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University Research

Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 09 jan 2020

Tackling climate change and protecting environment is critical for the better future of our planet. Current agricultural practices and economic policies that surround it have substantial impact on the natural environment. Prof. Benjamin Houlton, director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment at the University of Califoria at Davis and champion of the One Climate Initiative, says, 'Agriculture might just be the single most important industry on the planet for creating negative carbon emissions under current economic policy. Carbon farming is the key to help solve climate change. Farmers and ranchers can capture carbon and store it in the soil. They can create negative emissions, which means the amount of greenhouse gases that are going into the air from their industry is lower than the amount that they're drawing out of the air.' Prof. Houlton plans to further develop the carbon farm project through One Climate. He explains, 'The One Climate vision is about transforming society in a way that is sustainable, produces the jobs we need, trains the next generation of leaders and creates a climate-smart workforce. And one of the centerpieces of One Climate is creating the world's most innovative carbon farm.' Carbon farming involves using resources such as compost, biochar and pulverized rock, and using enhanced weathering - basically, accelerating Earth's natural processes - to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Explaining about biochar, Prof. Houlton says, 'We've teamed up with industry partners to use biochar, which is taking organic carbon like trees, vegetation and manure, and burning it slightly at a high temperature. It becomes more resistant to breakdown and helps with water and nutrient use, while also storing carbon for longer periods of time.' In California, biochar can reduce wildfires by removing trees that could be a fire risk and putting it into the soil. Similarly, compost deposits green waste or food waste into the soil to create a carbon sink. Read on...

UC Davis Magazine: How Can Agriculture Be a Part of the Climate Solution?
Author: Ashley Han


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 27 nov 2019

Philanthropy is a huge industry and technology is enabling it's transformation. It's contribution to the U.S. economy is significant. According to The 2019 Nonprofit Employment Report (2019), authored by Lester M. Salamon and Chelsea L. Newhouse of the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University, nonprofits account for roughly one in 10 jobs in the U.S. private workforce, with total employees numbering 12.3 million in 2016. Over the decade since 2007, nonprofit jobs grew almost four times faster than the for-profit ones. Madeline Duva, CEO of Fluxx, provides insights into technological transformation of philanthropy and the positive impact it has on overall growth of nonprofit sector. She says, ' The philanthropic space has begun to adopt new technologies in earnest in order to increase capacity, improve employee job satisfaction and accelerate long-lasting impact. This transformation is further helped by the tech industry entering the space both as a funder of nonprofits and provider of improved tool sets. The innovations that made Amazon a world leader in supply chain optimization are now being repurposed to help nonprofit organizations work more efficiently and collaboratively with their own data, ultimately driving more dollars and hours toward solving long-entrenched societal and systemic issues in the U.S. and beyond.' Philanthropy is on rise and tech industry and their employees are major contributors. According to 'Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018', researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI, in 2018 Americans gave nearly US$ 428 billion to charity, with US$ 76 billion of that coming from foundations and another US$ 20 billion coming from corporations. Tech industry's interest in philanthropy and nonprofit sector is seeing increase in specifically designed tech solutions. Ms. Duva explains, 'I've seen a steady increase (but slower industry adoption) in solutions that help foundations leverage data and efficiency and manage teams, all while scaling their work. Grantmakers (both public and private) and grantseekers (nonprofits and charities) have begun to streamline their operations through SaaS solutions, using data and workflow best practices to create more efficient processes and free up time and resources.' For tech companies seeking to work and design solutions for the philanthropic sector, she suggests - Prioritize flexibility and usability in your solutions; Understand that most nonprofits operate on extremely thin financial margins; Recognize the huge variance in the philanthropic space. One-size-fits-all approach doesn't work this space that covers and touches so many industries. Read on...

Forbes: Technology Improves Nonprofit Sector Growth
Author: Madeline Duva


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 30 oct 2019

Nonprofit organizations and employees operate in a challenging environment and the human resources issues can be different from the for-profit sector. According to the 2017 Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey of 420 nonprofits by nonprofitHR, 28% of nonprofits said the top challenge they faced was hiring qualified staff, and 81% of nonprofits said they can't get the staff they do hire to stay. Moreover, nonprofits are unable to do much to address the human resources problems. According to 2019 Talent Management Priorities for Nonprofits survey of 488 nonprofit leaders and HR professionals by nonprofitHR, three reasons employees give for leaving nonprofits are - dissatisfaction with their career opportunities, compensation and benefits, and workplace culture. Prof. Kim Brimhall of Binghampton University, The State University of New York, explains her research on nonprofit human resources and finds out that when employees feel valued and that their colleagues and bosses appreciate them, talented staff members become more likely to stick around. Lower salaries and compensation in nonprofits are not the only factor that makes it difficult to retain talent. Prof. Brimhall says, 'I recently completed a study regarding how managers at hospitals can improve employee performance through greater inclusivity. Inclusion...is also about helping employees feel appreciated as unique individuals and helping them feel valued as key members of their team.' According to 2018 State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey of about 3400 nonprofit leaders by Nonprofit Finance Fund, more than half of all nonprofit jobs are in the health care field and even though nonprofit hospitals generally pay their workers better than other nonprofits, they also have trouble hiring and retaining qualified staff. Prof. Brimhall recommends nonprofits to make their workplace more inclusive and to adopt the following best practices - Engage and involve employees in important work-related decision-making; Appreciate feedback of all employees irrespective of their position; Consider and treat each employee as a unique individual and provide regular training and opportunities to enhance their career; Communicate a shared sense of purpose and inspire a collective vision of the future. Read on...

The Conversation: Making employees feel welcome and valued can pay off - especially for nonprofits
Author: Kim Brimhall


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 sep 2019

To tackle complex issues facing the world like environment protection, peace building, human rights, poverty, hunger etc, requires coming together of people, organizations and governments to find solutions through sharing diverse ideas, collaborative efforts and pooled resources. Around the world various platforms are developed to provide just that. At Stanford Social Innovation Review's (SSIR) Nonprofit Management Institute 2019, leaders and experts from diverse fields converged to address the economic and emotional anxieties facing civil society leaders and shared advice for moving forward with confidence. Prof. Tyrone McKinley Freeman of Indiana University said, 'We must pull more people into the philanthropic circle.' Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland said, 'We have got to think big and be less afraid of losing something through collaboration.' Jeffrey Moore, Chief Strategy Officer of Independent Sector, said, 'We have to co-create everything with community.' Charlotte Pera, President & CEO of ClimateWorks, said, 'We have to work together in and across philanthropy, civil society, government, academia.' Mayor Michael Tubbs of Stockton said, 'Change in collaboration really only moves at the speed of trust.' Bradford Smith, President of Candid, said, 'Building those relationships will take more than nice memos about teaming up - try joint projects.' The event had various sessions and here are the highlights - (1) THE CHANGING FACE OF AMERICAN PHILANTHROPY: Kim Meredith, Executive Director of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, and Prof. Tyrone Freeman of Indiana University and co-author of 'Race, Gender, and Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations', discussed common myths of modern philanthropy, the true history of giving by minority groups in the US, and ideas on how to better connect with givers in anxious times. (2) MOVING FORWARD - MERGERS AS A GROWTH STRATEGY: David La Piana, Managing Partner of La Piana Consulting, Rinku Sen, a racial justice activist, author, and strategist, and Bradford Smith, President of Candid, discussed the upsides and risks of nonprofit mergers.' (3) VITAL BALANCE - INNOVATION AND SCALING FOR IMPACT IN THE SOCIAL SECTOR: Christian Seelos, co-author of the best-selling book 'Innovation and Scaling for Impact and co-director of the Global Innovation for Impact Lab at Stanford PACS, examined various 'innovation pathologies' that can derail organizations and 'innovation archetypes' - case study-based models that sidestep these threats, blending innovation with scaling. (4) LEVERAGING TALENT - THE POWER OF SKILLS-BASED VOLUNTEERING: Danielle Holly, CEO of Common Impact, Cecily Joseph, former VP of CSR at Symantec, and Greg Kimbrough, Lead Director of executive development at the Boys & Girls Club of America, shared insights gleaned from their experiences with volunteer programs. They talked about how can skills-based volunteering engage and strengthen your teams amid transitional, high-anxiety, or crisis situations. (5) ACHIEVING GREAT THINGS - THE ART AND SCIENCE OF ASPIRATIONAL COMMUNICATION: Doug Hattaway, President of Hattaway Communications, explored the best ways to use strategy, science, and storytelling to connect with an audience. (6) WORKING TOGETHER - HOW PUBLIC SECTOR AND NONPROFIT LEADERS CAN COLLABORATE TO TACKLE TOUGHEST CHALLENGES: Mayors Libby Schaaf of Oakland and Michael Tubbs of Stockton spoke with Autumn McDonald, Director of New America CA, about the best ways to build successful, mutually beneficial partnerships between local government and nonprofits. (7) TRUST, POWER, EQUITY - TELLING BETTER STORY TO OURSELVES AND THE WORLD: Jeffrey Moore, Chief Strategy Officer of Independent Sector, examined trends with the potential to restore the nonprofit sector's self-confidence and bring back the public's trust in it. (8) WEATHERING THE STORM - LESSONS ON EFFECTIVELY MANAGING THROUGH TOUGH TIMES: Maria Orozco, Principal of The Bridgespan Group, explored lessons from the last recession and drew from her organization's work in the years since to share insight on surviving and thriving in difficult times. (9) ACTIVATING AUDIENCES - PARTNERING BEYOND THE 'USUAL SUSPECTS' TO SPOTLIGHT SOCIAL ISSUES: Jessica Blank, a writer, director, actor, lecturer, and social innovator, Nicole Starr, VP for social impact at Participant Media, Marya Bangee, Executive Director of Harness, and Prof. Courtney Cogburn of Columbia University, discussed how storytelling can expand and accelerate social change and provided advice on how to wield narratives. (10) LEADING WITH PURPOSE - ACCEPTANCE, MINDFULNESS, AND SELF-COMPASSION: Leah Weiss, lecturer at Stanford GSB and the author of 'How We Work', described how to lead with acceptance and resilience using proven self-compassion and mindfulness techniques. (11) CLIMATE CHANGE - THE POWER OF TRANSCENDENT ISSUE TO MOTIVATE AND AFFECT REAL CHANGE: Larry Kramer, President of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Charlotte Pera, President & CEO of ClimateWorks Foundation, discussed the impact of climate change on society and nonprofits. Read on...

Stanford Social Innovation Review: The Speed of Trust in an Anxious Era: Recap of the 2019 Nonprofit Management Institute
Authors: M. Amedeo Tumolillo, Barbara Wheeler-Bride


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 17 jul 2019

Experts' views are divided on how non-profit hospitals benefit communities. In US, non-profit hospitals received tax-benefits valued at over US$ 24 billion annually in 2011. In exchange for tax exemptions these hospitals provide 'community benefits' like free and subsidized care, investments in public health, community-based health initiatives intended to address the social determinants of health, such as food or housing insecurity. But, many observers argue that hospitals avoid making sustained community investments in favor of counting millions of dollars of 'discounts' to low-income patients as community benefits while aggressively pursuing unpaid bills. Krisda Chaiyachati and Rachel Werner, Senior Fellows at LDI University of Pennsylvania, have recently written two research to add information to this debate. They provide detailed estimates of how much hospitals spend on different types of community benefits, whether community benefits are matched to local need, and what effects community benefits have on health outcomes. Mr. Chaiyachati and Ms. Werner analyzed IRS tax data from over 1600 non-profit hospitals. By law, hospitals report total spending on community benefits, broken out by health care-related spending (e.g. free care), community-directed spending (e.g. anti-smoking initiatives or funds for local community organizations), and research and educational activities. To standardize comparisons, the authors measured all spending as shares of total hospital expenditures. Researchers find out that hospitals still rely on discounted charity care to meet community benefits requirements. In 2014, non-profit hospitals reported that they spent an average of 8.1% (US$ 17 million) of their total expenditures on community benefits, more than 80% of which was health care-related. On average, 6.7% (US$ 11 million) of expenditures were on health care services, compared to 0.7% (US$ 1.2 million) for community-directed contributions. The remainder of community benefits were on educational and research initiatives. The results are disappointing in light of a second study from Ms. Werner and Mr. Chaiyachati, which suggests that community-directed spending could improve health outcomes, specifically, 30-day readmission rates. Readmissions rates are a useful measure of health care quality-capturing in-hospital care, discharge planning, and follow-up. Since the Affordable Care Act, hospitals have been financially penalized for high readmission rates. The evidence from research suggests that increased investment in the social determinants of health, rather than simply writing off free care, has a significant impact on measurable health outcomes. Read on...

Penn LDI Blog: How Do Non-profit Hospitals Give Back?
Author: Aaron Glickman


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 23 mar 2019

Bureaucratic environment of large public agencies often becomes a deterrent for nonprofits to develop collaborative alliances. But according to the new research, 'Collaborative Value in Public and Nonprofit Strategic Alliances: Evidence from Transition Coaching (Authors: Jason Coupet of North Carolina State University; Sue Farruggia of University of Illinois at Chicago; Kate Albrecht & Teshanee Williams, Ph.D. students at North Carolina State University), finds that some nonprofits may be able to better serve their constituents by partnering with public institutions in order to navigate the bureaucracy and access services more efficiently. The researchers interviewed 17 nonprofit personnel and 16 university personnel about the degree to which they sought partnerships and why. Prof. Coupet says, 'These nonprofits were focused on helping high school students transition successfully to college...We found that a driving factor for these public-nonprofit partnerships was the nature of institutional bureaucracies - the very thing we thought would keep nonprofits away.' The researchers found that a public-nonprofit partnership gave nonprofits access to contacts that could help them more efficiently navigate bureaucratic channels in order to access services that were already available. Prof. Coupet adds, 'Making the process more efficient is good for the institutions, the nonprofits, and the students that they both serve - because fewer people can spend less time in order to get the desired result. Less time wasted means lower costs for everyone concerned...And while this study focused on the education sector, the finding is likely relevant for any sector in which public agencies provide services, from public health to housing to veterans affairs.' Read on...

NC State University News: Study Finds Nonprofit Partnerships Can Help Solve Bureaucratic Tangles
Authors: Jason Coupet, Matt Shipman


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 30 dec 2018

Prof. Dean Karlan of Northwestern University does evidence-based research to evaluate what works and what doesn't when it comes to helping lift people out of poverty. He is the founder of the nonprofit Innovations for Poverty Action and advises donors and institutions on the best use of their charitable dollars. Prof. Karlan says, '...in 2002 I started a nonprofit out of my living room, dedicated to creating high-quality randomized evaluations of global anti-poverty programs. Today, Innovations for Poverty Action has a US$ 42 million budget, most of which goes directly into research. We're now in 22 countries, but we've worked in 52 countries. We have some 500 permanent staff and have done almost 800 randomized evaluations of anti-poverty programs and initiatives. We apply rigorous economic theories and research to evaluating which global anti-poverty initiatives are working.' He suggests following tips to evaluate whether your charitable dollars are being used effectively: (1) Don't evaluate a charity based on its overhead. (2) Don't be swayed by marketing materials with moving heart-wrenching photographs. (3) Look for evidence of impact. (4) If you are wondering where your money will have the most impact, it's likely in poorer, developing countries. (5) Don't be afraid to give to large organizations. (6) Email the charity for evidence of cost effectiveness. (7) Consider giving to meta-charities. Read on...

WTTW News: It's the Season of Giving. How to Choose Charities Wisely
Author: Andrea Guthmann


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 30 sep 2018

People with business education and experience are now getting inclined towards social enterpreneurship and enterprises. They are realizing that business skills and expertise can be utilized to provide solutions to society's challenges. Prof. Patrick Adriel H. Aure of De La Salle University (Philippines) explains the importance of encouraging social entrepreneurship among business students and shares research and programs that he conducts at the university. The program, Lasallian Social Enterprise for Economic Development (LSEED), involves incubating student-led social enterprises that partner with marginalized local communities, while Social Enterprise Research Network (SERN) undertakes research and advocacy activities. Regarding one of the research conducted in relation to business students and social enterprises, Prof. Aure says, 'Our statistical analysis suggested there are two factors that consistently influence business students' intention to engage in social entrepreneurial activities - (1) Their perceived support from friends, family, and other organizations. (2) Their prior experience in socially-oriented activities such as volunteering.' Research findings suggest - Design social enterprise advocacy campaigns to target group participation and not encourage students individually; Schools may want to consider creating a pipeline of activities that enrich students' socially-oriented experiences. Read on...

The Manila Times: Encouraging social entrepreneurship among business students
Author: Patrick Adriel H. Aure


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 23 sep 2018

According to the 2011 research study published in The American Journal of Medicine, 'Success in Grateful Patient Philanthropy: Insights from Experienced Physicians' (Authors: Rosalyn Stewart, Leah Wolfe, John Flynn, Joseph Carrese, Scott M. Wright - Johns Hopkins University), 'Facing challenging economic conditions, medical schools and teaching hospitals have turned increasingly to philanthropy as a way to supplement declining clinical revenues and reduced research budgets. One approach to offset these diminished returns is to commit efforts to 'grateful patient' programs that concentrate on satisfying patients and their families, especially families with significant assets. Support from grateful patients is the single most important source for substantive philanthropic gifts in medicine.' According to the latest 2018 research published in the Journal of American Medicine, 'Navigating the Ethical Boundaries of Grateful Patient Fundraising' (Authors: Megan E. Collins, Steven A. Rum, Jeremy Sugarman - Johns Hopkins University), 'Health care institutions in the United States receive more than US$ 10 billion annually in charitable gifts. These gifts, often from grateful patients, benefit physicians, institutions, and other patients through the expansion of clinical and research activities, community-based programs, and educational initiatives.' The topic of 'grateful patient philanthropy' raises some ethical issues in patient-physician relationship. There is general agreement that donation related interaction with patients shouldn't happen during the course of their treatment and should be discussed once patients have fully recovered from their medical condition. The study finds that although physicians consider fundraising as their duty but find it difficult to have a conversation with their patients regarding donations. Read on...

Nonprofit Quarterly: Grateful Patient Philanthropy? Some Fundraising Ethics Shouldn't Need to Be Taught
Author: Ruth McCambridge


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 aug 2018

The possibility of eco-friendly biodegradable paper-based batteries is now made a reality by the scientists at Binghampton University (SUNY), Prof. Seokheun 'Sean' Choi from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and Prof. Omowunmi Sadik from the Chemistry Department. Their research titled 'Green Biobatteries: Hybrid Paper-Polymer Microbial Fuel Cells' was recently published in Advanced Sustainable Systems. Prof. Choi engineered the design of the paper-based battery, while Prof. Sadik was able to make the battery a self-sustaining biobattery. The biobattery uses a hybrid of paper and engineered polymers. The polymers - poly (amic) acid and poly (pyromellitic dianhydride-p-phenylenediamine) - were the key to giving the batteries biodegrading properties. Prof. Choi says, 'There's been a dramatic increase in electronic waste and this may be an excellent way to start reducing that. Our hybrid paper battery exhibited a much higher power-to-cost ratio than all previously reported paper-based microbial batteries. The polymer-paper structures are lightweight, low-cost and flexible. Power enhancement can be potentially achieved by simply folding or stacking the hybrid, flexible paper-polymer devices.' Read on...

BingU News: SCIENTISTS CREATE BIODEGRADABLE, PAPER-BASED BIOBATTERIES
Author: Rachael Flores


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 27 aug 2018

Apparel production is generally linked to environmental issues like water and air pollution, alongwith the land, water and pesticide use related to growing natural fibers. But now research points at the source of another problem created by apparels made wholly or partially from synthetic textiles. Microfibers, a type of microplastic, are shed during normal use and laundering, and remain in the environment similar to plastic packaging that coats so many of the world's beaches, and they bond to chemical pollutants in the environment, such as DDT and PCB. Moreover, the textiles from which they are shed are often treated with waterproofing agents, stain- or fire-resistant chemicals or synthetic dyes that could be harmful to organisms that ingest them. Also, microfibers are being consumed alongwith food and drink. Research review (Microplastics in air: Are we breathing it in? - Johnny Gasperi, Stephanie L. Wright, Rachid Dris, France Collard, Corinne Mandin, Mohamed Guerrouache, Valérie Langlois, Frank J.Kelly, Bruno Tassin) published last year shows that microfibers suspended in air are possibly settling in human lungs. Research led by Richard C. Thompson from the University of Plymouth (UK) in 2004 (Lost at Sea: Where Is All the Plastic? - Richard C. Thompson, Ylva Olsen, Richard P. Mitchell, Anthony Davis, Steven J. Rowland, Anthony W. G. John, Daniel McGonigle, Andrea E. Russell) documented and quantified the occurrence of microplastics in the marine environment. Research by Mark Anthony Browne, one of Prof. Thompson's graduate student, published in 2011 (Accumulation of Microplastic on Shorelines Woldwide: Sources and Sinks - Mark Anthony Browne, Phillip Crump, Stewart J. Niven, Emma Teuten, Andrew Tonkin, Tamara Galloway, Richard Thompson) found - (1) Samples taken near wastewater disposal sites had 250% more microplastic than those from reference sites and the types of microplastic fibers found in those samples were mainly polymers often used in synthetic apparel, suggesting the fibers were eluding filters in wastewater treatment plants and being released with treated effluent (which is released into rivers, lakes or ocean water). (2) A single polyester fleece jacket could shed as many as 1900 of these tiny fibers each time it was washed. Another 2016 study by researchers from UC Santa Barbara in US (Microfiber Masses Recovered from Conventional Machine Washing of New or Aged Garments - Niko L. Hartline, Nicholas J. Bruce, Stephanie N. Karba, Elizabeth O. Ruff, Shreya U. Sonar, Patricia A. Holden) has shown far higher numbers - 250000 fibers. Rosalia Project, a nonprofit focused on ocean protection, led a study of microfiber pollution across an entire watershed (from the mouth of Hudson River all the way to where the river meets the Atlantic in Manhattan). Rachael Z. Miller, group's director, was surprised to find that, outside of samples taken near treatment plants, there was no statistically significant difference in the concentration fibers from the alpine region to the agricultural center of New York state to the high population areas of Manhattan and New Jersey. This suggested to her that fibers might be entering surface waters from the air and from septic system drainfields in rural areas without municipal sewage systems. According to Textile World, demand for polyester has grown faster than demand for wool, cotton and other fibers for at least 20 years. And by 2030 synthetics are expected to account for 75% of global apparel fiber production, or 107 million tons. All textiles, including carpeting and upholstery, produce microfibers. So do commercial fishing nets. But due to the frequency with which apparel is laundered and the increasing quantities of clothing being purchased throughout the world (thanks at least in part to the so-called fast fashion trend), apparel is the microfiber source on which researchers and policy-makers are focusing attention. Krystle Moody, a textile industry consultant, says, 'Outdoor gear is heavily reliant on synthetic textiles due to their performance profile (moisture wicking) and durability.' Jeffrey Silberman, professor and chairperson of textile development and marketing with the Fashion Institute of Technology at the State University of New York, says, 'Price is the big driver behind the use of synthetics in textiles. A poly-cotton blend is generally far cheaper than a cotton one, but doesn’t look or feel appreciably different to most consumers. The motivation is to get natural-like fibers and still be able to get a price point that people are willing to pay.' Katy Stevens, sustainability project manager for the outdoor gear industry consortium European Outdoor Group (EOG), says, 'Initial research suggested that recycled polyester might shed more microfibers. Are we doing the right thing by using recycled polyester that might shed more? It has added a whole other big question mark.' Other studies have found microfibers in effluent from wastewater plants (Wastewater Treatment Works (WwTW) as a Source of Microplastics in the Aquatic Environment - Fionn Murphy, Ciaran Ewins, Frederic Carbonnier, Brian Quinn), in the digestive tracts of market fish (Ingested plastic transfers hazardous chemicals to fish and induces hepatic stress - Chelsea M. Rochman, Eunha Hoh, Tomofumi Kurobe, Swee J. Teh), throughout riversheds (Mountains to the sea: River study of plastic and non-plastic microfiber pollution in the northeast USA - Rachael Z. Miller, Andrew J. R. Watts, Brooke O. Winslow, Tamara S.Galloway, Abigail P. W. Barrows) and in air samples. Two separate studies released in March 2018 revealed that microfibers are found in bottled water sold all over the world. And a study published weeks later revealed that microplastic - chiefly microfibers - were present in 159 samples of tap water from around the word, a dozen brands of beer (made with Great Lakes water) as well as sea salt, also derived globally. Although most research has focused on synthetics textiles, but Abigail P. W. Barrows, an independent microplastics researcher who has conducted numerous studies on microfibers, says, 'Natural fibers such as cotton and wool, and semi-synthetics such as rayon should not be totally ignored. While they will degrade more quickly than, say, polyester, they may still be treated with chemicals of concern that can move up the food chain if the fibers are consumed before they degrade.' The study she led in 2018 (Marine environment microfiber contamination: Global patterns and the diversity of microparticle origins - Abigail P. W. Barrows, Sara E. Kathey, C. W. Petersen) found that in the surface water samples collected globally while 91% of the particles collected were microfibers, 12% of those were semi-synthetic and 31% were natural. Read on...

GreenBiz: Why are our clothes so bad for the environment?
Author: Mary Catherine O'Connor


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 28 jul 2018

Collaborative partnerships between local government, community, nonprofit organizations, academia and businesses can do wonders to enhance the various aspects of localities, cities and regions. An old factory site being rehabilitated as a business park in Lackawanna (New York, USA) is an example of sustainable redevelopment and the impact a local government can have on climate change. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Deputy Executive Maria Whyte and others officials visited Conrnell Universuty campus and discussed the redevelopment project with faculty and shared county initiatives focused on sustainability and economic growth, quality of life and building strong communities. Mr. Poloncarz says, 'Strong partnerships and sustainable practices are essential to progress, giving more people a say in their community and making responsible use of our resources to effect change that benefits generations yet to come.' Basil Safi, Executive Director of the Office of Engagement Initiatives at Cornell, says, 'The event was organized as a launching point to further community-engaged research and learning collaborations with Erie County', seeding ideas for potential projects involving Cornell students and faculty.' Initiatives for a Smart Economy (I4SE) is an economic development strategy Erie County enacted in 2013 and updated last year as I4SE 2.0. It contains 71 initiatives and is focused on inclusion and creating shared opportunities for all residents, to address persistent poverty and underemployment. Max Zhang, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell, says, 'I can envision that students team up with community partners to address specific challenges they are facing.' Rebecca Brenner, a lecturer at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, began a project in spring 2017 in Buffalo (NY) on improving communications during an emergency for that city's diverse, multilingual refugee population, and creating an emergency notification plan with nonprofit resettlement agencies as community partners. Erie County has about 300 current strategic initiatives led by county departments with community partners. They include fostering hiring of disadvantaged residents in high-poverty areas for construction jobs amid Buffalo's building boom; exploring the feasibility of a new convention center to spur tourism; creating an agribusiness park in rural southern Erie County; supporting health and human services agencies and energy programs targeting low-income households; and infrastructure and environmental remediation in county parks. Shorna Allred, associate professor of natural resources at Cornell, says, 'I was quite impressed and intrigued by what they are doing in Buffalo...We are similarly trying to bring together a partnership of people to work on sustainability issues across the city...' Read on...

Cornell Chronicle: Sustainable economic strategies spur engaged research interest
Author: Daniel Aloi


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 30 apr 2018

Artificial Intelligence is one of the fields that's getting most attention from technology companies. AI researchers specialize in neural networks, complex algorithms that learn tasks by analyzing vast amounts of data. They are used in everything from digital assistants in smartphones to self-driving cars. Those with AI skills are in high demand. But, the salary data related to AI hires hasn't been in public domain. Now OpenAI, a nonprofit AI research organization, had made the salaries of their AI researchers public as their nonprofit setup requires them to do so. Top OpenAI researchers were paid as follows - Ilya Sutskever (more than US$ 1.9 million in 2016); Ian Goodfellow (more than US$ 800000 after getting hired in March 2016); Prof. Pieter Abbeel of University of California at Berkeley (US$ 425000 after joining in June 2016). OpenAI was founded by Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla) and other well-known names in technology. Element AI, an independent lab in Canada, estimates that 22000 people worldwide have the skills needed to do serious AI research - about double from a year ago. Chris Nicholson, Founder & CEO of AI startup Skymind, says, 'There is a mountain of demand and a trickle of supply.' There is scarcity of AI talent. Governments and universities are also seeking AI researchers, even though they may not match the salaries paid by private enterprises. OpenAI too cannot compensate equivalent to private tech companies as stock options are major attraction there. But OpenAI shares its research with the world, considered a positive approach in responsibile tech development. Mr. Sutskever says, 'I turned down offers for multiple times the dollar amount I accepted at OpenAI. Others did the same.' He expects salaries at OpenAI to increase as the organization pursued its 'mission of ensuring powerful AI benefits all of humanity.' AI specialists with little or no industry experience can make between US$ 300000 and US$ 500000 a year in salary and stock. Wojciech Zaremba, a researcher who joined OpenAI after internships at Google and Facebook, says, 'The amount of money was borderline crazy.' He says that tech companies offered 2 or 3 times what he believed his real market value was. At a London AI lab now owned by Google, costs for 400 employees totaled US$ 138 million in 2016. Top researchers are paid higher. Mr. Nicholson says, 'When you hire a star, you are not just hiring a star. You are hiring everyone they attract. And you are paying for all the publicity they will attract.' Other top researchers at OpenAI included Greg Brockman and Andrej Karpathy. In a growing and competitive tech field like AI it becomes challenging for organizations to retain talent. Read on...

The New York Times: A.I. Researchers Are Making More Than $1 Million, Even at a Nonprofit
Author: Cade Metz


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 30 apr 2018

Considering the large number of competing nonprofits in a big town with their limited budgets, it's always challenging for them to reach out and attract donors and manage fundraising effectively. There are more than 2300 nonprofits operating in Philadelphia (USA). According to a research report 'The Financial Health of Philadelphia Area Nonprofits', funded by The Philadelphia Foundation, more than 40% of the nonprofits in the area are working at a loss, operate on margins of zero or less and fewer can be considered financially strong. With more than half the nonprofits operating on slim-to-none budget with limited support staff, fundraising is a challnging task. But Drexel University professor, Neville Vakharia, created an online tool, ImpactView Philadelphia, that uses publicly available data on nonprofit organizations from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in combination with the most recent American Community Survey data released by the U.S. Census Bureau to present an easy-to-access snapshot of Philadelphia's nonprofit ecosystem. The tool intends to help nonprofits streamline their fundraising process. It makes information about nonprofit organizations, and the communities they're striving to help, more accessible to likeminded charities and the philanthropic organizations that seek to fund them. Prof. Neville says, 'Through the location intelligence visualizer, users can immediately find areas of need and potential collaborators. The data are automatically visualized and mapped on-screen, identifying, for example, pockets of high poverty with large populations of children as well as the nonprofit service providers in these areas. Making this data accessible for nonprofits will cut down on time spent seeking information and improve the ability to make data-informed decisions, while also helping with case making and grant applications.' Since the tool is open-source it can be easily replicated in other cities. Read on...

DrexelNOW: A Tool to Help Nonprofits Find Each Other, Pursue Funding and Collaborate
Author: Emily Storz


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 30 sep 2017

Data can be gold for those who can mine and transform it into a valuable form. Mastercard is giving a new meaning to it and evolving a concept of 'data philanthropy.' Shamina Singh, president of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, explains the idea of data philanthropy and how data can be utilized for social good and social impact. She says, 'The initiative first came up through a partnership with DataKind in the United States. They were set up to galvanize data scientists from around the world and plug them into social impact work. And so a number of our Mastercard data scientists signed up to DataKind programs, and this gave us the opportunity to form a much more lasting and strategic partnership between the organizations. It opened a new conversation about data for good, what it could look like, and who was doing what in this space. It was also around this time that we had the United Nations opening up to data and data initiatives, and companies like Microsoft thinking about data for good.' Explaining some of the elements of data philanthropy Mastercard is focused on, she says, 'One is working with actual Mastercard data and trying to figure out if there are uses with anonymized and aggregated data that will not only respect the rules of the road around privacy, but can be used for research. We first opened our data for use by Harvard University, who approached us with a proposal to use the data to understand how economies grow, with a specific focus on tourism data and understanding how tourism dollars move in a country. Using Mastercard transaction data, we were able to provide new insights into this area...The other area of data philanthropy is around data analytics. What we have found is that many social impact organizations or NGOs do not need Mastercard data at all. Instead, they need to understand their own data, but often don't have the capacity or resources to help themselves. In those instances, we provide either a grant to hire a data scientist, fund an expert consultant, or provide our own data scientists to build their capacity and ability to learn. The inspiration for this element of data philanthropy came from our work with an organization called DoSomething...' Providing information on how Mastercard data scientists are internally looking for insights, she says, 'We started something called the charitable donations insight, and that is something that one of our colleagues is doing where she is using Mastercard data and drawing insights to help nonprofits understand charitable giving. We asked what a spending poll would look like for not-for-profits and social impact organizations, and insights is the first attempt at that...What she realized is that a lot of the not-for-profits have to raise their own funds, but there is not a lot of science behind potentially where and how they should be doing this. So she thought if she could unlock some of the data around the charitable contributions that we know of, she could offer insights to assist them. The other thing we did, which was very interesting, was we created a dataset that organizations could pull down if they want to, and mix it with your own data to self-regulate your own work.' Read on...

devex: Q&A - How Mastercard uses data for better philanthropy
Author: Lisa Cornish

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