48percent.org: From idea to reality

‘This foundation is the ultimate fulfillment of our purpose’…..imagine hearing that on your first day at a new job. Facilitating equality by enabling access to unrestricted communication is your focus, you have 1% of the revenue and 5% of the worked hours, and 48% of the world does not have access to the internet yet, GO!

I felt excited, scared, humbled, nervous, and a whole bunch of other emotions, all at the same time. To avoid succumbing to ‘deer in the headlights’ mode, I turned to what I was trained to do as a historian: research and creating order in chaos. History is beautiful chaos and historians love researching it in order to understand it. That is my default mode, so that is what I did.

The three pillars of the 48percent.org mission

Why was 48% of the world not using the internet? This question led to very interesting findings that started to shape the basis of a foundation strategy. Access, although still a serious issue, is definitely not the end of the story. Digital skills play a huge role in internet usage. Awareness about how to be safe online has a great impact on how people use the internet, as well as the benefits they receive from using the internet. Because what it boils down to is, internet connectivity is a means to an end, or rather a lot of different ends. For us, one of the ends is increasing access to opportunities and a more equal world. With these ideals in mind, I was able to create the three pillars of our mission: access, skills, and awareness.

Finding where we fit

With those three pillars to guide and sharpen our focus, I looked at what we had to offer. We have funding, time, drive, a tech-savvy mindset, and the power of two successful businesses supporting us. Our starting position was luxurious in the sense that we did not have to go looking for funding, but instead find a way to make sure that our resources reached the right places. As we are not the ones on the ground, working with grassroots organizations makes a lot of sense. By working with these organizations, we learn a lot about the problems and possible solutions in different situations and communities. That was our first step, finding wonderful organizations doing work that fit with our pillars and asking them how we could support them and their mission.

While talking to these organizations we often heard about wonderful and inspiring ideas they had that would really help their beneficiary communities. But, as it often goes, there are lots of good ideas but too little time to work on them. And that got me thinking, in addition to funds, the other thing we had plenty of was time. Time to nurture a great idea and see if we can bring it further. Time to find out what is needed, to write the project plan, get all the different pieces of the puzzle on board, to find additional funding, etc. Time to do all the things that are needed to make sure the separate pieces can focus on what they do best. Essentially, time to be the convener for all the parts that need to be put together in order to create something bigger.

Putting what we have learned to use

As a result of distilling our purpose into goals and talking to other organizations, I came to have the following: pillars to guide our journey and the ways in which we can help. With this knowledge in mind, we have begun to move from being a purpose-driven idea into a functioning foundation actively working to facilitate access to communication. We count each partnership with another organization, whether it be to contribute financially or through time, as both a chance to support those in need and a learning opportunity for ourselves to help us grow.

So far, this has led us to supporting 10 (grassroots) organizations in 10 countries. Additionally, we are in the process of nurturing three inspiring ideas into pilots. And last but not least, we have a multidisciplinary team of 7 driven colleagues dedicated to the 48percent mission and operating as a smooth remote team for over 6 months now. And we are only getting started. If the journey I mentioned raises questions in your head, if you have an idea that we might be able to help with, or you want to share your (similar) experiences, feel free to send us an email or message us on LinkedIn or Twitter.


Pollien van Keulen is the spearhead of the foundation. She contributes her non-profit knowledge and genuine belief in our mission to make sure that the foundation moves forward both in the strategic and administrative sense.
When she isn’t busy with 48percent or coordinating the education and sponsorship efforts of Devhouse Spindle and Voys, she loves reading, crafting, and working on her tiny house.

Projects 2020 – a look at our partnerships

Over the last months we have been busy supporting projects as well as working on creating new projects with partner organizations, all while having the goal of equal communication in mind. Here is an overview of the projects and our partners. If you would like to read more detailed information about each project, click on the project title to go to the project page.

APC Grants 2020 – We were able to partner with Rhizomatica and their partner APC to give grants to 5 projects to support them in realizing their goals in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

BlinkNowBlinkNow works in the community in Surkhet, Nepal. We made a financial contribution that provided their school with WiFi and laptops for the school administrators.

EduMais – We are working with EduMais to create privacy lessons for underprivileged children and teenagers in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. These lessons will supplement the curriculum EduMais already provides and will create awareness for digital privacy.

Rhizomatica and Kara Solar – We made a financial contribution that enabled Rhizomatica and Kara Solar to connect 2 of the 12 indigenous communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon to their radio network.

War Child – One of War Child’s programs is Can’t Wait to Learn. This program offers children the opportunity to learn to read and count through playing educational games played on tablet devices. Our financial contribution provided more tablets for the program.

From commercial to non-profit networking

As part of the Voys sales team, I spend a lot of my working time networking and communicating with other businesses and organizations.

My insights on being a salesperson in a non-profit organization

As part of the Voys sales team, I spend a lot of my working time networking and communicating with other businesses and organizations. On many occasions I have come into contact with non-profit organizations. Most of the time they just need your support to help them achieve their mission and goals. I take the time to listen to what they have to say and I ask questions to see what they have to “sell”.

During these conversations, I have always wondered what it’s like for a salesperson in a non-profit organization, but for some reason I have never asked this question out loud. Is their work so different from the work of a salesperson in a commercial company? Recently I had the opportunity within our company to move from working solely with the sales team to spending some time helping establish 48percent.org. This gave me the opportunity to answer my own questions and in this blog post I will share with you what I found.

My role within 48percent.org

Last November 48percent.org officially became a foundation. Although I have been only contributing to the organization since then, I have followed its development since the beginning. I really felt connected to the mission. Equality is something I have always strived for and acted upon, inside and outside of my work. When I came to know that they were looking for someone that could help them grow the partner network, I didn’t hesitate to volunteer.

We are a young foundation and are therefore busy with expanding our partner network. We want to learn from other foundations and organizations with a social purpose. In addition, we realize that we can make the greatest impact when we work together. This is enough reason to get in touch with other fellow fighters and schedule a meeting with them. Making new connections is something I like to do and this is familiar territory for me. So I am happy to take on this task!

First contact with other organizations

There are plenty of non-profit organizations in the Netherlands that connect with one or more of our program lines, so we decided to get in contact with those organizations first. There are a couple of benefits starting with organizations close to home. Making contact in your native language is a little bit easier and this way we can do the first interviews face to face when possible, or digitally over video chat. My experience is that it’s way easier to connect with someone when you can see them and you get more impactful information from your conversations this way.

Just like I have always done in my other commercial roles, I started searching the internet for organizations that fit our target group. Once I had this list completed I tried to get in contact with the right person. Most of the people I get to talk to are very open and enthusiastic about what they and their organization are doing. Even on the phone you can feel the passion they have for their work and are open to scheduling a personal appointment.

One thing I found striking was, just like in the commercial world, it is difficult to get in touch with the right person right away. Here too, of course, everyone is busy and in many cases people work voluntarily and do this work alongside their current job. Scheduling an appointment once you do find the right person, on the other hand, is a lot easier. In many cases I was invited immediately. I think this is because we don’t come to sell anything, but are sincerely interested in what they do. And vice versa, I have come to notice that they are also very interested in what we do and how we might be able to help each other achieve our goal. Helping each other should always be the goal, but in the commercial world not everybody sees it this way.

Face to face conversations

At the beginning of this year, we made our first visits. Together with colleague Pollien van Keulen, our strategist, we visited ICT vanaf Morgen and Warchild. The latter organization is more globally known, I think. Last year we contributed to one of their inspiring projects; Can’t wait to Learn. And recently, I also visited Stichting RRDF and had a video conference with Free Press Unlimited. All of these organizations have a couple things in common: they are working toward a very good cause and they have lots of experience and expertise.

To be ready for these meetings, I prepared a document with interview questions beforehand. I use this as a guideline however, because I don’t want to be too inflexible and I always let the interview run its course. Between the passion of these people and our sincere interest, all our questions are usually answered through the natural course of conversation. We are curious as to what’s the most beautiful thing they have achieved as an organization, but also as to how they got their funding, the biggest obstacles they encountered and whether they would have done things differently afterwards et cetera. We like to conclude by asking  whether they have any tips for us and what help they could use from us.

Our learnings from these conversations so far

It is becoming clearer that we can make little impact on our own. Instead, collaborating with other organizations is the key to success when you want to make the greatest possible impact. The experience is that everyone is really open to this. I love it!

Another take-away from these conversations I learned is when working on projects across borders, it is important that you delve deeply into the cultural differences with a country. Take the time to ask questions locally and listen to what people and organizations have to say. It seems logical and obvious, but every organization makes the mistake of plunging into something very quickly out of enthusiasm and thinking that only good intentions will do the trick. Of course you also don’t want to wait forever to take action. Somewhere you have to find a middle ground in this.

But how do these interactions compare?

Looking for other organizations and getting in touch with the right people doesn’t differ much from those experiences in the commercial world. You have to be driven to make new connections and network. Being proactive is key!

From the first moment you get in touch with someone, the work changes compared to a commercial job. Once these organizations or people know what you are doing as an organization and what your intention is, they open up much faster. Seems logical, because in the first place you aren’t selling anything, and in the second place you both want to make the world a little bit better. It starts with the first call. People are very open and give you lots of information. I am even quickly invited to pay them a visit. How cool is that, I don’t even have to ask! During the actual face to face meeting they tend to open up even more and you see the spark in their eyes. It’s so awesome to see when people really talk passionately about their work. This gives me great energy and motivation.

Passion for the subject makes talking easy

So to answer my main question: Being a salesperson in a non-profit world is awesome! The basic work you do is about the same, but making connections is easier and you go more into depth. And the fact that you are doing something to make the world a better place gives you a great feeling. Although I always have a lot of fun connecting with people and selling services and products, it’s nice that I don’t have to try so hard. The conversations I have feel more equal. This makes sense, because we are all passionate about our purpose and we really do need each other to make a difference.

Still there is lots more to learn from our partners. They have so many years of experience. So we will continue having these conversations and sharing our learnings. I’d like to give a big shout out to all of those that took the time to share their knowledge with us. You have been very helpful and your passion is motivating!

In sharing my experience and insights, I hope that it has given you food for thought, as well as raised some questions. I would love to hear your thoughts and questions on this subject, just leave a comment below or on our social posts. We are always looking for people to have more conversations, so if you are interested, get in touch!

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About the author: Arnoud Oosten contributes his positivity and networking skills to make the 48percent.org partner community grow. When he isn’t busy helping us or growing the reseller network from Voys, he is his connecting with his friends and trying to stay in shape.

From Instagram inspiration to collaborating foundations

One Wednesday earlier this year I got a message from Pollien. Pollien is my colleague and also spearheads 48percent.org.

Pollien: Hi! I saw that Maggie is coming to the Netherlands, do you want to go? I want to.

Me: Yes definitely!

So we bought two tickets to the ‘Share the Love Valentine’s Day Fundraising Event for BlinkNow’ on February 14th, 2020.

‘Who is Maggie?’, I can hear you thinking. We were talking about Maggie Doyne, the CEO and co-founder of BlinkNow. BlinkNow is a foundation on a mission to change the world by empowering Nepal’s children. They do this by providing quality education, a safe environment, and through inspiring others.

The BlinkNow story

In 2005 – when she was 19 years old – Maggie went on a gap year to India through the organization Leap Now. At the end of that year she was traveling, and while she was in Nepal she met Hima. That’s where everything started. Hima was a young girl she saw breaking and selling stones on the street. One of the hundreds of orphans that earned money this way. Each day Maggie walked past Hima. Each day she was greeted by the girl. More and more Maggie realized she couldn’t keep walking by without doing something. ‘Saving’ all of the orphans, that was an impossible task. ‘But what if I can mean something for this one girl?’ With that thought in mind she registered Hima at a school, paid her school fees, and bought her a uniform.

She spent the $5,000 that she saved from baby sitting on helping other children. With that money and more fundraising efforts, she bought a piece of land and built a Children’s home for 50 children, all of whom she adopted. In 2010 she opened a school that welcomes 400 children every year. She doesn’t do this alone, but rather together with her partner in crime, Top Bahadur Malla.

How I heard about Maggie

In 2016 Floortje Dessing made an episode about Maggie Doyne. This episode made a deep impression on me and many others. So much so that I started to follow her on Instagram. And that brings us back to the part of the story where I got the message from Pollien. She was coming to the Netherlands and we could meet her! She was in the country to participate in an episode of ‘Floortje terug naar het einde van de wereld (Floortje goes back to the end of the world)’. (You can watch the Dutch-language episode here).

Going to the event

I’m always too early and that day, of course, we were too early as well. The event was at the Luther Museum in Amsterdam. We were greeted by the volunteers working at the event. There was a bit of a chaotic atmosphere around us since they were still setting stuff up. We walked in feeling a little uncomfortable. We were the first. Oh wait, luckily someone else was also there.

There were scarves being sold, beautiful scarves. We both bought one. We found them gorgeous and our purchases led to the real question going through both of our heads– where are we going to sit and how will we tackle networking? Eventually, we found a strategic place where we could have a nice view of the whole event area.

Sharing our stories and our passion

And then -I’m not really sure anymore how- we were approached by Ashley. Ashley Dittmar is the Director of Development at BlinkNow. She started talking to us, and of course we talked about ‘our foundation’. She was enthusiastic. So much so that she asked Maggie to come over. We talked more about 48percent.org. We explained our mission to promote equality in the word through access to communication and stimulating the use of Information and Communication Technology. We further explained that we did this by making contributions to reduce obstacles in using the internet, such as accessibility, affordability, and the lack of the necessary knowledge and well as promoting access to free communication.

We talked about a possible collaboration between the two foundations. We couldn’t be happier. We connected on Linkedin and hugs were exchanged.

Then Maggie needed to go so she could give her talk. The story she told was recognizable. We already knew a lot from the tv show episodes and the Instagram posts. But some details we didn’t know. She told us about how she had to go back to the United States to earn money the only way that was available – through baby-sitting.

Furthermore, the contribution of foundation co-founder and Kopila Valley chairman Top Bahadur Malla was especially impressive; both his story and his life journey.  After serving for more than 15 years in Ramana’s Garden, a project for Nepalese refugees in India, Top decided to go back to his native country and found Kopila. Top grew up in a small village in the Himalayas where he became an orphan at a young age. Kopila is his way of giving children in his country the childhood he always dreamed of. As Maggie’s foundation partner, Top is responsible for the on-site development, supervision, and management of Kopila Valley.

Goodbye is not always the end

After the speech the people slowly floated away. We talked quickly again with Ashley and promised to plan a conference call soon. As we left, we were both looking forward to the collaboration and my head was already full of plans and ideas. We hope to share those plans soon, so keep an eye out for more information coming soon!

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About the author: Yvanka Hullegie-Vletter contributes her legal knowledge, non-profit experience, and her enthusiasm for education to 48percent.org. When she isn’t busy helping us or running the legal department of Voys and Devhouse Spindle, she is spending time with her family and writing wonderful stories about them.

World Connectivity in numbers

When discussing something as large-scale as global connectivity, using data helps to gain perspective on words like “global” and “most”. To get everyone on the same page about what data and facts we are referencing when working on our mission to facilitate access to unrestricted communication, we wanted to share the most current numbers we found and our thoughts on them. 

The big picture

Over 95% of the world is covered by mobile GSM 2G narrowband services. Even in the world’s poorest countries, labelled by the UN as Least Developed Countries (LDCs), 2G coverage is also around 90%. The spread of 2G has had a great impact on the accessibility of voice communication. It has also stimulated the development of applications such as mobile money and agricultural and health related text message services. 

Virtually every country in the world has launched 3G mobile broadband networks. And about ⅔ of the world’s poorest countries have commercially deployed 4G networks. Impressive right? And in addition to all this mobile internet, an exciting space race for satellite broadband internet is under way with big companies with deep pockets sending more satellites up in space than ever thought possible. Universal internet coverage, be it mobile or satellite broadband and IoT, is within our grasp and will probably be realised in one way or another in the near future. 

Where is the gap?

How is it then, that more than 40% of the world population is still offline? The short answer is: because global connectivity is not the endgame, unrestricted usage is. Don’t get me wrong, the spread of global connectivity is doing a lot of good. That is why the United Nations has universal access as one of their targets for 2020 within the Sustainable Development Goals framework. However, simply getting the connectivity everywhere will not solve the entire problem. Connectivity is a prerequisite for usage, not a guarantee. 

Digital divide

Let’s go back to the numbers;  looking at this data on a global level is misleading because even though 90% of LDCs is covered by 2G, 10% is not. And for this 10% progress is slow. Bringing connectivity to these rural and remote areas is expensive and difficult so most commercial telecom operators, the big driving forces in expanding mobile connectivity in LDCs more urban areas, will not expand their services to these areas. 

High costs + low income of consumers in the region = no commercial incentive

Companies such as Hiber offer very interesting solutions to these areas with a low cost low power IoT satellite connectivity. 

How internet factors in

For broadband internet, the balance is even more askew.  Even though worldwide mobile 3G coverage is around 50%, the divide between developed countries and LDCs is 90% vs 20%. And for 4G networks, coverage is mainly limited to urban areas with more rural areas having no coverage at all. Fixed broadband penetration is extremely low in LDCs, e.g. Sub Saharan Africa has penetration rates of 1% or even lower. So there is a huge digital divide, especially when looking at broadband technology. 

The affordability factor

A large obstacle preventing people from using the internet available to them is affordability, especially when looking at the world’s poorest countries. LDCs have the highest relative mobile broadband prices at about 14% of the average monthly income. In comparison, developed countries have prices at less than 5% of the average monthly income. In addition to the cost of usage of the internet, there are also the costs of adjacent necessities such as devices and electricity that are adding to the affordability problem. 

Why is the internet relatively more expensive in LDCs than developed countries? The answer is a combination of reasons. Often, mobile internet markets are dominated by a small number of commercial operators so there is a lack of competition. Regulatory frameworks are slowing down innovations in spectrum usage that could drive prices down. Tax regulations and import taxes are also adding to the bill. Combine that with the fact that a lot of the telecom operators only offer prepaid data bundles, which are notoriously more expensive, and you have a recipe for a very expensive internet. 

The role of education

A large part of the offline population is uneducated. Research shows that education levels are one of the most important indicators as to whether people use the internet. The reason for this is twofold: a lot of schools nowadays have access to the internet so children attending (secondary) schools are familiarized with using Information and Communication Technologies as well as being taught the necessary skills and knowledge for using the internet. In addition to this, awareness of the benefits of internet usage is more prevalent in people who have secondary school education. Also issues such as privacy, data usage and secure internet usage are more familiar to people having received secondary education.

Always changing

The situation around global connectivity as well as the facts and figures that illustrate the situation are constantly changing. The good news is that the number of internet users worldwide is steadily climbing. When we first started thinking about our foundation in 2018, 48% of the world population was not using the internet. Today, that number is just above 40%. By keeping in mind the issues of affordability and education levels, the available connectivity will continue to grow.  

These rising numbers are further aided by the attention given to the problem by the target set by the UN in their SDG framework. This results in cooperation by a lot of organisations, both commercial and non-profit, and governmental programs working to connect the world. We are eager to see what happens to these numbers in the future. 

Connecting the world through free communication

In 2003 I worked in Haiti for roughly six months. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. After an 11-hour flight, you go from a country that has everything to a country that has nothing. In Haiti, I saw what a lack of access to information and communication does to a country and its people.

Today, 48% of the world’s population still has no access to free communication. This needs to change. With 48percent.org we want to bring equality to the world by enabling that last 48% to have access to unrestricted communication.

The plan to make this happen

There were a number of basic essential conditions for us to be able to make this a reality: a strong income stream, being a communication authority, and a scalable self-reliant organization. Now that these conditions are met, we can get started on building the solution. We believe this solution consists of roughly three parts:

1. You need a data network. These can be balloonslow orbit satellite networks or drones that bring that data network to remote areas.
2. Then you need a base station that translates the signal from these data networks into a local network.
3. Finally, you must have devices that use this local network.

That’s easy, right?

It sounds simple and achievable, but unfortunately, it is not. The big bottleneck is electricity. Approximately 15% of the world’s population has no access to electricity, and things like WiFi and 4G demand a lot of it. A new generation of networks and receivers that are much more energy efficient needs to be built. Only then can the 48 percent of the world that does not yet have access to free communication be brought online.

The need for a reliable network

But with electricity alone, you are not there yet. A reliable network also has to be set up. This network is preferably an open source and crowd owned network. Any node added to the network can then be both a receiver and a transmitter. This makes the network independent of commercial parties and even of government authorities. Developing this network circularly also keeps the impact this project has on the planet to a minimum.

The 48percent.org foundation

In recent years we have developed the building blocks to be able to build the above framework. Now is time to stack those blocks! We’re very excited for this to happen and we are setting up a foundation for this purpose: 48percent.org.

The mantra of this foundation is:

“Bring equality to the world by enabling everybody to have access to unrestricted communication”

The first step is to promote the development of the components needed for open communication. We don’t have to do all of this ourselves, but we love to boost the process.

Generating power: the Lightyear One

The decentralized generation of power is a very important component to make it all possible. Looking at the latest technology, we already made a promising first purchase: we bought the Lightyear One. This solar car decentrally generates its own electricity and stores it in small batteries while giving an unmatched range for the capacity of these batteries. The team that developed the car has access to the networks that can make the solar and battery technology scalable and works, just like us, purpose-driven.