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Social Entrepreneurs
Today's Social Entrepreneurs

Wendy Kopp

Wendy Kopp founded Teach For America, a national teacher training corps, in 1989, based on a model she proposed in her college senior thesis. Struck by the educational inequity in poor urban and rural areas of the U.S. and the potential dearth of qualified and passionate teachers in these areas, Kopp created a national corps of outstanding recent college graduates of all academic majors who commit two years to teach in urban and rural low-income communities. Teach For America provides the training and support these young teachers need to effect student achievement, impact their communities, and become lifelong leaders in the movement to ensure that all children have an equal chance in life. Her initial idea has attracted and inspired 14,000 corps members since its inception, with 3,500 corps members currently teaching in more than 1000 schools in 22 regions of the country.
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Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus was born in Bangladesh and earned a doctorate in economics at Vanderbilt University in the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship in 1969. As an economics professor at Chittagong University in Bangladesh, he studied the impact of the famine sweeping across his country in 1974. He concluded that what the poor needed was access to small loans to allow them to start businesses. He began the Grameen Bank Project in 1976 with loans as small as $25, eventually formalizing it with the government in 1982. Localizing the micro-loans allows borrowers to feel local pressure to make good on their debts and receive support in their ventures. His model has spurred microcredit projects around the world.
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David Green

David Green founded Project Impact, an organization whose goal is to making medical technology and services affordable and sustainable. Green has successfully led several technology transfers in the fields of blindness prevention and improving hearing impairment. In 1992, Green, in collaboration with Seva Foundation and Aravind Eye Hospital, established Aurolab in India, the first non-profit manufacturing facility in a developing country to produce affordable lenses that improve cataract problems, a main cause of blindness. Aurolab is now one of the largest manufacturers of these lenses in the world and continues to make the product available to the poor at a fair selling price, much lower than those produced in the U.S.
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Bill Drayton

Bill Drayton, a former Assistant Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection agency who pioneered a market-based approach to emissions reduction that has been adopted internationally. In 1980, he founded Ashoka: Innovators for the Public to provide social entrepreneurs with financial backing and professional support to spread their concepts worldwide. His work has helped to develop and legitimize the profession of social entrepreneurship by supporting the work of 1,500 Ashoka fellows in 53 countries.
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Fabio Rosa

Fabio Rosa has been bringing power to Brazilís rural communities for more than two decades. He pioneered the creation of a simple solar power method, which lowers the cost of this electricity method to an affordable amount for this population. The spread of power to rural Brazil has reduced the population burden of the countryís crowded cities, brought luxuries such as refrigerators and televisions to areas in which these were lacking, and helped, in some instances, improve farmersí revenues by improving crop irrigation. When Brazilís electric utilities became privatized in the late 1990s, Rosa created a new approach of renting solar energy to low-income families. His concept of bringing solar energy to rural areas continues to spread across Brazil.
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Erzsebet Szekeres

ErzsÈbet Szekeres helps the disabled gain independence in a country with a history of paternalism toward this group of people. Her program addresses the problems of job training, employment opportunities, and housing shortage for disabled adults in Hungary via centers that provide training and access to these independence building blocks. She is currently working to spread her model throughout Europe with the help of the Committee for Disabled of the European Union.
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Vera Corderio

Vera Corderio founded the Saude Crianca (Childrenís Health) Renascer Association in 1991 at the Public Hospital of Lagoa in Rio de Janeiro to provide emergency assistance to ill children from low-income families during and right after hospitalization. For the hundreds of poverty-stricken children who enter Brazilís public hospitals each month, this organization works to counter the economic, domestic, psychological, and social conditions that can burden them during their illness and adversely effect their recuperation, thus aiming to reduce repeated hospital visits. Renascerís model has been duplicated in fourteen public hospitals in Rio de Janeiro and two other cities.
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Veronica Khosa (Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa)

A nurse by training, South African Veronica Khosa saw up close how ill-prepared the health care system was to care for the increasing numbers of people with AIDS in her country. In response, she created the Tateni Home Care Nursing Services and formed a community-based model of care to address the AIDS epidemic on a professional and community level. Her model trains unemployed young people to provide quality care in their families and communities. The South African government has begun to adopt her model, and it is spreading beyond her home country.
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Social Entrepreneurs Throughout History

Jane Addams (1860-1935)

Jane Addams was the co-founder of Hull House in Chicago in 1889. She is recognized for gathering multiple social services under one roof in an immigrant neighborhood, thus helping to spread the Settlement House movement in the United States. (The first Settlement House was founded by University Settlement in 1886 in New Yorkís lower east side.) Addams worked exhaustively on issues of poverty, safe housing, immigration, womenís rights, and the peace movement. She was the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.
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Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

Despite opposition, Susan B. Anthony traveled the country, speaking about womenís right to vote and womenís rights to their own property and earnings. She first registered to vote in 1871, along with dozens of other women in Rochester, New York. She succeeded in voting, but was arrested and found guilty for this crime. Anthony died before women received the right to vote in 1920, but her groundbreaking work and agitation paved the way.
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David Brower (1912-2000)

A lifelong conservationist, David Brower founded the Earth Island Institute which utilized education and activism to sustain the environment. Brower also served as the first executive director of the Sierra Club from 1952 through 1969. He profoundly impacted U.S. land conservation through his work to establish national parks and protect forest lands. He created sustainable and scalable plans for determining healthy growth options around the world.
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Vinoba Bhave (1895-1982)

A disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, Bhave is one of Indiaís most respected social reformers and founder of the Bhudan Yajna, the land-gift movement. He inspired this movement in 1951, when a landholder offered him land in response to his appeal on behalf of a group of landless low-caste Hindus. He related the concept of re-distributing land wealth to Gandhiís principle of nonviolence, urging landholders to adopt this reform by choice, not by government rule.
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Fredrick Law Olmstead (1822-1903)

Beginning with New York Cityís Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted designed a series of excellent U.S. public parks. From 1858-1861, Olmsted worked with British architect Calvert Vaux to apply art principles to the improvement of public parks. Central Parkís vast success as a place of beauty and recreation for all who entered led to Olmstedís involvement in other large public parks across the country, including his self-described masterpiece in Brooklyn, Prospect Park. He also influenced the early plans for Yosemite and Niagara Falls.
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Maria Montessori (1870-1952)

Maria Montessori started her first preschool for children aged three to six in the poverty-stricken San Lorenzo district of Rome in 1907. Her background as a doctor and her professional experience working with mentally retarded children helped form her educational philosophy. Montessori classrooms are characterized by self-directed learning for the children, inspired by hands-on stations of activities from which they choose their work. The teacher guides, but the childís learning is self-directed and self-inspired.
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Gifford Pinchot (1865-1946)

Gifford Pinchot performed the first systematic forestry work in the U.S. in 1892 at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. After several forestry roles in government, he became chief of the Forest Service in 1905. His intense work on behalf of preserving forest lands in the U.S. spawned the forestry conservation movement. He also founded the Yale School of Forestry.
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Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)

Florence Nightingale volunteered as a nurse during the Crimean War where she developed innovative methods of care and hospital systems management that drastically improved the survival rate of wounded troops. She advanced to managing all of nursing in the military hospitals in Turkey. After her return to London, she founded the Nightingale School for Nurses in 1860, thus bringing nursing to the fore as a professional career.
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Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)

Credited with coining the term birth control, Margaret Sanger gave up her nursing career to devote herself to the cause of family planning after observing too many women and families harmed by the intersection of repeated pregnancies, poverty, and high rates of infant and maternal mortality. In 1916, she opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. in Brooklyn, only to be arrested and charged with creating a public nuisance. In 1921, she founded the American Birth Control League, one of the parent organizations of the Birth Control Federation of America, which became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942.
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Jean Monnet (1888-1979)

Jean Monnet inspired and initiated comprehensive economic planning in western Europe after World War II. He planned Franceís successful economic revitalization for its hobble post-war economy. His lasting work is seen in the creation of European Common Market in 1957.
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