White Paper: Teaching Fiscal Awareness to Younger Generations and its Global Impact on Education, Health and Well-Being of People and Countries

October 7th, 2012

I.               The Problem

The United States has a terrible savings problem, which results in unsustainable debt.  This problem is not confined to the U.S. – other countries around the world are also in fiscal crisis due to excessive spending.

Although media focus is on government spending, the average family in the United States also has a savings problem.  Many families tend to focus on spending and not saving.  This hinders a family’s ability to pay for expenses related to health, education and basic well being over the course of a lifetime.  Unfortunately, the savings rate among American families is close to an all-time low.

Since children traditionally learn fiscal literacy from their parents, many today do not have adequate knowledge or training to understand fiscal responsibility, and how it impacts their lives in the short and long-term.   The lack of proper education can exacerbate the generational cycle of fiscal irresponsibility and debt accumulation, which can negatively impact their lives over the course of time.

II.              Proof the Problem Exists

In the 1970s and 1980s the average savings per family was in the 5 – 7% range. In the decades since, personal savings has declined to the 1 – 3% range. In early 2009, savings in aggregate as a percentage of GDP went negative for the first time since 1952, and has continued its downward trend. (CNN Money)  In addition, the United States today has a deficit of close to $15 trillion.

In 2008, college seniors with at least one credit card graduated with an average of $4,138 in card debt, up 44% from 2004. By comparison, freshmen’s average credit card debt jumped 27% to $2,038. (USA Today)  It is likely that these numbers are even higher in 2011-2012.

Other countries, such as Greece, Spain, Argentina, Italy, France, Portugal, Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom, are also experiencing severe financial problems.  This issue is not limited to the governments of these nations, but also affects the populace.  The two are interlinked.  For a summary of the fiscal problems and austerity measures taken by these countries, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10162176.

These factors have a significant impact on the ability of individuals and families to take care of their education, health and basic well-being.

III.            Additional Problems

Statistically, fewer and fewer parents are directly discussing important financial issues with their children.  In one report, only 43 percent of parents had spoken with their children about fiscal awareness. (Capital One) This figure is 20 percentage points lower than that of the year before.

If this trend continued, the percentage of parents who teach their children important fiscal issues would be even lower today.  As a result, many children are likely to grow up without adequate knowledge regarding fiscal responsibility.  By the time they gain this knowledge, many will have already made some of the most of the important fiscal decisions in their lives (and probably gotten many of them wrong).

Of course, even if parents make a sincere effort to teach children fiscal responsibility, what percentage of children will actually listen to their parents, and put what they learn into practice?

This makes having access to other avenues of learning crucial to imparting fiscal knowledge.  However, as of 2009, only three states require children to pass a high school course in finance before graduation – Utah, Missouri and Tennessee. Seventeen more require finance to be worked into a portion of the curriculum at some point during a child’s twelve-year scholastic career.  That’s about it.

On a global perspective, there are many socially conscious, entrepreneurial organizations working around the world to help communities rise out of the cycle of extreme poverty.  Slowly, these efforts are working.  There is an increase in the flow of money going into these communities.  Unfortunately, due to lack of sufficient education and discipline, this additional money sometimes does not reach the families that could most use it to help pay for their basic needs.  Educating women, children and families, and empowering them with financial decision-making, should be a primary thrust in changing the politics and culture of aid.

IV.            Basic Solution

Our basic solution is to create a fun, engaging program (whether online, in a classroom or a combination of both) that makes it easy for children to learn the basics of fiscal responsibility, and provides them with incentives to learn it.  This program should be creative and promote collaboration, as well as involve critical thinking and problem solving.

The results of the program can be shared with others in the U.S. and worldwide through online resources and social media.  By sharing knowledge of the program and its results, others can create similar learning programs to teach fiscal awareness.  This will help improve people’s lives.

V.              Solution

Questions exist as to the effectiveness of teaching fiscal awareness at home or in school.  There is extensive evidence, however, that a fun, engaging, game-based learning program that includes incentives can enhance a child’s ability to learn.

Our solution is to create a private program that combines these techniques. With already-defined parameters and guidance from experienced professionals in various industries, we will create a program where children can literally help teach themselves the importance of fiscal responsibility through a game-based learning system.

The first step will be to define the incentives, which can be scholarships or other prizes that are attractive to children and their parents/care givers.  After establishing these incentives, we will work with financial professionals, as well as professionals in other industries, to produce a series of videos that will convey the basic knowledge children will need to participate in the contest.  We can also use videos that already exist, as long as they convey the proper message.

After viewing the videos and learning from in-person, group instruction, the children will participate in a web-based game.  This participation can be individual or in groups.  The game will provide them with certain parameters, i.e. income and expenses, and they will make budgeting and spending decisions based on what they have learned.  These games can also be based upon the basic principles of entrepreneurship and running a simple business.  There will be surprises along the way that will test how well they have planned and provide true-to-life examples of the surprises that can spell financial success or distress.  They will also learn how their decisions can impact the lives of others.

Finalists will be chosen based on a built-in scoring system.  The grand-prize winner will be chosen based on his or her game score plus an evaluation of his or her plan for teaching what he or she learned to others.  A panel of judges will review the latter and make a decision.  The winner (s) will then work with program organizers to help teach their knowledge to others.

The program organizers will also develop video and online content from this program, and share it with others in the U.S. and around the world. The ultimate goal is to create national and global collaborative contests, expand the reach of the program, and pursue the greatest possible impact so others can learn the importance of fiscal awareness and how it not only impacts them personally, but others around them as well.

VI.            “See One, Do One, Teach One”

There’s a saying in the medical profession, “see one, do one, teach one.” In other words, you see someone do a surgery and over time you then do a surgery under the guidance of an experienced doctor, and then eventually you’re ready to teach someone else how to do a surgery.

This saying can apply to almost any industry and endeavor.  The best results come from seeing it done once, doing it yourself once and finally teaching someone else how to do it.  Basically, one of the greatest ways to learn is to see it, do it, and then teach it.

Studies have shown that peer-to-peer learning is an excellent method of sharing knowledge and experiences with others.  It allows children to formulate their own questions, discuss issues, explain their viewpoints, and engage in cooperative learning by working in teams on problems and projects.

Through peer-to-peer learning, children can:

  • Spread information through formal or informal social networks;
  • Involve two-way (or more) communication;
  • Recognize that every participant can be a teacher and a learner;
  • Participate in community- and individual-driven efforts; and
  • Engage in ongoing forums or one-time exchanges.

The cornerstone of our program is the “see one, do one, teach one” idea – children taking what they have seen, done and learned, and developing a plan to teach it to their peers.  Their plan for giving back to their peers is a key part of the scoring criteria for this program.

The idea of ‘giving back’ and teaching others is a mission of Friends Unite, which is to develop collaborative networks to share important knowledge with others.  The greatest impact often results from people ultimately helping themselves.  Peer-to-peer learning is the type of bottom-up approach that will have a lasting impact in advancing fiscal awareness for younger generations.

VII.           Summary

The following is a bullet-point summary of Friends Unite’s Fiscal Awareness program:

  1. Define the incentives or prizes to be awarded at the end of the competition;
  2. Work with financial professionals to create fun, engaging, instructional videos to convey the basic knowledge children will need to participate;
  3. Identify a group of children (whether through schools, family, friends or local organizations) who want to participate in the contest;
  4. These children, whether individually or in groups, will participate in a web-based game that has a scoring system;
  5. The winner will be the person or group that scores the most points and best conveys to an independent panel of judges how he/she/they will best give back to society and impart this knowledge to others;
  6. The winner (s) will get a scholarship or whatever prizes are defined at the outset of the program;
  7. With the assistance of program organizers, the winner (s) will follow through with their plan to teach what they have learned to others; and
  8. Program organizers will create content from this program to share with others in the U.S. and around the world, create national/global collaborative contests, and expand the reach of the program to help others learn the importance of fiscal awareness.

We welcome all suggestions, constructive criticisms, and ideas on this program.  Feel free to send your comments to info@friendsunite.org.

 

Friends Unite Completes Solar Project as part of its Efforts to Help Advance Education in Rural India

May 6th, 2012

(April 19, 2012) Raleigh, NC – Friends Unite, a Raleigh based non-profit focused on providing the support necessary for people and communities to help themselves, today announced that it has completed a solar energy project as part of its efforts to help advance education in rural India.

In spring 2011, Friends Unite announced it had partnered with Brahmi, a non-governmental organization in India, and SELCO Solar India, a private company that provides sustainable energy solutions and services to under-served households and businesses, to install solar panels at the Anjana Vidyakendra School in Guttahali Village near Bangalore, India. In addition to using sustainable methods to provide a more reliable source of electricity to the school, the project was also designed to enhance educational opportunities through the creation of a computer lab.

The solar energy project at the Anjana Vidyakendra School was funded and implemented in three phases. In phase one, funded up front by Friends Unite, the solar panels were installed, generating enough electricity to consistently power 20 computers that had previously been donated to the school. Fundraising for phase two, the installation of interior lighting, began on April 1 as part of Friends Unite’s participation in GlobalGiving’s Open Challenge, in which all participating organizations were required to raise $4,000 from at least 50 donors by April 30, 2011.  Friends Unite exceeded this goal, raising $5,885 from 77 donors via Global Giving. Funding for phase three was recently completed through individual and corporate donations, covering the cost to install much-needed exterior lighting at the school.

“Partnering with SELCO and Brahmi on this solar project has been an incredibly rewarding experience,” said Murali Bashyam, president of Friends Unite.  “My wife and I visited the Anjana Vidyakendra School during a recent trip to India, and we were able to see first-hand the excitement of the students as they worked in their fully powered computer lab. At one point, they were given the option to take recess or continue working, and 100 percent of them voted to continue working on the computers!”

Shortly after the solar panels were installed, Dr. Channa Raju, the school’s founder, emailed Friends Unite to state that for the first time in 10 years, students were able to have uninterrupted use of their computers despite widespread power disruptions in the community.

“This project has been an excellent example of how a for-profit company, a non-profit organization, and individuals can come together to make a tremendous difference,” said Bashyam.  “We hope to replicate this type of partnership in the future to execute similar projects that fit within the Friends Unite mission.”

Through the fundraising process, Friends Unite connected with a local Girl Scout troop, whose members collected used books and educational software tools to send to students at the Anjana Vidyakendra School. The Girl Scouts and the students in India have since started a pen pal program and continue to stay in touch.

“This is what Friends Unite is all about…bringing people and organizations together and building lasting connections,” said Bashyam. “The solar project is complete, but the relationships we have built with Brahmi, Selco and the Girl Scouts are just getting started.”

Friends Unite to Use Solar Energy to Help Advance Education in Rural India

April 4th, 2011

Raleigh, NC – Friends Unite, a Raleigh based non-profit focused on providing the support necessary for people and communities to help themselves, has partnered with Brahmi, an humanitarian organization, to install solar panels at the Anjana Vidyakendra School in Guttahali Village, India.

The solar panels will provide a more reliable source of electricity to the school. Currently, Anjana Vidyakendra suffers from severe electricity shortages, often on the power grid for only three to four hours each day.  Even when electricity exists it is very unreliable. The solar panels will also enhance educational opportunities by allowing the creation of a planned computer lab.  Solar energy is an effective method to bring the benefits of modern technology to the school and community.

Brahmi, under the direction of Dr. Channa Raju, founded the Anjana Vidyakendra School in 2001. The school provides education to rural children who would otherwise lack access to educational opportunities. Brahmi is dedicated to primary education and the spread of literacy in rural India. With such inconsistent access to power, students at Anjana Vidyakendra did not have the light required to study properly, and the school’s goal of creating a computer lab was not feasible.

“My parents came to the United States originally from India and have helped many relatives also emigrate over the years.  While I thought I understood what it meant to be under-resourced, I only truly obtained a perspective when I actually traveled to India over the years.  Despite the rural nature of this school, they have leadership with a vision to enable these children to far exceed expectations with some assistance from others.   I see this not only as an opportunity to raise these children a step or two, but also to become a model for other organizations to follow in educating their own children,” said Ketan Soni, Board Member, Friends Unite.

The solar project at Anjana Vidyakendra will provide a more consistent and effective educational environment. The solar panels provide a self-sustaining method of securing power versus being reliant upon an uncontrollable electrical grid.

“This project will give these children an opportunity to take the ideals of the environment in which they grew up and place them on an even playing field with those who have more advantages. The atmosphere of accountability and awareness of the impact on the environment will stay with these children and influence the attitudes they carry with them into adulthood. If access to modern technology is the key to advancing educational and economic opportunities, so is access to sustainable energy,” said Soni.

Friends Unite Elects New Board Member

September 16th, 2010

Friends Unite, a charitable organization focused on providing opportunities and support to people and communities so they have the power to help themselves, announced today that Ketan Soni was elected to the organization’s Board of Directors.

Soni is a Managing Attorney for a North Carolina based law firm, Rosen Law. From 2004 to 2006 he served as Branch Managing Attorney, prior to that time he was an associate attorney with the firm. In his senior positions with Rosen, Soni has introduced technology to increase production, has focused on long-term and short-term strategic planning and has worked to maintain the quality and growth of the firm.  Soni has a J.D. From Wake Forest University School of law and a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 2002.

“I look forward to collaborating with the outstanding Board of Directors and partner organizations of Friends Unite. I am honored to help advance the mission of an organization that hopes to play such an important role in shaping the future of people who have the determination and vision to improve their lives and the lives of those around them,” said Soni.

“His vision, common-sense, business skill and ‘power within’ philosophies make him an excellent addition to our board. We’re excited about what Ketan will bring to our organization,” said Murali Bashyam, founder, Friends Unite.

Friends Unite Visits Kilisa Africa To See Program Possibilities In Action

August 16th, 2010

Raleigh, NC – Friends Unite, a Raleigh based non-profit focused on providing the support necessary for people and communities to help themselves, recently returned from a trip to Africa.  The trip allowed Friends Unite to gain a firsthand view of various community-driven development programs, and meet, in person, representatives from an organization they are partnering with to make a difference in Kilisa, Africa.

“It gives you a completely different perspective to actually be there on the ground and see the situation in a village like Kilisa. Though we’ve been working from a distance, being there gave us a firsthand sense of the real need as well as the potential impact we hope to have,” said Pam Prather, vice president, Friends Unite.

Friends Unite has partnered with African Economic Foundation (AEF) to aide the village of Kilisa, a mountainous village in Eastern, Kenya, in building a strong village-based economy -  one where resources are maximized and services and products are sold at the best prices possible. The trip followed an invitation by AEF to visit Kilisa and see the social-economic development projects initiated by the Kilisa Village Development Community (KVDC). The organizations are working together to move Kilisa’s natural dependence on subsistence farming into opportunities to invest proceeds in other revenue-producing projects.

“When we visited the village we saw so much potential. Seeing what the people of this village have already accomplished was awe-inspiring. The resources that we take for granted are completely lacking in this part of the world, but they have pooled their collective strengths to create an impressive irrigation system and high school. The villagers are also skilled farmers with a long history of connecting with the land. Helping Kilisa and other villages like Kilisa, to us, became about figuring out how to build upon their strengths,” said Prather.  “We started this from thousands of miles away but traveling to Kilisa made understanding the scope of creating a village-based economy much clearer.”

Friends Unite and AEF have created a plan to take advantage of Kilisa’s current food surplus brought on by this year’s significant rainfall, rainfall that represents a break from the region’s recent severe drought.  The current food surplus provides an opportunity for AEF and Friends Unite to train villagers in Kilisa and other communities on food preservation, storage, marketing and sale.  The hope is for the village to use this training and the food surplus to generate revenue for the community when market conditions improve.  This revenue can then be used by the residents of Kilisa to ensure food security and to promote other community-based projects such as micro-financing and expanded education. “We strongly believe that this joint venture will ensure the continued availability of food as well as seeds for tomorrow’s crops, putting Kilisa on a path towards sustainable food security,” said Dr Philip Mwalali, patron KVDC, AEF co-founder.

“We hope to develop a business model that can create continued revenue and jobs. Our goal is to realize long-term benefits in the region by helping communities in Kilisa learn to run these programs self sufficiently as well as build upon them. If this project is successful, it can be replicated to other villages around the area,” said Prather.

View a video of Friends Unite’s visit to Yangngua Secondary School, Kilisa, Kenya http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9YepTktlv4

Charity Focuses On Power Of Friendship To Change The World

July 6th, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
MEDIA CONTACT
Deborah Loercher
July 6, 2010        
919 821 1191 ext. 1#

How did a 1940′s movie and the power of friendships inspire the formation of a global non-profit?

“As a child, I watched It’s a Wonderful Life more than a dozen times. The line, ‘Remember, no man is a failure who has friends’ really resonated with me,” said Murali Bashyam, President, Friends Unite. Back then Bashyam may not have realized a simple Christmas movie would be the impetus that would connect him and others around the globe.

For years the core message of It’s A Wonderful Life stuck with him. He’d reflect on those who helped him throughout his life and find himself assessing his place in the world, wondering:  is it possible to build an organization that can change the outcome for people around the world through the simple power of friendship? “I always believed that real success comes from our journey and the lives we touch along the way. The contribution of human capital is just as valuable as, if not more so, than monetary capital,” said Bashyam. “I knew that if the right people got together to share resources and ideas that real differences could be made, problems could be solved, lives could be made better.”

Bashyam’s idea recently turned solid with the creation of Friends Unite a global non-profit that works to provide the support necessary for people and communities to help themselves. Friends Unite’s Web site (www.friendsunite.org) launched earlier this month. Friends Unite works to bring people, their ideas, and their spirit together to help solve some of the most pervasive problems faced by individuals and communities worldwide. The organization is currently focusing on partnerships in the areas of global education, development, and health.

“I believe we can help people and communities gain access to basic necessities such as food, water, healthcare and education. We hope to accomplish this goal by partnering with organizations, individuals and communities who can change people’s lives through innovation, technology, and education,” said Bashyam.  Recent projects include: purchasing text books for children at the Anjana Vidya Kendra school in India; partnering with World Solutions Against Infectious Diseases (WSAID) to fight Visceral Leishmaniasis disease; assisting Southern Sudan Fellowship in their efforts to relieve poverty, suffering and educational disparities among the people of Southern Sudan; helping Brahmi to build schools in impoverished areas of India where there are no educational opportunities; and helping Africa Economic Foundation, Inc. (AEF) in their efforts to assist African countries in their quest for Sustainable Economic Development.

“We can help people help themselves, by simply giving them a chance. By uniting to create mutually beneficial relationships and harnessing the collective brain power of an expanding network, together we can make a positive difference in a community or a person’s life,” said Bashyam.

So maybe it was great script writing, or the way Jimmy read the inscription, or maybe just the power of old Hollywood. But in the end maybe it won’t be just Clarence who gets wings; maybe one small organization made up of true friends will find the power to fly high and far enough to change the world.

ABOUT FRIENDS UNITE: Friends Unite is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. The charitable mission of Friends Unite is to provide the support necessary for people and communities to help themselves. Friends Unite provides support for the advancement of education, health services and other basic necessities, such as food, water and shelter. To learn more about Friends Unite, their mission, goals, project & partners and how to help visit: friendsunite.org.

Local Non-Profit Helps Children in Southern Sudan

January 17th, 2010

Friends Unite announced that it will partner with the Southern Sudan Fellowship (SSF) to help children in Southern Sudan.  SSF is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization whose mission is to improve the lives of Sudanese families in North Carolina and Southern Sudan through education, enrichment, and cultural exchange.

SSF is planning to build a secondary high school in the village of Akot in Southern Sudan.  Once built, the school will accommodate nearly 300 students.  It is also being considered as a school exclusively for girls.  “Friends Unite supports access to education for children who otherwise do not have it.  What SSF is doing in providing education to children in Southern Sudan is something Friends Unite can enthusiastially support,” says Murali Bashyam, President of Friends Unite.

To read more about and support SSF, please visit their web site at www.ssfus.org.

Friends Unite Taps Anoroc to Develop Global Brand

January 17th, 2010

Friends Unite, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization,  hired Anoroc Agency, a Raleigh based digital media and marketing agency, to develop brand positioning strategies and brand touch points including the Friends Unite logo, identity, Web site, and collateral.

AnoLogix, the agency’s digital marketing division will develop Friends Unite Web strategy including SEO, CRM strategy and functionality. The Anoroc team will also be creating the non-profit’s social media strategy including a privately branded Friends Unite social networking site, Facebook platform and custom blog site.

“There are many challenges that face people around the world – poverty, health, education, disease, and hunger being among them. Friends Unite believes that people have the strength, knowledge, and desire to help themselves if given a chance. The organization’s mission is to not only provide monetary capital to help people, but to focus on human and intellectual capital as well developing networks small and large to unite for common charitable goals. We’re very excited to partner with them in accomplishing their mission,” said Deborah Loercher, president, Anoroc Agency.

About Friends Unite: The charitable mission of Friends Unite is to provide the support necessary for people to help themselves, and to partner with companies, individuals and communities who can change people’s lives through innovation, technology, social progress, and expansion of knowledge. Friends Unite will provide funding and support for the advancement of education, health services, and other basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter that are often compromised by poverty.

About Anoroc Agency: Anoroc helps companies re-invent, re-emerge and re-position by creating branding strategies that speak to their consumers uniquely and directly. Anoroc builds brands through strategic marketing, advertising, brand development / positioning, graphic design, integrated public relations, digital media, Web development, social media, experimental marketing, film/video.   Visit Anoroc at www.anorocagency.com.