30 January 2012

2012 Top 100 Best NGOs by The Global Journal

2012 Top 100 Best NGOs by The Global Journal


by The Global Journal JANUARY 23, 2012
Top 100 NGOs Cover
THE GLOBAL JOURNAL publishes the first ever TOP 100 NGOs list.
WIKIMEDIA FOUNDATION heads the global ranking.
GENEVA - The Global Journal is proud to announce the release of its inaugural ‘Top 100 Best NGOs’ list. The first international ranking of its kind, this exclusive in-depth feature will no doubt stimulate debate, while providing academics, diplomats, policymakers, international organizations and the private sector an insight into the ever changing dynamics and innovative approaches of the non-profit world and its 100 leading actors.
Recognizing the significant role of NGOs as influential agents of change on a global scale, The Global Journal has sought to move beyond outdated clichés and narrow conceptions about what an NGO is and does. From humanitarian relief to the environment, public health to education, microfinance to intellectual property, NGOs are increasingly at the forefront of developments shaping the lives of millions of people around the world.
The Global Journal is especially pleased to congratulate the Wikimedia Foundation for achieving first place in the Top 100 for 2012. A quintessential example of the power of a great idea well executed, Wikimedia’s most famous initiative - Wikipedia - has transformed the way in which the world obtains information, reaching 477 million visitors per month. Entirely volunteer-driven, the site has rapidly become the largest collection of shared knowledge in human history.
The following organizations joined the Wikimedia Foundation at the top of The Global Journal’s ranking:
#03 - Oxfam
#04 - BRAC
#06 - PATH
#10 - Ushahidi
Further details regarding the Top 100 Best NGOs issue is available on The Global Journal website at www.theglobaljournal.net, or by purchasing the magazine at newsstands or via the online store.

Just made my day II

29 January 2012

Challenge the Best 2012

‘Challenge the Best’ invites you to have an impact on our future by being the intuitive, unconventional and smart student thinking out of the box.

On the 26th of March, the Student Union of the University of St. Gallen will bring together respected personalities of our time as well as 40 students from across Europe to discuss the problem of "Global Water Scarcity" – and how we are supposed to learn of the mistakes of our societies, our political and our economic leaders.

The four-day conference will take place in St. Gallen, Switzerland. After a three-day preparation seminar with international guest lecturers, you will get the chance to discuss with our honourable guests in small groups of no more than 8 students per guest – an amazing and inspiring intergenerational dialogue.

Do not miss this opportunity to meet talented students from across Europe. Costs for travel & accommodation, Welcome Dinner and parties: covered by us!

Find information on our confirmed guests here:


Application deadline: 5th of February 2012.
Visit www.ChallengeTheBest.org , learn more about our event, apply online and get invited to this uniquely output-driven event with probably the most intensive contact to the achievers of today that a conference can offer.
Join us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChallengeTheBest

The Portuguese village that came back to life

The Portuguese village that came back to life

One man has transformed a ghost town in the western Algarve into a thriving eco-tourism destination

Beach near Aldeia da Pedralva, Portugal.Beach near Aldeia da Pedralva, Portugal.
The crusty, chewy pão caseiro loaf that I find hanging in an embroidered bag from the shuttered doorway of our village house in Pedralva every morning reminds me that this is no ordinary Algarve holiday.
As I open the door onto the small courtyard, the cool September air is fragrant with eucalyptus and forest flowers. A cockerel crows, the owner's New Foundland puppy, Urso, sets off in hot pursuit of a cat, and two silver-haired villagers, with lines etched deep into their faces, sit chatting on the doorstep, barely acknowledging my presence.
I balance on tiptoe to open the blue wooden shutters. Bright sunlight streams in from the picture-postcard narrow street of quaint whitewashed stone houses, their shiny wooden doors painted the colour of traffic lights – reds, greens and yellows – though there is no traffic or rush hour here.
Cutting the thick crust of the pão caseiro for breakfast requires patience and the biceps of Popeye but the taste is worth it. I pop to the grocery next door to buy deliciously fragrant home-grown tomatoes and sweet juicy melons to accompany the ham, cheese and eggs left in our refrigerator earlier.
Today we are off for a yoga session on Praia do Amado beach, where thunderous foam-curled waves will greet our "omms" and calming tree balances. Tomorrow we are going bird-watching in the stunning Ria Formosa nature park and on Friday I will be testing my nerve with a surfing lesson, another of the many activities on offer here.
Two years ago, the village of Pedralva, near Vila do Bispo on the Algarve's west coast, lay in ruins. Now thanks to one man's creative vision, it has been brought back to life. Like Victor Kiam, who liked the company so much he bought it, adman Antonio Ferreira visited Pedralva to buy a holiday home and ended up buying virtually the entire village.
At 42, he had been at the top of his career for 16 years but had grown tired of working day and night on campaigns and decided to take early retirement. All but seven houses in the once-thriving agricultural community of Pedralva, in the Costa Vicentina parque natural, had been abandoned, long forgotten by their owners. Just nine residents remained.
"This village used to be full of life, but when I arrived it was sad," said Antonio, sitting in the village square with wife Filipa. "I tried to imagine what it would look like if it was rebuilt, and realised it could be a tourism project for me."
He initially bought two small houses, then 12 more, and now owns a total of 31. Four advertising colleagues were persuaded to join the €4m venture, and the council agreed to invest €1m in roads and lighting. It took Antonio nearly two years to find the owners of the properties: some families had forgotten they even owned a house. One owner was traced via a sister he had not spoken to for 12 years. Another sale involved 28 owners, who took it in turns to cram into the attorney's tiny office.
"Everyone thought I was crazy," said Antonio. "They thought I had been drinkingmedronho [the local fire-water]. They said no one went to Pedralva. It was a challenge for me."
Antonio and Filipa sold everything they owned in Estoril, on the Algarve's busier south coast – house, Billabong surf shop and car – and moved to Pedralva. With them came their two children, Manuel and Maria, aged 10 and seven, and Urso, who bounds around the village with as much energy as his energetic owners. Four years later, the dreams of creating a tourism village where holidaymakers are in touch with nature, have come to fruition. The 31 abandoned houses have been restored to their rustic glory, each named after one of the area's many glorious beaches.
Ours is Ingrina, a beautifully designed two-bathroom, two-bedroom stone house with quaint shuttered windows, sky-blue round wooden beams and a terracotta roof with a typical finely carved chimney. The furniture and decor are rustic chic, the showers made of local stone. The house is cleaned daily, bed linen is crisp, fluffy towels are changed if required and the kitchen has all mod cons, including a Tassimo coffee machine.
Each house was individually furbished by a designer friend of Antonio. Some have bamboo-covered patios, others a gallery bedroom and another a kids' hideaway in the eaves. The only new building is the reception and restaurant, and the popular Pizza Pazza, which buzzes with surfers and locals.
Technophiles and children will love the Apple computer training centre in the old school house, which offers courses in creating animated videos and podcasts. A vegetable garden sells fresh produce direct to the holidaymakers and supplies the village shop. It's a far cry from the 1950s and 60s, when 200 villagers worked in the wheat fields, there was no electricity, and donkeys were the main mode of transport.
"Life was tough but we enjoyed it here," says Fernando Sintra, 71, who has lived all his life in Pedralva. "We grew all our own produce, every family had a pig, and on Sundays everyone dressed up. Villagers left in the 70s to work in hotels along the coast, so people became very lonely here. It was like a ghost town. Now there are children running around again in the streets."
During the day, the village is quiet, as visitors explore the eucalyptus-scented forest, picturesque villages and jaw-droppingly beautiful beaches, some accessible only by 4WD. Others head off on guided walks and cycle rides, or go fishing.
The first day we lazed on vast Cordoama beach, watching surfers ride awesome waves and paragliders swoop from the cliffs. The sea here is rougher and the beaches more rugged than in the southern Algarve, and the coast teems with surf schools. It's a great place to learn, because the waves break close to the beach so if, or rather when, you fall off, you're in shallow water.
I was booked into a group beginners' session at the Amado Surf School a little way up the coast. Standing on the sand, Jacu, our instructor, told us how to stand on the board in three easy moves. On sand, they were easy – relatively. It was quite different when there was a wave dancing precariously beneath my twitchy board.
I managed to stand and balance a few times, admittedly only for a few seconds, but the thrill of riding a wave was amazing. I was hooked.
After lunch, we walked to Bordeira beach. A 15-minute dirt track drive took us on to wild beaches at Vale Figueiras – where a naked couple found they no longer had the beach to themselves – and breathtaking Monte Clerigo.
That evening we dined on excellent sea bass at the Sitio do Forno restaurant (00 35 1 963 558404) in Carrapateira while watching an amazing sunset. The vast choice of seafood and fish in this area includes odd-looking percebes (goose barnacles, celebrated at a festival in nearby Aljezur every November) which we sampled at the O Sitio do Rio restaurant (00 35 1 282 973119) just outside the village. There was a knack to eating them but the fresh salty taste was worth the wait.
The next day we were driven by Sonia Manso of eco-tourism promoter Natura Algarve (natura-algarve.com) to Olhão for a boat trip around the stunning Ria Formosa, a lagoon enclosed by barrier islands off the south coast. We saw shellfish farms and a working tide mill, ate freshly caught mackerel on the island of Culatra and waded through warm shallows on uninhabited Barreta, where only the lark's song disturbed the peace. Through binoculars we spotted pink herons, curlews, spoonbills and terns.
That evening, we returned to the Eira Do Mel restaurant (eiradomel.com) in Vila do Bispo, where owner and chef Jose Pinheiro is famous for his flavourful slow-cooked food. On this holiday, there really is no other pace.

28 January 2012

Water scarcity - Challenge the Best

Dear friends! 

Apply for this year's Challenge the Best conference on 'water scarcity' at 

St.Gallen University! Discuss with the Director-General of International 

Committee of the Red Cross, the President of the Green Cross and other 



26 January 2012

Travel 101 ... Braga

TODAYonline | Travel | Travel 101 ... Braga

Travel 101 ... Braga

How to spend S$101 (you big spender, you) in a day

FOUNDED by Cesar Augustus around 16 BC, the third largest city in Portugal is nicknamed the "Rome of Portugal" for the magnificent splendor of its many baroque churches. But the Catholic capital of the Iberian Peninsula, as it is known, isn't just a hushed, musty old town. It brims with youthful energy and is a good indication why Braga has been named 2012 European Youth Capital - giving you all the more reason to swing by this captivating city. SERENE LIM

Breakfast at A Brasileira: S$8.22

Despite undergoing a facelift in 2009, A Brasileira (Largo Barao de Sao Martinho) has retained its authentic old school flavour. Breakfast starts as early as 9am at this spot conveniently located in the city centre. Pick up a strong brew of espresso and have a power brekkie.

City Tour of Braga: S$16.43

While you can trek on foot to see the 35 churches and many other historical buildings within Braga, an easier - and less strenuous - way is simply to join the Yellow Bus Tour (www.yellowbustours.com). It not only takes you around the city to all the biggest sights such as the Se Cathedral; the €10 ticket includes the price of a trip up the funicular of Bom Jesus do Monte, one of Portugal's most arresting attractions.

Late lunch at Restaurante A Ceia: S$41.08

A popular wine tavern, Restaurant A Ceia (Largo do Rechicho 331, Braga) serves hearty Portuguese fare as well as regional specialties like Alheira de Caça, garlicky sausage stuffed with chicken. Eat up a storm on €25 in this rustic atmospheric setting. Food's pretty affordable for its deliciously generous portions, which explains the crowd. Be sure to arrive early or much later.

Catch a performance at Theatro Circo de Braga: S$19.72

Immerse yourself in some culture inside of Portugal's most beautiful theatres. Theatre Circo de Braga (www.theatrocirco.com) reopened after much restoration in 2006. It's also Braga's most prestigious performing spaces and the acts here pretty much sell themselves. Tickets average about €12.

Party at Insolito: S$15.55

You'll know why Braga's a happening young city the moment you step inside Insolito (Avenida Central, 47). Students from the University of Mino dominate the dance floor as guest DJs spin. However, there's plenty of room to avoid the crushing young bodies, especially if you head to the outdoor terrace. Blow the rest of your dough here.

Total: S$101

Prices and conversion rates accurate as of press time

Inseticida inovador com Filipa Oliveira

Statler and Waldorf Online

Social Media Week Global Promo 2012


Coming soon

25 January 2012

Just made my day

Project Amsterdam Street Art 2011 - an impression

Bundling it all into time and place: District spatial quality for creative entrepreneurs with children

Annet Jantien Smit: Bundling it all into time and place: District spatial quality for creative entrepreneurs with children

On Thursday, January 26th, Annet Jantien Smit from consultancy Denkbeeld will hold a lunch seminar called "Bundling it all into time and place: District spatial quality for creative entrepreneurs with children”
Location: 5419.0237 (Kapteynborg, second floor) Time: 12:00 - 13:00 hrs. Coffee and tea will be provided.

Numerous Western world cities expend considerable effort to attract creative entrepreneurs and urban-oriented households to mixed-use neighborhoods, in part as a redevelopment strategy for formerly abandoned or neglected districts. Many studies suggest that creative entrepreneurs and workers favor an urban way of life (loft living, working on lab tops in cappuccino bars). Few studies, however, have explored whether creative entrepreneurs with families do actually take into account their time-space constraints as members of busy households into their choices of place to work. Several studies have shown that dual-earner couples with children face strong time-space constraints in their daily activity patterns. They combine paid work, household chores and child care on a daily basis. These parents combining ambitious career tracks with having children have been termed ``family gentrifiers,'' while many of them work in creative professions (Karsten, 2003, 2007). Consequently, an emergent subgroup of interest to creative city development is middle class families that deliberately choose for an urban residential location. However, because of different definitions of their research subjects, a connection between location theory of creative entrepreneurs and of family gentrifiers is hard to demonstrate. Therefore, this paper addresses the unexplored question whether personal time-space constraints influence firm location decisions of creative entrepreneurs with children.

I find that creative entrepreneurs with children make carefully weighed decisions on places to live and work within cities. Their choices for places to work are partly based on proximity to their homes, schools and childcare facilities, parks, and daily shops. Short distances to homes and such facilities are important because of their household situation with children. This finding applies in particular to creative entrepreneurs with children up to 12 years of age, both working from home and from in business premises. The latter were mostly living deliberately close-by their office in order to relax their daily schedules of combining their work with caring and household tasks. Thus, it seems that creative entrepreneurs do not only act as individuals, as creative class theory suggests (see eg. Florida, 2002). The data suggest that creative entrepreneurs also take into account their household dynamics in their location decisions of a place to work. Therefore, urban live-work districts that have creative entrepreneurs among its intended users should offer features for both daily work and private practices.

We hope to see all of you on Thursday,
The URSI Lunch Seminar Organising Committee

18 January 2012

The Top 10 Smart Cities On The Planet

The Top 10 Smart Cities On The Planet

Crunching a list of variables about innovation and sustainability, we rank the world’s smartest cities, from New York to Hong Kong (and with an unexpected winner)
Last year, I spent considerable time researching best practices for climate resilient cities--an endeavor that culminated in what I believe was the first ever global ranking of resilient cities. Now, after extensive research on smart cities initiatives around the globe, I have developed what may be the first ever global rankings of smart cities.
The term "smart cities" is a bit ambiguous. Some people choose a narrow definition--i.e. cities that use information and communication technologies to deliver services to their citizens. I prefer a broader definition: Smart cities use information and communication technologies (ICT) to be more intelligent and efficient in the use of resources, resulting in cost and energy savings, improved service delivery and quality of life, and reduced environmental footprint--all supporting innovation and the low-carbon economy.
Here, then, are the top 10 smart cities:
1.) Vienna. This came as a bit of a surprise to me, as going into the research I had not heard much about Vienna as a smart city. But Vienna was the only city that ranked in the top 10 in every category: innovation city (5), regional green city (4), quality of life (1) and digital governance (8). Vienna is establishing bold smart-city targets and tracking their progress to reach them, with programs like the Smart Energy Vision 2050, Roadmap 2020, and Action Plan 2012-2015. Vienna’s planners are incorporating stakeholder consultation processes into building and executing carbon reduction, transportation and land-use planning changes in the hopes of making the city a major European player in smart city technologies.
2.) Toronto. The highest rated smart city in North America, Toronto also scores pretty well across the board. Recognizing its importance in the movement, IBM recently opened a Business Analytics Solutions Center in Toronto. Toronto is also an active member of the Clinton 40 (C40) megacities, which seek to transition to the low-carbon economy. The private sector in Toronto is collaborating too, creating a Smart Commute Toronto initiative in the hopes of increasing transit efficiency in the metro area. Toronto also recently began using natural gas from landfills to power the city’s garbage trucks. That’s smart closed-loop thinking.
3.) Paris. As is typical of sustainability-related rankings, Europe fared well. Paris was highly rated in several categories including innovation (3), green cities in Europe (10), and digital governance (11). Paris was already on the world map for its highly successful bike sharing program, Velib, and just last month, the mayor launched a similar model for small EVs called Autolib, which currently has 250 rental stations.
4.) New York. New York scored higher than most other cities in the ranking in all of the categories outside of quality of life, where it ranked a miserable 47th. New York partnered with IBM in 2009 to launch the IBM Business Analytics Solution Center to address “the growing demand for the complex capabilities needed to build smarter cities and help clients optimize all manner of business processes and business decisions.” In New York, IBM is already helping the city prevent fires and protect first responders as well as identify questionable tax refund claims--a move that is expected to save the city about $100 million over a five-year period.
5.) London. The UK capital also scored relatively high across the board. London has been well-recognized for some of its sustainability innovations (i.e. congestion tax) and its robust transit system. The city will soon be home to Smart Cities research center housed at Imperial College, which will leverage transport, government, business, academic and consumer data in hopes of making the city more efficient and innovative. Just the other day, London announced a partnership with O2 to launch the largest free Wi-Fi network in Europe.
6.) Tokyo. Tokyo is the first Asian city on this list, scoring well in the innovation (22) and digital city (15) categories. Last year, the city announced plans to create a smart town in the suburbs. In partnership with Panasonic, Accenture, and Tokyo Gas (among others), the eco-burb will contain homes that integrate solar panels, storage batteries, and energy efficient appliances all connected to a smart grid. Tokyo is also focused on promoting smart mobility solutions.
7.) Berlin. Berlin also performs well across the board, with good scores in innovation (14), green-ness (8th in Europe) and quality of life (17). In collaboration with Vattenfall, BMW, and others, Berlin is testing out vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies in the hopes of creating a virtual power plant from electric vehicles.
8.) Copenhagen. Lately, it seems Copenhagen has been doing a lot right. It was rated number one on the green scale in Europe by Siemens and also achieved number one ranking in my global resilient cities ranking last year. All with good reason: Copenhagen is taking a real leadership role on sustainable innovation. The city has committed to carbon neutrality by 2025 and 40% of its citizens regularly commute via bicycle. Furthermore, I was quite impressed with the way their mayor, Frank Jensen, recently articulated the role of cities as growth engines and the potential to stimulate the economy through cleantech innovation.
9.) Hong Kong. Hong Kong scored quite well in key areas, including the digital governance ranking (3). However, its quality-of-life score (70) dropped the city down to ninth in my ranking of smart cities. Hong Kong is experimenting with RFID technology in its airport, as well as throughout the agriculture supply chain. The city has also been a leader in the use and adoption of smart cards, which are already used by millions of residents for services like public transit, library access, building access, shopping, and car parks.
10.) Barcelona. Barcelona was recently ranked the number two smart city in Spain in the IDC report, and with good reason. The city is a pioneer in smart city and low-carbon solutions. It was among the first in the world to introduce a solar thermal ordinance about a decade ago, recently launched the LIVE EV project to promote the adoption of EVs and charging infrastructure, and the city also recently announced a major partnership to develop a living lab for smart-city innovation.
There were many other strong candidates which are runners-up in this first ranking, including Amsterdam, Melbourne, Seattle, São Paulo, Stockholm, and Vancouver.

Pundits and industry insiders expect smart cities to become a sizable market, with projections of nearly $40 billion spent on smart-cities technologies by 2016. And real estate experts predict that smart cities will in the future be attractive to the educated work force and will therefore become real-estate gold. All reasons enough to get on the smart-city bandwagon. Who knows? Maybe next year your city could crack the top 10 rankings.

Gas-rich Mozambique may be headed for a disaster

The extractive gas industry in Mozambique has done more damage than  good for Mozambicans. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/gas-...