25 April 2014

Kenya: Pollination Project Invests in 'Change-Makers'


Washington — Plenty of worthwhile business ideas need a little seed money to get started. Providing some of that money has become Ariel Nessel's passion.

Nessel, a Dallas-based real estate developer, is the founder and president of the Pollination Project, which makes $1,000 seed grants and loans to individual "change-makers." Every day for the rest of his life, Nessel says, he wants to give $1,000 to a person working to make the world or just a community a better, more peaceful and more sustainable place. "It's watering the seed that is going to grow and grow and grow," he said in an interview on the CBS television program 60 Minutes.

So far, Nessel has awarded grants to people from more than 40 U.S. states and 50 countries.

Here are some of the people and ideas that the Pollination Project supports.

In western Kenya, with $1,000 from the Pollination Project, Beatrice Makokha launched Maxing Out Microloans: Improving Livelihood for Youth and Women as a revolving lending fund for small businesses run by youth and women. Besides providing seed funding, Maxing Out Microloans encourages recipients to create business-support groups and take advantage of mentoring and training opportunities. Makokha believes that many of her community's challenges "can be overcome with community participation, small amounts of funding and access to information," according to the Pollination Project website.

"My experience is that transformation happens on the fringes and in the micro areas -- with individuals. It doesn't happen on a large scale. It happens to people coming together in communities. And those communities come together in larger communities until it becomes a movement," Nessel said.

In Sarasota, Florida, Steven McAllister received $1,000 for the Flow Factory, a community rooftop garden. The garden teaches local youth how to maintain an agricultural system and provide food for a pay-what-you-can restaurant. Funds earned from the venture will be channeled back to the community, which McAllister hopes will give his fellow citizens a sense of well-being.

In San Francisco, Kazu Haga got $1,000 from the Pollination Project to train prisoners and at-risk students to embrace nonviolence.

Haga conducts weekly workshops at the county jail "so our next generation doesn't have to be violent, because violence is learned and it can be unlearned," he told 60 Minutes. One of Haga's students says the training has changed him. "I'm practicing on being better than I was. I know one thing for sure: I'm never going to be the person I was when I walked in those [jail] doors."

Haga continued: "Small as the grant may be, [it was] really meaningful when I started out," he said.

For Nessel, these small investments earn big returns.

"Money can buy happiness?" questioned the 60 Minutes interviewer.

"Generosity can buy happiness," Nessel responded.

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