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Interview

Journalist Virtually Resurrects Homeless Man



Justin Huggard died last December.  In April, the Deseret News ran a 4,000-word story about him. The remarkable thing was not that the News took four months to write his obituary, rather it was that they wrote anything at all.

Justin was homeless. Addicted. Invisible.

While he died on Main Street in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City; his passing was so anonymous that even those good-hearted activists who track the casualties of homelessness each year missed his death. At the annual vigil for the homeless who die in Salt Lake, the names of the year’s victims are read, remembered and honored fleetingly. But not Justin.

Daphne Chen, a reporter for the News worked four months on the story, stalking family and friends on Facebook, piecing together the life story of Justin Huggard. In a sense, she resurrected Justin so that he could be remembered as the human being he was.

Daphne made Justin into a proxy for the homeless people living and dead in our community.

Writing a story like this is difficult, on many levels. As Daphne points out, “There are no press releases when Justin Huggard dies.”

Daphne acknowledged that she didn’t expect the story to be so emotionally difficult–she’s covered tragedies many times in the past. “It started as this gray, plastic box of ashes.” But as she took Justin from an anonymous homeless man to a full-fledged human being with a family, friends, a kind personality and a history, she began to feel a sense of loss.

Daphne works on the “In Depth” beat for the Deseret News, so she works on stories for months, several at a time. While working on Justin’s story she was also working on a story about Utah’s mental health hospital. Patients assigned to the hospital by the courts often wait for five or six months for placement. Some die in the interim.

At the same time, the paper assigned Daphne to cover the controversial firing and re-hiring of the CEO of the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the subsequent firing of the CEO of the University of Utah Medical Center followed by the resignation of the President of the University of Utah. Daphne wasn’t bored looking for things to do.

Daphne Chen, Deseret News

Daphne Chen, Deseret News

Daphne, originally from Dallas, Texas, has been with the News for one and a half years. She previously reported from New York and North Carolina where she covered crime, health and education.

The key to the Justin Huggard story was Aimee Rolfe, a friend of Justin who was eager to help Daphne find the family and tell the story. They had shared a great deal together, including struggles with drugs. While Justin struggled with alcohol and “some heroin,” Aimee’s nemesis was meth. With her help, the story came alive.

Ultimately, Daphne told Justin’s story too late for anyone to do anything for him. But that isn’t the point. Daphne Pulitzer-caliber story didn’t just “give a voice to the voiceless” but also changed our understanding of who those experiencing homelessness are: human beings with families, friends and hopes who are suffering a life and death trauma in plain sight.

New Site Is ‘Like Match.com For Lawyers’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Felicity Conrad only worked for Skadden, one of the world’s most prominent law firms, for about two years but while she was there she had the opportunity to litigate a pro bono asylum case. She won. And in the bargain, she changed the lives of the family she represented–and her own. She left the firm to launch a site she says is “like Match.com for lawyers” and their pro bono clients.

As a first year associate, Conrad says she was afraid to take on the asylum case. It was her first time in a court room. After winning the case, to celebrate, the family took her out to dinner at McDonalds. “The children–the whole family was there. You can see the fruits of your labor in a way that most lawyers never see,” she said of the experience.

A vegetarian, Conrad describes eating french fries and being thankful “I had said ‘yes’ to something outside my comfort zone. Now I get to go through life knowing that somewhere out there something is a little bit better because I was able to be a part of it.”

Felicity Conrad, Paladin

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

The experience inspired her to start Paladin, a platform for matching lawyers to pro bono projects, which launched in February.

According to Conrad’s research, 80 percent of people who need free legal help don’t get it. The National Bar Association recommends that lawyers do 50 hours of pro bono work each year. If all of them did, it would close what Conrad calls the “justice gap”–the unmet need for pro bono legal services.

Todd Leishman, a shareholder at Durham Jones Pinegar in Salt Lake City who practices corporate law, says he thinks the site could increase the amount of pro bono work being done if it makes it easier to find cases that are interesting and that match a lawyer’s specialty.

He cautions, however, “The truth is few corporate lawyers do pro bono work because most pro bono work involves criminal, domestic, landlord/tenant, Social Security benefits, and immigration law, and particularly litigation matters related to those areas.”

He hastens to add that corporate lawyers find other ways to give back, serving on nonprofit boards and donating to programs like the Utah State Bar’s “And Justice For All” project.

Similarly, Marty Tate, a partner at Carman Lehnhof Isrealsen, says he thinks the site can increase the amount of pro bono work being done. “Anything that facilitates or makes something easier should result in increased participation.”

He notes that lawyers are often on their own to find pro bono work. “Unless a lawyer is part of a firm with an active pro-bono program which encourages and rewards their attorneys for such work, most attorneys must actively seek out such opportunities through their state or local bar.”

“Personally, I do not see many opportunities for pro-bono work outside of the State Bar. This type of platform would provide increased exposure to opportunities and the ability to target specific opportunities of interest and expertise,” he concludes.

Conrad notes what she calls a “binary” situation. Some lawyers have never done pro bono work while others do it regularly. Her goal is to turn as many people who haven’t done pro bono work into people who do it regularly as possible.

With Paladin, she’s invented a whole new type of matchmaking and there are a lot of people hoping she is successful.


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!

Woman Tallies 1.5M Births And 5M Prevented

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Leslie Heyer, the founder and president of Cycle Technologies, reports that women using her CycleBeads to count the days since their menstrual cycle began have successfully delivered about 1.5 million babies and have avoided about 5 million unwanted pregnancies. Her latest product is an app that she hopes will help even more than the 6 million who have used her beads.

Heyer, a Harvard-educated social entrepreneur, recently launched a new app called Dot that helps women understand when pregnancy is most–and least–likely to occur during the month, based principally on the date a woman starts her monthly cycle.

Cycle Technologies, with revenues of $1 million annually from product sales and consulting, has been producing its CycleBeads for nearly a decade. The beads are distributed through partnerships with NGOs to women around the developing world.

Leslie Heyer, Cycle Technologies

Be sure to watch my interview with Heyer in the player at the top of the article.

“There are approximately 225 million women worldwide who have an unmet need for contraception and annually there are over 85 million unplanned pregnancies,” she says. About half of unplanned pregnancies result in abortion, she adds.

Other problems associated with unplanned pregnancies, she notes, include worse health outcomes for both the mother and the child as well as lower educational attainment for both.

“The number one reason that women globally cite for not using contraception is concerns about side effects.”

Both the new Dot app and the CycleBeads address this number one concern by using a woman’s natural cycle.

John Skibiak, director of the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition, a global network of NGOs and others working to improve access to family planning in the developing world says, many in the community are skeptical about using the “rhythm method” and sometimes talk about the CycleBeads with “derision.”

He points out, however, that the CycleBeads have been successful at opening doors, particularly in faith-based, mission-led health clinics run by both Catholics and protestants. In Zambia, he says, the natural approach to family planning allowed the coalition members to bring contraceptives into a health clinic where they hadn’t been allowed previously.

He also noted that the beads gave older, illiterate women in the community a tool to help them educate young women about their cycles and fertility. Overall, he is glad to have the tools to help build grassroots support for contraception.

Skibiak says that the CycleBeads, and by implication, the Dot app, don’t work well in situations where the couple doesn’t communicate well. He hastened to add that no contraceptive method works well in all situations and that CycleBeads are no different.

“I think the new app provides a real opportunity to expand,” he concluded.

Heyer says that the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University is conducting a study to determine the effectiveness of the app, both in the perfect use the typical use cases.

In computer modeling, she says the perfect use case should show about 97 to 99 percent efficacy, acknowledging that the typical use case would be lower.

“Research shows that these methods [CycleBeads and the Dot app] are highly attractive to women,” Hyer says, “and are reaching women who have unmet contraceptive need and are at risk for unplanned pregnancies.”

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!

Report Asks Investors To Respect Human Rights On Clean Energy Projects

This post was originally produced for Forbes

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

Renewable energy projects are the primary weapon in the war on climate change, but that shouldn’t exempt these projects in the developing world from United Nations’ standards on human rights, argues a new briefing report.

As I explored the briefing, “Renewable Energy: Managing Investors’ Risks and Responsibilities,” with two of the co-authors, Andrea Armeni of Transform Finance and Meredith Benton (see my interview with them at the top of this article), I began to see clean energy projects through a new lens.

Armeni points out that when a wind or solar project is built to provide power to an aluminum smelter there is no question that powering the smelter with clean energy is better than powering it with fossil fuels, but there may still be a negative impact on a local community–which may or may not benefit much from the project.

He says that to ensure that the local community benefits from its participation in the project, the investors need to insist that the community be represented at the table from start to finish.

Andrea Armeni, Executive Director of Transform Finance

Benton adds that oftentimes communities being engaged in clean energy projects today, have been isolated in the past, perhaps because of what makes their land appealing today–lots of sun or wind. Without a history of making deals in the past, the community may not have the capacity to negotiate a fair and equitable arrangement. Investors should help ensure that this capacity is developed for the sake of the renewable energy project.

Mary Robinson, President, Mary Robinson Foundation, is quoted in the executive summary of the briefing saying, “It is not acceptable for any business to ignore their impacts on peoples’ land rights, security or livelihoods – the renewable energy sector is no different.”

Benton notes, however, that it is a wise strategy to engage with the community to create a fair transaction. Disenfranchised communities who may come to feel that a project in the community is a bad deal, could create a volatile situation that could be expensive to resolve. That is a risk that can be managed by engaging constructively with the affected community.

Meredith Benton

The briefing notes that the extractives industry has had to write off $379 million in assets due to “company-community conflicts.”

With global renewable energy projects totaling $$287 billion in 2016, there are a lot of projects happening. Falling prices for renewable energy technology and increasing demand for energy are likely to continue the trend of increasing investments in clean energy in the coming years.

Eventually, the report notes, the world will need to shift entirely to clean, renewable energy. To avoid having adverse impacts on the communities where the projects are built, the report recommends three specific steps for investors:

  1. Prior to investment, ensure human rights due diligence is undertaken according to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  2. During the investment, monitor human rights performance and engage with companies to encourage them to comply with the UN standards. If companies fail to comply, the briefing suggests the investors divest.
  3. Both prior to and during investment, engage not only with the companies but also with community representatives such as local governments, trade unions, nonprofits and others in the community to ensure that human rights are respected.

While there is little argument that renewable energy projects provide a meaningful social benefit that accrues disproportionately to low-wealth communities being adversely impacted by climate change, the briefing makes a compelling argument that the communities impacted directly by them should be considered and consulted actively throughout their development and operation.

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!

Expert: Now is the Time to Get Solar on Your Business

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



Erik Melang, 52, the CEO and co-founder of Distributive Solar, says now is the time for business owners to put solar panels on their facilities. He should know; in under one year since he launched the business, his team has 75 megawatts of solar projects in the pipeline.
Erik recently made the case for investing in solar now in a post on Linkedin and joined me for a quick conversation (watch it at the top of this article) to talk about the reasons.
He offers four primary reasons for considering solar now:

  1. The investment tax credit on solar installations will begin to expire in 2020. Given the time required to evaluate, design and install solar, there isn’t much cushion in the calendar to take advantage of the tax benefits.
  2. Even before the solar investment tax credit begins to expire, the accelerated depreciation provisions of the tax code will begin to be phased out. In 2018, the first year depreciation on new equipment will drop from 50 percent to 40 percent.
  3. Interest rates continue to be low, allowing a business with good credit to finance most if not all of the cost using ten-year financing that will allow the business to save more in electricity than it pays in total financing costs each year, thus providing instant positive cash flow and leaving the business with a free source of electricity after only ten years.
  4. The pre-tax cost of solar is lower today than many in the industry thought possible by 2017. Commercial-scale projects can be completed under $1.70 per watt installed before any tax considerations.

There are lots of solar calculators that can help you get a more exact number, but according to one, the average number of KWH produced by each watt of installed solar is 1.44 per year. If you pay, say, $0.20 per KWH to your utility, you avoid $0.288 per installed watt per year. In this hypothetical example, you would achieve savings of 16.9 percent.

Of course, every situation is different. The further south your business sits, the more sun you tend to get. Utility rates vary, having a lot to do with your community’s proximity to coal.

Erik says utility rates are likely to rise more or less with inflation as the cost of coal, oil and gas production will tend to rise with inflation. This suggests that your future savings could be even greater than your current savings.

Because the sun is likely to shine consistently year after year and the panels are guaranteed for 25 years, according to Erik, the risks are low. With double-digit returns possible–even before tax considerations–and when those returns are highly probable, it makes sense to give serious consideration to these opportunities.

Given that many utilities are making net metering difficult if not impossible, Erik recommends installing only enough solar panels to provide for your peak daytime load (or less) so that you never have to sell power back to the utility. This approach is called staying “behind the meter.” Like conservation tactics like LED light bulbs, you reduce your power bill and keep all of the savings. No need, he says, to get mired in the bureaucracy of selling power back to the utility.

Scott Hill, President of Clean Energy Advisors, a Your Mark on the World Center sponsors and investor in Distributive Solar, says, “The cost of solar is coming down to the point where it makes sense for businesses to consider taking some control over their energy needs. Plus, more and more customers are demanding the businesses they purchase products and services from are being responsible about their carbon footprint.”

One day soon, he notes, power storage technology will allow businesses to produce all of their own power reliably and affordably, but that day hasn’t arrived, yet.
Today, he says, is the day to put solar power to work for your business to reduce but not fully eliminate your power bill.

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 Impact Investors Are ‘Starting In The Wrong Place’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

“We’re starting in the wrong place,” Mara Bolis, 45, senior advisor for market systems at Oxfam America, says of the approach most impact investors are using today.

The problem she highlights is that investors are starting with an analysis of their own requirements, which are primarily financial rather than with a deep understanding of a problem they wish to solve.

“Impact is a pretty diluted term at this point,” she adds. “We’re not doing the important upfront work to diagnose the problem.”

Watch my interview with Bolis at the top of this article.

Bolis says that Oxfam has used a different approach, beginning with a clear diagnosis leading to a specific prescription for a particular financial treatment.

Oxfam, a 70-year-old NGO that works internationally to alleviate poverty, diagnosed a problem for female entrepreneurs in Guatemala. They were being asked to put up almost twice as much collateral as men, she says. So, Oxfam and its partners developed a financial product to provide capital to female small business owners in Guatemala on appropriate terms. The loans average $17,000 and have maturities up to four years. The investment was designed for the diagnosis.

Mara Bolis, Oxfam America

Bolis authored a discussion paper for Oxfam and Sumerian Partners on impact investing. In a blog post summarizing the findings of the paper, she wrote, ” We have no problem with financial returns, but let’s not pretend that investors seeking a pure market return can tackle the most complex global challenges in high-risk markets. They cannot. Not in education. Not in health. Not in reducing child labor and forced marriage. Not in water and sanitation. “

Andrea Armeni, executive director of Transform Finance, agrees with the sentiment. “It’s fundamental in the impact space to put the primacy on the needs of whoever will be affected by the investments. If that’s not the case – if we are focusing primarily on the needs of the investors – it’s a bit disingenuous to say that we are investing in order to achieve a certain social impact.”

Bolis, who has worked in international development for 20 years, says, “Poverty alleviation should be a guiding principle” for impact investors.

It wasn’t long ago, she points out, that the only sort of philanthropic capital was a grant. As the market has evolved in recent years, a variety of forms of impact capital have been developed along with a diverse range of approaches to solving social problems, including for-profit social entrepreneurship.

Bolis worries that as impact investing goes mainstream investors who have traditionally accepted lower returns on their investments in order to achieve desired social outcomes will follow the herd toward investments with market returns offering weak social benefits. The irony of seeing the field of impact investing grow while the impact actually shrinks concerns her.

Armeni agrees that a focus on return on investment or ROI can allow for problems to flourish that impact investors seek to eliminate. “If we want a teachers’ pension fund to invest for impact, we must be mindful of its return requirements so that the pension liabilities are met. But if in order to achieve a certain ROI, other stakeholders suffer–especially those who have historically not benefited from finance–then we are not moving toward real impact, and may, in fact, be contributing to the growing wealth and opportunity gap.”

Armeni sees three “transformative finance principles” that investors should observe:

  1. deep engagement with the communities, an idea that parallels Bolis’s suggestion for a real diagnosis,
  2. “non-extractiveness,” that is, being thoughtful about “for whom value is being created”, and
  3. fair allocation of risks and returns.

Bolis has made six recommendations to correct what worries her about impact investing:

  1. Shift from focusing on the needs of investors to the needs of those combatting poverty
  2. Increase transparency of reporting both for impact and financial returns
  3. Philanthropists should continue to deploy patient capital that seeks only to achieve a return of capital rather than a return on it
  4. The industry needs more independent research to identify the investment structures that best maintain impact intentions
  5. Investors should adopt a “voluntary code of practice that enshrines” intentionality
  6. “Impact investors should adopt incentives for optimizing, measure and reporting impact”

Bolis sees these ideas critical to focusing the impact investing sector on what she sees as its core mission of helping people lift themselves out of poverty. In other words, this is how you start in the right place.

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!

This ‘Tornado Of Energy’ Is Revamping Education In Liberia

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Time’s 2014 Person of the Year was “The Ebola Fighters.” Among the front line people profiled was the aptly described “tornado of energy” Katie Meyler, now 34 and the founder of the educational NGO More Than Me.

Meyler, who says empathy is her superpower, founded the organization while visiting Liberia years before the Ebola epidemic swept the country. She was there doing volunteer work and came across an 11-year-old girl named Abigail who was prostituting herself for school fees. Meyler began paying her fees so Abigail could attend school.

Abigail had some friends that needed help, too. Soon, the number of girls she was helping outstripped Meyler’s meager resources so she began fundraising via social media to help more girls.

Watch my interview with Meyler at the top of this article.

Eventually, a lawyer friend volunteered to help Meyler set up a nonprofit and More Than Me was born.

Chid Liberty, originally from Liberia and now CEO of Liberty & Justice, says of Katie, “We met as she was starting her organization and she was a ball of energy and excitement. You couldn’t help but want to help her achieve her mission.” He eventually joined the More Than Me board of directors and served for several years.

After a time, she learned that just getting girls to school wasn’t enough. The schools were so poorly funded that physical facilities were grossly inadequate–unsafe and lacking even basic educational tools like chalkboards. Teachers, she says, were frequently unpaid and many, as a result, were illiterate themselves.

Katie Meyler

Meyler says she is not creative. There is nothing remarkable about what she did. The problems were obvious and she addressed them.

Under Meyler’s enthusiastic leadership, the organization built a school for girls. Supporters flew in from the U.S., parents, teachers and students came. The President of Liberia even attended the inauguration.

Then Ebola struck. Meyler recognized that her mission had just shifted from ensuring her girls got an education to ensuring that her girls survived so they could get an education.

Initially, Meyler looked to support the front-lines organizations doing the most good in the local communities. What she quickly realized was that those organizations were stretched too thin. She says a call for an ambulance might bring one three days later simply because there were too few in the country to serve the overwhelming demand. During the interim, one sick person would become one sick family.

Eventually, she organized a team of 500 people. The team received training from the World Health Organization and Médecins Sans Frontières. They did whatever they could to help. “When we could do nothing else, we sang and prayed with them.”

The first safety protocol to prevent the spread of the disease, which was fatal in nearly 90% of cases, was simply not to touch anyone. Meyler shared the gut-wrenching story of comforting eight-year-old Charlie as he died. More than anything, he wanted to be hugged. Meyler says she offered every comfort she could imagine, including offering a lie that his mother had sent her to care for him. His last words were, “God will bless you.”

Meyler says she learned from the experience. “We were waiting for the heroes until we realized we are the heroes.” She said she found out what she was made of when it really counted.

Her Ebola work and the attention it brought have helped More Than Me grow to a 2016 budget of $1.7 million. The organization operates seven schools and has asked the government to open 30 more in the partnership program. The partnership model she helped created, pairs public schools with private partners like More Than Me to operate and support each school. More Than Me hopes ultimately to support 500 of the 2,750 primary schools in Liberia, helping them reach 125,000 students.

Liberty says, “It’s an organization that’s really passionate about their work, so teachers are in class, students are part of something bigger, and school actually functions as an institution. Many Americans probably take that for granted, but for schools serving poor Liberians, teachers showing up and knowing how to teach is basically a miracle.”

The Liberian Government will provide funding to More Than Me for the public schools it helps to run. The NGO will break even, Meyler says, once they reach 105 schools.

Tragically, only a few people in Liberia have had access to a good education. Liberty says, “Liberia is a beautiful country and her people are her greatest asset. Unfortunately, what we would consider to be a great education has only been available to a small minority of citizens.”

He adds that poor education holds back the people and institutions there, but what has been accomplished is impressive at times. “Still, these people are filled with ingenuity and help to build great roads, buildings and entire companies. Sometimes these folks lift the living standard of an entire village.”

Liberty shares Meyler’s vision for the potential for education to improve things in Liberia. He says, “Not only will education help us unlock more genius in Liberia, it will help Liberia’s most ingenious women and men find the support they need to build a great society.”

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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!

 

Feel Rich Founders To Hip Hop Community: Health Is The New Wealth

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Feel Rich, started with the question, “What if we create a brand that makes health sexy?”

Feel Rich, a “culturally relevant” health and wellness brand for the multicultural, urban community, is a led by Shawn Ullman and Quincy D. Jones, III, son of the multi-Grammy-award-winning artist. Ullman has worked for Jones for years, helping to produce documentary films. Jones has left his father’s shadow but not his legacy and has produced several gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums.

Watch my interview with Ullman and Jones in the video at the top of this article.

Quincy D. Jones, III

Their latest collaboration, Feel Rich, was Ullman’s idea and he is the CEO. The name was partially inspired by Ullman’s parents, Phyllis and Richard Ullman.

Ullman says, “We leverage our relationships with hip-hop artists, celebrities, and athletes to promote health as the new wealth. From our branded content, live events, products, and social media community; we are re-defining what it means to be rich.”

Shawn Ullman

Both entrepreneurs had observed the importance of health and wellness in their own lives and in the lives of many of the big name hip hop artists, including Fat Joe, Paul Wall and Styles P.

Jones says Eminem realized he was making more money after getting into better health.

The mission is important to Jones for several reasons. Of his father, he says, “He raised me to always have an underlying mission with all my work. So in my doc and music, I always insert a message that empowers the viewer, even if it’s subliminal there is always a message. With my Tupac doc, I covered how well read he was and put his reading list in the DVD cover and tons of kids went out to buy those books as they wanted to be like Tupac. So you put the medicine inside the dessert and they don’t realize it’s medicine.”

“I have a social mission behind everything I do, it’s lifestyle,” he adds.

Ullman highlights the problem he sees with health information in general. “There is a ton of health and wellness information available but it is not authentic or relatable to the multicultural community.”

Jones echoes that. “We want to bring information to them in a cool way via social and traditional media that is compelling and connective. It does not currently exist.”

That drives the Feel Rich strategy, Ullman says, to make the information feel more relevant to their urban audience. “We remix health information into engaging, empowering, and authentic content and events that connect with the community and help individuals live richer lives.”

Feel Rich also partners with brands that want to connect with their audience to deliver a health-positive message. “We also work with brands and agencies to help them craft campaigns that will resonate with the community and help them take positive actions,” Ullman says.

The message is resonating with their audience. JessicaRios-Almanza, the Designer and Brand Strategist for Crystal Wall Fitness, is a big fan of the Feel Rich brand and wears it proudly. She says, “I represent the brand because it represents me.”

She explains, “From the well-designed logo to the rhythmic heart beat of the tribe, my wellness is my richness, one choice at a time. My loyalty is to the message.”

Feel Rich fan Maliek Trimmer with his son

Maliek Trimmer, another fan, describes himself as “just a normal guy trying to live a healthy life one day at a time.” He says he first heard about Feel Rich at an event with Slim Thug. After doing some online research, he decided he could really get behind it.

He said, “I felt it was a brand that I could relate to. I also see how they are getting music artists and TV actors on board with incorporating health into their everyday lives. The logo stood out and caught my eye so much to the point that I got it tattooed on my arm.”

Maliek Trimmer’s Feel Rich tattoo

Trimmer says the brand and the tattoo help remind him to live healthier.

Rios agrees. She says, “I feel like I am on a huge ‘stay well squad’…and well, I am. I feel committed to a sense of social responsibility because I know that I inspire people just as much as my lifestyle is inspiring. I think that’s how the movement works. You feel it and thereby become it and pass it on–sort of like music.”

Feel Rich seems to be living up to its goal to make health sexy.

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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 Learned From Her International Development Experience

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Sarina Prabasi, born in Nepal, and her husband, Elias Gurmu, born in Ethiopia, launched Buunni Coffee, selling fair-trade Ethiopian coffee in New York City. The enterprise, their social entrepreneurship and indeed their relationship, grew out of Prabasi's… Click To Tweet

Today, she serves as the CEO of WaterAid America, a position she assumed in 2014. With an annual budget of $7.1 million, the NGO is a leader in the “WASH” or water, sanitation and hygiene community. She’s spent a total of 20 years working in the field.

Watch my interview with Prabasi at the top of this article.

Prabasi reports that the organization was originally focused on clean water and has helped 24.9 million gain access to clean water. Another 24 million people have gained access to toilets and sanitation.

She says that the water issues in Flint, Michigan have helped Americans empathize with people around the world who lack access to clean water. “People who maybe previously weren’t able to connect to it in a personal way are able to connect to it because of the very unfortunate things that have happened here.”

Over the past several decades, WaterAid reports that about 2.6 billion people worldwide have gained access to clean water, representing dramatic progress toward solving the problem globally. Today, 663 million people still lack access to clean water.

WaterAid has a goal, consistent with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal number six, to see that everyone on the planet has access to clean water and sanitation by 2030. This seems achievable given the progress of the past several decades. The greatest challenge appears to be getting everyone access to sanitation.

The UN reports that as of 2015, 2.4 billion people lacked access to “an improved sanitation facility.” That’s a bureaucratic way of saying 2.4 billion people don’t have toilets.

Prabasi highlights the challenges that come from a lack of access to a toilet. She notes that regardless of the amount or quality of food, kids in communities without access to sanitation are so frequently sick with diarrhea that they are malnourished. “Nearly 900 children under the age of five die each day from diarrheal diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation.”

The problems resulting from a lack of sanitation disproportionately impact women and girls. Women are sometimes victims of sexual violence when they make late-night excursions to find a private place to defecate.

In addition, she says, “women and girls spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water for their families from water sources that are often remote and unsafe to drink.”

There are also health problems that result simply from “holding it,” she says.

The problem extends to public health facilities in the developing world, where Prabasi says she too often finds there is no running water and no toilet. One can only imagine the lack of hygiene in a clinic without these basic facilities.

Prabasi says progress is being made. “WaterAid and its local partners have helped two million people gain clean water, three million people gain toilets, and more than eight million people gain access to hygiene education” over the past year.

She says, she’s proud of the organization’s innovation. WaterAid helps “specifically by promoting vocational training, entrepreneurship, sanitation marketing and supply chain development.” Prabasi adds, “A great example of this can be found in the job skills training program that we’ve piloted with at-risk teens, and with former gang members in Nicaragua.”

Prabasi’s work with NGOs has clearly influenced her approach to entrepreneurship. When she launched Buunni Coffee in 2012, it was the city’s first Ethiopian coffee shop. “It was important to me to do something that would help New Yorkers go beyond the usual famine- and poverty-stricken images of Ethiopia by bringing a new perspective and a slice of the country’s rich coffee culture to NYC.”

“Formerly a shoe repair shop, I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve created a vibrant community space at Café Buunni that supports local writers and artists, hosts community events and ‘walks the talk’ of socially responsible business,” she concludes.

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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!

She Sold Her Home; What Would You Do For Your Nonprofit?

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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Jean Krisle sold her home, bought a 40-foot RV and hit the road for a year. What would you be… Click To Tweet

Krisle launched 10,000 Beds in 2014. The “beds” are addiction treatment beds, typically for 30 days, in treatment centers across the country. Her goal is to get 10,000 people in treatment by 2020.

In 2016, 10,000 Beds awarded more than $1 million of scholarship beds to people seeking treatment, she reports. And she expects to more than double that amount in 2017, having already received more applications in the first quarter of this year than she did in all of last year.

Watch the interview with Krisle at the top of this article.

She became focused on addition after seeing her own son become addicted and make a successful recovery. She says she is proud of Colin who took a fourth job trying to support his wife and four children when he ultimately became an alcoholic and addicted to cocaine.

She credits a “failed” family intervention with preventing Colin from committing suicide on his road to recovery. Today, Colin is in recovery. He’s gainfully employed and she says, “He’s never been happier.” Attending funerals for his friends who continue to struggle with addiction serves as a reminder for him to stay clean and sober.

Jean Krisle

Krisle explains the entrepreneurial genesis for the nonprofit. She says, “10,000 Beds is the result of my awareness of empty beds in nearly all treatment centers at some time each year, along with the keen awareness of so many seeking help but without resources. It was an equation that needed solving. 10,000 Beds was the answer.”

Working at this point with an all-volunteer model and donated beds, the organization hasn’t needed substantial resources. Krisle says, they are still largely dependent on individual donations and corporate sponsorships.

Abhilash Patel, co-founder of Recovery Brands and Rehabs.com, serves on the board of 10,000 Beds. He says of Krisle, “I was struck by her authenticity, passion the simple common sense of her vision for 10,000 beds. It makes absolute sense that treatment programs with unused capacity should be able to donate at least one bed per year to a deserving recipient.”

Travis Whittaker, Director of Client Outreach at Cold Creek Behavioral Health, a treatment facility that has participates in the 10,000 Beds initiative, says, “We decided to participate in 10,000 Beds, Inc because it is a great program which allows addicts who are seeking treatment, but don’t have insurance or other means to receive treatment on a scholarship basis.”

He adds, “I believe 10,000 Beds, Inc. will be successful because the addicts who are seeking treatment under this program desperately want recovery, are invested in the process of applying for a scholarship, and when receiving it realize it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to better their life.”

10,000 Beds RV

Krisle says the trip is intended to accomplish three goals:

  1. Raise more money, mostly via crowdfunding
  2. Bring attention to the issue
  3. Develop better relationships with treatment centers, including both those that have not yet committed to participate and those that have

Patel notes that the road trip is a fitting promotion for the young organization. “The RV represents exactly what 10,000 beds is all about: down-to-earth, practical reliability on the road across the entire country.”

Whittaker agrees. He says, “I believe Jean’s year long RV trip for 10,000 Beds, Inc will impact her work positively. She will be able to reach and spread awareness of her program to more treatment centers throughout the United States, thus allowing more addicts to receive help under the program.”

Patel is optimistic about the future of the organization, noting that, “The organization is very close to an inflection point – just a few more key supporters and the program will take off. Every ounce of support matters!”

Krisle seems willing to do whatever is required to make this work, to help address the country’s epidemic of addiction. This begs the question, what am I willing to do to make my social venture a success. What are you willing to do?

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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!

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