Be Fearless Spotlight: Mama Hope

This Spotlight is a part of a special blog series by the Case Foundation featuring Be Fearless stories from the field. Follow along with us as we meet people and learn about organizations that are taking risks, being bold and failing forward in their efforts to create transformative change in the social sector. This Spotlight is authored by Katrina Boratko, Communications Manager at Mama Hope.

Mama Hope was built from love. In 2006, our founder Nyla suddenly lost the person closest to her in the world—her mother Stephanie. While she was ill, Stephanie and Nyla made plans to travel to Kenya and meet a young man she had helped sponsor through school and corresponded with since he was a boy. Unfortunately, Stephanie was never able to make that trip; but in a twist of fate Nyla was posted in a United Nations placement near to his village soon after her mother’s death. When she arrived, Nyla was greeted by the whole community singing Amazing Grace and holding a service for her mother. As it turns out, Stephanie had done more than just sponsor one boy. She had been holding small fundraisers in the living rooms of her Marin, CA, friend’s homes to help support a women’s business group in the community. Nyla learned that the humble investment she made from afar had truly transformed the lives of the women, their families and the whole community.

When the money Stephanie raised was put into the right hands, a small investment made a huge impact, the likes of which Nyla hadn’t seen working at government organizations and multinational NGOs. That day she learned the first rule of Mama Hope: the communities we work with know what they need and our biggest job is to listen. Nyla decided to take her love for her mother and build an organization that listens—Mama Hope. Love is the common connection that runs through everything we do; from our partnerships to our Global Advocates to our Stop the Pity campaign. To us, to Be Fearless is to choose love over fear, disconnection, apathy and hate.

Working from a place of love comes with its own unique set of risks. Every day we make huge bets on the power of connection and the value of human capital. We believe that every human has the capacity to become a global leader, regardless of his or her birth—and we treat everyone in our sphere according to that belief. When Mama Hope connects with a community leader, our first questions are: “What is your vision?” and “How can we support you in achieving your goals?” We then align our team and resources. We have built a relationship of mutual trust and true respect with all of our partners, and we credit this relationship for all of our successes.

In 2011, we experimented with a new approach to scale the reach and impact of the program—we introduced a Global Advocate Program (GAP). The GAP is a rigorous nine-month training program for social entrepreneurs. Our Advocates each commit to raising at least $20,000 for a sustainable project initiated by one of our partner communities, and they travel to the field to live and work directly with our partners to help bring the projects to life. We take a risk with every Advocate we train—investing money, training and staff time into an individual with the expectation that they will rise to the fundraising challenge and open their hearts to our partners. This risk has reaped massive rewards: since 2011, we’ve worked with 64 Advocates who have raised over $1.3M to fund over 60 projects that, working in tandem with local experts, employing local builders and using local resources, have improved the health, education, food, water security and livelihoods of over 150,000 people in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana and Guatemala.

We are not building projects that will only help people get from one day the next, but that will help our partner communities thrive for generations. And beyond the impact numbers above, there is a much deeper ripple effect in communities that grounds our work and was brought to life in a fabulous chalkboard drawing by a staff member in our Queen Elizabeth Academy (QEA) partnership in Mlali, Tanzania.

MamaHope Inline photo

“Our benefits aren’t easily seen right now, like they would be if someone came and said “here, take these clothes” or “take this money”, and you took them. We don’t give things out like this because our primary focus is giving education to these children. Later, they will be employed and they will return that benefit here, just like Kilines (the founder & director of QEA) did. She wanted to help her own community. The benefits of her education have returned home, and many people have felt them. And when these children study with the education that they get here, later when they find work they will also return that benefit home. One might start a health center, another might start some kind of industry and employ many people, another might start something else. You can’t do this without education. This school is producing something with benefits that will last from generation to generation.”

Mama Hope’s goal is to eliminate global poverty through inclusive entrepreneurship and by creating a global network of organizations bound by collaboration. We think that many organizations and companies are too restricted by their silos: nonprofit, for-profit, brands, media, grassroots, multi-national and community-based. We believe that we will see true change in this world when we all reach beyond our bubbles and work together across cultures, borders, profit margins and mission statements. We believe that when we focus on what makes us similar over what makes us different and hold each other’s dignity in the highest regard, we can shake off the ropes of competition and ego that hold us back. We believe in the power of an individual to change the world, and we believe every person can—and must—in order for us to rebuild a thriving planet. We believe that all of this is only possible if we are fearless with our love.

Feeling inspired? If you’re ready to begin your own Be Fearless journey start by downloading our free Be Fearless Action Guide and Case Studies.

Meet the Entrepreneurs of Women’s Venture Xchange – Africa

Earlier this summer, the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) kicked off to a new mentorship and exchange program for high-growth women entrepreneurs based in Africa called the Women’s Venture Xchange-Africa (WVXA). Run in partnership with the Case Foundation, the Mara Foundation and the U.S. Department of State, the inaugural cohort of four women entrepreneurs convened in Nairobi, Kenya this week to begin their month-long mentorship. (To learn more about the WVXA, check out Sheila Herrling’s blog post, Women’s Venture Xchange-Africa: Expanding Women-led Businesses in Africa.)

As we wrap up our weeklong celebration of entrepreneurship in all communities—including women, people of color and those who are using business as a source for good—we are excited to introduce you to this cohort of four exceptionally talented women!!

Hyasintha Ntuyeko –
Kasole Secrets
Hyasintha NtuyekoHyasintha Ntuyeko knew at a very young age that she wanted to be an entrepreneur. In 2013, fresh from university, she founded Kasole Secrets Company, Ltd. Kasole’s organically manufactured sanitary napkins, Glory, are disrupting the industry in Tanzania. Hyasintha’s desire and determination to succeed in her new career is an inspiration to many and duly recognized – she is a Tanzania Young Professionals Trail Blazer, an award given to individuals who demonstrate exceptional leadership skills in difficult circumstances, and a Mandela Washington Fellow.

Nobukhosi Ndlovu – Caudliss Trading T/A Nutrie Foods
Nobukhosi NdlovuPrior to launching her own company, Caudliss Trading T/A Nutrie Foods, Nobukhosi Ndlovu worked as a Human Resources Consultant. She started Nutrie Foods with a mission – satisfy the Zimbabwean market’s domestic consumption requirements through efficient, effective manufacturing technologies and dedicated staff. Nutrie Foods manufactures and packages peanut butter, kapenta fish and salt. However, their ambitions don’t stop there; in the next two years they will begin manufacturing and distributing scouring powder, jam, cooking oil and fruit, with plans for greater expansion over the next five years.

Nobuskhosi aspires to lead a corporation that is a dominant player in the manufacturing and distribution of household products in Zimbabwe and beyond. Her team values the quality of its products, the innovative nature of their business model and the excellent customer experience they provide.

Linda Mukangoga – Haute Baso
Linda MukangogaLinda Mukangoga is one of two young female Rwandan designers who founded Haute Baso. Linda was born in Washington, DC, to Rwandan parents. Linda spent time between the US and Rwanda and finally settled permanently in Rwanda to work for Gahaya Links, a company that trains rural women in the production of artisanal crafts for international markets. After participating in the design and distribution of pieces that were carried in large, international retail chains including Anthropologie and Macy’s, Linda was empowered by the belief that there is a market to showcase Rwanda globally while creating employment opportunities for the girls she works with. From this belief, Haute Baso was born – a Rwandan ethical fashion brand.

Annet Ayamba
– Your Choice Agro Processors
Annet AyambaAnnet Ayamba is from Kampala, Uganda and holds a Bachelors of Art in Education from Makerere University. Annet founded Your Choice Agro Processors in 2000 with just $200, and has since accelerated the company’s growth and market share, becoming the head of a leading agriculture processor in Uganda. Your Choice Agro Processors produces millet, cassava, maize, honey, rice and soybeans. Annet’s five-year plan includes expansion regionally with a focus on Kenya and internationally with increased global sales.


At the Case Foundation, we are excited to play a part in this pilot program that aims to unleash the promise of great entrepreneurs around the globe, and are particularly thrilled to introduce you to each of these high-potential entrepreneurs who represent diverse African cultures and budding industries. We hope you will join us in supporting and following the journey of the fearless entrepreneurs!


Be Fearless Spotlight: Reliefwatch

This Spotlight is authored by guest writer Caitlin Kelly as part of a special blog series by the Case Foundation featuring Be Fearless stories from the field. Follow along with us as we meet people and learn about organizations that are taking risks, being bold and failing forward in their efforts to create transformative change in the social sector.

Disclosure: Reliefwatch received a program-related investment from the Case Foundation in 2015.

Imagine having to walk for three days simply to reach the nearest clinic to access the medicine you or your child desperately need. Now, imagine reaching your destination only to find the medicine you need is not there. In many parts of the developing world, that’s the reality. Reliefwatch founder and CEO Daniel Yu is helping to address this critical problem of expired medications (and a lack of needed supplies) that affect more than one million health centers and countless patients in the developing world.

It was on a trip to rural Egypt in 2012 that Yu, then an undergraduate student of international studies at the University of Chicago, encountered the problem firsthand. A local pharmacy had shelves full of various medicines, but many were out of date and therefore useless. In speaking with the local pharmacist, Yu learned that there were also no reliable communication channels—they operated without an inventory tracking system. “There was no computer or internet access, so there was no way for suppliers to see how this was happening,” explains Yu. But what was plentiful? Basic mobile phones.

At its root, the problem was one of distribution—aggravated by a serious and health-impairing failure to communicate. If only those prescribing and distributing the medicines had a reliable, consistent and easy way to make sure the warehouse knew what they needed.

Yu wasn’t then focused on the many challenges of improving public health or the specific logistical mechanics of pharmaceutical distribution. But, in a classic example of being fearless, he let a personal sense of urgency conquer his fear and reached beyond his bubble to begin substantive conversations with strangers many thousands of miles away, in places like Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, who urgently needed a solution to this pressing problem.

Being fearless means reaching beyond your familiar areas of expertise, as Yu did. “I didn’t have deep expertise in the NGO world,” he admits. But he didn’t let that stop him. Though he lacked a background in international development, he did know the world of information technology. Yu notes, “More people in the developing world have access to a cell phone than a toilet. You can use technology to effect change. And that goes beyond simply creating the next social media site, but rather solving a problem that is fundamentally affecting people’s lives.”

But how to make use of that specific connectivity? Yu brought together a small team to create innovative software that could manage inventory records with basic mobile phones. He dove in “headfirst” with Reliefwatch simply because “no one had done it.” Being fearless and taking a risk to help people live better lives “was in our DNA from the start.”

“The big problem is availability and information transfer,” he explains. Faxed forms get lost or ignored. Phones might not work. The internet might go down, or become unreliable or expensive. So this became the challenge Yu decided to tackle, making a Be Fearless-style “big bet” that his novel and untried solution could help.

ReliefWatch Image

Even when a central warehouse is well-stocked with medicine, transferring information quickly, clearly and reliably between far-flung pharmacies and clinics—as well as those also responsible for getting stock out to others—is an ongoing problem. Yu looked to solve the question, “How do you make information collectible and actionable?”

Participating clinics get an automated call twice a week at a pre-scheduled time. The employee who answers is then asked, “How many bottles of amoxicillin do you have?” The employee’s keyed-in reply is then integrated into a cloud system and goes directly to the supplier. Yu shares, “It makes their life easy and straightforward. Instead of loading up a random truck once a month and finding out once they’ve arrived on-site that the pharmacy didn’t need it or, worse, they needed it a month ago.”

“Often, it’s a volume issue. The supplier is responsible for hundreds of clinics with no personal contact and lots of parts within that supply chain,” says Yu. “Sometimes it’s the manufacturer who needs the information. It becomes a transparency issue.”

At its core, says Yu, “Reliefwatch is a tool that helps organizations be more efficient and effective by reducing waste and loss.” Some organizations, having invested their resources in medicines, lose up to 10 percent of it annually when it expires before being used, he adds. Users of his system include NGOs, government organizations, private organizations “and any entity invested in making sure that medicine gets to the last mile and is available.”

USAID is currently using Reliefwatch’s system in Uganda with the country’s Ministry of Health to make sure that vaccines are being distributed; the pilot project is being tested in two districts and 80 sites and may expand to the rest of the country. “To date, we’ve had a 100 percent response rate in our data collection [in Uganda]—you’re often lucky to get responses in the double digits.”

The reason that’s important is because the fundamental problem Reliefwatch is trying solve is to use their system by collecting data (and making it actionable) in areas where it’s previously been very difficult or costly to do so. So, though previously a Ministry of Health like Uganda’s may only have had reliable information on the availability of medicines in 15 percent of their clinics, today, using Reliefwatch, they could potentially be able to access data on nearly all of their clinics, which would dramatically increase their ability to provide reliable health services, particularly in times of crisis or disease outbreaks.

Yu’s fearless plan for 2016 is to double Reliefwatch’s reach, adding Honduras, Kenya, Panama, Nicaragua, Rwanda, the Philippines, Indonesia and China. “Going into an emerging market is not as straightforward,” he says. “We’re often going in blind or semi-blind.”

It also takes a willingness to jump on a plane to Nairobi, as he did to explain his system face-to-face with dubious potential users there. Three months ago, Yu and his team noticed that East Africa is the fastest-growing business region in Africa, but at the same time, that there’s a lot of uncertainty about how to best create relationships there, let alone effective ones.

“How would we meet our ambitious goals unless we took actions to get on the ground? It wouldn’t be possible,” he says. So Yu “knocked on doors” once they arrived in Kenya and quickly saw results from his big bet. “When we actually sat across the table from people, they were extremely receptive and were more than happy to meet with us.”

And there is proof that the bet paid off: A planned two-week visit blossomed into a fruitful 2.5 months as Reliefwatch hired a full-time employee in Nairobi to handle the new business.

Feeling inspired? If you’re ready to begin your own Be Fearless journey start by downloading our free Be Fearless Action Guide and Case Studies.

Header photo credit: Flickr user DFATAustralianAID, used via Creative Commons.

Women’s Venture Xchange-Africa: Expanding Women-led Businesses in Africa

Global Entrepreneurship Network is now accepting applications for Women’s Venture Xchange-Africa!

This year’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Nairobi, Kenya put a spotlight on the rising stars of entrepreneurship and the burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem in Africa. The summit showed how the people and companies of Africa are ripe for real financial investment to grow their businesses, strengthen their communities and provide solutions for some of the world’s most pressing problems. The Case Foundation was honored to join GES and get a first hand look at the individuals, communities, policies and programs driving competitive and novel business ideas to scale. And we were particularly honored to pivot the main spotlight to shine on women entrepreneurs and the economic and business case for investing in their success.

Part of that spotlight includes a new partnership with the Women’s Venture Xchange-Africa (WVXA), a pilot launched at the Summit with Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), the Mara Foundation and U.S. Department of State, WVXA will provide four African women entrepreneurs the opportunity to scale their business through access to strong mentorship and capital networks in Nairobi. The program is designed to help established women-owned businesses expand beyond the borders of their own countries—gaining access to new regional markets, research and insights into best practices.

The entrepreneurs will be selected based on their company’s likelihood of successful regional expansion, the business’s growth stage, the uniqueness of the concept and their professional ambitions for their time in Nairobi. WVXA will be focused on drawing entrepreneurs who have established their businesses locally and are poised for cross-border expansion within East Africa.

We look forward to seeing the results of the first cohort of entrepreneurs and building upon the evidence base from our own work in driving more inclusive entrepreneurship – entrepreneurship that is more inclusive of under-represented groups, more inclusive of under-leveraged places and more inclusive of businesses that shoot for financial AND social impact returns. We are thrilled to see the belief in the power of entrepreneurship continue to thrive in every corner of the world, and look forward to seeing how WVXA unlocks the huge potential in the four women entrepreneurs selected to participate this year.

For more information or to apply to the WVXA program visit the Global Entrepreneurship Week website. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until October 23, 2015. Stay tuned for more updates as the application and selection process develop!

Unleashing Entrepreneurship in Africa: Solutions for the World

At the core of the Foundation’s “Unleashing Entrepreneurship” pillar is the belief that startups—and entrepreneurial approaches—play a key role in tackling some of the world’s biggest challenges. We’ve put that belief into practice by supporting promising initiatives that bring business to the problem-solving table and catalyze strong entrepreneurial ecosystems in the U.S. and abroad.

We’ve seen first-hand the role that a business approach can play in unleashing innovative new ideas and providing scalable models for change all over the world through a number of organizations and initiatives we’ve supported, including: the U.S.-Palestinian Partnership’s investment in entrepreneurs in the West Bank; Water for People’s efforts to leverage community-based entrepreneurs to provide access to clean water and sanitation in the developing world; and Startup America Partnership and UP Global’s development of strong entrepreneurial ecosystems. We’re also focused on building the impact investing movement, which we believe will catalyze a significant wave of new capital to companies that will not just benefit their shareholders, but society as a whole. The Foundation’s most recent exploration has been in launching an Inclusive Entrepreneurship initiative that confronts rising inequality and taps into the fuller entrepreneurial potential of communities and countries (including all backgrounds and locations) to get beyond those who traditionally have easier access to entrepreneurship and lift up women- and minority-owned businesses.

It is for all of these reasons that we are excited to participate in the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) taking place in Nairobi, Kenya later this week. We are thrilled to join the event as part of Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker’s official delegation. Our CEO, Jean Case, will moderate a panel on “Women Entrepreneurs” and will judge the GES “Women + Youth Day” seminal event—a pitch competition with financial and mentorship capital prizes. The Case Foundation is proud to contribute to both aspects of the prize pool. Steve Case, who will be participating in his capacity as a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE), is moderating a panel on “Getting Ready for Growth” featuring groundbreaking entrepreneurs and investors, including fellow PAGE member Brian Chesky from Airbnb.

There is plenty of excitement over the fact that this year’s summit in Nairobi is the first GES taking place in sub-Saharan Africa. Over the past few years, we’ve continued to hear about the shift from aid dollars to investment flowing to the continent, expressed by the familiar refrain that “Africa is open for business.” That is why in addition to our time at GES, we are excited to spend time in Nairobi, as well as in Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria exploring these emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems over the next few weeks.

In each city, we will have the opportunity to visit with some of the organizations we’ve supported in Africa over the years (including Sanergy in Nairobi), spend time at accelerators like the iHub, HubAccra and Co-Creation Hub and participate in panel discussions with leading African entrepreneurs and investors. We expect to learn more about the unique aspects that make each city’s entrepreneurial scene tick—from social entrepreneurs tackling challenges like energy and sanitation in Nairobi, to the fashion-savvy hub of Accra and the e-commerce revolution in Lagos.

Most of all, we are excited about spending time with the entrepreneurs—with special attention given to women entrepreneurs and social enterprises—who are at the heart of driving innovation in each of these cities. In addition to site visits with some of the continent’s fastest growing companies like M-Kopa in Nairobi, Andela and ACE in Lagos and the Cadling Fashion Factory in Accra, we will host a pitch competition in each city. A set of the most promising young startups in each region will vie for an investment prize of at least $25,000 from Jean and Steve Case, matched by local and international investors.

We can’t wait to hear the stories of these entrepreneurs who are working on game changing solutions not just for Africa, but also for the world, and sharing those stories along the way. Be sure to follow along via Twitter @CaseFoundation and #CaseAfrica, as well as via our personal Twitter handles: @AllieB, @SHerrling and @Broksas.