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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

Api Podder

Addressing the Global “Missing Middle”

This is a guest post from Will Poole, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Capria.

The Problem: A Lack of Capital and Expertise

There has been enormous growth in both emerging market private equity and impact investing over the past five years. Global PE giants such as KKR have invested $200 million into sub-Saharan African enterprises and impact investors now manage over $50 billion in assets. However, despite these positive trends, there is still a financing gap for early stage opportunities described as the “missing middle”, “seed gap” or “pioneer gap”. The latest Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) annual survey found that of the $60 billion managed by impact investors, less than 10% is invested in early stage companies. Additionally, venture capitalists globally are shifting their attention to later stage investments according to a report from Ernst and Young. The global lack of early stage capital results in fewer opportunities for later stage investors, one of the top challenges of the impact-investing field mentioned in the GIIN annual survey. Furthermore, early stage risk funding is only part of the problem. Mentoring and other forms of ecosystem support are also required to help companies develop from the proof-of-concept to scale. The combined funding and ecosystem support gap for the global missing middle casts doubt on J.P. Morgan’s prediction that impact investing will be a $1 trillion opportunity by 2020.

A Solution: More Professional Investing Firms

Fortunately, there are organizations that are viewing this global funding gap as an opportunity. Investisseurs and Partenaires (I&P), an organization based in Paris created by a co-founder of the BC Partners, focuses primarily on small and medium enterprises in Francophone Africa. Fledge, a global impact business accelerator, uses a revenue based financing structure to address the challenge of finding exits for global impact businesses. Finally, the Unitus Group, which helped incubate the $23 million Unitus Seed Fund that I co-founded, supported the creation of three funds that invest in early stage opportunities on multiple continents. These organizations are all bridging the “seed gap”, providing critical financing, guidance, and support needed to prepare a company to raise sufficient investment to enable it to scale.

Will Poole

Will Poole

Scaling the Solution

Contrary to what some entrepreneurs believe, early stage investing is not easy! Convincing your investors to trust you with their capital, becoming the partner of choice for high quality entrepreneurs, and helping companies grow quickly and within their means take skills and experience that are rarely found in one person. My first fund, the Unitus Seed Fund, became the leading impact venture seed fund in India in less than two years because my partners and I:

  • Received very early risk capital and support from Unitus Labs
  • Rapidly assembled an incredible local team in Bangalore
  • Established the trust of high net worth individuals and family foundations

With my new venture, Capria, my partners and I will apply our experience investing in early stage entrepreneurs in India and the USA to seed the next generation of impact venture capitalists. Capria will partner with local fund managers who are experts in their respective geographies to launch at least 10 new venture funds over the next five years. We will leverage our experience as first time fund managers, the collective expertise of the Unitus network and a wealth of seasoned advisors to reduce the time it takes from launching a new fund to making a first capital call. We know that others have tried and failed to scale venture funds globally and understand what will and won’t work through conversations with industry veterans and over a year of background research. We have a plan that our investors believe in and are excited to run our first cohort in January 2016.

Quantifying our Impact

We know that it will not be easy to address the global missing middle. However, we’ve spoken to enough talented fund managers around the world to see that it’s possible to start closing the seed gap by helping the entrepreneurs chart their paths to scale and profitability. The exciting thing for us is the leverage that the Capria network of seed funds will have. A simplified version of the math works like this:

  • Ten $10M seed funds invest in an average of 10 companies each, catalyzing additional capital support from other investors
  • The most successful of those 100 companies advance to Series A rounds and raise an average of $5M

Depending on what you use for a survival rate and how fast the companies grow, you can see a path to $500M in impact capital being raised and deployed. And that’s only with the first funds: the second and third funds raised by Capria Accelerator participants will be 2-3 times as large!This model, along with the support of I&P and a couple of others, could turn the missing middle a thing of the past.

About Will Poole

Will Poole is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor, focused on improving ecosystems that bring opportunity to low-income populations.

 

Social Entrepreneur Works To End ‘Summer Slide’ And Close Achievement Gap For Urban Poor

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

The achievement gap between affluent and poor students gets worse every summer as the less fortunate forget much of what they learned during the school year, a phenomenon known as the “summer slide.”

Karim Abouelnaga, the young social entrepreneur who launched Practice Makes Perfect, explains, “The achievement gap is damaging to our society at a basic level. In 2009, McKinsey & Company estimated that the gap was costing our economy $310-$525 billion in GDP each year, which is the equivalent of a permanent national recession. The achievement gap is likely to widen as our income gap widens.”

“Our nation’s summer school system is broken. It’s well-intentioned but, as currently conceived, it doesn’t work. In reality, summer school is punitive; it’s for students who failed to learn enough to be promoted. It’s taught by teachers, many of whom are burned out from the previous 10 months. They put low-performing students together in a class to struggle. Students are assigned worksheets for tests that don’t really matter. They’re not engaged. They merely “do their time” in hopes of getting promoted and the cycle will likely repeat next year,” he observes.

Practice Makes Perfect operates in New York City’s toughest schools, where Abouelnaga observes, “Fewer than half the students in summer school pass end-of-summer reading and math tests and yet they will be promoted anyway because the city’s promotion policy also factors in attendance and classwork.”

The Cornell-educated Abouelnaga is proud of the program he’s created to address the problems he’s observed.

“At Practice Makes Perfect, we have re-imagined the summer learning experience. We work closely with schools to operate summer school programs for them,” he says.

Abouelnaga outlines the program as follows:

  • Our team handles the on-boarding and outreach process for schools.
  • We start by tackling the stigma associated with summer school and changing students’ perception around learning. Then we identify high-achieving peers who act as mentors to our students.
  • We hire college students who are aspiring teachers to lead our instruction. They conduct home visits before our program starts to build rapport with the students and their families.
  • We then hire teachers from the schools we work with to act as teaching coaches for the summer. They receive professional development and spend their summer mentoring aspiring teachers instead of burning out by teaching all summer.
  • We extend the school day incorporate local field trips, and do community service.

“We’ve created a model where everyone wins,” he exults.

Abouelnaga has a grand vision, “Practice Makes Perfect has the potential to eliminate summer learning loss and narrow the achievement gap by two-thirds. More importantly, our nation can take a huge step forward in providing equal opportunities for children of all backgrounds. We want to re-write narratives and change social paradigms. No longer will your zip code or where you’re born be the reason why you do or do not attain a high-quality education.”

Abouelnaga is one of the remarkable social entrepreneurs just completing the Santa Clara University Global Social Benefit Institute at the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

On Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 5:00 Eastern, Abouelnaga will join me for a live discussion about the problems facing our low-income, urban students and the solutions that Practice Makes Perfect is deploying to solve them. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Practice makes Perfect:

Twitter: @PMPUSA

Practice Makes Perfect (PMP) is a non-profit organization that provides an innovative summer learning program to struggling inner-city students. PMP’s unique “near-peer” model places K-8 students in small groups with higher achieving mentors from the same neighborhood who are four years older. PMP’s alternative to traditional summer school narrows the educational achievement gap among students in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. Results from Summer 2015 showed that students who have completed the PMP summer program show average gains of 2 months English Language Arts (ELA) and 6 months of Math proficiency.

Karim Abouelnaga with student, courtesy of Practice Makes Perfect

Karim Abouelnaga with student, courtesy of Practice Makes Perfect

Abouelnaga’s bio:

Twitter: @KarimAbouelnaga

Karim Abouelnaga is the founder & CEO of Practice Makes Perfect, which he founded at 18 while still a college student. He is the product of under-resourced New York City public schools, but benefited from mentors who helped lift him out of his neighborhood into Cornell University, where he received over $300,000 in scholarships and aid to make his college education possible. He founded the organization to “pay it forward,” to help students with a background similar to his who didn’t have the opportunities he had. Karim is an Echoing Green Fellow and Global Shaker and, at the age of 23, was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Education list in 2015.

Matchbook Learning Claims Solution To Struggling Public Schools

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

K-12 education in the United States just ain’t what it used to be. (Please pardon my use of the vernacular to emphasize the point.)

Sajan George, Founder and CEO of Matchbook Learning, explains, “Our nation’s K-12 public education system is in need of a turnaround. Children born in the bottom 25% income zip code have just a 9% chance of graduating from college. Our nation’s schools continue to slide against international peers. We once ranked at the top of the world in how we educated our next generation and now we are in the middle. We are failing both as a country and particularly our children of poverty. Our country needs a sustainable, scalable turnaround solution.”

George is leading revolution in education that he hopes will turn this disturbing trend around.

George describes the effort, “Matchbook combines the best in both public school turnaround expertise and blended learning expertise. Our principals are some of the country’s leading practitioners in engagements involving ‘lead turnaround partners,’ blended school design and implementation and coaching of master teachers.”

He emphasizes the use of technology and customization. “We have brought this tri-fold experience together to target school turnarounds with a customized blended model that blends face-to-face and virtual instruction in brick-and-mortar schools via a 1:1 computing environment, while coaching teachers to personalize instruction for the benefits of each and every child in their classroom.”

The focus is to enhance education at schools with most poverty, George says, noting, “Our unique and innovative blended turnaround school model is the first of its kind in the nation to be offered to schools with the highest poverty rates and needs.”

George hopes to expand the program, asking that we “encourage parents, funders and government officials to allow conditions for these kinds of 21st century models of school to proliferate based on results with the conditions necessary for rapid, sustainable scale.”

On Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 4:00 PM Eastern, George will join me for a live discussion about the problems facing K-12 education in the U.S. today and the Matchbook Learning solution. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Matchbook Learning:

Twitter: @matchbooklearn

Matchbook Learning is a national non-profit school turnaround management organizaiton. We courageously seek to turnaround some of our nation’s chronically failing K-12 public schools via our technology-enabled, personalized learning model of school. When we do, we believe that we will create powerful proof points that can transform the country.

George’s bio:

Sajan founded and leads Matchbook Learning, a national nonprofit school management organization launched in 2011 to turnaround our nation’s bottom 5% of under performing public schools with a unique blended model of school that leverages both online technology and turnaround management skills. Matchbook Learning has launched three successful school turnarounds in Detroit, MI, one in Newark, NJ and has plans to continue to expand nationally. Prior to founding Matchbook Learning, CEO Sajan George was a Managing Director with Alvarez & Marsal (“A&M”) where he led the Firm’s Education Practice. In that role, he led a diverse group of talented turnaround professionals across the U.S. in running entire K-12 public school districts. Sajan and his team at A&M employed turnaround strategies across major urban cities with precedent setting reform efforts in St Louis (2004 – first ever district to contract out its entire management to a private management firm), to New Orleans (successful post-Katrina success in designing the reopening of several schools within days after the levees historically broke – 2005 & 2006) to New York City (well chronicled turnaround and Broad Prize winner for in 2007 under Joel Klein) to Detroit (2009 & 2010 – historic State takeover and appointment of Emergency Fiscal Manager) with numerous mid-tier cities in between. Prior to A&M, Sajan was a Senior Director in Arthur Andersen’s Corporate Restructuring Group wherein he led turnarounds of companies in crisis across a range of industries in Canada, Australia and the United States.

Hat tip to Tara Russell at Fathom for the introduction to George.

Women With Disabilities Face Avoidable Challenges, This Nonprofit Seeks To Help

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

“It’s a tough fact of life that women with disabilities face challenges many of us cannot even imagine. But the tragedy is that many of their most difficult challenges could be avoided,” says Richard Ellenson, CEO of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation.

Ellenson elaborates, “Women with cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities receive basic healthcare services that are widely and persistently inadequate, inconsistent, and substandard. In fact, many physically disabled women experience life-threatening crises, and endure life-draining experiences, directly related to deficient medical care. All women deserve recognition and delivery of optimal healthcare; for women with disabilities, efforts aimed at improving their particular requirements for optimal healthcare delivery is urgently needed, deserved, and long overdue.”

To address this crisis, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation has launched its “Transforming Healthcare for Women with Disabilities” initiative.

Ellenson explains, “CPF, with the extraordinary support of 100 Women in Hedge Funds, has put together an innovative collaboration with four leading medical institutions – Columbia, UCLA, Harvard, and Northwestern – to create an organic team approach to addressing this issue.”

“We will spend our first year developing a model, and our second putting that model in place in a beta test. We will then spend that second year refining and evolving our approaches. Eventually, all the institutions will implement these new protocols and begin to share the work nationwide,” he adds.

Ellenson shared his vision for the future that will result from the current effort, “The success of this project will empower women with cerebral palsy to expect the same standard of healthcare received by us all. And give physicians the knowledge to finally deliver it. While women with cerebral palsy are the focus of this project, the outcomes will benefit many more women with physical disabilities including stroke, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis.”

On Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at noon Eastern, Ellenson will join me for a live discussion about the new initiative, including further discussion of the problems facing women with disabilities and what he hopes CPF can do to alleviate those problems. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about the Cerebral Palsy Foundation:

Twitter: @yourcpf

The Cerebral Palsy Foundation is a 60 year old organization whose Chairman Emeritus is Paul A. Volcker. Our mission is to transform lives for people with cerebral palsy today – through research innovation and collaboration.

Our collaborative networks bring together great thinkers in science, research, and technology who work actively with us developing solutions to the most pressing problems faced by people with cerebral palsy and related disabilities.

CPF plays an instrumental role in a wide variety of initiatives – from improving basic healthcare to adapting new technologies which provide advanced access for gaming and therapies, to funding translational research and clinical application which allow individuals to leverages the enormous advances being made in the sciences.

The Cerebral Palsy Foundation is guided by a deep commitment to delivering innovations that can change lives today. We are driven not only by vision, but by experience. More than half of our Board members have children or family members with CP, or have the condition.

Richard Ellenson with his son Tom

Richard Ellenson with his son Tom

Ellenson’s bio:

Richard Ellenson brings enormous vision and energy to his role as CEO of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation. In his first year there, he has launched major initiatives that have helped evolve the Foundation and ready it for significant growth in its work and profile.

Prior to leading CPF, Richard was founder and CEO of two assistive technology companies (Blink Twice and Panther Technologies) which helped transform and reimagine the field of assistive technology. Said Alan Brightman, Founder of Apple AAPL +0.86% Computer’s Worldwide Disability Solutions Group and now Vice President for Global Accessibility at Yahoo YHOO +3.23%, “The mass market mentality Richard Ellenson brought to this market was unprecedented in the history of assistive technology.”

Prior to this work, he was an advertising executive who created memorable campaigns for brands such as American Express AXP +1.32% and Remy Martin, and who penned the classic line, “It’s Not TV. It’s HBO.”

Richard has worked tirelessly to create awareness about people with disabilities and to share stories about their vibrant lives. He and his son have been featured as ABC World News People of the Year, on CNBC’s Squawk Box , in a New York Times Sunday Magazine cover story, and as a feature on ESPN’s E:60.

Richard has been honored with many awards in the field, has served on several Advisory Councils and has also been the recipient of two NIH grants. Richard is a graduate of Cornell and holds an MBA from The Wharton School. He lives in New York City with his wife Lora, Director of Gynecologic Pathology at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Cornell, and with his two very special children, Thomas and Taite.

Improving Your Nonprofit Through Skills-Based Volunteers

This is a guest post from Marjorie Ringrose, Director of Social Impact at Social Venture Partners Boston.

While it uncomfortably discounts the tremendous joy and value that comes with volunteering, there’s a volunteer-to-fundraising calculus that nonprofit and philanthropic leaders intuitively understand. People who volunteer for an organization are more likely to donate to it. They give larger contributions and donate more often and for longer periods of time than those who don’t volunteer.

One-in-four American adults volunteer with nonprofits, but few nonprofits use skilled volunteers as well as they could. Only 15% report volunteering their professional and management expertise. Most serve food, tutor children and provide transportation. These are certainly vitally important, but there is clearly more room for skilled volunteering. Why isn’t there more?

Is it because volunteers don’t want to offer their professional skills? No. The longevity of engaged philanthropy, the growth of corporate voluntarism, and LinkedIn’s more than four million members wanting do skills-based volunteering and/or join a board demonstrate professionals’ desire to volunteer their skills.

Marjorie Ringrose

Marjorie Ringrose

Is it because nonprofits don’t need people to volunteer their professional skills? Not generally. According to Taproot, two-thirds of nonprofits say they need pro bono help in areas requiring skill, such as marketing, human resources, and information technology.

Rather, it’s because many nonprofits don’t use their skills-based volunteers efficiently or effectively.

What a lost opportunity. Nonprofits miss out on valuable skills that could help strengthen and grow their organizations. And they miss out on engaging a population of volunteers that is not only sizable, but can also be significant and lasting donors.

Yes, identifying and engaging skills-based volunteers with the right professional experience and personality is hard. Finding and managing complex, lengthy skills-based projects is time consuming.

Organizations operating with an engaged (or venture) philanthropy model, which focus on donations of time as well as money, have practices in place to address this. Groups such as Social Venture Partners, New Profit Inc., Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, among others, have mobilized countless hours of skills-based volunteering for their beneficiaries and have, in many cases, secured those very volunteers as their own reliable donor base.

How do these organizations do it? They bring carefully vetted skilled volunteers to a small number of carefully selected nonprofits. They put the volunteers to work in carefully designed and managed projects that often get at the nonprofits’ most critical business challenges. They seek nonprofits who devote resources to stewarding these volunteers and with leaders who bravely expose their stress points and welcome volunteer involvement.

Effective use of skilled volunteers creates a virtuous cycle. Nonprofits get precious resources focused on their most pressing needs, volunteers feel like they are making a meaningful difference because they are being asked to do important work, in turn creating the deep commitment that can lead to even more (and more effective) volunteering and to significant, lasting contributions. Ultimately, it’s an authentic partnership that creates great value for everyone.

Marjorie Ringrose, Director of Social Impact at Social Venture Partners Boston, brings nearly 100 skilled volunteers and 3,500 hours of pro bono counsel annually to some of Boston’s best nonprofits @SVPBoston

Cucula: Signature Furniture in Favor of Refugees

This article was original produced for Dive In Social and is reprinted here by permission.

In Berlin, do it yourself culture takes unbelievable proportions for the ones who (like ourselves) can’t assemble even an easel. There is a friend building his own ship (!), another one making boombox out of old suitcases. And there was also the day when we step out of our flat to find a temporary woodwork in our backyard. This is Berlin being Berlin. And the do it yourself lifestyle found its perfect match in Cucula, a brand that sells furniture made by refugees living in the city. The twist: all the pieces are based upon italian designer Enzo Mari’s original work, who developed a line focused on educating the consumer market about design discipline.

cucula

 

“Cucula” means “doing something together” and is a term borrowed from hausa, the original language of a vast area in Africa and the second language in Nigeria. Inspired by Mari’s idea that everyone can make furniture, designer Sebastian Däschle took the italian’s design to a refugee camp in Oranienplatz, Kreuzberg, so that they could build up their own pieces. “But their reaction was that they don’t need furniture, they need work and money, Corinna Sy, co-founder, says.

Corinna joined Sebastian from the starting point of the company, which aims at promoting inclusion and providing education to victims of global disasters. Jessy Medernach and Barbara Meyer complete the founding team. Cucula intends to be an association, a workshop and educational program, altogether. Now, it works as a pilot. “It is complicated to establish a social business around here, I really can get why it is so hard. And even if we are starting a company, we have five refugees working with us. They have completely different needs and have been through diverse experiences, there are so many issues, says Sy.

In order to ensure the Cucula’s mission of including refugees, they try to include in the articles of incorporation the requirement of having immigrants in their staff. Besides being the only firm in the world authorized to sell ready made Enzo Mari items, the designer granted this right only for the cause. In his own conception, design has to do with utopia and the furniture proposed by his “Autoprogettazione” have been planned for a different society.

Sedia Uno chair, produced by refugees as a reward for the supporters of the crowdfunding campaign (photo: Verena Brüning)

Sedia Uno chair, produced by refugees as a reward for the supporters of the crowdfunding campaign (photo: Verena Brüning)

“Tavolo Rettangolare”, table designed by Enzo Mari and made by Cucula (foto: Verena Brüning)

“Tavolo Rettangolare”, table designed by Enzo Mari and made by Cucula (foto: Verena Brüning)

Mari’s idea shocked the design scene and when Cucula had its crowdfunding campaign available online, having a Sedia Uno as a rewards, it was a hit. 70,000€ collected in 6 weeks, enough to ensure scholarships to 5 trainees-refugees. The company-school-organization offers all the structure (home and health) to all five of them.

“We took Mari’s concept and put it in another context. Our goal is to emancipate people. By then, no one could produce and sell his pieces, but they were widely known in design books. Our entrance in the market was good, because we had a very well known designer and a social cause, Sy says.

Work at the workshop, shot before the fire (photo: Verena Brüning)

Work at the workshop, shot before the fire (photo: Verena Brüning)

Malik at the workshop oficina (photo: Verena Brüning)

Malik at the workshop oficina (photo: Verena Brüning)

But the product designer and now entrepreneur highlights the tension of dealing with a social problem that is an open wound in Europe. As if it was not enough, another problem caught everyone unaware: about a month ago, the workshop — that was working full-throttle to deliver the crowdfunding rewards caught fire. They not only lost a massive part of raw material, but had to suspend its operation until they find a new address so that they can resume work.

The workshop, before the fire (photo: Fred Moseley)

The workshop, before the fire (photo: Fred Moseley)

Material in the workshop, before the fire

Material in the workshop, before the fire

Despite the hardship, Sy speaks in a passionate way, and one can see the passion for work and for the cause through it. Without breathing, she tells all about her adventures in conducting the project. “Now we are very busy trying to stabilize our sales structure, since it is a bit different than the usual. We want the project to scale up, but it is not easy. We have to consider political, economic, social aspects, it is not only a matter of selling. Sometimes the refugees want to go back hoe sometimes they want to stay here. We need to listen each and every one of them. Our work is only the tip of the iceberg in their stories”, concludes Sy.

Brothers’ Venture Provides Building Blocks For Prosperity In Honduras

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

In 2009, Two American brothers with exceptional abilities and the brightest futures risked it all to create a social venture specifically designed to help the people of one of the Western Hemisphere’s most challenged countries, Honduras. Their toy block company Tegu is having an impact there and beyond.

Will Haughey, Chief Blockhead of Tegu, the company they founded, says they are working to address “poverty and unemployment in Honduras and Central America,” adding that “unemployment [is] well north of 30% and poverty rates [are] above 65%.”

Haughey notes that they found there really was no entrepreneurial or creative segment in the economy, so they created one.

“[We] started a manufacturing business in Honduras connected to a design business based in the USA. Tegu, short for Tegucigalpa, uses Central American hardwoods in the production of a premium quality magnetic wooden building system. The more blocks we sell, the more people we put to work,” he explains.

“Tegu Blocks are inherently educational and make a wonderful gift. The best thing we can do for Honduras is sell blocks as many places as possible all over the world. Schools are a great fit as well,” he concludes.

On Thursday, September 10 at 2:00 PM, Haughey and his brother Chris, the Head Elf, will join me here for a live discussion about the business and its impact in Honduras. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Tegu:

Twitter: @tegu

Founded by two brothers, Chris and Will Haughey, Tegu is a vertically-integrated premium toy company with a manufacturing facility in Honduras and sales and marketing office in Connecticut. Tegu debuted in the fall of 2009 and has sold over 500,000 units of its patented magnetic wooden blocks (“Tegu Blocks”) and has employed and trained more than 200 craftsmen and craftswomen in Honduras. Beyond their online distribution on Tegu.com and Amazon.com, Tegu Blocks are now sold throughout the world in mainstream and specialty retail and educational channels. Tegu has formal distributor relationships outside the USA in Asia and Europe. Founders and co-owners Chris and Will Haughey, the company’s most senior executives, developed and implemented Tegu’s strategy to reduce poverty, develop human capital, and support sustainable forestry in Honduras. Chris conceived the idea of Tegu based on his first-hand experience of Honduras and its social and environmental challenges. He left his career as a management consultant to devote himself full time to the development of the company in early 2007 and relocated with his family to Honduras in 2009 to establish the factory. Today, he is responsible for Tegu’s hiring of low-income Hondurans, the career development and training programs to grow their human capital, and Tegu’s sourcing program that contributes to reforestation and the reduction of illegal logging in Central America. He personally visits each of Tegu’s wood suppliers as part of on-site verification of their forestry practices. Will left behind his career in investment banking and finance in 2008 to lead the effort to raise Tegu’s capital and develop its consumer-facing brand. He has been Tegu’s fundraising champion in the United States, convincing socially-minded strategic investors to bet on a manufacturing firm that would have a major social and environmental impact in Honduras. Now he is the face of Tegu and its social return to the major international brands that support Tegu as its customers. Chris invested the entirety of his life savings – including his modest retirement savings – to provide Tegu with necessary seed capital, and Will invested over half of his life savings to take the company through to a viable product concept when he joined his brother full-time in the business.

Will Haughey’s bio:

Twitter: @willhaughey

Will Haughey is Co-Founder and Chief Blockhead of Tegu. Will oversees Tegu’s commercial activities including global marketing, sales, distribution and product development. Earning a BS in Business Administration from Indiana University, Will concentrated in Finance and International studies. Upon graduation, he joined the Healthcare Investment Banking practice of Goldman, Sachs & Co., in New York. Following two years of mergers and financing work, Will joined Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, managing investments in the public and private markets. Will joined forces in May 2008 with brother, Chris Haughey, to form Tegu. Will is based at Tegu’s US headquarters in Darien, Connecticut.

Chris Haughey’s bio:

Chris Haughey is Co-Founder & Head Elf of Tegu. In preparation for Tegu’s launch in 2009, Chris moved to Honduras in order to establish and grow the Company’s privately owned factory. Chris oversees Tegu’s engineering, sourcing, production and supply chain activities and is deeply involved in Tegu’s innovation initiatives globally. He spent three years with The Boston Consulting Group in their Los Angeles practice and prior to that worked for a year in Mexico City with university students. Chris holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University. Chris operates at Tegu’s Honduras factory.

Polio Outbreak In Ukraine Is Grim Reminder Of Need For Continued Vigilance

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Two cases of polio were reported in Ukraine this week, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, known commonly as the GPEI, weekly surveillance report. Both cases were a result of circulating vaccine derived polio virus. At the same time, the partnership of global organizations fighting to eradicate polio from the planet this year reported no new cases of the wild polio virus were identified anywhere in the world in the past week, despite the fact that it is now the high season for polio–a reason for cautious optimism.

The outbreak in Ukraine arose from vaccinations in country, World Health Organization spokesman Oliver Rosenbauer explained by email, “This strain arose in Ukraine, due to significant vaccination coverage gaps in the country. As many as 50% of children are under- or unimmunized, so there are many susceptible children, and this increases the risk of polio re-emerging or being re-introduced. This further underscores the danger of polio until it is eradicated completely. The best thing countries can do to protect themselves is to maintain high vaccination coverage.”

Rotary volunteer John Salyers immunizes a child in Ethiopia in 2014

Rotary volunteer John Salyers immunizes a child in Ethiopia in 2014

Europe has been polio free for five years, according to the BBC. Rosenbauer notes, however, that there is relatively little threat of contagion to nearby bordering countries, including Romania, “Countries bordering south-western Ukraine have relatively high vaccination coverage and good disease surveillance. But as mentioned, the possibility cannot be ruled out. The much greater threat is for further spread of this outbreak within Ukraine. Fifty percent of children are underimmunized, this gives the virus a lot of susceptible children to find and the chance to spread further. That’s the real danger at the moment, and that is why it is critical that an urgent outbreak response is implemented as rapidly as possible.”

One of the reasons that this outbreak doesn’t represent a major threat to public health because the circulating vaccine derived polio virus is typically less virulent, Rosenbauer said, “It’s true that this strain is comparatively ‘weaker’ than wild poliovirus. Ie it tends not to spread as easily, it tends not to cause as many cases. Nevertheless, we know that it is strong enough to cause paralysis, and two children are now paralysed by this strain. But in theory it should be easier to stop than a wild poliovirus outbreak.”

Ultimately, however, the threat is dependent on the response, Rosenbauer added, noting that “it all depends on how rapidly and urgently an outbreak response will now be implemented. A full and rapid outbreak response will stop this strain in a matter of a few months. But if the outbreak response is delayed or not fully implemented, then the virus will be allowed to continue to circulate and to continue to cause cases. So all depends on the quality and timeliness of the response. We’ve been very encouraged by the urgent measures the government of Ukraine has been putting in place this week, since finding out about the outbreak. Within 12 hours of receiving news of the outbreak, for example, the Minister of Health went on national TV and announced that the country was affected by a dangerous polio outbreak and of the need to implement urgent outbreak response. This commitment needs to now translate into a high-quality outbreak response.”

The outbreak is also a reminder for Americans opting out of immunizations that until polio is completely eradicated from the globe. Rosenbauer explains, “Diseases such as polio are only a plane-ride away. Polio can easily come back, and it is a virus that is extremely efficient at finding susceptible children. In the mid 1990s, poliovirus travelled all the way from India to find a community in the Netherlands, who had refused vaccinations. More than 70 children were paralysed for life. This is a dangerous disease, it is a painful disease, it causes lifelong paralysis. And there is no reason why any child should be affected by this disease any more. Safe and effective vaccines can easily prevent it.”

Notwithstanding the outbreak in Ukraine, there is reason for optimism in the global fight against polio. In the mid-80s, there were on the order of 350,000 to 400,000 cases per year. In 2014, according to the GPEI, there were 359 cases of polio caused by the wild polio virus, representing a 99.9 percent reduction in the number of cases. On average last year there were about 7 cases per week. So far in 2015, the number of cases is just 37, a pace of barely more than one per week. In Pakistan, the country with the greatest number of cases this year, there have been no confirmed cases since June 30. The most recent case in Afghanistan, where only eight cases have been reported all year, was on August 1, more than a month before yesterday’s data was published.

It is certainly premature to suggest that the August 1 case is the last case of polio from the wild virus, it is clear that the wild polio virus is on the ropes. There is good reason to hope that 2015 will feature the last case of wild polio in history. It will take some years of subsequent vigilance to be certain that the disease is truly eradicated, but 2015 could be a historic year.

Rosenbauer adds, “The job is not nearly finished, that is for sure. And if Ukraine shows us anything, it’s how unforgiving polio is to any area with significant vaccination coverage gaps. So efforts must be redoubled everywhere.”

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is led by Rotary International and includes the US Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Acumen Investee Brings Solar Power To Masses In India

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Damian Miller wants to transform emerging market economies from fossil-fuel dependent to self-reliant on clean solar energy.

Miller isn’t just a dreamer; he’s making it happen. As the founder and CEO of Orb Energy he’s quickly scaling up his business in India and recently launched in Kenya. He is also a recent recipient of the SAP Social Entrepreneur Fellowship in collaboration with Acumen.

He explains Orb’s mission as follows:

Our company’s mission is to make solar energy affordable, accessible, and hassle-free to millions of customers looking for a better energy alternative. To do this, we first design and manufacture our own products for superior quality and cost. Then to deliver and install them to our customers in the right way, we have set up our own branch network – which is totally unique in the the solar market in India. This network is key to gaining customer trust, and effectively providing after-sales service. Finally we team up with banks for financing, but we are now looking at ways of bring this critical activity in-house to make it more streamlined.

Miller is also looking for help, he notes, “We are looking for investors, who believe in and share our mission for emerging market economies. Emerging markets are where the bulk of future greenhouse gas emissions will come from, and where there is an enormous opportunity – based on the prevailing solar resource and still emerging infrastructure – for solar to gain an early foothold. We hope that others will join us, so that we can strengthen and accelerate our activities.”

On Thursday, September 3, 2015 at noon Eastern, Miller will join me live from India for a live discussion here about his work. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

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

More about Orb Energy:

Orb Energy is a leading provider of solar energy solutions in India. We sell, install, and service solar systems for electricity and hot water, and we are vertically integrated with our own R&D and manufacturing plant in India. We have 140 branches in 8 states of India, of which about 50% are franchised. We have also recently entered Kenya with a new subsidiary there.

More about the SAP Social Entrepreneur Fellowship in collaboration with Acumen:

Twitter: @acumen

Acumen and SAP, global business software leader, have collaborated to create the SAP Social Entrepreneur Fellowship to accelerate the growth of social enterprises serving the poor in East Africa and India. Leveraging Acumen’s 14 years of investing in early-stage social enterprises and SAP’s global business and innovation expertise, this unique collaboration will bring together emerging and established CEOs committed to building sustainable, socially driven businesses, creating a more inclusive global economy, and expanding opportunities for the poor to lead lives of dignity and possibility.

Miller’s bio:

Damian Miller is the CEO of Orb Energy, and a leading expert on solar energy in emerging markets. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge (Trinity College), where he was based at the Judge Business School. His dissertation addressed the role of entrepreneurs in the diffusion of solar photovoltaic technology when solar markets were still in their infancy. After finishing his Ph.D. in 1998, he put his research findings into practice, joining Shell Solar and becoming its Director of Rural Operations. Here he established solar subsidiaries in India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, and Indonesia. He also implemented a large-scale solar project in China, and managed joint ventures in Morocco and South Africa. During this time he worked closely with multilateral and bilateral development agencies and emerging market governments to help grow local solar markets, overseeing the connection of more than 125,000 solar homes. At the end of 2006, he set-up Orb Energy in India with his co-founder NP Ramesh. In 8 years, Orb has become one of India’s leading providers of solar energy solutions, selling, installing, and servicing solar systems across multiple states in India, with ambitious plans for further expansion. He has lived, worked and traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa, and currently resides in Bangalore, India.

Ex-Convicts To Run The Other Side Academy To Help Convicts

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Tim Stay, one of Utah’s leading tech entrepreneurs and executives, recently launched a new venture with successful entrepreneur Joseph Grenny. They’ve chosen several ex-convicts to run the new business, The Other Side Academy.

This may not be such an odd choice. You see, the new venture, modeled closely on Delancey Street Foundation, is a nonprofit that will work to really rehabilitate convicts.

Stay explained to me recently that our prisons “provide criminals with a masters degree in criminology” rather than rehabilitating them.”

He elaborates, “The problem is that there is a portion of the criminal population that doesn’t get better by doing time. Many of them are repeat offenders, spending their lives in and out of jail and prison. They usually have substance abuse problems and many times find themselves unable to secure or keep a job and eventually wind up on the streets, being involved in criminal activity, and going back to jail. And this cycle continues at great expense to taxpayers. These people are living lives of increasingly destructive behaviors to themselves, to their families, and to society.”

He says that TOSA, as everyone involved in The Other Side Academy quickly abbreviates, will “provide a two-year live-in educational program for ex-convicts, drug abusers, homeless and others that have hit rock bottom that teaches our participants how to live successful, productive lives free from crime and substance abuse.”

Dave Durocher, TOSA’s managing director, explains further, “Our mission is to address the issues of drug addiction and criminality and improve the dismal record of the rehabilitative community when it comes to addressing the issues of relapse and recitivism. We belive that a long term “theraputic community” approach is what works best. While there are mixed and often conflicting statistics in this regard we know from first hand experience that it can work.”

Durocher and his colleagues Alan Fahringer and Lola Zagey, know first hand, “We know this because [we] have over 25 combined years residing in arguably the most succesful theraputic community in the world, Delancey Street, which is the model we are replicating with a few twists that we believe can make The Other Side Academy even more succesful.”

Having already raised $750,000, Stay has a wish list for the next several months. “In the next 3 months, we are moving into our new facility in Salt Lake City and we will be launching several of our businesses so we can become self-reliant.”

“We need financial contributions to cover the start-up costs of the facility and of the new businesses. We need in-kind contributions of cars, trucks, construction tools, warehouse space, and housing supplies such as beds and dressers. We need volunteer help with things such as business plans, web design, marketing, graphics. We need champions to help spread the message through social media and with their friends,” he concludes.

On Thursday, September 3, 2015 at 4:00 Eastern, Durocher, Fahringer and Zagey will join me here for a live discussion about TOSA and their plans to create a program that will truly change lives. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about The Other Side Academy:

Twitter: @GoToOtherSide

We provide on-the-job vocational training, education, and basic life skills along with long-term residential housing to former drug/alcohol abusers, homeless and others who have hit rock bottom. Our organization is run by graduates of the program and we are a mutual self-help organization. That means that healing occurs when we can have “Each One Teach One” and that when A helps B, A gets better. We run our own businesses so we can be self-reliant and not dependent on Government money and so we can offer the program at no cost to those that join us. Participants obtain a minimum of high school equivalency and gain the job and life skills needed to return to various communities as decent, law abiding individuals.

The Other Side Academy Directors, David Durocher, Alan Fahringer, Lola Zagey and Martin Anderson.

Durocher’s bio:

Managing Director Dave Durocher was arrested for the first time at the age of 13 years old. By the time he was 38, he had been to prison four times for a total of 15 years. When he was given the option to go to Delancey, he was facing 29 years in prison. Dave pleaded guilty of his crimes and went to Delancey in Los Angeles. Dave was at Delancey Street for 8 years and became the Managing Director of their 250 person Los Angeles facility for 5 of those years. Dave is articulate, humble, tenacious, interpersonally skilled, a good manager and a good public speaker. He was able to double revenues in their Training School businesses while he was there and when he left, he had tripled their earnings from when he had took over the facility. Dave has helped countless others regain their dignity, their families and their lives before he moved on to enjoy his own success as the person he had become. Now Dave is embarking on the next chapter of his new life; to help create a place, much like the one he credits with saving his life, only better. A place people can come to learn about integrity, honesty, hard work and self-respect. All the things that protect those inclined from falling prey to their addictions so as not to become the kind of person Dave was, but rather the kind of person he is today.

Fahringer’s bio:

Alan began using marijuana and other drugs in his early teens. He spent his adult life as a “functioning addict” until he was introduced to methamphetamine. That began a thirteen year downward spiral of multiple arrests, lost marriages, lost careers and eventually homelessness. Alan’s troubles culminated in his being arrested three times in a span of eleven months for manufacturing meth. Facing many years in prison, Alan says he was rescued from himself by an empathetic Judge who allowed him to go to Delancey Street instead of prison. That most fortunate occurrence, as he calls it, saved his life, he says. He stayed two years as required by his plea bargain and another four years voluntarily to help others experience the redemption and renewal he had found. While at Delancey Street Alan worked in Corporate Development, Finance. Retail Sales and eventually found his niche in Community Relations. Alan was responsible for advocating Delancey Street as a sentencing alternative to the Judicial and Legal communities. He was a natural. He is articulate, persuasive and living proof that the process can work. Alan has done speaking engagements throughout New Mexico and southern California enthusiastically advocating for just the type of therapeutic community that he will now help foster in Salt Lake City at The Other Side Academy. “I’m so blessed. I get to help build a place just like the one that saved my life. What could possibly be more gratifying than that?”

Zagey’s bio:

Lola has always dreamed of making a difference in the world. Her progress was stopped dead in its tracks twenty years ago when she developed an all-consuming addiction to heroin. This new path took Lola down to a place where all drug dependent people go… to rehabs, jails, and prisons. She was stuck in hopeless desperation and after being arrested one more time, she knew she had to try something different. Lola had heard about Delancy Street Foundation and wondered if the judge would give her a chance to try this program. The judges quickly agreed to two years in Delancy Street or do five years in prison. He gave Lola a stern warning. He said he would offer this deal to her but he recommended she do the prison time. He has seen addicts like Lola before and at this point, he believed she would fail the program and end up in prison anyway. Lola had a different idea. With gratitude for this opportunity, Lola excelled at Delancy Street. She worked her way up to the finance department where she learned skills in accounting, auditing, and bookkeeping with an emphasis in rehabilitation management. Lola’s two year sentence in Delancy Street turned into a five year life changing stay. Once graduated, Lola quickly found work in the medical field as well as property management and the sky was the limit. The only thing missing was her desire to help other addicts still suffering. Enter The Other Side Academy. Now Lola can live her dream of making a difference in the world.

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