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Monthly Archives: April 2016

‘To Change The World, Good Intentions Are Not Enough’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Jacob Allen is the partner with Cicero Group who manages the social impact practice, Cicero Social Impact. The firm, with 70 consultants and nearly 200 analysts, seeks to compete with Bain and McKinsey. The impact practice serves national and international impact organizations, including the George W. Bush Institute and the Clinton Foundation, along with the Prudential Foundation, United Way and Mary’s Meals.

Allen shared three tips for having greater impact with me. First, he notes, “To change the world, good intentions and lots of activity are not enough.”

Allen’s insights come from 15 years of impact experience, including work with Goldman Sachs, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Nature Conservancy, among others.

Tip 1: Do your homework:

Allen explains why preparation and strategy are so important as starting points. “Before launching a new social service or program, do more homework than you think you’ll need. Do research to understand what your clients or communities really need and value. Be deliberate about specifying the change in their lives or in society that you’ll hold yourself accountable for. Identify all the things that are required for that change to occur. Then step back and ask what role you’ll play and whether it will be enough to truly make a difference.”

Many well-intentioned peopled fail to have a positive impact, and some actually do harm, simply for a lack of planning and preparation.

Jacob Allen, courtesy of Cicero Group

Jacob Allen, courtesy of Cicero Group

Tip 2: Measurement improves impact:

“When done right, measurement data not only proves impact, it improves impact. If you truly care about making a difference in society, investing at least 5 percent of your budget on monitoring and evaluation will be more valuable than spending that money on more programs and services. Despite what your amazing anecdotes say, without good data you’ll never know whether all your efforts and resources are making the difference you want, much less how you can improve to increase success and efficiency.”

This is one of the most challenging lessons for early-stage social entrepreneurs to learn. Do-gooders have traditionally not been held to standards that require much more than a few good anecdotes to support impact, but a tear-jerking story isn’t enough for strategic funders in 2016.

Most social entrepreneurs I talk to don’t have good measurement in place. Building in a budget of 5 percent of revenue for it makes great sense.

Tip 3: Excellent execution required:

“Having a great program model and rigorous measurement are necessary, but not sufficient; changing the world also requires excellent execution, ” Allen said.

He notes that it takes resources and infrastructure to carry out a program effectively. “Too many mission-driven efforts forget or ignore decades of lessons learned from high-performing organizations in other sectors about the value of high-quality leadership, intentional innovation, continuous improvement, strong systems and tools, and more. Funders, boards, and leaders need to recognize that there really is such a thing as good overhead, and then make sure there are resources invested therein.”

The nonprofit sector has been talking about overhead in a new way ever since Dan Pallota raised the issue in his TED talk that now has 3.8 million views. Fully funding nonprofits is clearly becoming a topic that is carrying weight with donors who increasingly appreciate that impact comes for excellent execution.

On Thursday, April 14 at 3:00 Eastern, Allen will join me here live to talk about these insights and how social entrepreneurs can apply them to their businesses. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Select A Cause That Fits Your Business

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Chris Grandpre, Chairman and CEO of Outdoor Living Brands, has a few words of advice for social entrepreneurs.

Grandpre earned his chops in consulting and investment banking before leading the formation of Outdoor Living Brands in 2008 with its four franchise concepts, including Mosquito Squad, an outdoor pest control business.

For years, Mosquito Squad has partnered with Malaria No More, a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit working to eradicate malaria.

Martin Edlund is co-founder and CEO of the $14.4 million 2014 revenue nonprofit, Malaria No More. With just 35 people in half a dozen offices scattered around the world, he says, ”Despite our small size, we help to mobilize billions of dollars in global financing for malaria from the US, UK, other global donors, and endemic country sources.”

Edlund says, “Malaria No More was founded by prominent business leaders and takes an innovative approach to solving one of the world’s oldest, deadliest diseases. We galvanize leaders, engage some of the world’s most innovative companies, and have helped to define a model of disease eradication for the 21st century, which we launched last year with Bill Gates.”

The partnership has proven valuable to both organizations.

Chris Grandpre, courtesy of Outdoor Living Brands

Chris Grandpre, courtesy of Outdoor Living Brands

Grandpre explains the value of the partnership to his $100 million revenue business. ”While Mosquito Squad ‘fights the bite’ principally as a matter of convenience for our clients across the United States, unfortunately, in other less developed parts of the world a mosquito bite can be a matter of life and death. Aligning Mosquito Squad with Malaria No More, an organization dedicated to eliminating the nearly 500,000 needless deaths from malaria around the world every year, and donating a portion of our revenues to support this effort elevates the purpose of our brand and organization.”

Grandpre adds that growing the business and doing good work together. “We know, based on the demographics and psychographics of our clients, that Mosquito Squad customers prefer to do business with companies that give back to their communities and the world around them.” Supporting Malaria No More also differentiates Mosquito Squad from its competitors, he says.

Grandpre offers three tips for social entrepreneurs.

Tip 1: “Select a Cause that Fits your Business”

He said, “Identifying and embracing a cause that is directly related to your business and to the buying motivations of your customers, will improve the likelihood that it will become part of the organization’s corporate culture and resonate with your customers and [become] a differentiator of your brand.”

Edlund said of the mosquito-borne disease, ”Malaria is one of the oldest, deadliest diseases in human history–yet it’s one of the few scaled diseases that we can eradicate in our lifetime. We’re already making great progress. Malaria deaths among kids in Africa have fallen more than 70 percent, and 6.2 million lives have been saved since 2000.”

Grandpre added, “at Mosquito Squad, we passionately believe that where you happen to be born should not dictate whether you live or die from a mosquito bite.”

He noted that the corporate team and franchisees share a passion for fighting Malaria, in part because it fits the business so well.

Tip 2: Select a Cause that You are Passionate About

Grandpre said, “People want to have a purpose–something more than making money. Fortunately, malaria has essentially been eradicated in the United States, demonstrating that the battle can be won. However, in other parts of the world such as Africa, malaria carries a heavy toll with nearly 500,000 people, largely young children under the age of six, dying every year.”

Edlund added, “We face several serious challenges. Drug-resistant strains of malaria have emerged in Southeast Asia. If it spreads, it could rob us of our life-saving treatments for malaria and create a humanitarian catastrophe. Mosquitoes are also growing resistant to the insecticides used in bed nets. Both challenges require a renewed focus and investment in R&D.”

The threat to young children ”is simply unacceptable when we know that malaria can be defeated in other parts of the world just like it has been here at home. If you can’t get passionate about saving the life of a child before he or she has even had a chance to make their mark on the world, what can you get passionate about?” Grandpre asked.

Tip 3: “Show Leadership from the Top:

Leaders must demonstrate genuine concern for the cause, Grandpre said. ”If social responsibility is just a marketing tactic to promote your business and your brand, it will likely be doomed to fail. However, if your senior leadership team is fully committed and active in the cause, the organization and customers will notice. In our support of Malaria No More, I try to be out front and lead by example.”

Grandpre says that he has traveled himself to rural villages in Kenya, distributing “diagnostic kits, malaria medicine, and bed nets to rural medical clinics” and even installing bed nets in dung huts. This year, he plans to visit Camaroon with Malaria No More and some of the Mosquito Squad franchisees.

“Being directly involved and passionate about our efforts helps this cause to grow deep roots in our brand’s value proposition,” he concluded.

Martin Edlund, courtesy of Malaria No More

Martin Edlund, courtesy of Malaria No More

Edlund says we really can eradicate malaria if we simply demonstrate the will to do so. “The rate limiting factor for our success is, simply put, the will to get the job done. We have a plan and a track record of progress. There are many challenges to solve, but with the right commitment and investment we can be the generation to end malaria for good.”

He added, ”Malaria eradication would be (in the words of the Economist Magazine) ‘one of humanity’s greatest achievements.’ Achieving it by 2040 would save 11 million additional lives, prevent 4 billion malaria cases, and unlock $2 trillion in economic benefits around the world. There are very few other solutions that would do as much to save lives and improve livelihoods around the world.”

On Thursday, April 14, 2016 at noon Eastern, Grandpre and Edlund will join me for a live discussion about the success of their partnership, the progress being made in the fight to eradicate malaria and the lessons that social entrepreneurs can take from their experience. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

 

Social Entrepreneur Impacting Millions With Relevant Reading



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Can you imagine how it would feel to be so far behind your grade level in reading that you don’t dare pick up a book? What if every book you did touch were about people you couldn’t relate to, people with life experiences so foreign you might as well be reading about martians?

D. Lacy Asbill, the co-founder of the B-corp Moving Forward Education, discovered that there are millions of kids like this in public schools in the United States and did something about it.

She summarizes the problem, “There is no question that the public education system is struggling to support students, and particularly low-income students of color. Schools need radically updated strategies to engage, motivate, and empower students who face the challenges of systematic poverty and racism.”

Lacy created a program to help kids learn to read and find books that are actually relevant to their lives.

“We’ve spent the last dozen years tutoring thousands of the most at-risk students in Oakland,” she says.

Our students, who are usually years behind in their academic skills and unlikely to pick up a book, suddenly find themselves motivated to read—they relate to the strong, culturally-relevant, and resilient characters featured in our reading selections, and they value the opportunity to connect what they’ve read to their own lives. We call this Reading with Relevance!

The program certainly faces challenges, Lacy admits. The scale of the problem is far beyond her ability to fix it alone.

“Our challenge,” she says, “has been accepting that, despite our successes, true education reform won’t be achieved through small, localized efforts like our tutoring programs. Ultimately, we must rebuild an education system that is better equipped to meet the challenges our young people face.”

Lacy Asbill, courtesy of Moving Education Forward

Lacy Asbill, courtesy of Moving Education Forward

By helping schools help themselves, Moving Forward Education is accelerating its impact.

“We’ve become passionate about providing schools with the tools they need to make change themselves,” Lacy says. “Reading with Relevance is now being used in schools around the country, empowering educators to improve the positive outcomes of their own work!”

She continues, “We also recognize that we can’t solve the problems of poverty and racism in schools alone. There are just so many complex institutions that need to evolve around these critical social issues in order for lasting change to occur. However, educating a new generation of citizens to be social change-makers can’t hurt!”

Lacy is not discouraged by the challenges and limitations she faces. Instead, she is inspired by her vision of a different future, one that she will help to create.

We are investing in the creation of a world in which all students—regardless of race, class, or community—are able to fully develop their intellectual, creative, and social abilities. In our world, every student has an active academic community of caring adults and peers who support their growth and the achievement of their goals. Because they are invested in their own success and know that they are believed in, students take charge of their educational experiences and thrive in school. In our vision, the achievement gap has been erased!

On Thursday, April 14, 2016 at 4:00 Eastern, Lacy will join me here for a live discussion about the progress she has already made, improving lives of countless young people who are finding that relevant reading is fun. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Lacy is participating in a video mentoring program with Entrepreneur Xchange through the Hitachi Foundation, helping other social entrepreneurs to scale their success and impact.

More about Moving Forward Education:

Moving Forward Education is an academic mentoring program that focuses on students’ emotional well being as a critical strategy for improving their academic achievement. At the heart of our work is our deep belief that how students feel about themselves and their lives directly impacts their ability to engage with school and succeed academically. We draw together the strengths of academic literacy tutoring and social/emotional learning to inspire at-risk youth to engage with reading, accelerate their academic achievement, and develop life-changing social and emotional skills.

Since MFE’s founding in 2003, the organization has served over ten thousand students, most at no cost to their families. In addition, MFE has trained hundreds of young adults to enter careers in the educational field, equipping them with real classroom experience and meaningful professional development. MFE is a certified B Corporation, confirming its identity as a company that uses the power of business to address social issues. To learn more, visit movingforwardedu.com.

Elana Metz and Lacy Asbill help kids appreciate reading with relevance, courtesy of Moving Forward Education

Elana Metz and Lacy Asbill help kids appreciate reading with relevance, courtesy of Moving Forward Education

Lacy’s bio:

D. Lacy Asbill is the co-founder of Moving Forward Education. She and her partner, Elana Metz, were inspired by a vision of an organization run by young people, for young people, and believed that they could leverage the power of a new generation to create fresh solutions to persistent social problems.

Lacy holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology & Women’s Studies from Mills College, and an Interdisciplinary Master’s Degree from San Francisco State University. She is the recipient of the Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneur Award, and her organization has won the “Best for the World” Award from B Lab three years in a row. She has been an Oakland resident for seventeen years, and is deeply committed to inspiring positive community transformation through her work. She currently serves as a Commissioner for Oakland Unified’s high school re-design commission.

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Devin D. Thorpe

My Everyday Sexism Is Getting In the Way of My Being a Feminist

I’m a sexist. I don’t want to be. I’m not proud of it.

I’m also a feminist.

Let’s get real. Fighting the programming in life that suggests that women are sex objects, designed for procreation and parenting more than for careers and leadership is pretty tough. There is a lot of programming to overcome.

It’s like overeating. I’m a pretty chronic overeater and have battled my weight since I was ten years old. I remember going on a 500 calorie per day diet in junior high school. Today, I combat my weight by running about twenty miles per week and eating a low-sugar vegan diet. You still don’t want to see me naked. Looks aside, I’m still about 20 pounds over my optimal weight.

Sexism is like overeating; it is really hard to overcome. We absorb information subconsciously that helps us to classify the world around us. I’m not an expert in such things, but from what I understand our brains use pattern recognition software to help us quickly identify things as food, threats, pleasure, or problems. That system isn’t very smart. It can’t do math past things we’ve memorized. I memorized 12 x 12 = 144 so my brain recognizes that pattern. On the other hand, my brain has no idea how many 13 x 13 is. I need to sit down and work it out (OK, what I really need is a calculator). I’d have to do that with 4 x 4 if I hadn’t memorized that as a 4th grader using my pattern recognition software.

sexism

Every meeting I’ve attended for my entire life has sent me clues about the respective roles of men and women. Although it is rare today, until about 2000, most formal meetings I attended included a woman taking notes and a man chairing the meeting. Keep in mind that I live and work in Utah, not New York or San Francisco. My experience is likely different from yours.

In my early career, I benefited tremendously from being a guy. And I recognized it then. Just home from a Mormon mission to Argentina, without so much as attending a day of college as a matriculated student, I went looking for a job. I aspired to be a secretary, largely because I had worked doing physical labor before my mission and did some office work on my mission and found that it required less sweating.

My sister, a secretary for the now defunct American Savings, called me on my first day of job searching, which I recall being my first full day home, and said she had a job for me. Picturing her in a secretarial pool, I put on a tie and ran down to her “office.” I walked out as the newly hired janitor.

Within a year, I was managing a $13 million portfolio of foreclosed real estate for the bank. Along the way, I spent a few months as a secretary. I’m sure that my being a guy made the managers, virtually all men, uncomfortable, so I was quickly promoted. It was wrong. It changed the arc of my career and did the opposite for a young, ambitious woman who worked on the same team.

Some are tempted to blame religion, especially conservative religions like mine, for sexist attitudes. That is an unfair oversimplification. Religions, including mine, often provide great opportunities for leadership for people of both genders. Men aren’t born with a leadership gene; they are taught to lead. Women need to be encouraged to lead, too. In my Church, young women are given a variety of formal leadership roles from the age of 12 up. They lead meetings, give sermons, plan activities and organize service in ways that are similar to the young men. As adults, however, there are relatively few opportunities for women to lead men in my Church, while the opposite routinely happens. That conditions members to see men and women as unequal leaders.

For my part, I don’t believe it is true that women are less qualified to lead—nor is that what my Church teaches. Its teachings and practices, however, suggest this is the case, contributing to the patterns we see in the world.

Let’s also be clear that liberal Hollywood is no better. Hollywood seems to want us to believe that women’s primary value is tied closely to their looks and sex appeal. Additionally, only 13 percent of protagonists were women in the top 100 grossing films of 2014. Shockingly, just 7 percent of directors of the top 250 grossing films of all time were women. For every Katniss Everdeen-like character demonstrating female strength, independence and leadership, there are almost ten that portray women as secondary players or worse, as objects. That programming can hardly be called progressive and is pervasive; Hollywood sends countless impressions every year that men are somehow better than women because they get more screen time and plots are more likely to revolve around them.

Throughout my life, my experiences—many that I share with you—have framed my perception of the roles of women. Despite intellectually choosing to see women as equal to men, my brain still uses cheap pattern recognition software to guide my first reactions to circumstances. A few weeks ago, I was belatedly introduced to Harvard’s Implicit Association Test for gender and careers (the test has been around for years). The test measures implicit associations we make between men and women and home life and careers.

When I took the test, I was hoping that I could overcome my foundational biases to demonstrate equal association between women and careers as I could between men and careers. The test is structured so as to time reactions to words, assigning them to one category or another. Not only could the software discern my bias, I could see it. I had a hard time instantly assigning a word like salary to the category “women” when asked to do so.

Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe that women are as capable as men for any job in the modern economy. Still, when I was challenged to make momentary assignments of these words, I was shocked at the difficulty I had. Most people do have a hard time—including most women. We’re all fighting a lot of programming. (Take the test and see how you score.)

That’s why I’ve come to believe that it is so important for us to have this conversation. Men and women need to recognize the patterns we see that conflict with what we believe and act more in accordance with the obvious truth that women are equal to men.

Nudging Our More Charitable Selves

By Mark Cotteleer, Research Director and leader of the Center for Integrated Research at Deloitte Services LP

Good intentions gone to waste

Too often, when considering options like giving blood, making a charitable donation, or becoming an organ donor, the only thing we end up giving is the passing thought, “Maybe next time.” Our good intentions get lost in the fast-paced shuffle of the day. And before we realize it, the thought has passed and we move on to the next task. Why is it that so often, we want to “do good by others” but end up failing to take the necessary action to do so?

The field of behavioral economics offers some answers. Through the combination of economics and psychology, behavioral economics explores the cognitive biases that influence how we assess and make decisions—especially when those decisions run counter to our best intentions.

For charitable giving, one behavioral bias that can often manifest itself is the planning fallacy. This happens when we make assumptions about what we can accomplish without considering the myriad complications that might inhibit or delay our efforts. If you were late for a meeting recently, chances are you fell victim to the planning fallacy.

Unlike other areas, helping people sidestep these cognitive pitfalls can be difficult. For starters, freely giving our time or money to a cause is said to be intrinsically motivated: actions that satisfy internal goals—like learning to play an instrument or volunteering at a shelter—that are not motivated by money or some other external reward. Instead, overcoming biases like the planning fallacy requires us to create an environment that speaks to intrinsic motivations.

Make it simple, make it social

Thankfully, evidence now shows that when programs are designed to take into account how people think, success often follows. Even more promising, this “design thinking” frequently does not require giant overhauls but rather small “nudges” that can result in substantively positive outcomes.

A key tenet in design thinking is to make a nudge simple. Integrating a smart default has a proven track record in nudging positive behavior. Consider the much-heralded Save More Tomorrow program for retirement savings. Here, employees enroll in a program that auto-escalates annual retirement contributions after each raise. This simple option yielded impressive results: A full 78 percent of participants joined and average savings jumped from 3.5 percent to 13.6 percent over 40 months.

Organizations such as SmartGiving are taking these findings and using them to bolster charitable causes. Through employer partnerships, SmartGiving enables employees to choose a donation amount that automatically gets deducted from their regular paychecks. Now employees can choose to donate without having to actively consider each opportunity.

If defaults help us overcome planning fallacies, social proof can speak to our intrinsic motivations. When we see others doing good, it motivates us to follow suit. Social proof has even kindled more honest behavior among government beneficiaries.

The Ice Bucket Challenge may be the most widely acclaimed example of effective deployment of social proof. Engaging others to “join in” and participate in helping to fight against ALS resulted in a worldwide phenomenon. An incremental $220 million was raised to help this cause by simply invoking social proof.

If designed correctly, these nudges provide people with a wonderful opportunity: They help our “fast-paced” selves come to decisions that our “slow-paced” selves would prefer—no matter how quickly life moves.

About Mark Cotteleer:

Mark Cotteleer is a Research Director and leader of the Center for Integrated Research at Deloitte Services LP

New Cookstove Yields New Model For Social Entrepreneurs

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

In the past, I’ve covered cookstoves five times, excluding the time I went to Nepal to help locals install cleaner cookstoves in village homes up in the Himalaya. We’re here again, but we’re turning our focus on the business model rather than the cookstove.

For social entrepreneurs who really want to make a difference for people in the developing world, helping locals to import technology from elsewhere can be counterproductive because cash leaves the local economy and opportunities for entrepreneurs may be limited.

Anthony “Tony” Robinson, not to be confused with Tony Robbins, is a professor at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland; his research into energy and thermal conduction has helped him design a simple stove that generates electricity while a family cooks on the stove. More importantly, he’s developing a new way to get the stoves into local consumers hands in Malawi.

Anthony Robinson, courtesy of Trinity College Dublin

Anthony Robinson, courtesy of Trinity College Dublin

“We are attempting to develop a business model for developing world technologies, in this case clean energy technology. We believe that if a technology is to be sustainable, from an economic standpoint, then it must be engineered in such a way that it is at an appropriate technical level for local manufacture (close to consumer manufacturing),” he says.

By manufacturing the stoves in country, the skills necessary to service and repair the stoves will also reside in country. This will also serve to keep costs low and the profits circulating in the local economy.

“Our model would start with an appropriate technology with few imported components. The system would be manufactured and assembled by local co-ops and than sold by micro-financed small entrepreneurial enterprises,” Robinson says.

Still in a pilot phase, the team has just five full-time people and a few dozen others working at the periphery of the project. The business is set up as a nonprofit.

The goal, Robinson says, is not to create a large organization, but instead to empower local entrepreneurs. ”We want to start businesses, but do not have a desire to be part of them. We would measure success by when the technology and associated businesses are independent and we can step away from them.”

To understand how the business will work in country, it will be helpful to learn more about the simple stoves, the conditions in which local people are living, and the years of laboratory and field research that has gone into the design.

Robinson has identified five problems associated with cooking and lighting homes in the developing world:

  1. Smoke and toxic fumes from open-fire cooking pose one of the most severe health risks in the developing world; it is the #1 killer of children under five for example
  2. Collection of fuel for cooking can take tens of hours per week, primarily undertaken by women and children, burning precious calories and time and often taking them from the safety of their community
  3. Overuse of wood fuel is causing extreme deforestation, soil erosion and contributing to global warming
  4. Lighting requires “further exposure to smoke and toxic fumes and risks of house fires
  5. An exorbitant proportion of income, if it can be afforded, spent on candles or paraffin for the worst quality of light
  6. Limited ability for after dark income generating activities, socializing or studying

He adds, “Everybody suffers, but women and children are particularly vulnerable.”

Mobile phones, he says, represent a lifeline for local people, but they often lack an affordable way to keep them charged. He says, “They are used for ordering seeds and fertilizer, selling produce and products, doing banking transactions, keeping in touch with friends and family and so much more.”

Anthony Robinson in Malawi, courtesy of Trinity College Dublin

Anthony Robinson in Malawi, courtesy of Trinity College Dublin

The hybrid stove-electric generator Robinson is developing “consists of a locally made efficient clay cookstove and a thermoelectric generator (TEG) system.”

The unit is simple, by design. “The stove is significantly more efficient that the traditional open-fire, meaning less fuel and less smoke and toxic fumes. The TEG extracts a very small portion of the heat from the fire and converts some of this heat into electricity. With some innovative circuitry, the system allows for charging of phones, low powered radios and other rechargeable batteries such as those in LED lanterns and flash-lights.”

A critical lesson from the design stage of the stove was working with local people. Robinson has used a scientific approach, incorporating data logging devices attached to the prototypes deployed in the homes of families in Malawi in three successive trials. They also followed up with surveys. “Together with survey data, the information was used to re-engineer the TEG-Stoves in such a way that the technology evolved iteratively to something that worked and was valued. In essence, the technology has been designed by the end user,” Robinson says.

Robinson and his team have faced two big challenges, he says. The first challenge has been building something from scratch in Ireland that will not only function, but that can also be manufactured in Malawi. The second, has been to reach the lowest possible price point. These are near universal considerations for social entrepreneurs in the developed world hoping to support communities in developing countries.

The stoves as presently designed have their limitations, Robinson acknowledges. The electricity generated is modest and will only power low-power devices like cell phones, radios and LED lights. At low volumes, the cost is prohibitive and getting to scale is a challenge. The key, he believes, may be micro-loans for the purchases.

“Whether it is this TEG-Stove technology or the next technology, what we are trying to do is a notably different approach to what has been attempted in the past,” Robinson says, referring to a business model focused on the process more than the product.

He contrasts the approach he’s using with infrastructure projects that sometimes go awry. “The conventional model for energy technology deployment, such as that of solar PV, has typically been to show up, install and commission the system and leave. This same technology deployment model is not isolated to the energy sector, but also for water and sanitation, health etc. But technologies need to be maintained and repaired which requires infrastructure to support and sustain the technology. Simple things like the lack of spare parts have brought down the best solar installations,” he says.

“Our hypothesis is that if the technology is designed for the people and by the people and it can be manufactured in-country, then the people will have intellectual ownership of it. We believe (hope) that this strategy may make the difference and pave the way for appropriate and sustainable technology development across all sectors,” he concludes.

On Thursday, April 7, 2016 at 3:00 Eastern, Robinson will join me here, live from Ireland, to discuss the stove and the business model associated with bringing it to market. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

A Social Entrepreneur’s Tips For Taking On The Impossible

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Lisa Curtis is a serious social entrepreneur. Since she started her career as a Peace Corps volunteer, she has been all about doing good. Her company, Kuli Kuli, which sells products with miringa (don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of it; most people haven’t) sourced in West Africa. It takes optimism to face all of the challenges associated with selling a new food; she shares three secrets to her success.

Curtis tells the story of how she started eating moringa as a way to supplement her diet after her Peace Corp stint left her malnourished. Later, she would launch Kuli Kuli to provide others with the health benefits and to support and grow the economy of West Africa where she sources the moringa.

Kuli Kuli’s products are carried in more than 800 retail outlets, including Whole Foods Markets, Sprouts and Kroger, according to Curtis. Owler estimates Kuli Kuli 2015 revenues at approximately $1 million.

Curtis says, the company’s moringa is sourced from women-owned cooperatives in Ghana, where they have already planted over 100,000 moringa trees. In Haiti, working with Whole Foods and the Clinton Foundation, Kuli Kuli is working to create a Moringa enterprise that will help to reforest the nearly completely deforested country. The Haitian moringa is used in the newly launched energy shots marketed by the company.

The partnerships with Whole Foods and the Clinton Foundation are helping to create a business model that socially and environmentally sustainable, Curtis says.

She has been recognized as a StargingBloc Fellow, a Wild Gift Better World Entrepreneur, an Ashoka Emerging Innovator and a Udall Scholar.

Lisa Curtis, courtesy of Kuli Kuli

Lisa Curtis, courtesy of Kuli Kuli

Curtis says that her optimism and “mild delusion” provide a “recipe for taking on the impossible.” She offers three specific points for doing what others say you can’t:

First, she says, “Write down something that you’re grateful for everyday.” This habit can help social entrepreneurs who face seemingly insurmountable struggles to balance their perceptions of challenges against what has already been accomplished.

Second, Curtis says, “Imagine what it would feel like to have your goal accomplished.” Visualization is considered a key to success in areas from golf to marketing. Seeing is believing, many say. A quick internet search for “vision board” will give a sense of how the industry of people helping you to visualize your achievements has grown.

Third, “Take one small step towards your impossible goal everyday, even if it’s just sending an email,” she says. Actions have consequences and these consequences can build momentum that ultimately change your goal from impossible to inevitable.

On Thursday, April 7, 2016 at 2:00 Eastern, Curtis will join me for a live discussion about her three point plan for taking on the impossible and about her latest progress with Kuli Kuli. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Autism Nonprofit Generates Revenue 7 Ways

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Dr. Julian Maha founded KultureCity about three years ago, shortly after his son was diagnosed with autism. The diagnosing physician, Maha says, told him his son would likely have to be institutionalized. Motivated by that challenge, Maha set out to create a nonprofit that would actually drive greater impact in the lives of those affected by autism.

Maha really believes he is completely reinventing the model for nonprofits. Last year, Microsoft MSFT +1.03% launched Windows 10 with the #UpgradeYourWorld campaign I covered here. KultureCity was one of ten nonprofits recognized by Microsoft as part of that campaign, suggesting that Maha has created something different from typical nonprofits.

Maha asserts that the innovations he’s implementing at KultureCity make him “a true social entrepreneur.” He says, “ We are on a mission to fundamentally change the culture of how autism is viewed by society and to show the world that these individuals not only have potential but the means to achieve that potential.”

One of the key innovations that Maha has created is a diversity of revenue sources. He identifies seven different revenue sources:

  1. Angel Donations: large donors who fund overhead and provide an operating budget.
  2. Public Donations: funds raised from ordinary individual donors.
  3. Cause Marketing Products: KultureCity works with companies that create specific products that give back to the organization.
  4. Corporate Partnerships:  Maha explains, “We collaborate with companies that have products used by the special needs community. These partnerships then make us the de facto nonprofit partner of the companies.”
  5. Marketing Placement: KultureCity provides children with autism with “lifeBOKS,” a kit to help prevent wandering and related tragedies, like drowning. Marketing offers are packaged with the kit, providing the sponsoring companies with targeted branding opportunities that tend to garner good social media results, according to Maha.
  6. Business Incubator: The organization is now incubating businesses that help create jobs for people with autism and other special needs individuals. “Donations are used towards taking an idea from concept to market,” Maha says.
  7. Sensory Friendly Initiative: KultureCity helps make tourist attractions, businesses and community organizations sensory friendly. In return, these places hold fundraising events.

While it is clear that you could describe each of these as being a form of donation, there are seven distinct strategies for these donations.

Dr. Julian Maha with his wife Dr. Michele Kong, courtesy of KultureCity

Dr. Julian Maha with his wife Dr. Michele Kong, courtesy of KultureCity

KultureCity generated almost $500,000 of revenue last year, more than double the $183,000 it reported in 2014. The organization raised only $20,000 in 2013, its first year of operations.

There is a lot of work to do, Maha acknowledges. “For instance, work environments are not optimized for their success, and the culture is one that limits them because of their diagnosis. We are trying to change that by inspiring the community to see their potential and also to give the right tools to autistic individuals to help them not only succeed but be accepted fully by society.”

Maha sees the reinvention of the nonprofit model as being key. “The biggest challenge is to help society understand that the traditional nonprofit model is broken and in dire need of revitalization. Nonprofits need to be judged on their impact and also their ability to empower the populations that they serve. In addition, nonprofits also need to utilize their resources in a way that maximize impact and decreases organizational overhead.”

KultureCity’s social media presence suggest the company is playing above its weight, that is it may be having more impact than its revenues suggest it would. As of this writing it has almost 33,000 Twitter followers and 41,000 likes on Facebook, significantly larger numbers than most nonprofits of their scale in my experience covering the space.

Maha never loses sight of the fact that his purpose isn’t to remake nonprofits for its own sake, but rather to change the world for people with autism, giving them a “chance at a brighter future.”

On Thursday, April 7, 2016 at noon Eastern, Maha will join me for a live discussion about his innovations in nonprofit management and the impact that is having on his constituency of people affected by autism. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

 

Your Three-Step Guide to Changing the World

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Janice Schacter Lintz is the woman behind the successful effort to get effective accommodation for deaf and hard-of-hearing people in all of New York City’s new Taxi’s of Tomorrow, a feature that had been in London cabs since 1988.

Janice, founder of Hearing Access & Innovations, is a “won’t take no for an answer” kind of activist who offers up her three point plan for changing the world here:

First, Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For What You Need

Many places will tell you that you are the first dissatisfied person in order to discourage you. They are just trying to get you to go away, so don’t let them deter you. Be persistent.

Be fearless. No one can fire you as an advocate so you have nothing to lose as long as you are accurate and do not lie or distort the truth. Getting over your embarrassment is critical. Many people know what they need but won’t ask for it because it makes them uncomfortable to assert themselves. What is the worst thing that can happen? All they can say is say, “No.” You already start with a no so it can only turn into a yes.

Second, Develop an Elevator Speech

It is crucial to be able to communicate your critical points in one or two sentences. This is your “hook” to engage the listener. Once they are interested then you can expand your message.

Political campaigns teach this skill really well so visit a campaign office to learn this technique. They routinely send people into neighborhoods to get people to vote for their candidate. They only have a few minutes for people to listen before a door is slammed in their face.

Third, Leverage Your Success

See how a success can be used to gain another success somewhere else. Look within the field, across different industries that operate similarly or even globally.

As an example, London Taxis have induction loops for people with hearing loss in their taxis since 1998. The system was unavailable in the United States. This made no sense so I contacted the then Royal National Institute for Deaf People. They put me in touch with London Transport who sent me the installation drawings. The drawings were brought to the NYC TLC who had a difficult time arguing that the project was not feasible. The loops are now installed in all of NYC’s Taxis of Tomorrow.

New York City’s subway information booths and call boxes now also have induction loops because of photo documentation from London as part of President Obama’s Stimulus Package.

On Thursday, April 7, 2016 at 1:00 Eastern, Janice will join me for a live discussion about her successes in advocating for the hearing impaired and the implications for you in your efforts to change the world. 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 Hearing Access:

Hearing Access & Innovations is the only consulting agency dedicated to showing businesses, cultural institutions, entertainment venues, and government agencies around the world how to grow profits by improving hearing access for an increasing population of customers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

We help clients better serve the full spectrum of people with hearing loss by connecting all the pieces. We assess their environment, evaluate needs, and implement existing tools and best practices to provide excellent customer service for an often forgotten, yet growing market.

We act with integrity to resolve issues, set new standards, change global practices, and achieve results.

We seek to make our three-pronged approach to improving hearing access—with audio, visual and qualified interpretation—universally recognized, accepted and implemented wherever there is sound.

Janice Schacter Lintz, courtesy of Hearing Access & Innovations

Janice Schacter Lintz, courtesy of Hearing Access & Innovations

Janice’s bio:

Twitter: @janiceSLintz

Janice Schacter Lintz is a passionate, accomplished hearing loss consultant and advocate. She is well known and respected for her ability to assess situations, identify areas for improvement, recommend solutions and implement programs that help organizations improve customer service and grow profits. Her ability to break down issues and do what is needed to affect change has earned her unprecedented access to business leaders, government officials, political leaders and respected academians around the world.

Since 2002, Janice has become the global “go-to” person on all matters related to access for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Equipped with an undergraduate degree in business, a law degree, and experience as a successful litigator, Janice leverages her broad background to articulate compelling business cases for organizations in both the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds to improve hearing access for customers with hearing loss.

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Devin D. Thorpe

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