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Einstein Rising is shifting the philanthropic status quo to Africa beyond aid. An ambitious goal, to be sure, but then again, supporting ambitions is what this organization does best.
A Ugandan-based business accelerator for social entrepreneurs, Einstein Rising embraces African solutions to African problems. The founder, Alexis Chavez, developed an approach with her team that focuses on wealth creation with many positive ripple effects on entrenched issues.
Set Up to Succeed
Since 2009 Chavez has worked throughout Africa, starting off in wildlife rescue, then in conservation through humanitarian aid. But she couldn’t shake the feeling that the existing aid mechanisms alone could not combat the root cause of these problems—poverty.
Chavez was living in Bwindi, a UNESCO world heritage site in Uganda, near the border of Rwanda and Congo. It is home to about half the world’s endangered mountain gorillas. “And this is where I started to see the big problem,” she says.
“The NGOs are there, trying to preserve the mountain gorillas, trying to help communities so they, too, will preserve the mountain gorillas. And, as you walk down the street there, it’s—failed aid project, failed aid project, failed aid project.”
The project Chavez ran for a U.S.-based NGO was no different. “People often find my criticism of the traditional aid model quite abrasive,” Chavez says. “Saying, ‘But we were only trying to help,’ from thousands of miles away seems like a reasonable reaction. But on the ground in Africa, it’s people’s lives.”
Chavez expresses frustration with aid models that solely employ direct assistance (donated goods and cash grants or vouchers) or micro-lending to alleviate poverty.
“For us, we don’t want to put a Band-Aid on the situation. I think everyone is exhausted from firefighting these entrenched issues. So, how do we get in front of them? We find the people that know how to solve the problems.”
Isaac is a recent Einstein Rising accelerator graduate whose company sells household toilets (as opposed to communal trench toilets, which can harbor disease and contaminate ground water). The company hauls the waste away and converts it into fertilizer pellets. “I’ve knocked on more organizations’ doorsteps then I can count,” Isasc told Einstein Rising. “They all told me ‘nice idea but we cannot help you.’”
Einstein Rising rose to the challenge, and recently invested $5,000 in Isaac’s company.
Read more about Einstein Rising by Amber Cortes at GlobalWA.