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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: August 2017

Imagine Dragons Lead Dan Reynolds Hosts Festival For LGBTQ Youth With Blessing Of LDS Church

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds is hosting the LoveLoud music Festival in Orem, Utah on August 26 to benefit LGBTQ youth with the explicit blessing of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The singer, acknowledging that his life as a musician requires him to be an entrepreneur, says he avoids the business side as much as possible to focus on the creative side, adding that the mission of bringing people together influences his work.

In a face-to-face conversation you can watch in the video player at the top of the article, Reynolds says the mission of the music festival is “to provide a platform–a place–where the community can all come together from all different political climates–religion, non-religion, whatever it is–where everyone from all different cultures come together and agree on one thing.”

The one thing, he says, is to acknowledge that LGBTQ youth have a difficult time, especially in the context of “raising a family of faith.”

“The goal,” he continues, “is to provide a safe place where we can all agree on one thing: love.”

Orem is located in Utah County. Over 93 percent of people in Orem are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons have a complex relationship with the LGBTQ community, at once advocating for loving and respecting LGBTQ people while at the same time pronouncing homosexual sex a sin, even within the context of marriage.

In a prepared statement, Reynolds noted that suicide is the leading cause of death in teens in Utah and that LGBTQ+ youth who come from a home or community where they are not accepted are eight times more likely to commit suicide.

The LDS Church issued a formal statement regarding the LoveLoud Festival:

We applaud the LoveLoud Festival for LGBT youth’s aim to bring people together to address teen safety and to express respect and love for all of God’s children. We join our voice with all who come together to foster a community of inclusion in which no one is mistreated because of who they are or what they believe.

We share common beliefs, among them the pricelessness of our youth and the value of families. We earnestly hope this festival and other related efforts can build respectful communication, better understanding and civility as we all learn from each other.

Reynolds was raised a Mormon, was a Boy Scout who earned his Eagle rank and also served a two-year proselyting mission to Nebraska. He acknowledges that these experiences helped shape his life and influence his music.

Dan Reynolds, Imagine Dragons

Speaking of his mission, he says, “It was powerful for me so I’m sure it finds its way into my music.”

“As for Boy Scouts, I don’t know if necessarily, you know, lighting fires informs my music,” he says, laughing. He notes more soberly that his character probably was shaped in part by his experiences in Scouting.

For Reynolds, the Church’s support is a big deal that he personally worked to earn. “It’s incredible! Today marks a moment of great healing.”

This is important to Reynolds because it will help attract people who are “a little more conservative.” He wants the event to be a safe space for everyone, not just progressives.

Reynolds will perform with Imagine Dragons at LoveLoud, along with Neon Trees, Krewella, Nicholas Petricca of Walk the Moon, Joshua James and Aja Volkman.

The festival will also feature commentary from young LGBTQ people and their parents. “The dialogue can be powerful towards opening hearts and minds and creating, hopefully, a more loving environment,” Reynolds says.

The proceeds from the event will go to support nonprofits that support LGBTQ youth, including Encircle, Stand4Kind, The Trevor Project and GLAAD.

Encircle founder and executive director, Stephenie Larsen, says, “Dan is a beautiful person with a huge heart and an important mission. He is selflessly giving his heart and soul to help the LGBTQ community see the incredible individuals that they are. He spent a day at Encircle a few months ago. All day he took photos with the youth and had conversations with them. I watched him looking these kids in the eyes trying to communicate to them the love and support he has for them. It was if he was doing all that he could to take away any pain they may be feeling.”

Reynolds, the musician and reluctant entrepreneur on a mission to bring people together, may have been in a unique position to do so. Because of his support for the LGBTQ community and his LDS roots, providing support from both sides, he may bring the community together. We’ll see on August 26 if his vision for healing, unity and love for LGBTQ youth is realized.

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Learn more about my courses on entrepreneurship, crowdfunding and corporate social responsibility here.


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!

Knowing No App Alone Will Solve Hunger Didn’t Stop This Teen From Making A Difference

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Sometimes it takes the perspective of a kid to see problems that impact children and find a solution.

When Jack Griffin, then 16 years old, saw a news story about two kids living out of a truck in Florida who were homeless as a result of their late mother’s medical bills, he recognized a problem he hadn’t seen before.

He began researching and watching. He discovered that “there are so many kids across the nation that are, you know, getting ready for school in the bathrooms of libraries and gas stations. I realized that it’s so prevalent and yet still so hard to see if you’re not directly impacted by it.”

“I was just a student in high school I had to face none of the day-to-day struggles that these kids had,” the teen, now 19, told me in an interview. Watch the full interview in the video player at the top of this article.

When Griffin learned that 1,000 of the 3,000 kids in his high school qualified for free or reduced lunch, he decided he had to do something to help.

As he began to research, he identified a problem he thought he could help solve. An online search revealed low-quality results that weren’t always geographically relevant for a hungry kid without access to a car.

Asking an adult wasn’t a great solution either, he observes. “That’s so hard and such a massive absolute obstacle to overcome because it’s so difficult to reveal your circumstances to someone like that because there’s such a stigma around being in need of assistance and being in these dire circumstances.”

As an aside, Griffin interjects, “We have a lot of work left to be done with making sure that people know that it’s OK to just ask for help.”

Jack Griffin

So, Griffin created a website now called FoodFinder that would help students find free food resources. The site was school-centric so it worked by having the user enter the name of the school. The site would generate a Google map displaying the school as a blue pin and five or ten nearby red pins would be the nearest free food resources.

He launched the site near the end of the school year, coincidentally a high-demand time of year. When students leave school, those who rely on school for free or affordable meals now find themselves hungry.

Working with what Griffin calls the “first responders to hunger,” the teachers, counselors and administrators, the site immediately got some traction.

Looking to create an app, Giffin reached out to the Wireless Technology Forum in Atlanta and found stable|kernal, a mobile technology firm that helped them design and then build the mobile app.

Sarah Woodward, Director of Business Development for stable|kernal says, “The stable|kernel team was so moved by Jack’s story and by what FoodFinder wanted to solve that we felt strongly we should get involved. We love serving FoodFinder as their product team. They are a truly collaborative group that wants to do what’s best for the product, which makes our jobs easy. We love solving the technology challenges they have so that FoodFinder can focus on its’ real business of bringing more food resources to the people that need them most.”

About a year later, in the summer of 2016, Griffin launched the Food Finder app, available both in the Apple App Store and Google Play.

He’s proud of the app’s simplicity. There is no login and no data entry required. Open the app and it immediately starts looking for free food in your vicinity.

The website has been upgraded to operate much like the app. Users no longer have to enter a location. There is no friction whatsoever between a hungry person and the information about free food resources. Within two or three seconds, without any data entry, the information is presented.

FoodFinder website screenshot showing free food resources in downtown Salt Lake City

When I tested the website and the app, both identified ten free food resources within about two miles of my location but omitted the largest free food distribution center in the valley, the Bishop’s Storehouse operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall at the Weigand Homeless Resource Center operated by Catholic Community Services. Griffin explains that outside the Southeast, the app relies entirely on the USDA’s Summer Feeding Site location database; within the region, additional sites are added to the app’s database.

Griffin has financed the operation of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit with grants and donations so far totaling nearly $100,000. He’s looking to partner with corporations to make the operation more sustainable in some way.

One early partner is the Arby’s Foundation. Christopher Fuller, senior vice president of communications and executive director, said, “As an organization that has been involved with ending childhood hunger for years but is also expanding our focus to include empowering youth, a partnership with Jack was right up our alley.”

Fuller praises Griffin’s FoodFinder, “Before FoodFinder there was not a year-round national database for meal programs so finding a program near you was a challenge. Unfortunately, many families struggling with food insecurity don’t even know where to start looking when they find themselves in need. FoodFinder offers a comprehensive solution to this issue for families by delivering this information in an easy to use app.”

According to Feeding America, there are 42 million people in the U.S., including 13 million children, who struggle with food insecurity. The nonprofit notes that “households with children were more likely to be food insecure than those without children.”

These numbers motivate Griffin to keep working.

As Griffin built the website and then the app, he saw two sides to social entrepreneurship. “With social entrepreneurs, people are quick to loudly support your idea.”

On the other hand, he faced criticism from people asking if an app is really the best way to solve hunger. He notes that a “surprising number of kids and their families do have smartphones or access to one.”

What kept him going was the feedback. He acknowledges that it is difficult to track the conversion from app and website usage to people actually getting the food they need.

He loves hearing from volunteers at food pantries and churches that the people they serve say they found them using the app. He adds, “a couple of times a month we’ll either get an e-mail or a phone call sometimes with people actually in tears just whether they are directly impacted by the issue or not say you know this is such great work you’re doing. We really appreciate it.”

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Learn more about my courses on entrepreneurship, crowdfunding and corporate social responsibility here.


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!

Social Entrepreneur Seeks To Make CSR Easier For Everyone

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Ryan Scott, 48, CEO and founder of Causecast, is working to make corporate social responsibility easier for everyone involved, from the corporation and the employees to the nonprofits they support.

Causecast, a Certified B Corporation, operates a web service that matches corporate volunteers to nonprofit projects. The system provides a comprehensive reporting and management system.

Causecast allows both management and rank-and-file employees to put projects into the system to garner volunteer support.

Alicia Quinn, Director of Programs for Mission Edge, a nonprofit based in San Diego, uses the Causecast platform to match skills-based volunteers to specific needs in the nonprofit community there.

“It truly is a ‘one stop shop’ for corporate social responsibility and employee engagement,” Quinn says.

“When I first began designing the program, I didn’t have an effective method of sharing opportunities for nonprofit engagement with volunteers. I feared having to resort to email and an Excel spreadsheet to source organizations’ needs, and volunteers’ interests and skills. Causecast offers an efficient and effective solution for matching the supply with the demand.” Quinn says Mission Edge chose Causecast instead.

Ryan Scott, Causecast

“By offering an efficient and affordable product, Causecast allows nonprofits to access talent and harness the passions of the corporate community to impact the social sector,” she concluded.

Scott, an early investor in Tesla and other Silicon Valley startups, brought him into contact with the co-founders of AutoLotto, an app that lets users play the Powerball lottery right from their phones. (Disclosure: my wife owns 60 shares of Tesla.)

Mel Brue, head of marketing communications for AutoLotto explains that the lottery was originally started to fund social projects. Building on that idea, AutoLotto has created “social impact pools” that work like office pools to benefit charities. She says that social impact is especially important to millennials.

“Causecast has the infrastructure already in place to help us fulfill our philanthropic strategy domestically as well as abroad,” Brue says. “Causecast has been particularly effective in developing programs that are tailored to a specific region or country. Their diligent vetting of charities, as well as the infrastructure to facilitate giving, will allow us to launch impactful programs quickly as we scale both in the US and internationally.”

One feature of the program is modeled on crowdfunding sites. It allows employees to fundraise for a cause or charity in competition with other employees working to support the same cause. Employee engagement is one of the big benefits of the system, Scott says.

In one case, Scott reports, a corporation engaged 1,000 employees in a crowdfunding campaign, ultimately reaching broadly outside the company connecting with the social networks of the employees.

Scott, who had a successful exit in the 90s after creating an early opt-in email marketing platform, says he gained the ability to focus more of his energy on giving back after the deal.

“I tried doing some fundraising and things like that,” Scott says. “I found it to be not quite as satisfying as I would like. I didn’t really feel like I was being engaged at all levels.”

He began looking at corporations to see how they were giving and realized that they were not being offered tools that would make corporate social responsibility programs effective both in engaging employees and tracking impact.

So, Scott created Causecast.

He boasts that the system works. When companies have an existing CSR program and then adopt the Causecast platform for managing, they see an increase in participation. “All of a sudden they have 50 percent more participation because of all the transparency, because of the social, because of all of the technologies and products that we built around this.”

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Learn more about my courses on entrepreneurship, crowdfunding and corporate social responsibility here.


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!

Upscale Purse Delivers Purses With a Purpose

Chris Bray, a fixture in Utah’s nonprofit community, has launched a social enterprise she hopes will power the rest of her career with still greater impact.

Chris recognized that nonprofits are always looking for more funding, especially from funding partners that understand their mission and objectives and will support them appropriately. She decided to become such a funder.

She created Upscale Purse, an online retailer that sells new and used high-quality purses and gives 10 percent to charity. The upstart is already breaking even and she’s excited to see it grow.

Watch the full interview with Chris in the player at the top of this article.

Chris is focusing on charities that serve and support women. “Women have tremendous barriers in their way and many have become victims of cruel and inhuman acts. One in three women will experience some form of domestic violence sometime in their life (Utah Women Stats, 2017).”

“In 2016, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimated that 1 in 6 endangered runaways reported to them were likely sex trafficking victims,” Chris continues. “The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 4.5 million people trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally. According to the Report, in the United States, the most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation. The victims are predominantly women and girls.”

“At Upscale Purse, our purpose is not only to provide an opportunity to purchase beautiful purses and handbags but also deliver funding to support women escaping crisis situations and offer them an opportunity for hope and a fulfilling life. A portion of the sale of every purse will be distributed to select nonprofit partners.”

Chris Bray, Upscale Purse

Chris Bray, Upscale Purse

More about Upscale Purse:

Upscale Purse combines fashion with purpose and sells beautiful, upscale purses then gives as least 10% to nonprofits working with disadvantaged women escaping domestic violence or human trafficking. These are purses with a purpose! Organized as a low-profit company, we make a measurable positive impact on women’s lives through the sale of purses, donations to carefully vetted nonprofits serving disadvantaged women and the volunteer experiences we create.Partners provide services that include mentoring, education and assistance escaping dangerous situations.

Chris’s bio:

I have served in the nonprofit community for over 30 years. I have worked at the CEO of Utah Nonprofits Association, Vice President of Collective Impact at United Way of Salt Lake, Executive Director of Children’s Service Society and The Sharing Place. My past work has centered mostly in nonprofit services impacting children but in the past few years, I have worked with more organizations focused on women’s challenges. Happy and balanced women are an important cornerstone of successful families and our communities. Many women have tremendous barriers in their way to achieve their goals and too many have become victims of cruel and inhuman acts. I decided to start a company that sales purses and invests in nonprofits addressing these barriers. Because of my background in collective impact strategies, this company will work with the nonprofits who achieve significant impact for the women they serve and are making a measurable community impact.

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!

 

New Player In Living Walls Brings Outside Inside

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Sagegreenlife is bringing living walls to a growing market with new technologies that allow people to bring the outside inside.

The company builds its living, green plant walls on a patented hydroponic system without any soil. The “Biotile” stone was developed by UK-based Biotecture, Ltd.

Sagegreenlife’s founder, Richard Kincaid, 55, explains that LED plant lights provide an enabling technology by allowing plants to grow without direct sunlight.

Kincaid estimates the 2015 market for living walls at about $100 million. He hopes to see Sagegreenlife achieve revenue of $3 to $5 million for 2017. The business generates gross margins of about 60% but is not yet profitable.

The Luxottica living wall by Sagegreenlife

Watch my full interview with Kincaid in the video player at the top of the article.

Coming from a long career with Sam Zell at Equity Office Properties where he ultimately served as CEO and led the $39 billion (including debt) sale of the business, he began learning about the business of sustainable real estate, focusing on creating LEED-certified projects.

Kincaid is optimistic about the growth of a global market for green walls driven by the real benefits of the walls. “We help create more productive, healthier environments by making it easy to place living walls everywhere.”

In addition to LEED credits, he notes that companies get wellness credits for living walls. He explains that the walls absorb sound while purifying the air and increasing natural humidity.

Sheryl Schulze, senior project director at Gensler, a global design firm that sells Sagegreenlife walls, notes, “For years, the design industry has tried to solve for the successful engagement of diverse plant life in interiors. For people who experience living walls – and, the design teams creating environments to support the expectations – Sagegreenlife has made the entire process easier to implement.”

The Verdanta living wall by Sagegreenlife

The walls can be designed to display advertising as well. Schulze explains, “Brand messaging is key to successful organizations. Gensler understands that organizations attract and retain talent by the strength of their brand. When clients engage us, our mission is to build that message in the spaces we deliver. Sensory experience plays a large role in building that culture within organizations. The integration of live plants aid in that sensory storytelling.”

The collaboration between Sagegreenlife and Gensler has led to a new, smaller, portable wall that completely changes what a cubicle is. “Verdanta, the Next-Gen green wall, allows for the ability to easily reconfigure space to support various work modes while offering visual and acoustic privacy.”

Aaron Moulton, vice president of creative design for Treehouse, a sustainable home improvement company, found Sagegreenlife while conducting a search for sustainable products.

Moulton says his goal is to make spaces naturally more beautiful and healthier. “Humans need the psychological and physical health benefits of being near plant life and Sagegreenlife creates products that bring this ‘greenergy’ into homes and into commercial spaces to make them more productive and more importantly, happier!”

Moulton has what he calls a “technology positive” view of the world. He believes we can make a more sustainable world by using technologies, especially solar and batteries rather than by depriving ourselves of showers or electricity.

“We were in the design process for designing our flagship energy positive (produces more energy than it consumes) store and wanted a striking green wall that would both draw the eye, surround the doorway to our outdoor sales area and also be in line with our mission through the air scrubbing qualities of having plants in the space,” Moulton says.

By employing the Biotile technology, Moulton and Schulze agree that Kincaid and Sagegreenlife will capitalize on a global trend toward sustainability by helping people and companies bring the outside inside.

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Learn more about my courses on entrepreneurship, crowdfunding and corporate social responsibility here.


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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