Partnerships for Health from PSU to Rwanda

This post was contributed by Jonathan Fink, Vice Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 12.32.17 PMPresident of Research & Strategic Partnerships at Portland State University. It was originally posted in the Research & Strategic Partnerships Quarterly Review, Fall 2014

For the Fall 2014 term, PSU Mechanical Engineering Professor Evan Thomas is in the tiny, east African nation of Rwanda working on an ambitious program, locally called Tubeho Neza (“Live well”), to help reduce childhood mortality from diarrhea and pneumonia by distributing water filters and clean-burning cook stoves to the poorest quarter of this UN designated Least Developed Country (LDC). The project is run by DelAgua Health, of which Evan is the Chief Operating Officer, in partnership with the Rwandan Ministry of Health. This report is based on a recent visit I made to Evan’s inspiring operation.

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 12.44.55 PM

Much of the funding for the project comes from the sale of United Nations issued carbon credits, made possible because the filters and stoves reduce the villagers’ need for firewood, thus lessening the pressure on Rwanda’s mostly-depleted forests. Receiving carbon credit funding requires careful monitoring of the use of the stoves and filters, which is done by independent auditing organizations, as well as through a robust research program run out of PSU in collaboration with the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Emory University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Rwanda.

Tracking the performance and usage of stoves and filters is accomplished in part through the use of wireless transmitters that Evan and his co-workers at PSU have developed, which are embedded in approximately 1% of the deployed filters and stoves. The transmitters send usage data over the ubiquitous cell-phone network to the research and programmatic teams. These sensors are also deployed in 14 other countries by PSU, and allow philanthropic, public and private funders of public health programs to know whether their investments are being used and having impact.

I observed the deployment that was part of the second of Tubeho Neza’s three phases. Phase I, which was completed in 2012, reached 10,000 people in 15 villages. Phase II, which began in September 2014 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014, should reach 500,000 people in 2600 villages. Phase III in 2015 aims to serve at least 2M people in 13,000 villages.

Rwandan family learning how to use their new water filter.

Rwandan family learning how to use their new water filter.

DelAgua, which is a social enterprise, hopes that the less poor 3/4 of the population, seeing the health benefits received by their neighbors, will choose to purchase stoves and filters for themselves, helping the company recover their costs and allowing them to continue to receive payments for carbon credits.

Each deployment is a complex, well-choreographed operation. Filters and stoves are picked up at DelAgua’s warehouses in Kigali and delivered to the villages by the Rwandan National Police, contingent on the roads being passable, which is not always the case, especially during the two annual rainy seasons. Coordination is done ahead of time with the village leaders, who confirm the identities of each community member that will be receiving filters and stoves. Local Community Health Workers (CHW), who are employees of the national government and get trained by DelAgua staff, assist with the distribution.

The actual deployment kicks off with speeches by a village leader and a DelAgua project manager, who outline what will be taking place over the following few hours. Next, the CHWs put on a humorous play, depicting the health effects of contaminated drinking water and dirty indoor air from cooking. This is followed by more speeches telling the villagers about how the filters and pumps work, and the nature of the program, including warnings to not steal or try to sell the devices. Each recipient then gets checked off a list by a village leader, gets their stove and filter, along with a poster that shows how they’re used, and heads back to their home. CHWs then go to every home to explain again how the devices work, using a picture book as well as the poster. They also conduct a survey about the family, which provides baseline information about demographics and helps in calculating carbon credits. GPS locations and photos of the homes are recorded, along with bar codes for the filters and stoves. Before the end of the day, after the families have had an opportunity to try their devices, the CHWs return to make sure everything is working properly. All of these activities are designed to be robust implementations of well-established health behavior change methodology.

The community members I met seemed grateful and intrigued by the whole process. The scale is ramping up rapidly, but the underlying public private partnership model for aid distribution is not yet well established. Success requires the cooperation of the community, the National Police, the Ministry of Public Health, the CHWs, DelAgua’s leadership, the manufacturers of the stoves and filters, the organizations providing the carbon credits, and the weather. I found the ambition and scale of the program to be mind-boggling. If they succeed, it could radically change the way global assistance is done.

As if the humanitarian aspects of Tubeho Neza were not impactful enough, DelAgua’s work in Rwanda is also the subject of a major scientific research program encompassing mechanical and electrical engineering, tropical medicine, epidemiology, statistics, and climate change. The PSU-led team of researchers described above are participating in a large-scale randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the health impacts of the filter and stove deployments. DelAgua is the primary funder of this research effort, with some additional support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Nearly $2M of funding has come through PSU for this program over the past two years.

Comparison with 40,000 households in the control areas is used to help evaluate the 100,000 households in the program areas. The team is measuring villagers’ behavior and device use through a combination of the PSU sensors, self-reported health conditions, blood samples, blood pressure, and in situ air and water quality monitoring. This information is then compared with clinically reported pneumonia and diarrhea cases among children under 5. This is one of the largest environmental health RCTs ever run.

In addition to the DelAgua program, PSU leads a separate research project, funded by the British Department for International Development, to put sensors on 200 hand pumps across Rwanda to assess the relative efficacy of three different operation and maintenance models with the goal of seeing if sensors can improve the cost-effectiveness of water service delivery in developing countries. This is a critical issue because worldwide, roughly half of the water pumps installed by governments and aid programs are broken at any given time, and estimates of compliance with international metrics such as the Millennium Development Goals are likely over estimating progress.

These projects are expected to result in a large number of scientific publications in the next few years, and will open the door to many additional funding opportunities for comparable programs in several other developing world settings. In addition to the social and economic benefits in the targeted countries, this work can demonstrate the beneficial role of cutting-edge engineering technology in international development, expand the market for carbon credits, extend the global reach of Oregon companies and institutions, form part of the foundation for the new joint OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, and provide unique training opportunities for students from the US, UK, Rwanda, and other LDCs.

December 1, 2014 at 1:02 pm Leave a comment

Creating Environments for Social Change

Cindy Cooper Headshot

Cindy Cooper, co-founder and director of PSU’s Impact Entrepreneurs

Every day Cindy Cooper is unleashing the promise of business for social impact. As Co-Founder and Director of Impact Entrepreneurs at Portland State University, Cindy teaches entrepreneurship and design as they relate to social change. She has guided countless students and professionals to align their purpose with their career and helped many aspiring entrepreneurs launch new social ventures. A social entrepreneur herself, Cindy has now catalyzed a social entrepreneurship movement at Portland State University, including creating an online certificate in social innovation and social entrepreneurship.

In this podcast Cindy speaks with Jackie Babicky, an author and instructor who has worked with small business entrepreneurs for over 30 years. Together Jackie and Cindy explore questions like: Who is a social entrepreneur? What’s the difference between an entrepreneur and a social entrepreneur? and What’s an Encore career? 

Cindy talks about applying entrepreneurial skills to create social change from local to global, from personal to institutional, and how everyone can be a changemaker.


November 6, 2014 at 8:15 am 1 comment

Thinking, Learning and Doing

Gina Condon

This post was contributed by guest writer Gina Condon, President and Founder of Construct Foundation.

In 2013 I was in the process of launching the Construct Foundation. I was looking for the right professional development opportunity to help me form the building blocks of a new kind of education foundation. I researched everything from MBA programs with a social mission to weekend workshops for non-profit leaders. Throughout my search I kept returning to Portland State University’s Business of Social Innovation, a new online certificate delivered by Impact Entrepreneurs in the School of Business Administration. The new program prepares changemakers to tackle the world’s most challenging social and environmental problems.

timthumbAn Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, PSU is recognized for their leadership in social innovation education and the PSU School of Business is ranked among the top 15 MBA programs by Aspen Institute Center for Business Education. The social innovation certificate is open to professionals as well as graduate and undergraduate students, creating a unique intergenerational community, and the faculty is made up of accomplished practitioners.

I’m honored this fall to join an inspiring group of peers in the first cohort to finish The Business of Social Innovation certificate. Among the many highlights of the yearlong program, we were treated to visits or webinars by Tim Clark of Business Model You; Kristi Yuthas, coauthor of Measuring and Improving Social Impacts; and designers from

Congratulations to my fellow graduates, and thank you to co-instructors Cindy Cooper and Jacen Greene for all of your work crafting such a content-rich course! 

photo (6)Now, with the courses all complete, we are on to the important work of identifying, designing, and supporting sustainable solutions to real-world problems. My work will be in the field of education. The team at Construct recently partnered with the founders of Design Week Portland and piloted the expansion of their education track as a way to celebrate the nexus between design, innovation, and K-12 education.

Next we plan to introduce the concept of an industry supported City-Wide Design Challenge for students throughout Portland metro region. This idea has grown from The Construct Foundation’s first initiative with Project Breaker.  I was able to develop the idea throughout the Business of Social Innovation coursework.  Here’s a micro-documentary about the project we ran last May.  Now similar projects are being developed for middle schools and high schools around the city.

Congratulations to Impact Entrepreneurs for launching a powerful new course.

Gina Condon

Construct Foundation | President

October 30, 2014 at 2:03 pm Leave a comment

We’re Hiring


Changemaker Campus Liaison Internship

The Details

Position: Changemaker Campus Liaison Intern
Location: Portland, OR
Deadline: Review of applications will begin immediately – open until filled (final deadline to apply is November 3, 2014)
Duration: Part-time, Temporary (12-15) hrs/week for 3 academic terms ending June 15, 2015 with the potential to extend through June 15, 2016.
Start date: Open until filled. Ideal start date will be December 1, 2014

Job Description

At Portland State, we believe that education can be a world-changing experience. It can spark ideas, open doors, and cultivate the skills for anyone to become a changemaker. Changemakers dream, discover, and learn. They seek out solutions to problems others say cannot be solved. They are artists, engineers, teachers, builders, cooks, economists, designers, planners, policy makers, writers, creators, activists, scientists, performers, entrepreneurs. They are thinkers and they are doers. We believe everyone has the capacity to be a changemaker.

In 2012, Portland State was selected as part of the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus consortium, a select group of institutions of higher education that demonstrate commitment and cutting-edge approaches to galvanizing solutions to major human and environmental challenges. More information can be found at:

We are seeking a driven and energetic student to be PSU’s first Changemaker Campus Liaison. If you like to work with diverse people and big ideas, if you have have a positive, can-do attitude, and are passionate about making a difference for PSU and the world, this may be the internship for you.

Primary Responsibilities

Primary Responsibilities: The Intern will have the unique opportunity to not only advance Changemaker Campus strategies, but also to help define the future of this initiative. Responsibilities include:

• Planning and staffing events (workshops, lectures, etc.) and conducting student outreach about courses, career opportunities and events

• Creating a Changemaker Career Fair (explore partnering with Idealist, ACS, and Net Impact)

• Identifying PSU’s changemaker stories and pathways to changemaking on campus. This will involve developing online and/or other resources to help students access pathways to changemaking and assisting with the production of Changemaker Stories videos.

• Posting on social media, writing and curating relevant blog stories

• Interfacing with Ashoka U and other Changemaker Campuses and internal PSU changemaker groups, attending Ashoka U Exchange conference, if possible, and researching best practices from other Changemaker Campuses.

• Other potential roles for this position include developing and/or implementing funding or revenue streams and managing student volunteers.


You are a person of integrity. You are curious, a seeker, but also able to focus on results. You have the optimism to believe in a better world and the realism and project management skills to reach such optimistic goals. You laugh easily. You can also demonstrate:

• Strong verbal and written communication skills that inspire people to take action

• Ability to get things done on time on your own and when working in teams

• Experience developing and managing successful partnerships

• Experience envisioning future states and developing strategies to achieve them

• Experience hiring and managing volunteers with positive results or a willingness to develop yourself in this area

Comfort with trying new things, learning what works and making changes to what doesn’t

• Social media savvy including some experience with WordPress, MailChimp, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

• Ability to create and edit short storytelling videos or the willingness to learn how

• Experience or interest in raising money, starting an organization or other entrepreneurial activity

Time Requirements

The hours are flexible with a range of (12 – 15) hours per week


Graduate students: $500 per month/$1500 per term; undergraduate students: $400 per month/$1,200 per term (prorated for number of days worked). This position is being funded through the generous support of donors and the Institute for Sustainable Solutions to the Sustainability Internship Program to support student career pathways in sustainability. This will be a high-visibility, leadership position. Your compensation may also include:

• Networking opportunities with businesses, nonprofits, and national PSU partners • Attending events or workshops

• Building your resume through significant responsibilities and projects that will make a lasting difference


This position requires current enrollment as a PSU student.

To confirm that you are formally admitted and enrolled, please email your full name and student ID to Include the name of the internship you are applying for in the subject line. Once your status is confirmed, you will receive the full application instructions via email.

October 23, 2014 at 9:22 am Leave a comment

Find Your Inner Hammer Thrower; A Call to Struggle

By Cindy Cooper, Co-Founder and Director of Impact Entrepreneurs

photo (5)Sometimes I get stuck on a problem. I am not sure how to proceed, and I get scared I will choose the wrong path. Sometimes, I let that uncertainty stop me, and that can feel like this: Phew.

I feel relief that I’ve saved myself the embarrassment and pain of making a mistake. I can simply focus on what I know and feel good about my past successes, rather than attempt something that makes me feel naïve or dumb.

But other times, I keep trying, turning over rocks, and puzzling through it. My proudest accomplishments have been those that did not come easily. Reading “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Dr. Carol Dweck, I understand why venturing into discomfort can build confidence whereas reveling in the easy zone diminishes self-esteem.

Dr. Dweck’s research shows we have enormous capacity to grow our intelligence and abilities in every realm: art, business, sports, love and anywhere in between. A growth mindset not only builds our brains and brawn, but it also builds resilience, and who can’t use more of that.

In college, I got my fair share of good grades. I graduated a semester early, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. I also avoided classes based on difficulty. I was perfectionistic in most of my activities. Fortunately, I also tested myself. This was easier to do in areas that were less tied to my sense of self worth, such as sports. I wanted to be as good as I could be, but I had unburdened myself of the pressure of being great. So, after illness and injury, I was willing to give up being a sprinter and try my hand at hammer throwing, despite lacking all requisite talent and size to be any good. I was awful. I cried a lot after practices. I think Coach Goldhammer (yes, his real name) was teasing me when he told me to quit. His advice was, “Stop thinking!” I had no idea how to do that.

The truth is I could use my physical limitations and lack of experience as excuses, but this time my weaknesses made me lift more weights and stay out on the field long after most people had left. And at some point, something changed. I started to improve, and gosh was it ever fun! But, don’t get too excited. This isn’t a Cinderella story. I never did throw anywhere near as well as my teammates. Still, I felt self-respect and self-esteem that I didn’t get from earning As in Psychology and Spanish, which came much more easily than spinning around and pitching a hammer across a field. And that’s a key lesson in Mindset: It’s not the easy route that makes you feel good about yourself, it is the process of striving out of your reach until you get there.

At our final intercollegiate meet, the SCIAC competition, I threw a personal best. In his last note to me of the season, I received the best compliment from Coach ever: “Nice SCIAC meet! You are a come-through performer.”

With time, I’ve become braver. I have gotten better at giving myself permission to reach into uncertainty, despite not knowing how things would turn out. I have been willing to switch careers to seek more purpose in my work. I have worked with partners and teams to start businesses and programs in uncharted territories. That doesn’t mean I am reckless, or that I am not ever afraid. I am careful when my choices impact others, and pretty much all of them do. I still find myself answering questions like: “What’s the worst that can happen?” The answers are important.

I am applying similar dedication to my personal development. I pay attention to choices and behaviors. I seek out different perspectives when I am stuck. I (usually) believe that being a work in progress is a good thing. I truly believe I can be more fulfilled, purposeful and happy. I have learned I can have more positive impact by learning to be a better me.

As the new school year begins, it seems appropriate to celebrate the growth mindset by trying something new and challenging. I can’t make up for the times I’ve shied away from challenges, but I can approach the future with greater courage. I’ve never written an article like this before. I am an educator, after all, shouldn’t I have the answers? How will it look to admit publicly that I struggle with not knowing? I’m going to find out. This time, I am excited to learn from the experience. My heart is actually pounding right now, but I know that excitement and fear can both trigger this physical response. I choose: excitement.

How about you? How will you celebrate your wonderful, grow-able brain?

September 30, 2014 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

PSU Graduates First Class of Social Innovation Certificate Participants

Deidre Schuetz works with a fellow student on mapping personal business plans, a final portion of the certificate curriculum.

Students Deidre Schuetz and Gina Condon collaborate during a certificate workshop.

Portland State University’s Impact Entrepreneurs recently completed the pilot year of the new Business of Social Innovation Certificate, a professional and academic certificate delivered from within the School of Business.

The program’s goal, audacious from the start, was to greatly enhance an individual’s likelihood of transforming world-changing ideas into reality, whether working within an established organization or launching their own.

Aside from the ambitious mission, even getting the program up and running seemed like it would require some magic. The Impact Entrepreneurs team had only a few months to run design sessions for the program; tackle online learning tools; recruit instructors; record lectures; attract and register students; and move through the local, state, and regional accreditation processes.

Each term of the first year of the certificate was as much a challenge for the team delivering the content as it was for the cohort executing the coursework. Everyone involved was working hard, from the instructors to the diverse cohort of undergraduate and graduate students, nonprofit executives and for-profit business managers. Students completed three intensive online courses, attended site visits with twelve local social enterprises, and a developed a full business plan. What was the result of this collective marathon? Outstanding emerging ideas to address social problems and invaluable feedback based in experience to drive the program into year two.

The program participants developed:

lightbulbConstruct Foundation’s new Citywide Design Challenge for students, to be announced during Design Week Portland.

lightbulbA new learning center at Universidad Catolica del Norte in Chile to improve retention and graduation rates.

lightbulbA childcare facility for homeless families that offers fees on a sliding scale and flexible hours.

lightbulbA cause marketing campaign to enable local breweries to support the Oregon Food Bank through competitions and seasonal beers.

lightbulbNew ways for NGO Lanyi Fan‘s programs to support sustainable entrepreneurship in West Africa.

… and more.

What they thought:

The Social Innovation Certificate program was an inspiring,300px-Speech_bubble.svg positively challenging, practical experience that provided tools, insights and resources to convert ideas to sustainable actions that drive change. It supported my professional and personal goals in a meaningful, invaluable way, and facilitated a stronger network of passionate individuals of diverse backgrounds, committed to addressing systemic issues and opportunities in our community. - Rhian Rotz, Director of Corporate Citizenship, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, Portland

The program not only taught me how to start a business with a so300px-Speech_bubble.svgcial mission, it also changed my ideology about the business world  and gave me direction for after graduation. It was hard work but the benefits that I gained from the program are countless. I am so happy to have been a part of this experience and consider it an important milestone in my education as well as my personal life. - Patrick Ditty, Heavy Equipment Technician at Peterson Machinery, Portland

The program has been an amazing experience for me next to my doctoral studies in education at PSU. The classes, online discussions an300px-Speech_bubble.svgd assignments have provided me different skills I can use as I think and develop ideas as an entrepreneur. The framework in which the content is developed is flexible and inclusive. You will experience, in a close-to-the-real setting, how to develop your idea step by step with excellent feedback from your peers and instructors.  I totally recommend taking this program. - Paulina Gutierrez Zepeda, Assistant Professor at Universidad Catolica del Norte, Chile

Enjoy more photos from the 2014 certificate experience here.

September 29, 2014 at 8:55 am Leave a comment

How to Map Your Career on One (Big) Page

How often do you apply the same level of planning and strategy to your own career decisions that you do to your business decisions? Tim Clark, author of Business Model You, does it all the time. If a business model is the logic we use to create value for our enterprises, he considered, why not try the same for our professional lives?

Today Tim Clark is seen as the leader of the global personal business model movement. A trainer, teacher, and entrepreneur, Clark has authored and edited five books on business and personal development. Among these was the handbook Business Model Generation, which introduced the Business Model Canvas to the world, led to the creation of Business Model You, and is now used by over a million people across the globe.


This summer Tim Clark joined Impact Entrepreneurs to take participants of the social innovation certificate program through a powerful four-step method to draw their “personal business models.”

The exercise started with a recognition that our world is changing fast, in ways no one can predict, and that any plan should be flexible and ready to adapt.

At this point Clark introduced the Business Model Canvas, which is a visual tool built for simplifying complex ideas, and for revealing unspoken assumptions. It looks like this:Business_Model_Canvas-1024x682

After the introduction to the business model canvas, Clark asked participants to get personal and begin reflected on their own interests, skills, abilities, personalities, and assets. Then Clark introduced the Business Model You Canvas, which looks like this:

Personal Biz Model Canvas Template

At this point students were encouraged to use piles of Post-Its to come up with just one word about what they do. This was generally focused on what they do at their job, but extended into their personal lives.

Then they figured out the value of their activity – and not just in terms of deliverables, or ways that they do the activity – but the actual value that is realized through the work they do.

Next they had to think of whom they help. As Clark defines them, customers are anyone for whom you’re creating value.

Once the value and the customers were identified, listing the key channels was next. In this context the channels would be the means through which people would be made aware of the value offered.

After those were dialed in, participants rapidly filled in the rest of the canvas.

In the second part Tim Clark asked students to look at their canvasses and say, “ok – that’s where I am, but where do I want to go?” And then, in a flurry of new sticky notes, students explored their futures.

Parts three and four were about perspectives – participants organized into groups to share feedback and suggestions. The canvas-creator was challenged to listen without “defending or debating.”

The Business Model You exercise is something anyone can do, and it goes far deeper than this three-minute summary. You can use the tool to help identify purpose, tell your story, and to turn your ideas into action. You can find a ton of information about it on the Business Model You website, and you can pick up the book there. Think of it as a “one-page method for reinventing your career”.

September 24, 2014 at 9:43 am Leave a comment

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