Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

The Information Blanket: Empowering Women and Fighting Infant Mortality

The Information Blanket: Empowering Women and Fighting Infant Mortality Name of Social Enterprise and URL?

The Information Blanket: http://www.informationblanket.com

Who is the person? What is their background?

Neil Powell, Founder: My background is in design. I have done pro bono design work throughout my career but, until this project, never full-time. In September, I left my post as an Executive Creative Director at an agency here in New York and am now focusing on the Information Blanket.

What is your product or service?

The Information Blanket is an innovative approach to unacceptably high worldwide infant mortality rates. This is a social enterprise built on a one-for-one system, where for every blanket bought, one will be donated to a mother in need. Customers also have the option of donating a blanket without buying one for themselves. The recipients are women who cannot afford the tools necessary for a clean birth, including a warm blanket. Each blanket is imprinted with vital information about newborn health that can help new parents care for their children, such as vaccination schedules and symptoms of serious illness. Since high illiteracy rates can be an issue, the information is communicated both in words and in universally identifiable iconography. We are currently donating all of our blankets to mothers in Uganda but hope to expand to other countries, such as Afghanistan and Bolivia, within the next year.

Date officially launched?

May 2011

The Information Blanket: Empowering Women and Fighting Infant Mortality What came about that made them help in social change? Why was this social venture created?

I created the Information Blanket as a response to the 2010 UNICEF/PSFK “Future of Health” report. The report opened my eyes to the shocking reality of infant mortality. In Uganda, for example, the infant mortality rate (defined as the number of children who die before their first birthday per 1,000 births) is 62.47. In Afghanistan, it’s 149.2. By comparison, it’s 6.06 here in the United States (a number we should still work on reducing) and 2.32 in Singapore. It became clear that many of these deaths happened in the home and were caused by very curable diseases. So they were, in large part, due to lack of education and could be prevented. So we found a way to disseminate some very important information in a simple and productive way. In addition, the blanket provides a clean means of warmth and protection for these newborn infants, whose mothers often cannot afford even a clean razor for the birth.

How many years and how many people has this venture helped? How many people need help?

In May, I traveled to Uganda to distribute our first 1,000 blankets with my NGO partner, Shanti Uganda, a birthing center outside of Kampala. Since that trip, more than 600 blankets have been distributed to new and expectant mothers. While we’re very proud of these numbers, there are many thousands of women in Uganda and many millions of women worldwide who still need this information. This is why we’re planning on expanding to other countries within the next year – there are so many different countries where widespread dissemination of this information could save thousands of children every year.

Could others help you and how?

Absolutely – by buying an Information Blanket as a gift for the next baby shower they attend and telling their friends, colleagues and acquaintances to do the same! We’ve been growing quickly and are trying to continue doing so. The more blankets we sell, the more we can donate to women in need, so every customer counts in a major way. We also offer an option in which people can pay half of the price to donate a blanket to a mother in Uganda without receiving a blanket for him or herself. We’ve already had many generous people choose this option.

The Information Blanket: Empowering Women and Fighting Infant Mortality Do you tweet, facebook fan page, myspace friend or use any other social media to get the word out? (Please provide links)

We’re very active on Twitter and Facebook – it’s a great way to engage parents and parenting experts here in the States and elsewhere who may not be aware of just how high these infant mortality rates are and who might want to get involved. We’ve been hosting live Twitter chats with mommy bloggers, during which people who follow us can ask an expert parenting questions and be entered for a giveaway. We also have our own blog on our website (www.informationblanket.com/blog), in which we post some parenting tips (serious ones and fun ones), as well as stories, photos and videos from the launch trip to Uganda. We’re starting to see a real online community forming around our cause.

What can you tell other potential social entrepreneurs who are deciding to make a difference?

Don’t assume it’s just a phase! When I returned from Uganda, I was worried that over time my dedication to this cause would diminish over time, but I find myself more and more interested in it every single day.

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