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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

Closed Loop Fund Closes 3 Deals; Founder To Comment On NYT Op-Ed Touting Death Of Recycling

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Closed Loop Fund, an impact investment fund, recently closed its first three deals, providing financing for municipal waste.

Rob Kaplan, Managing Director, explains the reason for the fund’s existence, “Lack of infrastructure is one of the greatest barriers to more recycling in the country. The Fund plans to invest $100 million in the U.S. recycling infrastructure by 2020. The Fund invests in the form of zero-interest loans to cities and low interest loans to recycling companies, to prove that recycling business models are financially sustainable now into the future.”

Kaplan described the recent transactions, saying, “On Sept. 24, Closed Loop Fund, an impact investment fund that makes below-market loans for recycling infrastructure, including household recycling carts, facilities, and technologies, announced its first three investments to bolster recycling infrastructure and reduce the over $5 billion dollars spent by cities annually on landfills.”

“The initial capital includes $7.8 million from Closed Loop Fund, which helped to unlock an additional investment of $17 million from other public and private co-investors, totaling $24.8 million. All three investments demonstrate replicable economic and environmental returns that recycling can bring to communities across the United States. This is the first of over $500 million the fund expects to unlock to invest in American recycling over the next five years,” Kaplan concluded.

Sunday’s New York Times included an op-ed by John Tierney that seemed almost to be an obituary for recycling under the headline, “The Reign of Recycling.” The piece argues that the environmental impact of recycling is modest when properly calculated.

On Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 2:00 Eastern, Kaplan will join me for a live discussion about these recently completed deals and we’ll get his take on the death of recycling as well. 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 Closed Loop Fund:

Twitter: @Loopfund

Founded in 2014, Closed Loop Fund is a social impact investment fund that provides cities access to the capital required to build comprehensive recycling programs. Closed Loop Fund aims to invest $100 million by 2020 with the goal to create economic value for cities by increasing recycling rates in communities across America. Closed Loop Fund brings together the world’s largest consumer product, retail financial companies committed to finding a national solution to divert waste from landfills into the recycling stream in order to be used in the manufacturing supply chain. Key supporters include 3M, Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies, Keurig Green Mountain, PepsiCo, Pepsico Foundation, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation. For more information, visit www.closedloopfund.com.

Kaplan’s bio:

Twitter: @robbyk

Rob Kaplan proves that creating business value and passion for protecting the environment can peacefully co-exist. As Managing Director of the Closed Loop Fund, an innovative platform for impact investing, sustainability, and the circular economy, Rob oversees strategy and new business model development, as well as day-to-day operations. The Fund aims to scale recycling through zero interest loans to cities and investments in waste companies.

Prior to joining the Fund, Rob served as Director of Sustainability for Walmart Stores, Inc. where he was responsible for packaging, customer engagement, and integration with the Consumables business, including personal care and household cleaning. Rob led the creation of the Sustainability Leaders shop on Walmart.com to help consumers make responsible purchasing decisions online, built a unique collaborative initiative with competitors called the Beauty & Personal Care Innovation Accelerator, and cofounded The Closed Loop Fund. Rob previously led Walmart’s cross-functional efforts to eliminate 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas from the supply chain.

Rob’s career has always been fueled by his passion for sustainability and social issues. Before joining Walmart, he helped lead corporate responsibility and brand strategy for Brown-Forman Corporation, which produces and markets spirit brands such as Jack Daniel’s. Rob developed marketing strategies to engage consumers, improve social and environmental performance, and advance business objectives.

Rob received his MBA from the Haas School where he studied marketing, corporate responsibility, and social entrepreneurship. Prior to graduate school, Rob was State Communications Director for Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California and a political consultant for M&R Strategic Services in Washington, DC. Rob received his undergraduate degree in political communication from the George Washington University where he learned that perception is reality. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children.

 

Weild & Co. Working To Give Companies Greater Access To Capital

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

“The United States was once had IPO markets that made our stock markets the envy of markets throughout the world,” according to David Weild IV, Chairman and CEO of Weild & Co.

He continues, “With the move to electronic markets beginning in 1998, the small IPO collapsed. The US should be averaging 950 IPOs a year and we muster only 150 IPOs on average since 2000–a number that doesn’t even replace what is lost in an average year. This cost the US economy 10 million jobs.”

Weild, the former vice chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market and an expert on capital formation who worked on many aspects of the 2012 JOBS Act. His concern about where the markets have gone is matched by his enthusiasm for where they could go.

“Of course, the JOBS Act was passed and that helps to drive down costs for corporate issuers. In the meantime, we were the catalysts for the SEC Tick Size Pilot which launches this spring and the current discussions in Congress for ‘Venture Exchanges’–a totally new type of stock exchange that would be optimized for the needs of small (sub $2 billion market value) capitalization stocks,” Weild adds. “In addition, Weild & Co. is working to crash the cost of helping corporations market to much larger numbers of the right investors over the internet. To date, we’ve been able to as much as double institutional investor interest on IPOs and we think this is the beginning of something revolutionary.”

Weild’s enthusiasm for the markets is matched by his desire to see social enterprises flourish.

“If we can get the United States (and the rest of the world) to structure markets that are friendlier to entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers, that increased access to capital could contribute over 10 million net new jobs to the US economy over a decade while solving some of the great challenges of our time in areas including healthcare and global warming. We believe we are the single most important social impact company on the planet, because what do we helps to enable vast numbers of social impact companies.”

On Thursday, October 8, 2015 at noon Eastern, Weild will join me here for a live discussion about the markets and the work that Weild & Co. is doing to give social entrepreneurs and others greater access to capital. 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 Weild & Co.:

Weild & Co. develops and applies scalable technology platforms and services to increase demand for offerings and aftermarket support. We do this for private placements, IPOs and follow-on offerings. Our clients include public companies and investment banks who engage us to expand distribution. As the world’s leading experts in how market structure impacts company fortunes in capital markets, Weild & Co. leads the way in driving improvements in capital formation for corporations that will lead to enhanced economic and job growth.

Weild’s bio:

David Weild is Chairman and CEO of Weild & Co., the investment bank that develops and applies technology to help companies and other investment banks increase institutional investor demand on private placements, IPOs, follow-on offerings and in the aftermarket. He is a noted expert in capital markets who has testified in Congress numerous times in front of the House Subcommittee on Capital Markets and the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC). He has spoken at the G-20, Federation of European Securities Exchanges (FESE), the Budapest Economic Forum and addressed the 34 member nations and the European Commission for the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). He is known as the ‘Father’ of the JOBS Act for studies that he co-authored with Edward Kim that were the first to identify and characterize the long-term structural decline in the IPO and listed companies markets. These studies inspired most of the bills that were later wrapped into the JOBS Act.

Subsequent work by Weild catalyzed the SEC tick size pilot (scheduled to launch in spring 2016) and current legislative interest in “Venture Exchanges.”

Mr. Weild was formerly Vice Chairman of The NASDAQ Stock Market in charge of the Corporate Client Division with line responsibility for NASDAQ’s 4,000 listed companies. Mr. Weild also headed equity capital markets and corporate finance at a top ten underwriter of IPOs and follow-on equity offerings. During the course of his career he worked on over 1,000 of these transactions. Mr. Weild holds an MBA from the Stern School of Business and a BA from Wesleyan University. He has studied on exchange at The Sorbonne, Ecole des Haute Etudes Commerciales and The Stockholm School of Economics. Mr. Weild is a former Treasurer of The Bond Club of New York. He currently holds FINRA Series 7, 24, 63, 79, and 99 licenses. He is Chairman of the Board of Tuesday’s Children, the noted 9/11 organization that now also serves victims of mass gun violence (Resiliency Center of Newtown) and families of the fallen.

Vacation Time Giving | Finding Today’s Lost Einsteins

This is a guest post from Michael Vo, a former engineering director at Tesla.

The premise is pretty simple… Most extrapolations had Einstein’s IQ at 160. The probability of having a IQ of 160+ is about one in 11,307. Now with over a billion people living in poverty today, the simple math estimates that there are well over 88,000 potential Einsteins out there, struggling to find their next meal for themselves and their family. Understandably that a certain population reading this will make the argument that through some way of natural selection, this group of impoverished people do not have the same probability of having such a high IQ. Or, even if there were 88,000 potential Einsteins, their impact to humanity would be minimal as there’s still an abundance of genius in the world. Well, we’ll walk through why the former assertion is wrong and the latter thinking is mathematically incorrect.

For those who think that people in poverty do not have the capacity to be intelligent or have children with that potential, here’s a quick sanity check;

  • For most of us that migrated to the US or had parents that migrated, ask this question — if your parents hadn’t made the move, would you have the same opportunities you have today? Some of the most influential people of our era migrated from distressed countries, and regions all over the world. What if they weren’t presented the opportunity to escape the harsh conditions? Would they still be working to solve some of humanity’s toughest challenges today or would working at a fruit stand be their calling?
  • Einstein’s parents weren’t geniuses. In fact most ‘geniuses’ had rather ordinary parents and to compound the point, also had ‘normal’ children. Nature tends to level the playing field with such ironies.

Now to the population that don’t see the significance. Imagine a world without Einstein. His work has had an immense impact on our everyday lives ranging from today’s TV’s, digital cameras,

GPS, nuclear energy, and even the alarm clock. Yes…your alarm clock! Now would other intelligent people eventually come to the same solutions, maybe… but on what time

scale? How behind would humanity be today? With 88,000 more potential Einsteins out there, imagine the impact they would have working to solve today’s biggest issues on healthcare, poverty, energy and education. Believing that 1/7th of our intelligent resources being wasted away has little impact is not only naive, but also foolish. While it can be argued that 88,000 may not be absolute or precise, it can’t be argued that the impact is not significant or perhaps even catastrophic.

The question now becomes what can we do to ensure that ALL Einsteins out there have the same opportunities to do future GREAT things? Where do the resources come from to solve this 1 Billion | 88k problem? Before we roll up our sleeves, let’s look at the current landscape..

  1. Philanthropy and charitable giving has been stagnant at 2% of US GDP since the ’70s.
  2. Philanthropy and the charity space as a whole, lack innovation and technology that excites and inspires.
  3. Last year, there was $52.4 BILLION worth of unused vacation time in just the US.

Yes, these are staggering and sobering points, however, they also lead us to the solution. With philanthropy and charitable giving stagnant at 2% GDP, how do we find new buckets of money to move that needle to 3%, 4% or even higher? Yes! Ding ding ding! Imagine, if we were able to take just 1% of the $52.4 billion of unused vacation time every year and funnel that to charities around the world that does impactful work. That would mean, an additional half a billion dollars a year going towards feeding the hungry, providing education to the underprivileged, give hope to climate change, perhaps even medical research to cure cancer. And of course, the underlying technology that integrates, make the user experience wonderful and fulfilling. we2o was spawned to help expedite this vision, solve those two fundamental equations, 1. funnel new buckets of money to facilitate charities and 2. innovate on technology necessary to bring philanthropy to equal footing to all other industries. we2o helps unify charities, companies and donors through a social giving community. The platform allows employees to use vacation and salary to support the charities they truly care about. How many Einsteins would we be able to find if everyone donated just an hour of their time across the world? Finding all 88k right away would be unrealistic, but starting with 500 or even 1000 would be great progress for humanity. The question then no longer is ‘how many Einsteins lost’ but rather ‘What’s An Hour?’

Michael Vo

Michael Vo

About Michael Vo:

Michael Vo, a former engineering director at Tesla who is passionate about technology and now focuses on bringing technology disruption to philanthropy.

Investor, Activist Seeks To ‘Transform Finance’ For Good

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Impact investment will be huge, but not necessarily good, says Transform Finance co-founder and Board Chair Morgan Simon, who is passionate about using money to create social justice. Investors controlling $550 million have signed on to her program, she says.

“Microfinance leading to huge debt cycles. Wind farms causing land grabs,” are signs of the problem, she says. “Impact investment is seen as a panacea to the challenges of aid and philanthropy, yet its promise is often unrealized, lacking engagement with and accountability to the people it is intended to serve, at times even harming its intended beneficiaries. Expected to eclipse aid by 10x with over $500B, the field needs principled course-correction to maximize its transformative potential for hundreds of millions of people.”

Transform Finance offers three programs designed to help impact investors course-correct:

  1. Converting impact investors into social justice advocates: We help investors (family offices, foundations etc.) managing $556 million integrate the TF approach through our Investor Network launched at the White House in 2014. We co-develop tools to deepen impact and ensure accountability, stronger, more relevant metrics, and shared-benefit deal structures.
  2. Working with accelerators worldwide to empower entrepreneurs to maximize community benefit: we “train the trainers” to ensure community accountability and shared ownership as common practice.
  3. Helping social justice leaders leverage the power of finance: to keep investments accountable as they flow into their communities, and to generate their own revenue-building activity. Our initial training of 65 leaders in U.S. serving over 5 million individuals are being replicated from Mexico to Haiti as the only of this kind.

Simon has a clear vision to go along with her passion for impact investing done according by her standard. “Transform Finance creates a world where impact investment lives up to its transformative potential. Our multi-stakeholder work ensures that investors deploy capital in the real interest of communities, and that communities can take advantage of finance as a critical tool for social change.”

On Thursday, October 1, 2015 at 3:00 Eastern, Simon will join me for a live discussion about Transform Finance and its work. 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 Transform Finance:

Twitter: @transformfin

Transform Finance helps build a just world by making capital a force for real transformative change, bridging the spheres of finance and social justice. We help investors, communities, and entrepreneurs incorporate a social justice, community-centered approach to finance; train and support social change agents to harness finance as a highly effective tool for change; and leverage their collective power to realize the true promise of the $500 Billion impact investment ecosystem.

Simon’s bio:

Twitter: @MorganSimon1

Morgan has spent the last decade engaged in impact investment, emphasizing community accountability and ownership. She currently co-leads Pi Investments, building a 100% impact portfolio with an emphasis on community empowerment and environmental sufficiency. In that capacity, she evaluates investments across asset classes, including early stage investments, private equity and debt, and real assets.

Morgan is a co-founder of Toniic, where she served as founding CEO from 2010-2013. She is on the investment committee for The Working World, a fund for worker-owned cooperatives in the US, Argentina and Nicaragua, and co-chairs the board of ROC UNITE, organizing 10,000 restaurant workers nationwide. She is a Founding Board Member of CARE Enterprises Inc, a venture fund supporting quality job creation globally in partnership with CARE International. To complete her full calendar of volunteer activities, she is also a founder and chair of the Transform Finance, bridging impact investment and social justice (www.transformfinance.org).

Previously, as the founding Executive Director of the Responsible Endowments Coalition, Morgan brought together 100 colleges and universities, helping to move their $200 billion in endowment dollars towards impact investment. Morgan has also worked with grassroots organizations and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Mexico, Honduras and Sierra Leone, and in domestic microfinance with Women’s Initiative for Self Employment. She received a B.A with High Honors in Economics and Political Science from Swarthmore College, and serves as an Adjunct Professor at Middlebury College’s graduate school program.

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.

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