This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Recently, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion on impact investing going mainstream at the Los Angeles Sustainatopia conference. The panelists were all new to me; their insights really got me thinking. I’ve followed up with them in an effort to organize their collective thoughts.
Jonathan Storper, a partner at Hanson Bridgett who founded the firm’s sustainable law practice, effectively highlights the changing perception of impact investing, “Traditionally, impact investing was thought of as low profit or even nonprofit work. Increasingly, there has been the realization that there does not need to be any tradeoff between profit and purpose if the business has the right idea and is run in a disciplined manner.”
Paul Herman, inventor of the “HIP = Human Impact + Profit” ratings system and author of The HIP Investor: Make Bigger Profits by Building a Better World, agree, “ Investing to build a better world can be financially attractive. Sustainable products are growing revenue at higher-than-average growth rates.”
Garvin Jabush, cofounder and chief investment officer of Green Alpha Advisors, notes that the latest generation is helping to drive this shift, “There’s a general idea that I think people, particularly millennials, are now getting: the economy of the 19th and 20th centuries got us a long way, but from here, looking forward, it’s clear that this legacy economy is fraught with systemic risks, not the least of which are the worst effects of climate change and global resource scarcity.”
Seth Streeter, cofounder and CEO of Mission Wealth, explains the shift to impact investing, “ I believe the rapid rise of impact investing is a reflection of today’s society having an appetite to do ‘good’ per one’s own values.”
Storper points out that recent transactions are proving the validity of investing in social enterprises. He highlights the recent ETSY initial public offering, the sale of Method to Ecover and Plum’s sale to Campbell Soup.
One of the consistent themes developed as we discussed the latest thinking in impact investing is that divesting fossil fuels, for instance, is a prudent financial decision, regardless of your views on the environment or climate change.
“By choosing fund managers who select holdings for their funds (whether branded socially responsible or not), investors can benefit with potentially higher returns, lower risk, or both. Going fossil-free in your portfolio can accomplish this – including for university endowments and pensions — as oil, gas and coal have all dramatically lagged the general market over nearly 3 years,” Herman said.
Jabush notes that some have argued that advisors have a fiduciary responsibility to keep fossil fuels in client portfolios for the sake of diversification. “Nowhere in any fiduciary standard does a phrase like ‘must hold securities of fossil fuels’ come into play.”
“Obviously a part of being a prudent fiduciary is also about managing risk. Fossil fuels have significant embedded risk –beyond denuding our planet of scarce resources. Companies in the sector are debt laden and beholden to government subsidies and to supra national and national oligopolies to set prices and manage supply,” Jabush continued.
“The traditional assumption that divesting from fossil fuels will involve less than competitive returns has now been completely discredited,” he concluded.
Herman points out that risk reduction doesn’t relate only to fossil fuel divestitures, “Wind energy requires no fuel, and avoids volatility of oil and gas prices. Engaging employees encourages high retention, low turnover and thus higher productivity. And being innovative rather than extractive avoids legal lawsuits and penalties. All of these contribute to positive cash flow, profit and shareholder value at lower risk.”
Jabush agrees, “Now that there are 7.3 billion of us, our economic activities, for the first time in human history, are having existentially threatening effects. So, to prevent our own self-caused biggest threats coming home to roost, it’s time, or even past time, to change the way the economy works. So, folks are understanding that a way to do that is to change where capital is deployed. As long as we remain invested in the fossil-fuels based legacy economy, we’re going to get increasingly strong storms, acidic, rising seas, diminishing biodiversity, and all manner of risks from an increasingly warm planet. Impact can provide an alternative to investing in that future.”
The regulatory environment is shifting to allow for and even encourage social enterprise, Storper notes. “30 states and the district of Columbia have enacted for profit benefit corporation statutes allowing companies to combine profit plus purpose into the DNA of the corporate structure in a more meaningful and enforceable manner. Benefit corporations require purpose, accountability and transparency in addition to creating shareholder value.”
Furthermore, as the impact community becomes more sophisticated, impact measurement tools are beginning to allow social enterprises and investors to gauge their impact objectively. Storper said, “The “b corp” rating system helps measure what matters. In addition, groups like SASB (the sustainable accounting standards board) are developing industry by industry methods to take into account nonfinancial metrics.”
In addition to impact measurement, Streeter believes that we need to take a more holistic approach to defining wealth:
I have identified eight categories for wealth outside the financial definition. They include: physical health, emotional well-being, career satisfaction, thriving relationships, ample fun, social or environmental impact, spiritual connection and intellectual stimulation. Everyone has their own weighting scale as to which of these categories matters the most, because in the end, abundance is in the eye of the beholder. But by the traditional definition of wealth, a man who can’t climb two flights of stairs without being winded and who goes home emotionally distant from his wife and kids, yet has a huge balance sheet, would be considered wealthy.
Streeter also encourages other wealth advisors to focus on impact in their practices for practical and professional reasons beyond sustainability. “With mainstream investment management becoming more commoditized by the growth of higher tech, lower cost ‘robo-advisor’ platforms, conscious planning and investing is a differentiator in the marketplace, especially for the huge Millennial demographic who gravitate to more purpose-led initiatives.”
“Advisors will find more purpose and meaning in their own career and thus enjoy a ‘reboot’ to loving what they do on a daily basis even more than they did before,” he concludes.
The panel discussion was surprisingly upbeat, reflecting the optimism of the panelists that impact investing presents a key part of the solution to major world problems, including climate change. Jabush’s comments are representative of the mood of the panel:
In the next few years, trillions of dollars will be invested in efficient, innovation-driven tech, in solutions to the systemic risks with the power to disrupt the global economy, and in other mitigations and adaptations to the worst outcomes of climate change. This ‘great transition’ towards a global economy that can thrive side-by-side with its ecological underpinnings is now clearly underway. I believe that investing in solutions to our most dangerous risks is the clearest path to a sustainable economy, and also to competitive returns.”
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Jack Nadel has been doing business since the end of World War II. Most people his age, quite frankly, are dead and the rest are retired.
Nadel is passionate about sharing his collected wisdom with veterans and others who are working to start businesses. He has written a book, The Evolution of an Entrepreneur, that features 50 of his best business tips.
Nadel has made the book available to veterans at no charge.
He shared a few of his tips with me.
- Find a Need and Fill It: The first deal I made was based on one of the first tips I share in my book: Find a Need and Fill it. In 1946, the Chinese were looking to purchase navy blue woolen material, which did not exist. However, there was post War army olive drab material available, so I bought olive drab at war surplus, dyed it navy blue and sold it to the Chinese.
- Never Fear to Negotiate, Never Negotiate Out of Fear: Never fear to negotiate and never negotiate out of fear, an important tip for all entrepreneurs. We sold our company, Jack Nadel International, to a New York Conglomerate in 1968. In 1972, we bought it back on a leveraged buy out. The New York company wanted the property for more stock, while our negotiations had included the property for cash. I explained to them that I did not come to re-negotiate and if I did not get cash for the property, there was no deal. They were astounded that I took that hard of a position that I would walk away from the deal. It was good that I did, because I would have sold it for $90,000 in 1968 and in 2014, after collecting rent for all those years, I sold the property for $4.2 million dollars.
- Think Global, Start Local: It is very valuable to prove your concept by actually succeeding at it on a smaller scale, first. If you can test a concept by actually executing it on a local level, you will have proven your point. Financing will be much easier and you will have learned what really works. A perfect example was my years in the writing instrument business. We progressed the company from being a small distributor in Los Angeles, California, to being a worldwide successful manufacturer and distributor. So it pays to think global, and start local.
On Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 4:00 Eastern, Nadel will join me for a live discussion about his remarkable, never-ending career and his new book. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Jack Nadel:
Jack Nadel’s mission is to help educate and train entrepreneurs and pass on what he has learned with succeeding generations. Through the creation of written and video learning materials via JNJ Publishing LLC, Nadel pursues his mission by sharing insights from his seven successful decades in business to provide the knowledge people need to start a business with or without a formal education. His materials feature The Nadel Method, a simple five-step process that was developed for entrepreneurs out of proven principles to create new businesses, while dramatically reducing the risk of failure. He is rooted in the belief that by evolving more entrepreneurs and helping them prosper, we will also help to sustain our middle class and the economy.
Jack Nadel has been an international entrepreneur for nearly seven decades—and has made a healthy profit every single one of those years. He founded, acquired, and operated more than a dozen companies worldwide that produced hundreds of new products, thousands of jobs, and millions of dollars in profits, including Jack Nadel International, a global leader in the specialty advertising and marketing industry. Each one of his business transactions has been an adventure he’s loved.
From this broad and solid foundation of experience, Nadel authored a number of popular books including his latest book, The Evolution of an Entrepreneur, winner of five Global Ebook Awards including three Gold Awards for Best in Business, Leadership and Careers/Employment. All were written with the purpose of assisting entrepreneurs with attaining greater business success.
In addition to his commercial enterprises and writing career, Nadel has lectured at several colleges and universities, developed his own targeted thinking methodology for entrepreneurs called The Nadel Method, and for several years hosted his own television show, Out of the Box with Jack Nadel. Though insisting that he has retired, at age 91 Nadel—a decorated WWII veteran—continues to share his expertise and wisdom mentoring future business leaders and entrepreneurs, including through regular article contributions to The Huffington Post.
Jack Nadel is a happy man who leads a robust life, savoring every moment. He lives with his wife Julie in Santa Barbara, CA, and also enjoys actively supporting their ongoing philanthropic efforts through The Nadel Foundation and local community involvement.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Lululemon (Nasdaq: LULU) CEO Laurent Potdevin recently joined with other employees of the apparel firm to build something completely different: a house.
Working with the nonprofit organization Giveback Homes, Potdevin helped fund the construction a home for a needy family in Nicaragua.
He shared his experience with me:
In the process of selling my home in Manhattan Beach, I was introduced to Giveback Homes through my real estate agents, Brigitte Pratt and Colleen Cole. They are both Giveback Homes Realtors and informed me that they would be donating from the transaction of selling my home to build a home for a family in Nicaragua.
I asked how much they were planning on donating and matched their donation. Between both of our donations we were able to build an entire home for a deserving family in Central America.
One of my favorite things about Giveback Homes is that they work to make sure their Realtors and clients feel a connection with the people they are helping. With every home built, the Realtors who donated to make that home possible receive a summary and photos of the family they helped and in some cases, the Realtors will join Giveback Homes team members to physically build the home.
The home we built was for Gladys and her family. Gladys was abandoned as a child. She’s now married with two children and works as a tortilla maker, her husband sells bread on the street and their combined monthly income is $200.
Before we built Gladys’ first home, she was living in a makeshift shack with dirt floors and walls made of wood scraps. When it rained, the floors in the house would turn to mud. It was my honor to help build her dream home; her first real home. Gladys is a hard worker, self-taught entrepreneur and a fighter. She fights every single day to give her children the life she wished she had, the life all children deserve; a safe place to call home and parents that love them.
I’m so thankful to my philanthropic real estate agents for introducing me to this wonderful organization. Buying and selling homes through these philanthropic agents is an easy sell in my opinion.
On Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 3:00 PM Eastern, Potdevin will join me for a live discussion of about his experiences helping to build this home. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Lululemon:
lululemon athletica inc (NASDAQ: LULU) is a yoga-inspired athletic apparel com pay with products that create transformational experiences for people to live happy, healthy, fun lives. Setting the bar in technical fabrics and functional designs, lululemon works with yogis and athletes in local communities for continuous research and product feedback.
What We Do: Elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness. Our purpose gets us out of bed in the morning. Elevating the world from mediocrity to greatness is about holding ourselves and others to our highest possibility. This is our promise to the world.
How We Do It: Our products create transformational experiences for people to live happy, healthy, fun lives.
Our mission os how we live into our purpose. The products and transformational experiences we create aren’t limited to Luon–we design technical gear, throw kick-ass events and support our people with the intention of brining happiness, health and fun to our communities.
Lululemon on Youtube.
Laurent Potdevin, CEO, brings more than 25 years in the retail industry to this role and a deep understanding of premium brands, athletic apparel, technical products, innovation and best-in-class customer experience.
Laurent previously served as President of TOMS Shoes, where he built a world-class management team, led global expansion, and broadened the company’s strong cultural identity. Prior to TOMS, Laurent spent five years as President and CEO, at Burton Snowboards where the business grew significantly under his leadership, expanding across product categories and creating international scale by always focusing on providing the best consumer experience.
Laurent first gained experience in premium, luxury brands through his tenure at LVMH where he identified the potential of the Berlutti footwear brand early on and then became Director of North American Operations for the company’s premier Louis Vuitton brand where he was integral in optimizing the brand’s North American supply chain.
As an avid snowboarder, you can find Mr. Potdevin carving it up on the mountain during the winter and on catching waves on his surfboard in the summer.
More about Giveback Homes:
Giveback Homes is a trusted network of real estate professionals dedicated to creating social change through the act of buying or selling a home. By simply choosing to work with a Giveback Homes real estate agent, mortgage broker, home builder or interior designer, you will help build a home for a family in need. People want to work with people who are doing good, and we are making it easy to find them.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Ty Walrod is the visionary behind Bright Funds, a platform designed to allow employers and other leaders to organize giving groups to giving funds.
The fund manager, often an employer, chooses nonprofits to include in a “fund” and then encourages employees and/or other followers to donate to the fund to have focused, strategic impact.
Walrod explains, “We built Bright Funds with a focus on the three key principles: make giving easy — easier than sending a tweet; make giving effective — by helping people give strategically to the best nonprofits in the world; and make giving engaging — by connecting donors to the causes they care about and showing them the impact of their donations.”
“Employees expect more from their employers today than ever before. In partnering with leading companies, Bright Funds has a tremendous opportunity to do good – we align companies with the passions and cares of their employees and empower both to make a positive impact in the world,” Walrod concludes.
On Thursday, June 25, 2015 at noon Eastern, Walrod will join me for a live discussion about Bright Funds and how you can use them to increase your impact. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Bright Funds:
San Francisco-based Bright Funds helps leading companies and their employees change the world through impactful social good programs, and in doing so, make their businesses more successful. Bright Funds enables employee donors to choose their cause and give to individual non-profits or exclusively available “Funds” comprised of multiple nonprofits. In one platform, Bright Funds brings together the power of research, the reliability of a trusted financial service, and the convenience of centralized contributions and company reporting. Employees, recruits, customers, and investors and worthy causes appreciate companies that use Bright Funds for employee-empowered giving.
Ty is the co-founder and CEO of Bright Funds, the company that enables employee-empowered workplace giving. Prior to Bright Funds, Ty co-founded and built OutServe into a national organization supporting LGBT equality in the US military. He previously worked for Deloitte , with the partnership’s venture capital, private equity and technology clients, followed by his work as the lead business analyst for Coverity.
Ty is also the co-founder and a board member of Startup and Tech Mixer, a bay area professional networking organization, and a board member of Sustainable Silicon Valley, an organization dedicated to a healthy environment, a vibrant economy, and a socially equitable Silicon Valley community. He is an avid runner and mountaineer.
I met Craig Zelizer in the airport in Mexico City where we were both en route to Opportunity Collaboration and was immediately drawn to his good nature. He did his doctoral research on arts and peacebuilding and has made that his career focus at Peace and Collaborative Development Network.
Craig recently shared his favorite quote with me, “A journalist asked Mirsad Puritva, director of the 1992 International Festival of Film and Theater in Sarajevo how can they have a film fest in the middle of the war? He replied, ‘how can they have a war in the middle of the film festival?'”
Craig summarizes his passion for peace, “Violent conflict is one of the greatest challenges preventing the achievment of the MDGs and more stable, peaceful societies”
Craig also notes, “Higher education in the US is in a period of crisis, given the increasing costs of pursuing graduate education and the mismatch between what many academic programs are providing students and what employers seek in candidates.”
Showing his pragmatic side, Craig adds, “In order to better engage businesses in peacebuilding, it is necessary not only to make the moral case, but to show how peace is good for business in concrete terms.”
On Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 2:00 Eastern, Craig will join me for a live discussion about is efforts to advance peace and the study of peacebuilding. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Peace and Collaborative Development Network:
PCDN is the go to hub for the global changemaking community connecting over 35,000 individuals/organizations engaged in social change, peacebuilding, social entrepreneurship, development and related fields. We provide a one-stop shop to inspire, connect, inform and provide the tools and resources to scale social change. The network has over 250,000 hits per month and 75,000 + unique visitors and has helped thousands of individuals and organizations worldwide network, obtain funding, jobs, and be inspired.
Craig is the Founder and CEO of PCDN. In addition, he is the Associate Director for the Conflict Resolution program at Georgetown University. Craig has dedicated his life to being an entrepreneur and to creating a more peaceful world.
Since its founding in 2007, Craig has grown PCDN to over 35,000 members representing more than 180 countries. At the same time, Craig has also assisted in a 300% growth of students and faculty in Georgetown’s conflict resolution program. Before creating PCDN, Craig also helped to found two NG0s – the Alliance for Conflict Transformation and the TEAM foundation in Hungary.
Craig serves on a number of boards and advisory boards including the Alliance for Peacebuilding, the Inzone Project, Tech Change, Move this World, Amani Institute, and several others. He spent two years in Hungary as Fulbright Scholar and was a Boren Fellow in Bosnia. He has led trainings, workshops and consultancies in over 20 countries organizations including USIP, USAID, CRS, Rotary International and others.
Craig is a recognized leader in the social sector field. He has received several awards including George Mason’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution’s alumni of the year award and an alumni career achievement award from Central European University.
He has published widely on peacebuilding, entrepreneurship, and innovation in higher education. His most recent edited book is Integrated Peacebuilding (2013, Westview Press).
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
“UNFPA Kenya is working hard with all partners to support the Government of Kenya and the First Lady of Kenya’s clarion call, ‘no woman should die giving life,’” explains UNFPA Representative to Kenya, Siddharth (Sid) Chatterjee.
Chatterjee explains the charge he received when he took on his new role just over a year ago, “The Executive Director of UNFPA Undersecretary General Dr Babatunde Osotimehin’s marching orders to me when taking up my role as UNFPA Kenya was, ‘support the Government to bring to an end the unacceptably high maternal deaths, end FGM and child marraige. Change the game.’”
The context, Chatterjee notes, is sobering. “Sexual and gender based violence [SGBV] continues to be a challenge in Kenya. According to Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) in 2014, 41% of women have experienced violence. This is unacceptable. The Government of Kenya has made efforts to prevent and respond to violence by adopting policies and enacting legislation such as the sexual offences Act (2007), the FGM Act (2011) and the National Policy on Prevention and Response to GBV. A comprehensive response to SGBV needs to be multi-sectoral. These will include community education/dialogue, media campaign, advocacy forums with policy makers/legislators as well as psychosocial support, clinical, legal and security services.”
In the face of such a daunting challenge, Chatterjee strikes a distinctly optimistic tone, “Our world is home to 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24, and Dr Babatunde Osotimehin the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says, “Never before have there been so many young people. Never again is there likely to be such potential for economic and social progress.’”
“Kenya has one of the most youthful populations in the world with about 60 percent of the population aged below 24 years. A demographic dividend and through the countering violent extremism summit Kenya is going to host, she can change the narrative, by putting the spotlight on youth,” Chatterjee adds.
Chatterjee notes that achieving the country’s goals for women will require government leadership and collaboration among all development partners to create an integrated, long-term program that actively involves young people. “Let’s put youth at the center of the narrative. Kenya can serve as a model for transmuting its youth into a demographic dividend which other nations can emulate,” he says.
On Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 11:00 Eastern, Chatterjee will join me for a live discussion about the UNFPA efforts to end FGM, child marriage and sexual and gender-based violence in Kenya. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about the UNFPA:
UNFPA is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. The Executive Director of UNFPA globally is Dr Babatunde Osotimehin. UNFPA works in more than 150 countries and territories that are home to the vast majority of the world’s people.
In Kenya UNFPA is working with the Government of Kenya to:
- Reduce the unacceptably high maternal deaths.
- End harmful traditional practices like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage.
- Advance the demographic dividend Kenya is blessed with by helping young people fulfill their potential and specifically invest in adolescent girls. Kenya has around 13.7 million young people out of a population size of nearly 43 million.
Siddharth Chatterjee (Sid) has been the UNFPA Representative to Kenya with effect from 10 April 2014.
Before joining UNFPA, he was the Chief Diplomat and Head of Strategic Partnerships and Resource Mobilization at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) based in Geneva since June 2011.
Before joining IFRC, he was Regional Director for the Middle East, Europe and Central Asian Republics at the United Nations Office for Project Services. He also served as Chief of Staff to the Special Representative of the Secretary General for the UN Mission in Iraq. He has served in leadership positions in UNICEF Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan(Darfur), Indonesia and with the UN Peace Keeping Operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iraqi Kurdistan.
Before joining the UN in January 1997, he was a career officer in the Special Forces of the Indian Army.
He has written extensively on a range of humanitarian and social issues in a variety of journals such as CNN, Al Jazeera, Forbes, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Reuters, the
Global Observatory, the Inter Press Service as well as some mainstream Indian journals. He is considered a strong advocate by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to end the scourge of polio was a key note speaker on child soldiers at a TED x event in Spain.
He has a Master in Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, USA and a Bachelor of Sciences from the National Defense Academy in India.
Sid is married and they have a son.
In the context of one of the country’s most conservative states, Alan Naumann runs a multi-platform publishing company called Green News Utah.
Alan explains, “Utah needs an independent news source for environmental issues. There is a lack of information in some of the most important issues facing Utahns.”
“For instance, there is no severance tax on coal in the state of Utah. All the neighboring states have a 3.3 to 7 percent severance tax on fossil fuels. Utah, has the lowest tax on oil and gas extraction. In a state with the lowest [financial] commitment to education in the country, fossil fuels are an obvious source of revenue,” Alan adds.
Alan’s passion for the environment is exemplified by his argument, “Little is being done to reduce air pollution, in fact the opposite is true. Millions of dollars are being spent to prevent the listing of sage grouse as an endangered species, green building codes are being undermined and the speed limit was raised recently. Permits are being granted to local refineries to grow and subsidized by the state of Utah to convert to Tier III fuels. A bill to spend $20 million to convert the oldest, dirtiest diesel school buses was not funded even though the legislation passed.”
“The facts are not being agreed upon and keep changing. The sources of air pollution were set officially at 25% created by the biggest polluters (stationary sources), several years ago. Now its only 11%, a figure clean air activists dispute,” Alan concludes.
On Thursday, June 18, 2015 at noon Eastern, Alan will join me for a live discussion about his work and his passion for the environment. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Green News Utah:
Multi media outlet focused on environmental issues in Utah. We cover activists, regulators, politicians and businesses with divergent perspectives on sustainability and energy issues that matter to Utahns. We cover renewable energy more than any other news source in Utah. Our focus currently is on air quality, consistently one of the most important issues to the state. We have a Facebook group of the same name, GreenNewsUtah.com.
Alan Naumann is an Energy Consultant with American Solar Power in Utah. Naumann changed his profession to renewable energy in 2009 with a solar course at Salt Lake Community College. Naumann is the Founder and Producer of the annual Solar Day Salt Lake event held in the fall. Naumann has a background in construction since a childhood apprenticeship with his grandfather in the granite business. Naumann owned granite businesses in California and Utah, with a bank building façade being his biggest job. Naumann has been a free lance journalist and radio talk show host. His last story that aired nationally for Free Speech Radio News (fsrn.org) was in 2005 on nuclear waste in Utah. Naumann is a member of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable as a representative of the Deeksha Oneness Bleesing community of 1,200 blessing givers in Utah.
This is a guest post from Ruth Lande Shuman, Founder/President of Publicolor
I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s happening in Baltimore and other cities around our country. The perils of poverty and marginalization are clearly exacting a heavy price, one we have to confront with innovation. At Publicolor, the New York City-based non-profit I founded in 1996, our long-term continuum of programs addresses many of the effects of poverty and dis-empowerment: single-parent households, neglect, and physical and emotional abuse, as well as an absence of after-school programs, role models, belief in education and effective goal-setting. Publicolor empowers struggling students by developing their focus and determination, thereby eliminating hopelessness and anger. Our unique applied-learning model gives students ownership over their projects from beginning to end, fostering a sense of agency and the ability to become their own best advocates. Having witnessed the success of Publicolor over the past 19 years, I can’t help but wonder what cities like Baltimore would be like if Publicolor existed in them. Only by leveling the playing field and encouraging education will we ensure that everyone in our country has a chance to thrive. This is what our country needs most.
As one of the few industrial designers today using design for social change, I am especially interested in the psychological effects of color and environment. Publicolor’s work is grounded in research, and confirms that when one changes an environment, one changes attitudes and behavior. Even in New York City’s outer boroughs, home to some of New York City’s most at-risk communities, anyone walking into a typical public school will notice the oppressive, prison-like interiors: the walls are peeling, cracked, and often littered with graffiti, and the hallways are lifeless with their gray, beige, and off-white tones.
I founded Publicolor to combat the alarmingly high dropout rates in New York City’s poorest neighborhoods. Last year, more than 26,000 students failed to graduate on time, and more than 8,000 dropped out of school. Publicolor focuses on the most disconnected and lowest-performing students in our city’s struggling middle and high schools, and engages them in their education by empowering them to transform their dreary schools with warm colors. The result is a student-centric environment where design underscores the importance of education, and where all feel welcomed and energized.
Our programs distinguish themselves by being long-term intensive interventions, a reflection of my belief that meaningful change only happens over a number of years. Typically, Publicolor students begin with our organization in middle school, and progress through the continuum of design-based programs until they graduate high school. Many students stay involved with Publicolor through college; some return to the organization as volunteers and even employees . Currently, 14 of 41 staff members are Publicolor alumni.
This process begins with Paint Club, where middle-school grade students are taught to think critically and creatively about the relationship between color and their environment. Paint Club is just the beginning of these students’ journey with Publicolor. We stay with them long after their initiation into the program, offering an opportunity for training and tutoring at least three days a week over multiple years. One of the most impactful programs is Summer Design Studio – deliberately held at Pratt Institute to help our students feel comfortable in a college setting – a seven-week math and literacy immersion program taught through the scaffold of product design, and an effective antidote to summer learning loss.
Publicolor’s innovative applied learning model works with spectacular results: despite a focus on high-risk students from struggling schools, 100% of Publicolor’s students stayed in school, 100% of Publicolor’s students matriculated on time from 8th to 9th grade and 9th to 10th grade, 97% of our high school seniors graduated on time vs. 68% citywide, and 94% of our high school graduates enrolled in college vs. 51% of their peers from the same schools. Publicolor was recognized with the 2014 National Arts + Humanities Youth Program Award at The White House, and won a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator. Since 1996, we’ve transformed 172 inner-city schools and 205 under-resourced community facilities. We’ve impacted 969,000 students and their parents, and affected almost one million community residents. More importantly, we stay with our students through college. Over a period of 7 to 10 years, Publicolor’s average investment per student is $31,542. This investment ensures that our students, who were once at risk of dropping out, graduate high school on time and matriculate in college or a post-secondary accreditation program. Publicolor’s investment helps students secure the maximum financial aid support and scholarships they deserve as well as catalyzes the investment that colleges will make in them totaling an average of $320,000 per student by the time they graduate. Furthermore, in 2014, MIT economists found that college graduates will earn approximately $500,000 more over their lifetime than a high school graduate. This means that Publicolor’s initial investment of $31,542 yields a return of $820,000 in the form of support from other federal and private agencies and future wages that would be forfeited but for our original support. This is an astounding return on investment of 2600%.
Even with our success, we still have needs. We need more corporate volunteers to paint alongside and mentor our students. We need contributions to help with staff and materials , and business partners to help us reach greater audiences. I invite you to visit us at www.publicolor.org, learn about the many ways you can leave your mark on Publicolor’s world.
About Ruth Lande Shuman
Ruth Lande Shuman is an award-winning industrial designer and the Founder/President of Publicolor.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Last week, I took my wife to a small resort town called Puerto Peñasco or Rocky Point at the north end of the Gulf of California or Sea of Cortez in Mexico. Before this year, I’d never heard of this place and had frankly never been curious about it. We weren’t there to relax on the beach sipping umbrella drinks. Instead, we were there with 750 other people affiliated with Rotary Clubs in Utah to spend a week doing service and holding a conference.
The planning and execution of the 55 service projects completed last week was 100 percent volunteer. It is difficult even to communicate the scope of what was accomplished; I’m sure that despite being there and seeking to learn all that went on during the week, I can’t begin to report on all that was done.
Here’s a quick sampling of what we did:
The event was led by Michael Wells, a dentist from Tooele, Utah who serves as the volunteer “District Governor” for the Rotary District that encompasses Utah. Wells said repeatedly in the days leading up to the event, “I get chills just thinking about it.” Clearly, his passion was vital in creating an unprecedented district event.
Jerry Summerhays, a past district governor, was charged with organizing the service projects. He made several trips to Puerto Peñasco in preparation for the big week—all on his own dime. After the event, he noted, “The many project sites were picked because of needs identified by Puerto Penasco Rotarians. Each of the project sites was delegated to a club or family. The needs were so overwhelming that we know how much good we did. What was more than expected was the satisfaction, the emotion expressed by those performing the service. Whether eight years old or 18, or 80 those performing the service felt like they owned their project, and were so delighted.”
Floyd Hatch is the President Elect for the Salt Lake Club; he was tasked with organizing the construction of the piñata factory expansion. He recruited his children and grandchildren along with other members of the club to help with the project.
Hatch said, “I still cannot believe our progress. In 4 short days, we doubled the floor space of the factory, roofed it with a much better roof that its existing [roof], rolled out insulation, and initiated dry wall. One of my daughters [Courtney Hatch], a high school art teacher chose colors that I wouldn’t dream of and we painted the structure pink with turquoise highlights. It stands out, even in Mexico!”
“We left behind additional drywall, interior painting, electrical, and flooring, but we gave those beautiful kids and young adults a place to go and be creative while they earn some money on their own. What a feeling we had as a bunch of professionals left that little structure for the last time. We did it! We took what seemed like an enormous challenge and finished it on time,” Hatch concluded.
Marcus Wathen, the general contractor who was recruited to volunteer to lead the piñata factory construction project, explained how he felt after completing the project, “What I enjoyed most about helping with the project was letting others have a hands on experience and in some cases doing a lot of different skills for the first time and working outside their comfort zone. Like when Courtney said she didn’t know how to drill the bottom plate and when the last hole was drilled, she was wanting to drill more. And when I measured for the roof sheeting and sent the measurement down for Russ to cut the plywood. Then, the next day, Russ was doing the measuring on the other side of the roof and you and Floyd were the masters of the saw. Seriously, we all contributed our own talents, sweat, leadership and time to build something that will benefit others.”
There are eight lessons I learned or was reminded of last week as I participated in this effort. Here they are:
This is a guest post from Michael Day, a combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps.
War is unforgiving and unforgettable. To those that carry the weight of traumatic memories of it, life is often unmanageable. PTSD is a mental health condition that causes the brain to take a traumatic memory of war and ask the recipient to endure a perpetually endless cycle of horror. With the re-experiencing of traumatic memories comes a host of symptoms such as hyper vigilance, insomnia, isolation, and numbness that are both debilitating and traumatic themselves. A veteran with PTSD, without proper treatment, will be forever stuck in a traumatic memory, a cycle that may very well end his or her life prematurely.
Film Director Minos Papas and myself have taken to the task of creating a short film that will deliver the experience of PTSD symptoms directly to a viewer, while introducing a brilliant narrative that we hope will help fill a void in the film world. For far too long we, as a society, have been exposed to the water downed Hollywood attempts at the portrayal of PTSD. We owe our veterans and our civilian population an honest look. Minos and I are making our mark on the world by providing a tool that can be used by civilians, veterans, and organizations alike. It will serve two vital purposes.
First, the film will introduce civilians to the symptoms of PTSD and help them to understand the challenges facing the post 9/11 generation of veterans. It is important that civilians not connected to war veterans understand their experience. For those who are directly related to a veteran, it may serve as a tool to begin the conversation they never knew how to have.
Second, veterans are often unaware of how their traumatic memories affect them and how the world sees the manifestation of the memories in their actions. Our intention is that veterans and their families may recognize the symptoms of PTSD in the film, and possibly seek help or advice. We want to help veterans and their families recognize PTSD and find a therapeutic way to identify with the main character in the film. Storytelling through film can be therapeutic, and we hope to introduce the real challenges of PTSD into our cultural vocabulary.
PTSD is a stigma. It’s very mention results in immediate pre-conceived notions. We can only reduce the effects of the stigma that bares witness to the veteran population in the form of substance abuse, homelessness, domestic violence, and suicide when we truly understand the symptoms of the illness, portray what it looks like from the eyes of a veteran, and change the dialog that takes place between a civilian and a veteran. Tango seeks to accomplish this.
About Michael Day:
Michael Day is a combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps and now works as a writer, producer, shooter, and consultant for Cyprian Films NY. @WarriorWriterNY