New EdX on Entrepreneurial Land Redevelopment Approach

I recently contributed to a book on Global Experiences in Land Readjustment organized by MIT and sponsored/published by UN-Habitat (United Nations Human Settlements Programme). Now, the lessons from this book are being offered in a free 5 week, e-course through EdX. This course examines and presents processes of designing and implementing land readjustment in the context of developing countries. 

Entrepreneurial Land Redevelopment Approach: Land Readjustment 

This course examines and presents processes of designing and implementing land readjustment in the context of developing countries.

Land readjustment is an alternative land-assembly approach to government compulsory purchase (often referred to as eminent domain) and voluntary market transaction. In the land readjustment process, a public or private agency invites property owners to become stakeholders in a redevelopment project and to contribute their lands to the project as investment capital. In return, each property owner receives a land site of at least equal value in the vicinity of the original site upon project completion. After all properties in the district are assembled, the combined land sites are subdivided to make space for wider roads and other local infrastructure.

The conventional approaches to land assembly are often conflict-ridden. Through this course, practitioners can add another viable option to their toolbox by learning about land readjustment as an alternative approach to urbanization in developing countries.

Land readjustment has been shown to reduce the initial capital requirement for land assembly, discourage holdouts, and minimize massive relocation of existing residents. When applying land readjustment at the right time and in the right place, this approach could mediate a major hindrance of land redevelopment in countries that are facing rapid urbanization.

What you’ll learn

  • Increase your awareness and knowledge of land readjustment as a tool for facilitating urbanization and land redevelopment in developing countries;
  • Provide you with techniques and strategies to design and implement land readjustment projects;
  • Expose you to selected international experiences of land readjustment; and
  • Facilitate cross-fertilization of ideas between you and other global policymakers, practitioners, and scholars who are interested in adopting land readjustment in their home country.

Big question need thoughtful solutions

In the first half of 2018, we have been busy researching and designing solutions for more livable, prosperous and resilient communities related to:

  • the Syrian refugees in Lebanon’s border municipalities;
  • the role companies can play supporting collective reparation and environmental conservation in Colombia;
  • the water and sanitation crisis in Gaza; and
  • youth employment and agricultural productivity in India.

These are just some of the global challenges we are helping clients answer. What solutions can we help you design?

The Stranger and the City

In February, Brian English collaborated with Ana Candida Carneiro (award-winning playwright) at Harvard University to host an interdisciplinary workshop to investigate the theme of the stranger within the urban landscape. The workshop facilitated dialogue about concepts from urban studies, geography, cognitive sciences and the theory of complex systems, to help participants explore new ways of thinking about theatrical events, alternative writing processes, and ways of exploring cities. Here is what some of the participants said:

  • “What a wonderful workshop! Thank you so much for doing this. I learned a great deal and a new vision emerged for me.” – Jeffrey Mcnary, Cambridge-based published writer.

  • “I enjoyed your workshop very much, and was moved by the contributions of our fellow participants. Sincere thanks to the facilitators for creating a supportive environment in which a diverse and richly informed group of participants could come together and share their unique perspectives. The Stranger and the City workshop was thought-provoking and highly conducive to generating new performative works. I look forward to my next involvement with Babel Theater Project.” – Hortense Gerardo, playwright and anthropologist.

  • “This workshop was a wonderful creative experience! The idea of feeling the city, connecting with people and interacting with diversity, brought a true sense of performance to anyone who wishes to release imagination. I look forward to participating in other Babel Theater Project initiatives.” – Lena Macedo, published writer.

About the facilitator:

Ana Candida Carneiro is an award-winning and published playwright. She grew up in Brazil and lived fifteen years in Italy, before immigrating to the USA in 2015. Her work has been performed in Italy, France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Monaco, South Africa, and in the USA. She has been supported by institutions such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Royal Court Theater, MacDowell, and Yaddo. Her works touch on themes like social justice, globalization, immigration, culture clash, gender inequity, and climate change, using multiple and invented languages, heterogeneous linguistic registers and genres, and are increasingly marked by experimentation with the dramatic form. She writes in English, Italian and Portuguese. Ana is also a scholar and teacher, and currently holds a position as postdoctoral Research Associate at Harvard University, in the department of Theatre, Dance and Media. Her research focuses on experimental and interdisciplinary approaches to playwriting and the pedagogy of playwriting from a global perspective. She is currently writing The Global Playwriting Workbook (Methuen Drama, 2019).

Lessons from the base

What big business can learn from entrepreneurs at the base of the pyramid.

For over a decade now I have been helping companies of all sizes invest in themselves and their communities around the world. From the Congo to the Caribbean, from Brazil to Bangalore, I’ve helped Fortune 500 companies and eager start-up entrepreneurs with big ideas advance development outcomes while driving their business forward. It’s hard work.

But the world is demanding it and frankly, as we all know, the world needs it. As Official Development Assistance faces massive cuts on the horizon, companies and NGOs will be taking up the slack, whether they like it or not. The Harvard Business Review explained this month in Competing on Social Purpose that “Consumers increasingly expect brands to have not just functional benefits but a social purpose”.

This is not the only change businesses big and small are facing. Radical change will be driven by the likes of bitcoin and blockchain, which will soon sweep through the business community. The effects of climate change and urbanization will be forces to recon with too. These are just a few of the challenges that leaders in the public and private sector alike will have to step up and face as they guide their organizations through our rapidly evolving world.

But are leaders stepping up?

In introducing his new book, Core: How a Single Organizing Idea Can Change Business for Good, Neil Gaught warns, “Though the tides of change are engaging the minds of business leaders, most are still trapped behind their brands and an approach to corporate social responsibility that is out of step with a connected society that increasingly questions ‘who’ these businesses really are and what drives their purpose.”

Those that have invested in defining their purpose beyond making money, Neil explains, are on the journey to change; but there are those that have gone further and translated their purpose into a powerful strategic management tool that has the potential to change their business for good. He calls this a Single Organizing Idea (SOI) and cites in his book several examples, the most famous of which is Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan.

Applied across the business, an SOI has the power and potential to drive real change for good, he says. It will help ensure that these businesses and organizations are fit for the future and able to “deliver sustainable economic and social benefit; unite people, attract investment, inspire innovation, pioneer new efficiencies, and enjoy positive reputation.”

Lessons from the Base

Like me, Neil’s ideas and conclusions have been based on first hand experiences. Many of the social enterprises I have supported over the years, like LabourNet, already embody many elements of a Single Organizing Idea that benefit everyone, not always by design, but out of necessity. This is where I think big business can learn a lot from entrepreneurs building social enterprises at the base of the pyramid.

Social enterprises don’t have CSR departments, or Corporate Citizenships teams, or Shared Value initiatives. They have lean teams of professionals dedicated to creating business models anchored on strong values that aim to achieve both profit and purpose. They navigate their journeys balancing these aims. At the core of those enterprises that succeed is a Single Organizing Idea that benefits the business and community.

India has been a beacon of innovation in this field, with entrepreneurs creating enterprises that span from sanitation to education improvements. My research on some of these enterprises, published this month in India as a Pioneer of Innovation, Oxford University Press, examines Market-Based Solutions to Poverty Reduction and profiles two case studies. In these cases I examine the factors that enable these enterprises to succeed as a business and at its social or environmental purpose.

Turning the Market as a Force for Good

Throughout all my work with enterprises and designing development programs, I regularly contemplate the fundamental question of: How can we integrate both profit and purpose so the market can become a force for positive development?

This is similar to the question that Paul Hawken challenged us with back in 1993 when he wrote, we must make “acting sustainable as easy as falling off a log” in The Ecology of Commerce.

I’m hearing the business community ask similar question today. At a recent #CoreSOI debate in DC someone asked, “how can we embed sustainability into business so we can promote it, rather than challenge it all the time, and so it doesn’t feel like pushing a rock up a hill.”

Again, I think this is where social enterprises are leading the charge. They’re engaging critical actors and a slice of the public in a politics of structural change that makes their business and societal purpose possible.

Leading Under Pressure

I recently spoke to two social enterprises at the Sustainatopia conference in Boston about the charges they are leading.

Care2Communities spoke to me about how they provide comprehensive, affordable primary health care to families through self-sustaining, community-based clinics, in Haiti. Sometimes they even deliver this in shipping containers. They are driven, at their core, by a strong set of values and an SOI of providing “affordable, quality care.” As they manage their operations, they are constantly analyzing how to adjust fees so that they are affordable and sufficient to maintain their operations. At the same time, they are engaging critical actors of government and donors around the structural changes that sustain these services, from policies to subsidies.

SourceTrace, who digitizes farming to benefit small holder farmers, explained to me that they face pressure from two sides: collecting the modest fees from the farmer coops around the world, while generating a return for his investors. ”Patient capital” was the critical ingredient SourceTrace explained. Businesses also need support from investors and their board of directors. Which raises the biggest issue, Wall Street.

Impact investing is the bright spot in the financial world today. It’s a maturing market and will help nudge businesses to evolve towards generating social and environmental impact alongside financial returns. Likewise, the larger inclusive business community is also growing at pace, as are initiatives like Inclusive Business Action Network (IBAN), which are helping trigger collective action by connecting the dots between the vast number of ideas, people and enterprises like B-Corps, B-teams, Shared Value initiatives and conscious capitalism that make up the ecosystem. But is the pace of innovation fast enough? One thing is certain:

…Business as usual won’t work in the future.

There is clearly a long way to go yet towards more sustainable business. For myself and the leaders I work with, the question is not if but how to usher in reform, continually, because it’s not an end but a journey; and one we need to move quickly and decisively along. Developing a Single Organizing Idea provides the opportunity to address issues of profit, purpose, and values as we navigate towards a more prosperous and sustainable future. Whether the enterprise is for-profit or not, big or small, the world needs more and demands more. We can learn a lot from social enterprises at the base of the pyramid leading the charge.

Photo: Company executives meet with a local community group as part of the Sowing Futures program in Brazil.

Brian English is an independent consultant and author who specializes in helping companies, governments and communities create enduring solutions to intractable social and economic problems.

Additional reading:

Market-Based Solutions to Poverty Reduction in India, by Brian English in India as a Pioneer of Innovation, Oxford University Press

Core: How a Single Organizing Idea Can Change Business for Good, Neil Gaught

Join the Debate: How a Single Organizing Idea can change business for good.

Front cover CORE

In October, Emerging Development Solutions supported Neil Gaught and the Ipsos Sustainable Development Research Centre to organize a series of debates in Boston, New York, and Washington DC to discuss the opportunities of “changing business for good”.

These debates have engaged leaders from companies, governments, academia and the media and are advancing an important dialogue about how companies can become a force for more sustainable and inclusive development. The catalyst for the debates was Neil’s recently published book: CORE: How a Single Organizing Idea Can Change Business for Good.

The first discussion was held in London and last is organized in New Zealand, creating a global dialogue with 15+ events. Watch the London video to learn more and hear feedback from leading figures such as Unilever’s VP Sustainability Karen Hamilton.

Screenshot 2017-10-19 11.26.07
Hear the leaders from the London debate (video)

Two articles reflecting on the debates in Boston, NY, and DC include:

Screenshot 2017-10-19 11.11.52

Screenshot 2017-10-19 11.00.58

To engage in the debate or learn more about SOI, contact us or learn more here.




Accelerating Innovation through 'Young Leaders Awards' at Habitat III, Quito

The growing youth demographic in many countries is a phenomenon that will be reckoned with for generations. To turn the youth bulge into a demographic dividend, countries need to focus on policies that develop this human capital and their full citizenship.

In the run-up to the UN Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador, November 17-20, 2016, the Mega-Cities Project organized a global competition to identify Young Leaders that are implementing creative solutions to urban challenges at the intersection of poverty, environment and voice. Global Communities shared this opportunity with Francisco Javier Sequeira Rankin, a young leader supported by USAID’s Municipal Governance Program (MGP) who has been successful in strengthening youth civic engagement through the Bluefield’s Indian & Caribbean University (BICU) Observatory for Human Rights and Autonomy (OHRA). Francisco was one of two Young Leaders selected from candidates who applied across the Americas, Africa and Asia.


Over the past four years, MGP has supported BICU-OHRA in their pursuit to strengthen the Adolescents and Youth Municipal Councils (COMAJ) in four municipalities in the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, the region with the highest poverty rate in the country and home to the majority of indigenous and afro-descendant populations. This initiative has brought together more than 450 young people (58% women) to promote critical analysis of their interests and supports their interaction with the Municipal Government to raise their demands and exercise their rights. The COMAJ are democratically elected bodies made up of members aged 15-29.  The COMAJ motivate the youth to get involved in good governance practices and gives them an opportunity to take a leadership role in their communities. Through constant coaching and mentoring, the COMAJ youth are trained in a variety of skills, including project management, advocacy, and gender equality, preparing this cadre of young leaders to engage with the municipality and civil society organizations. This gives the members of the COMAJ a greater understanding of needs in their communities, how to create projects to meet these needs, and how to establish local partnerships to achieve them. The impact of this program has led to some system changing solutions, such as youth focused projects that are now being included in the budgets of municipalities and the budget planning process. Projects already financed by the Municipalities include recreational parks and gymnasium upgrades and funds for cultural events.


In addition to these efforts, since 2014, the Observatory for Human Right of BICU has been coordinating the Youth Roundtable, which creates more effective joint efforts on adolescents and youth issues by coordinating multi-sector dialogues between organizations working in this space. This effort has led local authorities to start building the Regional Youth Development Policy.


The Mega-Cities Project selected Francisco and the Youth Program because of their leadership in the region, their demonstration of system challenging ideas, and their progress is scaling solutions into policy. The Youth Program is creating young leaders and social entrepreneurs which can inspire other similar movements. Mega Cities and Global Communities selected Francisco and the Youth Program as both an effective and inspiring example the types of initiatives communities across the globe need.


Francisco shared his story with 100s of people at a lively and highly engaged audience in a Networking Session of the UN Habitat III conference on Youth Initiatives in the Quest for Urban Inclusion: Emerging Voices and Networks, October 18, 2016. Francisco’s story was also broadcast by media in the region.




From Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Fellowship comes Forthcoming Book: Searching for Citizenship


In this great wave of urbanization unfolding across developing countries over the next decades, citizenship is central to more equitable and inclusive city building and place making. 60 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2030 and almost all (95%) of urban expansion will take place in developing countries over the next decades. This wave of growth is marked by the urbanization of poverty, where 828 million people live in slums today and the number keeps rising.

This forthcoming book explores the paths that some of the most marginalized populations in the world are taking to establish citizenship, in all its forms, from land rights to jobs. In this search, these populations must also acquire the very fundamental needs of identity, legitimacy, security, and voice in their lives and the decision-making that affects them and their communities. The characters of these stories are those that learn to write their own narrative and find courage to speak up and take action, in big ways and small ways. And they navigate institutional rules while wrestling to change others. In this process, leadership manifests, at all levels and from all sectors, to confront debilitating norms in an unequal world.

Through a compelling set of stories from across the globe, this book explores questions central to effective policy making and development solutions:

  • Who decides? Who has the authority?
  • Where do we look for permission?
  • What is planning? Is it that which remains bounded by the law and upholds formal regulations? Or is it the relationship between the published plan and unmapped territory?
  • Where do solutions come from? Top-down, bottom-up, young, old, experts or novices, or somewhere in between? How can this process be accelerated?
  • In what ways does leadership form various domains – government, NGOs, civil society – engage critical actors and a slice of the public in a politics of structural change?
  • How do people and communities organize, influence, and get what they want?

International group, Deere Foundation helping Moline's Floreciente neighborhood

Paul Colletti/

MOLINE — A new project initiated by the John Deere Foundation will place a sole focus on the needs, desires and success of Moline’s Floreciente neighborhood.

The foundation has made a grant to the international nonprofit organization Global Communities which, for three years, will work in partnership with the residents, businesses and other advocates to identify and provide what the neighborhood needs to thrive.

Mara Sovey Downing, president of the John Deere Foundation and director of global brand management and corporate citizenship, said the idea for such a project initially was sparked in 2011 after the company wrapped up a holiday food basket drive that unveiled the deep level of need in the community.

Ms. Downing said Deere & Co. chairman and CEO Samuel Allen remarked that everyone felt great about volunteering for a weekend and they helped many people — but how could the company create meaningful, lasting change.

“How do we help people out of poverty and revive neighborhoods?” she said.

In the following years, Ms. Downing said the needs of the Floreciente neighborhood became more apparent. The foundation already had engaged Global Communities to help in Deere’s factory communities in Brazil and India, where the nonprofit successfully worked to improve living conditions, infrastructure, skills and employment for those residents, she said.

Last fall, the foundation called Global Communities to Moline to work in the Floreciente neighborhood, which roughly spans from the Rock Island border to 12th Street, and from the Mississippi River to 5th Avenue.

The 60-year-old nonprofit was launched to focus on community housing to promote social and economic empowerment. For the past 30 years, it has worked internationally and expanded its help to include economic development, humanitarian assistance, governance and urban management, global health and disaster response.

It now works in 25 countries and has found success by partnering with people, agencies, organizations and governments. Community engagement is key to every project.

“It is about empowering communities,” said Annisa Wanat, Global Communities program director for the Moline office.

“We really want to work with the Floreciente community and empower them to get what they need, envision and desire,” she said. “We are going to work on housing, health care, education and work on whatever it is that is needed.

“The approach here is to work with the community on the community’s needs,” Ms. Wanat said.

What does Floreciente need?

Brian English, director of program innovation at Global Communities, said it will have an open-ended dialog with neighborhood residents and businesses. “We want to know what are the things they struggle with the most,” he said.

Last October, Mr. English did an assessment of the Floreciente, looking at economic, education and quality-of-life elements. He found the neighborhood is lagging behind.

“It is a neighborhood that can use some support, tools and resources,” he said.

For example, the median income of Floreciente neighborhood residents is half that of other residents in Moline.

Ms. Downing said half of Floreciente residents older than 18 do not have a high school degree. The question then becomes how to help those residents earn a GED or get technical training to increase employment opportunities and earning potential, she said.

Ms. Downing said she would like to see the neighborhood association revived or re-created and Floreciente businesses connected to the broader Quad-Cities economy. She also seeks neighborhood beautification, resparked pride and a celebration of the neighborhood’s cultural heritage.

Mr. English said many groups, organizations and nonprofits already are working in the Floreciente neighborhood. Global Communities hopes to better coordinate all the efforts to achieve a greater collective outcome for the residents.

“We are looking at how can we support that neighborhood and other organizations that have an interest in that neighborhood,” he said. “How can we bring the skills, resources and services we offer to that community to help find pathways for employment, find ways to increase investment, beautification, and whatever it is they identify as their other pressing needs?”

Mr. English said a lot of the relationship and trust building started this summer. Global Communities has met with organizations and residents already active in the neighborhood and plans to ramp up those efforts over the next three months and hold neighborhood meetings.

Ms. Downing said, so far, the residents and groups they have talked to are interested and ask when things will get started.

“I think the excitement is building,” she said.

On Tuesday, Global Communities will make a presentation at the Moline City Council meeting. Moline’s planning and development director Ray Forsythe said the city has been meeting with the Deere Foundation for more than six months on the project.

“I think this will bring the neighborhood together with a stronger focus, and they will look at what is best for the neighborhood,” Mr. Forsythe said.

“We are really excited,” he said. “It will be a model that Deere & Co. can take to other communities where it does business and Global Communities can take to clients in other communities.”

On-Demand Water Helps Communities Adapt to Climate Change

As our SUV rounded the corner of the rugged road in the parched, mountainous landscape of southern Honduras, we saw an enthusiastic man waving us to proceed towards him. With his machete in one hand and a large straw hat in the other, he jumped in the back of our colleagues’ truck ahead of us and led us to an oasis, a five-hectare plot blossoming with the broad, deep green leaves of plantain and papaya trees. Beyond this, gourd and watermelon plants creeped around the roots of tall yucca plants, flourishing in the shade protected from the hot sun.

The farmer, Daniel Cruz, guided us through his field, boasting about his plants like a parent would his children. He has plenty of reasons to be enthusiastic. Just three years ago he was only able to produce one crop – corn, whose yield was at the mercy of the fickle rains. Most years, this provided subsistence for him and his family and during a good year, about $500 in income. Some years, however, there was not enough rain to grow anything at all. Today, he earns more than $12,000 from cultivating over six crops harvested throughout the year.

The source of Daniel’s success is simple: a steady supply of water harvested in a reservoir uphill and fed to his crops through drip irrigation. This system was introduced by Global Communities (formerlyCHF International), an international aid organization focused on sustainable community development, with funding from the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

Global Communities has introduced these impoverished farmers to one of the most advanced drip irrigation systems on the market. Developed in Israel, and recently bought to Honduras by John Deere, it is capable of distributing water under low pressure and economizing it with a precision never achieved before. A very small piece of engineering inside the half-inch diameter plastic tubing — which looks like a miniature maze — controls the flow of water exiting each hole and provides a consistent drip rate. The rate of water can be regulated by a set of valves according to what the different crops need, and sections of the network can be turned on and off.

The impact of this irrigation system, and seven other reservoirs constructed by Global Communities, has been nothing short of a green revolution for Daniel and almost 1,000 others directly benefiting from these systems. Compared to youth-led revolutions occurring in many countries today, this revolution is being led by the older generations, those who stayed in this unforgiving land while their children have migrated north, many to the United States to work in agriculture.

This green revolution is also keeping young adults home instead of migrating north. Daniel’s four sons stood nearby as we toured their field. They wore hooded tops with headphones dangling from their ears, watching us closely with a palpable urge to be recognized for their role in creating this bounty. If these boys choose to leave, there is reason for their father to be concerned: the journey north has become fraught with the risks of human trafficking as gangs and drug cartels from Tegucigalpa through to the US-Mexico border have expanded.

Daniel’s father and wife are also animated by this new life springing from their field. His father bent on his knees to dig up a yucca with his machete and show us the gourd varieties, as if we had never seen such a thing. Daniel’s wife, too, cuts gourds and papaya and sells them by the road side at $2 a piece – great money and a guarantee that she will be able to pocket some profit, also.

The agrarian reforms have been good to Daniel and his father, enabling them to own land. The Honduran government began addressing inequitable land ownership starting in the 1960s. The most significant actions were taken between 1972 and 1975, when 120,000 hectares were divided among 35,000 poor families. It has progressed slowly ever since. Most recently, in 2009 following the coup d’etat, President Micheletti redistributed land by issuing 400 titles of ownership to residents here in the Department of Valle.

Landless only a generation ago, Daniel now owns five hectares with an association of 12 other farmers. Global Communities is helping these groups of farmers work collectively to buy inputs, become part of savings and credit groups and sell in the market at greater quantities and better prices.

People have practiced agriculture in Honduras since the native Lencas populated the land, during the Mayan era. Like today, they squeezed out subsistence farming at the mercy of the weather, with rains typically coming once or twice a year.

Degradation of the landscape over the past half century (due to poor agricultural practices and population growth) has stripped the land of vegetation, altered natural hydrological cycles, eroded soils, and spurred deforestation. This desertification has led to a continuous reduction of water availability and progressive loss of soil fertility. So when rains do come now, the water retention in the soil is low and flooding is exacerbated.

Climate change is becoming a decisive factor impacting the availability and use of water resources for agriculture in many countries. It is causing crop loss and severe food insecurity.

Harvesting rainwater in reservoirs is not new; it is a centuries-old practice. However, innovations in drip irrigation technologies are enabling these reservoirs to be economized for much longer periods with very low pressure. All of this is new to southern Honduras and, for Daniel and the hundreds of other families living there, life is no longer teetering on the edge. Instead, life is flourishing as they add value to the landscape and trade produce.

 In 2011, Global Communities was awarded the highest environmental award of Honduras for this project, and in 2012 they were awarded a $50,000 Actions in Water and Climate Change Adaptation prize for this innovation in adapting to climate change. They are using the prize money to further develop the program.