Mehta's new cartoon series reflects on a decade of social innovation in Africa

September 04, 2014

In September 2004, Khanjan Mehta, director of the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) program, advised a student team designing a low-cost windmill for a rural community in Western Kenya. Little did he know it would be his first of dozens of trips to developing countries to build technology-based ventures that improve human lives. On the 10th anniversary of his engagement with Africa, Mehta has created and launched "Frame Changers," a daily cartoon through which he shares lessons learned in the broad areas of sustainable development, humanitarian engineering and social entrepreneurship.

The "Frame Changers" name, Mehta explained, was inspired by moments that caused him to revisit his philosophy of engagement and rethink his concepts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. “While my quest for improving the human condition has yielded a few ‘game changers,’ there have been countless everyday ‘frame changers’: moments that have challenged my beliefs, values and rational assumptions.”

He noted that "Frame Changers" are a variety of funny, satirical, incisive, futuristic, inspiring and hypocritical takes on the array of social ventures he has been involved with through the years: windmills, telemedicine systems, low-cost diagnostics, science education programs, innovation spaces and affordable greenhouses.

Although their content spans a decade, the cartoons were conceptualized in just a few weeks. Mehta recalled, “'Frame Changers' were crystallized on an airplane and articulated in Kenya in May 2014.”

Once the content was written, he collaborated with Jabez Issa, a wildlife painter from Nyeri. “Jabez worked feverishly for three weeks to churn out more than 225 sketches.” Issa had previously illustrated “Kochia Chronicles,” a book about development challenges in a small community in Kenya, which Mehta published last fall.

Mehta hopes his professional blog and Facebook page will take "Frame Changers" far and wide into the minds of social innovators and aspiring game changers, so they can appreciate the 15-second stories he wants to tell. “The past decade has been punctuated by spectacular failures, humble successes, amazing friendships and excellent collaborations across many countries. It has been a good ten years.”

The first daily "Frame Changers" cartoon was posted earlier this week. Anyone interested in subscribing can sign up at

Mehta estimates that HESE ventures have touched the lives of more than a million people. Perhaps Frame Changers will, too.

"Frame Changers" is available at and For more information about the HESE program, visit Prof. Mehta can be reached at 814-863-4426 or


  • Frame Changers, a daily cartoon

    "Frame Changers" is a daily cartoon by Khanjan Mehta that strives to capture learning moments in the broad areas of sustainable development, humanitarian engineering and social entrepreneurship.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 04, 2014