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University Research

Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 25 oct 2020

According to the new research by doctoral student Sweta Iyer at University of Borås (Sweden), luminescent textiles can be created by using a bioluminescent reaction system. The study was conducted using enzyme immobilization and eco-technology methods such as plasma treatment. The luminescent materials have wide range of applications in areas like biomedicine, biosensors, and safety to architecture and aesthetics. These materials have multifunctional properties such as UV protection and antibacterial properties. Ms. Iyer's doctoral thesis is titled 'Luminescent Textiles Using Biobased Products - A Bioinspired Approach'. Ms. Iyer says, 'Bioluminescence phenomena in nature and their reaction mechanisms have been extensively studied in biology and biochemistry, but previously not applied to textiles. The important research question was to understand the bioluminescent reaction mechanism that exists in different living organisms and the selection of the reaction system. This was important in order to make it possible to use the luminescent effects in textile.' Read on...

University of Borås News: Biobased products can create luminescent textiles
Author: Lena Carlsson


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 aug 2020

COVID-19 pandemic has affected art and culture sector, and significantly impacted talent associated with it. Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO in her message on World Art Day (15 April 2020), celebrated on the birthday of Leonardo da Vinci, said, 'Bringing people together, inspiring, soothing and sharing: these are the powers of art, the importance of which has been made emphatically obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic.' The art community is adapting to the new challenges and finding innovative solutions to keep the spirit alive. The program, 'Arts and Culture Education Change-Up', a collaboration between South Korea's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Korea Culture and Arts Education Service and the Seokyeong University Arts Education Center, has come up with something positive during the pandemic. The program teaches and supports creative people who are interested in social entrepreneurial projects in the field of arts and culture education. Han Jeong-seop, professor and dean of the Seokyeong University Arts Education Center, says, 'If it were not for COVID-19, we might not have brought those international guest speakers or have participants from Jeju Island due to geographical factors...We wanted to showcase how overseas cultural social enterprises play a role in resolving social problems between the public and private sector.' The participants in the online interaction included representatives from STEPS (Canada-based charitable public art organization that develops one-of-a-kind public art plans, installations and engagement strategies that foster vibrant communities), and Starcatchers (Scotland-based art organization specializing in creating performances and exploring creative activities for babies, toddlers and young children up to the age of five and the adults who care for them). Anjuli Solanki, program director of the STEPS Initiative, says, 'Applying our multidisciplinary expertise, we strive to develop a strong contextual understanding of the neighborhoods and sites we are working in for all our projects. Our goal is to create iconic public works that attract widespread attention by transforming underutilized public spaces.' Bebhinn Jennings, program manager at STEPS, says, 'The pandemic has highlighted our need to connect, to be inspired and to contribute to our communities. As such, art and public art in particular are increasingly important as they offer numerous entry points for engagement. Public art can both beautify a space, and ignite dialogues around important issues such has climate change, public health and systemic inequalities - all conversations that have been active throughout the pandemic.' Rhona Matheson, chief executive of Starcatchers, says, 'We know we are not going to be able to tour any of our productions until at least spring 2021 so our focus is on providing a range of activities that parents or childcare settings can share with very young children. Retaining a connection with audiences has been very important and making the offers through our online activities has been essential. Similarly, being able to retain connection with the families who participate in our community engagement programs has been very important - this has been a means to offer support to young families who experience social and rural isolation and have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.' Lee In-kyung, an art instructor at an alternative school on Jeju Island, says, 'If it were not operated online, it would be very difficult and time-consuming for me to participate in a training program held in Seoul. Now I can communicate with other social entrepreneurs while on Jeju...We made environmental picture books and tried junk art, campaigning for environment. I realized that students could learn better through empirical art education.' She developed such experiences into an idea for a social enterprise, aiming to support teenagers to cultivate creativity, problem-solving skills and empathic abilities. Kim Soo-jung, CEO of Open Your Arts and in the second year of Change-Up program, says, 'I wanted to provide sustainable art education for socially disadvantaged children, but it was impossible to solve the problem as a volunteer. So I came up with this art educational kit developed in collaboration with artists...Their (Starcatchers and STEPS) business model is not based nor suitable for online, but it was interesting to see the possibility of online platforms, transcending physical or regional limitations.' Read on...

The Korea Times: Social enterprise bridges art, community amid pandemic
Author: Kwon Mee-yoo


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 20 aug 2020

Collaborative and coordinated efforts by multiple agencies and institutions are needed to manage, control and overcome a crisis like COVID-19 pandemic. Team from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is partnering with Commonwealth of Pennsylvania agencies and stakeholders in the areas of public health, economics, and emergency management, to create data-based tools for informed decision-making and strengthen planning efforts of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf to re-open the state's economy. Some of the main criteria to determine when a region is ready to re-open and return to work will include - The incidence rate of COVID-19 cases per capita will be evaluated and several public health requirements must be met; A region need to have an average of less than 50 cases per 100000 individuals over the course of 14 days to return to work; Enough testing available for individuals with symptoms and target populations; Robust case investigation and contact tracing infrastructure need to place; Identification of an area's high-risk settings must be made and would include adequate healthcare facilities with sufficient safeguards and equipments. The model dashboard developed through the collaboration will take a regional and sector-based approach to re-openings, the easing of restrictions and response. This data-driven decision support tool will help to better understand the current health and economic status, as well as the inherent risks and benefits to re-opening certain businesses and industry areas. Using data that considers worker exposure and spread risks, health care capacity, economic impact and supply chain impact, the administration will prioritize re-openings where it has the potential for the most positive impact on the economy for workers and businesses, while mitigating risk to public health and safety. Ramayya Krishnan, dean of CMU's Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy and director of CMU's Block Center for Technology and Society, says, 'The purpose is to provide important information to the governor's team to make data informed decision. For example, all indicators could point to opening a specific county, but other factors, such as population density around a hotspot, availability of supplies to ensure workers are protected, or Department of Health criteria could make the county unfit to open.' The multidisciplinary team from CMU involved in the project include - Laurence Ales; Kasun Amarasinghe; Scott Andes; Gary Franko; Rayid Ghani; Jared Kohler; Tim McNulty; Illah Nourbakhsh; Roni Rosenfeld; Randy Sargent; Richard A. Stafford; Chris Telmer; Anne Wright; Ariel Zetlin-Jones; Xuege Zhang. Other contrubutors to the project include - Beibei Li; Lee Branstetter; Jon Caulkins; Karen Clay; Baruch Fischhoff; Marty Gaynor; Joel Greenhouse; Po-Shen Loh; Dan Nagin; Rema Padman; Wes Pegden; Lowell Taylor; Hai Wang; Peter Zhang. Read on...

Carnegie Mellon University News: CMU Dashboard Will Help Inform State Decision-Makers During Pandemic
Author: Jason Maderer


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 11 jul 2020

According to the survey conducted to find out impact of COVID-19 pandemic on 567 small businesses and nonprofit organizations in US by the research team of Prof. Samantha Paustian-Underdahl of Florida State University, 15.2% of its participants closed permanently, and 14.5% of participants closed temporarily. Another 31% of participants are operating below 40% capacity, while close to 40% of participants are operating at 40% or higher during COVID-19. The survey also found that 46.7% laid off their employees during COVID-19, while 51% reported that they did not. The average number of employees laid off was 10.5. Prof. Paustian-Underdahl says, 'Small businesses and nonprofits have taken a huge hit during this time, with nearly 30 percent of our sample needing to close temporarily or permanently as of early May. The good news is that most organizations are getting some help.' The survey revealed that 92% received some type of financial assistance from the government's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and/or Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). 75.5% applied for one or both types of government aid. Of participants who applied, 28.9% received PPP funding only, 26.8% received EIDL only, 11.3% received both PPP and EIDL, and 8.3% did not receive anything. Moreover, researchers also found that business owners and nonprofit leaders are experiencing different effects of COVID-19 on their overall well-being and performance, depending on their gender. Prof. Paustian-Underdahl says, 'Consistent with recent research by Gallup , we found that women who own small businesses are experiencing higher levels of stress and burnout during COVID-19 compared to men. While some may assume this could be due to higher work-family-conflict, we found the men surveyed are reporting higher work-family-conflict than women.' Some of the strategies and solutions that respondents have implemented to meet the challenges faced during COVID-19 include - increased communication with employees; an increased focus on implementing technology and creating online content; creating unique ways to contact and keep existing clients instead of seeking new one; increased focus on healthy living, exercise and mental health for their employees and customers. Read on...

Florida State University News: Survey reveals COVID-19's impact on small business, nonprofits
Author: Calvin Burrows


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 26 jun 2020

COVID-19 has brought to the fore the issue of medical textiles as masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment (PPE) are necessary for safeguarding healthcare workers against virus infections. The use of mask specifically became more widespread among general public and the debate centered around the type of material of the fabric that can minimize spread of the virus from person to person and also be affordable. As the demand for PPEs rose the challenge for the scientific and manufacturing community has been to find a way to provide better protection while allowing for the safe reuse of these items. Team of researchers from University of Pittsburgh - Anthony J. Galante, Sajad Haghanifar, Eric G. Romanowski, Robert M. Q. Shanks, Paul W. Leu - has created a textile coating that can not only repel liquids like blood and saliva but can also prevent viruses from adhering to the surface. Their research titled, 'Superhemophobic and Antivirofouling Coating for Mechanically Durable and Wash-Stable Medical Textiles', was recently published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces. Lead author of the paper, Mr. Galante, who is the Ph.D. student in industrial engineering at Pitt, says, 'Recently there's been focus on blood-repellent surfaces, and we were interested in achieving this with mechanical durability.' The coating is unique as it is able to withstand ultrasonic washing, scrubbing and scraping. Prof. Leu, co-author and associate professor of industrial engineering, says, 'The durability is very important because there are other surface treatments out there, but they’re limited to disposable textiles. You can only use a gown or mask once before disposing of it. Given the PPE shortage, there is a need for coatings that can be applied to reusable medical textiles that can be properly washed and sanitized.' Prof. Romanowski, Research Director at Charles T. Campbell Microbiology Laboratory, says, 'As this fabric was already shown to repel blood, protein and bacteria, the logical next step was to determine whether it repels viruses. We chose human adenovirus types 4 and 7, as these are causes of acute respiratory disease as well as conjunctivitis (pink eye)...As it turned out, the adenoviruses were repelled in a similar way as proteins.' Prof. Shanks, Director of Basic Research in the Department of Ophthalmology at Pitt, says, 'Adenovirus can be inadvertently picked up in hospital waiting rooms and from contaminated surfaces in general. It is rapidly spread in schools and homes and has an enormous impact on quality of life - keeping kids out of school and parents out of work. This coating on waiting room furniture, for example, could be a major step towards reducing this problem.' The next step for the researchers will be to test the effectiveness against betacoronaviruses, like the one that causes COVID-19. Read on...

University of Pittsburgh News: Pitt Researchers Create Durable, Washable Textile Coating That Can Repel Viruses
Author: Maggie Pavlick


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 23 jun 2020

COVID-19 impacted the retail sector and brought about unforeseen challenges. Recent study by Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at University of Warwick (UK) and Blue Yonder examined how retailers have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure their survival. The study is based on the survey responses from 105 different retailers from Europe, Asia and the Americas and identified the human vulnerabilities across the supply chain and the need for future investment in flexibility, visibility and automation to improve future resilience. Some of the challenges that retailers faced are - unprecedented demand for some products while no demand for others; many stores were forced to close, or adapt their operations to accommodate social distancing; shift to online shopping wherever possible but it had its own operational challenges. REPORT HIGHLIGHTS - (1) The majority (61%) of retailers used inventory to buffer against the disruption of COVID-19. Supply chain processes and systems were effective, but more than half (58%) of retailers said a high degree of manual intervention was required to respond to the fluctuation in demand and supply. (2) Workforce issues were dominant issues for retailers with 59% of warehouse and 48% store operatives being affected by quarantine or illness. This often resulted in the closure of online operations and the need to recruit temporary staff. (3) Retailers were polarised in their treatment of supplier payments, with 37% delaying payments and 30% making early payments. Prof. Jan Godsell of University of Warwick says, '...only just over a quarter (29%) of retailers relied on suppliers with more agile manufacturing and distribution networks, which is a potentially more resource efficient and resilient response. With 75 to 80% of products seeing a demand fluctuation, retailers were slightly better at responding to decreases rather than increases in demand...' Wayne Snyder of Blue Yonder says, 'A critical learning for retailers is the need to invest in creating supply chains with greater flexibility, visibility and automation. Here technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning will play a key role in helping retailers navigate future disruption, whilst still meeting customers’ expectations.' Read on...

University of Warwick News: New study provides insights into how retailers have responded to COVID-19
Author: Alice Scott


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 30 may 2020

A group of researchers led by Prof. Raul Gonzalez Lima and Prof. Marcelo Knorich Zuffo at the University of São Paulo's Engineering School (POLI-USP) in Brazil have developed a mechanical ventilator that costs only approximately 7% as much as a conventional ventilator. Prof. Lima says, 'Our ventilator is designed to be used in emergencies where there's a shortage of ICU (Intensive Care Unit) ventilators, which are more monitored, but it has all the functionality required by a severe patient. It also has the advantage of not depending on a compressed air line, as conventional ventilators do. It only needs an electric power outlet and piped oxygen from the hospital or even bottled O2.' In developing the ventilator, the researchers needed to analyze the range of oxygen flow rates and levels it could offer patients. For this purpose, they simulated the various breathing frequencies of human lungs using a gas analyzer and gas flow meter in a lab headed by Prof. Guenther Carlos Krieger Filho, also a professor at POLI-USP. Animal tests were conducted under the coordination of Denise Tabacchi Fantoni and Aline Ambrósio, both of whom are professors at School of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science (FMVZ-USP). The tests were performed at Medical School's (FM-USP) anesthesiology laboratory (LIM08) under the supervision of Professor José Otávio Costa Auler Junior, in collaboration with Denise Aya Otsuki, a researcher in the lab. The first human trials involved four patients undergoing treatment at FM-USP's Heart Institute (INCOR). They were led by Auler Junior, with the collaboration of Filomena Regina Barbosa Gomes Galas, the supervisor at INCOR's surgical ICU, nurse Suely Pereira Zeferino, and physical therapist Alcino Costa Leme. The researchers are now preparing a clinical trial with a larger number of patients. This will be one of the last steps before production of the ventilator is approved by ANVISA, Brazil's national health surveillance authority. Read on...

News-Medical.Net: Brazilian researchers design low-cost mechanical ventilators
Author: Emily Henderson


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 30 apr 2020

In the digital era, it is imperative for nonprofit leaders to embrace technology and adapt to change effectively. Practicing concepts of 'change management' helps in the technological transformation. Aparna Kothary, director of technology operations at Global Citizen Year, had to implement new technology to help her nonprofit, which organizes gap year study-abroad programs for high school seniors, measure the impact of their work. She says, 'When you put a lot of work into building something, you think it's great and you want everybody else to think it's great, but approaching it with humility is so important...If our end goal is user adoption, it's our responsibility to train people in a way that that works for them.' Setting expectations for new technology adopters is also important. She adds, 'Instead of saying - Here's this shiny new tool we are going to use forever - maybe say - This is phase one of a three-year project, and every year w're going to improve a little bit more...' According to the second annual Nonprofit Trends Report produced by Salesforce, leadership must not only lead the adoption of new technologies but also help nurture a culture that is open to embracing new technology in the first place. But 45% of nonprofits state that they lack the flexibility and adaptiveness that the adoption of new technology demands. Prof. Alva H. Taylor of Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College says, 'Leadership has to understand it and know the importance of it, and also communicate (that importance) to everybody in their organization...might involve showing how the new tool is compatible with how they've done their work in the past, while 'really trumpeting the benefits' of adoption.' The Nonprofit Trends Report also shows that, on average, different departments have different rates of adoption of new technologies, and suggests that without full adoption of technology nonprofits may not get the maximum return on investment. Planning is essential along with leadership. 85% of the nonprofits surveyed in the report say that technology is key to the success of an organization like the one they work for, but only 23% say they have a long-term vision for the technology they plan on implementing. Sarah Angel-Johnson, CIO at the education nonprofit Year Up, says that it leads to 'rocks and pebbles' problem. She comments, 'Let's not talk about the technology or the architecture first. Let's talk about the human on the other side (experiencing a digital innovation). If you have a jar and you fill it with sand first, then pebbles and rocks, it won't all fit. But if you fill the jar first with rocks and the pebbles and then finally sand, it will all fit.' This means that leadership needs to establish priority projects and execute on them before pivoting to anything else. Developing nonprofit-wide strategy requires leadership buy-in and is necessary for long-term success. Jarrod Bell, CTO at Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, says, 'Painting what the vision was for technology at our organization, tying that to the mission, having that message come from our president and CEO, having that message resonated by our board...reverberate those messages as well, and then repeating it over, and over, and over again.' Rebeca Johnson, VP of constituent experience and digital transformation at the American Heart Association, says, 'Transformation is difficult, because transformation is change, and change is hard. But the world has changed and we have to change with it.' Read on...

Stanford Social Innovation Review: Being a Digital-First Leader
Author: Adrienne Day


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 26 apr 2020

It is important to be selective and careful while choosing which nonprofits to support and promote. Even more so during times of crisis or economic recession as every dollar of contribution or effort needs to be most effective. In such situations, like the present COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofits are expected to serve more while facing resource challenges. Prof. Amanda J. Stewart of NC State University, whose research focuses on nonprofit organizations and foundations, suggests what to consider while supporting nonprofits during disasters like COVID-19 - (1) Nonprofits that provide essential services: Sustained support is needed for nonprofits that respond directly to human suffering in crisis and also essential human services and local community needs. (2) Nonprofits that need cash: Financial donations are critical as they support nonprofits to pay their bills etc and gives them freedom to provide services where most needed in whatever form. (3) Generosity can be specific to these times: Creativity in generosity becomes valuable. Like for example face masks being sewn, remote volunteering options, socially safe distant blood drives etc during current pandemic. Consider what generosity looks like in your neighborhood or what is within your capabilities during crisis time. (4) Give responsibly: While doing so be aware that some 'responsible giving' criteria are biased. Before donating use your best judgment and look for signs of legitimacy and accountability. Smaller niche nonprofits with more grassroots efforts can be effective and responsive in crisis times. (5) Nonprofits are often local businesses: After the crisis has passed many nonprofits just like local businesses would need support to get back to start working. Consider the nonprofit causes you want to see sustained and support the nonprofits to resume functioning after the crisis. Read on...

NC State University News: How Can I Tell Which Charity to Support During This Crisis?
Author: Matt Shipman


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 29 feb 2020

Australia's retail industry is in turmoil with some of the big ones entering into voluntary administration. Tom Youl of Ibis World says, 'Weakness in the Australian economy, in particular, deteriorating conditions for households, has been placing pressure on the retail sector...Weak wage growth has been a contributing factor to decreasing discretionary incomes, but rising household costs have also played a part. The bad news for store-based retailers is online players are going to continue to grab a larger share of the pie.' Eloise Zoppos of Monash Business School says, 'Customers are seizing control of the retail landscape and those retailers not up to the changes proposed by their loyal shoppers will be left behind. Friendly and knowledgeable staff, and eye-catching and easy-to-navigate store designs, can help create memorable experiences that customers can share with their friends and family after their purchase.' Even though online shopping is on the rise but Monash's 2019 consumer survey reveals that more than 70% respondents prefer to shop in bricks-and-mortar stores. A positive story coming out of the retail churn is that of an electronics store JB HI-FI. Retail expert Amanda Stevens explains, 'If you've been into JB Hi-Fi lately, it's a fast-moving big box retailer, but they really have knowledgeable staff, which is always a sigh of relief for consumers versus other retailers you go into, and you could spend up to 15 minutes finding someone to give your money to.' Regarding the future of Australian retail Mr. Youl suggest, 'Many retailers have been thriving in recent years. A sound brand strategy and market position are always vital to success, but these factors become of paramount importance over periods of weak growth, as we have been experiencing.' Read on...

Yahoo Finance: Why Australia's retail industry is drowning
Author: Anastasia Santoreneos


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 11 jan 2020

Food security problem is a global concern. Everyone should become a part of the solution. Technologies like drones, data analytics, blockchain etc can assist in solving some of the issues related to farming and agriculture. This is what Agriculture 4.0 is all about. It is a new age of food production that leverages digital technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) to cater more precisely to the needs of crops, farmers and consumers. The coming together of - farming communities, researchers and policy makers; farm equipment and machinery, biotechnology, computer and telecommunication companies - can bring agriculture to a new state of success. Multinational agriculture and biotech companies are competing in the race to achieve the technological breakthroughs and expand their businesses and profits. Advocates of Agriculture 4.0 believe that it will solve the food security problems of the future. While critics on the other hand caution that without proper regulation few big companies will attain huge monopolistic power in global agricultural decision-making that will adversely affect small producers. According to the 2018 report Agriculture 4.0 by World Government Summit, approximately 800 million people currently suffer from hunger and by 2050 we will have to produce 70% more food to feed the world. Juanita Rodríguez, Vice-Chancellor of Innovation at Ean University (Colombia), says, 'Even though it's still not widely known, this fourth revolution in agriculture has been agile and its benefits are beginning to show, helping farmers maximise crop yields and developing ways to stop the epidemic of waste that destroys 45% of our supply.' In Mexico, Mexican engineer Julio López and German economist Manuel Richter, have created a platform helping producers to manage their crops using drone and satellite technology. Mr. Richter says, 'There is a huge potential to make the work more efficient, reduce agro-inputs, improve water use, lower environmental impact and create more economic sustainability for the farmer.' Big data use and privacy are other areas that are part of Agriculture 4.0. In 2018, North American companies spent almost US$ 20 billion on third-party data, 17.5% more than in 2017. Silvia Ribeiro, Latin America director of the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC), says, 'Companies have a huge amount of data at their disposal. They can convert it into another business. What lies behind this is the generation of new profits.' Gabriel Cuéllar, an AI researcher, says, 'Data is the new oil. Companies today need data to make their systems more powerful.' Big data and analytics has positive side in agriculture and can assist farmers in effectively detecting pests, spotting failures in agricultural processes, or understanding market demands. The question with data is not only who is collecting it, but who can analyse it, and who wins or loses as a result. In the report 'The Unsustainable Agriculture 4.0 - Digitization and Corporate Power in the Food Chain', Pat Mooney of ETC explains his concerns on big data in agriculture. He believes that the concentration of power in agricultural data collection could result in a few companies controlling seed patenting data, pesticides, fertilisers and machinery, leaving little or no option for farmers and workers to choose what they buy. In recent times many multinationals have been drawn into controversy regarding Agriculture 4.0. According to Ms. Rodríguez, there is also a significant hacking risk associated with Internet of Things devices. Dennis Escudero from UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says, 'The profile of the farmer is changing. It is more digital. You have to understand the new tools. They don't threaten farmers, they empower them.' Read on...

Diálogo Chino: Agriculture 4.0 promises to transform food production
Authors: Emilio Godoy, Alejandra Cuéllar


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 | 29 nov 2019

Traditional market research involves quantitative methods like group surveys or self-reporting to obtain valuable data, but to get the whole story, Prof. Rebecca Rast of marketing department at Missouri State University, has embarked upon a new methodology of research that utilizes iMotion software technology and uses facial expression analysis to develop a deeper understanding into the complexity of human behavior in the marketing field. iMotion technology captures physiological reactions, such as how humans think, feel, act and respond, in real time and helps to quantify engagement and emotional responses. The software can measure seven core emotions: joy, anger, fear, disgust, contempt, sadness and surprise. Prof. Rast says, 'I'm continuing to think of other applications I can use the software for to continue to look at marketing behavior...If I can share it with my students so they understand the outcomes, then I can apply it right back into the classroom when it comes to topics such as consumer behavior.' Read on...

Missouri State News: Understanding consumers through emotion
Author: NA


Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 28 nov 2019

Team of researchers from Poland's Łódź University of Technology (ŁUT) led by Prof. Katarzyna Grabowska, the dean of the Faculty of Material Technologies and Textile Design, have developed a textile charger, which allows to charge phones, tablets, and other portable electronic devices using the power generated by their users' physical activity. Monika Malinowska-Olszowy, the vice dean of the faculty and member of the research team, says, 'The textile charger for mobile electronic devices is an inseparable part of the fabric or knitwear from which it is made, such as clothing...This invention replaces heavy, large batteries and power banks that often contain toxic substances. It is shock resistant and weatherproof. The main purpose of this technology is to ensure its users with uninterrupted access to electricity to sustain the operations of their mobile devices. As a result, this will exclude various problematic processes related to frequent charging of mobile phones or tablets.' ŁUT research has focused on the development of innovative textile inventions. Some of the latest examples include textile clothing for premature infants that is to protect them against dehydration and ensure thermal stability through special layered textile systems, and a prototype textronics solution that allows the integration of muscle-stimulating electrodes within various types of clothing, such as underwear, wristbands and socks, and use it to treat patients with various diseases that require such stimulation, among others. Read on...

Innovation In Textiles: Polish researchers develop textile mobile device charger
Author: NA


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 | 14 nov 2019

Achieving global food security is a challenge that requires all humanity to participate and work together. It is imperative to improve food production and distribution, tackle environmental degradation and climate change, alleviate poverty and resolve conflicts through peaceful means. Prof. Miguel Altieri of University of California at Berkeley focuses his research on the concepts of agroecology. His group's research and publications aid in the emergence of agroecology as the discipline that provides the basic ecological principles for how to study, design, and manage sustainable agroecosystems that are both productive and natural resource conserving, and that are also culturally-sensitive, socially-just and economically viable. He explains that urban agriculture has potential to enhance food security in US cities. According to him, 'I believe that raising fresh fruits, vegetables and some animal products near consumers in urban areas can improve local food security and nutrition, especially for underserved communities.' US Dept. of Agriculture estimates that for 1 out of 8 citizens food insecurity is a near-term risk. The current food distribution system in cities of Califormia, where large population resides, requires enormous amounts of energy and generates significant greenhouse gas emissions. Prof. Altieri says, 'The food it delivers fails to reach 1 of every 8 people in the region who live under the poverty line - mostly senior citizens, children and minorities. Access to quality food is limited both by poverty and the fact that on average, California’s low-income communities have 32.7% fewer supermarkets than high-income areas within the same cities.' In the past 30 years, urban farming has grown by more than 30% in the US. Moreover, it is estimated that urban agriculture can meet 15 to 20% of global food demand. But, it is yet to be seen what level of food self-sufficiency it can realistically ensure for cities. There are limitations and challenges. According to a survey, 51 countries do not have enough urban area to meet a recommended nutritional target of 300 grams per person per day of fresh vegetables. Moreover, it estimated, urban agriculture would require 30% of the total urban area of those countries to meet global demand for vegetables. Land tenure issues and urban sprawl could make it hard to free up this much land for food production. Prof. Altieri explains, 'Although urban agriculture has promise, a small proportion of the food produced in cities is consumed by food-insecure, low-income communities. Many of the most vulnerable people have little access to land and lack the skills needed to design and tend productive gardens.' Cuban model of urban farming can be applied, where local urban farmers were trained to use well-tested agroecological methods to cultivate diverse vegetables, roots, tubers and herbs in relatively small spaces. In Cuba, over 300000 urban farms and gardens produce about 50% of the island's fresh produce supply, along with 39000 tons of meat and 216 million eggs. Most Cuban urban farmers reach yields of 44 pounds (20 kilograms) per square meter per year. Access to land and unaffordable water for irrigation are critical challenges for urban farming in US. Discounted water rates and land reforms specifically for urban farming can provide a boost to the concept. Prof. Altieri says, 'Cities have limited ability to deal with food issues within their boundaries, and many problems associated with food systems require action at the national and international level. However, city governments, local universities and nongovernment organizations can do a lot to strengthen food systems, including creating agroecological training programs and policies for land and water access. The first step is increasing public awareness of how urban farming can benefit modern cities.' Read on...

The Conversation: How urban agriculture can improve food security in US cities
Author: Miguel Altieri


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 | 24 oct 2019

Concrete is a preferred material, second-most used (about 22 billion ton annually), in the building and construction industry. But, it is also second-largest emitter of Carbon dioxide, as cement manufacturing accounts for 5-7% of annual emissions. According to Lucy Rodgers of BBC News, 'If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter in the world - behind China and the US.' In order to meet the requirements of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, annual cement emissions must fall by 16% by 2030. This situation brings concrete at the cusp of innovation, encouraging architects and scientists to experiment with concrete and help evolve its greener variants. Most innovations in this regard focus on reduction of cement in the concrete mix. MIT researchers developed an experimental method of manufacturing cement while eliminating CO2 emissions. Researchers at Lancaster University in the UK unveiled a novel approach of using nanoplatelets extracted from carrots and root vegetables to enhance concrete mixes. Dr. Sandra Manso-Blanco's approach of 'bioreceptive concrete' has structural concrete layered with materials to encourage the growth of CO2-absorbing moss and lichen. Another alternative mixture becoming mainstream in construction is GFRC (Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete). The material consists of a mortar made of concrete, sand, alkali-resistant glass fiber and water. Plasticity is one of the main qualities of GFRC, enabling the molding of thinner and thus lighter façade pieces. Another novel approach to concrete used by Zaha Hadid Architects is 3D-knitted shell. Termed as KnitCandela, it is inspired by Spanish-Mexican architect and engineer Felix Candela's inventive concrete shell structures. The knitted fabric for KnitCandela was developed at ETH Zurich. ETH Zurich has been at the forefront of a number of innovations concerning concrete. With the intention of maximizing available space and avoiding steep construction costs, researchers from ETH Zurich's Department of Architecture have devised a concrete floor slab that with a thickness of a mere 2 cm, remains load-bearing and simultaneously sustainable. The institute also showcased the potential of robotically 3D printed concrete. Read on...

ArchDaily: What is the Future of Concrete in Architecture?
Author: Niall Patrick Walsh


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 | 26 aug 2019

Research study, 'Onboard Evolution of Understandable Swarm Behaviors', published in Advanced Intelligent Systems by researchers from University of Bristol (Simon Jones, Sabine Hauert) and University of the West of England (Alan F. Winfield, Matthew Studley), brings development of a new generation of swarming robots which can independently learn and evolve new behaviours in the wild a step closer. Researchers used artificial evolution to enable the robots to automatically learn swarm behaviours which are understandable to humans. This could create new robotic possibilities for environmental monitoring, disaster recovery, infrastructure maintenance, logistics and agriculture. This new approach uses a custom-made swarm of robots with high-processing power embedded within the swarm. In most recent approaches, artificial evolution has typically been run on a computer which is external to the swarm, with the best strategy then copied to the robots. Prof. Jones says, 'Human-understandable controllers allow us to analyse and verify automatic designs, to ensure safety for deployment in real-world applications.' Researchers took advantage of the recent advances in high-performance mobile computing, to build a swarm of robots inspired by those in nature. Their 'Teraflop Swarm' has the ability to run the computationally intensive automatic design process entirely within the swarm, freeing it from the constraint of off-line resources. Prof. Hauert says, 'This is the first step towards robot swarms that automatically discover suitable swarm strategies in the wild. The next step will be to get these robot swarms out of the lab and demonstrate our proposed approach in real-world applications.' Prof. Winfield says, 'In many modern AI systems, especially those that employ Deep Learning, it is almost impossible to understand why the system made a particular decision...An important advantage of the system described in this paper is that it is transparent: its decision making process is understandable by humans.' Read on...

Engineering.com: Robots Learn Swarm Behaviors, Aim to Escape the Lab
Author: NA


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

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