Interview with Anita Casalina of Billions Rising

Jonathan Edward Goodman

by Jonathan Goodman on November 30, 2013

The World of Internet Marketing

Interview with Anita Casalina

This is Jonathan Goodman. Welcome to another episode of The World of Internet Marketing.


Today we’re going to talk about the book Billions Rising. We have a guest, Anita Casalina. She is an author and documentary producer. She has made educational films for Physicians for Social Responsibility, Friends of the Earth, Foster Parents Education, and other non-profit organizations. In 2012, she wrote a manuscript for a book chronicling the work of a retired official who served in Sub-Saharan Africa for 20 years through the U.S. government. That inspired her to seek out more groups who realized that building self-reliance and showing people how to create wealth for themselves is much more effective, long term, than giving aid.

Interview with Anita Casalina

Jonathan: You’ve written a new book with Warren Whitlock, one of Forbes Top 10 Social Media individuals, and you have an Indiegogo campaign right now. Can you talk about that?

Anita: Do you want me to talk about the Indiegogo campaign first?

Jonathan: Give us a little background as to Billions Rising first.

A map of Sub-saharan Africa A map of Sub-saharan Africa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anita: The story that you just told about the gentleman who worked in Sub-Saharan Africa was something I found so incredibly inspiring. All my life, I have seen helicopters dropping food and giving money to people who were in dire poverty, yet I know that just keeps people on an aid cycle. So when I discovered that this man was going into these countries and working in the dirt with people to show them how to utilize the resources they already had and add value to that, I thought, “He can’t be the only person who thought of this.” I contacted Warren Whitlock. I already knew Warren. I said to him, “What do you think of this? Warren, who is the most enthusiastic person in the world, got right into it. He came up with the title “Billions Rising” and ran it past focus groups in Las Vegas where he is. The idea of billions of people rising out of poverty appealed to so many people. The full title of the book is Billions Rising: Empowering Self-Reliance. We went on from there to outreach, starting with the Internet. We just wanted to find out who’s out there? What kind of non-profits are out there? We began our radio show in January and we’re done a weekly radio show ever since. What’s so incredible is that self-reliance can come from people who invent a little filter straw that lets people drink the local water rather than going hundreds of kilometers to find water, or get a micro-loan that helps somebody build a business, or get the right tools for agriculture and learn about a rotational year-round agricultural system. It can be so many things. We’ve found the most astonishing people. So we began compiling all those stories into this book. The book came out earlier this week. Now we have the paperback print version, which all the old school people are applauding because they get to pick up a book, hold it and open it and read it or use bookmarkers or write in it. That just came out on Amazon today. So it’s been a whirlwind year. It’s been only one year since we started. It’s been incredibly exciting. We have the radio show and the blog. I have to say that Warren Whitlock and Heather keep that blog going. I might send them a link and say “Check this out.” And I get an incredible article written and put up on the website. So it’s been a lot of fun.

Jonathan: That’s amazing. We had easy access to the book prior to launch. We read it and thought it was fantastic, particularly from the technology side. You’re really talking about empowering people with technology. As we become more tech savvy, we losing so many people on that end. Things have become so much easier. Like you say, the little straw that changes dirty water into clean water. Solar powered energy. Things like that. Understanding the change in technology and making it easier for people to come up through the resources that we have is really one of the great tools that I thought the book presented very well, particularly in chapter 4, Tools for a Better World. How do you think technology in modern society has affected the economy and how do you think giving new technologies for other less fortunate countries will help their economies or markets to progress?

Anita: I think we’re already seeing that. One of the more interesting things I’ve read is what mobile technology has done for some of the poorest, most remote people in the world. They can now keep everything on a mobile device. They can do their banking. They don’t have to go into the city and walk into the bank. A lot of these countries in Africa have gone through horrible revolutions with genocide and horrible things that have happened. There are so many widows and so many women who have no form of income. They’re refugees. They’ve gone to other countries. And there are groups that are going in and showing them how to use mobile technology. So they’re able to sell beads, for example, and the money goes directly into their accounts. They’re not carrying cash, so they’re safer. No one is going to rob them. It’s their account. They have their own debit card and their own code. So mobile technology has opened a lot of doors. Women –and men too – are selling their produce. A neighbor can call them up when they’re at their market maybe a couple of towns away and ask them bring over some sweet potatoes. So they make extra sales that way. In terms of mobile technology, what that has done is draw these people in poverty into the conversation. The global conversation. We interviewed Eric Poulman from One Acre Fund on our radio show. He said that once you open channels to the poorest people, you make contact with them. Once that is open, you’ve sent them some fertilizer and seeds so that they can grow more and you’ve taught them some things with training, then you discover something else. In this case with One Acre Fund, they found a really simple solar lamp that would save money for every family. It was just one little solar collector that would light the house at night. He described it as “sending that down the same channel.” When you’ve got the channels open and you finally have the outreach, then you can send stuff out and ideas out and new things that will uplift these people. He was describing it in the way your question was phrased. We have a world with so much stuff, yet we have all these people who don’t have access to a better way of life with this stuff. Everything that you and I have that makes our lives easier, making that accessible to them is changing the world. It’s changing them and it is truly lifting them up from poverty.

Jonathan: That’s amazing. You speak about women. In chapter 8, you talk about women specifically and how they are going to change the world. Do you feel that social media has helped? Is social media helping? Or is it hurting women’s struggles?

English: Image of HCC MakerBot Cupcake CNC pri... English: Image of HCC MakerBot Cupcake CNC printing of spikey gear and raft in the MakerBot 3D printer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anita: I think it’s really helping. We’re finding them and they’re finding us. Social media has opened doors for everyone, women and men, because the people in need can discover who has something to give. Those who need and those who have something to give can find each other. There are big sites for that. There’s a new one called BigMarker, which I love. It’s like an umbrella. You can create communities on-line through this organization. If we have something to teach and there’s people overseas who are poor but want to learn, so much of this takes place on-line. I’ll get back to women in a second. But another great example is a guy in South Africa who is a carpenter. One day he cut off his fingers while he was working. So he’s lying in the hospital and thinking “I’m going to make another set of fingers for myself.” Through social media, he found a designer in Washington D.C. He’s in South Africa, but the two of them collaborated. This is a big part of what we’re discovering at Billions Rising. Collaboration is extremely important. That is how we find each other. So they worked together and they developed something that can be downloaded. It can be built on a 3D printer. People all over the world are able to move their fingers just by a wrist motion.

Jonathan: That’s amazing.

Anita: It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever found. That was one person’s brilliant idea of finding another person on the other side of the planet who was willing to work with him. And it opened doors. They’ve had 4,000 downloads.

Jonathan: That’s incredible. It’s heartwarming and it’s revolutionary. I’m a firm believer that anyone regardless of their economic situation has the ability to move forward and improve themselves if given the opportunity. This is a perfect example.

Anita: Let me get back to the question of women. Women are being found just like anyone else who is really in need. There are a lot of organizations that have formed specifically to help women, children and the people who have become refugees due to these horrible wars in Africa and also in India and other places in the world. Women have been culturally marginalized. If they’re not attached to a man or if they’re not attached to another form of income through a man or his family, they are marginalized and pushed out of society so that they’re literally begging on the street. Organizations like Beads for Life reach out and help these women form micro economies. They start a business. They may start with paper beads. Paper beads is a great example. There are many groups in Africa now that are helping women take recycled paper, put a glaze on it and make beautiful beads. They’re gorgeous. They make beautiful holiday gifts. I’m making a pitch for them. But from that, they start saving money. They always enter a program. They’ve never abandoned at that point. The program shows them how to save money and how to dream about what they want for the future. They can plan what their business will be. Some of these women open a little fish market. Some of them start keeping bees to collect honey and they have the beehives on their property. They all have the same desires that anyone does. They want to build a home and eventually they do that. Their children go to school. They have much better nutrition. But it always starts with the finding this way. There are so many organizations on-line now. You and I right now could go to, which I would recommend to anybody. It’s a huge clearinghouse with thousands of projects. I think their tagline is “The world is filled with problems. We have solutions.”

Jonathan: Wow

Anita: Yes. It’s beautiful.

Jonathan: You said Beads for Life and then you said something with a “z” that I missed. What was that?

Anita: Zidisha I’m not sure. I’m trying to remember which one it is. It’s a group that goes over and shows women how to start businesses. I think they do microloans. There are some groups that do the little microloans. Then the women know, “I have to do well to pay back the loan. But in doing that, I’m going to develop my own business.” Then there are other groups that make sure these women have animals. It depends on what the environment is like. Some places aren’t good for agriculture, but having a goat allows you to sell the milk. You know the group Heifer?

Jonathan: Right.

Anita: You give one animal to a family and it changes the entire village.

Jonathan: We’re in November and heading into the holiday season. I can tell you personally that my family does a Secret Santa every year and we always have the same guy in our family who says “whatever you want to get me.” Once again, of course, we got him as our pick. I’m not giving anything away because he doesn’t listen to the podcast, but this time around, I think we’re going to make a donation to Heifer or Zidisha. If every single free person could just make a difference in the life of another person, whether an American or someone in Sub-Saharan Africa, it would remarkably change the entire culture and the community. It probably is far better than anything that the NSA or the FBI or the Secret Service does with their spying. The one-on-one individuals helping each other is what is really going to change this world.

Anita: Right.

Jonathan: A lot of us are familiar with Kiva, which is about mico-lending for individuals. You were saying that Kiva Zip is a bridge of Kiva, but it’s specifically for Americans helping Americans?

Kiva Site Kiva Site (Photo credit: consnam)

Anita: Right. I’m not certain exactly sure they structured it, but it had to do with not being able to lend money overseas. You can donate, but you can’t lend one person to one person. So if you lived in Africa, I wouldn’t be able to lend you money. I’m getting that wrong. I’m sorry. If you lived in the United States on the East Coast, there is something about that one-on-one lending that the government had cracked down on. Kiva Zip worked around it and people are now able to give a loan to someone down in Georgia who is real poor and wants to go to college. There are a lot of college funds kinds of things. There are lot of funds that would, for example, help Amy get her business started so she can support her children. I’m just making that up. But there’s so many things like that being funded. I think what you were saying a minute ago is so true. In some ways, this is the silver lining of the recession. Because of the recession, people could no longer rely on that top down model. So they began looking for alternatives. People are really creative and they want to help and they want to reach each other. So there’s a lot more lateral outreach than there ever was before. It’s disruptive. And it’s fun to be disruptive in that way in terms of lending, in terms of giving, in terms of aid. It’s completely turned it upside down. How is aid given? It’s given in a way that allows people to have dignity and allows them to create for themselves.

Jonathan: The inspiration of “I took out a loan and I want to produce something to pay that back” is like the notion of “teach someone to fish and he’ll fish for life.” They have the idea. They have the concept. They just need to make it reality. And they don’t have the economics to be able to do that. In chapter 10 of your book, you talk about acting locally.

Anita: Right. We found some fabulous local organizations. One in particular really stood out from the very beginning. It’s Westmoreland Community Action in Pennsylvania. The way I see it is that every strong community is felt around the planet. If you make your own community strong and if you work to help the local people do better, then it has a ripple effect. This particular organization is a great model for other local organizations. They raise money, they build houses, they give people a hands-up, they do job training. They help get people off welfare and into the job market. They do a lot of stuff. They have community gardens, which is another thing we really support. Through community gardens, people can learn a real direct connection of growing food and feeding their families literally from the work of their own hands. So even if it is part of a bigger community and it’s not your livelihood, you still get a real sense of satisfaction. We did find some amazing groups like that and some local veteran organizations too. Vets coming back from service have a culture shock. If you or I take a trip to Europe, we have a hard time adjusting. And that’s from a vacation.

Jonathan: Right.

Anita: Imagine what it is like to be hyper vigilant and on edge like you’re at war and coming home to have people say, ‘Welcome home. Just settle on in.” So we found that veteran organizations are great. The ones I love are the ones that help vets get pets like dogs or cats. A pet can be a comfort to them and a companion for them. There are educational groups too that help them learn what they need to do to get a college education or upper division work so that they get higher paying jobs.

Jonathan: Education is really the key here, right? In fact, you have an entire chapter on education called “The Foundation for Prosperity.” How do you think technology and social media has affected the way children learn in school? And do you think it will have a ripple effect on the adults?

Anita: Well, some adults are a little slow to want to make those adjustments. Our book just came out in print today and I heard all the old school people cheering because they wanted a physical book that they could crack open. So adults can be a little resistant to change. But one of the things we’re seeing in terms of education is that there’s another group called MentorMob, which I just adore. If you wanted to teach somebody the work that you do with online marketing, for example, and you wanted to find underprivileged kids in this country or overseas, you could go onto MentorMob, set up a community, get people joining and teach on-line. You’d never have to meet those kids in person. You could just do video conferencing like we’re doing now. It’s just another tool and it’s fantastic. There’s a guy in India. His last name is Mitra and he won a really big TED award for education. This actually shows that children are hungry for education and they love technology naturally anyway. Technology is interesting because it’s just another way to be creative. It’s kind of like picking up a piece of wood and carving something. It’s about doing something with our hands. It’s a lot faster obviously than the old days of building things with our hands. But this guy in India installed video monitors in the poorest neighborhoods of Calcutta and other poor places in India. He installed them low, at child-level for very young children. They’re just seeing the screen and it’s a touch screen. They could come up and build new programs. He found that the little children got so involved and then they began teaching their friends. These are kids who aren’t going to school because they are that poor. They would show each other how things worked on the screen. “I touch this blue button and that opens this screen.”

Jonathan: Wow.

Anita: Yea. It’s incredible because it shows children’s hunger for knowledge and hunger for education.

Jonathan: I have a niece and a nephew. My nephew is about 10 years old. That iPad is attached to this arm 24/7. He started out obviously playing games, but now he’s really starting to use it with Google search and to communicate. He has a cell phone now and he’s able to coordinate where he is with where he needs to be. It really is remarkable how adaptive children have become.

Anita: Yes. It pumps up the mind in a lot of different ways. My son is 22 years old now and he builds computers from scratch just as a hobby. He built a super computer that had to be water cooled. When my IT guys saw it, they gasped. It was like they had found the Holy Grail.

Jonathan: That’s incredible. To me, that’s amazing. What does he do for a full-time job?

Anita: He’s a student at the University of Arizona. He’s going into political science. I asked him why he didn’t want to build these things and make money. He said, “Mom, I want to keep enjoying this. If I’m under pressure, I’m not going to enjoy it.”

Jonathan: But doing the thing that you love is the best work you can do.

Anita: It’s kind of like how our dads had the woodshop that they’d go to after dinner and make stuff. He goes into his room and starts soldering and hooking stuff up. It’s new version of tinkering and puttering around in the workshop.

Jonathan: We only have about three minutes left, so let’s get back to the Indiegogo campaign. You have a radio show on BlogTalkRadio. Is that a weekly show?

Anita: Yes. It’s on every Wednesday. It’s obviously archived. That’s how BlogTalk works. But it is on at 2 pm West Coast time. It’s all archived. Our Indiegogo campaign has two more weeks. It’s until the end of November. We’re excited. We’ve raised $21,000 so far. We have a pledge already for another $8,000 to $9,000, which is going to bring us up to at least $30,000. We’re going to use that money for the same kinds of things that we’ve done the past year, which was through angel investors. That has been an absolute Godsend to us. We are trying to move forward with other types of funding. We have a corporate sponsorship director who is working with us now too. We’re writing some grants and trying everything we can to build a good budget for 2014 for ourselves. What we’ve raised at Indiegogo is like a stepping stone. It’s like a bridge to help us be able to continue to keep the radio show going. We also have a documentary we’re going to try to finish in 2014.

Jonathan: I was about to mention your documentary.

Anita: We also have an app for a phone. We want to really continue to be part of what we see as the self-reliance movement that is worldwide. But if there was nothing else that could happen in 2014 and all we had was what we raised on Indiegogo, we would keep this radio show going because we spotlight these people and organizations around the world. And we know for a fact that many of them have gotten so much more public support and funding as a result of being in our blog and being on our radio show. My partner, Warren Whitlock, who unfortunately wasn’t able to join us today, has a huge social outreach. And so does Melissa, my producer. We just put people out as far as we can into social media when we find them. They have written back to us and let us know that it’s really been helpful to them.

Jonathan: That’s fantastic. So the campaign has another two weeks, right? And you have some great perks. On the lower end, you have a personal thank you. You can then move up and you have a signed hard copy, a wall calendar and some really great stuff that really helps to produce Billions Rising. And, of course, we have to again mention the fact that the book launches today. It’s great. It’s very informative.

Anita: Thank you.

Jonathan: Do have any final thoughts?

Anita: This has been the most exciting year of my life. People would say, “What about when your children were born?” Well, that was exciting too. But this is globally exciting.

Jonathan: Right.

Warren Whitlock Warren Whitlock (Photo credit: planetc1)

Anita: Every morning I jump out of bed filled with excitement over what I get to do. I don’t have to do anything so much within myself, but I just have to go look. I call Warren my “hunter gatherer” because he’s so good at exploration. It’s so rewarding to find out who is out there in the world. I have a blog on Huffington Post too. We were actually invited by Ariana Huffington herself. She asked us to join her family. She said, ‘We’d love to add your voice.” So I post once a month about something that we’re finding. That’s another outreach for people who otherwise might not find out about these things and about how self-reliance is the key to ending poverty.

Jonathan: That’s fantastic. Thank you Anita for spending time with us today.

Anita: It’s been fabulous. Thank you for having me.

Jonathan: Absolutely. Take care.


Again, this is Jonathan Goodman. As many of you know, I’m heading for a vacation in England for the next two weeks. By then, it will be time for Thanksgiving, so we’ll be picking the podcast up again in early December. You can follow me @HalyardConsult on Twitter. New episodes of the World of Internet Marketing can be heard every Friday. You can access the archives of my previous shows on – user name Jonathan Goodman. The podcast is also available with transcription at and one week after the episode airs. Don’t forget to pick up my book The World of Internet Marketing on Amazon, and if you like this podcast please share it with your network of friends and family. I appreciate you listening to the podcast and continuing to grow the numbers. I see the numbers all the time and they are growing. It’s spectacular and I really appreciate it. Have a great week.

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