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The mission of the Your Mark on the World Center is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.

Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Monthly Archives: January 2017

Good Requires Sacrifice and Risk; Immigration of Syrian Refugees is Good

When was the last time you did something good? For a moment, let’s ignore little things and focus on things that are really good. So, I’m not talking about smiling at a stranger, I’m talking about buying lunch for a person experiencing homelessness. I’m not thinking about dropping a few coins in the Salvation Army Kettle but instead donating an amount of money you care about to a cause you care about even more. Keep that experience firmly in your mind as you read this piece.

In my experience, every good thing I’ve done has required a combination of risk and sacrifice. This is what I consistently observe as well.

For instance, Davis Smith launched a company called Cotopaxi. He hopes to make a lot of money for himself and for the venture capitalists who have backed his company. He’s also built the company to do good from the ground up. The company makes environmentally friendly outdoor and travel gear. They source the products and materials in ways that are friendly to the suppliers, especially to low-income providers. They hire recent refugees to come work in their company, often providing them with their first jobs in the United States. And they have committed to donate two percent of revenue to charitable organizations.

He has risked his financial capital and his career—to say nothing of the millions of capital others have invested in the business for which he feels some fiduciary responsibility—on a bet that he can do good in multiple ways using the economic engine of a for-profit business.

Rainer Dahl joined me on a trip to Nepal in 2015. At the time, Rainer was 70 years old. We slept on the floor in a school for a week, trekking out into the Himalayan foothills every day to help villagers install clean, wood-burning stoves to eliminate smoke from inside their homes. Smoke from cookstoves in the developing world is responsible for killing on the order of 6 million people, mostly women and some of their children, every year. We were shocked by the black soot and creosote we found in every home.

Each day, Rainer would climb from home to home in the village. Keep in mind that the Nepali village isn’t a cluster of homes and businesses so much as a collection scattered up and down the side of a mountain. Getting from one to another was a real hike. To each home, he would carry tools, often including a steel crowbar, five or six feet in length, weighing 30 pounds or so.

Rainer would then take the bar and use it to create a hole in the wall for a chimney. After installing the stove and chimney, he would use rocks and an adobe-like cement to repair the wall. Day after day.

I would really have felt sorry for Rainer if we hadn’t been joined by Jim Mayfield, the Founder of CHOICE Humanitarian, the organization that we were working with on the trip. Jim is past 80. He was also sleeping on the floor. Unlike Rainer, he would stay in Nepal. He spent nearly half the year in Nepal in 2015. He is working to eradicate extreme poverty in the country before he dies. It’s a race against time.

Rainer and Jim could each be at home relaxing. They’ve every right and no one would think less of them. Both, however, had chosen that week to make a great sacrifice for the sake of doing good.

Doing any good requires risk and sacrifice. You have certainly used the same calculus to justify good you’ve done. Whether it was donating money that could have paid for a needed home repair or time that could have been used to do something perfectly healthy and normal, like take a yoga class or read great literature. You chose to sacrifice for a person or cause you believe in.

Syrian people in refugee camp in Suruc. These people are refugees from Kobane and escaped because of Islamic state attack. 3.4.2015, Suruc, Turkey

Syrian people in refugee camp in Suruc. These people are refugees from Kobane and escaped because of Islamic state attack. 3.4.2015, Suruc, Turkey

Why, I ask myself, would we expect that allowing a healthy amount of immigration into our country, where 99 percent of us are immigrants or their descendants, should be without risk or sacrifice? In the long run, we know that immigrants make great neighbors because so many of our neighbors are.

How risky are immigrants to America? About 2.6 million of us die every year. Including the deaths from 9/11, 3,264 people died in terror attacks in the U.S. over 20 years, an average 153.2 per year. When I asked Google to calculate 153.2 divided by 2.6 million, Google responded “zero.” In fact, the answer is 0.005892307 percent. In other words, ignoring the fact that we tightened immigration policies after 9/11 and this data includes 9/11, the risk of death from terrorism is tiny. In several years since 9/11, the number of deaths from terrorism was zero. It is not certain that there will be deaths from terrorism in the future, but it is fair to label it a risk of immigration, however small.

Yes, one unnecessary death is tragic, but if we were willing to do whatever it takes to eliminate the risk of one single death, why do we still drive cars? More than 35,000 people died in auto accidents in America in 2015, up almost 10 percent from the year before!  Why do we still use stairs, which kill about 1,300 people every year? The fact is, in virtually every other aspect of life, we accept a far greater level of risk than that associated with terrorism from refugees—and immigration more broadly—without batting an eye.

There is only one question left. Is allowing a few Syrian refugees into our country good? Donald Trump is the grandson of an immigrant who arrived in America penniless. Where would America be without the likes of Albert Einstein and Hakeem Olajuwon? How about former refugee Madeleine Albright, our country’s first female Secretary of State?

Let me quickly concede that I cannot prove that allowing refugees into our country is good, but I wish to add my voice to the many who say it is. Having reached that conclusion, there is no question in my mind that we can and should accept the risks and make the sacrifices necessary.

If you want to keep doing good, as you have done in the past, I urge you to accept the risks of America’s traditional acceptance of refugees from around the world, based solely on their need, without respect to race, religion or country of origin.

How This Social Entrepreneur Is Moving Haiti Away From Aid Toward Trade

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

The international development community learned decades ago that when relief organizations bring in donated goods that are distributed for free to people in need, one of the outcomes is often the death of local businesses that provided those goods. Why then are NGOs continuing to employ this model in Haiti, asks author, entrepreneur, investor and professor Daniel Jean-Louis.

Jean-Louis is based in Haiti. His firm, Bridge Capital provides small loans to businesses that otherwise don’t qualify for loans from Haiti’s conservative banking sector. His 100,000 jobs initiative is working across sectors with NGOs, governments and the private sector to create 100,000 jobs by 2020. He reports having helped to create more than 10,000 jobs so far, though he worries Hurricane Matthew may have destroyed some of those jobs when it destroyed so much else in Haiti.

Bridge Capital is small by almost any standard, with just $1 million in capital. In Haiti, where a $10,000 loan can have more impact, that represents the potential to help 100 companies. Jean-Louis hopes to triple the capital base in the coming year, allowing him to reach a level of profitability. Profits come from the 7 to 8 percent net interest margin on its loans.

Jude V. P. Tranquille, founder of Haiti Entrepreneurship Camp, about whom I’ve written previously, says, “Bridge Capital brings investment and the 100k jobs builds a network of businesses around the country. People are benefiting from business growth as jobs were being created, transforming lives and providing hope to families. I personally know some businesses they have funded, including Enersa Haiti, a company that provides solar energy.”

Daniel Jean-Louis, courtesy of Bridge Capital

Jean-Louis is a purpose-driven entrepreneur. “My vision is to curb unemployment. I have worked all of my adult life toward that. We want to solve the problem of unemployment in Haiti. I want to help my fellow Haitian friends and family.”

Unemployment is a big problem in Haiti, he explains. “Unemployment has been a problem in Haiti as long as I can remember. A lot of people have something to do, a small micro business, but never a real job that can sustain their costs.” He notes that 70 percent of people in Haiti lack a formal job.

Jean-Louis says the government is the root of the problem. “The Government has never provided a good atmosphere where businesses can start and grow. The World Bank has published a study over and over that shows that Haiti is one of the worst places in the world to start a business. It takes thousands of dollars and months of time to register a new corporation.”

By raising capital in the United States for deployment in Haiti, Jean-Louis hopes Bridge Capital will provide fresh capital that will catalyze job formation. He makes it easier, he says, for entrepreneurs to raise money.

Jean-Louis’s book, From Aid to Trade, explains the failures of the aid apparatus in Haiti. He notes that Bill Clinton acknowledged that 50 percent of the aid promised to Haiti never left the United States. While the intention was good, he says, “it was ineffective.”

For the book, he and his co-author, Jacqueline Klamer, interviewed 1,200 people. Their goal was to determine why aid doesn’t work and to explain that in terms that the NGO community would understand. He hopes to move the NGOs to act in ways that will support economic growth.

The book is written in English and so targets the international, mostly U.S.-based donors. Jean-Louis hopes to convince donors to become more mindful of the ways their funds are used so that they don’t make matters worse by supporting NGOs whose work thwarts the local economy.

The 100,000 jobs in Haiti initiative is a first realization of the thinking in the book. By engaging NGOs as partners in job creation, he hopes to make a dent in the chronic unemployment in Haiti.

Tranquille explains, “The 100k Jobs also sponsors the well-attended ‘Buy Haitian, Restore Haiti’ event, which is a platform designed to connect businesses and the NGOs to do more transactions together, raising awareness of the importance for NGOs to buy locally.”

Jean-Louis faces twin challenges with Bridge Capital. Many small companies are not properly registered, making it difficult to set up a proper loan agreement. Getting companies registered is difficult, largely because of corruption. Bureaucrats make the process slow and tedious until they are offered sufficient gifts to move paperwork through the system.

Success is easy for Jean-Louis to define and imagine. “We will be successful if we can create 100,000 jobs by 2020. If we can reduce unemployment by 20% in the next five years. If we can curb the poverty level. When I see politicians working for the people. This is when I will be successful and the country will get better, too.” It may be harder to do.

On Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 1:00 Eastern, Jean-Louis will join me here for a live discussion about his work, his book and the effort to create more jobs in Haiti. Tune in here (at the top of this article) 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!

Wonder Where To Donate In A Humanitarian Crisis? This Entrepreneur Can Tell You

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

How many times have you wanted to give some money to help solve a crisis somewhere in the world but didn’t simply because you didn’t know to whom to give the money? The problem wasn’t likely that you didn’t have some candidates; more likely, you found too many candidates and couldn’t determine which would do the most good with your money.

Enter Iguacu.

Iguacu screens nonprofits working to address crises around the world to identify those that are having the best impact. Iguacu is a social enterprise that is so new it hasn’t yet set up its own 501(c)(3) organization, but that is the plan, according to founder Katherine Davies.

To date, Davies has funded the operations of Iguacu, but she is looking to establish a nonprofit entity so that she can collect donations and corporate sponsorships. Today, the organization has ten employees, including several analysts that Davies describes as “world-class” researchers.

To leverage the small staff and smaller budget, Davies has created a global network of experts that help Iguacu determine which nonprofits to support. She says, “The network gives their time for no fee because they support the Iguacu mission.”

Katherine Davies, courtesy of Iguacu

Davies founded Iguacu when she decided she wanted to find a way to help people suffering from the Syrian civil war in 2014. “I wanted to help, to donate to a good charity helping the Syrian people. But looking online, it was really hard to work out which charity, and to even understand what was going on.”

At that moment, she recognized that should couldn’t be the only one struggling to find the right NGO to support. “Surely, we have the technology and smarts to do better. Surely, we can create a platform where the public can learn how to act effectively where there is great need.”

Deborah DiStefano, an ophthalmologist and owner of the DiStafano Eye Center in Chatanooga, Tennessee, became acquainted with Davies before she launched Iguacu and has watched its progress since. She says, “We are all humans – brothers and sisters globally. So many of us feel we want to help each other within our global family. We lack the correct vehicle to achieve this goal.”

Finding the right organization to support can be frustrating, Davies says. “There is a lot of noise on the internet. Sometimes we look up a crisis and find 300 charities, many making similar claims. Great suffering often occurs in the midst of war, and rapidly changing and complex conditions on the ground, and sometimes in fragile states.”

Davies created the solution. “At weareiguacu.com, the public can find effective charities to support addressing key challenges in the world’s major crises.”

The work isn’t without its challenges, Davies says. “The biggest challenge we face is people hearing about us. We are a small team operating on a lean model of operation. We do not have a marketing department!”

Iguacu can’t address every problem in the world, Davies says. “We focus on the key challenges in severe humanitarian crises in areas of the world where the local capacity or willingness to respond is limited. We currently cover Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Nepal, Haiti, Central African Republic and Myanmar.” That seems like a good start!

DiStefano is optimistic about the organization’s prospects. “It needs to continue growing its base of donors and friends in Europe and the United States to have a continued presence and global impact on human suffering. The organization’s message really resonates; I am confident that Iguacu will galvanize the people they want to reach.”

Davies has a great vision for the impact she hopes to create. “A rapidly growing community loving Iguacu will create a powerful force for good in the world.”

“Iguacu empowers the compassionate response and its success will help to bring large scale effective support to those who are in desperate need and who may think the world has forgotten them,” Davies adds.

Iguacu Fall, at the border of Argentina an Brazil

The name Iguacu hints at Davies’ dream. “The name is a metaphor for this vision. ‘Iguacu’ (pronounced: igwah-soo) means ‘big water’ and is also the name of the great South American river known for its awe-inspiring waterfall. Iguacu evokes the power and beauty of thoughtful mass action, likening one person’s intention to a drop of water, and mass action to the great and beautiful Iguaçu.”

On Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 2:00 Eastern, Davies will join me here for a live discussion about Iguacu and the work it is doing to address some the acutest humanitarian crises in the world. Tune in here (at the top of this article) 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!

Winter Innovation Summit: A Quick Report

Impact investors and government leaders from around the world convened in Salt Lake City at the Winter Innovation Summit hosted by the Sorenson Impact Center to focus on the ways that data can be used to inform both investments and government spending.

Jeremy Keele, President & CEO of Sorenson Impact, said, “The central theme of Sorenson Impact and the event itself is to explore how data, evidence, and innovation can be leveraged to solve difficult social problems like homelessness, chronic unemployment, incarceration, and poverty.”

Government leaders, including both Utah Governor Gary Herbert and US Congressman John Delaney of Maryland, address the conference.

Former CNN anchor and current social entrepreneur, Soledad O’Brien, New York Times columnist David Bornstein, and Academy Award-winning filmmaker were featured in a discussion about the role of media in creating social impact.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams spoke at the conference. Salt Lake County, under his leadership, has successfully completed a second Pay For Success financing to reduce recidivism and homelessness in the County. The deal involves the County paying for services only if key results are achieved by providers. The providers, in turn, are paid by investors expecting that the results will meet the County’s requirements for a full payout.

DC Water and the Nation's First Environmental Impact Bond with Eric Letsinger (moderator), Beth Bafford, George Hawkins, photo by Decker Rolph

DC Water and the Nation’s First Environmental Impact Bond with Eric Letsinger (moderator), Beth Bafford, George Hawkins, photo by Decker Rolph

Eric Letsinger, founder of Quantified Ventures, George Hawkins and CEO and General Manager of the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water), and Beth Bafford, Director of Investment at the Calvert Foundation, explained the structure and process for creating the world’s first Environmental Impact Bond. The Pay For Success program provided $25 million of financing to create “green infrastructure” to prevent sewer backups during rain storms. The deal was also unusual in that the payor and the provider are the same entity, creating a moral hazard that had to be managed; the payor/provider only has to pay back the money if the intervention works. They note that they will, however, be strictly required by contracts to do the work, even if it isn’t effective, mitigating the moral hazard.

Pay For Success financings, also called Social Impact Bonds, require the use of objectively obtained and evaluated data on outcomes–not outputs. This data discipline is required for PFS transactions. That same discipline is beginning to spread throughout government social programs and impact investments.

One of the challenges discussed at the conference is the threat that the Trump administration will limit access to data rather than expand it. Linda Gibbs, Principal at Bloomberg Associates, an international philanthropic consultancy, virtually shouted, “Data is a public good!” She made the case that data should be generally available to the public except when there is a compelling reason to keep it private.”

A relatively new field within impact investing is gender lens investing. Jackie Zehner, President of The Jacquelyn and Gregory Zehner Foundation; Jackie VanderBrug, Managing Director, U.S. Trust, Bank of America Corp.; and Robyn Scott, co-founder and CEO of Apolitical, made the case for investing after measuring the number and proportion of women employees, managers and board members. They presented data that suggests that this approach to investing improves returns.

Much more happened at the Summit than can be covered here in a short story. Watch for follow-up pieces here and at Forbes.com.

 

How One Social Enterprise Is Celebrating Both MLK Day And Inauguration Day

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

The calendar’s juxtaposition of Martin Luther King’s birthday and the Presidential inauguration have never seemed so ironic as in 2017. In a single week, America will celebrate the person who gave his life for civil rights and the inauguration of Donald Trump, whom New York Times columnist Nick Kristof called a racist.

One person developed a plan to unify people this week. Aria Finger, CEO and “Chief Old Person” of DoSomething.org, is yet to turn 40 and so qualifies as young in my book. As CEO, she founded the affiliated agency TMI Strategy and serves as its president. This week, DoSomething.org leads a social campaign to engage its 5.5 million young followers, creating “Resolution Walls” in public to commit to improving their local communities this year.

Introducing DoSomething.org, Finger says, “We are a mission-driven not-for-profit and we are one of the most entrepreneurial brands in the youth space.” The organization has engaged young people in every state and 131 countries. The nonprofit works to address local and global social problems, and boasts of having organized the collection of 3.7 million cigarette butts from the streets and a drive that clothed half of the homeless teens in the United States.

Finger, who was personally responsible for the “Teens for Jeans” campaign that clothed homeless teens, launched TMI strategy in 2013 to capitalize on the rich database DoSomething.org had created over two decades of working with young people to do good. She describes TMI revenue today as one of two “main revenue streams” with the other being corporate sponsorships. According to audited financial statements posted on the site, 2015 revenues topped $19 million and assets topped $16 million.

“TMI works with tops brands and NGOs like PwC, Microsoft, the College Board, the Jed Foundation, American Student Assistance to help them reach and activate young people,” Finger says.

Nancy Lublin, the CEO and Founder of Crisis Text Line, says she’s known Finger since college, “She was whip-smart… and had a tongue piercing.”

Aria Finger, courtesy of DoSomething.org

“At its core, DoSomething.org is about optimism. If you believe young people are creative and effective, then you believe a brighter future is possible. DoSomething.org is an engine for hope,” Lublin adds.

That optimism seems to be just the right tone to strike as America celebrates the beginning of the Trump administration. DoSomething will take the public pledges from across the country to create daily challenges during this “Week of Action.”

Finger notes, “More than 75% of Americans currently see our country as divided. Not only will this campaign provide unity – showing that people from all backgrounds and communities want to make a positive impact – but it will activate young people to take real and concrete steps towards that change.”

She sees this as a beginning. “Adults have been screwing up our world for a long time; I’m excited to show the world that young people are solution-oriented doers that can actually make change. And this is just the beginning. By joining this campaign and by extension the DoSomething movement, these young people are committing to action for years to come.”

Youth publicly committing to do good, courtesy of DoSomething.org

The campaign is now well underway. Finger reports on the progress, “We’re thrilled that more than 60,000 young people are joining this movement and by Thursday, we will be halfway through our Week of Action and will have both more numbers/tangible results and also several amazing stories about what young people have done this week so far to make change.”

On Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 5:00 pm Eastern, Finger will join me here for a live discussion about the progress to date and the prospects for unifying America under the leadership of President-elect Donald Trump. Tune in here (at the top of this article) 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!

 

The Healing Tree Project Receives Grant that will Aid Mission to Help Burned Children Across Latin America

This is a guest post from Patti Groh, Director of Marketing Communications for Sappi North America.

Seven million children, mostly under the age of 5, suffer severe burn injuries in Latin America every year. It goes without saying that the physical damage is extensive, but the emotional effects can also be long-lasting. Inspired by the need for a more empathetic healing program, Alvin Oei, Environmental Design student from of the ArtCenter College of Design and the Designmatters department of social innovation has created The Healing Tree project for COANIQUEM BCF, the Burned Children Foundation (BCF).

In collaboration with COANIQUEM, a nonprofit pediatric burn treatment facility in Santiago, Chile, the Designmatters Safe Ninos multidisciplinary studio challenged students to work with stakeholders at the treatment center to reinvigorate the 6-acre campus with innovative, human-centered environments.

Oei’s project, which was recently awarded an Ideas That Matter grant from Sappi North America, is an immersive environmental design project that re-imagines the clinic as a child-friendly world that reduces stress and optimizes conditions for healing. To bring this to life, Alvin created a storybook, patient passport and environmental graphic system to guide children and their families through burn treatment plans. The illustrations will be developed by ArtCenter Illustration student Belle Lee based on Oei’s creative direction.

In the passport, child characters Camilla and Lucas act as guides for the patient as they embark on a journey through a magical world, based on the many ecosystems of Chile, filled with animal friends who support the patient as he or she goes through different treatments and therapies. Each animal represents a different form of therapy and demonstrates the process and skills the patient will need to navigate them.

For example, the bunny depicted throughout physical therapy teaches children to jump and stretch. The hummingbird is used in musical therapy to demonstrate expressing oneself. The Pudú, a native Chilean deer, is the representative of the compression-garment fitting process and emphasizes the importance of being unique and proud.

The storybook is available to patients, families and staff in the waiting rooms, dormitory and school at COANIQUEM’s facility. As children visit each animal character and progress through their treatments, therapists stamp their passport. The passport is also filled with interactive activities, such as drawing projects and scavenger hunts focused on finding animals on the walls of the facilities, as well as information for the families.

“Art is an incredible way to make a difference in the world, and I am proud to be working on this project with COANIQUEM BCF. These children are going through an unimaginable experience, and to help them in their healing journey is an honor. Without the support of Sappi, this and many other important projects like it, wouldn’t be possible,” said Alvin Oei, creator of The Healing Tree project.

The approach is research-based. The movement of healing spaces was sparked in 1984 by Robert Ulrich who found that patients with nice window views healed faster than patients with views of a brick wall. And, according to the Center for Health Design’s Guide to Evidence-Based Art, murals resulted in a significant decrease in reported pain intensity, pain quality and anxiety by burn patients.

With the goal of reducing stress for patients, Oei submitted the inspirational plan to Sappi North America’s 2016 Ideas That Matter competition and was awarded a $49,438 grant to bring The Healing Tree to life.

Since 1999 Sappi’s Ideas that Matter grant program has funded over 500 nonprofit projects and has contributed more than $13 million to a wide range of causes that use design as a positive force in society. Rooted in a passion for helping others, the Ideas that Matter competition shines a bright light on the power of graphic design and printed materials in today’s increasingly web-based world.

The project aims to complete these elements by April 2017. In addition to the 2,000 new patients treated on campus annually, COANIQUEM’s large network of NGOs and clinics allows The Healing Tree project to reach far more children than those within its own facility.

Patti Groh

About Patti Groh:

Patti Groh is Director of Marketing Communications for Sappi North America, a leading producer and global supplier of diversified paper and packaging products. She is responsible for the company’s coated paper and packaging marketing communications programs, including the branding of its products and the development of its award winning printed collateral. Patti manages all of their customer-facing communications, which incorporate a mix of print and digital media along with targeted events. She also oversees the Ideas That Matter charitable giving program, which provides financial support to designers who create and implement print projects for social impact. She has been with Sappi for 24 years and has held various positions in sales and marketing. Patti has a BA in Political Science from San Diego State University and an MBA from the University of San Francisco.

Two Social Entrepreneurs Help LGBTQ Youth–And Everyone Else–Cope


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

Stephenie Larsen and Andrea Smardon have each found their own way to help others cope with challenges. Their work intersected last fall when Andrea produced and reported a story about Encircle, Stephenie’s LGBT outreach center in Provo, Utah, for NPR.

The NPR story highlights the odd juxtaposition of Encircle’s new center located within sight of the Provo Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, noting that in the fall of 2015, the Church implemented a new policy toward married gay couples and their children that excludes them from full participation.

Stephenie sees an urgent need for helping the LGBT community in densely Mormon Provo. “Utah has the fifth highest rate of youth suicide nationwide, with LGBTQ youth who experience rejection from their parents having an eight times greater risk of suicide. Those that are LDS experience even greater depression, suicidal ideation and family alienation, often losing their faith and spiritual community along the way.”

Andrea Smardon, courtesy of Changing Our Stories

Andrea Smardon, courtesy of Changing Our Stories

Andrea produced the NPR story while working on her new, long-form podcast she called “Changing our Stories.” The podcast is about making meaningful change. The episode on Encircle will be released soon.

Andrea explains her motivation for leaving her long-term job with KUER, the NPR affiliate at the University of Utah. “This is a time of incredible change. From a warming climate to social and technological change, we’re all trying to adapt. We need stories to help us process all of this. Stories help define us. They connect us with a shared understanding and serve as a guide to where we are headed.”

She notes that the news we generally read, see and hear is not up to the job of helping us cope. “Many of us are bombarded with news and information all day long, but those stories are not adequate to the task of making meaning from our lives. In the 24- hour news cycle, much is lost. I think we start to forget about parts of ourselves, our history, and our potential. We need something more nourishing. People are hungry for something more, starving really.”

Andrea could see the need for more discussion about the the LGBT community in Utah County where suicides are such a problem. While some have questioned the connection to rising suicide rates in Utah, especially in Utah County, Andrea was interested in Stephenie’s work with Encircle to address the problem head on.

Encircle is setting up operations in a beautiful, old home the organization is restoring adjacent to the Provo Temple. What goes on inside that home is what will give it significance

Inside, Encircle is doing something new and different, Stephenie says. “What’s revolutionary about our approach is that we do not just serve LGBTQ youth, but also their families. We do this because research shows that youth are nine times less likely to commit suicide if their family is affirming. We also hope that better-educated families will influence attitudes in our community.”

Encircle’s story fits Andrea’s podcast perfectly. “I’m finding people who are figuring out how to make change, small and large acts of ingenuity or bravery,” she says. “I’m looking for those stories that can help guide the way for all of us. I’m not talking about how someone lost 50 pounds in a month or invented the next addictive app. I’m talking about the kinds of changes that might help preserve us as a species or at least live fuller lives while we’re here. Every episode on the podcast is a story of personal transformation. Because that’s what I need to hear right now, and I’m pretty sure you do too.”

Every story of change includes challenges. In fact, it may be the hurdles people have to clear that make the stories meaningful.

Stephenie says money is her biggest challenge. “Raising enough money to renovate a house and run a project like Encircle is a huge undertaking. A lot of the fears I had about individuals not wanting us in downtown Provo have proven to be the opposite. We have experienced nothing but positive responses and an outpouring of love.”

Andrea faces her own challenge now that she’s on her own. “I no longer have a radio station and a ready audience for my work, so I have to figure out how to reach people. Anyone can post a podcast on iTunes, but getting heard is another matter,” she says. “I believe there is an audience out there that wants what I have to offer, but the challenge is connecting with them.”

Stephenie has a similar challenge. “We aspire to reach those outside our geographic area by putting information online,” she says.

Stephenie worries more, however, about not being able to change the hearts of people who refuse to have the discussion–but should. “We value spiritual connections and understand it oftentimes influences individuals’ openness to LGBTQ equality. We are limited by people’s willingness to consider issues affecting LGBTQ individuals with openness, and cannot change attitudes of those who will not come to the center.”

Andrea visited the center and spoke face-to-face with Stephenie and others for her story. That’s her model. She doesn’t work over the phone. She explains, “I’m telling intimate stories, and many of them would not work as well over the phone. I’m based in Utah, and most of my stories – at least for now – are about people here. I think these kinds of stories would appeal to people across the country and the world.” She hopes her geographic limitations won’t limit her audience.

Setting aside the challenges and limitations to peer into the future, Stephenie sees a big change resulting from her work. “We envision our community as a place where sexual and gender minorities feel valued and respected—where they do not feel inferior or defined by their sexuality. We work toward a future where families and congregations will encircle all individuals with love.”

“We will see a drastic reduction in homelessness, suicide, and depression,” she concludes.

Andrea’s vision parallels Stephenie’s. “My main goal is to connect people to one another, to help tell someone’s story in such a way that it changes the way people view their own lives and their place in the world.”

“At a time when the US appears deeply divided, I want to create a space for listening, trust, curiosity, and new possibilities,” Andrea said.

On Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 4:00 Eastern (2:00 Mountain), Stephenie and Andrea will join me for a live discussion about the ways they are working to help people cope with change and challenges. Tune in here (at the top of this article) then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Encircle:

Instagram: @encircletogether

Encircle: LGBTQ Family and Youth Resource Center is a nonprofit organization that addresses the needs of Utah’s LGBTQ youth and their families, while changing attitudes within the community as a whole. Located in downtown Provo, Utah, the nonprofit center serves as hub to find resources that support the overall well-being of sexual and gender minorities, as well as provide a physical gathering place for families, individuals, and the community to host activities that are safe and enriching. Additionally, Encircle plans to facilitate individual counseling, conflict resolution, and other resources, including providing models of what inclusive homes might look and feel like.

Stephenie’s bio:

Stephenie and her husband, Mitch, love Utah County and have chosen to raise their six children there. She received a law degree from J. Reuben Clark Law School and is a member of the Utah State Bar. While living in Washington, D.C. Stephenie was an attorney for abused and neglected inner-city children. She then worked on Capitol Hill for both the House Committee for Children, Youth & Family and Utah Congressman Bill Orton. In Washington, D.C. she also worked for the lobbying firm MacAndrew and Forbes. Stephenie has done clerkships with Parsons, Behle and Latimer, Justice Stirba, Senator Orin Hatch and Utah County Guardian ad Litems.

More about Changing our Stories:

Twitter: @UtahPodcaster

Changing Our Stories is a podcast about transformation. Each episode is an intimate, true story about what it takes to make meaningful change. Forged in the Mountain West, it’s a virtual campfire under the stars. In a world where the 24-hour news cycle prevails, this show provides listeners a more expansive view on the human race, to reflect on where we came from, and imagine where we’re headed next.

Andrea’s bio:

Andrea Smardon is an award-winning reporter and podcast producer based in Utah. She’s a contributor to National Public Radio, and has worked at public radio stations across the country from Boston to Seattle. She recently left her reporting job at KUER in Salt Lake City to devote herself full time to podcasting and freelancing for national outlets.

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!

 

Career Spent Inspiring CSR Spreads Good Globally

Eclat Impact is a sponsor of the Your Mark on the World Center.



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

Georg Kell might not have anticipated the global reach of his work when he started his career more than 30 years ago. After joining the United Nations in 1987, the opportunity for global influence presented itself. Georg took full advantage.

Georg started his career as a research fellow in engineering at the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology and Innovation in Berlin. He then spent a few years working as a financial analyst in various countries in Africa and Asia, helping him to gain a global perspective.

After joining the UN in 1987, he became “obsessed with modernizing the UN from within and working with the private sector,” he says.

A key point in his career came 12 years after joining the UN. “In 1999, I helped craft a speech for Kofi Annan, then UN secretary-general, calling on business to look beyond profit and to contribute to society, the environmental and global governance,” he says. “The reaction overwhelmed us. It made the front pages in major papers. That’s where the real story of building the Global Compact started.”

Georg Kell, courtesy of Arabesque

Georg Kell, courtesy of Arabesque

Vince Molinari, the CEO of Oisa Capital and former CEO of Gate Global Impact, which partnered with the UN Global Compact, explains the impact the Global Compact has. “UNGC has done an amazing job of creating awareness and convening the private sector around global issues and the imperative of public and private collaboration to drive sustainability and civil society. This was born from the passion and vision of Georg and now is being carried on by Lisa Kingo, UNGCs new Executive Director.”

Georg is philosophical about the challenges he’s faced in his career. He points at his experience starting the UN Global Compact as an example.

“Launching the Global Compact, for example, was chaotic. With a budget of just $10,000, the first office in the basement of the UN had no windows and one of the team slept there. It was a real start-up within the UN. The working conditions were tough but the spirit was high, and it was a challenge which I learned a lot from,” Georg says.

He identifies two keys to success based on his experience.

First, he says, “My advice to anyone would be to discover your inner skills. If you identify an opportunity, try to be the best at it.”

Second, he sees value in being able to see beyond the walls of your own silo. “I also always advise people to be horizontally oriented. It’s great to dig into something very specific but connecting the dots and seeing the opportunities in connecting them, there’s a premium on that.”

Today, Georg serves as the Vice Chairman of Arabesque, a fund manager focused on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) criteria. With offices in London and Frankfurt, the firm focuses on trading and investing in 1,000 global stocks. This opportunity gives him the opportunity to continue his work of getting the private sector to focus more energy on doing good.

Molinari also admires the work Arabesque is doing. “Arabesque is innovating and bringing together the converging of transparency, shareholder and consumer alignment, corporate governance and sustainable values into investable products that are open to all level of investors.”

“This is truly game changing to have capital markets, technology and sustainability pioneers and experts all converging in one company,” he adds. “This is the epitome of multiple paradigms shifts intersecting at one company under its visionary CEO Omar Selim and his team, resulting in the future of investing occurring in the present.”

On Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 3:00 Eastern, Georg will join me for a live discussion about his career, the UN Global Compact and Arabesque. Tune in here (at the top of this article) then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Arabesque:

Twitter: @ArabesqueAM

Arabesque is a specialist ESG Quant fund manager that uses self-learning quantitative models and big data to assess the performance and sustainability of globally listed companies. The firm’s investment technology processes over 100 billion data points to select an investment universe of equities, integrating Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) information with quantitative strategies.

Georg’s bio:

Georg Kell is the founding Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest voluntary corporate sustainability initiative with over 8,000 corporate signatories in more than 160 countries. As its founding Executive Director, Kell helped to establish the United Nations Global Compact as the foremost platform for the development, implementation and disclosure of responsible and sustainable corporate policies and practices. In a career of more than 25 years at the United Nations, Kell also oversaw the conception and launch of the Global Compact’s sister initiatives on investment, the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), and on education, the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME), together with the Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative.

Mr. Kell now serves as Vice Chairman of Arabesque.

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!

 

‘Amazing’ Opportunity: Electrifying the Developing World With Solar

Clean Energy Advisors is a sponsor of the Your Mark on the World Show.


You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.
Back in the 1930s, the United States remained largely a rural country, with almost half of the population still living in rural communities–without electricity. Electrifying rural America was a key part of the New Deal. The key then was distribution of electricity generated in utility-scale plants.

Today, the world is in a race to electrify rural communities in the developing world. This presents an opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors around the world, say Chris Warren, CEO of Clean Energy Advisors, and Erik Melang, co-founder of Distributive Solar.

Unlike the New Deal-era effort to electrify rural America, today’s electrification efforts run the full gamut from solar lamps charged by day and used at night to utility-scale projects that connect to the grid.

Entrepreneurs around the world are getting in on the act. India has organized incentives and entrepreneurial support programs to for solar projects.

d.light, among others, offers a range of solar products in Africa, including solar lamps at the bottom and “modern, grid-like solar power systems for homes and businesses” at the top. Akon has installed 1,200 micro-grids across Africa. Utilities across Africa have built or bought power from solar developers who have built utility-scale projects.

Erik points out that the “market opportunity is huge.” He says, this is an “amazing opportunity for the world to invest in Africa.” He explains that in the developing world, homes can initially meet all of their needs with systems that produce fewer than 100 watts of power, while in the U.S. the average household uses 3 to 5 kilowatts, or 30 to 50 times as much.

The implications are important. A little bit of solar power can go a long way in changing and improving lives in Africa–which they can readily afford as they shift from kerosene to solar lighting. Many of the systems deployed at the household level use a pay-as-you-go model. The consumers pay for the power the solar panel generates rather than needing to buy the panel up front.

The other key implication is that as African affluence grows, the average household demand for electricity will grow until it eventually approaches the U.S. level. In other words, the business of providing solar power in the developing world will continue to grow faster than the U.S. economy for the next several decades.

Chris Warren, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

Chris Warren, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

Chris notes, too, that because much of the need in Africa is off-grid, systems don’t need to work with the grid, simplifying installation and reducing costs, compared with typical U.S. installations that need to work with the grid.

On Thursday, January 19, 2017 at noon Eastern, Chris and Erik will join me here for a live discussion about opportunities in solar in the developing world. Tune in here (at the top of this article) then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Clean Energy Advisors:

Twitter: @ceacleanenergy

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:

Twitter: @ceocleanenergy

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.

Erik Melang, courtesy of Distributive Solar

Erik Melang, courtesy of Distributive Solar

More about Distributive Solar:

Twitter: @distrsolar

Commercial Solar Origination. Recruiting, training and supporting commercial solar consultants to present the economic, branding and environmental benefits of going solar to commercial business owners.

Erik’s bio:

Twitter: @espmel

Erik Melang is a Co-Founder of Distributive Solar and oversees the firms Recruiting, training and support of Independent Sales Representatives. Erik previously served as Managing Director of Impact Partners, where he led impact strategies initiatives and renewable energy private equity investments. It is in this role that Erik was drawn to the amazing business opportunity around Commercial Solar Origination. The industry is in the early stages of mass adoption and Commercial Business Owners are realizing the tremendous economic benefits of deploying solar panels on their rooftops. Erik is an Appalachian State MBA with strong desire to learn and teach and is an avid follower of everything solar and all things “Impact.” Erik’s interest include Clean Energy, Fishing, Snow Skiing, Travel , Guitar Pickin’ and is a child adoption advocate.

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!

 

How Hiring Women Other Businesses Won’t Has Made ‘All The Difference’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Robert Frost suggested that taking the road less traveled made all the difference. The Women’s Bean Project, a nonprofit in Denver, Colorado, employs only women generally considered unemployable. For nearly 30 years, the social enterprise has worked to help women learn to work by giving them jobs; that is how they make a difference.

The “Bean,” as insiders know it, was recently selected by REDF, a national organization that supports social enterprises like the Bean, that “provide jobs, support, and training to people who would otherwise have a tough time getting into the workforce,” for a growth investment, according to Carla Javits, President and CEO of REDF.

The Bean, according to CEO Tamra Ryan, generates $2.2 million in revenue and employs 75 women. The business generates a modest gross margin on sales of gourmet dried food products of just 8 percent. The organization’s other costs are funded by grants and donations.

Ryan, recently named one of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Colorado, is the author of The Third Law, which examines the challenges that marginalized women must overcome.

Ryan explains that regardless of the circumstances that led women to experience chronic unemployment and poverty, the situation becomes a trap. “Women caught in the cycle of unemployment and poverty need help to break out. Not only do they believe they are unmarketable and unhireable, they don’t believe they are worthy of being hired by an employer who will care about them. In addition, the problems compound, creating numerous and overwhelming barriers to employment, including histories of addiction, incarceration and homelessness. A holistic approach is needed to break the cycle.”

The Bean provides jobs in a supportive work environment and complements the job with training on soft skills that help women get out of the poverty trap.

“We teach women to work by working,” Ryan says. “Through employment in our manufacturing business and the skill-building sessions we offer, they learn the basic job readiness and life skills needed to get and keep a career entry-level job. We hire women for a full-time job for 6-9 months, during which they spend 70 percent of their paid time working in the business in some way and 30 percent in activities that build soft skills, like problem-solving, communication and planning and organizing.

Kimball Crangle, the Colorado Market President of Gorman & Company, Inc., serves as the Bean’s volunteer Chair. She takes pride in the organization’s success. “I think the work the Bean does is incredibly impactful. We not only train women for jobs but also in life skills that extend beyond the working hours. The women that graduate from the Bean are better able to keep a job and improve the stability of her family.”

Javits emphasizes the program’s track record and partnerships. “The Women’s Bean Project is a stand out because of its’ business excellence which has resulted in more sales through partnerships like the one it has with Walmart and Walmart.com that in turn allow it to provide more job opportunities.”

Despite the Bean’s success, Ryan wishes she could do more. “Historically we have turned away four out of five qualified applicants because of our capacity. Today we are focused on growing our sales because sales create jobs. We want to ensure that we can serve every woman who needs us.”

She also has goals to help people she doesn’t employ. The families of the women the Bean serves are also beneficiaries of the program. “We want to ensure that our services are so effective and far-reaching that she is the last in her family to need us, that we help to create transformational change for both the woman and her family.”

The barriers to employment faced by the women we hire are numerous and complex. There are many factors that have led to each woman’s inability to get and keep a job, including backgrounds of abuse, addiction and incarceration.

Ryan notes that the obstacles to employment are complex; whatever they are, they are in the past. “Because we can’t change her past, we must be focused (and help her focus) on her future and finding a path to a successful life that includes employment and self-sufficiency. Sometimes the biggest obstacle can be helping her realize that she is worthy of a better life.”

Tamra Ryan, courtesy of the Women’s Bean Project

The biggest limitation the Bean faces, she says, is the women themselves. “Free will is the limitation to our solution. Ultimately each woman must choose to make the changes required for a new life.”

Crangle is eager to grow the Bean. “If we are able to expand our program and have a further reach, we can impact more women, which will ultimately improve our city in a myriad of ways, from the family systems of the women we serve, to the economic benefits of having a more skilled workforce.”

Ryan emphasizes the impact of the Bean’s work on the family. She says, “I truly believe that when you change a mother’s life, you change her family’s life. It can be challenging to comprehend how hard it is for a family to break out of poverty.”

She adds, “So many women have told me that when they were growing up they had no role models for employment; they never watched someone get up every morning and go to work. By creating role models in families, we finally create the potential for transformational change in the family as well.”

The Women’s Bean Project continues to hire women that others won’t–specifically so they will–and that has made all the difference.

On Thursday, January 5, 2017 at 1:00 Eastern, Ryan will join me here for a live discussion about the Women’s Bean Project and the women they serve. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe. The video player for the interview is at the top of this article.


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!

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!
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