logo

amazon facebook_32 gplus_32 linkedin_32 pinterest_32 tumblr_32 twitter_32 website_32 youtube_32 email_32 rss_32

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.

Ad1
SeedEquity Ventures
PatchofLand

Interview

1 2 3 20

How This Collaboration Raised Over $1M For Charity

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Collaboration is a word that gets thrown around a lot more than it actually happens. Pledgeling, a small social enterprise, proved the power of collaboration when it signed Evite as a customer and delivered over $1 million in donations in the first year.

Pledgeling is a mobile-centric donation processing company with fifteen employees. CEO James Citron says the company hopes to double the staff within 18 months.

He rattles off early milestones:

  • Powered over 30,000 fundraising campaigns
  • Raised $3 million in donations for 4,000 nonprofits
  • Had 10,000 nonprofits join their network
  • Sold 40 customers who license their software
  • Process “hundreds of thousands” of dollars of donations monthly

Pledgeling is not yet profitable but has 90 percent gross margins, giving it the potential to reach profitability as it scales.

Evite, the collaboration partner, provides digital party invitations. Lots of them. CEO Victor Cho says the company has sent over 2 billion event invitations. The company now sends about 20,000 invitations every hour and has over 100 million annual users. It is a subsidiary of Liberty Ventures Group (NASDAQ: LVNTA, LVNTB). Evite, Cho says, generates most of its revenue from advertising.

Jennifer Young, Global Director of Social Impact Programs, at Pearson, led the implementation of Pledgeling tools at Pearson. She explains why Pearson moved forward with the Pledgeling implementation. “Now more than ever, people are looking online for opportunities to contribute to good causes. That’s a major reason why as part of our campaign at Pearson to raise awareness and inspire action around the global illiteracy crisis, we have elevated online fundraising as our major call to action.”

Shifting demographics as well as technology influence consumer demand, Young says. “We know that Millennials, in particular, are more likely to promote causes across social media and so by integrating Pledgeling’s digital platform into our campaign, we have made it easy for younger advocates – no matter how small their giving potential – to join our movement and contribute in a concrete way.”

Evite was eager to collaborate with Pledgeling, Cho says. “Our users were asking for this functionality.”

Victor Cho, courtesy of Evite

Citron agrees, noting that consumers are more aware of brands’ social impact. “Consumers today increasingly expect brands to align with their purpose and use their business to make a positive impact on the world. Customers will switch to a competitor based on brand values – just look at the #deleteuber movement, which catapulted Lyft into a top 5 app within 48 hours because consumers make choices by their values.”

“In fact, 90% of consumers will choose a brand that gives back over one that doesn’t,” Citron adds.

Cho describes the how the collaboration works for the customer. “With Evite Donations Powered by Pledgeling, we are first and foremost making the process of giving easier–just a couple clicks. Also, importantly, we are offering this service in a way that does not charge a transaction fee.”

The Evite Donations allow Evite users to add a donation option to invites, Cho says. “Whether it is a child who wants to raise money for a charity instead of getting another pile of birthday gifts or a couple who would rather have friends support a favorite cause than bringing hostess gifts or wine, it’s in people’s nature to give. We are just making it simpler for them to do so as seamless part of the event process, and in a way that maximizes their gift.”

Young, who has followed the Pledgeling-Evite collaboration says, “I was really excited when I first learned of the Pledgeling and Evite partnership because of the potential it has to advance the reach of charitable giving through the simple act of connecting people to good causes through the major milestones in our lives – whether it’s a birthday, a wedding or an anniversary.”

Cho says the response to the new feature has been overwhelmingly positive but it hasn’t been without challenges. “Some hosts don’t want their guests to feel pressured or somehow expected to donate,” he says. “Some guests are still compelled to give physical gifts instead of donations.”

“At this point in time, we aren’t yet at a place as a society where giving a donation is widely accepted etiquette in lieu of gifts,” Cho notes.

Citron says that the Evite collaboration is a great example of the success their having, but notes that no single solution will work for customers of all sizes. “we are developing a variety of turnkey tools to roll out soon for smaller, mid-market businesses to make it easier to achieve their goals in ways that are different from our larger, enterprise business customers.”

Pearson’s Young believes the key to the Pledgeling’s success will be to leverage the growth of purpose-driven companies, helping them to frictionlessly connect their customers with causes they care about.

Cho is excited about where the Pledgeling-Evite collaboration will go in time. “We are helping people do good when they get together and the response from our users has been incredible. We’ve had a great start to this partnership and we expect to grow the amount of charitable donations raised exponentially in the coming years. Even the smallest donations can add up to make a tremendous positive impact on the world. It’s very exciting!”

Citron also has grand expectations. “Our vision for the future is that every business will fulfill its purpose through an authentic giving strategy that helps them grow, builds loyalty from their customers and employees, and makes a positive impact on the world.”

On Thursday, February 9, 2017 at noon Eastern, Citron and Cho will join me here for a live discussion about the collaboration’s success and its implications for the future. Tune in here (at the top of this article) then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Why This Founder Thinks She Can Make A Good Educational Kid’s Game

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Lindsey Tropf, CEO and founder of Immersed Games, is working with her team to create a massively multiplayer online role-playing game that is as entertaining as World of Warcraft and as educational as school.

Their core product is Tyto Online, is expected to launch soon. One module of the game, Tyto Ecology, is available for sale and has generated $140,000 of revenue to date. This module is a single-player game that has sold 18,000 units.

The Immersed Games team includes 13 full-time staff members plus others working from a “local labor grant.” The startup isn’t yet profitable, but does generate 70 percent gross margins on sales today and expects to ramp that up with volume.

Tropft isn’t just playing around; she’s serious about education. In fact, she’s a doctoral candidate in the School Psychology at the University of Florida.

She says, “We aren’t just creating a video game, we’re creating a learning and inspiration platform. As we grow our content, the long-term vision means that students from eight years old and up can explore a game world with access to learning almost anything they want. They might stumble across some physics quests that spark a passion for the subject.”

She hopes to create something of a bridge from the game to the real world. “Then we suggest an activity on our Learning Dashboard that helps them apply that in the real world and realize that all these skills they’ve been learning actually generalize. This is why I think of us as having the potential to be a learning and inspiration platform for a generation of gamers.”

Tropf sites some interesting statistics. She says, “Young children spend 78% of their screen time doing educational content, but as they get older, that drops drastically. Children eight to 10 only spend 27% of their time in content that parents consider at least somewhat educational.”

She says the reason is pretty simple. Older kids say educational games aren’t fun.

“We’re creating a game that teaches but also plays like a real game– because it is! Tyto Online is an MMORPG, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, which is a game like World of Warcraft,” she says. “Instead of killing boars and collecting hides for quests, you’re doing things like looking for evidence about if something is an invasive species that you can then transplant out and save the local ecosystem.”

Lindsey Tropf, courtesy of Immersed Games

She notes the design of the game is different from most educational content in two ways. “First, we’re social! As an online game, we can enable unique and emergent types of gameplay that wouldn’t be possible in a single game. For example, we’re planning on teaching entrepreneurship and enabling players to sell to other players in the game, purchase kiosks and advertising, etc. in a real marketplace in the game with live people.”

“Second,” she says, “we’re unified. We’re putting all our content into one single game so that we can retain a player for a long period of time and lead to many learning opportunities (and recurring revenue for a sustainable business model).”

Immersed Games participated in Intel’s Education Accelerator, a four-month, in-residence program for EdTech start-ups that is run jointly by Intel Education and Intel Capital. The selective program draws promising candidates from a “large worldwide” applicant pool, according to Elizabeth Broers, Director, Public Sector Thought Leadership & Intel Education Accelerator.

Broers says, “By applying the foundational concepts of engaging gameplay with 21st-century learning skills, Immersed Games have created worlds where kids can dive in and start creating. The team at Immersed Games created a platform where the learners are treated as gamers but learning as if they were in the classroom.”

She adds, “The learners are creating biomes, learning the concepts of ecology in a fun, game-like environment. Additionally, Immersed Games is also incorporating Next Generation Science Standards and creative problem solving into all their products.”

Tropf says that funding has been one of the greatest challenges so far. Game development happens before the revenue starts, she points out. “In order to build just our first module of content, we had to build the entire networking infrastructure, most of the main game systems, and an entire toolset for content development.”

Today, she worries more about what’s coming. “I’m most concerned about optimizing our tools and workflow so we can create content as quickly as possible to make sure we have a large set of learning opportunities in the game world. And of course making sure those experiences generate a really engaging gameplay experience.”

She also worries about user acquisition. “Our first game sold pretty well on Steam, but that’s mainly ‘core’ gamers — 18-35-year-old men, and isn’t the right fit for Tyto Online, so we’re pursuing testing new channels and messaging with parents and kids themselves.”

There are limitations to how far the game can go in approaching the learning environment in school. Tropf explains, that in the game, players may be challenged to figure out why some jackrabbits are getting sick and propose a solution. “An excellent teacher can make this completely open-ended where students can present an unlimited amount of solutions and work through it, while in the game setting, we do have to pre-design this and code it in, so we naturally have a more limited amount of solutions.”

Tropf acknowledges another limitation is that the game can’t put students into the real world. “There’s the risk that students may not generalize their learning and realize they can apply these outside of the game world if they only learn in a game. We’re working to address this with our web-based Learning Dashboard.”

“Our long-term goal is to think of this as an inspiration platform. Students can play for years as they learn across many areas of content, being exposed to new subjects and digging deep into complex systems for their favorites, like mastering building ecosystems,” Tropf says.

Broers is optimistic about the company’s prospects. “Immersed Games has a huge opportunity in front of them and we look forward to watching them grow and expand Tyto Online into additional STEAM areas. As with any start-up, it’s all about how quickly they can execute but they have a talented group with a clear mission and the momentum is with them.”

On Thursday, February 2, 2017 at 1:00 Eastern, Tropf will join me here for a live discussion about the startup’s game development and strategies for distribution. Tune in here (at the top of this article) then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

Artificial Intelligence Is Now Ready For Social Entrepreneurs

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

The University of Southern California has recently created the Center on Artificial Intelligence for Social Solutions or CAISS, specifically to develop uses of artificial intelligence–AI–for use cases of interest to social entrepreneurs.

The Center is a collaboration between the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Eric Rice, an Associate Professor from the School of Social Work, has been tapped to lead CAISS.

The potential for AI to be an effective tool for entrepreneurs with no background in technology is confirmed by Rice himself. When asked about his LinkedIn profile URL, he acknowledged not only that he doesn’t have one, but also said, “I’m a bit of a Luddite.

Eric Rice, courtesy of USC

The Center has gathered commitments of $3 million for its launch. The two partner schools put up much of that money with additional funding from private partners. CAISS has an annual operating budget of $500,000 and has only one full-time staff person. The Center itself is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Leading the new Center is as close to entrepreneurship as Rice admits getting, though as an academic he is entirely focused on social good.

Rice explains that the Center is looking at two particular sets of social problems. The first set is the “Grand Challenges for Social Work” established by American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. These twelve challenges are focused on social issues facing the United State. The other set is the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs established by the United Nations in 2015 as goals for poverty reduction by 2030, primarily focused on the developing world.

One of the first projects the Center has undertaken is developing an AI tool to identify peer leaders among Los Angeles County’s homeless youth. By better identifying peer leaders, they can spread information about AIDS infection and prevention more rapidly. Their initial study showed success in increasing the number of youth who were getting tested for HIV.

Alison Hurst, the founder and executive director of a Safe Place for Youth, admits she hasn’t given much thought to how AI can be used to serve the homeless youth her organization is charged with helping. “I just know that we need to use all the tools in the bag to understand the interventions needed as our social problems keep growing,” she says.

The Center is one of the first places that AI engineers and social scientists have come together. Rice points out that “AI lets you model the messiness of the real world so you can probabilistically figure out how to proceed.”

Eric Rice, courtesy of USC

One of the partners in the youth project is called My Friend’s Place, which is led by Executive Director Heather Carmichael, LCSW. She notes the potential for both financial and social benefits from implementing AI tools. “My Friend’s Place is doing amazing work with 1,500 youth experiencing homelessness every year,” she says.

“With limited resources and the breadth and complexity of the young people’s needs, it is our obligation to pursue knowledge, support and interventions that will reach the greatest number of youth,” she continues. “Imagine, if AI can help us identify 1 of the 100 youth we serve daily as a potential peer leader, we can expedite an invitation to health education and peer leadership programming, and ultimately ‘produce’ peer leaders socially positioned for the greatest impact!”

Rice observes that one of the biggest challenges the Center faces is getting the engineers and the social scientists speaking the same language. “Their way of thinking is very mathematical. Our way of thinking isn’t,” he says. “We had problems because we weren’t speaking the same language.”

That challenge also is the key to AI’s promise, Rice says. ” They ask each other questions they’ve never heard before .” This creates opportunities for answers they’ve never given before.

Not all social problems appear to lend themselves to AI applications, Rice acknowledges. Mental illness is an example he sees where AI interventions may be a long way off.

He insists, however, that AI has great potential for solving social problems and points at the success with the youth program. AI helps social scientists see unlikely outcomes, in contrast to traditional statistical models that help us see how the average person sees average problems.

Barbara Grosz, Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences in Harvard’s Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, also collaborates on the youth project in LA County. She is optimistic about the collaboration’s promise to help solve social problems.

“AI has the potential to support significantly, and in diverse ways, the work of people who are addressing social problems,” Grosz says. “For it to succeed in doing so, though, requires the combined efforts of those with expertise in AI and people whose expertise in the social sciences and policy give them a deep understanding of these social problems, their roots, and the key characteristics of approaches that are likely to work.”

She also highlighted the contributions of Rice’s co-founder, Milind Tambe. She adds, “It needs sufficient support to enable their work.”

While the collaborations have yet to create consumer products, it is clear that the Center’s work could now begin to complement efforts of social entrepreneurs with sufficient backing from impact investors to develop new tools for addressing social problems.

On Thursday, February 2, 2017 at 4:00 Eastern, Rice will join me here for a live discussion about using AI for solving social problems. Tune in here (at the top of this article) then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

 

How To Create A Successful Corporate Social Responsibility Program

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

Why do some corporate social responsibility programs seem to backfire? There are lots of reasons, but University of Kansas Assistant Professor Jessica Li recently published a paper that explains why some do.

Her research shows that people in some countries have distinct reactions to two companies engaging in the same behavior when one of the companies is foreign and the other domestic.

Jessica has provided us with three tips for creating a corporate social responsibility program that works.

1. Consumer attributions are key.

It is important to understand that CSR is not always perceived positively by consumers. Consumers make attributions about why a company is engaging in CSR, ant these attributions influence their attitudes and behaviors.

2. Know your audience.

Consumers with collectivistic orientation make more altruistic CSR attributions for a domestic versus a foreign firm. Thus, the same CSR behavior performed by a foreign company will be perceived less positively than if it were performed by a domestic company in countries like South Korea or India.

3. Be authentic.

It’s important to show collectivistic consumers that you genuinely care about the cause. Biases against foreign companies can be minimized if the foreign company shows that it authentically cares about the cause, such as by engaging in CSR for a long time.

Jessica Li, courtesy of the University of Kansas

Jessica Li, courtesy of the University of Kansas

There is nothing worse for a CSR professional than to invest in a program that causes a negative consumer response. The money and effort feel wasted. Despite the responsibility of the company to do good, making that good profitable makes it infinite. These tips can help companies avoid CSR disasters.

On Thursday, February 2, 2017 at 2:00 Eastern, Jessica will join me here for a live discussion about making corporate social responsibility program work around the world. Tune in here (at the top of this article) then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about the University of Kansas:

Twitter: @KUnews

Since its founding, the University of Kansas has embodied the aspirations and determination of the abolitionists who settled on the curve of the Kaw River in August 1854. Their first goal was to ensure that the new Kansas Territory entered the union as a free state. Another was to establish a university.

Map showing the location of KU campuses

Today, KU has become a major public research and teaching institution of 28,401 students and 2,600 faculty on five campuses (Lawrence, Kansas City, Overland Park, Wichita, and Salina). Its diverse elements are united by their mission to educate leaders, build healthy communities, and make discoveries that change the world.

Jessica’s bio:

Jessica Li received a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Arizona State University and a B.S. in Biology and Society from Cornell University. Broadly, Jessica’s research focuses on the role of emotions and motivations on consumer behavior. Due to her interdisciplinary background and desire to understand decision making from multiple perspectives, she often integrates theoretical principles from psychology, economics, and biology in her work. For example, one line of research investigates how fundamental motives, such as protecting oneself from physical threat or caring for one’s kin, affects financial decisions including risk-taking, present bias, and diversification. Another line of research takes an interpersonal approach to understanding displayed emotions on consumer judgment and decision-making. As social beings, humans make quick and spontaneous judgments from fleeting cues like an employee’s emotional expression. Jessica’s work has been published in journals such as the Journal of Consumer Research, the Academy of Management Journal, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Science, and the Journal of Consumer Psychology. Jessica teaches Integrated Marketing Communications at the undergraduate and MBA levels. In addition, she has taught a Ph.D. seminar in Consumer Behavior and a practicum in Promotional Plan Development. She is currently developing an online MBA course in IMC.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

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

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

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

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

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

Daniel Jean-Louis, courtesy of Bridge Capital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 1:00 Eastern, Jean-Louis will join me here for a live discussion about his work, his book and the effort to create more jobs in Haiti. Tune in here (at the top of this article) then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

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

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aria Finger, courtesy of DoSomething.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 5:00 pm Eastern, Finger will join me here for a live discussion about the progress to date and the prospects for unifying America under the leadership of President-elect Donald Trump. Tune in here (at the top of this article) then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

 

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


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

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

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

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

Andrea Smardon, courtesy of Changing Our Stories

Andrea Smardon, courtesy of Changing Our Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about Encircle:

Instagram: @encircletogether

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

Stephenie’s bio:

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

More about Changing our Stories:

Twitter: @UtahPodcaster

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

Andrea’s bio:

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

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

Career Spent Inspiring CSR Spreads Good Globally

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



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

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

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

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

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

Georg Kell, courtesy of Arabesque

Georg Kell, courtesy of Arabesque

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

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

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

He identifies two keys to success based on his experience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about Arabesque:

Twitter: @ArabesqueAM

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

Georg’s bio:

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

Mr. Kell now serves as Vice Chairman of Arabesque.

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

‘Amazing’ Opportunity: Electrifying the Developing World With Solar

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Warren, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

Chris Warren, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

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

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

More about Clean Energy Advisors:

Twitter: @ceacleanenergy

Clean Energy Advisors is a private equity firm focused on creating socially and environmentally positive ownership opportunities for investors in utility scale solar energy projects that generate tax advantaged predictable income and preserve capital.

Chris’s bio:

Twitter: @ceocleanenergy

Chris Warren has over twenty-five years of experience in the financial industry and along the way he has acquired a unique set of skills and experiences through roles that include managing assets for high net worth investors, leading a major division of a Fortune 500 company, building three successful businesses from inception, and overseeing complex financial arrangements for over US $860 million in renewable energy assets. Mr. Warren is a graduate of Duke University. His technical training includes a Certification in Renewable Energy Management from North Carolina State University and training in Basic and Advanced Solar PV Design from Solar Energy International.

Erik Melang, courtesy of Distributive Solar

Erik Melang, courtesy of Distributive Solar

More about Distributive Solar:

Twitter: @distrsolar

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

Erik’s bio:

Twitter: @espmel

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

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!

 

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

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tamra Ryan, courtesy of the Women’s Bean Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 2 3 20
Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!
Subscribe to news from YourMarkOnTheWorld.com
* = required field
Content I want: