There it was on page S-14 of Saturday's Globe and Mail, a full page UBC ad profiling a remarkable documentary produced by UBC journalism students on the perils of dumping millions of tons of electronic waste, particularly on workers and children in developing countries. And if you look closely, there in small letters in the bottom left hand corner is Alison Lawton's name. I'm sure even that took some persuading as Alison prefers to stay behind the scenes.
I consider Alison to be one of the purest thinker in the space where government, business and community intersect. Unfettered by the biases many of us carry, Alison is creative, bold, exploratory and solution focused. There doesn't appear to be a boundary, enclave or mindset that restricts her And she follows her convictions with her time, her connections and money.
Her foundation is in fact called Mindset Social Innovation Foundation. Her numerous global initiatives are profiled on their website.
She has chaired campaigns for Unicef Canada; produced an award winning documentary, Uganda Rising on the use of child soldiers in Northern Uganda. She's a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Sustainability and Social Inovation at UBC's Sauder School of Business. She has many collaborators inlcuding former President Bill Clinton and Richard Branson. People who know her realize the $300 Million Clinton-Giustra Global Initiative to reduce poverty would not have happened without her inspiration.
She is currently taking on big 'pharma' in an Open Health Initiative which seeks to reduce the financial and bureaucratic barriers for life saving medicine to reach those most in need. All that plus raising two young children, makes her active involvement with BC's Advisory Council on Social Entrepreneurship even more special to me.
Her endowment to UBC's Graduate School of Journalism has given students an opportunity to practice solution based journalism bringing neglected issues to the world's attention.
Working with former Emmy award winning producer Peter Klein, they produced the award winning Digital Dumping Ground. We discard millions of tons of electronics every year in North America, but have no idea where it goes. It's not a pretty picture Using public records, students from the International Reporting Program at UBC tracked shipping containers filled with so-called “e-waste” and followed them around the globe to Ghana, India and China. What they uncovered was not only a health and environmental disaster, but also a genuine security threat.
Their documentary aired on Frontline/WORLD and also won the 2010 Emmy for Best Investigative Magazine, beating out seasoned news teams from CBS and ABC.
Their most recent film Freedom from Pain profiled the desperate circumstances in countries with little or no access to drugs like morphine. Millions of patients around the globe suffer long-term illnesses in excruciating pain. Unlike so many global health problems, pain treatment is not about money or a lack of drugs, since morphine costs pennies per dose. The culprits are bureaucratic hurdles and the chilling effect of the global war on drugs.
Mindset’s donation to UBC’s International Reporting Program funded students to travel to Ukraine, India and Uganda, to uncover this hidden human rights crisis. The half hour documentary “Freedom from Pain,” was produced in partnership with Al Jazeera English and also aired on BBC.
It's no wonder UBC wants to profile her in their one and a half billion dollar ($1.5 B) Start an Evolution campaign to assist UBC students to change the world.
Truth be told once you start paying attention to Alison Lawton you can't miss her.