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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: March 2015

Reporter Creates News Company To Change The World

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Cristi Hegranes is out to change the world using journalism as a development tool.

After being assigned as a foreign correspondent and seeing editorial decisions being made on the other side of the world by editors who thought they understood better than she just what the story actually was when she was on the ground seeing the story unfold, she decided not only that there had to be a better way but that she’d create it.

She created the Global Press Institute, the Global Press Journal and the Global Press New Service to train reporters, publish their articles and syndicate them, respectively.

On Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at noon Eastern, Hegranes will join me for a live discussion about her innovative work in journalism. Tune in here then to watch the interview live.

More about Global Press Institute:

GPI is an award-winning, high-impact social venture that uses journalism as a development tool to educate, employ, and empower women in developing media markets to produce professional local news coverage that elevates global awareness and catalyzes social change. GPI operates a unique training-to-employment program that teaches the principles and practice of journalism and builds the skills necessary for local women to become successful professional journalists.
Every woman who completes the training program is offered long-term employment at a living wage to become a reporter for Global Press Journal, the cutting-edge online home of GPI news coverage. The Journal is the premier publication specializing in news from developing media markets, and features unique stories on local issues overlooked by mainstream media.
Through Global Press News Service, GPI’s pioneering news syndication platform, the Journal’s content is shared with media partners and NGOs around the globe, including Al Jazeera America, the BBC Online, Reuters, and UPI, and is seen by more than 15 million readers each month. The News Service enables GPI to derive revenue from the sale of our sought-after news content and to accelerate our social impact by dramatically expanding our readership.
Three links for reference:
globalpressinstitute.org
globalpressjournal.com
globalpressnewsservice.com

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Hegranes’ bio:

Cristi Hegranes is the Founder and Executive Director of Global Press Institute (GPI) and the Publisher and Executive Editor of Global Press Journal (GPJ). A 2013 Ashoka Fellow, Cristi is an experienced social entrepreneur, a media innovation pioneer, and a renowned international journalism trainer. GPI is an award-winning, high-impact social venture that uses journalism as a development tool to educate, employ, and empower women in developing media markets to produce professional local news coverage that elevates global awareness and catalyzes social change. GPI has trained and employed 159 journalists across 26 developing countries, including Guatemala, Cameroon, India, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, and Sri Lanka. After serving as a foreign correspondent in Nepal, Cristi founded GPI in 2006 to demonstrate a new way forward for the field of international journalism. Cognizant of the gender disparity in media and the one-dimensional portrait of developing communities often painted by Western news outlets, Cristi created GPI to provide a professional training opportunity and a global platform for local people to report on their communities for a global audience .Cristi has also developed a dynamic new business model for international journalism through Global Press News Service (GPNS), a state-of-the-art syndication service that enables GPI to magnify its social impact and drive revenue from the sale of GPJ news content to media organizations, corporations, and NGOs. GPNS meets a market need by providing professional, diverse, affordable international news content to its partners. All of the revenue from GPNS is reinvested into GPI trainings and GPJ content creation in order to create a holistic social enterprise.Previously, Cristi had a successful career as a journalist for Village Voice Media in New York and San Francisco. She has a Master’s degree in Journalism from New York University and a Bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Cristi also served as a fellow-in-residence at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg and has taught courses in entrepreneurship and journalism at San Francisco State University and California State University, East Bay.Recognized for developing a high-quality, sustainable model of international journalism that is rooted in the perspective of local communities, Cristi has received a wide range of prestigious social entrepreneurship and journalism accolades. She is the recipient of the Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize, the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the Society of Professional Journalists Journalism Innovation Prize, a New Media Web Award, a Clarion Award for Investigative Journalism, and a Lifestyle Journalism Prize. She will also be recognized as the 2015 Distinguished Young Alumni of New York University next April. Cristi lives and works in San Francisco with her new baby bulldog, Louise.

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‘We Need More Businesses That Think Beyond Their Bottom Line’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

“Capitalism has transformed the modern world, but it has also evolved greatly over the last hundred years,” said Cotopaxi CEO Davis Smith. “I’m a believer that capitalism and businesses can be a force for good in the world. We need more businesses that think beyond their bottom line – that look to how they can give back to people and planet.”

“As business leaders, we have a responsibility to give back through our businesses,” he concluded.

On Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 11:00 Eastern, Smith will join me for a live discussion about Cotopaxi and its mission. Tune in here then to watch the interview live.

More about Cotopaxi:

Cotopaxi is a venture-backed outdoor gear company with a social mission at its core. Every piece of gear raises money for a specific humanitarian cause around the world. Packs for education. Water bottles for clean water projects. Apparel for health care initiatives.

Smith’s bio:

Davis is the CEO of Cotopaxi, an outdoor gear brand with a social mission. He was previously the Co-CEO of Baby.com.br and Dinda.com.br, Brazil’s Startup of the Year in 2012, which raised over $40M in venture capital. In 2004, he also founded, and later sold, PoolTables.com, America’s largest pool table retailer. Davis is a graduate of Brigham Young University and of the University of Pennsylvania where he obtained an MBA from the Wharton School and an MA in International Studies from the Lauder Institute.

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John Taft: Wall Street Can Be A Force For Good

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

John Taft, the CEO of RBC Wealth Management US and a frequent guest here on my show, has compiled the thoughts of some of Wall Street’s elite discussing how its power can be used for the greater good in a new book, A Force For Good. [Note: An RBC Wealth Advisor sponsored my conference, GoodCrowd14.]

The book includes chapters written by Robert Shiller, Sheila Bair, Charles Ellis, Jack Bogle, Judd Gregg, Barbara Novick and David Blood. These power players describe the role of enlightened finance and its potential to drive good in society.

Taft explains, “Enlightened finance is informed by hope. It is about innovating to solve problems and asking what finance can do to help make the world a better place.”

On Tuesday, March 31, 2015 at 10:00 AM, Taft will join me for a live discussion about the book and the impact that Wall Street can have for good.

More about RBC Wealth Management:

RBC Wealth Management has helped individuals, families, businesses and institutions accomplish their important financial goals for generations. Our friendly, clients-first culture is a reflection of our stewardship values. And we maintain a high degree of local autonomy as leading regional securities firms have combined over the years to become one of the most respected full-service investment firms in the United States.

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Taft’s bio:

John is the CEO of RBC Wealth Management U.S., one of the largest full-service investment, advisory and wealth management firms in the country. John is a former chairman of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), the leading securities industry trade group, and he has served a wide range of not-for-profit and public service organizations. He is the author of Stewardship, and the great-grandson of President William Howard Taft. Prior to his finance career, John was assistant to the mayor of the city of St. Paul, Minnesota, and a journalist. John has appeared on top-tier media such as CNBC, Bloomberg , Fox Business, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, WNYC ‘The Take Away’ and is a prestigious-invite only LinkedIn Influencer.

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Making A Difference

This is a guest post from Tamika Blaize, the Founder and President of A Princess for a Day (APFAD)

I must start off by saying I wasn’t a great student. I wasn’t a bad student, but I didn’t ace all of my classes. I did well in English and Social Studies, but my grades in Science and Math were significantly lower. The former two came naturally to me, the latter two, not so much. And I certainly didn’t push myself. So it’s surprising to me that I would wind up forming a nonprofit that honors underserved students who excel in school. But it wasn’t quite my idea.

The idea of A Princess for a Day came to me while I was sleeping. In 2006 I woke up in the middle of the night, grabbed a notebook and wrote down the name, the colors, the mission, and the entire concept of A Princess for a Day all in one shot. And I went back to sleep. The idea came from God.

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The mission for A Princess for a Day is to advocate the importance of receiving an education by inspiring and encouraging underprivileged high school students who have achieved academic excellence, even as they’ve faced obvious uncertainty and overcome adversity, by rewarding them for their perseverance and determination despite their circumstances.

We reward these exceptional high school seniors by collecting dresses from celebrities and distributing them to attending prom. On the day of prom we also provide complimentary hair, makeup, a photographer, and luxury transportation. We also pay for tailoring to ensure a perfect fit of the dresses selected by the students. In 2010 our first dress was donated by Grammy Award winning, Oscar Nominated actress, rapper, and philanthropist Queen Latifah. Since then our students have worn dresses donated by Fergie (The Black Eyed Peas), Chelsea Handler, designer Rachel Roy, fashion mogul Kimora Lee Simmons, “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts, and many more. Oscar winning actress Charlize Theron doesn’t keep her red carpet dresses so she generously presented us with a monetary donation that bought dresses for two students.

Statistically the odds are stacked against students from low income neighborhoods simply because of where they live:

  • every school day, almost 7000 students become dropouts. annually, that adds up to about 1.2 million students who will not graduate with their peers as scheduled (www.all4ed.org)
  • nationwide just over 70% of students graduate from high school (gatesfoundation.org)
  • graduation rates for African-American, Hispanic, and low-income students are lower still, hovering at slightly more than 50 % (gatesfoundation.org)
  • approximately 400,000 low-income high school students across the country graduate in the top 20% of their high school class but do not pursue postsecondary education
  • the predictors of dropout (i.e., delayed reading skills, grade retention, absenteeism, and school disengagement) are significantly higher for students of color, which can be linked primarily to higher rates of poverty, less access to high quality early childhood education, and higher representation in “dropout factories”
  • …Blacks, Hispanics, and American-Indian students…are more likely to drop out than they are to receive a diploma…and are three times more likely to live in poverty
  • high school students living in low-income families drop out of school at six times the rate of their peers from high-income families (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2004)

As I’ve gotten older I’ve grown to realize how easy it is to follow the crowd, how easy it is to succumb to peer pressure, how easy it is to make the wrong choice because it’s simpler and sometimes more fun than the right choice. And I’ve also realized how much strength, determination, and confidence it takes to step outside of what you know, to step outside of your surroundings, to want better for yourself, and to not accept what society and your past experience expect you to become…or not become.

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The students honored by A Princess for a Day are defying the odds. And we at A Princess for a Day have determined that it is our responsibility to reward them for their accomplishments, perseverance, and determination while encouraging them to dream, achieve, and aspire. And so we continue to serve.inspire.change.

Tamika Blaize is the Founder and President of A Princess for a Day (APFAD). Based in Brooklyn, NY, APFAD has honored 13 students in Brooklyn, Queens, the South Bronx, Newark, NJ, Sleepy Hollow, NY, and Brentwood, LI. For more information please visit us at www.apfad.org and follow us on twitter at www.twitter.com/apfadorg and Instagram at www.instagram.com/aprincessforaday/.

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The Superfood That Could Help Africa

This is a guest post from Lisa Curtis, Founder & CEO of Kuli Kuli

A Saint Patrick’s Day riddle for you: What do trees, money, and agriculture start-ups have in common? They’re all green! And in my case, they enable my business to do more to improve nutrition and livelihoods in West Africa than many similarly sized nonprofits with the same mission.

I came up with the idea for my company, Kuli Kuli, while serving in the Peace Corps. I lived in a small, rural village in Niger with no electricity, running water or vegetables. I could live without light switches and flushing toilets but quickly found myself growing weak on a diet of beans, rice and millet. A few of my nurse friends from my village’s health center advised me to start eating leaves from a local tree called Moringa oleifera.

I mixed the moringa leaves with peanut balls, known as kuli-kuli in the local language, and came up with a snack that I began eating everyday. As my strength returned, I researched moringa and realized I had stumbled upon a miracle tree. I believe in science, not miracles, but there is no other way for me to describe a tree that grows with almost zero water and produces leaves that help combat everything from malnutrition to diabetes.

But much to my dismay, most people in my village didn’t eat the moringa leaves. On the rare occasion when they ate them, they’d often boil the leaves for hours, dumping out the nutrients with the water. At the same time, I spent my days passing out Western-manufactured malnutrition packs at my village health center to hundreds of mothers with severely malnourished babies.

Nonprofits and international development agencies have spent millions of dollars to encourage people across the African continent to grow and use moringa. This is very important work and shouldn’t be discounted. Moringa production has greatly increased across the continent and its nutritional value is beginning to be recognized.  But I heard the same disheartening story in village after village that I visited.

“We used to grow moringa.” A nonprofit had encouraged the community to grow moringa, giving them seeds and training on moringa’s many benefits. But there was nowhere to sell the moringa. After a year or two of planting the moringa trees the villagers had lost interest and returned to farming their staple crops.

As I quickly learned, if there was no market to sell the moringa, no one wanted to waste their time growing it. But before I had a chance to work on this problem locally, I was forced to evacuate my Peace Corps service after only seven months, far too little time to implement any moringa project. Upon returning to the US, I realized that I was living in the largest market for superfoods in the world at an estimated $38 billion annually. If I could find a way to channel America’s love of superfoods towards moringa, I could create an international moringa market that would enable thousands of African farmers to earn a sustainable livelihood by growing moringa.

Together with a few amazing friends, I formed a food company in the US to sell sustainably sourced moringa in the form of nutrition bars and smoothie powders in Whole Foods and other natural food stores. Kuli Kuli works with about 500 women farmers in northern Ghana. In partnership with a local nonprofit, Fair Harvest, we’ve planted over 60,000 moringa trees and have helped to educate thousands of people on the best way to utilize moringa in the local cuisine.

A few months ago, I was able to finally return to West Africa and meet our women farmers. Perhaps the biggest surprise was how excited they were to meet us. We had heard all about them through our local partners, but they knew nothing about us. We spent a few days getting to know each other and learning about how moringa has positively impacted all of our lives.

It is exciting to be part of a trade relationship that feels like a true partnership. Unlike most aid-based relationships, where a Westerner comes into an African village and clearly holds all the power, we are on equal footing. We need them to grow and harvest the moringa, just as they need us to purchase and sell it. It’s a true win-win.

Maybe money really does grow on trees.

Lisa Curtis began working on Kuli Kuli while in the Peace Corps in Niger, West Africa. As a volunteer in her village’s health center, she gained a first-hand understanding of the common nutritional challenges faced in West African villages and how moringa can play a role in helping to address a few of those challenges. Kuli Kuli sells delicious moringa products in the US that help improve nutrition and livelihoods in West Africa where the moringa is sourced. Prior to Kuli Kuli, Lisa served as the Communications Director at Mosaic where she managed a team of six to grow the company from zero to over $5M invested in solar through Mosaic’s online marketplace. Previously, Lisa wrote political briefings for President Obama in the White House, served as a United Nations Environment Programme Youth Advisor and worked at an impact investment firm in India. She writes for a variety of outlets including Forbes, The Huffington Post and Grist. Lisa has been recognized as a StartingBloc Fellow, a Wild Gift Better World Entrepreneur, an Ashoka Emerging Innovator and a Udall Scholar.

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10 Lessons from My Week in the 19th Century

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Last week, I traveled to a remote village called Bakhrejagat in Nepal with CHOICE Humanitarian on a volunteer expedition; it was like stepping back in time to the 19th century. To quickly put the trip in context, we slept on mats in sleeping bags in improvised dorms in a school house, “showered” by dumping frigid water from a bucket over our heads, and used squat toilets with buckets of water as the flushing mechanism.

Of course, anyone who has been backpacking will recognize that we had it pretty good. Those who think staying at a budget hotel is camping would have found this trip to be an unpleasant challenge.

To a person, those who did go on this expedition were glad to have gone.

“I was awed and inspired,” Veronica Schindler, the volunteer expedition leader said, of her impressions of the village where we worked. “Life isn’t easy for the people who live in Bakhrejagat, but they are determined to make it better, even if that means putting aside some traditional ways of doing things (e.g., replacing open cooking fires with stoves that burn more cleanly and efficiently). I think that shows both wisdom and courage.”

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CHOICE co-founder and octogenarian James Mayfield joined the expedition, sleeping on the floor and helping with stoves.

Rainer Dahl, one of the volunteers on the expedition said, “My impression of the Nepali people that we tried to help on a small scale was that for people that have so little, they are blessed with great kindness and love for their families, neighbors and us as outsiders whom they can’t communicate with and only meet for a brief moment in time.”

“Great things are often accomplished with many small steps,” noted Randall Wall. “There is a reason this village is called ‘the place of the goat.’ You must take steep and often precarious steps to accomplish anything here at the roof of the world.  With our small steps we have lengthened lifespan by decades, given mothers time to dream about a future for their village, and shown that even on the other side of the world their lives are precious to us.”

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Nepalese youth dance with American volunteers

As I reflect on my experiences living for a week in the 1800s, if you will, in Nepal, I note some lessons. First, at the risk of romanticizing the experience, I think there is something to be learned.

  1. Less is more. While the homes in Bakhrejagat all had electricity, its use was limited to a single light bulb. While I would not recommend that we all seek to live on so little electricity, it was a reminder how much energy we consume, stuff we have and space we take that is effectively wasted or underutilized and profoundly under-appreciated.  By simplifying our lives, reducing clutter and waste, we could reduce stress in our lives and do more good in the world with the surplus.
  2. Being digitally connected is overrated. For five days, I did not send or receive a text or email. This was not, frankly, due to a technology limitation. There was a nearby cell tower that provided a reliable signal with both data and voice capability, but T-Mobiles wonderful international plan doesn’t include Nepal and the rates I’d have been charged were unacceptably high for this cheapskate.  Being completely off the grid for a week turned out to be blissful.
  3. Commuting by foot eliminates the need for exercise. The village where we worked is spread out around the top of a mountain. Getting to the homes where we installed the stoves required significant walks up and down steep terrain. My Fitbit recorded hundreds of flights of stairs on several days. Ignoring the back-breaking physical labor that the local residents perform daily, just the routine walking around the village would keep anyone in shape. For the locals, I suspect this creates a real problem: where do you get 3,000 calories per day to maintain a healthy body weight?
  4. Solve the biggest problems first.  The villagers chose the project that we worked on. This was not a project imposed by CHOICE. Installing stoves with chimneys to move the smoke from the fire outside while at the same time reducing the amount of wood required to cook the meals and heat the home, has the potential to increase lifespans dramatically. Women who cook over open fires can expect to live decades less than similarly situated women who do not. The young children, who spend more time close to their mothers, are also impacted and face higher infant mortality risk in homes with open fires. It is almost certain that nothing we could have done would have increased life expectancy more than addressing this problem.
  5. Stop and smell the rhododendrons.  Nepal is thick with rhododendrons, beautiful red flowers that smell as pleasantly sweet as any flower I’ve ever smelled. The locals don’t take the flowers for granted; they cherish them and treat them as wonderful gifts. When we arrived in the village, we were welcomed with a tika and leis of rhododendrons. Our lives are, of course, no different; we are surrounded by beautiful, precious things. Some of us, however, are less likely to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.
  6. When in doubt, dance.  It seemed that every time we turned around, the Nepalis wanted to dance. They would sing a familiar (to them) folk song that involved something of a game. A caller would sing a new verse and then the rest of the group would join in a singing the song with the new verse. The kids loved it and would reportedly sing both traditional verses and silly ones, laughing at themselves and us (apparently for not getting the joke) as they danced, always inviting us to join. Most of the volunteers were uncomfortable dancing, especially as none of us could effectively mimic their elegant, stylized dance. They all but forced us to participate, however, and we generally enjoyed it.
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CJ Farrior, resting after injuring his ankle

There were some more sobering lessons that I took from the trip as well.

  1. Poverty and pollution appear inextricably linked.  Even in this remote village, we found trails and roads strewn with beer cans and junk food wrappers. Kathmandu, where we spent only a day, is tragically unsanitary. To describe the city itself as being rather than having a landfill would not strike the typical western visitor as inaccurate. Of course, with their extremely low use of electricity and a reliance upon renewable resources (wood) as a primary energy source, their carbon footprint is tiny, but pollution is a tragic problem in Nepal. In the village, the most environmentally friendly way we could identify to dispose of our trash was to bury it in a pit—there was no landfill to which we could take it.
  2. We would not tolerate the level of health care they are forced to accept.  CJ Farrior, one of the volunteers, was playing in a pickup game of soccer with some of the local kids and severely injured his ankle. There was no discussion of taking him to see a local healthcare worker in the village. CHOICE had helped to build a clinic in the neighboring village of Puranokot, which we visited just hours before CJ hurt his ankle. No one suggested we take CJ back down the mountain to that clinic. In part, it was because the injury was not life threatening and the calculus was therefore simple: CJ was better off waiting to be treated at home than to risk injury in transit to the local clinic where he would not be guaranteed any effective treatment. The local CHOICE staff fashioned a crutch to help him get around until we left for home, back in the 21st century. The villagers, however, have no such luxury. Their calculus is simply to accept whatever health care is provided, however limited it may be.
  3. Migrant labor destabilizes families and communities.  One of the tragedies we noted was that in some homes, the father was missing. These fathers hadn’t abandoned their families; they had left to Qatar to work as unskilled migrant laborers, reportedly earning about $200 per month. This point was punctuated for me when I flew home through Mumbai. A large majority, say 80 to 90 percent, of the passengers were Nepali men traveling for work. Families and villages living at the edge of mortality, are certainly put at risk by having the healthiest, strongest and most capable members leave for work thousands of miles away.
  4. We only see the ones who survive.  As I observed how beautiful, happy and delightful the people in our village were, it occurred to me that I was only seeing the survivors. With an infant mortality rate of 32 per thousand live births (about five times the US rate and nearly ten times the Swedish rate) and life expectancy of 67 years (compared to 78 in the US), according to some quick google searches, I realized that was I wasn’t seeing was the people who simply couldn’t survive in the foothills of the Himalaya. The tragedies that we weren’t seeing are memorialized in funerals we didn’t happen to see during our visit.
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Nepalese family

These two sets of observations about life in Bakhrejagat, Nepal, beg the question, how do you eliminate poverty and preserve a community?

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CHOICE Humanitarian would, I believe, argue that this is a false dilemma. If you empower the villagers to manage their own escape from poverty, there is no risk that we will destroy their communities. Whatever they choose to do to lift themselves out of poverty will reflect their cultural values and they will preserve those elements they find important.

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5 Reasons You Should Add Purpose To Your Plan

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Social entrepreneurship is growing so fast that from where I sit it appears to be about to overwhelm its traditional borders to redefine the whole of entrepreneurship.

It has always been true that great entrepreneurs are more interested in change than money, but much of the energy has been on technological change that would impact primarily the affluent, making happy people just a bit more blissful.

Increasingly, entrepreneurship is about seeing the opportunities in helping to make the lives of the desperately poor more enjoyable by providing access to electricity, credit, insurance, clean water and a host of consumer goods that we all take for granted. More and more, I see people from across the political spectrum accept that humans have a deep responsibility to heal and restore the environment and are using business as a vehicle for that change.

Here are five reasons that you may wish to add purpose to your business plan, whether you are a startup or you are one of the largest companies on the planet.

  1. Your customers want to share your purpose.  Every measure of customer preference I’ve reviewed in the past several years points in the same direction; customers will generally choose the purpose-driven product over the brand without the cause. For global brands, this association can be created by reallocating marketing dollars to include support for a social cause and inviting your customers to participate. For startups, you can knit the cause into the fabric of your business and allow it to influence every decision you make.
  2. Your employees want to share your purpose.  The data on employees is becoming even clearer than for customers. We see now that the vast majority of people would take a lower salary to work in a company with a greater sense of purpose. People want their work to mean something. Once you have put food on the table and met your other basic obligations, people start thinking about why they work; their time is worth more than what you pay. Things like values and legacy become more important than just another dollar.
  3. You really can change the world—for good.  For the cynical, it is important to point out that corporate efforts to change the world actually work. In fact, as businesses grow in revenue and employees their impact on the world naturally scales with it. If that impact is negative, every dollar of revenue generated is a measure of that adverse impact. On the other hand, if your supply chain is reducing carbon emissions and improving the lives of employees at every step, that same revenue can become a measure of the good you are doing.
  4. The world needs the help.  Whether you are interested in solving problems on a global scale or a local one, whether you are interested in helping people or the planet, there are problems and projects just waiting for you to tackle them. There are about one billion people on the planet living on less than about a dollar per day, most of whom don’t eat three solid meals per day and aren’t sure how they will feed their children tomorrow and many lack convenient access to clean water. Separately, we are living in the greatest mass extinction of species on the planet since an asteroid killed off the dinosaurs.
  5. Our collective efforts will work.  Those like me who have some gray hair are likely to operate with the sense that most social problems simply overwhelm the available resources and that these problems will therefore persist perpetually. Things have changed. The size of the global economy has put solutions to problems within reach. Until 2014, humans had eradicated just one communicable disease—small pox. In 2015 mankind could mark the final cases of polio and the guinea worm. Between our financial and technological resources, intractable problems have rather suddenly become solvable on a time scale that is relevant to us personally and individually. The UN has set the goal to eradicate extreme poverty within 15 years.

If you haven’t already added some purpose to your plan, give it some thought. We now see that humankind’s impact on the planet is such that we can choose the sort of world we want to live in, one with abundance and a healthy environment for all or a world marred by scarcity and filth. Perhaps the most wonderful thing about all of this is that you can get paid for being part of the solution.

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Nonprofit That Helps Teenagers Dealing With Life-Threatening Illnesses

This is a guest post from Wish Upon A Teen’s Founder And President, Michelle Soto

It’s not surprising that teenagers living with chronic or life-threatening medical conditions often experience low self-esteem and tremendous anxiety about their circumstances.  That’s why Wish Upon a Teen, a non-profit organization based in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan is doing something about it with its signature Design My Room program.

I remember first-hand working at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA in California.The sad truth is that most hospitals do not understand what teens want or need. When I worked as a Child Life Specialist, I frequently had to tell 16-year-old cancer patients that, in addition to going through chemo, potentially losing his or her leg—and hair—that we also had no programs or resources for teens. If you were not into balloon animals, toys for tots, or magicians, then we were pretty much fresh out of programming. The hospital rooms weren’t any better, there never seemed to be that opportune moment to ask the 16-year-old if she or he would rather have a Winnie-the-Pooh-themed room for her 9-week stay or if Mickey and Minnie were sufficient. On one especially bad day at work, when I had seen enough disappointed and lost faces of teens with cancer, I made a promise to myself: I would find a way to provide the programming and resources that my teenagers needed and longed for.

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Michelle Soto

Since 2011, working with referrals from hospitals throughout the country,Wish Upon a Teen’s Design My Room volunteers are given exclusive access to a teen’s hospital room and allowed to redecorate it to feel more comforting and relaxing – more like “home”.  Every Design My Room project includes bringing in new bedding, rugs, posters and even movie or sports memorabilia, all according to the teen’s individual interests and tastes. And, when the teen is discharged from the hospital, they can take everything home with them to use however they want.

It’s amazing to see how Wish Upon a Teen’s Design My Room makeover can have such a positive impact on a teenager’s sense of well-being as the reviews pour in from parents and hospital staff. The following are a few testimonials.

“It truly made all the difference.  Suddenly, it was HIS room and it was like he wasn’t in the hospital anymore.  Everything is so awesome!”

– PT’s Mother

“Emma is at Rady Children’s Hospital and getting ready for a very frightening procedure.  She has been so sick for so long and it makes me so happy to see the smile on her face.  Thanks and bless you for your good works. “

– Catherine

“Thank you so much for making some serious magic happen at Children’s Hospital Oakland.  Our patient absolutely LOVED her room decorations.  She said she doesn’t feel like she’s in the hospital but in her own room.  This definitely lifted her spirits.”

– Katie Craft, Certified Child Life Specialist

The patient loved her room so much she started to cry when she first saw it.  Thank you so much!

– Remi Dietz, MS, CCLS at Miller Children’s Hospital

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With its Design My Room program, Wish Upon a Teen has proven that it’s not the size of the project that matters, it the results.  For more information, please visit http://www.wishuponateen.org

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Special Invitation for YMOTW Readers

Utah Valley University’s Center for the Study of Ethics (let’s call it the Ethics Center) has extended a special offer for Your Mark on the World readers. The Ethics Center is accepting applications through March 15 to receive a $5,000 prize for social enterprises that innovatively support sustainability.

We strongly encourage you to apply as you are among a relatively small cohort of organizations invited to participate.

The David R. Keller Prize for Innovation is Sustainability is named for the former director of the Ethics Center. Keller passed away in 2013 at age 51 after a short battle with cancer brought on by the radiation treatments for a cancer 30 years earlier.

More about the prize:

David R. Keller Prize for Innovation in SustainabilityThe Center for the Study of Ethics and the Office of New Urban Mechanics invites applications for its inaugural David R. Keller Prize for Innovation in Sustainability. The prize is an effort to recognize and support communities and social entrepreneurs working to advance sustainable practices in connection with our natural environment. The prize is awarded each year for exemplary innovation that improves the prospect of sustainable human development.

Why innovation? It is widely accepted that our current relationship with the natural environment is unsustainable. Genuine and lasting sustainability will require dramatic breakthroughs in technology, public policy, research, business models, and human understanding. For this reason, the Keller Prize awards and recognizes innovation that supports the advancement of stable and productive environmental practices.> 

Who is eligible? Government entities, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit organizations that operate as social enterprises are eligible to apply. Special consideration will be given to projects and programs that directly affect ecosystems and locales within the State of Utah. 

Please note that the prize is open to applicants from across the Western U.S.

Apply here.

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Devin D. Thorpe

Village Capital Announces Latest Impact Investments

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Village Capital, a leading venture firm investing in social enterprises, recently announced its latest investments.

Operating with a unique model that starts with a cohort of startups in a particular industry, most recently healthcare IT, that actually relies on the startups to choose the companies Village Capital invests in.

Victoria Fram, the Managing director of Village Capital, described the most recent cohort, “Across the board, the entrepreneurs in this cohort are dedicated to changing what can seem like intractable challenges in our current health system. Their innovations are focused on reducing inefficiency, lowering costs, and thereby creating greater access and greater outcomes for millions of patients. A world where all these companies are successful will be a healthier and more equitable one.”

After announcing the winners of the Healthcare IT cohort, 1DocWay and AsthmaMD, Fram noted, “VilCap Investments is thrilled to add two new great companies to our portfolio, and to be co-investing in them with the Texas Medical Center. 1DocWay and AsthmaMD are pursuing large market opportunities, and addressing critical health needs that affect underserved populations: accessible psychiatric services for hard to reach populations, and patient-centric, easy-to-use integrated asthma management.”

Last week, I was invited to spend time with the team while they conducted the final preparatory sessions of a months-long series. I also had the opportunity to attend the final pitch session where all of the participants presented and answered questions from interested investors and sponsors.

The Village Capital model, Fram explains, allows all of the companies to rate the others in the group—participants don’t rate their own startups. The ratings are carefully adjusted to normalize them to make the competition as fair as possible.

The Healthcare IT cohort included seven other startups, described briefly below.

1 Doc Way:

1DocWay (The Company) is an online healthcare delivery network that connects underserved patient populations with online and in-person psychiatry resources.

AsthmaMD:

Mobile-based platform that helps asthmatics better manage their condition, understand their treatment plans and facilitate adherence to those plans.

Hybrent:

Hybrent (The Company) is a mobile supply chain technology company helping hospitals and non-acute facilities reduce cost and become more efficient. Their cloud-hosted platform helps customers connect with multiple trading partners from one hub.

iRxReminder:

iRxReminder (the Company) is an interconnected medication dispenser that is filled by a pharmacy and monitors when patients take their medication.

OnePortal.io:

OnePortal.io (The Company) is a vendor agnostic, cloud based referral management solution.

Seratis:

Seratis (the Company) is a proprietary network graph of all patients and their connected providers inside and outside a healthcare system.

Speak MODalities (my personal favorite):

SPEAK MODalities creates tablet software to entertain, engage, and educate children with Autism spectrum (ASD) and developmental language disorders.

UberHealth:

UberHealth’s “Care Buddy” provides medication care for elders whose children live in other countries and continuous updates of the elder’s health condition to the children. With an initial focus on India, UberHealth (“the Company”) has been able to secure 55 paying customers in just over 6 months of operation.

Village Capital had a number of partners for this cohort, including the Texas Medical Center, Chilton Capital Management, the James Lee Sorenson Center for Global Impact Investing at the University of Utah, the Hitachi Foundation, Arches Health Plan, the Rice Alliance, Omidyar Network, and the Global Impact Investing Ratings System (GIIRS).

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