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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.

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Devin D. Thorpe
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Monthly Archives: June 2016

Kids, Welcome to the Future! Are You Ready for It?


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

When Whitney Houston first sang “I believe the children are our future…” in 1986 it was certainly considered an inspiring ballad. Flash forward 30 years and there are plenty of reasons to worry that children aren’t prepared for the fast-moving, technologically intense future we’ve created for them.

Lindsey Mangone is the founder and Executive Director of the Audacious Institute, a for-profit social enterprise that empowers and inspires high school students to meet the social and technological challenges of our day.

Lindsey explains the problem as she sees it. “Today’s youth are struggling in a changing economy in part because they’re vastly unprepared for 21st century jobs. Traditional K-12 schools are failing to teach the skills youth need to succeed in the marketplace, such as problem solving, creativity, and critical thinking.”

“Before they set foot on a college campus,” she adds, “teens need ample opportunities to build the mindset, 21st century skills, and networks that will prepare them for jobs of the future. Teens also need exposure to authentic, real-world experiences pre-college to help inform fundamental college and career decisions.”

Lindsey created the Audacious Institute to give teens the opportunity, inspiration and confidence to tackle modern, real-world problems right in their own communities. The organization gives students the opportunity to launch startups and in the process build skills that prepare them for college and careers, she says.

Creating and scaling such an innovative program is challenging, Lindsey admits. “The biggest hurdles we face are marketing and funding. We have run over 25 programs to-date, in Atlanta, Boston, Durham, Park City, Salt Lake City, and even Havana, Cuba. In each new city, it’s a challenge to build awareness around our programs, while remaining a lean team. We strive to make our programs accessible to students of all backgrounds, which means we offer scholarships and struggle to cover our costs.”

Lindsey Mangone, courtesy of Audacious Institute

Lindsey Mangone, courtesy of Audacious Institute

The program won’t help every child. Given the small group size and personal attention paid to the students, reaching every child in the world will be impossible, she acknowledges. “We really focus on impact and a personal touch. This creates limitations from a scale perspective, not that we can’t scale but that we have to be very deliberate with how we scale in order to maintain the quality of the program.”

Lindsey isn’t discouraged by challenges and limitations. “Our big, audacious goal is to double the number of entrepreneurs and change makers in the word. We believe if we can do this, we can create an economy and world that gives everyone an equal chance to succeed,” she concludes.

The Audacious Institute will be hosting a one-week program for high school students at the University of Utah July 11 – 15. Learn more here.

On Thursday, June 23, 2016 at noon Eastern, Lindsey will join me for a live discussion about the program, it’s challenges and its potential to shape 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 the Audacious Institute:

Twitter: @audaciousinst

The Audacious Institute (AI) is a bold opportunity for high school and middle school students to explore innovation and entrepreneurship and learn what it takes to launch a startup. Over the course of a week, students become expert problem-solvers and apply design thinking and the lean startup method to tackle problems they’ve experienced in their everyday lives. Students build an entrepreneurial mindset that embraces feedback, sees problems as opportunities, and thrives amidst failure. Each program culminates in a pitch competition in front of an expert panel of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. AI students leave more inspired, more confident, and more experienced in the 21st century skills, tools, and networks that will better prepare them for college and careers.

Lindsey Mangone, courtesy of Audacious Institute

Lindsey Mangone, courtesy of Audacious Institute

Lindsey’s bio:

Twitter: @lindseymangone

Lindsey is the Founder and Executive Director of the Audacious Institute. Lindsey started her career at Deloitte where she developed innovative products and services for Deloitte’s Strategy & Operations Innovation Center and led Deloitte’s Southeast Women’s Initiative (WIN). She holds an MBA from Duke University, with a concentration in social entrepreneurship. While at Duke, Lindsey coached the winning team in a high school entrepreneurship competition and collaborated on a social impact case study with Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great. Lindsey lives in Atlanta with her husband, Adam, and daughter, Rose. She is active in LEAD Atlanta and serves on the Duke Atlanta Alumni Board.

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Devin is a journalist, author and speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

From The Edge Of Space, 5 Tips For Social Entrepreneurs

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Perspective comes from experience. Dan Clark, Hall of Fame Speaker and social entrepreneur, gained extraordinary perspective flying in an Air Force jet into space. (Disclosure: Clark and I collaborated on a book with 15 other authors but have no revenue or profit sharing arrangement.)

Retired Air Force four-star General Hal Hornberg met Clark when the General attended a Senior Leaders Conference at Langley Air Force Base thirteen years ago. “It was probably the greatest public presentation that I had seen,” he told me. Thereafter, he went on to hire Clark to speak to leadership teams on multiple occasions.

Social entrepreneur Rick Larsen, who now serves as the Marketing and Development Director at GIVE Salt Lake, said, “There are groups, from Credit Unions to Harley Dealers to the United States Air Force, who call on Dan again and again. This speaks volumes when you consider the variety of speakers and entertainers available to large organizations. Dan forms a connection when he speaks because, in my opinion, he cares. Just a couple of weeks ago Dan donated his time at my request, to fit in a speech to a group of troubled teens.”

Clark’s business, built around his speaking, isn’t limited to that. “We generate revenue through motivational keynote speeches, books, recorded programs, enrollment webinars, half day and full day seminar workshops, one- to three-day personal development courses, executive retreats, and a subscription based membership site,” he says.

He describes his process:

I continuously prepare myself to speak. The deeper my message, the higher the value and proportionate remuneration for services. I constantly research cutting edge results, interview revolutionary leaders whose thinking is disruptive and provocative, hang out with superstars who have “done it,” and then prove my research true through personal experiences. Amazing how easy and rewarding it is to monetize my findings through speaking engagements, selling my books and recorded programs, and enrolling organizational leaders, employees, and participant students who are also compelled to live a significant life into various experiential course curricula.

Dan Clark, Hall of Fame Speaker, courtesy of the Art of Significance Development Company

Dan Clark, Hall of Fame Speaker, courtesy of the Art of Significance Development Company

Clark’s fundamental message is to encourage his audiences to find purpose and meaning in their lives. He says he seeks “to educate and inspire the general populous on the difference between successfully getting what you want, and significantly wanting what you get, so you leave a legacy and don’t die with your music still in you!”

With that as an introduction, I’ll share Clark’s five lessons from his trip into space.

  1. Moving from success to significance: There is a dimension beyond achieving success. Successful people get what they want. Significant individuals want what they get. Pursuing success, which only creates popularity for the moment, is the cause of most of our ‘limiting beliefs’ and the dysfunction found and perpetuated in our families and organizations. The successful begin with the “end in mind,” focus on a destination that’s impressive, attempt to manage people and reward results. The significant, who are respected and admired for a lifetime, begin with the “why in mind,” focus on the journey that’s important, manage expectations and reward effort.
  2. Defining purpose: In Good To Great, Collins’s team looked at the companies that went from good to great and asked, “What do all these have in common?” But they never went back and asked, “Are there any companies that have these traits that did not make the leap from good to great?” Successful organizations share certain positive attributes, but when they also share the cancerous qualities and convoluted mindsets of unsuccessful organizations, they too, will eventually fall by the wayside. Bottom line? Great is not always good enough, and best is only relevant depending on what we compare it against.  As social entrepreneurs we must expose the flaws in current organizational purpose and motivation of employees and replace the old school mindset of giving bonuses to demand performance improvement, with new school “cause marketing,” which defines why the organization exists in the first place, and inspires employees to increase performance because of the reward they feel by being part of something larger than themselves.
  3. Knowing the laws of leadership: In my best selling book, The Art of Significance, I have replaced the twelve most common yet debatable principles of success, with the Twelve Highest Universal Laws of Life Changing Leadership, that are irrefutable and non-debatable. Only when we know the laws can we use them to help us achieve our goals and accomplish our life’s work of changing our communities and our world.
  4. Attracting the right people. This tip is based on the “Law of Attraction,” which means: we attract what we believe we deserve, wherein we will discuss “Law number 5: Know the Whole Truth Beyond Believing What You Think”; and “Law number 7: Do Right Beyond Being Best.” We will discuss the “Expectation Thermostat,” which is requisite to becoming a social entrepreneur and attracting the right people to our cause.
  5. Playing your role on the team: It’s difficult to be a social entrepreneur alone. However, it’s not all about team–teams lose. It’s about winning. There is no “I” in team, but there are two “Is” in winning. The first “I” represents Independent individual preparation, “Don’t let me be the weak link!” The second “I” represents Interdependent collective collaboration – “we win together and lose together.” So yes, it’s about team. But the team that wins has the greatest number of “I” players. There are Ten Commitments to becoming an “I” player. We become the first “I” player on a winning team by subscribing to the first six: Clarity, Character, Competence, Consistency, Competitiveness, and Cause. We become the second “I” player by subscribing to the final four commitments: Chemistry, Contribution, Cooperation, and Conclusion. This is the formula for transforming your idea and passion into action with a team of significant human beings who share your conviction to leave a legacy of love, service and leadership behind!

On Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 4:00 Eastern, Clark will join me for a live discussion about his experience in space and his five tips for social entrepreneurs. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Clark is an award-winning athlete who fought back from a broken back that ended his football career, to become one of the most highly sought speakers in the world. He reports speaking to audiences in all 50 states and in 59 countries. He received the United States Distinguished Service Medal, the highest civilian award given by the Department of the Air Force.

Larsen said of Clark, “Dan owns a unique space in social impact because what he does through speaking, is show people how to believe: whether in themselves and their own potential, or the value of others in their lives–he taps into the best in each person in the room, and, with laughter, tears and insight, teaches them how to matter—how to be a significant person. When a group thus impacted walks out of the room, you can rest assured they treat others differently. It would be an amazing thing to quantify the number of people Dan has touched and inspired, and the multiplier effect of their improved kindness and humanity toward others. It is that “ripple effect” that we often hear about in allegory, that Dan so effectively practices.”

General Hornberg said, “Dan’s impact on individuals make the organization better, but in ways that are difficult to measure. He inspires people to put people first, to be more compassionate. This causes the organization to shift.”

“He’s got the whole package and a desire to give back,” Hornberg concludes.

3 Things Every Founder Should Know About Social Entrepreneurship


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

Author, attorney, podcast host and startup guru Neetal Parekh recently published her book 51 Questions on Social EntrepreneurshipShe’s shared three of the best insights with me for this article.

Neetal, founder of Innov8social, offered up these three keys:

  1. Legal Structures: There are legal structures and business models and fundraising options specifically designed for companies pursuing profit and social impact. For example, legal formation options such as benefit corporation and social purpose corporation and successful business models such as “1 for 1” and “sliding scale.”
  2. Timing: We are in a unique moment of timing where there is a shift in consciousness happening both in the new millennial workforce as well as in the desire of serial entrepreneurs to engage in businesses that create social impact. Additionally, new funding opportunities (such as those provided under the JOBS Act) though not specifically designed for empowering social impact, do lend themselves as tools to the space.
  3. Impact Measurement: “Social entrepreneurship” may be a temporary term. As we are able to see the next innovations that will redefine not only the social impact space but also business as we know it. Among them is impact measurement, the ability to measure, report, and share the social impact we create. As the industry finds new ways to engage in this task, it can be applied broadly across the entire spectrum of business and can change the way business is done and the metrics we use to define its success.

On Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 3:00 Eastern, Neetal will join me for a live discussion about her three insights. 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 Innov8social:

Twitter: @innov8social

Innov8social creates content, programming, and tools to empower social entrepreneurs, social intrapreneurs, and consumers reach their impact potential.

Neetal Parekh, courtesy of Innov8social

Neetal Parekh, courtesy of Innov8social

Neetal’s bio:

Twitter: @neetal_parekh

Neetal Parekh is the Founder and CEO of Innov8social. She is a licensed attorney, with expertise in digital strategy and communications. She is the author of book 51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship, host of The Impact Podcast by Innov8social, and a frequent speaker, facilitator, and moderator on topics including social enterprise, social entrepreneurship, and ways entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and consumers can engage in social impact. Neetal has been a speaker at Stanford Law School, Santa Clara University Law School, General Assembly, WeWork, Sustainatopia, and has been featured in GOOD, Women 3.0, Social Entrepreneur Podcast, HeartBeings, The Good Radio Network, among other media.

Neetal holds a B.A. in International Political Science from UCLA, where she interned at the U.S. Consulate in Mumbai, India. She pursued her interest in international work through volunteering in rural India and studying public human rights law in Geneva and Strasbourg. Her past experience includes strategy roles at FindLaw, Calvert Foundation, Net Impact, and a handful of early-stage startups. She also served as Chief of Product and Impact at an education company (and public benefit corporation) where she designed and delivered entrepreneurship and business education.

Neetal has participated as a fellow in StartingBloc, Hive, and New Leaders Council, where she also served on the Advisory Board. She also engaged with the Executive team of VLAB, the MIT Enterprise Forum Bay Area Chapter at Stanford University, as Outreach Chair. Innov8social hosted its first live event, Impactathon, in 2016 bringing together social entrepreneurs for an interactive, day-long workshop featuring social impact talks and hackathon-style workshop.

A passionate advocate for social entrepreneurship and impact innovation, Neetal believes that this field empowers us to creatively re-imagine how businesses and individuals can create meaningful impact and lasting value.

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Devin D. Thorpe

BanQu Invites Billions to Join 21st Century


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

Imagine life for a moment without an economic identity, without credit, without a bank account, without access to the financial system. What would life be like if you were limited to cash or barter transactions?

It might be a bit like living in the dark ages with a window to the 21st century. You could see a life that others were living that is nothing like your own, like seeing a Toyota truck go by without ever conceiving of owning one.

Providing people with an economic identity sufficiently strong for storing money efficiently and conducting trade isn’t the solution to all the problems the world’s poorest people face, but it is a piece of the puzzle that could allow them to join us in the 21st century.

BanQu is a startup that is working on just this problem.

Founder Ashish Gadnis says, “There are 60 million refugees and over 2 billion people in extreme poverty. Most of them are without an economic identity. This holds them back and keeps them in camps and suffering.”

BanQu has harnessed the technology underlying Bitcoin to provide digital economic identities to people who don’t have them. “We have created the first ever economic identity on the blockchain for these people in way that allows them to rebuild their lives using key life transactions such as land, education, micro-loans etc,” Ashish says.

Entrepreneurs face real challenges in scaling a new venture. These can be increased in the developing world. Ashish notes that perceptions are one of the problems he has to deal with. “Key challenges are changing the perception that refugees and extremely poor people are ‘beneficiaries’ to ‘customers that deserve equal dignity and opportunities.'”

Ashish Gadnis with some "customers that deserve equal dignity and opportunities," courtesy of BanQu.

Ashish Gadnis with some “customers that deserve equal dignity and opportunities,” courtesy of BanQu.

BanQu faces a big challenge. Ashish estimates that there are at least 2 billion people who need an economic identity. That just makes the potential victory sweeter for him.

“Our success will enable refugees to break the stigma of being a refugees. Our success will empower people in extreme poverty to become economically resilient because they own their identity,” he concludes.

On Thursday, June 16, 2016 at noon Eastern, Ashish will join me here for a live discussion about the new technology that he hopes will open the door to opportunity for billions of people. 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 BanQu:

Twitter: @banquapp

BanQu is the first ever blockchain Economic Identity technology (patent pending) platform and network that enables a secure and immutable platform for creating economic opportunities for people around the world who are refugees and living in extreme poverty. This Economic Identity then can be augmented by critical pieces of information such as land rights, voter registration, relationship based credit profiles and health records etc. While the uses cases are infinite, BanQu is focused on solutions in the three areas of :

  1. Refugee crisis
  2. Food / medical / payroll distribution in conflict zones
  3. Increasing revenue streams for social enterprises via diaspora capital participation and compliance based remittance
Ashish Gadnish, courtesy of BanQu

Ashish Gadnish, courtesy of BanQu

Ashish’s bio:

Founding member of Asili (a for-profit business in Eastern Congo), serial entrepreneur and applications developer. Ashish has developed and deployed mobile systems across the globe. His last startup was acquired by multi-billion dollar global firm. MBA from Carlson School, Exec. Educ. from Harvard Kennedy School & WEF – Young Global Leader.

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

Devin D. Thorpe

Artist, Entrepreneur Creates Change with Tea

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.
Martin Shulze is artist and social entrepreneur who is working to make the world a better place with tea. The pu’er tea comes from the Yunnan Province in China and is sold by Misty Peak Teas.

But, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.

Martin explains his early career in the art world. “I started in 2004 by working at Sprueth Magers, one of the world’s leading contemporary art galleries. After running a commercial gallery, a non-profit art space and working at Germany’s most visited museums, I founded the art non-profit Public Delivery, in hopes of finding a new model on how art can be produced and shared.”

He’s working to connect more people to the art world, giving people direct access to art in their lives. “I’m trying to bridge the gap between everyday people and institutions by empowering individuals, groups and communities to take part in art projects and become artists themselves, as well as then showing these results in established institutions.”

The transition from commercial art to nonprofit was difficult, he says. “The biggest challenge to overcome was leaving the commercial (art) world and its stability and believing in my own vision.”

Another transition was in the offing, however.

“In 2013, I started supporting Dear Burma, a free school for Burmese migrants in Bangkok, Thailand. More than 30 volunteer teachers give free classes. I was very inspired to see that education is the only hope for the students for breaking a generational cycle of extreme poverty and their hunger to study and succeed. Often the students would work 16 hours a day, six days a week, and on their only free day come to attend the school,” he says.

It is clear that Martin loves his work there. “I’ve helped the school not only with finding all kinds of support but also by setting up classes such as a photography class (now taught by a well-known Burmese photographer). For an art project with the United Nations, World Vision, International Labor Organization and other NGOs I’ve interviewed about 50 students and every single one of them expressed the desire to go back to their home country and teach others, for free.”

He adds, “This work feels very valuable and often much more important than producing yet another exhibition.”

Now, we can talk about tea.

Martin explains the mission of Misty Peak tea, which he joined as co-owner in 2014. “It’s one of the very few tea companies that direct source from the farmer, paying them much more than any other tea company. I don’t like to communicate this publicly, but we pay about 35x more than Starbucks for example.”

Martin sees the business as fulfilling part of his personal mission to do good. “The tea business is really an extension of the urge to help people, both by helping the farmers as well as providing a very high quality product.”

“The tea farmers of the region that I work with (Yunnan, China), unlike winegrowers in France, don’t live in chateaus, but are often the first generation of becoming wealthy, building themselves and their community better houses, roads, schools, hospitals etc.,” he explains.

Martin says he’s not done innovating. “In the next months I’m opening two more companies: One will be selling Burmese tea and coffee, the other will offer eco tourism in Burma. I’m trying to connect the dots and build something that’s positive and has the potential to change the lives of people.”

On Thursday, July 7, 2016 at 4:00 Eastern, Martin will join me here for a live interview to talk about his remarkable career and his efforts to help people around 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 Public Delivery:

Founded in Seoul in 2011, Public Delivery is an art non-profit that organizes both exhibition as well as public art projects. It seeks to reach individuals that generally do not visit museums or galleries, using art as a language that everybody should be able to use. While focusing on creating an alternative model to established organizations, institutions and companies operating in the same field, Public Delivery is completely self-funded and independent.

More about Misty Peak Teas:

Misty Peak Teas is a tea company that is dedicated to providing highest quality tea to the world. The tea is grown and processed by one family from trees planted in Yunnan Province, China before the advent of electricity, 200-500 years ago. Other companies may carry hundreds, or thousands of teas, while Misty Peak only direct sources a few selected teas.

Misty Peak Teas was founded in 2011 and quickly made waves throughout the tea world, rising to recognition when rated #1 Pu’er tea online out of over 5,000 Pu’er teas in 2014. Now the tea is available in hundreds of shops in the North America, Europe, Asia, and South America.

More about Dear Burma:

DEAR Burma is a non-profit and non-denominational school for migrant workers living and working in and around Bangkok, Thailand. It’s located in downtown Bangkok. It was established in 2002 and currently about 2,600 students attend the school each year.

Martin Shulze, courtesy of Public Delivery

Martin Shulze, courtesy of Public Delivery

Martin’s bio:

Martin Schulze is a director of an art non-profit and social entrepreneur. He tries to bridge the gap between art institutions and communities, engage with responsible entrepreneurship and provide free education to the ultra-poor.

He started out in the contemporary art world by working at Sprüth Magers, Cologne, Germany where he facilitated projects for artists such as Andreas Gursky, Barbara Kruger, Rosemarie Trockel, Donald Judd, Cindy Sherman and others. After co-running both a commercial gallery and a non-profit art space in Germany for several years, he founded the art non-profit Public Delivery in 2011, focusing on art projects in public space, especially to interact with people who generally don’t encounter contemporary art. Up until now, Public Delivery has worked in 37 countries internationally. In 2013 he started helping out in the development of DEAR Burma, a free school for migrant workers in Bangkok, Thailand and in 2014 joined Misty Peak Teas, a tea company based in California that’s one of the few tea companies who direct-source their tea directly from the farmer.

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

Devin D. Thorpe

Guide to Place-Based Impact Investing


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

Impact investing is a rapidly growing field. Lauryn Agnew, President of Seal Cove Financial and the Bay Area Impact Investing Initiative, points out that focusing on a place provides opportunities for collaboration, increased impact and market returns.

Lauryn and I met will participating in a panel discussion at Sustainatopia in San Francisco last month. She is a recognized thought leader in impact investing, focusing on helping institutional investors make place-based investments with an outcomes focus.

She has provided me with three insights to serve as a primer on place-based impact investing. I’ll share them here:

  1. Creating a financial intermediary that can channel a small portion of the institutional assets in any region to local investments can provide capital to local needs and challenges, promoting a long term sustainable and a more prosperous future for the region. Collaboration, professional due diligence, high fiduciary standards and mission alignment would be the benefits we share in our co-investing efforts.
  2. Impact investing with a place-based focus, using a small portion of the portfolio, can provide market rates of return and local impact, if designed properly, without increasing risk or sacrificing returns.
  3. Each asset class has a unique risk and return profile, as well as a unique impact, and building impactful portfolios around asset classes will demonstrate how each part of a portfolio can contribute to long term sustainability and prosperity in the region.

On Thursday, June 9, 2016 at 2:00 Eastern, Lauryn will join me here for a live discussion about these insights, allowing to go deeper and gain a better understanding about how investors can deploy capital for impact and market returns with a place-based focus. 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 Seal Cove Financial:

Twitter: @bayareaiii

Seal Cove Financial is a specialty firm helping investment firms develop marketing strategies and providing research and fiduciary education to trustees of non-profit and public investment funds. The Bay Area Impact Investing Initiative is a research and outreach effort to promote the ideas behind place-based investing for institutional investors, particularly in the Bay Area, with a focus on promoting sustainable prosperity in the Bay Area with investments aross all asset classes.

Lauryn Agnew, courtesy of Seal Cove Financial

Lauryn Agnew, courtesy of Seal Cove Financial

Lauryn’s bio:

With nearly three decades of experience in developing and implementing strategies in the institutional investment industry, Lauryn Agnew serves as a resource to non-profit organizations for investment consulting services and provides fiduciary education and trustee training for public fund and non-profit board and committee members.

Lauryn Agnew leads the Bay Area Impact Investing Initiative (www.baiii.org) in developing customized model portfolios across all asset classes for mission alignment under fiduciary standards of due diligence and performance expectations. She has authored the research paper which is posted on the website of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco: Impact Investing for Small Place-based Fiduciaries: The Research Study Initiated by the United Way of the Bay Area. Her next in-depth research paper into regional impact investing model portfolios will be released in mid 2016 by Oxford University. She is a frequent participant on institutional investment panels and educational seminars on impact investing and presented her research at the Social and Sustainable Finance and Impact Investing Conference in Oxford, England in April, 2015.

For over 15 years Lauryn served as a trustee and was twice Board Chair for the San Mateo County Employees’ Retirement Association (www.SamCERA.org), a defined benefit plan with $3.5 billion in assets. She has chaired both the investment committee at the United Way of the Bay Area and the investment committee of the Girl Scouts of Northern California for many years and continues to serve on the committees. She also serves on advisory committees for the Girl Scouts of the USA Pension Plan, Cornerstone Capital, and the Community Bank of the Bay’s Bay Area Green Fund.

Lauryn was born in Wyoming and grew up in Montana. She has a BA degree in Economics from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington and an MBA in Finance from the University of Oregon. She has been a long-time member of the CFA Society of San Francisco and the Financial Women’s Association of San Francisco.

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

Devin D. Thorpe

How Do You Know Which Products Are Safe? Do You Know?


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

Most of us give little thought to the toxins we’re exposed to every day. For the most vulnerable among us, including our children, however, the potential hazards have lifelong implications, according to Amy Ziff, founder and executive director of Made Safe.

Made Safe is an organization that aims to “democratize access to products that are made with safe ingredients for everyone, matter their age, stage of life or demographic,” Amy says.

The problem she sees stems from the “unrestriced and widespread use of harmful chemicals in products we use every day.”

“While everyone is impacted by toxic chemicals, for the most vulnerable population of children aged zero to six, toxic exposures can impact their health and well-being for the rest of their lives. On top of that, children aren’t able to advocate for themselves for protection from potentially harmful products,” she adds.

Ask yourself this question. Do you know how to spot a safe product? Can you see or smell toxins that may harm your children?

Amy explains what Made Safe does by putting “an easy-to-find, identifiable label on products that have been vetted by scientists as not containing known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, reproductive toxins, neurotoxins, behavioral toxins, flame retardants, heavy metals, pesticides, insecticides, toxic solvents, VOCs, or GMOs.”

“While it seems obvious that those kinds of toxic chemicals shouldn’t be used in products, the fact is that they’re used all the time in items around the globe—but it’s hard for the average person to know what’s safe and what’s not,” she continues. “We do the hard work of vetting on our end to make it easy for people to actually find safe products.”

Made Safe faces the same sorts of challenges, including funding, that most nonprofits struggle with.

“We’re a new organization trying to change the world, and we’re doing this in a different way than it’s ever been done before. If the Made Safe cause resonates with people, we encourage them to donate to help us eliminate toxic chemicals through our work.”

Another challenge faced by Made Safe is that there are competing certifications in the market place. Amy says their seal stands out in a “sea of seals” because of its design. More importantly, she says, “we’re the only seal that applies to all kinds of consumers products that ensures they’re made without known toxic chemicals.” She hopes to become the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for this century.

Amy acknowledges that just avoiding toxins in consumer products isn’t enough. “Made Safe is just one piece of the puzzle. I always teach people that you have to look at managing your toxic exposure through three pillars: food, what you choose to surround yourself with, and how you manage stress. If you’re only working on one or two of these, you’re not giving your body all the skills to do the work of managing toxic exposures.”

Amy hopes to help drive big changes in global supply chains, making consumer products safer. “We want to see products containing harmful ingredients taken off the market—not just in the U.S., but in the global supply chain. We want to spur innovation for safer products. And we will be successful. When enough voices say we need a nontoxic solution to this problem and they demand it with their dollars, it drives change.”

On Thursday, June 9, 2016 at 1:00 Eastern, Amy will join me for a live discussion about the safety of consumer products and the work that she is doing with Made Safe to improve it. 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 Made Safe:

Twitter: @madesafehq

MADE SAFE is the first and only human health certification in the country to certify that products across store aisles–from baby to personal care to household and beyond–are made without known toxic chemicals. MADE SAFE literally means a product is made with safe ingredients not known to harm human health. For the first time, people know what’s acceptable to use with their babies, on the bodies, and in their homes.

Amy Ziff with her family, courtesy of Made Safe

Amy Ziff with her family, courtesy of Made Safe

Amy’s bio:

Twitter: @amyziff

Amy Ziff is founder and executive director of MADE SAFETM, America’s first comprehensive human health-focused certification to cross verify that products across store aisles—from baby to personal care to household products and beyond—are made without known toxic chemicals. Amy is a healthy living educator and successful internet entrepreneur, with a Masters in Journalism and Communications. She blogs about the chemical world we live in on Amy Ziff’s NoTox Life, has taught classes on living a nontoxic life, and co-founded the Veritey Shop, a site comprised of safe, nontoxic products. She was on the founding teams for Site59 and Travelocity, and co-founded JetSetter. Amy speaks at events around the world and her Girlfriend Lunch & Learn series are extremely popular.

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Devin D. Thorpe

Solar Financing Big Opportunity for Impact Investors

Clean Energy Advisors is the newest sponsor of the Your Mark on the World Center.


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

Scott Hill, President of Clean Energy Advisors, sees climate change as the biggest challenge of our day and he’s doing something about it. Having already financed 67 megawatts of solar power in recent years, he’s eyeing another 300. Financing solar power gives investors an opportunity to earn a financial return while doing good, making them impact investors.

Scott sees the need to broaden the base of people who have the opportunity to investor for impact, something that has been limited largely to high-net-worth individuals. He says, “Within the discussion around climate change, there is this issue of creating opportunities for a larger group of people to invest based on their values. There is an overwhelming percentage of people who like the idea of investing based on values. It’s up to the investment community to create solid investment opportunities that allow people to make a difference and earn a reasonable rate of return.”

He is excited about his work. “Our passion around distributive generation and clean energy is why we get up and do our jobs everyday. But, and it’s a kind of ‘pinch me’ thing is we’ve identified a niche within the solar industry that allows more investors to participate (invest based on their values) AND has several characteristics that make it equally if not more interesting from an investment perspective.”

Despite his enthusiasm, Scott still sees challenges in the industry, despite its strength and positive trend lines. “History,” he says, along with “well publicized solar company failures, and negative comments from fossil fuel interests are probably the 3 biggest challenges we face.” Some of these experiences have left people cool to solar investments when, Scott says, “The reality is very positive for our industry.”

There are also limitations that the solar finance industry faces. Scott sees three. First, “because it’s a private placement, there isn’t a public market for selling/reselling ownership shares.”

Second, he notes, “Based on FINRA regulations, we have some real limitations on how we can market our offering.” This limits the ability to advertise and promote an offering, limiting the size of an offering.

“Finally,” he says, “in order to take full advantage of the tax benefits, there’s a seven-year holding period before we can begin the return of principal.”

In a recent company newsletter, Scott shared three positives that are shaping the solar finance industry thanks to the US Federal Government:

  1. First, Congress agreed to extend the ITC (Investment Tax Credit) for Renewable Energy through 2019. Investments into solar energy will carry a 30 percent tax benefit for the next five+ years. While economics were aggressively pushing solar towards grid parity without the extension, this virtually guarantees that when the tax credit expires, solar will be as competitive or more competitive than any fuel source available.
  2. In April, the US Treasury and IRS finalized regulations easing the way for private foundations to make program-related investments.
  3. Finally, within the last 12 months, the SEC has finalized rules around crowdfunding that will allow more investors, regardless of net worth, to invest in clean energy and other worthwhile strategies.

“All of this is fantastic news for helping us create clean sources of energy. In what might be the globe’s biggest challenge ever, our politicians have set the stage.”

Clean Energy Advisors is making real progress and is keen to continue scaling up their work.

Scott says, “We have installed over 67 megawatts of clean energy that is helping to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and helping to reduce our populations creation of harmful pollution. We’re very proud of that. Each megawatt of power generates enough energy to power 150+ homes annually. We have an opportunity and have identified another 300+ megawatts of solar power we can build over the next 24 months.”

As an optimistic footnote to our discussion, Scott notes that technology will likely lead to another upward shift in the solar power growth curve. “Several organizations are working through solar energy storage. That day will come. Once it does, solar will reach another likely significant rise in growth…like we have and will continue to experience over the next decade.”

On Thursday, June 7, 2016 at noon Eastern, Scott will join me here for a live discussion about financing solar power and the future of the industry. 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 Clean Energy Advisors:

Twitter: @cleanenergyadv

Clean Energy Advisors (CEA) creates ownership opportunities for investors in utility scale solar energy projects that generate tax-advantaged predictable income, preserve capital, and have positive social and environmental impact.

Scott Hill, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

Scott Hill, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

Scott’s bio:

Twitter: @williamandhill

Scott Hill has over twenty years of entrepreneurial experience including a significant perspective on business start-ups and building successful small businesses. Mr. Hill has been with CEA since April 2014.

His duties include overseeing the firm’s family office, endowment, foundation, and UHNW client strategies. He has served as a panelist at US based family office conferences and enjoys speaking on impact investing, renewable energy opportunities, and the future of Solar PV worldwide.

Scott is a 1991 graduate of Columbia University and four year member of the football program. He lives near Nashville, TN with his wife and children. He’s also actively involved in his community and church.

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Devin D. Thorpe

CAPROCK Group Launches Impact Assessment Visualization Tool

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

The CAPROCK Group, led by Matthew Weatherley-White, has recently launched a new tool for their family office clients to help them better see the impact they have with their investments. The tool, called iPAR, allows clients to drill down on their investments to see the impact in a simple, easy-to-use format.

CAPROCK has about $3 billion under management, about 30 employees and five offices. The firm’s revenue model is to charge clients fees for managing their money. Weatherley-White adds, “The only people who have the privilege of paying us are our clients, on either a flat fee or a percentage of assets advised. We accept no compensation from any other source.” He says the firm is profitable and generates a gross operating margin of 25 percent.

Of the firm’s $3 billion, $1 billion has been invested for impact. While Weatherley-White says he doesn’t consider himself a social entrepreneur, I think he better be careful or he’ll become one. Certainly he is an impact investor.

In fact, I visited with him for a Forbes piece on impact investing basics a few years ago.

iPAR stands for “Impact Portfolio Allocation Review” but in practice the acronym is always used as the name.

Matthew Weatherley-White, courtesy of The CAPROCK Group

Matthew Weatherley-White, courtesy of The CAPROCK Group

Weatherley-White explains the problem he sees in the investment community. “In impact investing, there is no common language nor framework to communicate between entrepreneurs and asset managers and investors. As a result, confusion and skepticism (not to mention unnecessary resource consumption) undermine confident capital flows, hurting the entire impact investing ecosystem.”

The iPAR project began with Weatherley-White developing an algorithm for assigning an impact score to an investment. That was seven years ago. “We have spent seven years working on an intuitive, interactive impact assessment and reporting platform/framework : iPAR. iPAR is based on the robust IRIS catalogue and GIIRS ratings, and is designed to incorporate impact data from any source. As such, it supports the consistent communication of impact up and down the impact financial chain, bringing transparency and, eventually, accountability to the impact investing eco-system.”

Weatherley-White gave me a test drive of the system and it is brilliantly easy to use and is available for free. The firm’s clients will get access to more layers of data than the general public. One limitation of the system is that it is based on publicly available information.

That information tends to be best seen at the fund level of investment. Funds publish their objectives readily. Less often do they publish impact reports that give investors a clear indication of their impact performance. Finally, there is very limited data available at the social enterprise level.

Weatherley-White acknowledges challenges. “We face three main challenges: business models that are based on classification proliferation, limited consensus on an what an organizing framework should look like and include, and the vague sense that ‘I’ll know impact when I see it,’ thus resisting attempts to construct a unifying, harmonizing framework.”

He is confident that the new tool addresses these concerns. “We believe that iPAR addresses each of these forces, as well as a wide range of second-order issues and concerns, such as ‘impact execution risk,’ ‘thematic orientation,’ etc.”

The tool has limitations, but those appear to be endemic in the industry. Weatherley-White says, “The biggest limitation of our solution (although it permeates the entire discipline) is the lack of auditability that plagues any system that depends on self-reporting. Equally limiting is the above referenced comment on competing interests.”

He notes that the traditional investing world struggled with access to quality information about financial returns in the early days of public markets. “Imagine what the world of conventional investing was like before GICS, the Russell Indices, Morgningstar and FASB. Chaos. We believe that iPAR is one part of the larger solution set around standardizing and professionalizing impact investing reporting.”

In simplest terms, Weatherley-White says, “iPAR is nothing more than a communication layer between those who are actually impacting the world for good and those who are funding those activities.”

Ultimately, iPAR appears poised to become a key part of the solution to impact measurement and reporting. ”So we must own the narrowness of our role, while at the same time recognizing that the pain point we solve is real and practical,” Weatherley-White concludes.

On Thursday, June 2, 2016 at 2:00 Eastern, Weatherley-White will join me for a live discussion about iPAR and its potential to address the gap in information available for measuring the impact in impact investing. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

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