A Papua New Guinea tribal family sits for their first family photograph. A Papua New Guinea tribal family sits for their first family photograph. A Papua New Guinea tribal family sits for their first family photograph thanks to MyHeritage. (Photo: Courtesy)

Israel lauded for its role in social entrepreneurship

A new international poll highlights the humanitarian startups coming out of the country.

One of the fastest growing trends in business are companies whose missions go beyond the bottom line and enter the realm of the greater good.

While these companies exist all over, some countries do a better job of fostering their growth. So, where are they? The Thomson Reuters Foundation recently polled almost 900 social enterprise experts in the world's 45 biggest economies. According to the poll, the top five countries in order were the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Singapore and Israel.

These findings come as no surprise to us here at From The Grapevine, where we often highlight such stories and profile these social entrepreneurs from Israel. Below, we round up some of our favorites.

Saving Africa's wildlife

Ofir Drori – an Israeli-born writer, photographer and adventurer – launched the Last Great Ape Organization to help stave off illegal wildlife trafficking in Africa. “In my analysis, the first obstacle to this problem is corruption. And the second is corruption, and the third is also corruption. By far, that corruption has been the major issue,” Drori told From The Grapevine. Since his work began, his organization has been involved in more than 1,400 arrests and prosecutions of major wildlife criminals.

Drori has won multiple awards for his work. The World Wildlife Fund, which calls Drori a "tireless anti-corruption whistleblower," bestowed him with their Duke of Edinburgh conservation medal. He's written a book about his experiences called "The Last Great Ape: A Journey Through Africa and a Fight for the Heart of the Continent." And a filmmaker has made a documentary about his heroic mission.

Helping the stutterers of the world


Yair Shapira's son Niv has stuttered since he spoke his first word. Now, as a teenager, he's doing better thanks to therapy. But kids who stutter often relapse between therapy appointments, when they lack the timely feedback of an expert who can step in. Seeking a solution for this disconnect, Shapira and his wife, who both have PhDs in biomedical engineering from Israeli universities, created NiNiSpeech.

The technology detects stuttering in real time on a smartphone and provides instant feedback based on an individual's therapy program. Speech therapists can also monitor their patients from an online dashboard, gaining insight into their speech in daily life. NiNiSpeech has already gained international attention. Selected as the most promising startup out of 500 entries, it recently won the Merage Institute’s Entrepreneurs’ Competition and the $100,000 award that came with it.

Helping tribal people overcome poverty

After studying community development at Hebrew University, entrepreneur Gili Navon spent a year backpacking through India, where she was introduced to the secluded Misong tribe. She saw the poor conditions they lived in and wondered if there was a way to turn their cultural traditions into cash. The result is Amar Majuli, a cooperative made up of around 100 women from 20 villages.

Amar Majuli's projects are widespread and include a sustainable agriculture program, tools for the tribe that will help them increase production using environmentally friendly farming techniques, hold a series of pop-up medical clinics during monsoon season when roads are blocked and drinking water is in short supply, and offer professional assistance in fundraising, marketing and planning.

Bringing history to life

While Israel-based genealogy company MyHeritage helps people all around the world find once-lost relatives, the company is also ensuring it takes part in humanitarian efforts as well. They recently completed a campaign to interview and catalog as many families and family stories as they could in Papua New Guinea. The trip was part of MyHeritage’s new Tribal Quest initiative. The goal of the pro bono project is to record the family histories of communities around the world that lack access to modern technology. MyHeritage first launched Tribal Quest with a trip to Namibia to document the Himba people.

“Across a wide range of diverse cultures and traditions, we all have family in common; we all learn from and honor our ancestors," said Golan Levi, a user experience expert at MyHeritage and founder of the Tribal Quest project. “This project aims to allow people around the world – no matter where or how they live – to save their ancestors’ legacies forever, for the benefit of their descendants, and our descendants."

Enjoy these types of stories? Read more in our humanitarian channel.


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