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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 2016

Octogenarian Author, Entrepreneur, Rotarian Still Giving

Octogenarian Cheri McDaniel is doing more good for the world at 87 than most people do in their prime. She recently completed her memoirs, He Lays the Stones For Our Steps: Living Life Abundantly in the Face of Adversity.

Cheri was born in humble circumstances and became a successful entrepreneur–at a time and in a place where that was unusual for women. Living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana she was the only woman home builder in town. Later, she launched and ran an antique shop with European imports. Initially, she launched the store with her daughter but took it over full time and gave up home building when her daughter had quadruplets.

Cheri’s life really began when she retired at 75. “After successful careers, I’m using my life lessons to engage in humanitarian efforts that will help transform the lives of thousands of the world’s most vulnerable and impoverished citizens. These projects range from providing safe drinking water in third-world nations to providing music programs for dementia-impacted senior citizens here in Baton Rouge,” she says.

Most recently, she’s been working on projects in Swaziland. “In my 80’s I have focused for 5 years on a continent I will never see: Africa,” she says.

Over the last four years, she’s raised money through Rotary to buy four acres and 30,000 square feet of building in Swaziland for a medical clinic and economic development center for people living on less than $2 per day. She’s excited that working with her local Baton Rouge Capital City Rotary Club she doesn’t have to raise all the money herself. Rotary International matches the money for her projects that don’t include real estate through a “global grant” program that helps clubs financially with international projects like Cheri’s.

Theresa and Daran Rehmeyer who moved to Swaziland in 2005 are pictured with Cheri McDaniel, courtesy of Cheri McDaniel

Theresa and Daran Rehmeyer who moved to Swaziland in 2005 are pictured with Cheri McDaniel, courtesy of Cheri McDaniel

Cheri has a deep and abiding Christian faith, recognizing at various times in her life how she has felt God’s influence in her life. It is her faith that inspired her memoir. “If each of us is truly observant and aware we will find that indeed, He Lays the Stones For Our Steps. We can live life more abundantly when we leave our mark on the world. There are so many needs and opportunities. The choice is ours.”

Who’s to say, this isn’t Cheri’s prime!

On Thursday, March 31, 2016 at 4:00 Eastern, Cheri will join me for a live discussion about her work with Rotary, her faith and her remarkable life. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

Octogenarian Cheri McDaniel, author of "He Lay the Stones..."

Octogenarian Cheri McDaniel, author of “He Lay the Stones…”

Cheri’s bio:

I overcame the obstacles of Depression-era poverty in north Louisiana to become a successful business woman and entrepreneur. I promoted my Cheri Homes, Inc. home design and building business with the phrase “built with a woman’s touch.” I was the only Baton Rouge woman in new construction and subdivision development, building some 300 homes in a 30 year career. When my daughter became pregnant with the fifth set of in vitro quadruplets in the world, I changed careers and managed our international Fireside Antiques, specializing in European antiques, for seventeen years until age 75.

I am now 87 and enjoying my most meaningful years creating humanitarian outreaches through Rotary International to empower our world’s most vulnerable and impoverished. To encourage hope, faith, and service I have published my inspirational memoirs, He Lays the Stones For Our Steps: Living Life Abundantly in the Face of Adversity. Proceeds benefit Rotary humanitarian work.

I live in Baton Rouge at St. James Place and find places of service, especially in the health and memory care areas with the medium of music and singing the old songs and hymns, proven to be the most effective way to bring quality of life.

This Filmmaker Is Changing The Game For Women In Hollywood

Filmmaker Chiara Tilesi is the founder of We Do It Together, a nonprofit production company focused on the empowerment of women.

Chiara sees huge gender disparities in Hollywood. “Women are vastly underrepresented in the film industry. Only 7% of the directors of the top 250-grossing Hollywood and independent films are women; Female characters made up just 13% of the protagonists in the top 100-grossing domestic films in 2014; the Sony e-mail hack revealed that female leads were being paid a fraction of their male counterparts.”

Chiara believes that cinema has the power to change “the deep-seated perceptions about outworn female stereotypes, pervasive in the film industry, and the world.”

“We Do It Together was founded to harness the capacity movies have to influence and inspire their audiences,” Chiara explains.

She says the nonprofit will raise money from foundations, governments, individual donors and sponsors. “This unprecedented business model, where values meet art, creates a structure devoid of the usual financial considerations which put commerce over creativity.”

We Do It Together will work with a group of female directors intended to break down stereotypes about women in film.”When given the chance, women will deliver compelling, accessible, and equally commercial stories,” the filmmaker says.

A variety of Hollywood professionals, including producers, writers, agents, managers, actresses, actors and directors from around the world have joined We Do It Together. “Outstanding and empowered woman will tell inspiring stories that also mirror the realities of life,” she says.

Chiara hopes to see We Do It Together have a dramatic impact on Hollywood. “Ultimately we will create more opportunities for women to compete with men on an even playing field, where women are as apt to succeed or fail, based upon merit and not perception or prejudice. That is all we are fighting for, no more, no less.”

“All profits generated through our activities will be reinvested in the nonprofit production company, in order to ultimately create a self-sustaining system, which in turn, will invest in more movies, talents, take risks and further our objectives,” she says.

Ultimately, the filmmaker says, as if chanting a mantra, “If we can dream it together, we can do it together!”

On Thursday, March 31, 2016 at 3:00 Eastern, Chiara will join me for a live discussion about We Do It Together and improving opportunities for women in Hollywood.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

More about We Do It Together:

We Do It Together is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) film Production Company created to finance and produce films, documentaries, TV and other forms of media, uniquely dedicated to the empowerment of women. Its goal is to change the utterly outdated and discriminating paradigm that we see in media, and its marginalization of women worldwide. If we want more representation, we need to make more women oriented movies to ultimately have women compete on an even playing ground.

Chiara Tilesi, courtesy of We Do It Together

Filmmaker Chiara Tilesi, courtesy of We Do It Together

Chiara’s bio:

Chiara Tilesi is an Italian film producer with a philanthropic outlook. She is the founder of the nonprofit film production organization “We Do It Together”, whose purpose is to finance, and produce films, documentaries, and other media forms dedicated to the empowerment of women and minorities, by telling their stories. We Do It Together will establish a new cultural paradigm, promoting gender equality in the film industry, and shift the prevailing imbalance until society will embrace and adopt a gender blind approach.

Chiara moved to the United States when she was eighteen, to attend Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles, California, where she graduated Cum Laude in Liberal Arts. Production became the focus of her activities, which combined with her philanthropic attitude turned into a very effective entertainment impact activism. Her first feature film “All the Invisible Children”, was directed by eight internationally acclaimed directors (Spike Lee, Ridley and Jordan Scott, Emir Kusturica, John Woo, Stefano Veneruso, Katia Lund, Mehdi Charef). Produced in favor of the United Nations’ agencies UNICEF, and World Food Programme, the movie premiered at the Venice Film Festival, and was released in 120 countries. At the present time she is producing We Do It Together’s first feature presentation, “Together Now” (working title), which will follow the model Chiara implemented in “All the Invisible Children”, and will be composed of seven segments, each directed by an extraordinary women filmmakers, each about outstanding and empowered women.

Her philanthropic efforts earned her the position of Event Vice Chair of Rock the Kasbah, a nonprofit foundations of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. She is a member of the UNICEF Chinese Children’s Initiative Advisory board, as well as of the board of advisors of the nonprofit organization Children Mending Hearts.

Chiara also is the founder of Globunity, a global cultural event and digital media platform whose mission is to inspire creative people in their personal life, and in the cultural evolution of our planet. This venture has earned the Patronages of UNESCO, as well as that of the President, and the Prime Minister of the Italian Republic. In 2014 Chiara was invited by the United Nations’ Nexus Conference to present Globunity as a new self-sustaining platform that will support artists from developing and emerging countries.

Remember to “join the cavalry” by subscribing to our content here.

Devin D. Thorpe

This Entrepreneur Helps Companies Do CSR Well

Matthew Barnes, partner at ASG Advisors, is a social entrepreneur who spends his time helping other entrepreneurs and business leaders add purpose to their profits. ASG Advisors is a consulting firm that helps companies implement effective corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs.

We’ll be talking to Matthew live so you can learn much more, but in advance of our live interview he provided four themes that guide his work and that will be the subject of our discussion.

Theme 1: Intentionality – corporate community engagement efforts have moved away from the passive, transactional nature of the past to a fuller engagement with community actors to partner on things that can have a real impact. Deeper thought and research inform this approach.

Theme 2: Ownership – this theme is related to the the first. It used to be the case that corporate foundations responded either favorably or disfavorably. They had minimal stake or “ownership” of any outcomes from the work. Nowadays, more and more corporations are working hand-in-hand with NGOs and other partners to develop solutions that are informed by research and best practice. In this way, both have a stake in the outcome.

Theme 3: Accountability. Again, this is an extension of the previous themes. More and more corporate actors are holding themselves to account by designing programs that intentionally seek certain outcomes and measuring whether in fact they’ve achieved it or not and, just as importantly, what they learned from the process. CSR departments are dedicating budget to impact assessments, and are looking beyond mere “outputs” (e.g. number of participants) to outcomes (changes in peoples circumstance, station).

Theme 4: Recruitment & Retention. CSR is increasingly a recruitment and retention consideration for companies. Recruits are determined to work for companies that have a social mission in addition to or as part of their enterprise goals. In fact, there is research showing that recent colleague or grad school graduates would take a smaller salary than they would otherwise if it was with a socially responsible company. A related trend is the quality of people and the sophistication of CSR/philanthropic operations has dramatically increased. We work with some truly gifted professionals in our work.

On Thursday, March 31, 2016 at 1:00 Eastern, Matthew will join me for a live discussion about how firms can implement effective CSR programs. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

More about ASG Advisors:

ASG serves as management consultants to the social sector, providing deep dive strategic planning, program design, impact evaluation and communications support to companies and NGOs.

Matthew Barnes, helps companies with CSR programs, courtesy of ASG Advisors

Matthew Barnes, courtesy of ASG Advisors

Matthew’s bio:

Matthew Barnes is a co-founder and partner at ASG Advisors, a strategic philanthropy and CSR boutique. Matthew leads strategic planning and oversees impact assessments for ASG client engagements. Well-versed in best practices around philanthropy and executive positioning, and a proven dot-connecter, Matthew’s counsel is holistic and highly attuned to client needs. He has lead engagements for Fortune 500 companies and international NGOs. His comments and analysis on strategic philanthropy and executive positioning have appeared in the New York Times, Forbes, Campaign & Elections, Philanthropie Aktuel (Switzerland) and Radar. Matthew studied African-American Studies and Politics at Purdue University, and earned his masters in sustainable development at the University of Cambridge (UK), where his dissertation focused on the role of the extractive industry in driving social development in conflict contexts.

Remember to “join the cavalry” by subscribing to our content here.

Devin D. Thorpe

Aseda Works To Build Bee Populations Globally

Aseda, a producer and distributor of honey, chocolate and shea butter, has a mission to protect and build bee populations globally in the face of declining numbers in the developed world.

Co-founder Bessie McIntosh says, “Bees are disappearing in the developed world at an alarming rate. Here in the US, we have seen an overall decline of at least 30% of our bee population. Gone. In some areas, we have lost over 70% of our precious bees. It has gotten to the point that farmers in the US import bees from Australia to tend to our country’s pollinating needs.”

The problem, which is not well known or understood, could potentially lead to an existential crisis. Many of our food crops require a pollinator, Bessie explained to me, and if we don’t have enough bees, we won’t have enough food.

Bessie partnered with Anthony Baron Kirk to launch the company. Their core business activity is operating co-ops located in a protected forest.

She says, “Our efforts in this region help maintain the protection of the land, which in turn insulates the bees from the chemical problems of modern man. This situation allows the bees to live wild, as nature intended. Their population is thriving and the area benefits from biodiversity.”

Aseda brings dark, raw honey to market from this forest and provides education to its customers both about the honey and the bees.

“Our job is to take this huge undertaking and hand it out in sweet, bite size pieces,” Bessie says. “When you buy a jar of honey or shea butter or fine chocolate from Aseda, you are directly supporting the growth of our healthy bee population.”

Aseda operates with a traditional retail model with an online presence as well. In addition to Aseda Wild Honey in jars, the company offers Honey Dozen Energy Packs used by athletes. The product line also includes Aseda Shea Butter and Aseda Fine Chocolate, which is sold only through a buyers club to “Aseda Tribe Members.”

Aseda recently created the Aseda Foundation Program to support humanitarian improvements for the villages where the beekeepers live. “Our first project will be drilling wells for the villages,” Bessie says.

For Aseda, building a profitable business is only part of the picture. “We believe the markers for success includes how a company effects the people involved and the planet as a whole, not just profit. Our business model includes protecting land that is still pristine, not touched by pollutants and growing healthy bee populations, which in turn promotes biodiversity of the area. Biodiversity equals lush abundance. More bees, more pollination, more plants, more food,” Bessie says.

Aseda hopes to expand globally. “Our ‘10000 feet view’ of our plan is to continue to build global bridges through land preservation, co-ops and growing healthy bee populations in as many wild, non-gmo, pristine, wilderness areas we discover.”

Bessie hopes that by producing raw, non-processed food that fewer contaminants will end up in what we eat, that the planet and people will benefit. With a focus on bees, she really hopes to protect the entire food supply.

“We are all in this together. Together we are changing the now for a viable future. To me, that is the sweetest idea,” Bessie concludes.

On Thursday, March 31, 2016 at 2:00 Eastern, Bessie will join me for a live discussion about Aseda and its work to protect bees. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

More about Aseda:

Twitter: @Asedarawhoney

Aseda, LLC is a Utah company that sources a sustainably harvested, raw, unique, non-gmo, delicious brown black honey that is found in only one region of the world. Aseda sources a sustain-ably harvested shea butter that is from old growth trees instead of plantations. Aseda creates functional food products for the body and skin utilizing these nutrient dense ingredients. Aseda created and supports the Aseda Bee Keepers Co-operative, made up of 27 villages located in Ghana Africa. This work is directly responsible for growing a thriving bee population in a pristine and ancient forest, located in Ghana, Africa. Aseda supports a Women-Run Shea Butter Co-operative, harvesting from old growth shea trees located in the same region of Ghana and a multi-family farms Co-operative located in the upper Amazon of Peru sourcing cacao. Currently Aseda’s product offerings include Aseda Wild Honey Jars, the Aseda Honey Dozen Energy Pack, Aseda Shea Butter, and Aseda Fine Chocolate. Aseda is working to build out the Aseda Foundation, a 501c3 created to support Co-operatives in need of humanitarian improvements. Aseda means gratitude in the language Twi.

Bessie McIntosh, courtesy of Aseda

Bessie McIntosh, courtesy of Aseda

Bessie’s bio:

Twitter: @asedabee

Bessie McIntosh is an activator, a connector, a mother, a healer, an entrepreneur and an Earth worshiping goddess. Bessie is the Co-Creator and the Vice President of Aseda™; a triple bottom line company based in Salt Lake City, Utah and Ghana, Africa. Aseda™ created a bee keeping co-operative that supports 27 villages, is growing a thriving bee population while protecting an ancient, pristine forest, inspires to connect global bridges throughout the world and founded the Aseda Foundation, a 501c3. “It’s all about the bees and the sweetness of honey. Bringing people together, ultimately, that’s what I do.” Her passion for her company oozes from her being, like the sweet, medicinal honey from Aseda’s hives in Ghana. She is working to bring awareness to solve some of our generation’s most devastating problems; the vanishing of the bees, the need for natural food and clean water, and humans’ disconnection from nature and each other. “By introducing this marvelous honey to the world, we are growing a healthy bee population, have the opportunity to teach the importance of real food for your body and the health of our planet, and we are building bridges to connect our global village. I love how I do and be!”

Remember to “join the cavalry” by subscribing to our content here.

Devin D. Thorpe

Hint Water Founder’s Passion For Health Drives Unsweetened Success

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Kara Goldin talks about sugar as if it were a bad thing–a very bad thing. Goldin, the founder of $30 million beverage company hint®, launched the company in 2005 after developing the unsweetened flavored water in her home kitchen as a healthy alternative to the sweetened juices she had been buying for her kids.

Goldin approaches the subject of sugar and sweeteners with the subtly of a presidential stump speech. “People ask me ‘who’s your biggest competitor?’ It’s the sugar and sweetener companies. They will use any food or beverage to sell their ‘drug.’ And use any language to make it seem healthy,” she says.

The former AOL executive doesn’t like diet sweeteners much more than sugar. She proclaims, “Almost 1/2 of Americans have type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. That’s up 27% from a decade ago! And what are we drinking over the past decade? Diet sweeteners. You be the judge.”

“It’s criminal that we have allowed the word ‘water’ on labels to be used to define a drink that is sweetened. Water means health to most people and unfortunately many of these water drinks with sweeteners are not so healthy,” she continues.

The science, however, may not be quite as clear as Goldin’s passion. The American Diabetes Association describes the statement “Eating too much sugar causes diabetes” as a myth on its site.

Still, Goldin’s zeal seems to come from a genuine desire to improve health. That’s why she created the product in her kitchen over a decade ago, and it seems to be the driving force that propels the company forward.

Not only is the company’s water available in stores across the U.S., but in Silicon Valley, the company distributes the product directly to corporate campuses including Google and Facebook, Goldin says.

hint® is a member of the Social Venture Network and Goldin will be a keynote speaker at the spring conference on April 14 to 17 in San Diego, where, I expect, members will hear her stump speech.

On Thursday, March 24, 2016 at 1:00 Eastern, Goldin will join me here for a live discussion about hint®. 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 hint®:

Twitter: @hintwater

hint® is the leading unsweetened flavored water in the US today. We make it easier for people who don’t like the taste of plain water to drink water with just a little bit of real fruit flavor without sweeteners. In doing so, we help people get healthy and hear that in addition to helping them drink water, hint® is always helping people get healthy in their own way.

Kara Goldin, courtesy of hint®.

Kara Goldin, courtesy of hint®.

Goldin’s bio:

Twitter: @hintwaterceo

Kara Goldin is chief executive officer and founder of San Francisco based hint Inc., which produces the leading unsweetened flavored waters, with nothing artificial. Since its launch in April ’05, hint® has received numerous accolades from national publications including “Best Flavored Water” (in Health, Men’s Health, and SELF in both 2010 and 2012), “Best Enhanced Water” (BottledWaterWorld and BevNET) and “Top 25 New Products”. Kara started hint, Inc. to make it easier for consumers to lead a healthy lifestyle. Flavored only with natural fruit, hint delivers refreshment without unnecessary additives and sweeteners. hint’s latest brand extension is the introduction of hintfizz, a carbonated version of hint Water, that received the 2012 Better Homes and Gardens “Best New Product Award” as well as the 2012 Silver Stevie Award for “Best New Product or Service of the Year.” Kara has been a contributor to national outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, MORE, The Huffington Post, Forbes.com, Reuters and Businessweek as well as appearances on national programs including CNBC and Fox News. Kara was formerly the Vice President of Shopping and E-commerce Partnerships at AOL, where she grew AOL’s shopping business from startup to more than $1 billion in revenue in less than 7 years. In 2015, Kara was selected as winner of the prestigious Marketers That Matter award for Brand Building Small Company. Kara was also selected among only 10 other women as Fortune’s 2011 “Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs,” and in 2012 as one of Ernst and Young’s “Entrepreneurial Winning Women.” She was honored with the 2012 Gold Stevie Award Winner for “Female Entrepreneur of the Year” & was listed as a “CEO to Watch in 2013” by OpenForum.com. And finally, Forbes recently named her as one of the “40 Women to Watch Over 40.” Kara is also an active speaker and writer as well as a member of SFBay YPO.

Village Capital Works To Scale Social Ventures – Here’s How

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

As I’ve been covering social entrepreneurship and impact investing for the past several years here, I’ve watched and come to know Village Capital as one of the real leaders in social entrepreneurship. Their peer-selected investment model is unique among the accelerators and incubators I’ve covered. Last week, Village Capital announced the formation of VilCap Communities, an effort to radically expand the peer-selected model.

Ross Baird, Executive Director, is on a mission. Last week, he published a piece that was highly critical of the Silicon Valley model for venture finance. Afterward, he told me, “The way we fund new ideas today is broken–we send billions of dollars to a few people in a few well-off cities, who fund people they know and who are in their networks. As a result, 78% of venture capital is distributed to just three states – California, Massachusetts and New York – and only 5% goes to women founders, and less than 3% to people of color. And the people solving problems in society don’t have lived experience with most of the problems they are trying to solve.”

Village Capital’s innovation is the principle of peer selection. When they bring a cohort of entrepreneurs into their programs, those entrepreneurs ultimately decide who gets the money. The Village Capital team serves only to facilitate training and collaboration. ”Village Capital’s peer selected investment model changes the power dynamic between people with ideas and people with capital. It’s no longer well-resourced people sitting under fluorescent lights who don’t understand the problems they are trying to solve deciding who gets a shot; instead, entrepreneurs everywhere can get opportunity, if they can convince their peers,” Baird says.

Having been invited to watch the process first hand, it is interesting to see entrepreneurs compete and collaborate in an environment where their peers will ultimately decide their investment fate. “Peer selected investment upends the power dynamics of traditional early-stage venture capital, by placing investment decisions in the hands of entrepreneurs (Village Capital provides the first funding in two-thirds of investments). The process also democratizes venture capital by making capital more accessible to anyone solving major global problems, no matter their race, ethnicity, zip code or background,” he adds.

Baird hopes to expand the use of peer selection beyond the accelerator-type cohorts they’ve been hosting. “The purpose of VilCap Communities is to reinvent the way we invest capital in our society by spreading the vision of democratized entrepreneurship, enabling peer selection everywhere. This past weekend, we gathered over 350 people in Salt Lake City – including entrepreneur support organizations and investors representing 16 communities across the United States. The 16 pioneer communities have committed over $1 million collectively in local companies through peer-selection. The weekend was a chance for these communities to interact, network with investors and stakeholders from around the country, including Steve Case, and learn about peer-selection.”

Baird is working to empower communities around the country to invest for impact using the VilCap model. “The goal of VilCap Communities is to unlock capital for communities outside the major venture capital centers. Entrepreneurs in these communities are solving real-world problems – like health, education, water sustainability and advances in agriculture. For example, Baltimore is well-positioned to support entrepreneurs solving challenges in Health, thanks to the presence of Johns Hopkins University backing startups through its venture fund and a broader ecosystem that can help entrepreneurs scale.”

Village Capital is focused on supporting mission-driven entrepreneurs who have the potential to scale large businesses. “All our companies believe that their purpose is a competitive advantage. For example, WiseBanyan, which brings investing ability to the majority of the world that has no investment income, believes that their focus on financial inclusion gives them a competitive advantage over the big banks, and Kickboard, an education technology company that helps measure data to improve student performance, believes that superior impact assessment increases revenue. Our partners believe in our purpose, increasing the likelihood that they will fund our operations and become great investors in our companies.”

Village Capital is a social venture itself, with a variety of revenue models helping it to be self-sustaining. ”Village Capital has two core activities: programs and our investment fund. For our programs, partners who believe that entrepreneurs can create impact provide sponsorships and contributions to back our activities. Program partners such as PayPal, our global fintech partner, believe that they can gain unparalleled insights into new innovation from entrepreneurs, and exceptional engagement opportunities for their employees. For our fund, Village Capital charges investors management fees on assets under management, which makes the administrative team operating the fund self-sustainable,” Baird concludes.

On Thursday, March 24, 2016 at 2:00 Eastern, Baird will join me for a live discussion about their effort to put entrepreneurs in the venture fund’s seat. 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 Village Capital:

Twitter: @villagecapital

Village Capital sources, trains and invests in seed-stage entrepreneurs with business solutions to major global problems. Village Capital recruits entrepreneurs solving specific problems in agriculture, energy, education, financial inclusion, and health, and then puts the power of investment in the hands of the entrepreneurs, who award the prize investments to the two ventures ranked highest by their peers at the end of every program. The organization supports early-stage ventures through a 501c3 nonprofit operating training programs for founders, investors, and communities, as well as through an affiliated, for-profit investment fund providing early-stage capital to top-ranked ventures of each program.

Baird’s bio:

Twitter: @rossbaird

Ross Baird has been at the forefront of the changing world of entrepreneurship, as a member of the founding team of ten enterprises since he started college. Ross developed Village Capital, the firm he runs, in 2009, and leads the development of an organization that has supported over 600 enterprises on six continents, as well as the world’s first peer-selected venture fund. The core innovation of Village Capital, peer-selected investment, won the MPrize from HBR and McKinsey for a top top management innovation of the year.

Ross has an MPhil from the University of Oxford, where he was a Marshall Scholar, and a BA from the University of Virginia, where he was a Truman Scholar and a Jefferson Scholar.

NBA’s First Deaf Player Pivots To Social Entrepreneurship

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Lance Allred played professional basketball for a decade all around the world, including a stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2008. Born legally deaf into a fundamentalist polygamous family, his life experience has been anything but typical. Now, with his playing days behind him, Allred is turning to social entrepreneurship.

Allred is creating a tech company called Manestream that he says will provide radically faster access to internet resources, allowing users to work directly from the web at speeds approaching the time to access a hard drive. The system will be commercially available any day now.

The bandwidth, the website says, comes via a license to what was the MCI fiber optic network. That will be combined with “patented process of enterprise-grade global cloud servers and secure data storage providers.”

The plan is also to make the system compliant with HIPAA and other privacy standards, allowing medical providers and other users with security use the network.

While the system will work with your laptop, the company also plans to sell slimmed-down devices that access the cloud service and don’t require a hard drive.

The website claims: “With our system we are storing your files and a full Windows desktop OS compatible with all Windows applications within the cloud giving you full functionality and incredibly fast speed as the OS and files are both in the same location.”

With each commercial sale, Allred’s Manestream has pledged to donate a unit to a child in need. He plans to provide powerful educational content and tools on the platform. As a professional speaker, he hopes to provide inspiring content from other speakers on the platform to benefit kids who might not otherwise have any connection to professional basketball players.

Allred explains the mission: “To empower any child, anywhere in the world, with the world’s fastest internet and computer database, leveling the playing field for everyone.”

Manestream, Allred says, will be transparent about giving away the service to students. He notes that the company will disclose to the commercial buyers the schools that receive the service as a result of their purchase.

On Thursday, March 17, 2016 at 3:00 Eastern, Allred will join me for a live discussion about about the technology and his plan to donate the service to schools. We’ll also probe the ways that his unique background influences his business philosophy. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

More about Manestream:

Twitter: @manestreamtech

Manestream is a full end-to-end technological service that provides our own high powered data storage facilities, traveling through our own private internet of 500 mbps, projecting on our own manufactured endpoints that have no hard drive. For ever three mobile desktop kits we sell, we provide one to a child in need. The Manestream Education Initiative will be partnering with various channel partners and edutech experts to modernize education into the 21st century for every child, no matter their socio economic background.

Lance Allred, courtesy of Manestream

Lance Allred, courtesy of Manestream

Allred’s bio:

Twitter: @lanceallred41

Hearing impaired since birth due to RH complications and raised in a polygamist commune, Lance Allred became the first Legally Deaf Player in NBA History. An Amazon Best Selling Author of LONGSHOT and BASKETBALL GODS, Lance Allred played for 10 years around the world, hitting every continent except for Antarctica, being a team captain on most of his teams despite the language barriers due to his ability to read body language and the room settings. When Lance Allred retired from professional basketball in April of 2015, he quickly established himself as a local television and radio personality in his hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah and transitioned into a Keynote Motivational Speaker, speaking to Corporate and Non-Profit Settings, to gain the funds to then speak to at-risk youth. But Lance knew he needed a “game-changer” to break the status quo of the speaking world rife with hustling and selling. Through founding Manestream, Lance has created a whole new platform to speak directly to kids around the country, that otherwise would never be given the time of day by most speakers.

This Platform Will Help Companies Track and Report CSR Impact

Ben Block, founder and CEO of GozAround, has pivoted his social enterprise startup toward serving businesses large and small that want to track and report their corporate social responsibility or CSR impact. The goal is to help companies increase, following the old management 101 adage that you get what you measure.

Ben notes that most businesses have some form of CSR to track. “From the small business on the corner to multinationals, a majority of businesses maintain some community or social contribution but struggle to efficiently maximize, measure and share their impact. That is what the GozAround for Business platform hopes to remedy.”

“GozAround has developed a cost-effective platform to allow businesses to find, manage, measure and share employee volunteer initiatives,” Ben continues. “Whether they have existing partnerships or are looking for community needs, GozAround allows employers to engage their staff in volunteerism, measure their impact, and share the positive outcomes as they occur.”

The platform, he says, gives businesses a tool for bragging on social media about the good their employees do. He says, “[The platform] allows them to find communities needs, organize staff participation, gather metrics on employee volunteer efforts (independent and company organized) and share those on existing social networks.”

GozAround is a for profit business with a social purpose. “Our current revenue model is a SaaS platform for corporate CSR. Businesses with employee volunteer programs pay a monthly/annual fee to use the GozAround platform,” Ben says.

“Our social purpose and revenue generation are inextricably linked,” he notes.

Ben’s vision is to see the app serve to build and serve communities. “By providing an efficient means of connecting those in need with willing ‘doers,’ all while both measuring and recognizing those contributions, GozAround will encourage closer, more engaged and responsive communities uniting businesses, individuals and non-profits in a community of those who care,” he concludes.

On Thursday, March 17, 2016 at 1:00 Eastern, Ben will join me here for a live discussion about the platform and the ways in which companies are using it to track and report their impact. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.


You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

More about GozAround:

Twitter: @gozaround

GozAround is a social network and software platform for doing good. We allow people, businesses and non-profits to find, measure and share their social impact activities. We connect those in need with those who can do, gather critical data on the impact of those making a difference, and share their contributions with the world.

Ben Block, courtesy of GozAround

Ben Block, courtesy of GozAround

Ben’s bio:

Twitter: @benjaminblock

Ben Block is an entrepreneur at heart, lawyer by training, and d0-gooder by nature. Ben founded GozAround based on his own experience with the amount of effort it takes to simply find a suitable opportunity to volunteer. One that fits your skills, interests and schedule. Out of that need for a better way, Ben applied his business experience and legal training to bootstrap GozAround into existence.

Ben has over 10 years of entrepreneurial experience gained in a number of industries including web design and marketing. Following the sale of his multimedia design business in 2009 Ben practiced as a lawyer in Edmonton, Alberta, while still fostering his passion for business and community. Ben was once praised as an award winning “behind the scenes” contributor to community service, and has since participated as volunteer with local and international organizations. His day-to-day passion for helping others served him well in his legal practice, and is something Ben hopes to encourage on a bigger scale through the GozAround community.

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Devin D. Thorpe

How Speaking at the UN Got Me to Make a Big Commitment

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at the “POWER of COLLABORATION Global Summit at the United Nations.” I was invited to participate in the event’s signature panel, a discussion about gender diversity called, “Conversations with Men.”

The panel discussion was introduced by Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, Former UN Under-Secretary General and High Representative of the UN. The panel was led by H. E. Ambassador Elizabeth Flores-Flake, Permanent Mission of Honduras to the United Nations. H.E. Ambassador Edita Hrda, Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, co-hosted the event and also a dinner for VIP guests and speakers the night before at the Czech consulate in New York.

Speaking at the UN, by Nan Melville

Devin Thorpe and Ivan Khan, by Nan Melville

So, let’s be clear. I was feeling intimidated and a bit out of place.

The pressure was only increased by the presence of Vince Molinari, of Gate Global Impact, one of this site’s sponsors, who is a true champion of women’s rights and who served as one of the two emcees for the day.

As a man being asked to comment on gender diversity to an audience comprising mostly women, I felt even more intimidated. And that was one of my key points. Even when men feel strongly about increasing gender diversity we often feel reluctant to talk about it and advocate for it. No matter how empathetic we may wish to be, we men can never know what it is like to walk down a street alone as a woman, whether in New York or New Delhi. We are aware that a woman’s experience is different and that sense makes some of us feel disqualified from commenting on these issues.

When asked about structural changes that are needed to improve gender diversity, I shared an experience from my trip to New Delhi in 2014. While there, I read an article about the increase in reported rapes that followed the attention that a notorious gang rape had brought to the issue a year or two earlier. The article noted–and I’m working from memory here–that reported rapes had nearly doubled but that rape convictions had not increased measurably. The article concluded that women had been encouraged or allowed to bring false claims of rape forward. The article gave no consideration to the possibility that the system was biased in favor of the accused men. These sorts of structural problems exist to greater or lesser degrees in all cultures I’ve experienced as I’ve traveled around the world–including our own here in the U.S.

Conversations with Men,  by Nan Melville

Conversations with Men, by Nan Melville

Near the end of the panel, Leslie Grossman, Leadership Consultant, Coach and Facilitator, and Vistage Chair, the other emcee for the event, asked the men on the panel to make a specific commitment to do something within their sphere of influence to change the gender dynamic. I accepted the challenge and committed to ensure that at least 50 percent of the guests on my show in 2016 would be women.

As I made that pledge, I felt safe because I always believed that I had a roughly balanced number of men and women on the show and had long planned to make such a formal pledge. The timing was perfect, except that it wasn’t.

So far in 2016, I have had 53 people on the show, 38 men and 15 women. So much for balance. My mistaken impression, however, is typical, I believe, of outcomes when we don’t measure the things we think we care about. Between now and the end of the year, I need to bring that ratio into balance.

For the balance of the year, I anticipate doing another 140 episodes. A few will have two people, so we’ll have about another 149 guests. Of those, 86 will need to be women.

Be sure to check back at the end of the year to see how I’ve done.

‘2 Ordinary Blokes’ Cross Atlantic In Row Boat For Charity

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

When I first heard the story of the Tempest Two, the two Brits who crossed the Atlantic in a row boat, I imagined that they were competitive athletes who had spent years training for the adventure. Instead, they describe themselves as “two ordinary blokes” who founded a company for great adventure and to raise money for causes they care about.

The founders of The Tempest Two say their motivation for the trip was manifold, but it certainly included social objectives like raising money for the Make-a-Wish foundation and to fund brain tumor research.

Tom Caulfield, one of the two–I’m not sure whether to say “rowers” or “blokes” here–explains his passion for Make-A-Wish, “I am trying to give young, terminally ill children the chance to touch and feel their dreams, like I have been lucky enough to do. Make-A-Wish Foundation makes those dreams come true, so raising money for them is something I care deeply about.”

James Whittle, the other one, says, “The problem is brain tumours. My mum suffered from a severe brain tumour in 2012 and has made a great recovery. I want to raise support to help fund the research further to benefit others.”

Caulfield explains the accomplishment. “James and I have completed a transatlantic row, 3000 miles across The Atlantic, totally unsupported. Neither of us had ever held an oar or sailed a boat, so we hope we have proved that ordinary people can achieve incredible things.”

Beyond raising money for charity, Caulfield has another mission. “Our goal is to inspire people to set goals, back themselves and achieve amazing feats, whilst raising money for good causes along the way.”

Tom Caulfield and James Whittle, courtesy of The Tempest Two

Tom Caulfield and James Whittle, courtesy of The Tempest Two

Whittle adds, “Having currently raised £12,500 between Make-A-Wish and brain tumour research, we aim to raise more money along the way through continuing to do extraordinary adventures.

He continues, “Our success will not only raise funds, but will also raise awareness of these two fantastic charities and the work they undertake, hopefully encouraging others to raise funds and donate to these causes.”

Whittle also echoes Caulfield, noting, “We also aim to inspire people to get off the sofa and get exercising, we proved that two ordinary blokes could achieve something extraordinary and hope it inspires others to take on challenges themselves.”

On Thursday, March 10, 2016 at noon Eastern, Caulfield and Whittle will join me for a live conversation about their remarkable journey and the causes they support. 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 Tempest Two:

Twitter: @thetempesttwo

The Tempest Two is made up of James Whittle and Tom Caulfield, two normal friends who have broken the mould of the 9-5 to seek adventure around the world, raising money for charity as they go. Two friends that decided to row 3,000 miles, unsupported, across the Atlantic Ocean in aid of Brain Tumor Research and Make a Wish foundation.

Tom Caulfield and James Whittle, courtesy of The Tempest Two

Tom Caulfield and James Whittle, courtesy of The Tempest Two

Caulfield’s bio:

Twitter: @tcaulfield89

Tom Caulfield is a 26 year old marketing professional by day, and aspiring adventurer by night. In July 2014, Caulfield decided to break the mould of the 9-5 and asked close-friend James Whittle to join him on what is known as the toughest challenge on Earth. Since then, he has become a trans-Atlantic rower, crossing the worlds wildest Ocean in 54 days, totally unsupported. Having tasted adventure, he now has his sights firmly set on another challenge in the near future.

Whittle’s bio:

Twitter: @jtwhittle10

James was born in Milton Keynes in England on 23rd May 1990. Born and raised in the rural town of Olney, Buckinghamshire, he attended school until the age of 18 and then attended the University of Northampton to study Sports Marketing and graduated in 2012. Alongside the studying James snowboarded around the wold, on a semi-professional basis in Austria, Switzerland, USA and Canada. Having previously been a competitive gymnast to GB national level at a younger age.

James graduated university, and his work as a student brand manager for Red Bull, and went on to work for the coconut water company Vita Coco, heading up the events and field marketing team out of London, England. Tom approached James with the far out question of rowing across the Atlantic in July 2014, neither having any previous rowing experience, and James immediately agreed. It was here that The Tempest Two was formed, as a pair of friends who would take on the Atlantic on a 3000 mile voyage, completely unsupported. Raising funds for Brain Tumour Research and Make a Wish Foundation along the way. With the voyage complete, the pair look forward to the next trip in what they hope will be a long list of adventures.

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