Just watched an episode of Frontline which has some marvelous stories. One I had already heard about, Kiva, which arranges micro credit loans to small businesses in the third world. All it takes is a credit card and an internet connection, and anyone can loan money. Several people who have loaned money then get it back and make new loans. One man profiled is involved in over 70 loans. The amounts are small, a large loan is $1100. Multiple people can be part of a loan. Kiva (http://www.kiva.org/) partners with organizations in 3rd world countries to take applications and approve loans. So far they've had a 100% repayment. Businesses profiled included a woman who has a peanut butter factory and a man who makes furniture. What a wonderful way for individuals to help change the world!
The second great idea was the Play Pump by entrepreneur Trevor Field. Clean water is difficult to find in Africa, and often requires walking long distances and cranking a hand pump for a lengthy time.. Field's Play Pump uses a merry-go-round like apparatus. Children in the school play on it and pump water to a tower where it is stored and then fed to a spigot. The story about it is here: http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/rough/2005/10/south_africa_th.html.
Field started out producing it with his own money, and now has raised a good bit of money from many sources and plans to triple his production.
Genius is alive and in the service of humankind!