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Monthly Archives: January 2017

6 Lessons For Social Entrepreneurs From 2016

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

In recent weeks, I have seen a common theme proffered on social media: good riddance to 2016. For some it is about politics; for others, it is the deaths of favorite artists or actors. The fact is, however, 2016 wasn’t so different from other years, full of a roster of events both positive and negative. There is much to celebrate and learn from 2016.

Looking back at six of the most popular posts I wrote for Forbes this year, I found some lessons from the social entrepreneurs I covered that are worth reviewing.

  1. Use Your Supply Chain For Impact: Utah-based dōTERRA showed us in 2016 how to use your supply chain to have a social impact. The 1.2 billion entrepreneurial company has chosen to use its international purchases of essential oils to support smallholder farmers in developing countries. They have complemented their supply chain purchases with grants from the direct marketer’s Helping Hands Foundation.

    dōTERRA volunteers in Nepal, courtesy of dōTERRA

  2. Power Of Partnerships: Physician and social entrepreneur Dean Ornish demonstrated the power of partnering with a bigger organization when he licensed his healthy lifestyle program to Healthways to help people overcome cardiac problems. This single deal allowed Ornish to help people across the country gain access to professional help with implementing his program.

    Dean Ornish, courtesy of Healthways

  3. Never Underestimate A Young Woman With Blue Hair: Maria De La Croix, applied for a job with Starbucks and was rejected because she sported blue hair, a violation of company policy at the time. Anxious to find a way to earn a living, she launched her own coffee shop on a bicycle. She made so much money, she started selling more bicycle-based shops and within two years had sold over 600 cafes in 60 countries. Her shops sell only organic food and coffee and use solar panels to generate electricity.

    Maria De La Croix, courtesy of Wheelys

  4. Impact Is Sometimes In Between: Colleen Copple learned from working against gang violence in her hometown how to bridge the gap between the police and the communities they protect. Twenty-five years after beginning her work as a community activist she now leads a consulting practice with clients around the globe, including the U.S. Justice Department. Her firm, Strategic Applications International led the development of the official report from President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. She leveraged her skills in bringing together people who sit on opposite sides of an issue to develop a shared understanding.

    Colleen Copple, courtesy of Strategic Applications International

  5. Regulation A+ Provides A New IPO Path For Social Entrepreneurs: Paul Elio, founder and CEO of Elio Motors, led a $16 million raise from the public in what amounted to a “mini IPO” under new SEC rules promulgated in 2015 in accordance with Title IV of the 2012 JOBS Act. Elio Motors is planning to launch the sale of a three-wheeled car that costs just $7,300 and gets 84 miles per gallon. Elio hopes the car will empower people who traditionally haven’t been able to afford a car and that it will also help the environment.

    Paul Elio, courtesy of Elio Motors

  6. Students Using STEM Skills Make Can A Difference: Six young women at MIT combined their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills to create a device that converts text to braille. The prize-winning inventors are hoping to bring the device they call Tactile to market a price point approaching $100, representing more than an order of magnitude pricing improvement over the market for similar devices today.

Team Tactile, six undergrads from MIT, are redefining what inventors look like. Photo courtesy of Microsoft.

Social entrepreneurs will likely change the world again in 2017. Those that make the most progress may be the ones that learn the lessons taught us by 2016.

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!

 

Confessions of a Mean Girl

Jessie Funk was a mean girl. Think Lindsey Lohan in the movie. Really.

Jessie wasn’t born a bully, she was first bullied. She developed bulimia as a result.

Today, Jessie cringes when she thinks about the times she was bullied but hurts even worse when she thinks about when she was a bully.

Jessie, who resembles Lindsey Lohan, describes her reaction to being bullied, “My natural reaction was to turn around and become the worst bully you can imagine.” She says she wasn’t just a bully to her peers, but also to her parents, teachers and school administrators.

Over the years since, she has worked to repair relationships with her family and others whom she hurt when she acted out.

As penance or repentance for the harm she did, she has launched Ivy Girl Academy, a nonprofit that works with young women to help them cope with the challenges they face. She travels the country helping girls learn to cope with bullying.

Jessie related the story of a young girl in North Carolina who approached her after a presentation and gave her a hug. Jessie thanked her for the hug and the girl pulled up her sleeves to reveal the cuts on her arms. She told Jessie that she was gay and hadn’t been able to come out to her parents, who had made it clear that they’d disown her if she did.

Jessie has coached the girl, to help her both deal with bullies in her school and to prepare for a healthy dialog with her parents.

Recently, Jessie joined me for a live discussion about her work.

Jessie is a professional speaker and singer with five albums under her belt. Her life’s mission is helping girls overcome the challenges that she herself faced. Ivy Girl Academy is the primary vehicle that she uses for that.

More about Ivy Girl Academy:

Twitter: @ivygirlacademy

We ignite personal & positional leadership skills in teen ladies through world-class workshops, summer camps, and certification programs.

The Ivy Girl Academy was created by Jessie Funk. Jessie has been a passionate advocate for teen girls since she was one herself. She has worked with, served and studied young ladies in many different capacities for the last eight years.

Jessie holds a leadership certification from the University of Notre Dame, she is a certified life coach and she has been a professional motivational youth speaker for a decade. Jessie has released five solo albums and has published five books including, “It’s Your Life…Own It. A Teen’s Guide to Greatness.”

Jessie Funk, courtesy of Ivy Girl Academy

Jessie Funk, courtesy of Ivy Girl Academy

Jessie’s Bio:

Twitter: @jessiefunksing

Jessie Funk holds a leadership certification from the University of Notre Dame along with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology. She has also been a professional youth speaker for twelve years, speaking for high schools and leadership conferences internationally. She is a “7-habits” facilitator for Franklin Covey, the most prestigious leadership training company in the world. She is a published author of two books for teens and she is also the Director of Education for the Utah Anti-Bullying Coalition. Her passion for empowering teenagers led her to start an international non-profit organization called “The Ivy Girl Academy,” a confidence and leadership- training program for teen ladies.

As a professional vocalist she has released five solo albums, has toured 36 states with the Broadway musical “Footloose,” has also been hired for hundreds of recording sessions as a studio vocalist including songs heard on TV’s “America’s Got Talent,” ESPN and “The Biggest Loser.” Jessie has walked away from three record deals unwilling to sell her soul for fame. She chooses to use her voice to lift and inspire in positive ways.

Jessie’s favorite role in life is that of adored wife and mother to two.

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!

2017’s Top Sustainable Investing Trends From Green Alpha Advisors

This is a guest post from Garvin Jabusch, Co-founder & Chief Investment Officer of Green Alpha Advisors LLC.

What are prospects for sustainable and impact investing in the New Year?

With the election of Donald Trump and his selection of a Cabinet packed with fossil fuel executives and climate change skeptics, sustainable and impact investors are facing stiff headwinds.

Despite political challenges, Green Alpha Advisors sees resilience in an emerging economy that is powered by low-carbon, fueled by innovation, locally focused and addressing the looming systemic risks presented by climate change and resource scarcity.

Here are six trends that Green Alpha’s co-portfolio managers Garvin Jabusch and Jeremy Deems say will drive sustainable investing in 2017:

Energy Tipping Point: Though a Trump Administration pledges allegiance to coal and other fossil fuels, Jabusch and Deems say simple economics portends a structural decline in fossil fuels. Put simply, renewables are becoming too cheap for fossil fuels to compete. Solar module costs have fallen 80% since 2008, and solar power can be generated for as little as 2.42 cents per kilowatt-hour—less than half the price of fossil-based electricity.

With solar panels continuing their dramatic fall in price, panel producers face some market headwinds. But Yieldcos, such as 8.3 Energy Partners (CAFD), should benefit in 2017. 8.3 owns, operate and acquire solar energy generation projects and its primary objective is to generate predictable cash distributions that grow at a sustainable rate.

Bridging the divide with wind: What issue can unite Republicans and Democrats? The answer, say Deems and Jabusch, is blowing in the wind. Across the country, wind power has become the new corn for Red State farmers, providing a steady source of income in low-income, Red State rural areas. In fact, the 10 Congressional districts that produce the most wind energy are represented by Republicans. California and other states, meanwhile vow to push ahead in the fight against climate change—with or without President Trump’s blessing.

Vestas Wind Systems (VWDRY) and other original equipment manufacturers are well positioned for continued growth in 2017. Vestas has already sold out its 2017 capacity and with 78 GW of wind turbines in 75 countries, it has installed more wind power than any other company.

Storage Surge: Last year’s massive methane leak from the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility outside Los Angeles has put battery storage of electricity on the fast track. Utilities such as Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric have moved to battery storage for back-up and GTM Research estimates that as much as 1,800 megawatts of new energy storage could come online by 2021, (see: http://bit.ly/2iAbNUy). Companies that stand to benefit from this trend include, ABB Ltd (ABB), Solaredge Technologies Inc (SEDG) and Tesla (TSLA).

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!: Though coal jobs were a focus of the 2016 Presidential election, renewables are where the most paychecks are. Wind power supports 88,000 jobs, while close to 209,000 U.S. workers are currently employed in solar—and that number is predicted to rise to 420,000 workers by 2020. As of October, coal employed fewer than 54,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Organics poised for record growth: As the fastest growing category in the food and beverage consumer sector, organics continue to set records. Jabusch and Deems believe 2017 will see expanded M&A activity in the category as food companies look to capture market share and growth. Deals like Danone’s $10.4 billion takeover bid for White Wave will become more commonplace with rising consumer demand for organics. Investors can catch this wave with companies like Hain Celestial Group Inc (HAIN), which produces organic food and personal care products; SunOpta (STKL ) which specializes in the sourcing, processing and packaging of natural and organic products from ‘field-to-table;’ and United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI), a leading distributor of natural and organic foods in the U.S. and Canada.

Global drive for Electric Vehicles: Deems and Jabusch expect Trump Administration policies may dampen electric vehicle prospects in the short term in the U.S. But globally, the EV market has taken off faster than a Model S. Mercedes plans to spend $11 billion to launch ten new electric models in the next decade, and “BMW will likely phase out internal combustion engines over the next ten years,” according to Baron Capital. Germany, Holland, Norway, India and other countries have passed or are considering bans on all internal combustion engines in the next decade, and the European Union says all new homes must have EV chargers in 2019.

As cities around the globe move to restrict the use of gasoline and diesel cars, Jabusch says investors should keep an eye on companies like FedEx, which is converting diesel vans to electric in urban areas because of greater efficiency and cost benefits.

UK Impact Investment Bank Launches Impact Measurement Tool

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

London-based ClearlySo is an investment banking firm that helps social enterprises raise capital from impact investors, those who seek a social impact along with a financial return. Last week, ClearlySo announced a new impact measurement service for private equity and venture capital funds.

Founder and CEO, Rodney Schwartz, is excited about the new product, which he says will make impact reporting easier. He says, “We launched our impact assessment tool, which, for the first time, specifically addresses the needs of PE/VC firms to measure and report on the impact of their privately held portfolio companies. It does so in a way that is portal-based, efficient, robust, easy-to-use, inexpensive and requires no lengthy questionnaires to be filled out by fund managers or investees.”

Rodney Schwartz, courtesy of ClearlySo

Rodney Schwartz, courtesy of ClearlySo

Mathew Holloway, the CEO of Q-Bot, a social enterprise client of ClearlySo, says, “Obviously ClearlySo has only recently launched ATLAS, but throughout our work with them over the last year, and more recently with ATLAS, they have created a structure by which we can more effectively and efficiency measure and communicate our impact. These tools have allowed us to set goals and targets for the future and track and report on their progress.”

Q-Bot’s ability to tell their impact story has made a big difference for them, including helping to drive top line growth, Holloway says. “This has added a huge amount of value by aligning the interests of different stakeholders, including employees, investors and customers, and creating a framework by which it can be clearly communicated. This has meant that Q-Bot has been able to have an even greater impact than expected and most importantly demonstrate it. Q-Bot works within the social housing sector where wider societal benefits form part of the procurement process and so has also greatly contributed to the growth of the company and winning of new orders.”

Luke Hakes, Investment Director at Octopus Ventures, has worked as an advisor to ClearlySo during the development of Atlas. He says, “Impact and its measurement is becoming increasingly important to both the VC and PE community and is increasingly high up on the agenda of LPs and indeed retail investors.”

The use for Atlas reaches beyond private equity and venture funds that focus on impact, Hakes notes. “Though we are not an impact investor per se, we are very aware that every investment we make has impact both socially and economically and it makes little sense for us to ignore this. Capturing and measuring the impact our portfolio companies have enables us to work with them to improve areas in which they may be weak and to raise awareness in areas where they are strong.”

Hakes also sees that market as the key to the success of Atlas. “To be successful, ClearlySo needs to help educate an industry which historically has been somewhat skeptical of the term ‘impact.’” He notes that mainstream investors view impact investors as sacrificing returns to do good. “They need to help VC and PE firms understand that by measuring the impact of their investments completed under their existing investment strategies and acting on the findings of that measurement, they have the opportunity to actually improve the performance of those assets and drive returns,” he adds.

Building the new platform has been no small task. Schwartz says, “This was the culmination of nearly 5 years of work, from concept development to implementation. ClearlySo built this tool with and for the PE/VC industry and with their needs and constraints foremost in our minds. The impressive and expert audience responded favorably and our first customer came forward, Octopus Ventures, a leading UK-based VC. Others seem set to follow.”

“When you launch something as a pioneer, something that has never before been attempted, and has been developed in a completely new way, you never know what the outcome will be–or even if the product will work,” he added.

That caveat notwithstanding, he says, “It seems to work extremely well and the market has responded in a very favorable way–exceeding our hopes and aspirations.”

Clearly so plans to market the product across Europe, where there is already growing interest, Schwartz says.

ClearlySo is, Schwartz says, Europe’s largest impact investment bank. He adds, “All of ClearlySo’s clients are great businesses, charities and funds doing something which changes the world for the better at the same time as building successful, valuable and profitable organizations.”

Holloway says, “ClearlySo helped Q-Bot raise a seed investment round in early 2016. During this process we found the team to be highly effective at connecting the company with relevant investors, managing this interest and balancing it with the needs of the business, and supporting the closing of the round.”

ClearlySo didn’t walk away at that point, he says. “Since then they continue to support us by shaping our strategy and offering towards future growth and fundraising needs.”

Schwartz, who got is start on Wall Street back in 1980 working as an analyst at PaineWebber, later started a venture fund focused on fintech before launching ClearlySo in 2008. Schwartz seems to be focusing on impact ahead of profitability, acknowledging that the company, which has 25 employees and targets £1.5 million in 2017 revenue, is not yet profitable. His goal is to drive a 30 percent gross margin.

Rodney Schwartz, courtesy of ClearlySo

Rodney Schwartz, courtesy of ClearlySo

He describes his focus and strategy on impact, “Every company we help is a high-impact enterprise. We enable them to change the world for the better by getting investors to back them and support their growth. We also help investors to understand the impact of all that they do.”

On Thursday, December 22, 2016 at noon Eastern, Schwartz will join me here for a live discussion about Atlas and the state of the impact investing industry at the end of 2016. 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!

My New Year’s Resolution: Read The Paper

It will come as no surprise to anyone else who lives on social media, I’ve delegated the responsibility for choosing the news that I read to my friends. In 2016, I rarely sat at my desk, in an easy chair, a cafe bar stool or on any other perch simply to read a newspaper. That wasn’t always the case. I was a religious reader of the Wall Street Journal for many years.

Over the past 25 years, digital streams of information have chipped away at my perceived need to sit down with the paper and really read it. More recently, social media has become a primary source of news. Often, social media leads me to articles in the New York Times and reports from CNN and other television news media, but in those cases, I’m typically consuming a single story, not perusing the full days’ news and putting it all in context.

Reading via social media presents another hazard. I often view only the headline.

Think about that for a moment. The headline is almost certainly abbreviated in such a way as to omit key points of balance. It is also unclear from just a headline, even if I can see who published the article, whether it is an editorial or reported story–a vital distinction for understanding what I’m not reading.

Even scarier, I think, is that internet memes circulating with no provenance or authority are hitting my brain in almost exactly the same way a headline does. An oversimplified statement is dropped into my brain and left there to ripen or putrefy before ultimately being forgotten. Give me ten mindless memes and ten New York Times or Wall Street Journal headlines in ten minutes. Wait ten more minutes. Just ten. Then quiz me. Will I be able to distinguish facts reported from the New York Times or Wall Street Journal from the memes making rounds without a source? I’m quite confident that I’d do poorly on such a test.

This past week, I spent some time trying to find actual copies of newspapers. If you’re like me, you probably haven’t done that in a while. Our local drug store no longer sells papers. The convenience store on Main Street no longer sells them either. The nearest grocery store does, but they were sold out of both our daily local papers. Starbucks was, too. It seems pretty clear that the business of selling newspapers isn’t what it used to be.

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That contradicts some key realities. Newspapers are simply amazing. The New York Times published yesterday, on Saturday, included 67 articles. Taken together with the photographs accompanying the stories–many in full color–and you have a book-length collection of professionally written stories, reported from around the world. The price: $2.50.

The Wall Street Journal, with similar girth and breadth of coverage, costs a whopping $4.00. The slightly thinner USA Today was $2.00 and the Saturday edition of the Deseret News, one of our local papers, was free.

So much of the news that we no longer read because it is not on the front page of the paper and may not make the list of most popular articles of the past 24 hours on the publication’s homepage, is important and well-written. You’d be surprised.

The USA Today features a story by Nathan Bomey about the coming resurgence of oil companies. He explores recent bankruptcies and argues that oil companies that have survived recent years are poised for a rebound. That wasn’t front page news but whether you are interested in how to invest your money, how to fuel your car or about climate change, that article might have been interesting to you.

The Deseret News ran a lengthy piece by Eric Schulzke buried in the middle of the paper about America’s aging infrastructure. Inspired by a recent water main break that cost the City of Sandy, Utah $200,000 to repair, noting that the City spends only $1.5 million all year on replacing aging pipes, the piece suggests that the country is ready to fall apart. In 1980, 10 percent of pipes were in “poor shape.” By 2010, that number had reached 45 percent. If you live in the United States, that would be good information to have.

The Wall Street Journal virtually buried a piece by Eliot Brown about Ford’s acquisition of Chariot, a shuttle company, last year, putting it into a broader context of mergers and acquisitions by Ford to cope with a radically changing future that will include driverless vehicles. From this example, Brown explores other examples of old-line firms making acquisitions of startups backed by venture capitalists. The volume of such deals in 2016 doubled compared to 2015. I bet you didn’t see that posted in your Facebook feed.

The New York Times ran a piece by Katie Thomas about a new drug for treating spinal muscular atrophy, a disease that sometimes kills children before their second birthdays. The drug will save lives, giving some children a chance at life that they simply would not have had otherwise. But the treatment isn’t cheap. The first year cost of the drug is between $625,000 and $750,000 with subsequent years needing lower dosages that are expected to cost only $375,000. After reading the piece, I could hardly believe it wasn’t on the front page. Why aren’t we all talking about this over dinner tonight?

The beauty of the physical newspaper is that we can easily see what the editors think is important for us to know. Those stories sit on the front page above the fold so that we can see those stories without even picking up the paper. The stories are organized by topic as well, with sections full of business news, sports news, arts news, and so forth. Newspapers are veritable treasure troves of information that I’ve been too often ignoring.

Now, I will confess, I don’t plan on subscribing to a print newspaper. I have found that the Washington Post app is great at giving me a virtual experience that parallels the print without mimicking it in any way. The app allows me to easily work my way through the paper, skimming some articles, reading others thoughtfully, in depth. It costs much less than a print subscription and I have it with me all the time.

As you may have guessed, I want to invite you to join me this year in reading the newspaper. Pick one that you like and read it. Regularly.

 

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