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 The mission of the "Your Mark on the World Center" is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.
Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Challenge: Making Sobriety Cool

 

This is a guest post from Greg Cayea, of the National Youth Recovery Foundation.

I just had a friend who had gone to prison for robbery.  She was strung-out on heroin, sick with addiction and she spent three years behind bars, but while there, she began going to AA meetings and got clean (apparently there are plenty of drugs in prison as well).  She was released for good behavior very recently, had strong recovery and returned to her hometown of Columbus Ohio to transition back to life.

However, there was a problem.  There was no one for her to hang out with.  She could not find anyone young to relate to and found herself lonely with nothing to do and nobody to fellowship with, and inevitably, she ended up relapsing and going back to prison.  I was furious.  I was furious because in Ohio, young recovery is scarce yet absolutely necessary to stay clean and her parole officer would not let her leave the state.  I knew from the day she told me she was confined to Columbus, Ohio, sobriety would be an uphill battle.  

 

Had I not found a group of young guys and girls that were all in recovery and having fun and doing amazing things with their lives, getting sober would have been far more difficult, if not nearly impossible for me.  Had my friend had someone, anyone, that she could share that same bond with in Columbus, she would have absolutely had a much better environment to maintain her recovery and assimilate back to society.

 

The truth is, there are only three places in the country that have a “hip” recovery scene: LA, NYC and South Florida.  I am determined to change that. I know there are plenty of young kids all over that would get sober, or at least give it a shot if they saw hope of a “fun, edgy, cool life” without drugs and alcohol.

 

That is my mission and that is the point of the Over The Edge event on October 19th:  To draw attention to the amazing young recovery scene here in LA and to hopefully inspire those across middle America to join together and form a young recovery scene of there own.  It won’t be overnight, but it is more than attainable, and the time has never been better to tap into the youth- I should know, I’m one of them. 

 

I want it to be known that I am cool, I am unorthodox (just read this article), I have tattoos. a great career, I just got back from EDC in Vegas, one of the biggest raves in the world, with a bunch of sober DJs that are all big in the EDM scene (a very non-sober industry), we stayed up till 6AM every night raging out harder than anyone there, had the time of our life, hung out with both sober and non-sober people and came back late Monday night.  We don’t try and dodge drugs and alcohol, we simply don’t want it any more.

How to Drive Social Innovation through Startups

Guest post from WeSparkt co-founder Jonathan Blanchard

Startups aren’t always sexy. For every billion dollar Instagram newsworthy deal, most startups work with little fanfare and recognition. While social media companies are the press’ new darlings, hundreds of startups tackle critical yet stodgy industries that are full of inefficiencies. Innovations in healthcare, education, and energy are quietly improving social and environmental outcomes by changing the way these sectors have operated for decades. These social entrepreneurs re-think how we take care of the population and our energy economy, make money and benefit society. We need more of these social startups to get to market to change the world for the better.

How do we launch these double-bottom line startups to drive real social impact? Access to capital is a crucial part of the answer. Over 72% of social impact startups say that raising money is their biggest concern. Professional investors chase hot sectors and will often avoid entrepreneurs building profitable businesses in education, health and clean technology. These startups need a new source of capital to fund their growth at the early stages.

An untapped community looking for impact investment opportunities exists for these startups. They are the 90% of individuals eligible to invest in startups who don’t have access. Many of these investors have an affinity for these sectors and are looking for social and environmental returns beyond profit alone. Hope Consulting estimates that there is $120 billion on the sidelines for impact investments from high net worth individuals. It will stay on the sidelines, however, until it can find meaningful impact investment opportunities and has access to startups that are changing the world.

Our company, WeSparkt, provides that access. WeSparkt connects impact investors with startup investment opportunities in the clean technology, healthcare, and education technology sectors. Our mission is to fund and launch social entrepreneurs by connecting them with the right community of investors- those who understand the challenges in these sectors, who want to see outcomes improve, and who are looking for financial as well as social and environmental returns.

WeSparkt recently launched to bring this vision to life. We believe that the dynamics are changing for getting social impact startups off of the ground. Large communities can support these entrepreneurs in new ways that will make the world a better place. We’re proud to help lead the movement. Follow us at @wesparkt and register at www.wesparkt.com to see how you can make an impact.

Kickstarter makes corporate investors build parks through online games

Guest post from teen entrepreneur Andrejs Zolotovskovs.

Since its launch Kickstarter has given birth to a lot of unusual (and often unnecessary) projects, such as zombie soap or documentary on throwing rolls of toilet paper. It’s growing in popularity and looks like a perfect place for your average Joe and Jane to get their new crazy endeavor financed. There is, however, another side to Kickstarter.

KAZOPARK Project Director Kevin McGowan

As a popular crowd-funding platform, Kickstarter is a great place to turn for those who want to make a real world difference, like create an open source Geiger Counter used to measure radiation levels in Japan near Fukushima, or form a beautiful underground park on NYC’s Lower East Side. Unfortunately a lot of inspiring examples, however necessary, are not as exciting as their crazy alternatives. They are often ignored by mainstream blogs and without proper media coverage – it’s next to impossible to gather necessary funding. This is where amazing forces of social conscience comes in.

Brian Fargo was very fortunate to get 2 of his Kickstarter projects fully financed. As a thank you he formed the “Kicking It Forward” initiative (http://kickingitforward.org), promising to back other projects for 5% of whatever budget he’ll receive through his Kickstarter campaigns. This concept quickly grew in popularity within Kickstarter community and got more than 200 other successfully funded projects to commit as well.  This resulted in a lot of socially responsible projects, overlooked by media but amazing in concept, get the proper funding. What’s more exciting, for certain projects this concept produced some unexpected outcomes.

KAZOPARK is an online virtual world project. Its Kickstarter campaign, also a part of the “Kicking It Forward” initiative, was launched just a few days ago, but got fully funded within the first 48 hours. The twist – 90% of its pledges came from corporate investors, looking to promote their projects and services within the game. With 26 more days to go – project is estimated to get even more corporate funding. “We are overwhelmed with response we got. Currently we’re considering several public space transformation projects on Kickstarter to fulfill our ‘Kicking It Forward’ initiative duties”, says Kazopark director Kevin McGowan. So in other words – corporate investors has just supported forming of new parks while getting advertised.

The “Kicking It Forward” initiative is a great social trend in a fight for crowd-funding and every successfully funded project that supports it is a strong positive signal for Kickstarter community. Several strong new crowd-funding platforms have emerged after Kickstarter, but their communities are yet to form anything similar. To support the “Kicking It Forward” initiative and Kazopark project, please visit its Kickstarter page

Changing the Way we Change the World

Guest post from Jason Graft, CEO of CrowdIt.

“Equality through opportunity” can be more than a pipe dream. In fact, several innovations have made this idea a reality.  While it’s important to be aware of the socioeconomic gaps across the world, it’s equally important to recognize the substantial opportunities available for anyone to be an agent of change. Nowhere is this more relevant than in entrepreneurism and business. Just look at America – the “Land of Opportunity.”

New and evolving technologies are connecting things, machines and people all over the world. According to InternetWorldStats.com, by June 2012, there was an estimated 2.4 billion internet connections worldwide (http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm). Furthermore, the number of these connections worldwide is growing at a tremendous rate, especially in developing areas of the world like Asia, Africa and the Middle East. I point this out because the rise of the internet (and the resulting innovation) has given rise to new ways of doing business and has enabled the individual to connect the collective power of many. If you were to ask three-time Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Friedman about this notion, he’d probably say that technology alone has leveled the economic playing field, making those who were once considered “long shots” with “pipe dreams” now real contenders in the global economy (see The World is Flat (http://www.thomaslfriedman.com/bookshelf/the-world-is-flat).  As an entrepreneur and proponent of giving everyone an equal opportunity to succeed (both in business and in life), I see great power in the opportunities of today.

While this is an altruistic way of looking at business, it also signifies the transformation that is happening in the digital world, which is directly impacting the way we start new businesses and projects. Case in point is crowdfunding. For anyone who’s ever felt like they can’t realize their dreams or start their passion project, please consider this stat: according to industry research firm Massolution, in 2011, 170 crowdfunding platforms raised more than $1.5 billion and funded more than one million projects (http://www.crowdsourcing.org/research). These numbers are expected to grow, resulting in even more crowdfunding options and opportunities for anyone with an internet connection. The bottom line? There’s no excuse anymore for people not to follow their dreams.

Just deciding to start a passion project or a new business venture is the first step in the right direction. The truth is that most ventures or businesses fail to reach their maximum potential because of two main reasons: lack of experience and lack of funding.

(Credit: CreditDonkey – See full infographic here: http://www.creditdonkey.com/business-swim.html)

These are two problems that I have faced as an entrepreneur and I certainly won’t be the last. In fact, upon considering these two challenges, I decided to look at what resources were available to overcome them. Crowdfunding looked like an obvious and innovative way to gain funding for a new project, especially in a time where people are feeling disenfranchised from the more traditional ways of attaining funding. But to me, what crowdfunding was missing has to do with the second challenge – experience.

One great attribute of the U.S. (and several other countries across the world) is the focus and support on small business development. Small businesses are the lifeblood to economic stability and the dynamo that increases wealth amongst citizens. What people may not know is there are numerous available resources to gain assistance, guidance, and mentorship for starting a new endeavor. Organizations like SCORE (http://www.sba.gov/content/score, a nonprofit association comprised of 13,000+ volunteer business counselors throughout the U.S.) and Startup America (http://s.co/# a White House initiative to celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the nation) are just two of several major support systems for small business and entrepreneurism. I’d also urge people to find a local Small Business Development Center within their community (http://www.sba.gov/content/small-business-development-centers-sbdcs) and to tap a local business incubator found through the National Business Incubation Association (http://www.nbia.org/).   

So why can’t we incorporate these fundamental support structures into the crowdfunding experience and lend support beyond just funding? The truth is we can and we are! My colleagues and I recently launched a new crowdfunding portal called CrowdIt (www.crowdit.com) with a goal of acting as a virtual incubator. This is the beginning of a new model that we believe is going to revolutionize the way small businesses are created because it addresses the two main problems for startup success. This framework also incentivizes people to work together, to network with thought leaders and industry professionals and to seek mentorship and resources – all building blocks of long-term success in business and in any endeavor people choose to reach for in life. Our mission is to help ordinary people do extraordinary things – to follow their dreams and become part of the fabric of ideals of what we call the “New American Dream.”

Being an entrepreneur means creatively defining your own destiny. Entrepreneurship has evolved from just having a financial stake in something to taking an active role in driving new ways of thinking and doing. It was my desire to see others succeed that motivated my partners and me to get involved in the crowdfunding space. In today’s age, I want people to understand there are support mechanisms available for anyone, equal opportunities to start a new venture and with the aid of resources like technology, anything is possible. Furthermore, people (in general) want to help one another. So don’t fear the unknown – embrace it and take action because the time is now.

The playing field has been leveled and crowdfunding has helped that transformation. Embrace it. Make your dream happen.

So what is your passion?  

How do you want to make your mark on the world? 

CarMax Foundation is Driving For Healthier Kids

This is a guest post by Kristiana Carden.

Children’s free time should include play and physical activity, but kids in the United States simply aren’t playing enough. Only one in five children live within walking distance of a park or playground, and the incidence of childhood obesity increases 29 percent in neighborhoods without one. What’s more, children ages eight to 12 are now spending an average of 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen. This “play deficit” is having profound consequences for kids physically, socially and cognitively. 


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Photo credit: Tom Lynch Photography, courtesy of CarMax.

On June 7, volunteers from CarMax and its partners built two playgrounds in one day as The CarMax Foundation launched its $4.1 million partnership with KaBOOM!. The Richmond, Va. and Los Angeles playground builds were the first of 30 new playgrounds planned by the end of 2015. 

Heavy rain from Tropical Storm Andrea throughout the day at the Richmond build only drove volunteers to work harder—they completed their playground in the fastest ever time for KaBOOM!. At the end of the day, and after lots of hard work, both locations had great new playgrounds for local families.

The CarMax Foundation selected the issue of children’s healthy living as its 10th anniversary focus, after associates expressed a desire to help today’s youth address the important issues of obesity and lack of physical activity.  

“It’s our culture of caring for others that has drawn our associates to the issue of children’s healthy living,” said Lynn Mussatt, president of The CarMax Foundation and CarMax’s vice president of business operations. “Our associates across the country will impact countless families by helping get kids moving and playing.”

The CarMax Foundation and KaBOOM! partnership will directly benefit 100,000 children in the next three years. Research shows that children who participate in regular physical activity and play are healthier, feel more connected to their community, foster positive attitudes toward diversity, build confidence and perform better in the classroom.

In addition to the 30 playground builds, The CarMax Foundation is donating 11 Imagination Playgrounds to select partner organizations. This innovative playspace has reconfigurable loose-parts that let children design their own playgrounds. The partnership also is collaborating to identify and eradicate “Play Deserts” – areas that have lots of kids but not enough places to play.

Throughout the next year, The CarMax Foundation/KaBOOM! partnership will build playgrounds in the following cities: Baltimore, Kansas City, Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale, Phoenix, Dallas and Atlanta. Organizations can visit the KaBOOM! website for more information on becoming a partner. 

 “The true reward for all of us involved will be seeing children playing on these playgrounds for years to come,” said Damon Devins, CarMax location general manager in Buena Park, Calif., and KaBOOM! volunteer. 

New York’s Leading Pet Adoption Organization Bideawee Celebrates 110 Years

This is a guest post from Bideawee.

Bideawee, which means “stay a while”, in Scottish, is among the nation’s oldest animal welfare and pet adoption organizations. Founded in 1903 by Mrs. Flora Kibbe, Bideawee has been providing shelter, care and compassion to homeless animals helping them to find their forever home for the past 110 years.

Bideawee Horse and Carriage, Circa 1906

During its early years, when horses and farm animals were common in New York City, Mrs. Kibbe was inspired by the progressive idea of caring for abandoned animals. In 1906, one of the services Bideawee provided was placing and maintaining fresh drinking water for carriage horses.  

By 1909, Mrs. Kibbe housed 200 dogs in a building near her home. After having several neighbors complain about the constant noise, Mrs. Kibbe was forced to find a home for her and the dogs. Eventually, through the generosity of others, Bideawee found its permanent home in Manhattan at 410 East 38th Street, where the current New York City facility still operates.

More than 100 years later, the Adoption Centers at Bideawee are working harder than ever to match pets with their perfect companion. Bideawee matchmakers understand the needs and recognize the personalities of every animal in their care. Matchmakers get to know your living situation and lifestyle in order to find the very best match adopters with a pet that ideally suits their life and lifestyle which results in return rates well below industry averages.

With adoption facilities in New York City and in Long Island, in Westhampton, the organization currently has over 500 volunteers and 96 employees.

Bideawee is the only organization in the metropolitan New York area that has a vast array of traditional and innovative programs specifically developed to accompany pets and pet lovers on their life-long journey together. In addition to the Adoption Centers, Bideawee has an Animal Hospital that has helped over 75,000 private client pets and animals awaiting adoption in the past 10 years, learning programs and pet therapy, and the treasured Pet Memorial Parks and pet loss support groups. Bideawee truly cultivates and supports the life-long relationship between pets and the people who love them.

Every dog and cat deserves to live in a safe, loving, and suitable home. To learn more about how Bideawee can accompany you and your pet through your life-long journey together or to view pets in need of a loving home, visit www.bideawee.org.

Vital Capital is Making an Impact in Angola

Last week, it was my pleasure to visit Angola. This was my first trip to Africa. The trip was hosted by Vital Capital, a $350 million impact investment fund based in Tel Aviv, headquartered in Switzerland and investing primarily in Angola.

The fund’s founder, Eytan Stibbe, is an unassuming, hardworking fighter pilot (he still works one day each week as a flight instructor). 

Impact investments have a different type of effect on a community as compared with philanthropic activities. There is definitely a need for both.

Vital Capital is doing things that philanthropy chooses not to do for a variety of reasons; scale is one of the most important.

It is difficult to raise the money to simply give someone a home. On the other hand, if you can build affordable housing and providing consumer financing to enable people to buy them, you can move hundreds of thousands of people from adobe huts without plumbing or electricity into modest, modern homes in safe communities with good schools, roads, electricity, water and sewers (complete with sewage treatment).

Vital Capital has also invested in a modern medical center in Angola’s capitol, Luanda, where they will provide medical care with standards equal to the developed world. Through a variety of programs, they anticipate serving people on every rung of the socioeconomic ladder in the new facility.

Another project they’ve funded, is a community known as Aldeia Nova in the part of the country most ravaged by the 27-year civil war that ended only a decade ago. There, they operate an community-based agribusiness that serves family farmers who keep dairy cattle or chickens. By applying modern farming techniques and technologies, they enable the farmers to earn multiples of the incomes of other small farmers in Angola.

It was exciting to see all the good they are doing. Watch my blog at Forbes for a longer report on all I saw during my trip to Angola!

Vivienne: “I will end child slavery in my lifetime”

Guest post from Vivienne Harr, age 9. Follow her at @VivienneHarr.

hiya! i am vivienne. i am nine. i am ending child slavery in my lifetime. that may sound like a lot, but i am doing it!

on may 5, 2012, i saw a picture of two boys with big rocks strapped across their heads. to feel better, they were holding hands. i learned that these boys are brothers … and slaves. i thought slavery ended with abraham lincoln. but it still happens. i wanted to do something about it, because compassion is not compassion without action. it’s just feeling sorry for someone.

here’s the tricky part: the only business experience i had was a lemonade stand. so i decided make a stand every day rain or shine to end child slavery. i had a lot of support from my family, our neighborhood and the whole world, actually. (you can see my journey right here). on day #173, i made my goal of $100,000 and wrote a check for $101,320 to not for sale. well i wrote it, but my parents had to sign it! 

then, my parents said: “honey, your reached your goal. you did it. you’re done!” when i asked them if “child slavery was done,” they shook their heads “no.” so i said: “then i am not done.” i kept going…and i am still going!

one day i thought: “what if everyone could enjoy my lemon-aid and that could help end child slavery? wouldn’t everyone want to do that?” well we’re doing it. when you enjoy make a stand lemon-aid, you are making a stand for hope and freedom. i hope you’ll think about making a stand with us!

you don’t have to be big or powerful to change the world.  you can be like me! you just have to set your heart to it.

find what you stand for…and make a stand!

Off to Angola to See Some Good

On Thursday this week I’ll be leaving for Angola, a country in Sub-Saharan Africa. The purpose of my trip is to do research for a case study on impact investing that I’m writing for Forbes. I hope to gather enough information to make a good “Kindle Single” as well.

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Prior to my invitation to go, I knew nothing about the country. I’m learning as quickly as I can.

If you’ve ever been to Angola, please comment below. Tell me what you thought of the country, the food, the people, the opportunities and the challenges there. 

The case study I’m preparing will focus on Vital Capital, a private equity firm headquartered in Switzerland that invests exclusively in Africa and principally in Angola. 

This trip will help me to answer some key questions:

  • Can capitalism drive social good and still provide a return on the capital?
  • Does the need for a return on the capital impair or enhance the social impact of the investment?
  • How do you manage a project to have both social impact and economic returns?
  • How do nonprofits, governments and capitalists work together to greatest effect?

What other questions do you think I should explore? Please comment below.

I’m grateful to the folks at Vital Capital who are underwriting the cost of the trip.

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