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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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Monthly Archives: July 2016

A Love Letter to Trump Supporters from a Clinton Fan

Dear Trump Supporters,

I love you. I always have. I always will.

You and I are family, we go to church together, serve in Rotary together and share space in social media. We are going through this life quite literally together.

Over the next few months we’ve got to talk about some important things. You and I share a common belief that this upcoming election matters, that the issues facing our country are important and worthy of discussion. We agree that America is an exceptional country comprising wonderful places and even better people. In fact, there is much more that we agree on than we will disagree about and what we agree on is even more important than those things we disagree on.

But we can’t ignore those things we’ll disagree about. Past elections have seemed to carry little more import than to choose between marginal tax rates of 36 percent or 39 percent for the highest income Americans. This election raises issues that are more fundamental—much more.

When Donald Trump talks about a wall, the discussion isn’t just about a pragmatic solution to a real problem of illegal immigration, but it is also about the way in which the majority of Americans should think of our neighbors to the south and how we should treat Latino Americans.

When Donald Trump talks about banning Muslims, similarly, the discussion isn’t simply about arcane immigration rules for refugees, but also about how we see religious freedom in America. This discussion takes on constitutional significance that could redefine what it is to be an American.

When Donald Trump talks about carpet bombing ISIS and bringing back water boarding, the topic isn’t really just about how to have an effective national defense, but also about how we define America’s place in the world and how we define basic human rights.

In November, we have an important decision to make, perhaps the most important election of our lifetimes. We not only need to talk about the issues, but some we’ll need to debate. I wish I could promise that I will never say anything that will offend or infuriate you. I will try not to, but I probably will anyway—not because I hope to offend, but because I hope to convince you—or at least some of you—to see things my way. I expect you’ll do the same to me and other Hillary supporters.

Here’s the thing: come Thanksgiving, with the election in the rear view mirror, we’ll be celebrating around the same dinner table. We’ll see each other at church and at Rotary. We’ll bump into each other on the street in the neighborhood and in the grocery store. Whatever relationship we have now, I hope it will be stronger and closer then than it is now.

No matter how much we may disagree about this election, we can be friends. No, we are friends. We are family. Let’s try to remember that, because I love you.

Sincerely,

 

Devin D. Thorpe

A Hillary Voter

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

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!

 

5 Tips For Changing The World With Technology Investments

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Cecile Blilious is a social venture capitalist in Israel who is out to change the world. She offers five tips to help other investors do the same with investments in technology that offers a social benefit or social technology.

As Co-Founder and Managing Parter, Blilious leads Impact First Investments, which she describes as the “first Israeli investment firm specifically designed to leverage local technology and innovation to create global social impact.” The firm focuses exclusively in investments in Israel that have technology solutions to global social problems.

The fund earns its fees in the traditional manner with a management fee of 2.5 percent annually and a carried interest of 20 percent that entitles management to one-fifth of the profits on the investments. The team today includes five people with a six-member advisory board. The firm is now in the fundraising stage.

Blilious believes that she is herself a social entrepreneur. She says, “By working with Israel’s world class tech developers and social entrepreneurs, Impact First seeks to address the pains of millions of people, in a sustainable, measurable, profitable way.”

Nechemia Peres, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Pitango Venture Capital, which has committed to invest in Impact First Investments and is hosting the younger firm in its office space, says, “I think they are doing a professional job full with enthusiasm and persistence. In addition to that they combine social investing, Israeli innovation, and a moral code and values–all of which are emerging trends on a global basis. They make a real contribution to humanity.”

Cecile Blilious, courtesy of Impact First Investments

Cecile Blilious, courtesy of Impact First Investments

Blilious offers the following five tips for changing the world through investments in social technology:

  1. Do not sacrifice on talent.
    The team you create to build your company is going to determine your success. Building the right team means finding skilled individuals with the training and experience necessary to address all of the issues your business is going to face. Running a startup requires you to think about the bigger picture, not only in terms of your company growth and market place, but the people you need to execute your plan.
  2. Be profitable with a defined theory of change.
    Create a profitable business, but one with a defined theory of change. A startup that seeks to address a pressing social issue must have the same growth potential and profitability as any other startup company. To succeed as a business that improves people’s lives, you need to operate with a clear, defined theory of change.
  3. Incorporate an intrinsic mission.
    Make sure that achieving your mission is an intrinsic component of your business plan. This means building social change into the DNA of your company, so that with each dollar earned a social improvement is created. A company who does this will not be able to good without making money, and will not be able to make money without doing good. They should come hand-in-hand, not as separate operations.
  4. Build the best board you can.
    Investors are not simply people who provide your company with financial capital. The people who you choose to go into business with can, and should, bring more to the equation than their checkbooks. Your investors and board members should be aligned with your mission and can provide business support. Look for people who have experience in the field and a sincere mission to create good in the world.
  5. Cooperate with international partners.
    If you’re seeking to create change on a global scale, finding the right international partners is a significant piece of the impact puzzle–these are the people that will help your company access new markets and create global impact. Before launching, this requires extensive research and networking. A strong board that is aligned with your mission, and a skilled staff, will go a long way in executing this strategy.

On Thursday, July 21, 2016 at noon Eastern, Blilious will join me here for a live discussion about her five tips for changing the world with impact investments in social technology. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Prior to founding Impact First, Blilious managed a portfolio of Israeli investments for the Noaber Foundation, where she served as a board member and/or as chairperson for several companies. Previously, she served as CEO of several companies, she says.

Remarkably, she is proud of having served as an initiator of the Al-Bawader private equity fund that invested in businesses in the Arab community in Israel.

Entrepreneur Mends Communities To Reduce Violence

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Colleen Copple, a social entrepreneur from what was once a gang-threatened neighborhood in Salt Lake City, is threading the needle between people that fear the police and the cops who protect them. She has created a business mending communities to reduce violence of all kinds.

Copple is the C0-Founder of Strategic Applications International or SAI as well as of Servant Forge, a nonprofit that provides similar services in Africa. SAI tackles “society’s greatest challenges through comprehensive systems change that mobilizes communities” to address problems like crime, violence, substance abuse, human trafficking, poverty, racism, gender-based violence, and other related issues.

In about 1990, Copple was living in the Glendale neighborhood of Salt Lake City when a sudden rash of gang violence erupted, related to closure of one of the city’s four high schools. Drive-by shootings increased from 1 to 200 from one year to the next.

Copple, still in her twenties, was serving on the local school board and felt responsible to do something about the crime in her neighborhood. She organized the community, worked with the police and helped to restore peace to her neighborhood.

With her husband, James Copple, she launched SAI in 2004, after serving with the National Crime Prevention Council to replicate her Salt Lake success across the country.

Today, SAI generates $1 million annually and generates a gross profit of $250,000, she says. The firm generates its revenue with two models, first, providing services to clients who pay to develop greater capacity to deal with crime, violence and other social issues. Separately, the firm tackles other problems independently using grant funding from the Department of Justice or Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration.

Copple sees herself as a social entrepreneur. “We definitely see ourselves as a social enterprise, but this is where we tend to cross over with our non-profit arm as well. Servant Forge (501 (c) (3) is the umbrella for a lot of our pro-bono and humanitarian work, especially in Africa.”

“We are mission driven,” she continues. “We tend to price ourselves below market because many of our clients are starting from a position of need, they are trying to solve a social issue and we are seeking to build their funding base and capacity to reach their full potential. We teach communities and clients how to organize, mobilize, map, and tackle tough problems. How to be servant leaders with vision, skills and capacity to make a measurable difference in the world. We measure our success by how much we or our clients impact an issue, a community, or a problem.”

Recently, SAI served as the logistical and technical assistance provider for President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which issued its report in May of 2015. Its findings and recommendations are more relevant than ever given the recent events including mass shootings of both civilians and law enforcement officers.

Laurie Robinson, Co-Chair of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, praised SAI’s work. She noted that, “The Task Force–in the aftermath of the events in Ferguson, Missouri–was operating on a very short timeline to develop recommendations for the White House.” There was a lot of work to do with a task force of 11 people who didn’t know one another. “But SAI easily rose to that challenge, handling the logistics with skill, grace, efficiency and good humor.”

Colleen Copple, courtesy of Strategic Applications International

Colleen Copple, courtesy of Strategic Applications International

Copple sees the problems of gun violence both from the perspective of the community and from the vantage point of law enforcement. She highlights mental illness as one of the big factors driving the sort of mass shootings and violence against police officers seen recently; she attributed both of the recent police mass shootings to mental health issues.

She noted that virtually everyone agrees that more should be done to help the mentally ill, but Congress has funded any new programs. Even then, she notes, it is extremely difficult to screen for mental health issues that should prevent someone from owning a gun.

She said that blacks are about three times more likely to be killed by the police than whites, but attributed this to “implicit bias, not overt bias.”

Copple is proud that the President’s Report she helped guide, was issued with “100 percent consensus” among a broad group of participants. The participants included law enforcement, community leaders and academics and they solicited input from a wide range of sources, she says.

The key theme of the report is the idea of community policing. She says, it is important to create “a guardian mentality versus a warrior mentality” among law enforcement. She wants police officers to “see themselves in a higher role.”

In Salt Lake City, Detective Dennis McGowan of the Public Relations Unit, agrees. “We can’t do our jobs without the community. We are part of the community.” He went on to explain that the Police Department has formed committees that give direct access to the Police Chief to community members, including activists who don’t agree with police tactics.

The challenge there is that there are 750,000 law enforcement officers in the country in 18,000 agencies. A lot of training and retraining will be required.

SAI is working to address global issues. Copple recognizes that SAI’s small scale limits their ability to drive change, but by working with the Justice Department, the US Conference of Mayors and with Black Lives Matter, they are able to extend their natural reach dramatically.

Copple says that community policing tactics can reduce crime by up to 80 percent. “Dialog, communication and relationships, especially with he most vulnerable, least likely to feel they have good relationships with law enforcement,” are key to her vision for the future.

Copple has come a long way from her days in working to resolve crime in her own neighborhood 25 years ago to have impact on crime and policing not only across the country but internationally as well.

On Thursday, July 21, 2016 at 1:00 Eastern, Copple will join me here for a live discussion from where she is working in Nairobi, Kenya to talk about her journey as a social entrepreneur and her work to reduce violence.

Formerly Homeless Teen Launches Nonprofit to Provide Feminine Hygiene Products to Homeless Women

Nadya Okamoto, just 18 years old, founded a nonprofit called Camions of Care that is working to provide feminine hygiene products to homeless women and girls in the developing world.

She explains her aim to bring attention to the problem and to reduce the stigma associated with the topic of menstruation. “We are trying to bring more attention to menstrual hygiene, since it is the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries.”

“Camions of Care is a youth-run global nonprofit that strives to manage and celebrate menstrual hygiene through advocacy, education, and service—through the global distribution of feminine hygiene products, and the engagement of youth leadership through a nationwide network of campus chapters,” she says.

Imagine the challenges of launching a nonprofit while still in high school! She says, that “balancing all of the growth with the resources that we have” is one of those challenges. She adds, “We are still a young team and have been running for barely two years, yet we are growing super fast and have lots of organizations that depend on our service.”

Echoing other nonprofit leaders, she says, “Fundraising is something we are always trying to improve on.”

Recognizing the limitations of a small-scale nonprofit, Nadya hopes o overcome them through partnerships and policy to make a lasting impact. “Although we are able to inspire others to join our menstrual movement and distribute feminine hygiene products, we hope to move into making solutions that are much more sustainable, like policy or something that can last long-term.”

Nadya is hoping Camions of Care will make a real difference in global development by improving access to menstrual hygiene. “We are trying to bring to light why that needs to be fixed because its so natural and should be celebrated.”

As part of her efforts to make people more comfortable with talking about menstruation, Nadya delivered a TEDx talk in the fall of 2015. In her talk, she shared the story of the panic she felt when she had her first period. You can watch it here.

On Thursday, July 21, 2016 at 5:00 Eastern, Nadya will join me here live for a discussion about her work to help homeless women and girls in the developing world with their feminine hygiene. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Nadya Okamoto, courtesy of Camions of Care

Nadya Okamoto, courtesy of Camions of Care

More about Nadya and Camions of Care:

Twitter: @nadyaokamoto @camionsofcare

I’m Nadya, an 18-year-old from Portland, Oregon, and the Founder and Executive Director of Camions of Care. COC is a youth-run, global nonprofit that strives to manage and celebrate menstrual hygiene through advocacy, education, and service—through the global distribution of feminine hygiene products, and the engagement of youth leadership through a nationwide network of campus chapters. I founded the organization two years ago after my family experienced homelessness and I became introduced to the need. In the last two years, our network of over 1,900 volunteers has addressed over 20,000 periods through over 38 nonprofit partners in 12 different states and 9 different countries. We continue to expand our chapter network from over 34 established at universities and high schools around the US.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

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!

 

Is Nanotechnology a Solution to Restoring Reefs?

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

The world’s coral reefs are threatened by rising sea temperatures, destructive fishing, coastal development, invasive species, damage from marine recreation, storm damage and higher acidity. Melody Saunders Brenna is an entrepreneur with a plan to restore damaged reefs using nanotechnology.

Melody notes that the reefs are critical for humans as 1 in 10 people rely on reefs for food. Furthermore, she estimates that $350+ billion annual income is at risk. Something needs to be done.

She has launched Reef Life Restoration and Reef Life Foundation to help create new, living, thriving reefs. The literal foundation of the plan is “cast marine cell structures” that look and feel like lightweight concrete blocks, some formed with embedded nano-particles that foster rapid coral growth.

“Our diverse nano science coral cell matrices provide faster growth for food, fish, minerals, medicines and pH balance.”

The concrete pieces can be designed into almost any shape and configuration. She can optimize the blocks for deployment from a vessel so as to be able to maximize the amount of reef that can be restored in a single trip by the fewest people. Using the same technology, she can create beautiful underwater structures, imagine a reconstructed Atlantis at a resort, that would appear to be a beautiful concrete structure on the day it is installed but that will become a vibrant, living coral reef within two years.

One of the challenges that Melody has faced is that over the years she has been working on this project, there hasn’t always been a sense of urgency like there is today. “When we started this journey to investigate coral cell structures, people thought there was no need for our science, testing and funding to solve these dilemmas. The global outlook on oceanic problems was not in the news. We forged ahead and bootstrapped ourselves in this effort. Now, scientists all over the globe are now coming to us for solutions.”

Funding, however, remains a challenge. “Getting governments, funders, and foundations to actively participate and get started is the biggest problem we face.”

She adds, “We deeply believe that nanoscience saves nature and marine site solutions are worth the work!”

Melody believes that starting with even one reef can make a difference. “One reef at a time, one healthy marine environment which incubates coral, bringing fish, oxygen and growth will spread, no matter how small the start.”

Her vision is to play a role in the restoration of the health of our oceans globally. “Increasing growth of food, minerals, medicines and healthy oceans impacts each child of the next generation and their children.” She plans to continue her work with a scientific focus to find better ways to restore the reefs.

On Thursday, July 21, 2016 at 2:00 Eastern, Melody will join me here for a live discussion about her work to restore threatened reefs using nanotechnology. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

 

Melody Saunder Brenna, courtesy of Reef Life Restoration

Melody Saunder Brenna, courtesy of Reef Life Restoration

More About Reef Life Restoration:

Twitter: @ReefLife911

Our diverse nano science coral cell matrices provide faster growth & new IP for food, fish, minerals, medicines and pH balance. Advanced sustainable manufacturing: reefs, sea walls, resort/dive attractions, marine centric growth substrates, future scientific innovations. IP in development for acidification restoration elements for site specific pH improvement. Toxic absorption walls can contain heavy metals like mercury and hold toxic runoff away from marine sanctuaries. Coral growth plate “blankets” for vertical slope reefs which suffer from bombing by fishermen, site specific consultation and development of solution for single or multiple problems in marine environments. Reef Life Foundation serves to grow marine education, innovation, and place reef restoration globally.

Melody’s bio:

  • Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas – Bachelor’s Degree – Marketing
  • Design Firm Owner – Selling products to Saks Fifth Avenue & Neiman Marcus.
  • Advertising Agency Co-owner – New Orleans, Louisiana – Winner of Addy Awards
  • Art Gallery Owner – Santa Fe, New Mexico – Canyon Road
  • Winner of Chamber of Commerce Innovation Award – 1998
  • CEO – Milestone Cast Stone Manufacturing – 1999 – 2009
  • Winner of Chamber of Commerce Top Millennium Business – 2000
  • Winner of Texas State Export Achievement Award – 2003
  • Recognition from Texas State Senate for Global Export Success – 2003
  • Top Small Business Person Award – West Texas Region and the State of Texas – 2003
  • Director’s Choice Business Person for the Southern United States – 2004 (Awarded by SBA)
  • Chairwoman of Global Export Committee -Texas Chamber of Commerce – 2004 – 2006
  • Board Member – District Export Council (West Texas Region) – 2006 – 2012

Currently – CEO of Reef Life Restoration VICON Nano Science, creating Sustainable Cement industry niche opportunities utilizing technology developed by Vicon Nano Science, Dr. Konstantin Sobolev over the course of 14 years. Dedicated to growing sustainable construction companies focused on Nano Materials Science and advanced cement and sealant innovation as well as LAM High Performance Building Systems utilizing proprietary cellular concrete technologies. The closed cell lightweight concrete can encapsulate industrial waste products including low level nuclear debris; testing protocols and results available. ACI recently acknowledged more than double strength cellular concrete panels than any other panel manufacturer in ACI 523 for Milestone as competitors struggle to hit 800PSI, Milestone strength testing over 7 years hits 1900psi for its proprietary LAM Cellular structural wall panels.

Funded a new Materials Science Lab for West Texas A&M University; advanced materials testing of magnesium oxides, working with Argonne National Laboratories. Invited to the State of Florida in 2005 to study and create reef repair and regeneration materials. Created research division for eco-cements including reef and marine environment composites, air and surface cleaning sealants, and multiple cement-related high performance mixtures and topical treatments. Melody won a Chamber Of Commerce Innovation Award in 1998 after creating the first interactive design website in the cast stone industry. In 1999, Melody took over as CEO of Milestone Architectural. Milestone’s nationwide clients from the Watergate in Washington to prestige commercial and residential projects garnered substantial media and business recognition. The Chamber of Commerce Award in 2000 for the Top Millennium Business began a series of enterprise level national awards in addition to Addy Design Awards. Milestone won an Export Achievement Award in 2003 and was recognized by the Texas Senate for Global Export Success. In recognition of her accomplishments, Melody was awarded the Top Small Business Person for both the West Texas Region and the State of Texas in 2003, from the Small Business Administration (SBA) in Washington D.C., competing against firms in Dallas, Houston, Austin and other Texas regions. She was subsequently chosen in 2004 for Director’s Choice Business Person for the Southern United States, again by the SBA in Washington, with four other leaders within a ten state region. 2004-2006 she served as Chairman of the Global Export Committee within the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce. In 2006-2010 Melody was nominated and served on the Board of the District Export Council (West Texas region) whose members are appointed by the Secretary of Commerce to further global exporting from the State of Texas.

Melody was invited to Libya in 2006, through 2008 on multiple occasions to investigate, propose solutions for and outline design and implementation for the restoration of Roman Ruins, and property development around ruins utilizing Milestone mold technologies to pull mold replicas so that hotel, museum and other elements are just like walking through the ruins themselves, yet serving as a tourist mecca, historic and cultural educational experience. Libyan and other Global UNESCO Historic Property Restoration information outlines and packages available upon request.

Her community service projects always have a focus on helping children, ranging from health to housing as Board Member of the Presbyterian Children’s Home, Amarillo, Texas in which she and her father, Guyon H Saunders renovated the eight homes within the Children’s Complex. Melody was instrumental in renovating the exterior of the Guyon Saunders Resource Center which houses all of the United Way Agencies, shelters for homeless, Head Start education centers. Melody remains active in participation, donations and innovative fund raising for multiple charitable organizations globally including The Hunger Project. A fourth generation Rotarian, she follows in the footsteps of her families interest in creating educational opportunities for Americas youth.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

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!

 

Is Impact Investing A Solution To Global Problems?

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

“Some of the world’s most intractable social and environmental problems are in need of new solutions. From climate change to resource scarcity to exploding global population growth, the traditional levers of change, including philanthropy and government aid, are insufficient to address the critical issues of our time,” says Fran Seegull.

Seegull, Chief Investment Officer and Managing Director for ImpactAssets, says impact investing may be the key to solving global problems. Impact investing is the practice of investing funds for both a financial return and social impact.

ImpactAssets is a nonprofit financial services firm that earns fees from managing donor advised funds and other investment products. It also receives grant support, largely to help with its advocacy work for the field of impact investing. The nonprofit has $292 million under management and has 17 employees. It was originally founded under the wings of the Calvert Foundation.

Seegull, who earned an MBA at Harvard, describes herself as an entrepreneur. “We see ourselves as impact entrepreneurs at ImpactAssets. ImpactAssets is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the flow of capital to impact investing through innovative product development and field building. I consider myself to be an impact entrepreneur. I have devoted my entire career to creating impact from philanthropy to venture capital to impact investing.”

As a social entrepreneur, Seegull observes that those most affected by climate change, population growth and resource scarcity are the world’s poor. She points out that the world population of 7.3 billion is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050. Three billion now live on less than $2.50 per day and 80 percent of the world’s population live on less than $10 per day. Furthermore, she notes, 805 million people don’t have enough food to eat and three-quarters of a billion lack access to clean drinking water.

She says that impact investing may be the solution. “By harnessing the power of capital markets and focusing on maximizing stakeholder value (not just shareholder value), impact investing addresses the systemic challenges of poverty, income inequality and climate change.”

“Our goal is to ‘scale-up’ and ‘democratize’ impact investing,” she says.

Working toward that goal, ImpactAssets offers impact investments with lower minimums. For instance, Seegull says, “The Giving Fund – an innovative donor advised fund – features an impact investment platform of public and private debt and equity.”

Even more novel are the “Impact Investment Notes” that provide ordinary investors the opportunity to invest in microfinance and global sustainable agriculture through ImpactAssets.

Ron Cordes, co-founder of ImpactAssets, says the nonprofit is “leading the democratization of impact investing” with the Impact Investment Notes.

In the effort to foster growth in the field of impact investing, ImpactAssets publishes issue briefs, authored by Jed Emerson and other impact investing leaders, on a range of impact topics from portfolio construction to trends among women and millennials.

In addition, ImpactAssets offers an imprimatur to fund managers in the space. “The IA50 is the industry’s first open-source database of impact investing fund managers. It is the equivalent of the ‘Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval’ for impact investors,” Seegull says.

Interest in and activity around the impact investing space has increased since the White House convening on impact investing in 2014. Challenges to growth remain, however.

Fran Seegull, courtesy of Impact Assets

Fran Seegull, courtesy of Impact Assets

Seegull sees two particular challenges that ImpactAssets is working to overcome. The first is engagement with financial intermediaries. While most are now comfortable with ESG concepts, environmental, social and governance considerations, far fewer are ready to engage in “deep impact” investing, she says. “The next step: Facilitate deep impact investing – smaller private debt and equity funds – on mainstream platforms without compromising due diligence.”

More broadly, she sees a need to establish a new business model for deep impact investing. “Creating impact deal platforms and groups that syndicate investment in individual deals and funds could make deep impact more efficient and accessible.”

Jennifer Kenning, Managing Director of Align: Your Impact Partner, a financial advisory firm that works with ImpactAssets, suggest that “ they need to have enough assets under management to be able to hire the right talent and retain them with a strong emphasis on investment markets.” She adds, that “they need to take the platform and evolve it to 2.0 and enhance it for the significant growth in the space across all asset classes.”

Seth Goldman, founder of Honest Tea, which sold to Coca-Cola in 2008, is a client of ImpactAssets. He notes, “I’d love to see more investors join the fold. I can’t imagine why mission-driven entrepreneurs wouldn’t want to see more ripples flow from any impact they’ve been able to make.”

One of the limitations to expanding impact investing, Seegull notes, is “the perceived tradeoffs between financial and impact returns.” She also notes the difficulty of getting the water to the end of the row, that is the challenge with getting impact investment products all the way to individual investors via intermediaries.

Kenning sums up the ImpactAssets progress, saying, “I think the work has been significant to the forward movement of the impact space in that they have provided education resources to train clients and advisors, they have aggregated almost $300 million in assets for good, provided a platform that allows investors to get gain access to investment vehicles at lower minimums and an easy access point to deploy their capital within those investments. Lastly, they have democratized access by creating the impact notes that they launched earlier this year which allows investors to invest at a significantly lower level of $25,000.”

Goldman adds, “It’s a wonderful way for us to be able to donate and invest in organizations we believe in. I have always believed that powerful change can come from for-profits and non-profits, so it’s ideal to have a vehicle that lets us invest in a way that is neutral in terms of tax consequences. If we see someone building an organization we believe in, we can deploy money from ImpactAssets.”

“It’s been especially fun to see our investments in mission-driven enterprises, such as Happy Baby organic baby food help support two visionary entrepreneurs, and then when that company sold to Danone , see the proceeds go right back into our Impact Assets fund,” Goldman concluded.

Seegull says, “Our success broadens and accelerates investment capital to deep-impact investments that make measurable social and environmental impact as well as financial returns.”

She concludes with a challenge to herself and others in the space to continue working, “We’ve seen success through our product innovation and education in bringing greater flows of capital to impact investing but more needs to be done.”

On Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 4:00 Eastern, Seegull will join me here for a live discussion about impact investing and ImpactAssets work to expand the space. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Touring With Dead & Company For Good

Chris Warren is the CEO of Clean Energy Advisors, our sponsor.

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

Clean Energy Advisors is lighting up cell phones at concerts of Dead & Company (the band includes members of the Grateful Dead) around the country this summer. The concerts are context for a lot of good.

Chris Warren, CEO of Clean Energy Advisors, our sponsor, explains, “The CEA Solar Tour is currently touring the country in support of the Dead & Company’s Participation Row. Working with the band, HeadCount.org (a non-partisan voter registration organization) and Reverb (a non-profit organization that works to make tours and events more environmentally friendly) we are providing cell phone charging stations at every show an powering Participation Row. Participation Row is an area where local non-profits from each community are given an opportunity to come out and share their message with fans.”

The effort is proving to have tremendous reach. “During the tour we will educate and inform tens of thousands of concert goers about climate change and what each person can do to make a positive impact. In addition, approximately 15,000 fans will take actions on Participation Row that directly benefit our non-profit partners, Chris says.

“We are about halfway through the summer and so far the excitement and engagement has far exceeded our expectations. We are seeing some amazing things out there and raising awareness and money for good causes as diverse as environmental action and music education,” he concludes.

On Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 5:00 Eastern, Chris will join me here for a live discussion about the concert tour and the other work that Clean Energy Advisors is doing. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Chris Warren, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

Chris Warren, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

More about Clean Energy Advisors:

Twitter: @ceacleanenergy

Twitter: @ceasolartour

Clean Energy Advisors is a private equity firm focused on creating socially and environmentally positive ownership opportunities for investors in utility scale solar energy projects that generate tax advantaged predictable income and preserve capital.

Chris’s bio:

Chris Warren has over twenty-five years of experience in the financial industry and along the way he has acquired a unique set of skills and experiences through roles that include managing assets for high net worth investors, leading a major division of a Fortune 500 company, building three successful businesses from inception, and overseeing complex financial arrangements for over US $860 million in renewable energy assets. Mr. Warren is a graduate of Duke University. His technical training includes a Certification in Renewable Energy Management from North Carolina State University and training in Basic and Advanced Solar PV Design from Solar Energy International.

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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!

 

Man Blinded by Disease Devotes 45 Years to Its Cure


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Gordon Gund was blinded by retinitis pigmentosa in 1970 at the age of 31. He has spent the 45 years since working to defeat that disease, to prevent related blindness and even to restore sight to the blind. Over $700 million later, he now hopes that “within a generation we will be able to eradicate blindness caused by retinal disease!”

In 2013, I first connected with Gordon for a Forbes piece that included a live interview we conducted then.

It is hard to imagine how one copes with the complete loss of one’s vision. Gordon partnered with his wife. He says, “After coming to terms with how our lives would be altered by the disease, my wife and I committed ourselves to a comprehensive research effort that would make something positive for others out of our own difficult experiences.”

“When I was diagnosed with RP almost 50 years ago very little was known about the retina.  There was very little research and no evidence-based treatments for retinal disease,” he adds.

Gordon continues, “We recognized that first building a critical mass of sound scientific knowledge about the retina and retinal diseases was essential to finding treatments and cures. That year we teamed with a number of other families affected by retinal disease to create the Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation, now called the Foundation Fighting Blindness.  Our collective dream was to drive the research that would find treatments and cures for all retinal degenerative diseases.”

Gordon has been tremendously successful as a capitalist since losing his sight. He is the CEO of Gund Investment Corporation and has at different times owned, among other things, large stakes in professional sports teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers and the San Jose Sharks.

“I had to learn to live with blindness while working on having a productive and meaningful life in many ways and on many levels,” he says.

Adapting to life without sight created all of the challenges you’d imagine and some you can’t. He chose to meet the challenges head on, learning from them and finding ways to compensate. He says:

After losing my eyesight 46 years ago, I had to learn to accept its finality, come to grips with the real limitations of blindness and creatively and persistently find ways to work around them. In order to do the things I wanted to do and be the person I wanted to be, I have had to overcome these limitations every day. I had to develop and trust my memory and my judgment of people, to learn to ask for and accept help when there is no alternative. I had to learn to better accept failure, to persist through it and to take more calculated risks.  I had to become much better at constructive imagining, to become much better organized and be a much better listener.  A commitment to the belief that with hard work almost anything is possible has been at the core.

His wife and family deserve some of the credit. “Since [losing my vision] I have continued to be happily married to my wife for more than 50 years.  Together, we have raised two wonderful sons who now have terrific families of their own.”

His effort to cure and prevent blindness, however, has been the driving force in his life, he says. “Starting and building the Foundation Fighting Blindness over the past 45 years has helped me focus the frustration of my loss in a positive way. Working with others to drive the increasingly successful FFB research effort to find treatments and cures for blindness means that one day people diagnosed with these diseases will not have to face certain blindness like I did.”

Despite his leadership role in the fight to restore blindness, he shares credit with those who’ve worked with him. “Any success I have had is due first and foremost to the people with whom I live and work.  I have been fortunate to be surrounded with people whose capabilities, support, mutual respect and trusted judgment have been fundamental to my building and leading the Foundation Fighting Blindness and many for-profit endeavors including professional sports businesses, as well as in the pursuit of my personal passions of fly fishing, skiing, and sculpting.”

Gordon is now stepping down from his role as Chair of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, which he founded so long ago. He notes, “We’ve come a long way since the time when I originally lost my vision 45 years ago. The many donors to the Foundation Fighting Blindness and their ongoing commitment to fund the best retinal research in the world is inspiring. Thanks to their efforts, the promise of saving and restoring vision is becoming a reality.”

“I’m confident that David Brint, my successor, will continue to lead the Foundation Fighting Blindness in driving momentum in retinal disease research. I am proud of all the progress that we’ve made, but, I also recognize that there is much more work to be done,” he concludes.

On Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 2:00 Eastern, Gordon will join me here for a live interview to discuss his remarkable life, career and impact on 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.

Gordon Gund, courtesy of the Foundation Fighting Blindness

Gordon Gund, courtesy of the Foundation Fighting Blindness

More about the Foundation Fighting Blindness:

Twitter: @fightblindness

The Foundation Fighting Blindness is an international non-profit organization driving the research that will lead to preventions, treatments and cures for retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, Usher syndrome and the entire spectrum of retinal diseases that affect 10 million Americans and millions more worldwide. Since 1971, the Foundation has raised over $700 million as the leading non-governmental funder of inherited retinal disease research. Breakthrough Foundation-funded studies using gene therapies have restored significant vision in children and young adults who were previously blind, paving the way for additional clinical trials to treat a variety of retinal diseases. In addition to its fundraising and grant making efforts, the Foundation has 43 chapters that provide support, information and resources to affected individuals and their families in communities across the country.

Gordon’s Bio:

Gordon Gund was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1939.  The Gunds were a prominent Cleveland family and are multigenerational philanthropists.  Gund is a graduate of the Groton School and Harvard University, where he played ice hockey.  After college, Gund served in the U.S. Navy.

Gund is the CEO of the Gund Investment Corporation, a corporate finance and venture capital company headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey. Gund has held ownership stakes in numerous professional sports teams including the Minnesota North Stars, the San Jose Sharks and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Gund lost his sight due to retinitis pigmentosa in 1970 and a year later he co-founded the Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation – now the Foundation Fighting Blindness.  In June of this year, Gund stepped down as the Foundation’s Chairman after serving in that role for 45 years.  He remains active in the Foundations governance as a member of the Board of Directors.

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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!

 

My 5 Point Plan for Becoming a Highly Effective Bigot

In light of a broad range of conflicts resulting from the “otherification” of people with whom we are sharing the journey on this planet, I thought I would prepare some instructions to help people do it more effectively.

My 5 Point Plan for Becoming a Highly Effective Bigot

or

My 5 Point Plan for Dealing With Miscreants Who Don’t Love Barry Manilow

There are only two kinds of people in the world, those who like Barry Manilow and the other miserable, joyless morons for whom life has no meaning or purpose.

What I’ve learned over the years is that it is easy to define and completely understand a person by any single factor, say their race, religion, height, weight, hair color, accent, politics, or whether they prefer Burger King to McDonalds. Despite the fact that I have always believed I knew everything that I needed to know about people by the shoes they wear, I have finally settled on the ultimate litmus test of character being whether or not someone loves the music of Barry Manilow.

Given that most people under 40 don’t know who he is, that leaves two entire generations hopeless. Sorry. Not sorry!

You see, knowing that someone doesn’t love Barry Manilow makes clear that they don’t have good taste, good judgment, good rhythm, or good sense. More importantly, the moral character of someone who doesn’t love the sound of my favorite aging lounge singer is clear: bad. They all have bad character and represent an evil influence that must be purged from society. They need to be shamed, scorned, ostracized and avoided.

barry_manilowjpg

Never mind that my DNA is 99.9 percent identical to people who share no known common ancestry with me, if they don’t like Barry Manilow, I will strictly follow this five-point plan for dealing with them going forward—and this goes for family, too—especially family:

  1. Unfriend on Facebook: My first and most important act will be to actively seek out everyone whom I can find that doesn’t like Barry Manilow (I will carefully review all music posts on Facebook) and immediately unfriend them. I only want to see posts on Facebook that support my view that “Mandy” is the greatest song ever. EVER!
  2. Hate on Twitter: Because Twitter is a bit more anonymous, I will not unfollow Manilow haters, I will hate them. I will hate on everything they post. I will stay up late at night waiting for Neil Diamond fans to post about how much they love, just love “Sweet Caroline” and I will go at them with both barrels. That ignorant, so-called “taste” in music can’t be tolerated on Twitter. I will hate the haters into submission. Someone’s got to do it.
  3. Apply Rules 1 or 2 to All Other Social Media: Of course, it goes without saying that I will apply rules 1 or 2 to all social media accounts. I reserve the right to be somewhat arbitrary, sometimes applying rule 1 on Instagram and rule 2 at other times. I know that is controversial, but don’t give me any grief about it. If you do give me grief, I will instantly assume that you are a non-Manilow-fan and you will be in big, big trouble with me.
  4. Avoid in Life: This one could get tricky at times, but I will avoid ever being in the presence of someone who doesn’t share my love of “Copacabana.” This may be difficult every night as my wife of 28 years has been seduced by Neil Diamond and his ilk, but I will definitely sleep with my back to her so she can feel the hate coming through the covers in her direction. Of course, it goes without saying, that I will never attend another family reunion, church meeting, or community event where a non-Manilow-fan will be present.
  5. Seek Support: I will seek out like-minded individuals wherever I can find them—swap meets, chat rooms, drive in movies, senior centers—wherever. We will get together ostensibly to talk about how great Barry Manilow is. We’ll play his music in the background. Some weeks we’ll just have “I Made It Through the Rain” play on an endless loop. But mostly, we’ll talk about all of the bad people who don’t like Barry Manilow. We’ll make up short hand names for them like, Nonilows or Manipans, and develop our own code words and phrases to use so we can insult people without their even knowing! It will be awesome. After every meeting, formal or informal, we’ll be able to leave knowing how superior we are to all of the Nonilows and Manipans out there!

I’m excited to get started. Watch your posts on Facebook, I’m following you! One slip and you’re gone! Of course, you won’t slip because you’re reading my post. You’ll be awesome, humming “I Write the Songs” everywhere you go.

As you read these instructions, it is my genuine hope that you will consider what you can do instead to show greater kindness toward those who are different.

Entrepreneur Reimagines Feminine Hygiene, Launches Social Venture

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Serial entrepreneur Molly Hayward has a fresh take on feminine hygiene, reimagining everything from the absorbent materials to the packaging. With a deep commitment to social justice, she has paired her new products with a program to get girls in the developing world back to school by providing appropriate monthly products for them, too.

Hayward’s new venture, Cora, was launched early this year and with just four employees isn’t yet profitable. Hayward declined to provide margin specifics, but notes that unit sales of the product are profitable.

Entrepreneur Dave Heath, founder of social venture and sock maker Bombas, is an advisor to Cora. He say, “Cora is a off to a very promising start as a business, with a dedicated core customer base and strong month over month growth since its launch earlier this year.”

Hayward’s commitment to actually helping young women in the developing world–starting with India–is already being seen, Heath says. “Even at its early stage, the company has already started purchasing and distributing pads to economically underprivileged girls and women there.”

Molly Hayward, courtesy of Cora

Molly Hayward, courtesy of Cora

Hayward, who previously founded sustainable fashion label Rebecca Street, explains her passion and what makes her a social entrepreneur. “Cora is driven by a desire to ensure all women have access to safe and healthy menstrual products. I was inspired to create Cora after meeting girls in Africa and India who would stay home from school during their periods because they couldn’t afford menstrual products. That’s why for every box of Cora tampons sold in the U.S., we give a girl in India access to sanitary pads and reproductive health education.”

Cora partnered with Aakar Innovation, a social enterprise that produces “plant-based, sustainable and biodegradable” pad that are manufactured in small manufacturing units in rural villages, she explains. In this way, Cora is not only helping to provide girls with life-altering products, the company is also fostering local employment.

Hayward doesn’t mince words when she explains the inspiration for her business. “Two years ago, I learned that we women in the U.S. have been putting synthetics and pesticide-laden ‘natural’ cotton tampons in our vaginas, and I was meeting girls in Africa and India who were missing school because they had no menstrual products at all. As a female entrepreneur, I decided to create a brand that solved the issues of safety, user-experience, and access to period management products, for all women everywhere.”

To be clear, there are two solutions. For the U.S. market and the developed world, Cora sells one product and for the developing world another.

Hayward describes what sets the Cora product apart for the developed world. “What makes us truly different is that unlike other tampon and “period box” brands, Cora doesn’t require women to sacrifice health, product performance, or user experience. With Cora, you have an organic tampon that actually works in a design-led experience that’s fully aligned with your lifestyle and values.”

Heath explains that Hayward is an activist as well. In what could be described as both a political maneuver and a marketing one, Cora agreed to pay the sales tax on its tampons sold in California where it is based. “This demonstrates their willingness to go beyond the core business and act as an advocate for better, more equitable policies in our society,” he says.

Launching a new business is inherently challenging. Hayward notes that she faces one unique challenge in particular; there is a lack of awareness of the need for organic feminine hygiene products. “There is [great] awareness of the benefits of organic food, but less awareness of the benefits of using (or risks of not using) organic cotton when it comes to tampons and other feminine products.” She is out to fix that problem, becoming a source of information.

Given that every woman on the planet menstruates monthly for “up to 40 years,” Cora faces a big market opportunity. Hayward is trying deal with the limitations of a startup in such a context. “The scale of the problem with the way women manage their periods is tremendous, and our challenge is to decide where we can and should play in order to quickly and efficiently win over women who are ready for a healthier, safer, more sustainable and socially conscious brand when it comes to managing their periods.”

The key to Cora’s success may be in finding the right strategy to help the most women within the limitations of her new venture.

Hayward believes Cora can be successful and change the world. “Our success will change everything–from the way women manage their periods to the way they feel about their periods and their female bodies.”

“Our work will be done when every woman can use products that are good for her body and the planet, and when no girl or woman is disempowered by her female biology,” she concludes.

Heath adds that Cora’s social impact doesn’t stop with organic products and its work in the developing world. The company also uses a social venture that employs “individuals rebuilding from incarceration, addictions, and/or homelessness.” The employees get training on top of employment to better enable them to succeed.

Of Cora, Heath notes, “As a for-profit company, you don’t have to do that. But the fact that they do shows that they’re not just using the moniker of ‘socially responsible’ as a marketing tactic. They make their socially-minded values central to their business operations.”

On Thursday, July 7, 2016 at 2:00 Eastern, Hayward will join me here for a live discussion about Cora, its prospects for success and impact. 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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