Social enterprises done right


Kosovo, Darfour, Guatemala … a modern rogue states gallery. Apart from the obvious, what do they have in common? Well it seems they have some extraordinary technology put in place by a little known Silicon Valley software company.

Last night I had the good fortune to attend another excellent event at the Silicon Valley Innovation Institute (SVII). The guest speaker was Jim Fruchterman of Benetech.

Benetech provide software to human rights groups to enable them to record incidents and have them safely stored outside the country. Before Benetech came along as much as 95% of the records of human rights atrocities would disappear for one reason or another. Even with the records abuse is difficult to prove; without them it is impossible.

But Benetech’s solution doesn’t stop there. They then apply sampling and statistical analysis to the data collected and enable groups like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations to see the patterns and accurately calculate the extent of the crimes. There data assessments are often the key evidence used at war crimes tribunals and were instrumental in convicting Slobodan Milošević.

Jim Fructerman is a compelling speaker and his passion and knowledge make listening to his story inspiring and heart warming. When we are searching for that billion dollar idea he is searching for ways to make a social difference.

His company also provides digital reading materials for the blind and for visually impaired individuals and has, through that same charm and passion, persuaded publishers to let him have their publications direct from the publisher in XML format.

He has a 100 ideas on how we can use the resources in the valley to bring justice to the dark corners of the world, bring lifestyle improvements to the differently able and bring change to the quality of our environment. If you just made your exit and you have a million bucks you’d like to invest in leaving the planet in a better shape than you found it track Jim down.

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