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Taproot

TaprootTaprootI heard great things about Taproot when I went on my research trip to the US last May. But it wasn’t until recently I managed to speak to Aaron Hurst, founder and president. Aaron won an Ashoka fellowship in 2005 for his work setting up Taproot.

Why “Taproot”? A “taproot” is the core root of a plant (picture a turnip). It gathers nutrients from lateral roots and delivers them to a plant to enable it to flourish. We see ourselves as a taproot for the nonprofit sector, drawing nutrients from the community and delivering them to nonprofits to enable them to thrive

I had been told that Taproot preminantly had cracked the three key challenges a project like Mentoring Worldwide could face. The first is in the definition of what skills we can offer, and the second is what kinds of projects and people can benefit from what we have to offer. And there is a third – how can the mentoring be done in a timely way to deliver impact when it is needed in a project This sounds simple…and I was very interested to hear what Aaron had to say about their model when we talked on the phone.

Taproot provides a range of services to eligible (and screened) non-profits in three key areas: marketing; human resources and IT. They match skilled professionals prepared to offer pro-bono work, but not as single volunteers. Rather their methodology relies on a team of five. Their team of five would consist of a dedicated Project Manager (volunteer), an Account Manager (volunteer), a member of Taproot staff to handle the schedule of work, and two or three professional according to the project in question. If you have a team, Aaron pointed out, if one drops out then the project is not in jeopardy. The team commit 1 hour a day for six months – ie a very big committment. And in his own words the learning derived from what they have done so far is that it is “process driven, not talent driven”.

I can see why this model is proven, it is highly managed which is great for the volunteers and the non-profits involved. But in the case of Taproot the team are providing a free service, like publishing a leaflet, drawing up an IT strategy, or helping an NGO with its human resources issues over six months – a big offer and a big intervention. At present MW is looking into one on one or peer-to-peer relationships which will be more dependent on the relationship than the process, albeit there will be process beneath the surface in the selection of the partnerships, training available and in some other key areas. What I take away from this really helpful conversation is the importance of screening eligible non-profits, or recipients – something which KIVA and others have already highlighted.

His approach made me think about the Media Trust in the UK , in fact, I think I will connect them up and see what happens!

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Filed under non profits, research, social enterprise

handbags at dawn

I am finding I am constantly retelling the story of Audrey Cordera , an amazing woman I met at the Reuters Digital Vision Programme in Stanford when I visited last May. Audrey is from the Phillipines and is the regional rep on the Youth to End Poverty campaign, as well as running a Youth Employment Network.

She talked to the Digital Vision Fellows about helping Youth from the Phillipines out of deep poverty through entrepreneurship and getting them started on projects, however small. When she was asked how she did it all, and what her business plan was she told the story I love to repeat.

One day she was given a handbag by a friend of hers. Not any old handbag , but one made by her friend. When travelling in the US she was asked by another woman if she could tell her where she could buy one of these bags.

Disappointed that she could not buy this one-off in a shop she asked Audrey if she could buy hers! This got Audrey thinking and on her return she had a few more made and shipped them over for people to buy. But the imaginative leap she then made was to get the original friend who made the bag to work with her putting together the parts and pieces needed for the production process. She farmed out the work to pieceworkers, to women who needed work, and offered them a fair price for their labour – the labour costs of assembling the bags. She bought the bags and sold them on. Now what she does is pay for the work that is done to make the bag from the kit of parts – but also is prepared to pay more for original features added by the women, and more again if the women find the parts themselves.

This is, it seems, the work that funds her work with the youth employment network too. Some business plan – left the RDVP fellows with much food for thought.

Chatting later with Stuart Gannes, the Director of the Programme , we brainstormed how we might be able to work together. They are very well connected on the ground in some countries we might like to work in – and so a good resource for us and perhaps a partner for the trial.

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Filed under pledger, social enterprise, trial

normal service resumes!

Due to unforeseen difficulties with the previous blog platform,we have migrated over to a wordpress.com blog. The new blog url is https://mentoringworldwide.wordpress.com – however you will be automatically redirected over to the new blog from mentoringworldwide.org. Also, your feedreader should detect the redirection too – however the new feed can be found at https://mentoringworldwide.wordpress.com/feed/

I’ll be giving the blog pages and posts a big update over the weekend..and look forward to reconnecting.

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Current TV – Seeds of Tolerance project and prize

wish I had spotted this sooner..but for any of you (residents of the US only) who have the time in the next two weeks and want to make a short video about tolerance , why not win $100,000 and give $15,000 to a charity of your choice.

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Nata Village Blog

Pledger Curt Hopkins alerted me recently to the Nata Village Blog, and put Jon Rawlinson in touch with us at MW.

Jon and I finally met this week and he told me how his travels in Africa, videoblogging along the way have changed his life.

Stopping off in a remote village in Botswana he chanced across a US peace corps worker who had set up home in Nata Village. With his travelling companian he chucked in his plans for a comfortable night at the lodge to visit the village and stay closer to the ground. The visit and people he met changed a lot and Jon has since set up a blog for the Nata Village project and Melody Jenkins’ many projects educating locals about HIV and setting up a clinic there.

Currently in London, Jon is looking for ways of using his considerable video shooting and editing skills to contribute more. Have immediately snapped him up as a mentor. But what did hearten me was to find that he has scoured this blog and has now been in touch with Kiva.org (see previous post) and it’s CEO Matt Flannery , and will be visiting them in San Francisco mid August to offer his help.

You can read about the two Microsoft Fellow’s findings (see previous blog post) here, or on Matt’s blog.

Without describing our whole conversation – all my old documentary making tendencies came pouring out as we discussed the power of narrative and the kind of storytelling video is good at. He is off too to meet Current TV who if they have any sense, will snap him up. Hmmm, got me thinking. Given they pay $500 per video used maybe I should take it up again to fund Mentoring Worldwide!

Glad our blog is working. Come September, following a real holiday, I hope others will want to start co-blogging here, and we work together to get our trial/ proof of conept up and running for real.

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Filed under Africa, communities, mentees, mentors, microfinance, non profits, pledger

Mentoring Worldwide in Business Week

Bruno Giussani came to London and had lunch with me a few months ago now. He didn’t take notes. This great article was published last week on his blog and in Business Week. Now I know why his blog is called Lunch Over IP. You take him to lunch , he gets the IP! No, seriously….I can see why he won a prize. It’s well written, illuminating, and truly European.

It made me think though. Time is passing. It’s six months this weekend since the pledge was successfully closed on January 15th. I am writing a six month report for myself and for the two people who have funded some of my activities to date (and for any of the pledgers who might want it!). My thanks as ever to Chris Anderson and Jan Leeman.

I’m trying to use the blog to tell the story of the project as well as linking to people and ideas we are in touch with during the research.

But there are some next steps to announce! We are going to run a trial. I will be fundraising for a project manager to join me for six months or so. You can do a lot on top of a full time job, BUT we want to move on and we need someone excellent on the case full time for the next phase. Watch this space and the mailing list for details.

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Filed under Set-up, Story, trial