’14) visits an organic egg farm in Thailand, a prospective borrower.

Ted Levinson (USA ’14) specializes in pairing values-driven financiers with socially responsible businesses in emerging markets.

On Fellowship in India and Indonesia he learned that access to capital was the biggest constraint on growth for sustainable-agriculture, alternative-energy and other renewable-resource companies that generally are too large for microfinance loans but too small for development-bank financing.

From his professional background at the intersection of philanthropy and investing, Ted also knew that family foundations and donor advised funds in the U.S. sit on almost $1 trillion dollars – an ideal pool of money to tap to support international social enterprises.

To bridge the gap he created Beneficial Returns, an impact investing fund that loans money for equipment purchases to enterprises advancing the quality of life by combating poverty in Latin America and Southeast Asia. Beneficial pools capital from U.S.-based family foundations and donor-advised funds to make loans in the amount of $50,000 to $500,000.

A team from Guayaki harvest its prime ingredient, yerba mate.

Since its founding in 2017, Beneficial has loaned $1.4 million to five companies, including Guayaki, a popular U.S.-based beverage company that sources its main ingredient – yerba mate – from the Atlantic Rainforest in South America. Yerba mate is one of the world’s six most commonly used stimulants (coffee, tea, kola, cocoa, and guarana, being the others), and claims many health benefits.

Through its market-driven restoration model, Guayaki provides a powerful economic incentive for its suppliers to preserve and restore the rainforest. The model has led to the creation of hundreds of jobs in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. A loan from  Beneficial Returns helped outfit a new factory in Brazil.

Being exposed to new experiences on fellowship, said Ted, gave him the courage and international connections to quit a rewarding job at RSF Social Finance and launch Beneficial, where he works internationally and leads a small team.

By providing prospective borrowers, investors and collaborators, the Eisenhower Fellowship’s global network has been instrumental in advancing his work.

Sistema Bio produces biogas and fertilizer out of manure and farm waste.

Featured: Ted Levinson (left) and Edward Mungai (right) discuss their investments in a social enterprise in Kenya where Mungai is based.

Ted worked with Fellow Edward Mungai (Kenya ’16) to invest in a Mexican company that recently expanded into the Kenyan market with low-cost biodigesters that convert manure and farm waste into biogas and fertilizer. In Chile he partnered with Fellow Roberto Guerrero (Chile ’07) to extend Beneficial’s first loan in that country.

To learn more about Beneficial Returns, click here.

Kuda Chitsike
Change & Innovation, Justice

An activist who is breaking the glass ceiling in politics

Kuda Headshot

Kudakwashe Chitsike (Zimbabwe’15) is a women’s rights activist who is committed to changing the culture in Zimbabwe so that more women can run for political office.

Harare, Zimbabwe

In the midst of a global movement of women taking strides towards political leadership, Chitsike uncovered the barriers that prevent women from succeeding in her country. After her fellowship ended in the fall of 2015, Chitsike secured funding to research why women were reluctant to take on political leadership roles. Even though Zimbabwean women make up 52% of the population, government, political parties and decision-making bodies fail to engage and encourage women to participate in politics. Despite the Zimbabwean constitution’s clauses on gender equality and quotas in place, the number of women in the National Assembly has not dramatically increased.

Why is it so hard for women to enter into politics in Zimbabwe?

According to Chitsike, factors that stopped women from running for office include attitudes towards women in politics, lack of support from spouses and family, domestic responsibilities, the absence of the rule of law, and lack of resources for campaigning.  Chitsike discovered, however, that fear and violence, both real and perceived was the most significant barrier.

The real and perceived threat of violence emerged this year when four women ran for the office of the President of Zimbabwe, out of 23 candidates in total. Working with organizations like Women in Politics Support Unit, Women in Politics Incubator Zimbabwe and GenderLinks through the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, Chitsike helped deliver programs to raise the number of female leaders in parliament and councils. These female candidates and organizations came up against a fierce battle with hate speech, slander, online bullying, body shaming, sexual harassment and threats of physical violence. According to Chitsike, government and other political parties did not do enough to condemn these acts of violence against women. The election results showed a disappointing 15% support for women candidates despite women constituting 52% of voters.

With the #metoo movement as a backdrop, new strategies were used to fight the backlash facing women running for political office. Some candidates used social media hashtags to reclaim words such as “prostitute” that were once used to wound and target them. Chitsike explains that “if you haven’t been called prostitute in your quest to promote and protect women’s rights, then you haven’t been doing a good job. If you embrace the term, it cannot be used to hurt you.”

In the future, Chitsike plans to continue to work behind the scenes to encourage and support women to run for office. Chitsike’s counsel to those who stand with her for women’s rights is this: “The fight against a patriarchal and misogynistic society is not for the fainthearted. Women’s rights activists and women in leadership in any sphere must be prepared for the long haul as changes are not going to happen overnight. Although ground was lost in the July election, there are lessons to be learned that can bring about the desired result, increased women’s political participation. These lessons should include supporting the few women that did make it into parliament in whatever way possible. Challenges will continue along the way but anything worth fighting for doesn’t come easy.”

Listen here for Chitsike’s words of wisdom.

Change & Innovation, Justice

Smart city innovator builds equity

United States

Austin, Texas is a city that boasts of booming technology and innovation start-ups, with a growing skyline to match. The transition in the city has been rapid and quite remarkable.  However, with the growth has come a painful 37% cost of living increase between 2010 and 2015. As a result, access and equity have become two of the city’s greatest challenges.

At the center of these issues is Chelsea Collier (USA/Zhi-Xing ’16). Collier connects and engages people from public, private and non-profit sectors to build community and share information about the potential for innovation and technology to make a positive impact – namely through the development of smart cities.

Just what is a smart city? A smart city is a municipality that uses information and connected technologies to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve both the quality of government services and resident welfare. According to Collier, smart cities would experience some of these positive outcomes if they properly invested in “smart” infrastructure: street lights that could dim based on pedestrian traffic or illuminate during an emergency; residents who could access real-time weather forecasts block-by-block that would help them prepare for urban flooding; and emergency responders who could be alerted to a potential hostile situation well before any citizen would have to place a 911 call. This requires enhanced mobile broadband and WiFi capabilities, a platform to connect the Internet of Things (IoT) and a cohesive smart city strategy.

To encourage this smart city conversation, Collier works across three distinct platforms – Digi.City, Smart Cities Connect, and the Impact Hub global network. She created Digi.City as a direct outcome of her Eisenhower Fellowship. The fellowship application itself encouraged her to focus on one particular area where she hoped to make a difference, and she realized that smart cities were at the intersection of everything that she was already committed to—public policy, technology, entrepreneurship, social impact, workforce and economic development.

Being one of the early U.S.-based communication platforms focused on smart cities, Digi.City serves as a space for elected leaders, city officials, community advocates and industry innovators to learn best practices from one another and share resources. Not only is Digi.City a digital platform, but it has hosted dozens of small events from coast to coast providing thought leadership on how different cities can address common challenges such as equity, access to resources, transportation and sustainability by leveraging technology to find and implement solutions.

Another concrete outcome of her Eisenhower Fellowship was working with the Impact Hub Austin team to support the creation of a Workforce Development Accelerator, designed to address the widening gap in the local economy between the “haves” and the “not haves, yet”, a phrase that Collier uses to describe the hope for growth and opportunity in her region. The Accelerator brings together nine diverse teams to focus on how innovation can address access to middle-skill jobs, particularly for disadvantaged populations. This program was inspired by her collaboration with Nate Robinson (USA/Zhi-Xing ’16) through a concept they designed for the EF iLabs, which took place during the EF Future of Work Global Conference in Spain.

Collier’s connection to the EF global family is one that deeply inspires her: “We are in an era of great upheaval and rapid change. In the face of transition and 24-7 news cycles, it is easy to get lost and believe that our world is growing darker. EF’s mission to gather, encourage and lift leaders around the world who are making positive and important progress to create peace, prosperity and equality is more needed than ever. We are inspired by each other and can also share the more quiet work that is happening in our own areas. Seeing and celebrating these efforts is now all of our collective responsibility.”

 

Photo above: (Back row) Stacey Chang (USA ’15), Nate Robinson (USA/Zhi-Xing ’16), Jack Bienko (USA/Zhi-Xing ’16), Anu Passi-Rauste (Finland ’14), Chris Laing (USA/Zhi-Xing ’15). (Front row) Romana Lee-Akiyama (EF staff), Chelsea Collier (USA/Zhi-Xing ’16).