Help With My Experiment in Social Entrepreneurship

A few weeks back, I introduced a new project I developed with the blogger Tom Murphy.

We call it the Development and Aid Workers News Service–DAWNS Digest. It is a daily email based news clipping service that delivers a snapshot of news that should be of interest to the aid, development and humanitarian communities. We have two editions: the GMT Edition which hits in boxes at 5 am GMT (to catch people on their way to work in Europe and Africa) and the EST Edition, for those in the Americas, which hits in boxes 9 am eastern time. I posted today’s EST Edition below to give you a sense of what it looks like. The idea is to keep it simple and light on the data so people with handhelds or weak connections can have easy access.

We’ve been testing it out for one month and it seems to be well received. We hope to make this sustainable by charging subscribers a small fee–$2.99/ month. With revenue generated from these subscriptions we will issue grants to support humanitarian focused journalism and storytelling. The kinds of projects we would imagine supporting include things like funding a multi-media journalist, blogger or photographer to report from a location that is typically off the radar; helping a journalist purchase expensive equipment required for working in resource poor environments; or providing grants to local citizen journalists for reporting projects.

We believe this kind of grant making model is possible — there are probably enough people out there who would be willing to pay $2.99/month for our service.

If this interests Dispatch readers, sign up for a trial run and let me know what you think.  Also, as a special bonus to UN Dispatchers, I’ll start posting the top stories from DAWNS Digest to UN Dispatch every morning by, say, 9:10 am. 

It’s a good way to get into the morning!


Top Stories

Huge Blast Kills Over 60 People in Mogadishu

A bomb-laden truck exploded in the heart of of Mogadishu, killing at least 65 people and injuring scores more. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack. It was their single deadliest strike since launching the insurgency in 2007. “Witnesses said a truck exploded at the gate of a compound housing four government ministries in the K4 (Kilometer 4) area of Mogadishu, where students had gathered to sit exams. Al Shabaab insurgents…pulled most of their fighters out of Mogadishu in August allowing government troops and African Union soldiers to seize much of the coastal capital, but the rebels had vowed to attack government installations. Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the African Union force (AMISOM) in Somalia, said students and government soldiers were among the dead. (NYT

New Lancet Study Links Injectable Hormone Contraception to HIV Spread

Some rather alarming news: “The most popular contraceptive for women in eastern and southern Africa, a hormone shot given every three months, appears to double the risk the women will become infected with H.I.V., according a large study published Monday. And when it is used by H.I.V. positive women, their male partners are twice as likely to become infected than if the women had used no contraception…’The best contraception today is injectable hormonal contraception because you don’t need a doctor, it’s long-lasting, it enables women to control timing and spacing of birth without a lot of fuss and travel,’ said Isobel Coleman, director of the women and foreign policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations. ‘If it is now proven that these contraceptions are helping spread the AIDS epidemic, we have a major health crisis on our hands.’” (NYT

Other Shoe Drops on Palestine’s UN Bid. USA Aid Freeze Kicks In

The U.S. Congress voted to shut off millions of dollars of aid to Palestine following the UN gambit in New York. Now, it would seem, projects are closing and being laid off en masse. “The Palestinian economics minister said he was informed Monday by officials of USAID, the U.S. government’s foreign aid agency, that two projects — worth $55 million and $26 million — were being put on hold for lack of funding. One supported the development of the Palestinian private sector and the other aimed to improve the investment environment, Abu Libdeh said, adding that 50 people involved were laid off last week and 200 others would follow by November. Other ministries also reported USAID projects were in jeopardy, including an $85 million five-year plan to improve Palestinian health services. USAID officials confirmed some programs were affected by the Congressional hold, but would not give details. ‘Ongoing programs will continue until funds are exhausted,’ said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.” (Boston Globe

Visa Denied! Dalai Lama Forced to Cancel Trip to South Africa

The Dalai Lama won’t attend the 80th birthday celebration of his friend and fellow Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Under pressure from China, the government of South Africa never issued His Holiness a visa. Now, he’s cancelled the trip all together. “Officials from the government of Tibet in exile, which is based in India, applied for visas for the Dalai Lama and others traveling with him in late August and dropped off their passports on Sept. 20. But as of Tuesday, no visas had been issued. ‘For whatever reason or reasons, the South African government finds it inconvenient to issue a visa to His Holiness the Dalai Lama,’ the statement said.” (NYT


Opposition party members are crying foul in Cameroon over the fact that incumbent President Paul Biya began his campaign before the official announcement on September 24. (Daily Nation

Former Ugandan Vice President Gilbert Bukenya will spend the period before his corruption trial in jail. (Washington Post

Zambia’s newly elected President Sata continues to undo the policies of his predecessor with the announcement that the sale of unlisted Finance Bank to South Africa’s FirstRand Ltd has been cancelled. (Reuters

Botswana has turned its economy around in the second quarter reporting a growth of 9.6%. (Reuters

A humanitarian delegation from Somaliland has arrived in Mogadishu to provide food and medical support for 9,000 families. (IRIN

Gunmen suspected of being members of the Boko Haram Islamist militant group Monday shot dead three people at a market in Nigeria‘s violence-torn northern city of Maiduguri. (AFP

George Soros has pledged $27.4 million to the Millennium Villages Project. (MSNBC

Middle East and North Africa

Battle for Sirte: Government forces who had for three weeks been pinned down by artillery and rocket fire on the eastern edges of Sirte were able to advance several kilometres into the city on Monday, capturing the southern district of Bouhadi. (Reuters

A new report from Amnesty, The Long Reach of the Mukhabaraat, alleges that Syrian protesters in Europe and the Americas have been systematically monitored and harassed by embassy officials and others believed to be acting on behalf of the Syrian regime. (Amnesty

Over 3,000 protesters in Rastan have been detained by Syrian armed forces in only three days. (Al Jazeera

1,200 migrants are on their way from Sabha, Libya over the border to Chad in order to escape violence and discrimination. (AlertNet


Suspected Sunni extremists shot to death 13 Shiite Muslims execution-style after ordering them off a bus and lining them up Tuesday in southwestern Pakistan, ramping up a campaign of sectarian violence that has exposed Islamabad’s inability to protect minorities. (AP

DFID will continue with its plan to double aid allocation to Bangladesh, even in the face of ongoing austerity measures. (AlertNet

Human Rights Watch is calling for the resignation of both investigating judges of the Khmer Rouge trials in Cambodia. (AlertNet

Moody’s downgrades the rating of the State Bank of India. (WSJ

The Americas

As Haiti’s President Martelly marks his first 100 days in office, a coalition of rights groups say that earthquake victims living in displacement camps were not receiving the resettlement assistance promised in the President’s 100-day housing plan. (Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti )


On Sanitation and the Urban Poor

The growth of urbanization means that the problem of poor sanitation is even more important in developing countries says Timeyin Uwejamomere in the Guardian Development.

We need to break this pattern of inequality and invisibility. If we are serious about tackling urban poverty, we need to listen to and work with slum dwellers, and put them at the heart of urban water and sanitation plans. International NGO WaterAid launched a report on how to turn this situation around. In sanitation and water for poor urban communities: a manifesto, we call for strong leadership from the international community. Yes, we need more money. But more than anything, the urban poor need a champion at the highest level. Someone who can drive the plans and investments to the places most in need. Someone who knows that slums like Ajegunle exist. (Guardian Development

Adding Complexity to the Drive to Scale

Scale is an important and popular buzzword for aid and development. Researchers, organizations and field workers are trying to find interventions that can be grown to reach more people. Ben Ramalingam, resident complexity blogger, does what he does best by discussing how aid solutions are extremely complex making scale extremely hard. He writes, “While pathways of change can be shaped by governance and are influenced by path dependencies, they are not entirely controllable or predictable; there will always be uncertainties and unintended consequences and new ‘emergent’ interactions and behaviours.’ If we accept this, then it is little wonder that scaling up efforts continue to be frustrated.” He continues to say that by using complex systems models, public health could benefit researchers who are trying to understand what parts of a given intervention lead to successes that can be scaled. (Aid on the Edge of Chaos