Jonathan Kalan is an internationally published journalist, photojournalist and blogger specializing in social innovations in emerging markets. A graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, Jonathan has traveled to over 40 countries and worked with nonprofits, social enterprise start-ups, and media companies in a wide range of capacities – from business development to mobile technology and Corporate Social Responsibility. Currently, as founder of The (BoP) Project, Jonathan is reporting on the narrative of “potential” behind the veil of poverty in emerging economies, through the lens of social entrepreneurs across East Africa. He lives and works in the spaces where technological innovation, social justice, and media converge

Jon on Kilimanjaro

His work has appeared in BBC, The Financial Times, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, The Toronto Star, The Huffington Post, Global Post, The Star (Kenya), Stanford Social Innovation Review, Makeshift Magazine,, The Christian Science Monitor, How We Made It In Africa, Destination East Africa,, Beyond Profit, and others.

He is a Staff Writer for, Nairobi’s Sandbox Co-Ambassador, and a Diageo Africa Business Reporting Awards 2011 Finalist. Before moving to Africa in 2010, Jonathan was managing the Mobile Fundraising and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives for Causecast, where he launched the Cause Integration blog. He has presented at conferences across the U.S. from Yale University to NTen, and taught a seminar on strategic visual communications for social entrepreneurship for Columbia University in Amman, Jordan.

Jonathan is currently based in Nairobi, Kenya, freelancing for several media outlets while figuring out what to create in Nairobi… freelancing photos, freelancing stories, and trying to dig further into reporting on the tech and innovation space of Kenya.

We had a few questions for him and this is what he had to say :-

1. What was your first phone?

No idea honestly. I have a feeling it was one of those massive old motorola phones, sometime in the late 90’s?

2. What do you prefer? Facebook or Twitter? Why?

Facebook. Twitter is an essential tool for journalists, but Facebook is the easiest way for me to stay connected to a ton of people across the globe- and more importantly for them to stay connected and get back in touch with me when I post photos, stories, travels, etc.
3. Where do you see yourself in 5 years

I have trouble figuring out where I may be even five minutes from now, so 5 years is a stretch! I see myself preferably by a beach (can’t stay away from the coast too long), but continuing telling stories through photographs, articles, and whatever new mediums I may take on.

4. Any question for us? We’ll publish our answer as well

If you’re blog’s mood was a bird, which way would it fly?

  • North East, to Lake Naivasha 🙂

5. What would you do if you were president for a day?

President of a democracy, kleptocracy, autocracy, or…? ;). I would ask every prominent politician in the country, individually, where they would like to see the country socially, economically, and politically in 5 years time. Then I would attempt to put together a manifesto showing how, at the core, we all are working towards similar goals of progress. I hope…
6. Whats your favourite book & movie?

Book- Shantaram. Movie- The Sandlot.
7. Who/What inspired you to do what you do now?

My father. He was never in a similar profession that I’m in now, but he has lived a live of constant learning and exploration, and has inspired me to do the same.
8. If you were to change jobs, what profession would you get into? Why?

I would love to be a craftsman, of anything really- guitars, surfboards, birdhouses- whatever. I simply think the idea of crafting something unique and beautiful from your bare hands is notable and incredibly rewarding in today’s mass manufacturing world.

9. If you had a superpower, what would it be?

To speak every language on earth. Communication is key.

10. If you were deserted on an abandoned island what 5 things would you want to have?

  • A surfboard,
  • A thousand pens
  • A thousand reams of paper
  • A mixed bag of seeds to grow my own food,
  • A boat.

11. If you were a car, what car would you like to be? Why?

A Volvo station wagon. They never die.
12. If you could be in any band in the world, which one would you like to be in? Why?

The Beatles. They could get away with anything. And they had a ton of fun.
13. What drew you to Africa?

Firsts, it’s a massive continent to explore, and Americans generally still know so little about what happens here behind the headlines. I also could sense it was becoming a place of tremendous opportunity, I wanted to be here to watch it rise, and contribute in my own small way if possible.

14. Share something interesting about yourself with our readers.

My first job at the age of 15 was scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins. Just like Barack Obama.