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Entrepreneurship, Second Edition by Andrew Zacharakis, William Bygrave

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15.8. CASE: Earthwatch

Englishman Ed Wilson, CEO of the world's largest environmental volunteer nonprofit organization, felt he was back in prison in Sudan. In 1982, as an aspiring journalist in his youth, Ed took photographs of a refugee camp with the intention of exposing the Sudanese government's corruption. Within two hours of snapping his pictures, he was picked up by the Secret Police and thrown into prison with no one other than his captors aware of his whereabouts.

In the early part of 2009, Ed reclined in his chair and stared at the ceiling of his office in Earthwatch's headquarters in Massachusetts, much like he stared at the stone ceiling of his Sudanese prison cell 26 years ago. Now, as then, he was in a perilous predicament. Earthwatch had just scraped through 2008 at a loss. The year ahead, instead of promising a reprieve, only threatened to be the worst revenue year in the organization's 37-year history.

Earthwatch's retail revenue had been declining since 1993. The organization managed to survive by growing the revenue it generated from corporate sponsorships. At the end of2008, however, the United States was on the brink of a recession, and common intuition predicted that donations and charitable partnerships would be among the first items to be cut in corporate budgets. Ed peered through his partially open door to survey his headquarters staff. Morale had been low in recent months, and the uncertainty about the organization's future was palpable. Ed was scheduled ...

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