Career Profile: Betsy Teutsch

Career Profiles
Betsy headshot microphone Great-Dames 8 x 10

The last profile in this series is here! Meet Betsy Teutsch, author of “100 under $100″ 

 

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?

My day job is as a Judaica artist specializing in Hebrew wedding contracts. Running my own art business made me excited about the potential of microfinance to help women earn better livelihoods. For the last dozen years, I have branched out into a wide variety of interests, focusing on sustainability and women’s empowerment. I now see that we can accomplish both goals at once. Helping women gain access to sustainable green tech will help them improve their lives, health, and financial bottom line. It will liberate a lot of their time for more productive pursuits and it will also decrease carbon emissions and increase forest cover! 

HOW DID YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE?

I started blogging and writing a monthly column on greening our lives and community. I live in Mt. Airy, a very socially conscious, lefty neighborhood in Philadelphia, USA where these ideas resonate. I eventually decided to launch a second career working in sustainability. For a time I served as Director of Communications for greenmicrofinance.com – their vision was to utilize microfinance to help disseminate green technology. When I learned the impact just one solar panel or improved cookstove can have on a household – literally jumping from the 19th century (cooking over a campfire and utilizing kerosene lamps for lighting) into the 21st century with tech like solar LED lights and cellphone charging – I couldn’t believe people were not talking about this. 

I also noticed, over time, that women were insufficiently involved in the whole process of rolling out clean tech – absent from the design process, the market analysis, the financing, and the supply chain straight through to sales. Hence, the products were not well-aligned with what women wanted and needed. I set out to research this disconnect and discovered an incredible array of great tools for low-resource areas, with fabulous female engineers, designers, and social entrepreneurs working to bridge this gap. I began posting images (there’s the artist in me!) on a Pinterest Board and within weeks, I had dozens and dozens. I was wowed by this whole new look at development: women taking charge of their lives. I decided more people need to know all the good work being done, and set out to curate 100 tools under $100 in book form, illustrated with these beautiful full-color photos featuring women at work. And I did!

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO OTHERS WHO ASPIRE TO BE IN YOUR FIELD?

There are many paths in. I say, look around and go through the open door. If one approach doesn’t work, try another. Think broadly. There are 2 billion people living lives devoid of the modern infrastructures we take for granted: electricity, sanitation, health, education, transportation. You can’t solve it, but you can make your own difference!

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO WRITE 100 UNDER $100?

book cover smaller

I wanted to share all the cool things I was discovering!  The collection is varied and each entry has suggested actionable activities. It is a great resource for:

  • Students and educators
  • Donors – from microphilanthropists to foundations
  • Practitioners, those in a position to implement and tinker with the tools directly
  • Activists/do-gooders – people who want to do something beyond financial contribution. That could be volunteering, advocating, doing a collection drive.

Find out more about the book and purchase it here

WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR BOOK?

Hope! We know so many ways to help end extreme poverty, and empowering women is a very effective strategy for implementing these solutions.

You can read more about Betsy’s current work at www.100under100.org. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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What to Think About While Reading “Geek Heresy”

Geek Heresy

1. The author isn’t against technology, as illustrated in Chapter 6. According to him, under what conditions would a technology project make sense in development? Do you agree?

2. In development, people often speak of needs-based approaches versus rights-based approaches. The book raises the possibility of an aspiration-based approach. How might an aspiration-based approach differ from the others? How might it be the same?

3. If you had to do without all of your education or all of your electronic gadgets, which would you pick?

4. If you are interested in an ICT4D career, has Geek Heresy changed the way you will approach your work? How, if so?

5. In what ways does Geek Heresy support the main arguments of The Tyranny of Experts?

Thank you Kentaro Toyama for your input!

Geek Heresy by Kentaro Toyama

Career Profiles, Geek Heresy
Kentaro Toyama Portrait

Kentaro Toyama

Kentaro Toyama is the author of Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology, a new book that aims to challenge our over-dependence on using technology to solve global problems. While technology has improved the world in many ways, Toyama argues that it is human capacity that can produce the social change we need.

WHAT DO YOU DO?

I am originally a computer scientist and former researcher at Microsoft Research in India. Prior to founding the team in India, I found myself getting bored of my job. It was intellectually challenging but I wanted to do something that contributed to society in some way. I was aware I had a privileged background, and that a lot of people in the world didn’t have what I had. I tried volunteering for non-profits and I liked it. When I got to India, I was able to do something that merged all of these things professionally.

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO OTHERS WHO ASPIRE TO BE IN YOUR FIELD?

Get international field experience. In the absence of that you can do a lot of great work but without on-the-ground experience it will be disconnected from reality. Field work gives you a feeling for the real challenges and the realization that no amount of planning can really anticipate reality on the ground.

For those interested in ICT4D it’s important to remember that technology amplifies social forces. It helps where human forces are already working in the right direction. Find organizations doing what you believe in and that are also doing their work well. Doing work well means being managed well and meeting goals on the ground.

WHAT WAS THE MOST SURPRISING THING YOU LEARNED WHILE RESEARCHING?

What still surprises me is that while everyone agrees with the saying, “if you give a person a fish, they eat for a day; if you teach them how to fish, they eat for a lifetime,” so few people spend their time and resources on teaching.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS?

Fiction: The Child in Time by Ian McEwan.

Non-fiction: The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker


Geek Heresy is our book for the month of June. Stay tuned for discussion questions and check out geekheresy.org for more info on Kentaro Toyama and what he deems a “misunderstanding about technology’s role in society.”