In our social entrepreneurship series, The World at Work, Mashable interviews the faces behind the startups and projects that are working to make a global impact.
By harnessing the power of digital technology, these five companies have offered resources to women in need and used technology to make microfinance more streamlined. While the companies are diverse, they share a common thread: a passionate leader who's devoted to improving lives.
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Here's a roundup of featured projects from the last week, including exclusive video interviews with the founders of these innovative startups. To read more and watch the videos, click through to the full story, and follow the series to learn about more breakthrough companies.
1. Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action
Big Idea: Providing new and expectant mothers in need with free health information via mobile phones.
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Why It's Working: In 2008, India had the most maternal-related deaths out of any other country, according to the Indian government. Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), works with low-income and at-risk mothers and families in India -- as well as Bangladesh and South Africa, which are countries with high populations of mobile phone users -- to provide vital health information through SMS text messaging and simple voice messages.
Big Idea: Utilize organic waste to create carbon-negative charcoal, a substance that pulls CO2 from the air and helps crops grow taller and stronger.
Why It's Working: re:char's mission is about providing farmers -- both at home and in developing countries such as Kenya -- with conservation-oriented soil-boosting complexes that can double food output compared to traditional farming methods. The startup raised $6,000 and spread awareness on Kickstarter, and the 102 purchasing funders will be contributing data for re:char to analyze.
Big Idea: Mifos is an open-source, back-end operating system -- built and backed by a community -- to track the many loans and payments involved in microfinance.
Why It's Working: Mifos is a platform used by more than 30 microfinance institutions, which offer small loans to nearly 825,000 clients. Think of Mifos as Quicken for microfinance -- it's a streamlined, organized system, and it can help the sector scale and get people out of poverty. Mifos makes microfinance more fair (since it's data-driven) and transparent, and it's helped Grameen Koota grow its client base by 40%.
Big Idea: ARCHIVE (Architecture for Health in Vulnerable Environments) is an international 501(c)(3) charity that brings awareness to the relationship between poor housing and poor health.
Why It's Working: By designing and implementing housing improvements, ARCHIVE can bring down rates of tuberculoisis, HIV and AIDS -- a healthier community means a healthier economy. And it all started with a blog. "I felt that as an architect, I could do more than speak about important, thought-provoking issues -- I could mobilize people and communities to act," says Peter Williams, founder of ARCHIVE.
5. Project Noah
Big Idea: Project Noah harnesses the power of mobile to let users contribute to real scientific data and research.
Why It's Working: Nature Deficit Disorder, the idea that children's behavioral patterns are changing because they are spending less time outside, was introduced in Richard Louv's 2005 book Last Child in the Woods. In short, screens replace the wonders of the natural world that used to provide children with hours of entertainment, leaving kids to wither indoors. Project Noah thinks that spending time exploring nature and time attached to screens don't need to be mutually exclusive. The startup hopes to mobilize a new generation of nature lovers in a digital experience that's entirely current. "Project Noah is what would have happened if Charles Darwin had created Foursquare," says co-founder Yasser Ansari.
What do you think of the efforts of these startups and foundations? Let us know in the comments below.
This story originally published on Mashable here.