UK Social Enterprise Will Bypass Big Drug Companies to Make COVID-19 Vaccine Available to the Poor

A new UK social enterprise has been formed to bring a promising COVID-19 vaccine to the world, sidestepping large pharmaceutical companies to make sure it’s made available and affordable to the poorest countries.

Founded by Imperial College London, VacEquity Global Health (VGH) will waive royalties and only charge modest cost-plus prices for the vaccine, enough to fund its ongoing research and accelerate global distribution.

VGH’s social mission is to rapidly develop vaccines to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and distribute them as widely as possible in the UK and abroad. “Right now we think the focus should be on how to solve the problem rather than how to make money out of it,” Simon Hepworth, the director of enterprise at Imperial, told the Thompson Reuters Foundation. “Social enterprise fits with our mission: applying scientific discoveries for the benefit of society.”

VGH is supported by Imperial and Morningside Ventures, a venture investor specializing in companies that develop innovative science for the public good. Morningside and Imperial also plan to launch a separate startup called VaXEquity (VXT), which will develop self-amplifying RNA technology used in the vaccine to treat other health conditions beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

The two new ventures are built upon the research of Professor Robin Shattock, who pioneered the technology of self-amplifying RNA. Shattock is Head of Mucosal Infection and Immunity at Imperial College London and co-founder of both VGH and VXT.

this photo shows the gloved hands of a scientist at VacEquity Global Health doing research on a vaccine for the coronavirus

VacEquity Global Health’s vaccine uses self-amplifying RNA technology to trigger an immune response in a host cell and produce immunity to COVID-19.

For COVID-19, the technology is used to deliver genetic instructions to muscle cells to make the “spike” protein found on the surface of the coronavirus. This protein triggers an immune response in the host to produce immunity to the coronavirus.

The vaccine will enter phase one of human trials with 300 people on June 15. Another trial involving 6,000 people is planned for October. If these human trials are successful, the Imperial vaccine can be distributed in the UK and overseas early next year, Imperial College London reported in a press release.

The quick progress is possible because self-amplifying RNA technology lends itself to rapid manufacturing scale-up, the company says. A large quantity of vaccine doses can be made in manufacturing facilities with a small footprint. The team’s supply chain and manufacturing partners will be ready to produce tens of millions of vaccines from early 2021, the company said.

“We have spent an intense six months to fast-track our vaccine to the clinic,” Shattock said. “Now we are ready to combat the virus through our clinical trials. We are grateful to the thousands of people helping us advance the vaccine: from donors, investors and the government to volunteers for our clinical trials. These new enterprises are the most effective way for us to deliver COVID-19 vaccines quickly, cheaply and internationally, while preparing for future pandemics.”

photo of a sample dish used in research for a COVID-19 vaccine at Imperial College London

If upcoming human trials are successful, the Imperial vaccine can be distributed in the UK and overseas early next year, according to VGH and Imperial College London.

Kate Bingham, chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, said the UK is making “remarkable” progress in developing a vaccine “and the speed with which Imperial has progressed its self-amplifying mRNA vaccine has been breathtaking. Imperial’s technology shows great promise, so I welcome this further move to accelerate development of a potential vaccine.”

Professor Alice Gast, president of Imperial College London, said VGH and VXT “will fight disease, create thousands of jobs and fast-track scientific advances. We are determined to both defeat the current coronavirus and improve the world’s readiness to fight pandemics for generations to come.”

Stedman Graham: Self-Leadership and Finding Your Own Identity

Among his many books, businessman and educator Stedman Graham is the author of “Identity Leadership: To Lead Others You Must First Lead Yourself” and the longtime partner of Oprah Winfrey. In this discussion with Kevin Edwards of Real Leaders Magazine, Graham talks about his “Nine-Step Success” process. It all starts, he says, with finding your own identity. “If you don’t know who you are, you don’t know where you’re going and you probably don’t know how you’re going to get there,” Graham says. It’s crucial, he notes, to “define yourself as opposed to having the world define you.”

Related: Why Mary Kay, Inc. is accelerating women entrepreneurs

From an entrepreneurial perspective, Graham also talks about overcoming your personal history and hardwiring; monetizing your purpose and skills; and managing a business as an ecosystem. And he details the importance of self-leadership “based on the philosophy that you can’t lead anybody else until you first lead yourself. We need to focus on those skills and those disciplines … that help us to be the best for ourselves first, so that we can have the foundational work to … transfer those same skills over to an organization or a group or a team [and] create effective performance.”

 

About Real Leaders Magazine: Located on the web at real-leaders.com, Real Leaders Magazine is the world’s first sustainable business and leadership magazine. Real Leaders aims to inspire better leaders for a better world, a world of far-sighted, sustainable leadership that helps find solutions to the problems that 7.5 billion people have created on a small planet. Click here to subscribe to Real LeadersFor more Real Leaders video content, check out their Youtube page here.

Video: Why Mary Kay, Inc. Is Accelerating Women Entrepreneurs

Mary Kay, Inc. last fall launched the Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator, a multipartner initiative designed to inspire, educate and empower women entrepreneurs around the world. In this interview with Kevin Edwards of Real Leaders Magazine, Deborah Gibbins, COO of Mary Kay, Inc., describes the program, its goals and its partners, including six United Nations agencies, and also talks about what being a leader means to her.

Related: Mary Kay, Inc. aims to empower women with Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator

Gibbins notes that her company was founded by Mary Kay Ash, “who got frustrated because she had trainees promoted above her all the time, so she created her own company to create opportunities (for women) … When women kind of get frustrated and they see lack of opportunities, often they turn to starting their own businesses. Women are really at a disadvantage when it comes to funding, access to mentors, access to networks … so there’s so much work that has to happen, and that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

About Real Leaders Magazine: Located on the web at real-leaders.com, Real Leaders Magazine is the world’s first sustainable business and leadership magazine. Real Leaders aims to inspire better leaders for a better world, a world of far-sighted, sustainable leadership that helps find solutions to the problems that 7.5 billion people have created on a small planet. Click here to subscribe to Real Leaders. For more Real Leaders video content, check out their Youtube page here.

Mary Kay, Inc. Aims to Empower Women Through Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator

Mary Kay Inc., a global marketing company specializing in beauty, skin care and makeup products, aims to inspire, educate and empower women around the world with its new Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator, a multipartner initiative launched in late 2019.

The initiative is a strategic collaboration developed in consultation with six United Nations agencies: UN Women; United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP); the International Labour Organization (ILO); the International Trade Centre (ITC); UN Global Impact; and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Related video: Why Mary Kay, Inc. Is Accelerating Women’s Entrepreneurship

According to a Mary Kay press release, the Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator will offer a guided digital curriculum supplemented by on-the-ground training and mentorship. In addition, it will serve as an advocacy platform to eliminate entrepreneurial roadblocks for women, ranging from digital literacy to legal reform—enabling women to fully participate in the growth of their local and national economies.

The Accelerator will support global efforts to encourage businesses to establish and expand relationships with women-owned businesses, including corporate procurement. Future expansion of the program will include funding opportunities accessible to women who complete the curriculum.

“Mary Kay has empowered women through entrepreneurship and supported their aspirations for financial security and independence for more than 56 years,” said Deborah Gibbins, Chief Operating Officer of Mary Kay. “Private and public-sector organizations must work together to ensure all women entrepreneurs have access to the tools and education they need to make their dreams of financial independence a reality, lifting up their families and communities.”

photo of

The Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator initially will be available in six languages, with more to come as the program expands to 192 countries. The Accelerator also will convene an advisory committee of entrepreneurs, celebrities and advocates to oversee the expansion and promotion of the program.

“An informed woman with money in her pocket is an empowered woman. With the growing number of female innovators active today, women’s entrepreneurship and empowerment are strongly on the rise,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women. “The advocates from across the world who are joining forces to create the Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator will enable more women than ever to become knowledgeable entrepreneurs, cultivate financial independence, and support their local communities.”

“At ITC we look forward to joining the Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator through our SheTrades Initiative to achieve real progress on achieving SDG5 to empower all women and girls,” said Arancha González, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre. “With this partnership we will empower women and girls to pursue their entrepreneurship dreams and equip them with the skills needed to turn those dreams into business success.”

The Women’s Entrepreneurship Accelerator is the latest in a series of recent steps taken by Mary Kay to empower women and improve their lives around the world. Earlier this year, Mary Kay added its name to a growing roster of businesses and corporations committing to the Women’s Empowerment Principles, a joint project of the UN Global Compact and UN Women developed to emphasize the business case for corporate action to promote gender equality. Mary Kay is also a signatory of the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. During the United Nations General Assembly, Mary Kay will sponsor the WE Empower UN SDG Challenge, the first global business competition for women entrepreneurs convened by renowned fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.

The Comforts of Home: Scottish Social Entrepreneur Is the Landlord Every Tenant Deserves

Susan Aktemel was a social entrepreneur in Scotland before most Scots even knew the word. Now she’s considered a national leader in the social-enterprise sector, thanks especially to her second venture, Homes For Good, which helps people in need find affordable high-quality housing.

Based in Glasgow, Homes For Good, a joint venture with London-based social-impact investors Impact Ventures UK, was Scotland’s first mission-driven letting agent. Letting is a term similar in meaning to leasing—it relates to renting properties to tenants for a limited duration.

Related: Want to get first-hand experience with Scotland’s social-enterprise sector? Join the Sullivan Foundation’s Study Abroad in Scotland trip to Edinburgh this summer.

Homes For Good works with people and families with limited housing choices, including those who are experiencing or are on the verge of homelessness. The company manages a portfolio of around 500 homes and works with 130 landlords and 800 tenants in the Glasgow area and western Scotland. It uses a holistic approach to supporting its tenants, helping them with benefits claims, financial management, cooking meals, education and getting mental health support.

In addition to attracting more than €12 million from investors since its inception, Homes For Good won the Excellence in the Private Rented Sector award at the CIH Scotland Excellence Awards in 2019. “Over half of our staff have personal experience of poor conditions in privately rented homes, while our support model was produced with tenants with direct experience of insecure and low-quality rental housing,” Aktemel said at the time.

this photo shows Susan Aktemel, founder of Homes For Good

Susan Aktemel, founder of Homes For Good in Glasgow, Scotland.

The social venture also received €2.4 million in funding from Scotland’s National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF) last September.

Aktemel entered the social-venture field in 1994 with Impact Arts, a community arts management agency. The business uses the arts and creativity to bring about social change, working with children, young people and the elderly. Prior to founding Impact Arts, she taught adult literacy in poor sections of Glasgow. “I ended up working with people who couldn’t read and write their own names and addresses in one of the most deprived parts of the city,” she said in an interview with the Impact Boom podcast. “That made me take the decision that I was going to focus my professional time on helping people change their lives.”

Related: Scottish government commits millions to funding social enterprises in 2020

In an August 2018 interview with the International Network of Street Papers (INSP), Aktemel said she launched Homes For Good after working with letting agencies during her 10-plus years as a private landlord and seeing firsthand the problems faced by vulnerable renters. She decided to start her own letting agency and use her experience as a social entrepreneur “to run it totally differently.”

“It all stemmed from dissatisfaction with letting agents, both from my position as a landlord and from my tenants,” she told INSP. “We started up on a shoestring, and there was a gradual build-up, so in that sense it started similarly to many social enterprises. What made the logistical beginning of the business different was [that] my track record was more experienced than most start-ups, and so we had more momentum. I saw a need, a gap in the letting agent business model—this massive social need—so I looked to fill it.”

She said she designed the business model “from an aggrieved standpoint: letting agents would always deliver rent late, there was a lack of communication, always issues with repairs, and unpleasant surprises.”

Aktemel’s approach is focused on improving communications among all parties involved in a letting agreement. “We try to build relationships,” she told INSP. “We look for tenants that we’re not setting up to fail, and we’re giving people homes and relating to them as people rather than customers or clients or someone simply to get money from. We are all just human beings.”

Related: Sullivan Foundation announces Study Abroad in Scotland program for 2020

“We work across the whole letting market—not just with marginalized people—as this is what keeps the business model viable,” she added. “But, importantly, no matter what type of home you end up with, no matter the location, no matter the price or rent, everyone is treated the same.”

the Homes For Good building

In the Impact Boom podcast, Aktemel said social enterprise has blossomed in Scotland in part because it’s such a small country. “What that means is that you can get access to who you need to access very quickly,” she explained. “The networks are good. Because we’ve got devolved government, we have access to politicians.”

Scotland’s government “gets social enterprise,” she added. Even with shifts in political winds, “the commitment to social enterprise has strengthened, so when government gets behind something and then puts the resources in place and talks about it, that’s when things can start to happen. So over the last 10 [or] 12 years, there has been this brilliant ecosystem for social enterprise that has been created in Scotland, where, if you have an idea and you need 2,000 pounds, there’s an organization that can help you—right through to if you need to raise a seven-figure investment, there’s an organization that can help you. And lots of different organizations in between.”

 

Teeniors Helps Teens, Senior Citizens Bond Through Technology

Senior citizens know a lot about life, but digital technology leaves many of them stumped and feeling isolated in a fast-paced, rapidly evolving world. A social enterprise called Teeniors, located in Albuquerque, works to solve that problem by matching elderly adults with tech-savvy young people who can explain the complexities of using a smartphone, computer or tablet.

Founder Trish Lopez first pitched the idea for Teeniors at the inaugural Startup Weekend Women’s event in New Mexico in 2015. After winning first place in the competition, Teeniors was chosen to participate in a local business accelerator and soon acquired its first client. Operating as a small social venture with a nonprofit arm, Teeniors has tutored more than 2,000 older adults in Albuquerque while providing paid, meaningful work to dozens of teenagers and millennials, according to the company’s website.

this photo shows a Teeniors teen with an elderly client

A tutor from Teeniors helps a senior citizen understand how to operate her smartphone.

In a recent story by NPR, Lopez said she started the company after seeing her own mother struggling with her computer. “She’d lose a password, she’d lose a document, and then she didn’t know some simple commands like Control Z that could undo everything she had just done,” Lopez told NPR. “And so she would start all over again.”

Related: Editor of Rhodes College’s street newspaper hopes to drive social change through economics

Teenagers who work in the Teeniors program develop fundamental “people skills,” such as patience, empathy and listening. Their senior-adult pupils learn how to operate their smartphones, navigate their tablets, and create, save and print documents on laptops and desktops. The teenage tutors also teach seniors the ins and outs of everything from Apple TVs to Amazon Echo.

Teeniors offers private individual sessions and group events. Private sessions at the Teeniors office cost $49.95 per hour, while sessions at the client’s home cost $59.95 per hour. Group sessions cost between $300 and $500, depending on the number of attendees.

The young tutors, meanwhile, earn $15 an hour for individual lessons and $10 an hour for group sessions.

Trish Lopez, founder of Teeniors

Teeniors launched a nonprofit arm in 2017, thus qualifying for grants to expand its services to low-income clients who can’t afford to pay. So far, the nonprofit has won $115,000 in grants from Comcast, Facebook, Hewitt Packard, Blue Cross Blue Shield New Mexico, the Albuquerque Community Foundation and the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, the Albuquerque Journal reports. Teeniors uses the grant money to offer free workshops throughout central New Mexico.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, Facebook last year awarded Teeniors a $40,000 grant to provide up to 60 free workshops at five senior centers in Valencia County. The social media giant wants to make sure consumers can use technology to improve their lives, William Marks, Facebook’s Western Region community development manager, told the newspaper.

“Teeniors takes the next generation of students and links them with generations of adults who didn’t grow up with technology,” Marks said. “It helps make the adults’ lives better, and it builds real connections by allowing teens and seniors to share and learn about each other, and the teens are getting paid. Everyone at Facebook just loves the program.”

Related: Students at Berry College help preserve elderly patients’ memories with heirloom books

Camilla Dodson, a 76-year-old who moved to the U.S. from Lesotho in southern Africa in 2000, said her workshop experience with Teeniors has liberated her. “Now I can carry the phone in the car, and I can make a 911 call if I need to or take pictures,” she told the Albuquerque Journal. “Now I’m free like everyone else.”

this photo shows Kaitlyn Akron, a Teeniors tutor

Teeniors tutor Kaitlyn Akron

Kaitlyn Akron, an 18-year-old college freshman, started working for Teeniors when she was just 14. “It’s given me a lot of confidence in myself to talk with people and to realize I can teach others about things that I know,” she told the Albuquerque Journal. “It’s really fulfilling. People would think it’s stressful coaching older people, but I love seeing that ‘a-ha’ moment when they get it.”

“I think that’s why we’ve been so successful,” Lopez told NPR. “The intergenerational learning experience is really remarkable, and that’s why I always say the main service we provide is not tech support. It is human connection.”

How to Solve the Global Extinction Crisis for Just $100 Billion

By Andrea Germanos, Staff Writer, Common Dreams

As the United Nations unveiled on Jan. 13 a draft proposal to address threats to biodiversity, a new report outlined a strategy for a U.S.-focused “visionary action to save life on Earth.”

The roadmap (pdf) was released Monday by the Center for Biological Diversity. It lays out specific steps for the United States to help end the global extinction crisis—at a cost of a relatively measly $100 billion, a fraction of what Congress recently allocated for defense spending.

From the ongoing “insect apocalypse” and the deterioration of  “ecosystems on which we and all other species depend” to the hurtling of roughly one million plant and animal species to the brink of extinction, the need for swift and far-reaching action is clear. “The presence of wildlife brings joy and enriches us all—and each extinction makes our home a lonelier and colder place for us and future generations,” the report states.

The weight of the problem is reflected in the report’s title: Saving Life on Earth (pdf).

Related: Reducing Carbon Emissions: Duke professor recommends strategy to break political stalemate on climate change

“Humans have never witnessed the profound level of wildlife losses unfolding in front of us right now,” said Tierra Curry, a scientist at the Center.

While the problem is global in scope, the report calls on the U.S. to be a leader in addressing the issue. It lists five broad policy changes to kickstart that effort:

  • Restore American Leadership at Global Level on Fighting the Extinction Crisis.
  • Protect Key Habitats by Creating 500 New National Parks, Wildlife Refuges and Marine Sanctuaries.
  • Restore the full power of the Endangered Species Act and Rebuild Wildlife Populations.
  • Establish Strict “No-Discharge” Pollution Limits That Are Protective of Wildlife.
  • Stem the Tide of Invasive Species.
this picture of a koala illustrates species threatened by the global extinction crisis

Australia’s bushfires are contributing to the global extinction crisis. (Photo by James Frid from Pexels)

Woven into those categories, which include congressional actions like expanding “the boundaries of most national parks so that they are ecologically viable and also resilient to threats like climate change,” are 10 actions the president should take on their own:

  1. Declare the global extinction crisis to be a national emergency.
  2. Establish 500 new national parks, wildlife refuges, and marine sanctuaries.
  3. Strengthen public-land management to prioritize biodiversity and maintain abundant wildlife.
  4. Protect all critically imperiled wildlife and plants that are not yet on the endangered species list.
  5. Implement an ecosystem-approach to recovery that protects habitat, fosters ecological processes, and addresses climate change.
  6. Require all federal agencies to develop proactive conservation plans for endangered species and to identify and protect critical habitat on their properties.
  7. Require the Environmental Protection Agency to adopt the precautionary principle when it regulates chemicals and pesticides.
  8. Ban the discharge of chemicals, pesticides, and pollutants into freshwater and marine ecosystems, and impose 100% recycling standards for all plastic products while we transition away from oil-based plastics.
  9. Require all federal agencies to use their full authorities to combat the spread of invasive species.
  10. Designate and protect wildlife corridors, including the construction of 1,000 new wildlife overpasses and underpasses.

Related: The pivotal role of youth fighting climate change

Despite the wide scope of the global extinction crisis problem, all is not bleak. “It is not too late to save the world’s natural heritage from annihilation,” the report states. The publication points to bright spots, such as dam removals that have helped restore salmon and other migratory fish and the rebounding of the bald eagle in the lower 48 states after the population was decimated by the use of DDT.

The price tag for the ambitious roadmap? $100 billion—just a fraction of the $738 billion military spending bill that a bipartisan Congress passed last month.

The report breaks down how the $100 billion should be allocated:

  • $20 billion to recover endangered species
  • $20 billion to create 500 new national parks, wildlife refuges, and national marine sanctuaries
  • $10 billion in assistance to the state Fish and Wildlife agencies to conserve declining wildlife
  • $10 billion for global coral restoration
  • $10 billion for neotropical migratory birds in the Western Hemisphere
  • $10 billion to save international biodiversity hotspots
  • $10 billion to combat illegal wildlife trafficking
  • $10 billion to address the spread of invasive species around the world.

“We are the first human generations to fully understand the consequences of mass extinction,” the report states. “The question now is simply, will we act to stop it?”

This story was edited slightly from the original article published on the Common Dreams website. The article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. 

 

Litter Police: Crew of Clean-Up Crows Roam Puy du Fou Theme Park

A crew of clean-up workers at the Puy du Fou theme park in western France has a major advantage over the average custodian: They can fly.

Six rooks, members of the crow family, roam around the park and pick up litter, such as discarded paper and cigarette butts. The birds, named Boubou, Bamboo, Bill, Black, Bricole and Baco, retrieve the litter and place it in a specially designed box. They’re immediately paid for their hard work in bird feed, of course.

Related: Hotel for dogs lets guests adopt stray pups in the lobby

“The park is very clean,” Puy du Fou President Nicolas de Villiers told NPR. “The purpose of the crows … is to educate people, to open their minds, to think, ‘OK, the birds are able to do something that we are much more able to do than them, so we should do this by ourselves.”

In other words: If a bird can do it, why can’t I?

Christophe Gaborit, who trains falcons for a falconry show at Puy du Fou, came up with the idea. The park had already trained crows to pick up roses and deliver them to a “princess” in a castle as part of the show, so he taught the rooks a similar skill with litter. “It became a game for them,” de Villiers told NPR. “They pick up the papers on the floor, and they are rewarded.”

this photo shows a crow picking up litter at Puy du Fou

One section of the box is designed to accept the litter, while another section dispenses food to the birds as a reward. The birds work four-day weeks, but they don’t take the place of human employees.

Crows, ravens and rooks are all known to be remarkably intelligent, capable of using tools, solving problems that require reasoning skills, recognizing human faces and even giving gifts to people who feed them.

 

Hotel for Dogs Lets Guests Foster or Adopt Stray Pups

Who needs room service when you can stay in a hotel that offers an adoptable shelter dog for company? That’s the idea behind a unique program at Home 2 Suites, an extended-stay hotel in Biloxi, Miss.

In a partnership with the Humane Society of South Mississippi, Home 2 Suites lets every dog has its day—or a month or a lifetime—with guests. As USA Today reports, the hotel has a large kennel in the lobby with specially chosen dogs in need of a home. Guests can opt to foster a dog for the length of their stay without making a commitment, but if they fall in love, they can fill out an application, pay a $50 fee at the concierge desk, and take it home furever.

Related: This 12-year-old social entrepreneur uses bowties to help shelter animals get adopted.

Once-homeless canines live the easy life in a hotel for dogs in Biloxi, Miss. (Photo by Humane Society of South Mississippi)

Located on the Gulf Coast, Biloxi is home to the sprawling Keesler Air Force Base, while nearby Gulfport has the Naval Construction Battalion Center. That means the region attracts numerous visitors for lengthy stays for military-related business. Many of these transient guests “stay for months at a time … and that’s just enough time to fall in love with a dog,” said Bianca Janik of the Humane Society of South Mississippi, in the USA Today story.

The hotel’s sales director, Teresa Johnston, hit upon the idea to create a long-term foster program embedded in the facility. “Teresa thought they needed to set their hotel apart, and this was it,” Janik told USA Today. “She wanted to have the business more involved with the community. It was a very out-of-the-box way to find our animals new homes, so we were on board.”

In addition to offering an adoption program at Homes 2 Suites, the Humane Society of Mississippi partners with local stores like PetSmart to find homes for adoptable animals.

Every dog has already been neutered or spayed, microchipped and gotten up to date on vaccinations and preventative heartworm medication. Not every dog in the shelter is a good candidate for the program, of course, and not everyone who applies to adopt a dog is allowed to do so, Janik told the paper. “We reserve the right to deny. (We) may tell them we don’t feel comfortable, come visit our shelter tomorrow, and we’ll find one that is right.”

Related: Rollins College students train service dogs for people with disabilities.

But as of late November last year, 33 guests had adopted dogs through the program. All in all, the shelter takes in about 8,000 dogs a year and manages to adopt out nearly 80 percent of them.

Stray animals are a major problem in Mississippi and throughout the American South. According to Mississippi Today, the Animal Legal Defense Fund ranks Mississippi as the nation’s second-worst state for animals, second only to Kentucky, which actually prohibits veterinarians from reporting animal abuse.

This “DoGoodr” Uses Technology to Feed the Hungry and Reduce Food Waste

As millions of Americans go hungry, restaurants across the country keep throwing away perfectly good food every day. It’s a troubling problem that social entrepreneur Jasmine Crowe hopes to solve—at least in the Atlanta area—with a mission-driven business called Goodr that uses technology to feed the hungry and reduce food waste.

Aside from the disturbing moral and ethical implications of tossing edible food in dumpsters, Crowe realized that, from the perspective of a business owner, wasted food is wasted money. She founded Goodr as a food waste management company and B corporation that helps businesses measure and reduce food waste, keep track of surplus food and earn tax savings while helping address the problem of food insecurity.

“Hunger is not an issue of scarcity. It’s a matter of logistics,” Crowe explained to Black Enterprise. “At Goodr, we’re solving the surplus food supply chain problem, ensuring the safe delivery of this food from businesses that have it to nonprofit organizations and people that need it, all while allowing businesses for the first time to be able to track, account, and earn from their donations. We focus on connecting the business and the nonprofit, and our logistics platform is what we built that does that for us.”

That logistics platform, an app called Blockchain, serves as a secure ledger. It allows companies to track the donations of their surplus food while taking advantage of significant tax deductions using Goodr’s IRS-compliant form. The platform provides predictive data to improve purchasing and make better production decisions, which helps reduce food waste. It also provides analytics on food waste, calculates tax savings for the food donated by Goodr’s clients and measures the community impact of their donations.

this photo depicts Jasmine Crowe and her Goodr team that works to feed the hungry and reduce food waste

Social entrepreneur Jasmine Crowe (third from left) leads the Goodr team in its mission to feed the hungry and reduce food waste in Atlanta.

As for the food itself, Goodr picks up donated food from the individual client businesses and delivers it to nonprofits, who then get it into the hands of hungry people. According to Forbes, Goodr’s clients include Turner Broadcasting Systems, Georgia World Congress Center and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, among others.

Crowe has been working to help feed the hungry and the food-insecure since she first moved to Atlanta six years ago. “I was just driving through downtown and saw hundreds of people that were experiencing homelessness on the streets,” she told Black Enterprise. “I felt really compelled that I had to do something.”

For starters, she began cooking and serving meals to the homeless, first in the streets and later in a pop-up restaurant called Sunday Soul that provided five-course meals to the homeless and hungry. She estimates she served more than 80,000 meals to the food-insecure since 2013. But she wasn’t getting any help from local businesses to pay for all that food.

“When a video from one of my pop-up restaurants went viral, I saw a lot of people asking me which restaurants and grocery stores donated the food, and the reality was that the answer was zero,” she recalled to Forbes in 2018. “It got me thinking, why don’t these restaurants and businesses donate food? This is when I started thinking of solutions to get this food to people in need. I knew there had to be a better way, and I saw technology as the conduit to the change I wanted to create.”

this photo shows a Goodr team member talking about reducing food waste and composting

Goodr isn’t just about feeding the hungry and reducing food waste. At a TasteofATL event at the Atlanta airport, Goodr’s “trash talkers” helped educate attendees on waste and compost.

Meanwhile, Crowe was also struck by the proliferation of food delivery companies like Uber Eats, DoorDash and Postmates. “It dawned on me that we were spending millions of dollars to create new technologies to get food to people who never have issues with access to food, but what were we doing with all the millions of people that are never knowing where their next meal is coming from?” Crowe told Black Enterprise.

Crowe sees Goodr as, first and foremost, a food waste management company, but it’s a company that uses surplus food as food should be used—to feed people, not rats in a landfill. “The businesses are already paying somebody to throw the food away,” she said in the Black Enterprise interview. “There’s always a fee that’s being paid to eliminate trash.”

Crowe’s business model creates a win-win-win: Goodr turns a profit while empowering other businesses to better serve their communities and feed the hungry—and reap tax rewards for doing the right thing. In the Forbes interview, Crowe said Goodr has diverted more than 1 million pounds of food from landfills while creating more than 940,000 meals for the hungry. “We’ve created programs like our pop-up grocery stores [and] a neighborhood eats program [and] created access to food [for] thousands of people who were faced with going to bed hungry simply because of transportation barriers that prevented people from accessing food.”