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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Live Interview With Hanna Aase Of Wonderloop

Last spring prior to the Social Innovation Summit held at the United Nations in New York City, I served as the emcee for a half day conference on social innovation at the Ford Foundation–a sort of pre-conference–where I met Hanna Asse of Wonderloop.

Wonderloop provides a platform for change agents to create video profiles and interact with one another.

On Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 5:00 Eastern, Hanna will join me for a live discussion about the program.

From the Wonderloop site:

Wonderloop is a tool, more than a social network in itself. We want to drive traffic to social networks based on new connections made. It’s the step before social networking. It’s the step before everything. We are creating the technology for making it possible, to see who we are, then we hope the journey continues beyond us, out of our hands. It’s been our founding intention that Wonderloop should be like real life; a new connection and what will come out of it cannot be decided by technology, only by the use of our personal intuition and preference. For those who have read Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, you could say it’s about creating technology that will make social connection faster and better.

With Wonderloop, we wish to change the culture of human identity and with that change the way we connect and give to others around the world – directly, to people. After sixteen years of thinking how this could be possible, I have come to what Wonderloop is today, and more importantly what it will be in the future. It has been greatly inspired by Oprah Winfrey on the way while growing up in a small town in Norway. I would like to thank Oprah for giving the tools to believe in big dreams regardless of where we live in the world. For thinking big. For wanting to give love to others. The journey of Wonderloop is just beginning.

Grounded in Action: Leveraging Conferences & Events for Social Impact

Guest post from Justin Murrill, Global Sustainability Manager, AMD.

Events and conferences that explore solutions to our most pressing social and environmental challenges can be outstanding sources of information and inspiration. With many minds collaborating on innovative solutions, complete with break-out sessions and networking events, what could be missing?

One answer: action. Literally rolling up our sleeves and doing something that benefits the causes or social issues being explored. Action is the conduit that connects our inspirational lofty-thinking at these events with the spirit of accomplishment and real social impact.

So, how can we spark this sort of action? Last year at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Eco Conference – where around 3,000 people interested in sustainability gathered to discuss how to protect and improve our planet – AMD debuted our scalable approach to integrate action-based volunteer events into conferences. The “AMD Green Army” volunteer event brought together hundreds of conference attendees and local employees with local non-profits to make new connections while enhancing Austin’s urban landscape.

After last year’s success, we decided to host our second annual “AMD Green Army” volunteer event earlier this month at SXSW Eco. Together these events convened over 250 people from the conference and nearby businesses, universities, and the general public to clean up and revitalize areas of the city.  Volunteers planted trees, removed 165 bags of trash from creeks and rivers, made 5,000 “seed-balls” for a fire devastated region and stored 9,000 native tree seeds for threatened species.

But beyond the measurable social and environmental benefits, we found adding volunteerism into social good events makes the whole experience more fulfilling for participants.  But don’t just take it from me. One volunteer said:

 “I LOVED the opportunity to engage in meaningful work, step outside of my comfort zone and meet new people.”

Another participant said:

It was great to socialize with colleagues and meet new people in a scenic outdoor environment, while creating a positive impact to our beautiful city’s environment.”

The volunteers expressed that they loved getting out of their chairs to go outside and connect with nature and each other. They left the conference not only with inspiration and knowledge from the speakers, but also with a fun and rewarding experience, and a deeper connection to their peers.  And the local non-profit partners told us they love this approach because they receive more hands to help with on-the-ground efforts.

The social and environmental issues we discuss at these conferences are typically massive and require endurance and persistence. But as the computer scientist Tony Hoare said, “Inside every large program is a small program struggling to get out.” We agree, and that’s why taking small action is important.  The AMD Green Army approach provides participants with a break from these overwhelming issues while contributing to the environment.

If we get this right, many small actions can add up to make a real difference, and that is hopefully where you come in!

Imagine if a few years from now it was the norm for conferences and events to integrate volunteerism into the agenda… the good we could achieve collectively would really add up and yield rewarding benefits for all.

For this to happen, others need to share and adapt/adopt this concept.  For the next gathering you organize or attend, we hope you add or request volunteerism as part of the agenda. For ideas on how to build your own “Green Army” read AMD’s white paper – Bringing Action into the Agenda: Crowdsourcing Volunteerism at Corporate Events. Hopefully it will help you tap into the motivation of these gatherings, and yield some fun and rewarding action!

Justin Murrill is the Global Sustainability Manager for Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and author of the white paper Bringing Action into the Agenda: Crowdsourcing Volunteerism at Corporate Events”.  Justin’s postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only. Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied. Follow Justin @JustinMurrill and check out AMD’s latest Corporate Responsibility Report – the summary is available as a tablet app.

Photos courtesy of AMD.

Measuring Success By The Smile: Headbands of Hope

Guest post by Jessica Ekstrom of Headbands of Hope.

I founded Headbands of Hope during my junior year of college after my internship at Make-A-Wish. I found that girls loved to wear headbands after they lost their hair to chemotherapy.

 Jessica Ekstrom with a cancer patient.

Therefore, for every headband purchased, one is given to a girl with cancer and $1 is donated to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to fund childhood cancer research. 

Before I graduated in May 2013, HoH was featured on the TODAY Show, TOMS Shoes Website, Fitness Magazine Online and it became my fulltime job. But more importantly, I gave thousands of girls a reason to smile while undergoing treatment. 

I didn’t study business or dream about becoming an entrepreneur; I became an entrepreneur because something grabbed me. Then I had the choice to keep living my life or grab it right back. 

When a decision like this enters your life, I believe you need to do two things: Define what success means to you and find your inner “crazy.” 

Let’s start with getting crazy. I have a quote on my wall by Steve Jobs, “The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do." 

If there’s one quote infused in every decision I make, it’s this one. I think craziness is directly linked to passion. Passion is an emotion that compels us to do irrational and sometimes amazing things. If passion didn’t exist, no one would ever leave the comfort of their own home or risk everything to start a business. 

If you’re crazy about something, there’s nothing in the world too big to stop you. It takes that extra kick of passion to help you jump the hurdles and reach further. 

I found my craziness in one girl who wished to meet Sleeping Beauty but was too ill to travel to Disney World. I came to her house dressed as Sleeping Beauty and spent the day with her. When she passed away a week later, I remembered she was wearing a headband, just like dozens of other girls who lose their hair to treatment. All it took was that one moment to turn crazy. I cancelled my study abroad trip for that semester and poured my bank account into Headbands of Hope. It takes two seconds of crazy to change your life. 

If you think you’re crazy enough to grab inspiration back, then we move on to defining success.

The moment I open the door to a girl’s hospital room with a basket of headbands and see her smile, that’s when I feel my success. There’s no numerical number I hit or competitor I beat. It’s just that feeling that I get where I know that all my hard work is making an impact and changing a life. The moment a girl looks in the mirror to see her headband and finally feels pretty is my definition of success.

The most effective way to make a social impact is by loving what you do and believing in every ounce of it. Understand that being crazy about your cause is necessary. And remember that success cannot be counted, it can only be felt.

Fast-Growing Company Increases Sustainability And Gives Back

Guest post from Tess Simon of Big Ass Fans.

As our name suggests, Big Ass Fans isn’t your traditional business success story. While our quirky name understandably garners a lot of attention, the serious work we do behind the scenes has been pivotal to our sustained rapid growth – since 2009 our annual revenue has increased from $34 million to a projected $125 million in 2013.

Among the benefits of our growth is our ever-increasing ability to give back. We proudly employ the same commitment to excellence in our community involvement as we do in our everyday business practices, supporting non-profit organizations that are important to our customers and employees.

While organizations certainly benefit from direct funding, we decided our largest impact would come via donation of our biggest assets – our fans and the engineering brainpower that created them.

Much of our philanthropic outreach involves educating various student groups about the ease and effectiveness of conservation through air movement. For instance, we recently partnered with five college and university teams competing in the 2013 Solar Decathlon. Hosted every two years by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Solar Decathlon challenges students from across the world to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective and energy-efficient. Through the incorporation of innovative building techniques and technologies to create a fully-functioning net-zero home, students demonstrate the ease and affordability of sustainable building.

By providing our Haiku ceiling fans and expertise on air movement to teams we were able to teach these future architects, engineers and designers about the huge energy-saving benefits of using ceiling fans in conjunction with air conditioning. By extension, we helped educate the approximately 100,000 visitors in sustainable living and the significant role that air movement can play in conservation efforts. Heating and cooling comprises the largest use of energy in a home (54% on average), but incorporating gentle air movement allows thermostats to be turned up several degrees while maintaining the same level of comfort. This can result in substantial energy savings.

Empowering students and Solar Decathlon visitors with an understanding of the role their simplest actions – like flipping on a ceiling fan – can play in conservation efforts gives our donation of product and education more impact than simply cutting a check.

Our involvement with DesignBuildBLUFF serves as another example of philanthropic outreach. This unique non-profit run by the University of Utah gives architecture students the opportunity to build sustainable and environmentally-friendly homes for deserving Navajo families. In the design process, students explore alternative building methods, emphasizing sustainability while considering the unique social, cultural and environmental needs of the region.

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Native Americans living on or near tribal land face some of the worst housing conditions in the country, and through DesignBuildBLUFF, students make a positive impact on the Navajo community while simultaneously gaining hands-on experience. Our recurring donation of fans and resources, including education on the importance of sustainable building practices, ensures students learn a new design strategy and gain valuable experience prior to graduation.

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With our unique product and expertise of thermal comfort and the built environment, we’ve identified a way we can impact our community far beyond a single fundraising event. Instead, we’re able to impact the way people live and think about the world around them.

Visit us at www.bigassfans.com/giving or follow us @BIG_ASS_FANS for our newest philanthropic efforts.

Social Impact Through Crowd Sourcing and Big Data: A Workshop

On November 19, 2013, the Wharton Social Impact Initiative will be hosting the Social Impact through Crowd Sourcing and Big Data workshop at the Wharton school campus in San Francisco. The conference is sponsored by CDW and will feature an impressive roster of speakers.

It will be my privilege to emcee the event, which will feature prominent leaders in innovation, crowdsourcing and big data looking for opportunities to increase social impact.

Crowdsourcing presenters at the conference will include Lukas Biewald, CEO of Crowdflower; Deepak Puri, Director of business development at VMWare and a volunteer at CauseBrigade; Olivier Delarue, Innovation Lead at the UN Refugee Agency; Katherine Klein and Managing Director of the Wharton School Social Impact Initiative. 

Big Data presenters will include Peter Fader, Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School; Peter Skomorch, former Principal Data Scientist at LinkedIn; and Ari Gesher, Engineering Ambassador at Palantir Technologies.

Case studies will be presented by Katherine Townsend, Special Assistant for Engagement at USAID; Robert Munro, CEO of Idibon; and Paul Arnpriester the non-profit business development manager at CDW.

Anyone who is attending the Social Innovation Summit on November 19 and 20 at Stanford or who otherwise is interested in social innovation should plan to attend the conference. Cost to register is just $40 but seats are limited. 

Gate Global Impact Partners With U.N. To Capitalize Social Entrepreneurs

Gate Global Impact Partners With U.N. To Capitalize Social Entrepreneurs

New Logo; Same Mission

My genius of a brother-in-law, John Child, created this new logo for the Your Mark On The World Center, the new name for my business.

In the coming weeks, we’ll updating this web site with this new logo. I want to thank my Facebook and Twitter friends who generously helped me refine the logo ideas. I received lots of great feedback and apologize to those who may feel their input was not heeded; it was considered thoughtfully, I assure you.

So, what, exactly do we do at the Your Mark On The World Center? Let me explain.

To begin, let me say that we do the same thing we’ve been doing. Nothing new. That said, I suspect most people don’t know really what we do.

Our mission is to help others do more good in the world. We do this in three primary ways:

  1. Writing about people, nonprofits and corporations that are doing good in the world. One thing I’ve learned for sure is that there is no shortage of good people doing good things. I’m reminded every day what a slacker I am when I talk to those who are really having an impact. Not only do we share stories here at Your Mark On The World, I write for Forbes and have written several books, including my signature book, Your Mark On The World.
  2. Advocating for causes and organizations to help them raise money, inspire volunteers and otherwise attract positive energy. In this capacity, I’m often invited to speak to groups hoping to accelerate their work.
  3. Advising social entrepreneurs, nonprofits and corporations to help them with their efforts to make a difference in the world.

In this work, I often call upon my financial experience. One of my favorite tools for people with a cause is crowdfunding. Crowdfunding for Social Good, my latest book, focuses on this powerful weapon for good.

Let me know how I can help you do some good!

By the way, you can download a free copy of both Your Mark On The World and Crowdfunding for Social Good when you subscribe to this blog.

Nika Water Seeks To End Poverty One Bottle At A Time

Guest post from Nika Water.

Helping the world has never tasted so good. At least that is the truth with Nika Water (www.nikawater.org) – a social cause-driven, eco-responsible, premium bottled water company which donates 100% of its profits to clean water, education and sanitation projects in developing countries to help end poverty.

Since its launch in 2009, Nika has given more than $450,000 to projects in Kenya, Nicaragua, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Brazil and Ecuador with one shared goal: to end poverty by providing assistance, opportunity and support. Nika’s donations have assisted with improving and creating water wells, water catchment systems, plumbing, schools and trees in developing countries.

“Something as seemingly simple as easy-to-access, clean water is one of the biggest contributing factors to poverty in developing countries,” explains Nika Water Vice President of Operations, Jordan Mellul. “If communities and villages in these areas had a safe water source, the children could spend their days in school, rather than walking for hours to an unsanitary water well and dragging gallons back in dirty jugs and containers every single day. Americans have the freedom to use (or waste) over 100 gallons of water daily, where a person living a life in poverty may use only five gallons. Something, or someone, has to give.”

Nika (which means “to give” in Zulu) was established in 2009 by Jeff Church and Mike Stone, along with their respective families. The Churches and Stones shared a passion for making changes in the world and frequently took volunteer trips to different countries. However, it was one trip to Africa nearly five years ago that transformed, inspired and transfixed the families. Seeing first-hand how poverty and lack of resources can affect thousands of people, they realized they had no other choice but to come up with a solution to their suffering. Thus, Nika Water was born as one answer to a global crisis.

Nika Water is not just a company that donates money to charity projects worldwide, but they are also a fully sustainable, eco-friendly company. Through reforestation, Nika offsets their carbon footprint fully, leaving no lasting negative impression on the planet. For every four cases of Nika sold, a tree is planted that absorbs the same amount of CO2 that the production and lifespan those four cases created.

Nika also works with schools in the U.S. to increase awareness by paying fees for every plastic bottle recycled. This means that Nika does not add any new plastic into the environment without attempting taking the same amount out. Finally, all bottles are made from RPET – post-consumer recycled plastic. Lateral recycling means that the only bottles they use are made from other bottles.

Nika Water’s mission is a grand one, but one in which anyone can participate. To make a difference, the sustainable beverage company encourages others to make their mark by opening a bottle of Nika Water and simply take a drink.

The Power of Social Capital

Guest post from Rumeet Billan.

It was that time of year again – the time of year where I had to start thinking about the initiative that my for-profit organization would support. It was our nine year anniversary, and I wanted to do something special – something unique – to thank our member clients and to show appreciation to those who have continued to support us. I was also turning 30.

Each year we contribute to an initiative that helps enable opportunities in education. We’ve built primary schools, supported uniforms and textbooks, built an entire teacher training centre from start to finish, and supported a full year breakfast learning program in Canada. What we’ve found is that enabling access to education is not only aligned with our values, but it is also aligned with the values of our clients and supporters. It is a part of who we are.

While attending a conference focused on social entrepreneurship earlier in the year, I had the opportunity to meet the founder of Education Generation (now The School Fund). I took this opportunity to learn more about the organization, their story, and their processes. The organization supported full-year scholarships for students in developing countries, and had built partnerships with institutions of higher education in these areas – not an easy task. After hearing about their endeavour, it was clear that this was a vehicle that promoted access to education for students who may not have had access otherwise. After a number of phone calls and e-mails back and forth, it was decided that our organization would support 30 full-year scholarships for students in Ollantaytambo (Peru), Quito (Ecuador), and Ukwala (Kenya). I personally called it 30 by 30.

What would happen next was unexpected, and re-affirmed for me the indescribable flow that occurs in this space – something that is felt, yet so difficult to articulate. In their book Getting to Maybe, Westley, Zimmerman, and Patton (2006) suggest that “these moments of flow always have something magical about them.”

The day before turning 30, I received a call from the founder of Education Generation who explained that a company matched our contribution and that overnight the original commitment of 30 scholarships now turned into 60. They were able to connect with the social capital that they had built through their volunteers and partners to make this possible. A few weeks later, I was informed that through a crowd-funding campaign, the 60 scholarships now had the potential of turning into 120 full-year scholarships for students to further their education.

It is through this initiative where I saw the concept of social capital come to life. A concept so powerful it turned what started off as one organization supporting 30 scholarships to a number of individuals helping 120 students further their education. There is no doubt that social capital takes weeks, months, and years to build, but the impact that it can have overnight is…well, indescribable.

These scholarships will not only impact the students who receive them, but they will also impact their families, and their communities. It is through the power of social capital – mixed with a pinch of flow – that made an initiative like this possible. That to me is a magical thing.

Rumeet Billan is a social entrepreneur, educator and PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. She is the President and CEO of Jobs in Education and over the past eight years, she has contributed to school building initiatives in Africa and South America. She teaches, writes, and speaks on leadership, social entrepreneurship, and youth wellness. At the age of 25 and again at age 28, Rumeet received the honour of being named one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women. She continues to integrate her business and doctoral studies with her passion for creating change through education. @RumeetBillan

Crowdfunding Exemption Promises To Fuel Small Businesses

Guest post from Jenny Kassan.

As the SEC Readies this Week to Propose Rules that Reduce Investor Protection under the JOBS Act,The Attorney Who Filed the Original SEC Petition Instigating the Legislation Questions Its Viability

The Securities and Exchange Commission is expected to vote as early as Wednesday, Oct. 23 not to require businesses raising money under the crowdfunding exemption of the 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act to verify that investors are investing only within allowable limits imposed under the law.

The decision to allow people to invest in opportunities that are not vetted by regulators checking income or verifying net worth is a symptom of the problems inherent in the law. The JOBS Act attempts to do the impossible: balance investor protection with the desire to enable companies to raise money from strangers all over the country with minimal red tape.  

My involvement with what ultimately became the JOBS Act began in 2010 as I worked with entrepreneurs, artists, and makers attempting to raise capital. My colleagues and I encounter their frustrations every day at our firm, Cutting Edge Capital, which focuses on the financing needs of small to medium sized businesses.

The commonly used securities laws make it difficult and expensive for small businesses and entrepreneurs to publicly offer investment opportunities if the investors are not wealthy ($1 million in net worth or $200,000 in annual income).

In 2010, through a nonprofit that I co-founded called the Sustainable Economies Law Center, I submitted a formal petition to the SEC.  The petition made a simple request: 

Allow ALL investors the opportunity to help entrepreneurs raise catalytic capital by creating an exemption from the onerous federal filing requirements as long as investors put in no more than $100 per offering. 

The petition garnered media coverage and letters of support from all over the country, yet we heard nothing from the SEC. But, a White House staffer became intrigued by the idea after we presented it to the SEC’s annual Forum on Small Business Capital Formation. 

Congressional hearings and a Presidential proposal for a crowdfunding exemption followed, and after some changes in the House and the Senate, the final legislation – the JOBS Act – was signed into law on April 5, 2012. The SEC was charged with formulating implementation rules, which to date have yet to be released.

So how does it feel to be the one whose petition led to the creation of the JOBS Act?   

I have many concerns about the final version of the crowdfunding exemption (Title III of the JOBS Act), which is very different from our original idea. Vague provisions will make it difficult to implement, the maximum allowable investments (generally 5% of net worth or annual income) are much higher than our original proposed cap of $100, and without income or net worth verification, investors stand to lose more than they can afford.

Also, the JOBS Act prohibits companies from communicating directly with potential investors other than to tell them to look at the website of a crowdfunding intermediary.  We believe this defeats an important purpose of community investing – the opportunity for company principals to communicate directly with potential investors.

Since we submitted our petition, we have focused on a much better way to do investment crowdfunding. We now use a little known tool that has existed for decades called Direct Public Offerings (DPOs) that works under existing law. Yes, existing law! 

DPOs are filed with the states and are screened by state level securities regulators who have a great deal of experience at spotting fraud and overly risky propositions. That is a big advantage over the JOBS Act, which prohibits state securities regulators from getting involved.  

And DPOs allow public offerings of securities to all, whether wealthy or not.  Any type of security can be offered (debt, equity, or anything else) and the entrepreneur sets the terms. So, business owners can keep more money in their pockets and put more Americans back to work.

In a short time, our clients have raised several million dollars from their customers, neighbors, and fans. They are raising money from the 100% – not just the wealthy.

The fate of the JOBS Act crowdfunding exemption remains to be seen, and how it was ultimately crafted leaves much to be desired, as demonstrated by the recent reported proposal to abandon attempts to prevent people from investing more than they can afford. Fortunately, we already have a powerful way to raise significant amounts of capital from the crowd.

Direct Public Offerings make investing in Main Street possible today. Let’s put crowdfunding to use, and Americans back to work. 

Jenny Kassan filed the original petition to the SEC to create a crowdfunding exemption in an effort to help small to medium-sized businesses, entrepreneurs, and startups. Through two years of active engagement, Kassan continued to advocate for what eventually became the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) that was signed into law in 2012. Kassan is a managing partner in the Katovich & Kassan Law Group, is C.E.O. of the consulting firm Cuting Edge Capital, and co-founder of the non-profit Sustainable Economies Law Center. She has extensive experience with direct public offerings, nonprofit-for-profit joint ventures, cooperatives, and creative financing tools. She has a law degree from Yale and a masters in city planning from U.C. Berkeley.

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