Happy Birthday Robert Egger!!!


Change University wishes to celebrate the birth-week of one of our Champions of ChangeU, Robert Egger,
by honoring – in our own way – a request made by Robert this week.


Around social media, Robert asked that everyone celebrate his birthday by hosting a “Shared Plates” dinner.  You can check out more details about these dinners at the following link for Shared Plates.  The short story is that they are food related and benefit those that have the least.  You can live anywhere and host one of these dinners and make a difference in human lives.


Please check out the details and host a Shared Plates Dinner – and help us celebrate Robert’s birthday!




Happy Birthday, Robert!   You are a true Champion of ChangeU!!


While you are here, how about checking out our original post about Robert from February 2016. 
It is one you do not want to miss!


Click here…..Robert Egger: A Vision of Impact


And if by chance you do not know who Robert Egger is, here is a very short bio:


Robert Egger is the founder of D.C. Central Kitchen, L.A. Kitchen, Fresh Start Catering, Campus Kitchens Project and other “impact” enterprises.  He is a frequent speaker at TEDx conferences and has received numerous awards and designations including being named an “Oprah Angel”.  L.A. Weekly named Robert one of their 2016 People of the Year, and in 2015, he was given the Conscious Leader of the Year award by Conscious Capitalism. Additionally, Robert’s impact enterprises have received numerous awards including the Eisner Prize for Intergenerational Excellence recently bestowed upon L.A. Kitchen for Innovation in Intergenerational Solutions.  


Please read more about Champion of Change Robert Egger at http://www.robertegger.org/about/.  


You may find some of his talks under the Videos tab on the main ChangeU menu.


Dr. Jim King is the President of Change University.  You may read more about him at the bottom of the page at this link:







Chocolate as an Agent for Change

Editor note:  This is the first ChangeU blog post, since the initial challenge was issued, that has been written exclusively for ChangeU.  Thanks to Champion of ChangeU Paul Johnson for taking on the challenge!

Chocolate as an Agent for Change

by Paul Johnson

When I was 15 years old, my parents announced that they were going to adopt four kids from Costa Rica.  They later got on a plane and flew to Costa Rica to complete the adoption.  While they were in Costa Rica they waited in line after line and filled out hundreds of documents.  The whole time they were also taking care of the four adoptees.  When my parents returned, our family was suddenly much bigger.  My new brothers and a sister all spoke only Spanish and since I was the only one with any Spanish language, I became the family interpreter.

Those first couple of years were quite the adjustment. But looking back, I can see it started a destiny that has taken about 30 some years to come to fruition.  Because of my family background, I was aware that there is a country called Costa Rica.  I learned that there are kids who have a tougher childhood than I could have imagined.  I learned to cross cultures and some language barriers.  I learned about prejudice and racism.  I got a taste for different foods and an appreciation for travel and adventure.

During my college years, I met my wife Jeanne and began a career as a network engineer.  We were able to purchase a house and have the American Dream.  We loved camping and backpacking.  We traveled whenever we could.  Our dream trip happened in December of 1999.  We packed up all our camping gear and headed for Costa Rica for a three week vacation.

I had heard many stories of my parents’ experience, but now I was going to have my own perspective.  Costa Rica is an amazing place to visit.  There are hundreds of world class beaches.  There are world class rainforests and wild rivers to kayak or raft.  And since the fears of Y2K were reaching their peak at that time, we figured a beach in Costa Rica might be the best place to ride out the end of the world.

After those three weeks and while our plane was taking off for our return to “reality”, I told Jeanne “I think I could live in Costa Rica” and she said she thinks “she could too”!

After four more years of trying for a baby, we decided to leave that in God’s hands and trust His plan for our lives.  We joined a mission program, sold our house and quit our jobs and moved to Costa Rica’s Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo.  We had decided to make our lives be about others and not about our child bearing.

The mission team cast a vision for a youth program that would revolve around a skate park.  After many short term volunteer groups and construction projects, the skate park was built.  Our time with the mission was coming to a close and we started to look ahead for the next phase of our lives.

We had also been the recipients of a great blessing.  Our son Azan was born April 5, 2005!  We gave him that name because it is ancient Hebrew for “look up or listen”.  Azan was proof that God had listened to our prayers!  Since he was born here in Costa Rica, we were able to become permanent residents and no longer had to leave the country every three months.

Since we were no longer on the mission team and didn’t have any jobs, we began to think about how to survive economically in Puerto Viejo.  I had inquired about working for the local internet cafe. But when I found out they only paid two dollars an hour, I figured we should start our own business.

We began to do some business planning but really had no experience running or starting a business.  We eventually decided to meet a need we were feeling while we worked for the mission. There was no coffee shop in Puerto Viejo so we decided a coffee shop would be a good business to run.

Having never managed or owned a coffee shop we looked for some resources at the bookstore.  One of those books happened to be “Coffee Shops for Dummies”.  With our coffee shop bible in hand, we stared Caribeans Coffee.  The book recommends investing first in a small scale coffee roaster.  With the roaster you can produce your own brand of coffee and the aroma of fresh roasted coffee is better than any sign or advertisement. We decided to source green coffee from a cooperative that produced organic and fair trade coffee.  So the farmers were getting a good sale price and we were getting a better purchase price due to reduced transportation costs and an earlier position in the value chain.   Immediately we began to experience success. And more clients desired our coffee every day. And those clients started to hang out in a restaurant which was allowing us to roast in their storeroom.  Eventually we were able to get our own place and we began to make fancier coffee shop drinks.

One of those drinks is called a mocaccino (one of my favorites since I discovered coffee in college).  The drink starts with a very good espresso shot, steamed milk and some type of chocolate or cocoa.  We had the best coffee, fairly sourced, organic and fresh roasted, so squirting Hershey’s syrup in there was not an option.  We needed equally good chocolate, fairly sourced, organic and freshly roasted.

I had discovered the area around Puerto Viejo had a history of cacao production. But in the 80’s cacao was largely abandoned due to a fungal blight called monilia.  Cacao is the main ingredient in chocolate (well not in the chocolate I grew up with…the main ingredients there were sugar and fat).  Maybe we could make our own chocolate from the locally produced cacao.

A Google search revealed several important things to me.  One is that chocolate is made from roasted cacao beans and sugar.  If I could roast the beans in my coffee roaster, I would be halfway there!  Another important thing was that there was and still is a movement in the United States of artisan or “bean to bar” chocolate.  If they could do it, so could I!

We began to purchase small amounts of cacao from the local indigenous people (Bri Bri) and started making various products with their cacao.  Eventually we were successfully making an 80% dark chocolate bar with the same name, Caribeans.

Now after eight years we have become the area’s first “farm to bar” chocolate maker and we sell chocolate faster than we can make it.  We have been able to create a whole new market for locally grown cacao and are seeing what I call the “Napa Valley Effect” in our little Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo.

My wife and I along with two local cacao experts and four chocolate makers and many cacao farmers are transforming the region.  Our mission is to model a new way of making chocolate and farming cacao that generates a better chocolate and a more sustainable economic living for cacao farmers in our region and around the world.

In future ChangeU blog posts, I will write about chocolate history, geopolitical issues facing cacao producers, sustainability (both ecological and economic), creating change at every level of the chocolate bar, cultural revelations, and about being a “gringo” living in Costa Rica.  I hope to inspire you to create change in your sphere of influence and to find and keep what we call “pura vida” in Costa Rica.

Paul Johnson and his wife, Jeanne, are the founders and co-owners of Caribeans, the coolest and best coffee and chocolate shop on at least the Caribbean coast (probably the world) and certainly in the heart of Change University.  They have not only restarted the cacao industry in a region where many thought it had been lost forever, they are also changing the lives of indigineous farmers and their families.  And that has changed the entire region for the better.  Paul and Jeanne (and don’t forget Azan) are certainly Champions of ChangeU!  We cannot wait for you to hear more from Paul.  And we strongly suggest that you start making plans to visit Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, and take the Caribeans Chocolate Tour.  You will never forget the tour – especially the tasting experience on the tasting platform while looking out over the cacao forest at the waves breaking in the Caribbean.






When a Dreamer Becomes a Doer

A “doer” takes dreaming to the next level.    Champion of ChangeU Tamra Ryan is one of those doers.  In this blog post, previously published on the website of Women’s Bean Project, Tamra shows what it takes to do more than just dream.  She shows us that being a doer is what is needed to change the lives of those most in need of doers.


My Dream for the Future of Women’s Bean Project
by Tamra Ryan

What did you dream of when you were 25? What did you imagine for your life? What were the possibilities of your future? At 25 we all dreamed of the promise of our futures. Most of us had no idea how things would turn out. I know none of the women who come to the Women’s Bean Project dreamed of addiction or incarceration for themselves. They didn’t dream of losing their children or being rejected by one employer after another because of their backgrounds.

When the women who come to the Bean Project were 25, they believed their futures were bright and full of opportunity. Then, something happened to pull them away from their dreams.

Twenty five years ago Women’s Bean Project was founded on a dream, a vision for the future. And in many ways we have fulfilled that vision. We have helped hundreds of women in our community create new lives for themselves and their families.

But even as we get better at what we do, there is still a sense of urgency because there are so many more women who need our help. Just as we all had dreams for our futures when we were 25, I have a dream for the future of the Bean Project.

  • I dream of a day when we don’t have to turn away any woman who comes to us asking for a chance to change her life.
  • I imagine a time when Women’s Bean Project struggles to find enough applicants to fill all of our open positions.
  • I dream of finding Bean Project products in thousands of stores across the country–the tangible evidence of the women whose lives have been changed. At 25 it is good to remember why we exist.
  • Women’s Bean Project believes in the power of work.
  • We believe that having a job helps a woman create hope, improves her self-esteem and makes her believe she is worthy of a better life.
  • We believe that work is fundamental for women, their families and our community.

We believe in the power of work to restore the dreams that have been lost. Women’s Bean Project creates employment for women because through employment we are able to change lives. The most fundamental way out of poverty is reliable work for adequate pay.

But what I’m talking about isn’t just jobs. It’s about all of the other things that come from gainful employment:

  • Increased pride and confidence
  • The ability to set and work toward goals
  • The opportunity to provide financial and emotional support to one’s family.

A job just isn’t a job.

  • It is hope.
  • It is a symbol of worth.
  • It is the promise of a future. Employment at Women’s Bean Project brings back that spark, that smile, that time of promise. That’s why we exist. Employment changes lives.

I am confident that, after all we have learned in the past 25 years, and with your help, we are positioned to remain an essential part of the community. The demand we see is daunting, but I remain hopeful. When a woman improves her life it affects us all. Her success is our collective success.

  • We have employed over 700 hundred women, each with an average of three children. This is thousands of lives that have been changed.
  • We have decreased time in prison. Employment related programs such as Women’s Bean Project have been shown to have the greatest effect on reducing returns to prison. The number one indicator of re-arrest is being unemployed in the year prior to the arrest.
  • We have stimulated the economy. According to the Social Enterprise Alliance, based on research conducted by economists, the economic stimulus of a job created by social enterprises such as Women’s Bean Project is over $80,000 per year. For the 60 women employed at the Bean Project each year, this equates to about $4.8 million in economic stimulus. As we move into the next 25 years, our focus at Women’s Bean Project will be:
  • To ensure every woman who wants to change her life can.
  • To ensure our community is full of self-sufficient mothers so that children don’t grow up to repeat the cycle.
  • To ensure that we reduce the need for public assistance.
    When I look to the future, I ask, what would it take to accomplish these goals?

Our products are the tangible proof of our cause, but product sales only cover 70% of the cost of employing the women in our program. That’s because there are so many other needs, in addition to job readiness skills, that a woman must have met before she can truly work toward self-sufficiency.

  • She must have stable housing and quality childcare for her kids.
  • She must have the ability to set and work toward goals, organize her and her family’s life and budget to cover her basic household expenses.
  • Most important, she must have the confidence to believe she is worthy of a better life.These are the intangibles Women’s Bean Project provides. They cost money to support, but their value in a woman’s life is immeasurable.

The Bean Project teaches women with little or no computer skills the basics they need to function in the job market. We teach them the importance of coming to work every day, on time and we help them learn to take direction, manage conflict and pay attention to detail.

We teach the skills so women can earn a living for themselves and their families. We have the answer to breaking the cycle of poverty and chronic unemployment and we are only limited by our resources.

Let’s ensure that the dreams of the women we serve can be rediscovered and realized. I invite you to join us in helping women create brighter futures for themselves, their families and our community.

Tamra Ryan is the visionary leader, spokesperson and CEO of Women’s Bean Project based in Denver, Colorado. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Judith M. Kaufmann award for Civic Entrepreneurship and Regis University’s Social Entrepreneurship Award. Tamra has also been recognized as an Outstanding Alumnus of the Colorado Leadership Alliance (2006) and as one of the “up-and-coming most influential women in Colorado” by the Denver Post (2012).  Tamra is the author of award-winning The Third Law which explores what is required for chronically unemployed and impoverished women to create new lives for themselves. Please read more about Champion of ChangeU Tamra Ryan, as well as Women’s Bean Project, at http://www.womensbeanproject.com/what-we-do/leadership-and-staff/ .  You will find Tamra’s TEDxMile High talk under the Videos tab on the main ChangeU menu.

Payback for a Peacemaker

Jeremy Courtney is executive director and co-founder of Preemptive Love Coalition (PLC).  PLC is an international development organization that has provided life-saving heart surgeries to the most-at-risk children in Iraq, training for Iraqi doctors and nurses, and emergency refugee relief throughout the region – and which creates peace between communities at odds.  Jeremy is a true Champion of ChangeU.  In his roles with PLC, Jeremy has played the role of peacemaker and friend to all.


Ed.: On February 14, Jeremy announced that his eight year old son, Micah, had been admitted into an Iraqi hospital for an emergency appendectomy.  The following is Jeremy’s follow-up post on his personal Facebook page from February 18. It is used with permission. The post is a beautiful example of how spreading peace begets peace and cooperation in returning care and concern to the peacemaker in a time of need.  In this Easter season, let this be a lesson to each of us that desires to be a global difference maker!

Jeremy’s Post

Over the last few days, I’ve watched a team of doctors from around Iraq help save my son from excruciating pain, and possibly much worse. A Sunni pediatrician from Fallujah, a Shia anesthesiologist from Baghdad and a Shia surgeon from Basra, Christian nurses, and Kurdish technicians all worked together to diagnose, treat, and care for Micah and our whole family.

All of his doctors ended up being doctors we had previously trained because of your ongoing support of Preemptive Love or who had previously heard about our lifesaving work for children in Fallujah, Baghdad, Basra, and beyond. So Micah got the royal treatment!

As parents, we feel immensely grateful for the love and kindness they’ve shown. And this is why I know that medicine has the ability to draw nemesis neighbors together and remake the world. Thank you for putting us in a position where we had everything we needed to care for Micah. By God’s grace and your generosity, we have a salary in a country where many people who go to work every day have not been paid in months. We have an amazing international insurance plan. And we have a diverse community of Iraqi and international friends who rallied to care for Micah in every way. Micah took particular joy in the fact that Muslims, Christians, Yezidis, and Jews were all praying for him.

In the midst of such chaos here in Iraq, our hearts are full. Thank you!


Jeremy is the author of Preemptive Love: Pursuing Love One Heart at a Time. Be sure to check out more about Jeremy at www.jeremycourtney.com.

Toilet Talk

This post originally appeared as “One Man’s Countdown to Success” (written by Rachael Chong) on March 4, 2016, at catchafireblog.org.  Used with permission of the author with minimal editing.  This is part 2 of two Jack Sim-related posts.  Part 1 appeared on March 12.


“Today, I have 7,710 days to live,” says Jack Sim, founder of the Restroom Association of SingaporeWorld Toilet Organization and BoP HUB. “I have a countdown to my 80th birthday on my phone. It motivates me to the urgency of living a meaningful, balanced life and to allocate time to the things that need to be done before I die.”

When Jack tells you how many days he has left to live, he does so with the enthusiasm of someone who has been given a second chance at life. Jack has been using death as a motivating force since his 40th birthday, which coincided with the loss of half of his fortune during a recession. Having spent the past 16 years starting a series of successful businesses, he knew he could start over, but with enough money to live comfortably for the next 40 years, Jack reassessed his life goals and chose not to.

Having grown up in a slum in 1950s Singapore, Jack knew the value of—and desire for—money. But he also now realized how easy it was to lose it all due to forces beyond his control. It turns out money was not the goal of life after all.

“Money is a tool for you to do something else,” says Jack. “You need money but after a certain point you don’t need it anymore. You’re just on this planet to spend your time well.”

For nearly twenty years now, Jack has turned his attention away from financial gain and towards humanitarian causes. After leaving the for-profit sector behind, Jack searched for a neglected agenda he could rally behind. He is interested in picking unpopular but important topics, as he believes that these “undervalued” opportunities will give him the chance to make the most impact on the world with the limited time he has left on this planet.

Jack soon discovered that the issue of toilets, or lack thereof, wasn’t being discussed because it was embarrassing and unsavory. While most Americans tend to take bathrooms for granted, a third of the world’s population is living without them, resulting in disease and water contamination. Diseases caused by contact with fecal matter are a leading killer of children in the world. And it’s preventable with the use of toilets.

Jack co-founded the World Toilet Organization in 2001 to help change the mindset, educate the public about the use of toilets and unite organizations working on the same cause in different parts of the world. Over the years, he’s used a combination of humor and hard facts to transform a taboo into a media darling. Now, there’s even a World Toilet Day, celebrated by all 193 countries in the United Nations on November 19th each year. And despite intense competition among issues such as climate change, war, malaria and more, Jack has “managed to keep sanitation and s*** on top of the heap!”

His efforts have not gone unnoticed. He was selected a Schwab Social Entrepreneur in 2001 and a Time Magazine Hero of the Environment in 2008. Jack is impressive because he’s managed to take a single idea and bring people together to maximize the solution’s potential reach.

Jack has now set his sights on an even loftier convening goal: to strengthen cross-sector collaboration among social entrepreneurs working to improve the lives of the four billion people living on $10 or less a day. The BoP Hub facilitates shared services, distribution and growth initiatives among those working on similar issues.

“People are having good ideas that are not being replicated. That’s an idea waste,” says Jack. “Instead of scaling up one entrepreneur, we can scale up an entire industry.”

By harnessing the energy, models and resources of organizations working separately, the potential for transformative ideas and action is limitless. Collaboration could increase the odds that organizations will be more efficient and therefore, succeed at their missions.

However, a nonprofit’s success isn’t currently measured by its progress in achieving its mission but instead through metrics such as dollars raised, membership growth, people served and overhead costs.By redefining success to include mission fulfillment and resource mobilization—both of which can be improved through BoP collaborations—organizations can start to have a greater impact on society at large.

It stands to reason that Jack wants to rewrite the definition of success not only for nonprofits but for individuals as well. After all, the key indicator of an individual’s success in society today is the accumulation of wealth, not on creating value in society and spending one’s time well on this planet.

The measure he’s pushing for is simple: success is less about money and power than it is about helping other people in a meaningful way. In this scenario, Jack says, “Malala is relevant and Donald Trump is not.”

It’s the philosophy by which he’s living out the second half of his life. Being successful is no longer about the number of businesses and homes he owns but instead about the positive impact he’s having on the lives of others by inspiring them to think and act in a way they may not have considered before.

True success came to Jack only after he started counting down the days he had left to make a difference to others.

“On the last day, I want to say, ‘It was a useful life. I have used all the money in a way that I find meaningful and fulfilling, while raising a family with four kids with my wife and having a good relationship with my family, my country, and my planet,’” says Jack.  That will be his greatest success.



Champion of ChangeU Jack Sim is the founder of World Toilet Organization, the Restroom Association of Singapore, the World Toilet College, and the BoP Hub.  Jack has been awarded the following: Ashoka Global FellowSchwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur, and Synergos Senior Fellow.  He is also a member of the World Economic Forum serving on the Global Agenda Council on Water & the Global Agenda Council for Social Innovation.

Malala is a Billionaire (Donald Trump Isn’t): Redefining Success

by Jack Sim

This post originally appeared on April 1, 2015,  in the Huffington Post.  Used with permission of the author with minimal editing.  This is part 1 of two Jack Sim-related posts.  Part 2 will appear on March 19.

I was at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, among some of the world’s most influential political and business leaders, when it was announced that the wealth of the 85 richest people in the world now equals that of 3.5 billion people — the poorest half of the world’s population.  Oxfam also estimated that by next year, the wealth accumulated by the richest one percent of the world’s population would exceed that of the other 99 percent.  It struck me: if 99 percent of the players can’t win in this money game, isn’t it time to change the game entirely?

The recent Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, the global Occupy movement, and the Arab Spring have exposed a massive meltdown of trust between people and governments. With the slogan “We are the 99%” the Occupy movement protested against a financial system that unfairly benefits a wealthy minority of the population. And the wave of protest sweeping across the Arab world exposed populations who see little relevance of the actions of their governments to their lives.

Growing inequality has been fueled by the capitalist system and a society that values material wealth above all else. And global poverty has been spurred on by the inefficient and inequitable distribution of opportunities in this current system.  We have been seduced by advertisements and mainstream media to attain instant gratification by buying things we don’t need, with money we don’t have to impress the people we don’t like.

The growth of a consumer lifestyle and obsession with ‘having stuff’ has created a wasteful throw-away society that is generating unsustainable levels of waste: in 2013 it was estimated that if business continues as usual, we’re on track to double global waste generation by 2025, and to triple waste generation by 2100 to exceed 11 million tonnes per day.  Extreme consumption has led to the rapid depletion of natural resources both above and below-ground, deforestation of the Amazon, the burning of forests in Indonesia, over-exploitation of our seas, and had an irreversible impact on the planet’s climate.

Reaching saturation point

The addiction of consumerism has today reached several saturation points that are clearly unsustainable.

  1. Saturation of storage space: the clutter in our wardrobes and storage spaces show us clear signs of over-consumption.
  2. Saturation of our body capacity: we are breaching the maximum capacity of nutrition input that our body can accept at a healthy level.
  3. Saturation of waste to landfill: our thruway lifestyle is creating unsustainable levels of waste.
  4. Saturation of the environment’s capacity: we are in ecological overshoot, currently using the earth’s resources at a rate that would require 5 planets to sustain.
  5. Saturation of time: we sell time to make money, leaving little or no time for anything else that matters in our lives.

Yet in Davos at the World Economic Forum, the discussion was how to stimulate more consumption so as to generate the economic multipliers through further borrowing and spending. We know more of the same will simply delay the search of better solutions. Surely now is the time to reflect and ask ourselves what is the meaning the mission statement “improving the state of world.”

Relevance: redefining success
Our society cannot continue with this system that lauds selfishness and rewards arrogance. In our search for a better world order, we need to design a system of recognition that motivates people to take actions with a positive impact on those around them.

I propose that we redefine the meaning of success based on relevance rather than the amassing of money.  A billionaire would then be someone that is relevant to the lives of a billion people, or whose actions positively impact on the lives of many.  In this system someone who hoards their money in a bank would not be as successful as a relatively penniless activist like Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai who has touched the lives of billions. Malala would be considered a “billionaire” as her efforts are relevant to the lives of billions — as a champion for human rights and girls’ education; at the age of 17 she has already had an impact on the lives of billions now and in years to come. And Donald Trump would not be considered a billionaire. He might have “seven billion **** dollars in the bank,” as he once put it, but he’s notoriously stingy when it comes to parting with his wealth for the benefit of society.

From “egosystem” to ecosystem
The current model is a zero sum game that rewards “winners” and punishes “losers.” This “egosystem” driven by the selfish accrual of wealth is unfair: not least for the four billion people living at the bottom of the economic pyramid (BoP) that are excluded from the formal economy. And it’s wasteful: just look at current unemployment rates across much of Europe. To facilitate an inclusive world and mobilize all resources, we need to move from this “egosystem” to an ecosystem approach. There is a long proven sustainable model we can learn from for this: in nature’s ecosystem there is zero waste.

Similarly by taking an ecosystem approach in human society, we could eradicate waste, and set up an inclusive society that works for the whole population, and accepts diversity as a necessity for our survival — just like in nature’s ecosystem.  It is time to reflect on what is relevant to us as people and as a society, and just as importantly what is no longer relevant so that we can find a better way of life going forward.

Let’s improve the state of the world in a way that’s relevant to all of the citizens of the world.


Champion of ChangeU Jack Sim is the founder of World Toilet Organization, the Restroom Association of Singapore, the World Toilet College, and the BoP Hub.  Jack has been awarded the following: Ashoka Global FellowSchwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur, and Synergos Senior Fellow.  He is also a member of the World Economic Forum serving on the Global Agenda Council on Water & the Global Agenda Council for Social Innovation.



A Cafe With a Conscience

This post originally appeared on December 10, 2015 as “Joma Bakery: A Cafe with a Conscience” at http://southeastasiabackpacker.com/joma-bakery-cafe-with-a-conscience/.   It was written by Nikki Scott, Director, www.southeastasiabackpacker.com.  Used with permission of the author with minimal editing.

Next month, Joma Bakery Café in South East Asia celebrates 20 years of social enterprise! Formed by three Canadian and one Thai founder in 1996, Joma opened the doors of their first two cafés in 1996 in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. The company now has 12 branches in 4 cities and 3 countries in the region (Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia).

So what is the secret to their success? And why are we writing about them?

Here at South East Asia Backpacker we love to tell you about the places that we think are making a positive impact to the environment and communities of South East Asia. Places where as a backpacker, you’ll be spending your money and contributing to a good cause.

Here are some reasons why we love Joma Bakery Café:

 Joma employs staff from disadvantaged backgrounds

“Joma currently has 54 employees that our competitors won’t even interview. This alone is success in my mind.” (Michael Harder – Chief Operating Officer, Joma Bakery Café)

Working with international non-profit organisation Hagar International, Joma hires employees that have come from disadvantaged backgrounds. These could be victims of human trafficking, women and men who have been abused, repatriated refugees or just young men and women who are unskilled and seen as not useful in the eyes of the work force. Joma staff are made up of a lot of people just getting started at life, college students, as well as many who are looked down on socially, such as people with disabilities. In Laos for example, people born with physical disabilities are often not even sent to school!

Joma invests highly in training. Whereas initially it may take longer to train an employee who is at first unskilled and inexperienced, Joma believes that the investment is worth it in so many ways! The individuals usually stay long-term with the company and have a passion and enthusiasm for their work. They find economic hope and financial independence through their work and are incredibly appreciative of the opportunity of safe employment and a pathway to a brighter future. Seeing staff members eventually move on to have a successful career in whatever they choose is highly rewarding when you know that it would have been difficult for them without having been given this initial chance.

Joma also gets to connect with, and help out, amazing grassroots social enterprises that are doing practical good things on a day-to-day basis. Through partnerships such as this, Joma leads by example in their communities and shows other local businesses that running a successful business as well as being socially conscious in this part of the world is indeed possible! It is positive action such as this that causes a benevolent rippling effect throughout society.

Joma promotes fair-trade

The coffee that you’ll drink at Joma Bakery Café is made using quality Arabica coffee beans that are grown on the lush Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos by a community co-operative of farmers. The green beans are shipped directly to each Joma city where they are roasted by local roastmasters.

No mass production or big corporations are involved. The Coffee Farmers Co-operative works with ethnic minority families, such as the Mon-Khmer, who rely entirely on coffee harvests for their income. In 2005, the co-op received a certification to recognise their ongoing efforts to ensure a higher sale price for the local farming families.

With their 2% People and Planet plan, Joma gives 2% of every sale (before profits!) back to the people and planet through various charitable organisations in the communities around their cafes.

Good coffee that helps the environment

Rising to an elevation of 1,350 metres, the beautiful Bolaven Plateau region in Champasak province, Laos, is perfect coffee growing country. With cool temperatures, rich volcanic soil and plenty of rainfall, the conditions are just right for the cultivation of world-class coffee beans.

The coffee trees are shade-grown, which means forests are not harmed by planting the coffee trees. Rather, the forest actually helps the coffee trees by giving much needed shade from direct sunlight, and balancing the soil’s nutrients. The Bolaven Plateau provides prime coffee-growing conditions such as volcanic soil, high elevation, cool temperatures, and ample rainfall. This mutually beneficial environment also maintains the natural habitats of native birds and insects. The Arabica plant has been found to thrive in these elements, yielding one of the world’s most rare and distinctive coffees.

Joma cares about great quality food

So we’ve heard all of the amazing things that Joma is doing in the community. What about what Joma can do for you?

You can bet your next coffee that everything you eat in Joma is homemade, natural, fresh and most of all, clean! You won’t be in danger of getting ill from lack of hygiene here! Bread and baked goods are made fresh on-site every day and there are no artificial sweeteners or preservatives in that chocolate chip cookie! Every ingredient is sourced specifically to ensure the best quality, whether it’s found abroad (like their New Zealand butter) or locally (like their fresh passionfruit juice) or prepared specially in house (like their gourmet ice cream).

A big hit with homesick backpackers are Joma’s range of delicious bagels (the bagel egger is a must try!), as well vegetarian options, hearty breakfasts, healthy wraps, sandwiches and fresh crunchy salads, which can be hard to come by when travelling in this part of the world.

Joma’s best sellers are their lattes and cappuccinos (served ice cold, if you like, as a cool pick me up in Southeast Asia’a tropical weather), as well as the tasty mango fruit shake. For lunch, you certainly won’t be disappointed with Joma’s delicious freshly-made BLT, chicken caesar wrap, mango sesame salad or pumpkin soup. And for something sweet? Joma’s coconut cake, carrot cake and amazing almond croissants are to die for!

So, when you’re fed up of rice, you’ll know where to go to get some satisfying comfort food, and why not pick up a box of oatmeal cookies for that long bus journey ahead? Check out Joma’s online menu here and you’ll notice excellent value for money prices too!

 Joma has friends in the right places

They say to judge a person by their friends and Joma’s friends are pretty amazing! As well as Hagar International, Joma regularly works with local NGOs to help the community around them.

Recently Joma have been supporting the Laos Girls Teen Project, an organisation in Luang Prabang that is working to educate girls in neighbouring provinces and countryside about their bodies as they enter puberty. Many girls quit school when puberty begins, because they don’t know how to take care of their bodies and therefore jeopardising their futures and their means of having financial independence. Joma has been helping out conducting workshops for young girls and providing them with informative books and the “welcome teenager” bags.

Joma also financially support Laos NGO, Pencils of Promise (founded by another Champion of ChangeU, Adam Braun)an organisation dedicated to improving the literacy rate in Laos. (Currently 30% of Laos is illiterate, with even higher rates of illiteracy amongst ethnic minorities). The money that Joma provides goes towards building schools and equipping teachers every day.

Other NGOs that Joma support include; Soap4Life – an organisation doing great work in Laos with vocational training for women and health education for children; AbundantWater.Org – an NGO that helps remote communities stop disease and death with clean water using clay-pottery water filter technology and many, many more!

Michael Harder, COO of Joma Bakery & Cafe, a Champion of ChangeU, wanted to share this previously published blog post from Southeast Asia Backpacker to show the kind of impact you can have with a vision of positively changing the lives of those living with any variety of human insecurities – and doing something about turning that vision into reality. 

A Vision of Impact

What makes someone a Champion of Change?  A heart to make a difference in the lives of those experiencing any form of human insecurity…and a compelling vision for just how to do that.  A multi-dimensional, compelling vision of impact is needed.  Such a vision is what we see through Robert Egger’s blog post on the mission and values of L.A. Kitchen where they live and work by the motto that “neither food nor people should ever go to waste”!  You will see more posts from Robert in the next few months showing the backstory for such a vision – and the results achieved by a laser-focus on this vision.


A Vision of Multi-Dimensional Impact
By Robert Egger

L.A. Kitchen believes that neither food nor people should ever go to waste. By reclaiming healthy, local food that would otherwise be discarded, training men and women who are unemployed for jobs, and providing healthy meals to fellow citizens, L.A. Kitchen empowers, nourishes, and engages the community.

L.A. Kitchen believes that:

1. Neither food nor people should ever go to waste. We recognize the potential of the community’s existing resources and are dedicated to revealing their power to nourish and uplift.

2. All people have potential, and every person has a role in strengthening the community. We will engage all volunteers, staff, and students in meaningful, impactful work.

3. Hunger isn’t about food. We will work to address the root causes of poverty, employing a variety of dynamic approaches to nourish the community.

4. Programs should empower individuals and inspire independence. We will only partner with organizations that share these values, providing them with nutritious meals to help achieve their mission, strengthen their clients, and uplift the community.

5. Our impact will not be measured in pounds moved or meals served. We will employ nuanced metrics to provoke deeper dialogue about food, hunger and poverty.

6. Wealth derived from the community should be reinvested locally. We use our resources to strengthen the local economy and invest in the future of our employees.

7. We will not apply shallow overhead practices. We will challenge status quo, providing all employees a living wage and opportunities to invest in their future retirement.

8. Investments should be made in both the present and the future. We will promote intergenerational programming that empowers all individuals, young and old alike.

9. Action should be paired with advocacy. We will use our resources to educate and promote policy ideas that elevate issues and mitigate future need.

10. Transparency is an essential part of improving programs. We will operate and make decisions in full view of the community we serve.

11. Smart solutions should be shared. We will be open-source, sharing our model and welcoming all visitors.


Robert Egger is the founder of D.C. Central Kitchen, L.A. Kitchen and other “impact” enterprises.  He is a frequent speaker at TEDx conferences and has received numerous awards and designations including being named an “Oprah Angel”.  Additionally, Robert’s impact enterprises have received numerous awards including the Eisner Prize for Intergenerational Excellence recently bestowed upon L.A. Kitchen for Innovation in Intergenerational Solutions.  Please read more about Champion of Change Robert Egger at www.robertegger.org/about/.  You may find some of his talks under the Videos tab on the main ChangeU menu.

Be the Change!

When I was 8 years old I watched my grandfather make a stand in a soccer stadium, while all around him were screaming at him – he courageously did what he knew was right.  One by one, others realized he was right and stood with him. Eventually the whole stadium, maybe 18,000 people, joined him.  I learned a key lesson that day: “If someone will take courage to do what needs to be done – others will follow”.

Over the last 25 years this image has kept me going. Whether working with orphans in African villages, street kids in Brazilian favelas or crazy English football fans – we must do what is right if we want to see the world around us transformed.

Changing the world starts where you live – the city, college, neighborhood or club in which you find yourself every day.  Speak up.  Act.  Care.  Stand up.  Go.  When you see what is wrong – put it right.  You can; people like you always have.  All of the people that have inspired you – and those that will inspire you – with stories of change started with things that look like small stuff – long before you heard about their big stuff.

So who needs help?  Who around you is being marginalized, judged or mistreated?  What can you do today that will assist or empower that person’s life or situation?

I am delighted that Change University has been created to help inspire and resource you to be the change you want to see.  Feed yourself with stories that inspire you.  But more importantly, build your own stories by starting now.

To create sustainable change that lasts and multiplies, it is best to take people with you. Share your vision with friends and the people you meet. Invite them to work with you. Start a little movement right where you are. I find that people are looking to be invited in. Lots of people have a great heart & want to do something. But they don’t know where to start. Invite them to start with you. Tell your story – and share your heart – and watch them dive in.

Go for it!  Don’t fear!!  It’s a real adventure that will change your life while you try to change the lives of others.

With Passion & Belief,

Jon Burns, B.E.M.

Jon is the Founder @ Lionsraw (www.Lionsraw.org).  Lionsraw is a movement that mobilizes passionate global football (soccer) fans who believe they can make a difference in the lives of others locally and globally.  Jon is currently serving as President @ GEM (www.gemission.org).  Jon was named a 2014 CNN Top Ten Hero.  Please check out his tribute @ the following link: http://edition.cnn.com/videos/tv/2015/02/05/cnnheroes-burns-2014-tribute-excerpt.cnn.

Welcome to Change University!

Recently I heard a story about a 15 year-old girl with a life-long physical ailment. She had been awarded a special wish by the Make a Wish Foundation. When her initial wish did not work out, instead of coming up with another wish, she told her mother that she already had everything that she really wanted and wished to give her wish to someone less fortunate. And she did. She changed the life of another young girl by granting that young girl’s wish!

Young people, especially the current generation of young people, increasingly desire to make the world around them a better place – to change the world for the better – to make a positive difference in the lives of the less fortunate. And the really exciting thing is that they really think – even know – that they can make a difference – that they can change the world. A lot of not-so-young people also want to change the world. And sometimes they are able to do so; sometimes they are not able. Too often they jump in without having the “tools” that education and experience provide. And many more times life gets in the way, and those passionate desires fade into memories of dreams.

Change University if for the young people and everyone else with those dreams of changing the world. Change University is designed as a portal for the exchange of information about human insecurities like poverty, hunger and homelessness AND about existing attempts to address those human insecurities through education, healthcare, economic development and other realms of impact. The role of ChangeU is to provide in one place, through a variety of methods, information for anyone and everyone that wants to make a difference – that wants to change the world.

ChangeU brings to you Champions of Change from around the world, and from around the corner. Our Champions will share via blog posts their understanding of the causes of human insecurities, manifestations of human insecurities and the variety of solutions used to address human insecurities. And maybe more importantly, our Champions are going to challenge future global difference makers to use everything that they learn at ChangeU to create new solutions, better solutions and potentially collaborative solutions with other future global difference makers. Be sure to read their blog posts each week!

We also invite you to jump into the videos of our Champions of Change as they share via recorded talks all of the knowledge that they have acquired over the years. And don’t forget to read the media reports of the ways our Champions and others have changed the world; more specifically, how they have changed the lives of millions of less fortunate people around the world – just like the 15 year-old girl did with her wish.

On Saturday, Feb. 13, Jon Burns, 2014 CNN Top 10 Hero, will drop the “Change University Challenge” on you via the first blog post by one of Champions of Change.

WARNING: Do not read the Challenge unless you mean business about changing the world!  You will be challenged!!

Will you accept the challenge? Whether you are in college, high school or the retirement home, you can make a difference with the right tools. Engage Change U and find the right tools to become the Champions of Change for the next generation.

Welcome to Change University!

Dr. Jim King, President
Change University

Doc, our author, has traveled around the world with university students studying difference makers, working with difference makers, and serving to make a difference in the lives of slum dwellers, human trafficking victims, outcasts and others less fortunate.  You can read more about him on the About Us page.