Weekend Briefing No. 218

Welcome to the weekend. Hi from London! It was great to connect with so many of you at Oxford this week. I’m always impressed with the caliber of the Weekend Briefing community. You are awesome. That is all.

This week there were a number of award / prize announcements from Skoll, TED and Fast Company, check them out below. Cheers!

Prime Numbers

6 – This year there were 6 Skoll Awardees for Social Entrepreneurship given to transformative leaders whose organizations disrupt the status quo, drive sustainable large-scale change.

4.85 – In the early days of Uber, in 2007, the average driver score was pretty, well, average at 3.74 stars. Over time that changed. By May 2016, it had climbed to 4.85 stars.

3 – For every dollar the US spends on solar energy, China spends 3.


My favorite Skoll Awardee this year is MyAgro. In many sub-Saharan African countries, local farmers have money at harvest time, but by planting time, when they needed to buy seed and fertilizer, their money has run out. Anushka Ratnayake worked for a microcredit organization in Rwanda. “I kept hearing people saying: ‘can I overpay my loan’? They were using the language of credit but describing a savings program. I thought: what if I created a model for farmers to save?” She came up with the idea for myAgro, a pioneering micro-savings project, which now operates in Mali and Senegal. With myAgro’s Mobile Layaway platform, farmers save for seeds, fertilizer and specialized training via scratch cards – in the same way they might buy phone credit. The cards are bought at the local convenience store, and farmers then text the number on the card to their myAgro account. Farmers who participated had a 60% increase in their annual average income. The Guardian (11 minutes)


This week at the Skoll World Forum, TED and the Skoll Foundation announced the $250MM Audacious Project. The core idea of The Audacious Project intends to do three things simultaneously, in order to spark change at scale. You can think of it as an attempt to what an IPO for the nonprofit world might look like, or simply as a thrilling way for private individuals to pool resources and work together in the service of entrepreneurs who could change the world. Here are the three key steps: 1) Invite some of the world’s greatest change agents to dream like they’ve never dreamed before and create ideas that are truly audacious in their scope and impact. 2) Vet the ideas to find which genuinely offer a path to execution, scale and impact. Select the best and help shape them into actionable, multi-year plans that are both viable and sustainable. 3) Present them to the world in a single moment that provides as much visibility and excitement as possible, and invite people to support them … together. A tip of the hat to my friend and Weekend Briefing reader Dan Pollotta for his work on this initiative. Fast Company (3 minutes) 

World Changing Ideas

This week, Fast Company introduced the winners of their annual World Changing Ideas awards. I was fortunate enough to be on the judging panel and believe we selected the boldest, most innovative and impactful projects across 12 categories, ranging from urban design to advertising to energy. There’s an idea to solve the affordable housing crisis in Los Angeles by building small units in people’s backyards. A concept to address gun violence by rebranding melted-down gunmetal as a valuable metal. An initiative to build global empathy among students by connecting classrooms around the world via video conferencing. And so many more. Check it out. Fast Company (15 minutes)

CRISPR & Development

According to Bill Gates, eliminating the most persistent diseases and causes of poverty will require scientific discovery and technological innovations. That includes CRISPR and other technologies for targeted gene editing. Over the next decade, gene editing could help humanity overcome some of the biggest and most persistent challenges in global health and development. The technology is making it much easier for scientists to discover better diagnostics, treatments, and other tools to fight diseases that still kill and disable millions of people every year, primarily the poor. It is also accelerating research that could help end extreme poverty by enabling millions of farmers in the developing world to grow crops and raise livestock that are more productive, more nutritious, and hardier. New technologies are often met with skepticism. But if the world is to continue the remarkable progress of the past few decades, it is vital that scientists, subject to safety and ethics guidelines, be encouraged to continue taking advantage of such promising tools as CRISPR. Foreign Affairs (14 minutes)

Seawater Greenhouse

The world isn’t short of water, it’s just in the wrong place, and it’s too salty. Seawater Greenhouse transforms two abundant resources – sunshine and seawater – into freshwater for growing crops in arid, coastal regions such as Africa’s horn. On a 25-hectare plot of desert land close to the coastline in Somaliland, they’re building the region’s first sustainable, drought-resistant greenhouse. Using solar power to pump in seawater from the coastline and desalinate it on site, the company is generating freshwater to irrigate plants, and water vapor to cool and humidify the greenhouse interior. In January – less than a year after its launch – this improbable desert oasis produced its first harvest of lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes. Wired (9 minutes)

Walmart of the Future

The Walmart of the future relies more heavily on the gig economy and automation. This is an indication of the fierce competition between Walmart, the world’s largest private employer, and Amazon. Over the past few weeks, Walmart executives have sketched a picture of the company’s future that features more self-checkouts, augmented reality shopping, and perhaps a store without checkout lines.  Additionally, they are piloting a grocery-delivery business—soon escalating to 100 cities from a pilot program in six cities. Personal shoppers will fill plastic totes with avocados and paper towels from Walmart store shelves, and hand off packages to crowdsourced drivers idling in the parking lot. Assembly will be outsourced, too: Workers on Handy, an online marketplace for home services, will mount televisions and assemble furniture. The Atlantic (6 minutes)

Intentional Parenting

What does the data tell us about how to be a good parent? Here are some nuggets: 1) The less rules you have, the more creative the child. 2) If you are going to create rules, they shouldn’t be about the rules themselves, they should be about the underlying values that they represent. 3) The conversation about “What did you do at school today?” is not that helpful. What’s much more helpful is “what’s something you did for someone else this week?” 4) Any time kids are interested in learning about something, find a book on it. Their challenge then is to learn about it, maybe to teach it to the rest of the family. Farnam Street (4 minutes) 

Weekend Wisdom

“I think the mistake we made is viewing our responsibility as just building tools, rather than viewing our whole responsibility as making sure those tools were used for good.” –Mark Zuckerberg before a joint hearing of two Senate committees Tuesday 

About the Weekend Briefing

A Saturday morning briefing on innovation & society by Kyle Westaway – Managing Partner of Westaway and author of Profit & Purpose.

Photo by: Michael D Beckwith