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Monthly Archives: October 2016

This Entrepreneur Is Killing It And Raising More Money For Nonprofits In the Bargain

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Tim Kachuriak, founder and CEO of NextAfter, one of the 500 fastest growing private companies in the U.S., is helping nonprofits raise more money using sophisticated data analysis.

Kachuriak expects to hit $4 million in revenue this year with 77 percent gross margins and 31 percent net margins, making the fast growing company highly profitable as well. Launched little more than five years ago, the company is listed as number 422 on the Inc. 500 list.

Kachuriak explains NextAfter’s approach to helping nonprofits increase online donations. “Our business exists to create a more generous world by using behavioral economics and applied research testing to discover what inspires people to give.” This allows nonprofits to increase donations by constantly A-B testing—comparing nearly identical ad copy to determine whether the difference between two ads will make a difference in giving.

The results of much of its client work is posted almost in real time on the research page of the company’s website, allowing any nonprofit—large or small—to benefit from the analysis they are constantly doing. In August, for instance, they compared the performance of two Facebook ads intended to capture email addresses for the firm. Both ads are shown on the page and the conversation data for each is provided. One of the nearly identical ads converted nearly twice as much. The statistical validity of each comparison is also shown.

The problem that nonprofits face is that charitable giving has not increased even as our society has become more prosperous, according to Kachuriak. “By almost every measure (income, wealth, GDP) we are living in the most prosperous time in modern history. However, the percent that people give to nonprofit organizations has been stuck at the same 2 percent of household income for the past 40 years. So the question is, if we are more wealthy than we have ever been, why are we not more generous?”

Kachuriak would like to change that.

So, NextAfter is constantly experimenting to learn what makes people give. “One way may be to better understand what motivates and inspires people to give. We believe that if we can decode what works in fundraising, we can then engineer a more generous society.”

“To accomplish this, we are using the greatest behavioral laboratory that has ever existed–the internet–to virtually peer inside the minds of donors and find out why they give,” he adds.

Tim Kachuriak, courtesy of NextAfter

Tim Kachuriak, courtesy of NextAfter

The biggest challenge he faces, Kachuriak says, is that nonprofits have limited overhead funding. “The greatest challenge is that nonprofit organizations by nature suffer from scarcity of resources– they do not have big budgets for Research and Development. So in order to fund our research into what makes people give, we help organizations optimize their fundraising efforts by applying the principles testing and conversion rate optimization that is being pioneered in the for-profit sector.”

In other words, the experimentation is done in real time in a live fire environment. By driving improving results it is easier for nonprofits to afford the effort.

The problem remains, however, that only large nonprofits are good candidates as clients. Small nonprofits simply don’t have the traffic to provide statistically reliable data from which to draw conclusions.

As Kachuriak notes, “One of the biggest limitations is the composition of the nonprofit market. 84 percent of nonprofits have annual budgets of less than $1 million. This means that they most likely do not have large donor bases, lists, or even web traffic which means that only the larger organizations have enough volume to actually statistically validate our results. This means that we are really only able to do our field testing with the upper 3.6 to 16 percent of the market.”

Kachuriak sees three potential benefits that can come from NextAfter’s success.

First, he hopes to see the creation of the most generous generation in history. “If we are successful in our mission of decoding giving–understanding what motivates and inspires people to give through real-world testing–then we can radiate our learnings out to the greater nonprofit community which may intern lead to a renaissance in modern fundraising and unleash the most generous generation in the history of the world.”

Second, he believes that by extension the work of nonprofits will expand and grow to the benefit of millions around the world who are aided by nonprofits. “You can imagine what [more giving] would do for the causes that the nonprofit community serves–more clean water for people that so desperately need it, more food, medicines, and support for those that can’t afford it, greater access to education, freedom, and information–and the list goes on and on.”

Finally, he believes that donors themselves receive an inherent benefit from giving. “Perhaps the greatest benefit to our world would be experienced by the donor herself–the more that we give to care for the needs of others, the less selfish we become and the more experience true happiness and contentment.”

On Thursday, October 20 2016 at 2:00 Eastern, Kachuriak will join me here for a live discussion about how nonprofits can improve giving—in some cases dramatically—by using more data driven approaches. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility 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!

Operation Water Addresses Clean Water Crisis With Scale

With 700 million people on this planet lacking access to clean water, Ryan Phillips-Page, founder of Operation Water, felt that he address water access at scale.

He explains that access to water goes well beyond the need for an adequate supply of clean drinking water. “Almost 1 in 10 people globally lack access to clean drinking water, with women and children disproportionately suffering. The ripple effect of poor health, inadequate hygiene, and lost educational and economic opportunities, traps the most marginalized in a cycle of poverty and disease.”

Operation Water is using innovative financing structures to implement large scale water projects. Ryan says, “We engage governments, utilities and contractors to execute scalable, socially critical water infrastructure projects on a Public-Private Partnership basis, utilizing an innovative funding structure that raises debt at attractive rates from Development Finance Institutions and Export Credit Agencies. From project sourcing to deal execution to construction, the goal is ultimately the provision of sustainable, affordable access to potable water.”

Ryan identifies two big challenges. The first challenge is that of breaking a new trail. “Our vision is ambitious in size and scope; we are charting a path that has not been walked before in terms of social impact water infrastructure development.”

Second, he notes, is the cultural complexity the organization faces. “In addition, across the developing world, a multitude of national, cultural and economic differences creates a complex environment to navigate.”

He acknowledges limitations in their work associated with their efforts to scale solutions up: they can’t help people in small, remote villages. “Since achieving economies of scale is a paramount objective of ours in order to affect the lives of the most people in need at the lowest cost per person, we are limited in our capacity to efficiently provide access to water to smaller villages in remote areas,” he notes.

Ryan remains committed to the solving the challenges and to bringing clean water to as many as possible. “Access to potable water is essential to a suitable quality of life, and thereby a prerequisite to hope, integrity, and opportunity. Delivering clean water solutions to communities in need will result in healthier, more economically productive, and ultimately happier lives,” he concludes.

On Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 5:00 PM Eastern, Ryan will join me here for a live discussion about the work of operation water. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Ryan Phillips-Page, courtesy of Operation Water

Ryan Phillips-Page, courtesy of Operation Water

More about Operation Water:

Operation Water seeks to deliver clean water solutions to the greatest number of people in need, at the lowest cost per person, by developing scalable infrastructure projects. Major water infrastructure investments build the foundation upon which the most marginalized can escape the cycle of poverty. Providing sustainable access to potable water provides a pathway to mitigating mortality and morbidity while alleviating malnutrition, gender inequality, and disparities in economic opportunity. Drawing on our extensive experience as finance and business development professionals, we resolve to lead the effort to end the global water crisis in the next 30 years, while serving as responsible stewards of capital.

Ryan’s bio:

Prior to founding Operation Water, Ryan was the Founder and Managing Director of RPP Capital Projects and Finance (Pty) Ltd, a company that sources and structures financing solutions for power and water infrastructure projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. In this capacity, he has travelled extensively across Sub-Saharan Africa to meet with Presidents, Ministers, Governors, Director Generals of utilities, and African businessmen to discuss the strategic infrastructure priorities of many African nations. Previously, Ryan served as Director of Facilities and Operations at African Leadership Academy, a world class pan-African boarding high school located in Johannesburg, SouthAfrica. He was African Leadership Foundation’s first staff member and assisted the Founders with networking and fundraising. Prior to moving to South Africa to help launch African Leadership Academy, he served as Vice President of Business Development and Sales at IntellectSpace Corporation, a Seattle-based technology company that serves investment banks, hedge funds, foundations, and law firms. Ryan worked closely with the Founders to develop and execute the Company’s initial sales strategy and successfully built the company’s initial client roster.

Ryan started his career in New York City as an Analyst in the Investment Banking Division of Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. He graduated with honors from Boston College’s Undergraduate Carroll School of Management with a concentration in Finance.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility 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!

 

Mother and Daughter Social Entrepreneurs March to Their Own Tunes



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

Last summer in Dallas, I met a remarkable mother and daughter pair of social entrepreneurs. While each heads in her own direction, both are having an impact.

Hannah Kerchner is a high school student who recognized the difficulty some students had in acquiring a band instrument and that many who were interested couldn’t join simply for lack of a few hundred dollars to buy or rent one.

Hannah says, “Around the United States there have been an increasing number of budget cuts in schools and an increasing number of low income families. Due to these cuts music programs have been cut of their funds sometimes completely. Student’s aren’t having the opportunity to be in band any more.”

Hannah launched Hannah’s Musical Hope to provide students with instruments. She explains, “To make sure every student has the opportunity to be in band Hannah’s Musical Hope provides instruments to low income students and schools. We take old instruments collecting dust in people’s attics, garages, or houses, refurbish them then donate them.”

Hannah’s impact goes beyond music. “Everything is run by high school students so that students also have the opportunity to make an impact in their community,” she notes.

Hannah says the biggest challenge she faces is in raising money. “The biggest challenge we face is fundraising. We have instruments, and we have people who need instruments but we don’t have the money to fix the instruments or grow the business.” She is running a crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo’s Generosity, but hasn’t made much progress.

Sadly, Hannah acknowledges that sometimes instruments aren’t the only thing preventing a school from running a band program. “If a school is trying to cut out their music program completely we can give them all the donations and instruments they need but if there is no support in the community or willingness by the school board then the music program will still be lost.”

Hannah remain optimistic. “If we are able to give all low income students and schools what they need then all students will have an equal opportunity to a full education. Music is really important in schools and has been proved to increase test scores and helps students learn better. If Hannah’s Musical Hope is successful, a happier, healthier, more responsible, and smarter society will be created.”

Hannah’s mother, Angela”Angie” Kerchner, MD, is a medical doctor who is launching a practice in holistic medicine that combines the best of traditional and alternative medicine she calls the Avalo Center for Integrative Health & Wellness.

She says doing medical school and residency with a young family wasn’t easy. “Without the strength and support of my family, I would not be where I am today.”

She quickly became disillusioned with the practice of medicine.

Angie says, “When I reached the end of my training, I realized there were limitations on my ability to care for patients the way I felt they wanted and deserved. Once I realized all that I had worked for was not what I had envisioned when I chose to become a doctor, I knew I had to push further, find a way to help physicians like myself practice medicine in a way that felt like we were really making a difference in the health of our communities.”

She explains the pressure she felt, saying, “The mainstream medical industry was pushing hard for me to enter a practice where I knew I would feel that I was cheated and would be cheating my patients. I couldn’t do it. I knew I needed to find another way to make a difference. That was how the plans for Avalo were born.”

Moving forward and overcoming her fears presented a big challenge, she says. “The biggest challenge to overcome was myself. Finding the courage to leave the safe space of fitting in with the conventional healthcare system and following the path that my heart led me toward was the hardest part of this journey. When my father passed away from cancer earlier this year, I finally knew I had no choice but to forge ahead. Settling for living and working within the confines of artificial boundaries is simply not option for me.”

Angie is no quitter. “I have overcome a lot of challenges in my life, and this one is no different. I simply refuse to give up until I know I have done absolutely everything in my power to conquer any hurdles that may lie ahead.”

Angie finds strength and motivation from her patients. “More than anyone or anything else, it is my patients that have given me the constant reminder that change is not only needed, but imperative. The interactions I have with the faces and stories of complete strangers are what truly keep me on the path toward making a difference. I won’t give up on Avalo, because doing so would be giving up on those patients.”

On Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 4:00 Eastern, Hannah and Angie will join me for a live discussion about their remarkable efforts to make the world better in their own ways. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Hannah Kerchner, courtesy of Hannah's Musical Hope

Hannah Kerchner, courtesy of Hannah’s Musical Hope

More about Hannah’s Musical Hope:

Twitter: @h_musical_hope

Hannah’s Musical Hope is focused on Keeping the Music playing. With large budget cuts in schools and an increasing number of low income families music programs are dying and student’s don’t have the opportunity to be in band. To solve the increasing problem we take used musical instruments, refurbish them, then donate them to low income students and schools. Hannah’s Musical Hope is a certified 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 2015. Everything is run by high school students so they can learn leadership, responsibility, how to run a business, and help their community.

More about the Avalo Center for Integrative Health & Wellness:

Twitter: @drangie_avalo

Avalo Center for Integrative Health & Wellness, Inc, is a start-up company working to solve some of the major issues plaguing healthcare in the U.S., including high cost and poor outcomes. We are working to fully integrate conventional family medicine together with holistic, preventive, healing and wellness practices under one roof so that patients can get well and stay well. We are doing this under a unique business model that we believe can lower healthcare costs for patients and companies, will provide for a strong relationship between patients & their doctors, and provide more access to personal care. Avalo is focused on making sure that the major stakeholders in health – patients & their physicians – are able to work together to meet health goals without barriers.

Hannah’s bio:

Twitter: @HKerchner

Hannah Kerchner is a high school student from Iowa. When she first joined the band in the 6th grade, Hannah played trumpet, which allowed her to learn with the same instrument her dad had received when he was in high school. A 3rd generation trumpet player, she instantly fell in love with both the instrument and music.

By the time she reached high school, Hannah had become more involved in band activities. Music had become an important part of her life. In her own words, band was more than a class or a hobby, “the members of the band are my friends, my team, and my family.” She also recognized that participation in band was what had kept her most interested in school. Hannah loves to learn. Unlike other classes, where an assignment is completed, playing trumpet gives Hannah a perpetual challenge. She can always take learning to a new level. For someone who loves to learn the way she does, band was the perfect class.

Hannah began to realize that some of her friends were not in band because of the cost. She then found out that schools had cut fine arts programs completely due to shrinking educational budgets, and many others (including her own school) were struggling. Some students were unable to take part in band due to the high cost of instruments, and dwindling music education budgets meant school rentals were also becoming more difficult than in the past. Knowing how much music had helped her do well in school and find her niche, she wanted to do something to help.

In May of 2015, Hannah attended an entrepreneurial conference. It was there that she learned how to start a business, and that no matter age or circumstances, everyone in the U.S. has the same opportunity. While at the conference, Hannah received an incredible amount of encouragement to follow her heart and live her dream.

Within a few months, Hannah was able to begin to see her goal become reality. Hannah’s Musical Hope was officially incorporated in her home state of Iowa in mid-2015. By August, instrument donations began to come in, and by late fall, Hannah completed the necessary steps to file for her non-profit organization status. It was a lot of work, but she kept working at it, refusing to give up on her goal.

Fundraisers and t-shirt sales helped pay the legal fees to send in the paperwork. Then, in July 2016, Hannah received official notice from the IRS that Hannah’s Musical Hope was officially granted 501(c)3 non-profit status.

Hannah is looking forward to continuing to grow Hannah’s Musical Hope to help her own community and others, as well. She & the team also hope to develop HMH chapters in other school districts so that other kids can learn about how to run a business, become leaders in their communities, and to see and hear the difference kids can make if they set their goals high.

Hannah is involved in West Branch High’s marching, concert, and jazz bands, and also enjoys playing in the band for Christopher Jive & The Uptown 45 Show Choir. In 2016, the show choir band, dubbed, “Nick & the Lemon Heads,” won Best Band Awards at three of their competitions. Hannah also participates in drama, works a part-time job in addition to running Hannah’s Musical Hope, and enjoys time with her family, friends, and her dog, Sirius. Keep an eye out for her upcoming first book, which is scheduled to be published later this year.

Dr. Angela Kerchner, MD.

Dr. Angela Kerchner, MD.

Angela’s bio:

Twitter: @drangiekerchner

Angela Kerchner M.D. is board certified in both family medicine and integrative holistic medicine. She is Founder & President of Avalo Center for Integrative Health and Wellness, Inc. After attending the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine, she completed her residency in family medicine at the University of Iowa’s Genesis Quad Cities Family Medicine Residency Program in Davenport, Iowa, leading to diplomacy from the American Board of Family Medicine. After residency Dr. Kerchner earned additional board certification through the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. In addition to her professional pursuits, Dr. Kerchner has been working on medical missions and education efforts in Haiti since the earthquake shook the nation in 2010. At home, while working extensively as an emergency room physician in underserved communities, Dr. Kerchner recognized the challenges that face both patients and physicians in the current healthcare system. Realizing the need for alternative practice models, she began attending business conferences to increase skills in entrepreneurship, leadership, and business communication leading up to the development of the plans for Avalo Canters. Outside of her professional life, Dr. Kerchner is married and is mom to three children, three dogs, and three cats. She enjoys art, literature, and travel. The family lives on a small farm in Iowa.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility 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!

 

Environmental Pioneer Shares Personal Story



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

Peter Fusaro, Founder Global Change Associates, is an environmental pioneer. Beginning in 1970, he has been working and advocating for the environment. Much of his work has been focused on finding the opportunities to save and make money by doing the right thing for Mother Nature.

He says, “I have been ardently committed to sustainability by focusing on practical solutions to complex problems through books, mentorship, lectures, interviews and insights on five continents. After a while, the ideas take root and get disseminated. Sort of like, Johnny Appleseed.”

It may be that his biggest challenge is what ultimately gave him the ability to influence so many. He got started before the race began. He says, “Being early” is the biggest challenge he’s faced. “One of my colleagues calls me ‘before early.’ When people are not ready to change behavior, there is much resistance.”

He overcame that challenge by finding ways to understand and collaborate with people. He says, “The way forward has been to find common ground and not scare people.”

When you jump the gun, you have to be patient. Peter says, the keys to his success are: “Tenacity, perseverance and vision.”

Over the years, his success and credibility have allowed him to help firms like our sponsor, Clean Energy Advisors, to raise capital. He advised Toyota on the Prius. His firm created energy efficiency programs for the NY-NJ Port Authority. He says he was among the first to spot problems at Enron.

He explains his success this way: “When you have a mission, you need to know yourself well enough to suffer failures, criticisms and skepticism. However, you continue to move forward by engaging people throughout the world in conversation and dialogue.”

Peter Fusaro, courtesy of Global Change Associates.

Peter Fusaro, courtesy of Global Change Associates.

On Friday, October 14, 2016 at 1:00 PM, Peter will join me here for a live discussion of his remarkable career and his insights about where we go from here. 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 Global Change Associates:

Global Change Associates is an energy & environmental advisory firm based in New York City and focused on the environment and capital markets. To that end, it works with fund managers in clean energy and sustainability to raise capital such as Clean Energy Advisors and Terra Global Solutions. The company also provides business strategy on market entry for renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean water for growth companies entering their expansion stage of development. The company has completed over 200 successful engagements since 1991 and has offered advice to the Toyota Prius development team on electric power issues, created energy efficiency programs for the NY-NJ Port Authority, assisted in automating due diligence for a Silicon Valley solar platform, and created the natural gas & electricity strategies for Total in Paris among others engagements. The company was first to identify problems at Enron, to identify the emergence of energy & environmental hedge funds, and offer energy & carbon risk management services. He is also founder of the Wall Street Green Summit, now in its 16th year and the oldest environmental finance event in North America.

Peter’s bio:

Twitter: @fusarotweets

Peter Fusaro has been an ardent environmentalist since Earth Day 1970 when he wore a solar power tee shirt in Pittsburgh. Over his long career in sustainability, Peter helped the US EPA take the lead out of gasoline and co-wrote an environmental impact statement on LNG safety & siting in the 1970s, created the first energy efficiency programs in New York City as part of the Mayor’s office in the 1980s, and helped transform how energy analysis was transmitted by email & fax in the late 1980s, and has been engaged in how energy can be used more efficiently and environmental benignly using capital market solutions. He identified energy & environmental hedge funds in the early 2000s and co-created the Energy Hedge Fund Center. He has run a clean tech venture capital fund. His focus for the past 10 years has been on the emerging field of impact investing. Here he is focused on direct investment in clean energy and energy efficiency technologies to reduce carbon and scale enterprises commercially.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility 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!

 

(Almost) All the Women You Know Have Been Sexually Assaulted

While I expect to hear from plenty of people that my headline is inflammatory and inaccurate, some will argue that far fewer than almost all have been assaulted and others will argue simply that all women have been.

Donald Trump’s celebration of his sexual assaults recorded in 2005 and reported first in the Washington Post have raised a cry from some women that his behavior is not that unusual, however unacceptable it may be in a presidential candidate. On Twitter, a consistent theme was that all women experience these sorts of gropings, reasonably described as sexual assaults.

Today, I asked my followers on Facebook if that was consistent with their experience. Among over 60 women who have responded, just four noted that they had not been groped or assaulted. The rest reported that they had been victims of sexual assault by strangers or colleagues. A number of them insisted that all women experience this.

Sexual harrassment

Of course, my sample is not scientific. The overwhelming proportion of responses suggests to me, however, that an overwhelming proportion of women are subjected to sexual assaults.

Here’s my Facebook post:

Some on twitter have suggested that all women are occasionally groped inappropriately by strangers or work colleagues. Women, is this true?

Here is a sampling of the responses (I’m not including names in my original post but will add the names of women who ask to be named):

Is for me. Doesn’t make it okay though.

It’s happened to me a few times. I’m always amazed when it does. It’s gross.

Yes.

Yes to your question about groping & statistics bear it out. Not only groped but 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime (CDC statistics). The emphasis has not been education to stop men rather than focusing on just educating women how to not get groped and assaulted. I have to conclude that there are not roving bands of repeat offenders out there but that these men are our fathers, our sons, husbands, uncles and brothers. Why do we not talk about it? The details of what has happened to some of the women in my family and circle of friends are too painful to share.

It’s happened to me at work and at bars. Once even at the gym.

Back home [in Israel] yes it was, but here in the Silicon Valley not at all.

I can’t speak for all women, but I’ve experienced it a lot.

I remember having a lab partner in 7th grade, who tried to look down my shirt ahs rub against me.

Yes, that’s true. However I reported mine and he got fired.

Yes it is true. Some of the things men have said are bad as well.

When I was working it happened on a regular basis with clients. Occasionally I’ve dealt with crappy co-workers too.

More than I’d like to admit.

Yes. It happened to me more when I was young and “hot” which apparently made it more acceptable. Now it happens rarely, it might be due to the don’t F with me gaze that I seem to unconscious wear. The change might also be age related too. It may be less acceptable now because I “look” like someone’s mom, therefore it would be inappropriate.

The world “all” not sure about that. But many yes. Including me. It happens not just at work, Association meetings and conferences, family events. That is why it is critical that men speak up when another man speaks in derogratory terms, or make lewd comments and bring that person’s name to the leaders..especially if it is a leader. The world needs strong men who honor women and their brilliance and place next to them.

Statistics are that 1 in 3 women will be a victim of sexual violence in their lifetime. Groping is sexual violence, so at least 1 in 3 have been. I have been.

I have been groped by a stranger and been exposed to by a stranger. It is THE NORM for women. We are taught to toughen up and take it, rather than disrupt others’ perfect worlds. (Jennifer Johnson)

Once in Sugarhouse Park, while running in the middle of the day. The rest is comments and looks. They look at me as though I am their property, or it’s their right to be so disrespectful to women. It’s really lame. (Cory Fox)

Grade school, Devon. I complained to my Mom & she intervened swiftly with a fierceness I have made my own. And what about the psychological cost of being always vigilant? Most women I’ve known even glance to check the back seat of their cars before getting in. Fortunately, there is a growing movement to bring empowerment-based self defense training to campuses & communities worldwide.

I watch 40 and 50 year old men basically undress and stare down my beautiful 15 year old ALL THE TIME. It is infuriating on so many levels. I’ve had my fair share of ugly things from men as well. I realize that there are so many good guys and I absolutely won’t lump all men together. But, I’m teaching my kids to change things where they can.

It happens to more people than you think. It happened so often to me that my kids told me that it was my personality that caused this. One of them even gave me “stink eye” lessons one afternoon to discourage such behavior from others. She even told me to walk like a man.

Yes. I grew up in a very chauvinistic culture. The unspoken rule is that it’s something you should get used to or feel flattered by, whether it’s groping or verbal assault. Women are objectified on daily basis everywhere.

I’d like to share all their stories, but this is a representative sample.

One friend privately shared her story.

I was sexually harassed by the owner of a company I worked for and sued and won the case. That stopped him from bringing any more liability to the company but honestly it didn’t help me reconcile what happened.

She went on to share the story of being raped by two men 25 years ago.

I am an entrepreneur now and I am constantly being challenged to overcome obstacles and fears. I was raped by 2 men 25 years ago and at the time I was blamed for meeting them at a bar and drinking with them. I reported the incident and went to the hospital for the kit. The Utah Supreme court wanted to use my case as an example for what date rape is but because I had 4 small children at home and they knew where I lived I begged them not to. I have lived with that fear and shame until about 3 months ago when I moved to SLC and began seeing the counselors at the rape recovery center. I am still learning to process and learning to be brave enough to maybe one day help others.

It is stunning to hear that she is acutely suffering after 25 years. I don’t think men appreciate the damage done by sexual violence–unless they are victims.

Some of the feedback from men includes:

This is a very painful thread to read. Not that I speak for any other man but on behalf of men who respect and honor women I am embarrassed and sorry any have experienced this. As a speaker and performer I have been groped, touched inappropriately, or propositioned, often on a per event basis, in one way or another mostly by women, but sometimes men as well. It is demeaning and humiliating – but my personality of friendliness and kindness to all doesn’t call someone out on it when they are asking for a photo or giving a compliment so I figure it’s just part of the business of being seen on stage and I’ve learned to let it slide and not dwell on it. But this whole thread makes me sad to read and I never realized it happens in every day life for women as it does in my line of work.

Unfortunately this is very common for a lot of men to be treated this way by aggressive females, but we live a society where men are not allowed to view these actions as abusive and inappropriate, or that as men, we should be flattered and accept touchy/feely women, stares and ogling and sexist comments. Our schools, churches and all civics organizations must begin to teach that this type of abuse will not be tolerated from either gender or sexual preference toward another, and must come out of DENIAL that a lot of women are every bit as predatory as men.

But the idea of men as victims and women as aggressors was a bit controversial. One woman noted, “But it is much, much more of a male phenomenon than a female one. This always comes up in discussions of this kind. It’s a false equivalency.”

Graphic demonstrating that out of 1000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free

Several of the women share links to other resources.  RAINN, an organization that fights sexual violence, notes that nine out of ten victims of rape are women. Shockingly, for every 1,000 rapes, RAINN says only six perpetrators will go to prison (compared to 18 incarcerations for burglars). Visit rainn.org to learn more.

Donald Trump certainly didn’t intend to start a national conversation about sexual violence, but let’s hope he did–and that we can change some of the attitudes people have about it.

 

 

How You Can Invest In (Not Donate) Ending Homelessness

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

It is almost as if the earth shifted a few degrees on its axis and no one noticed. The finance and nonprofit worlds have come together to create a financing model that literally allows investors to earn a positive financial return on programs that lead to reductions in homelessness–and no one seems to care.

Salt Lake County is leading the way with a new financing vehicle known variously as “Pay For Success,” “social impact bonds” or “social impact financing.” While some will quibble over distinctions, I’ll use or quote people using these terms as if they all mean the same thing.

Jeremy Keele, who previously worked for Salt Lake County and now serves as Managing Director for the Sorenson Impact Center at the David Eccles School of Business as the University of Utah, explains how it works.

In social impact financing (SIF), the private sector pays for the capital needs of high-performing, evidence-based nonprofits working on homelessness. If the program is successful, government repays the initial investment. Through models like SIF, government effectively off-loads risk to the private sector and only pays for positive outcomes, which is a win-win for both taxpayers and at-risk individuals and families in our communities.

The financing structure for SIF is upside down from traditional financing, with the investors taking the most risk earning the smallest returns. In fact, they often put money up for the programs on an entirely philanthropic basis, while other investors take less risk and earn higher rewards.

Mayor Ben McAdams of Salt Lake County points out that each participant has a motivation to put the money up that isn’t limited to financial metrics. The senior lenders, taking the least risk, are typically banks that receive Community Reinvestment Act credit with their regulators for lending money for these programs.

Mayor Ben McAdams, courtesy of Salt Lake County

Mayor Ben McAdams, courtesy of Salt Lake County

McAdams says, “The middle tranche is where many impact investors see their loans used. This includes private foundations who make what is known as a Program Related Investment. As social impact investors, they understand the high-risk, lower rate of financial return equation.”

He notes that the folks who take the most risk and are in fact unlikely to receive much if any of their money back in return, let alone receive any return on the investment, are grant makers accustomed to donating money to address these social problems.

Jeramy Lund, also a Managing Director of the Sorenson Impact Center, explains what motivates these grant makers: leverage. “This currently works for those at the bottom of the capital stack because the donors are getting $10 for every $1 they give to do work they care about.” They appreciate that their donations make the rest of the financing possible, significantly amplifying their impact.

Given the peculiar structure of Pay For Success deals, I couldn’t help but ask if it is even possible that this model can scale.

Jeremy Keele, courtesy of the Sorenson Impact Center

Jeremy Keele, courtesy of the Sorenson Impact Center

Keele says it can. “The model is scalable because of the tremendous growth in the impact investing market itself (with an estimated $60 billion in assets currently under management).”

Lund, too, is optimistic. “When you consider that an estimated $358 billion was given to charities in the US in 2015 alone, purposing some of this money from traditional philanthropy – ‘here’s your money, do some good, I hope’ to Pay For Success – ‘here is some money to do A, report back to me on X, Y and Z’ could provide ample scale even if a charitable component needs to remain a part of the transaction.”

McAdams, seeming a bit less optimistic, points out that only time will tell. “There are approximately 50-75 Pay for Success transactions in the pipeline, and once those mature and results are known, it will be possible to determine if the pilot programs are, in fact, scalable.”

Homelessness seems so intractable a problem as to beg the question whether any of this will help.

McAdams acknowledges that homelessness may never go away completely. “There may always be a need for emergency shelter, as when a woman is fleeing a domestic violence scenario and needs refuge. Or when a family is overcome with medical bills and loses their home or apartment. But emergency shelter should be just that, the response to an emergency. The more quickly you help folks move beyond an emergency, the less established the problems that come with homelessness will be.”

Lund says, “One of the benefits of some of the new approaches to treating homelessness is to accept that you can’t use a one size fits all approach and instead apply a specific set of interventions to actually solve for a specific type of homelessness.” He notes that if we can do this for each “type” of homelessness, we have the potential to end it altogether.

Lund notes that a key is to start with people who really understand homelessness, including the root causes.

McAdams identifies some of the key sources of homelessness. “In Salt Lake County we see homelessness because of domestic violence, poverty, untreated mental illness, drug addiction and lack of access to social safety net programs. There is also a lack of affordable housing.”

The Mayor hopes to prevent people from ever needing to end up at the emergency shelter. “By tackling the different circumstances that sent people into crisis in the first place, we remove the one-size-fits-all approach and begin to reorient the system so that we help keep people from ending up at the emergency shelter door.”

He adds, “Our collective impact model assumes that if we are all in harness together and united around the same agenda, goals and outcomes, we’ll have an impact that matches all the time, money and effort that goes into addressing this complex problem.”

Keele agrees, noting that increasingly experts know what needs to be done. “These are not ‘band-aid’ measures — they effectively address the underlying drivers of homelessness, like mental illness, substance use disorders, domestic violence and economic insecurity. What is lacking in most communities is the funding and technical capacity to address the problem systemically.”

Jeramy Lund, courtesy of the Sorenson Impact Center

Jeramy Lund, courtesy of the Sorenson Impact Center

Lund draws parallels between Pay For Success and the venture capital market. “My day job involves funding very risky early stage companies, venture capital, as we know it now, has only been around for about 50 years. But it now has a fairly standard set of contracts, pricing and expectations for the funders and the companies involved. Why couldn’t pay-for-success evolve in a similar fashion where government works with charitable donors, not-for-profits and for-profit funders to achieve social benefits and actually solve problems bigger than how do I send a picture that will disappear after five seconds?”

He adds, hopefully, “It won’t happen overnight, I just hope it will happen and we can solve problems as opposed to treating the symptoms.”

On Monday, October 10, 2016, Mayor McAdams will join me here for a live discussion about the County’s Pay For Success program aimed at reducing homelessness. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Cancer Survivor, Sommelier Infuses New Venture With Purpose

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Kirsten Henry Fox is an executive sommelier and entrepreneur who survived breast cancer in 2014. The cancer scare inspired her newest venture, Uplift Gift, a company launched on October 1st that sends gift boxes, typically including just the right wine for the occasion, to people experiencing cancer or other challenge.

Fox says, “For our launch, we are offering two types of gift boxes: one without wine, one with wine. Each gift box contains the following: a soft, ivory pashmina, hand-crafted chocolates, gourmet tea sampler, velvety sipping cocoa, three essential oils and a custom, hand-written greeting card. Optionally, if desired and legal to ship into the distressed friend’s state, the customer can add a bottle of white or red wine.”

“The gift boxes we will be offering at our launch,” she says, “include items that personally were meaningful for me when I was going through the trauma of diagnosis of stage 2 breast cancer. These are similar to packages my friends brought to me.”

The package without wine costs $176 with shipping. The package with wine costs $205. She projects a 53 percent gross margin with these prices.

From the start, 5 percent of the sales price will go to charity. Initially, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation will be the beneficiary. Ultimately, Fox says, she’s solicit charity nominations from her vendors.

Over time, she says, she plans to add more gift boxes for more circumstances.

Kirsten Henry Fox, courtesy of Uplift Gift

Kirsten Henry Fox, courtesy of Uplift Gift

Fox is the author of The Profitable Wine List and is also the CEO and founder of the Culinary Wine Institute.

There’s a need, she says, for the Uplift Gift service. “When friends are going through life’s challenges – divorce, death, bad medical diagnosis, pet loss – women are compelled to do something to show they care, but often they don’t have the time or ideas as to what to do, especially when their friends live out of town. They ponder what to send that means a lot to show the depth of their feelings; their friend is struggling and needs more than a ‘typical’ gift. And finding words to say is sometimes even harder.”

Fox hopes that the carefully curated packages will give recipients comfort, not only because of the contents, but also from seeing the donation to a nonprofit.

She also sees that her venture is stepping into an emotionally difficult situation, raising the bar on customer service. “Both parties involved are in pain – the supportive friend needs a meaningful way to show her love; the distressed friend is dealing with a huge life challenge. We can’t screw up by over promising and under delivering. If we screw that up, we will have two hurting people hurting more.”

There are limitations inherent in her business model. The prices are not accessible to everyone. “These are not gift boxes for women who are trying to put food on the table or who are struggling to pay bills. We help them by funding non-profits,” she says.

Despite the challenges and limitations, Fox is confident that Uplift Gift can make a difference for women in distress. “Our success will mean that distressed women will feel their friends’ love when they need it most.”

Karyn Barsa, a recognized leader in social entrepreneurship who previously served as CEO of Investors’ Circle, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing together social entrepreneurs and accredited investors, sees the potential for Fox to make a big difference. Uplift Gift makes it easy to express support and affection, fundamental to the peace we seek throughout the world.”

On Thursday, October 6, 2016 at 3:00 Eastern, Fox will join me here for a live discussion about the launch of Uplift Gift and how she hopes to help women going through what she’s already been through. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Hult Prize Winners To Deploy $1M Prize Improving Public Transit In Kenya

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Each year the Hult Prize committee sets what Jim Collins would call a big, hairy, audacious goal or BHAG for student teams of social entrepreneurs. This year, the challenge was to double the income of 1 million people in the developing world. The winning team created a texting system that optimizes the inefficient public transportation market in Kenya.

The $1 million prize was announced at the Clinton Global Initiative last month. The Clinton Foundation has announced that this will be the last such event and most of the employees have been given notice that that they will be laid off at the end of the year. The CGI was founded in 2005 to help find solutions to the world’s biggest problems. Being recognized at the final CGI is a historic footnote.

Karim Samra, Chief Operating Officer of the Hult Prize Foundation, was closely involved with the judging process. He explains why the Magic Bus Ticketing team won.Magic Bus Ticketing launched a startup that clearly meets a number of critical success factors including raising income levels for local drivers and conductors, a focus on significantly improving outcomes for millions through more efficient and effective transportation options, demonstrable financial and technical feasibility, a novel and unique approach that leverages technology appropriately for the market (sms-based), and embedded mechanisms for fast scale (financial rewards).”

The Magic Bus Ticketign Team on stage at the Clinton Global Initiative after President Bill Clinton announces their victory, courtesy of Magic Bus Ticketing.

The Magic Bus Ticketign Team on stage at the Clinton Global Initiative after President Bill Clinton announces their victory, courtesy of Magic Bus Ticketing.

Ted Wiley judged the Boston regional Hult Prize competition where the team competed. He was so impressed, he offered to mentor the team. He agrees that the team was deserving. “In addition to being the entrant with the highest likelihood of delivering on the goal of the competition of doubling 1 million salaries, Magic Bus has the potential to do something much bigger: provide dignified, reliable public transportation to the billion people in the world with the lowest income. Their ingenious approach is simple, scalable and rapidly profitable at prices their target customers can afford.”

Iman Cooper, part of the winning team, is the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Magic Bus Ticketing. She explains the public transportation problem. ”We are working with informal transportation systems in Africa, where the whole system revolves around lots of uncertainty. First, commuters simply don’t know when the bus will come, or how often, or how much they will pay before entering the bus. As a result, they can lose up to half of their daily income on inconsistent bus prices.”

The problem doesn’t stop there. The bus drivers are not much better off, she says. ”Buses are unsure about the demand along the route, therefore, they prefer to wait at the main terminal before starting their route. This means that the people waiting along the route spend even more time waiting, because the bus drives by when it’s already full of passengers.”

The system is a mess. Given that the majority of Kenyans rely on public transportation, this is a significant social problem that also presents a significant opportunity for social entrepreneurs.

The four co-founders are from Kenya, India, Congo and the U.S., providing the team with a global perspective.

Some of the Magic Bus team, with a Matatu mini-bus, a common form of public transportation in Nairobi, Kenya, courtesy of Magic Bus Ticketing.

Some of the Magic Bus team, with a Matatu mini-bus, a common form of public transportation in Nairobi, Kenya, courtesy of Magic Bus Ticketing.

Cooper explains their Magic Bus system. “With an easy to use SMS platform, Magic Bus connects the bus to the commuter. Our solution is two-fold, first we allow the bus to know the demand along the route, reducing their waiting time and increasing their productivity by allowing them to move faster and make more trips. Second, commuters can now text to find a bus, text to pay with mobile money, and text to book a ticket, allowing them to compare fares and find the best price before entering a bus–enabling them to save up to half of their income each day.’

Steven Covey would be proud of this win-win solution. It is a dramatic example of commerce finding a way to make a process more efficient in a way that will benefit both the providers and the consumers of a service.

Using just $10,000 to pilot their program in Kenya, Cooper reports, “we piloted extensively in Nairobi, developing our technology and beta testing with 10 buses over the past nine weeks. During this time period, we had more than 2,000 unique users, 73% of whom used Magic Bus more than three times. As a result, we have had more than 5,000 tickets booked through our system.”

Samra says the judges were impressed. “They also convinced a number of highly selective judging panels that they can execute on their plans on account of being intimately familiar with their target market and highly skilled at simplifying and distilling their message. The amount of traction (repeat and single users) they were able to register during their pilot was also a critical advantage – nothing speaks louder than satisfied and paying customers.”

A pilot program, however, is just a test run. Entrepreneurs face all kinds of problems in scaling up good ideas into profitable businesses. Cooper, recognizes that she and her team will face some unique challenges. “The largest challenge we face is that there are multiple stakeholders in every new market and each market doesn’t work the exact same way in terms of rules, regulations, and cultural norms. Each new market will require the right local connections, getting the agreement of multiple stakeholders, and identifying people to work with us who are just as committed to the mission as we are.”

She says, dealing with this challenge will require a large team, which they are prepared to build.

Samra says, “Magic Bus will now have to shift into execution mode. They will have to develop a more robust tech platform that can sustain high volumes of users, aggressively partner with bus cooperatives in Kenya to gain market share, identify corporate partners who can accelerate their path to profitability, hire a set of key staff that can institutionalize their processes, and iron out any kinks they discovered in their pilot in preparation for scale. In tandem, they will have to define and measure how they will choose to track their outcomes on target customers and communities.”

Bus driver in Kenya, says he’s happy with Magic Bus Ticketing service, courtesy of Magic Bus Ticketing

Bus driver in Kenya, says he’s happy with Magic Bus Ticketing service, courtesy of Magic Bus Ticketing

Cooper also recognizes that there are limits to what Magic Bus can do. Only people with cell phones who ride public transportation benefit from the system. “Luckily the majority of Africans, especially Kenyans, fall under this category,” she adds.

She also notes that it will be easier to make inroads in markets where there is some organizational structure, such as bus cooperatives. This will give Magic Bus a way to bring more buses into the system more quickly.

Of course, the startup is not yet profitable, but Cooper projects reaching break even in 2018.

Like all good social entrepreneurs, Cooper says the team is driven by purpose and mission.

We are driven by the belief that every person deserves access to economic opportunities, and are passionate about seeing that become a reality through efficient public transportation. Magic Bus improves the lives of commuters by adding certainty to their day, allowing them to compare fares before entering a bus, saving them up to half of their daily income and enabling them to pay through the convenience of their phones. On the other hand, the company enables bus drivers to better serve their community and earn a better daily wage by aggregating the demand for bus rides and increasing the drivers’ daily productivity by up to 5 hours.

Samra shares the conviction that transportation is critical to increasing economic development in Africa. He says, “During the final judge deliberations it’s interesting to note that both African judges (Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore and ADB President Dr. Adesina) thought transportation was one of the most critical challenges facing Africans today due to its impact on so many on a daily basis.”

“I always say competing against more than 5,000 of the world’s top entrepreneurs and winning the Hult Prize is basically just the first step – then comes the real challenge,” Samra adds.

On Thursday, October 6, 2016, Cooper and her co-founder and CFO, Wyclife Omondi, will join me here for a live discussion about winning the prize and what they will do with the proceeds to meet the Hult Prize BHAG. 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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