Yesterday, day 3 of Project Catalyst, Jolkona’s Indonesian social entrepreneurs went on a tour of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: its campus and museum.

Our guide, Gillian LaFond, began the tour with a presentation about the Foundation’s beginnings and goals. In 1998, she said, Bill and Melinda were on the road when they heard about rotavirus–a virus neither of them had heard of before–and it was killing 500 million people in Africa. Two years later, the married couple began the Foundation to tackle largely neglected challenges that impact the most people in the world. In 2008, Bill Gates resigned from Microsoft and joined Melinda as full-time co-chairs at the Foundation.

Mirah Mahaswari, one of our Project Catalyst participants, said of the message from Bill and Melinda Gates: “They told us not just to be great businessmen, but to be people who care about others. Whoever and wherever we are, we can work together to help our communities and be impactful to our surroundings.” Mirah’s organization in Indonesia, Pack Your Spirit, collects children’s used-books for villages of east Borneo.


Gillian then walked us around one of the most sustainable campuses in the Seattle. Built in 2011, the Foundation’s campus boasts an outdoor sitting area, countless species of plants, living roofs, ample natural light, and solar panels. Our Project Catalyst participant, Nadine Zamira, was impressed: “I was AMAZED at the building structure. When she said it was lead platinum certified, I wasn’t surprised. It is the greenest of the green and has an extremely low impact on the environment.”

In Indonesia, Nadine’s communications agency, LeafPlus, has sustainability at the heart of their work. She works with government agencies, businesses, NGO’s, schools and communities to identify their sustainability objectives and translate complex concepts into creative, engaging and easily shared stories. She delivers messages about environment issues. She said, “We don’t have buildings like that in Indonesia. We’re working on it, but we don’t have buildings that’re the best of the best. It’s nice to see that it is possible.”

IMG_2483Afterwards, the Project Catalyst cohort spent an hour in the informational and interactive visitor center, where they tried to carry 16 pounds of water (the amount people in many parts of the world must carry for three miles). They read about the projects happening all over the world, and joined the conversations with the countless do-gooders that have visited the museum.

Dino Fitriza, whose social enterprise Vertesac reduces the number of plastic bags used in Indonesia, said, “It is very inspiring, because you can see a lot of people’s projects in countries all over the world.”

What impressed Nadya Saib, the founder of Wangsa Jelita, was the toilets. On the doors of the stalls were photographs of the various unsanitary “toilets” across the world. Once visitors to the museum open its doors, they are relieved to find a clean latrine. Of the whole visitor center, Nadya said, “I like how they present the stories.”

Finally, Hendriyadi Bahtiar, whose Healthy Shredded Fish not only promotes a healthy national snack but provides job opportunities for fishermen’s wives, said of the entire visit: “It inspired me to take action to change the world and to influence the people all around us.”


Project Catalyst is an accelerator for international social ventures. This 2-week intensive workshop brings social entrepreneurs from developing countries to Seattle, where they can hone their business plans, gain valuable insights, and meet prospective investors and funders.

Keep up with everything Jolkona by following us on Facebook and Twitter


In honor of International Women’s Day, I joined other nonprofit communicators at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Friday to discuss ways we could use social media to promote women’s health initiatives, including PATH’s redesigned female condom, self-administered contraceptive shots (see photo — so tiny!) and low-tech cervical and breast cancer screenings.

This #GatesSocial also got me thinking about more ways to inform and engage donors for Jolkona’s 4th annual Give to Girls campaign, which is crowdfunding for 10 projects that save lives, educate and empower women locally and globally. What would inspire you? We’d love to produce something like the Girl Effect video:

Stay tuned for some new Jolkona media for this year’s #Give2Girls. In the meantime, check out the traditional press release about the campaign.

SEATTLE – Launched on International Women’s Day (March 8) and continuing through Women’s History Month, Jolkona’s 4thannual Give to Girls campaign is crowdfunding for 10 innovative projects to lift up women and girls in the United States and strategic regions of Latin America, Africa and Asia.

“We inspire the women of tomorrow by giving to girls today,” says Nadia Mahmud, Jolkona co-founder and CEO. “Empowering women is one of the most effective ways to fight poverty around the world. Invest in a healthy and educated girl today, and she will be able to reinvest in her family, her community, and our world tomorrow.”

From now through March 31, donors can choose among nine high-impact projects related to education, maternal health and empowerment. Starting at the $5 level, the options range from supporting job training for homeless women in Seattle topromoting female literacy in Afghanistan to funding counseling services for rape survivors in Haiti.

The bonus project will be selected by members of Jolkona’s monthly Give Together program: starting at the $10 level, participants join a private Facebook group to review proposals from nonprofit partners and determine which one should be awarded the community’s collective grant. For this campaign, Give Together is also accepting one-time donations, in addition to monthly subscriptions.

Keep up with everything Jolkona by following us on Facebook and Twitter


In case you missed it last week, Bill Gates wore a chicken suit, a Seattle Seahawks jersey, and all sorts of other outfits in his viral video (with an assist from Jimmy Fallon) to promote the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Annual Letter.

And now it’s stuck in my head:,, Which is the point of the viral video, of course. But now that I’ve read the letter — and hopefully, so have you — we’ll have to cleanse this earworm. Try this or possibly that.

Maybe we should do one for Can’t you just see Adnan and Nadia in some of these outfits? Or it could star Baby Aleena

Happy Friday!

Keep up with everything Jolkona by following us on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram.



Bill Gates appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last night to promote the 2014 Gates Annual Letter, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s progress report on efforts to eradicate global disease, poverty and child mortality. The focus of this year’s letter is to “stop the myth” that foreign aid doesn’t work, through evidence and optimism.

Especially for those of us who work in the nonprofit sector, it is always encouraging to see philanthropy have a measurable impact. At Jolkona, we strive to be as transparent as possible about actions of our partners and the difference we make. This includes openly reflecting on our successes and failures, and using what we learned to continue to improve and innovate. We know that when it comes to donations for a worthy cause, every drop counts. We can do our part to #stopthemyth as well.

You can help fight common misconceptions about the effectiveness of aid efforts by sharing the 2014 Gates Annual Letter with others, using hashtag #stopthemyth. These small actions may have more of an impact than you know.

By almost any measure, the world is better than it has ever been. People are living longer, healthier lives. Many nations that were aid recipients are now self-sufficient. You might think that such striking progress would be widely celebrated, but in fact, Melinda and I are struck by how many people think the world is getting worse. The belief that the world can’t solve extreme poverty and disease isn’t just mistaken. It is harmful. That’s why in this year’s letter we take apart some of the myths that slow down the work. The next time you hear these myths, we hope you will do the same.

Bill Gates

You can make a global impact through Jolkona, as well, through one of our three Give options: Support individual projects through our Give Direct platform, participate in a monthly discussion to make a collective difference through our 2014 Give Together campaign, or support holistic efforts to aid Bangladesh through the Lift Bangla program.  With just a small donation, each of us can reduce poverty a little bit more each day.

We too are optimistic about the future, and the impact we can have in years to come!

Photo Credit:

Keep up with everything Jolkona by following us on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram.