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 The mission of the "Your Mark on the World Center" is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.
Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Nonprofit

This category includes articles about nonprofit organizations and NGOs that are actively working to accomplish a social mission. The work of foundations that primarily work as grantors to other nonprofits is covered in Philanthropy.

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3rd Generation Deaf Person Well Suited To Lead 1,000-Employee Nonprofit Serving Deaf Community

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Chris Soukup, 38, is a third-generation member of the deaf community. As a child, he remembers his paternal grandparents visiting each week with a list of phone calls to be made by his mother, who could hear. In those days, before the relay services offered by companies like Communication Service for the Deaf, or CSD, the nonprofit that Soukup now runs, members of the deaf community were effectively prevented from communicating by phone.

Soukup’s life was also influenced by injustice. His grandfather lost his farm when a banker explained he didn’t believe a deaf man could operate a farm.

There are approximately 1 million functionally deaf people in the United States. As many as 14% of adults are deaf or hard of hearing, many of them over the age of 65. About 8 million are hard of hearing, that is, they have difficulty hearing a normal conversation even when wearing a hearing aid. About 70% of deaf people are unemployed or underemployed.

For more insights, be sure to watch my interview with Soukup in the video player above.

About 40 years ago, CSD was founded by Soukup’s father, Ben Soukup, who was also deaf. While many people assumed that the younger Soukup would follow in his father’s footsteps at the helm of the organization, he did not, at least not until he got to college.

Chris Soukup, CEO of Communication Service for the Deaf

Soukup started working full time at CSD after finishing graduate school. He joined the executive management team in 2007 and was appointed President in 2011 and then named CEO in 2014. He now manages a $38 million operating budget, all major business units and over 1,000 employees across the United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and New Zealand.

The organization is focused today on solving a single problem: unemployment the high unemployment rate among deaf people.

“We’re very focused on trying to combat that and to combat that in a multitude of ways by creating resources and programs and solutions that better position the deaf community to be successful in employment, to identify opportunities and to help match the supply of jobs to those who are actively looking for employment.”

CSD provides job training, resources and educational material in ASL to deaf and hard of hearing people through a Federal program. This effort is called CSD Neighborhood.

Early in 2017, CSD launched another program called CSD Works to place deaf people in career positions and help create deaf-owned businesses.

CSD recently partnered with Uber to help riders interact more effectively with deaf and hard of hearing drivers. The organization is also adapting training materials for those drivers to help them succeed as well.

Soukup acknowledged that the deaf community is becoming more diverse. Not only does it include people who are deaf from a young age along with people who lose their hearing, often as they age, there are those who have cochlear implants that allow them to hear well but who also identify with the deaf community. CSD is working to serve each member of this community.

About 95% of CSD revenue comes from providing revenue-generating services, including relay services, equipment distribution and interpreting. The organization also receives grants and donations and has investment income.

Hundreds of nonprofits learned to successfully use online fundraising to reach–or surpass–their goals with my crowdfunding training. Get my free guide to attracting media attention.


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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 Eckrich Used America’s Love of College Football to Honor and Benefit the Country’s Teachers

This is a guest post by John Pauley, Smithfield Food’s Executive Vice President of Retail Sales, Packaged Meats Division

Our country may have been split when the Alabama Crimson Tide faced the Georgia Bulldogs at this year’s College Football Playoff National Championship, but Eckrich brought fans together with a cause everyone could cheer for: America’s teachers. From the sheer importance of their job to their dedication to it, teachers deserve to be recognized, thanked, and rewarded—and that’s exactly what the Eckrich team strived to do at this year’s championship game.

In the brand’s second year as the official smoked sausage and deli meat sponsor of the College Football Playoff, Eckrich challenged ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit to complete a nearly impossible 20-yard throw to earn $1 million for the College Football Playoff Foundation’s Extra Yard for Teachers cause and invited Teachers of the Year from across the country to cheer him on from the sideline.

As hundreds of excited onlookers rooted him on and millions watched during ESPN’s “College Football Live,”Kirk stepped up to the line to attempt the throw. The ball soared through the air and hit the side of the target, missing by inches. Knowing he could make it, and unrelenting in his desire to earn the money for Extra Yard for Teachers, Kirk stepped up again and took two more attempts, sinking the third as his perfect spiral went right through the target. Despite two fruitless throws,we were thrilled to honor the success of the third and announce a $500,000 donation to the deserving organization.

The entire Eckrich team was elated when Kirk made his throw, and we feel honored to present the Extra Yard for Teachers cause with the largest donation from an outside benefactor it has received to date.

Teachers face multiple challenges in their profession today. This half-million dollar donation will help further elevate and support the teaching profession by inspiring and empowering teachers through the implementation of programs in four focus areas: resources, recognition, recruitment, and professional development. Extra Yard for Teachers hopes to address and make a difference in each of these areas over the next ten years, ultimately leading to brighter futures for tomorrow’s leaders—a“touchdown” for all.

John Pauley

John Pauley is Smithfield Food’s Executive Vice President of Retail Sales, Packaged Meats Division.


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New ‘Impact Security’ Could Revolutionize Philanthropy

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Catarina Schwab, 43, and Lindsay Beck have set out to completely revolutionize philanthropy. Their firm, NPX, Inc., has introduced a new security to Wall Street called the “Impact security,” which they hope will end the practice of funding nonprofits without impact.

Problems in philanthropy

Ted Williams, Managing Partner at Springbok Partners and an advisor to NPX, explained the problems in philanthropy today. “The nonprofit sector is woefully lacking creative destruction. Mediocre and weak organizations are still attracting funding and the best organizations are not accessing the funding they need to achieve real impact. The only way to get to a more efficient and robust nonprofit market is to reward good organizations and penalize bad ones. This will only occur when there are economic consequences tied to impact.”

For her part, Schwab says, “The nonprofit capital market is opaque and inefficient. It is a trillion-dollar industry and the money is being wasted. And it’s being wasted at the expense of human lives and the environment.”

Watch the interview with Schwab in the video player above.

Catarina Schwab

Impact Security

The impact security is intended to address this problem by inserting investors into the philanthropic capital market to better align the money with desired outcomes.

Nonprofits will issue impact securities in much the same way that corporations issue notes or bonds. The money will go to the nonprofit to fund a specific program with a measurable outcome or impact. The investors don’t get their return from the nonprofit but from a philanthropic guarantor instead. The guarantors are happy to take on this role because they want to give their money away but want it to go where it will have measurable impact.

Impact securities put the donors in a no-lose situation. If the program works and impact is verifiably measured according to the contract, the donors are happy to pay. They have funded something that actually did some good—no guessing, only measuring. On the other hand, if the project fails to achieve the intended results, the donors don’t pay and they keep their money to do good with it another day.

The nonprofit is happy with the arrangement. It gets the money for the program up front. This puts some new pressure to perform on nonprofits, but it is the sort of pressure that is already increasing in the philanthropic marketplace as donors increasingly look for measurable impact.

The investors are taking risk, but not as much as you might worry. The donors acting as guarantors will often put their money in a donor advised fund when the securities are issued so that the funds are already available to meet the guarantee if the outcomes are achieved.

Under longstanding Federal rules, nonprofit securities are not subject to SEC regulations, potentially making them less expensive to issue and allowing ordinary retail investors to participate, not such wealthy or “accredited” investors. This even opens the possibility of crowdfunding.

Measuring Impact

Measuring impact will be a challenge. Schwab says, “We can structure and execute an impact security for any nonprofit with measurable impact.” Still, it is often easier to measure intermediate outcomes than it is measure long-term impact.

Schwab says her model will increase the availability of measurement data and will thereby make measurement easier.

First Transaction: The Last Mile

The first transaction that NPX hopes to complete is an issuance for a nonprofit called The Last Mile that trains prisoners to code while in prison and even employs them to do it. The prisoners can earn $17 per hour, which compares favorably to the $0.94 per hour they earn from other work in prison. This allows them to leave prison with a nest egg, even though much of the money they earn goes to restitution and reimbursing the state for its costs. Some prisoners have even found six-figure jobs after being released from prison.

After working on the project for months, Schwab observed that people often say that prisoners deserve a second chance when they get out. She’s concluded that for many of them that isn’t fair. “This is their first chance; it’s not their second chance.” Some have simply never had an opportunity to get the education and training they need to survive as a contributing member of society. The Last Mile gives them this opportunity.

The impact security the nonprofit hopes to issue will fund a program at San Quentin. The impact that will be measured is straightforward: hours worked in the development shop. This output measure can be tracked easily and objectively. It does, however, ignore the question of whether the program achieves its stated, longer term objectives of helping with a successful reentry and reducing recidivism. Schwab notes that some of the prisoners will never leave but having a real job while in prison is still life-changing.

Prison statistics in the U.S. are staggering. While only 5% of the world’s population lives in the U.S., 25% of the world’s prisoners do. It costs five times as much to incarcerate someone as to educate them.

NPX hopes to help The Last Mile break the cycle and return productive people to society.

Schwab’s explains the premise of her work, “One simple change of linking money with impact changes everything.” Now she’s out to prove it.

Hundreds of nonprofits learned to successfully use online fundraising to reach–or surpass–their goals with my crowdfunding training. Get my free guide to attracting media attention.


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!

Mission-Driven Leader Helps Nonprofits Raise $1.5B

Interview with Vivien Hoexter, the Principal of H2Growth Strategies LLC.

Vivien Hoexter said she had trouble getting up in the morning to sell consumer goods so she sought out an opportunity to lead a more mission-driven, fulfilling life. Along the way, she’s helped nonprofits raise $1.5 billion.

The following is the pre-interview with Vivien Hoexter. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?

Nonprofits, like businesses, need revenue to grow and thrive. With more than 1 million nonprofits in the United States, there is increasing competition for philanthropic dollars. We empower nonprofits to articulate their visions and goals in a compelling way, create plans to achieve those goals and generate the philanthropic revenue needed to implement the plans.

More about H2Growth Strategies LLC:

Twitter: @h2growth_
Website: www.h2growth.com

H2Growth Strategies, LLC provides counsel and services on planning, development and governance to mission-driven organizations–nonprofits, foundations and corporations–to improve performance, increase revenues and create lasting social impact for a more enlightened world. Through strategic planning, campaigns and board building they have partnered with over 100 nonprofits to raise more than $1.5 billion.

www.h2growth.com

For-profit

Revenue model: We sell primarily consulting services. The book is our first product.

$250,000-500,000 in revenue

Vivien Hoexter

Vivien Hoexter’s bio:

Twitter: @vhoexter

Vivien Hoexter, a principal of H2Growth Strategies LLC, advises nonprofits and foundations in developing and refining strategies, marketing more effectively, and increasing both contributed and earned revenues. She also coaches executives currently in leadership roles and/or transitioning to new ones.

She brings 20 years experience in nonprofit leadership roles. As CEO of Gilda’s Club Worldwide, Hoexter and her team created a vision and strategic plan for the organization as a leader in the field of emotional and social support for people with cancer, their families, and friends. The organization increased its income by 55% from 2005 to 2006 and by 40% from 2006 to 2007.

Hoexter has served as Vice President for Marketing and Development at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Vice President at AFS-USA, Inc. (the leading high school student exchange organization) and as Director of Development at The Hunger Project. She has also worked as a product manager at CPC International, Inc., a Fortune 100 multinational, and as an assistant buyer at Lord & Taylor.

Hoexter graduated magna cum laude with a BA in History from Yale University and has an MBA in Marketing from the Wharton School.


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!

Recovered Quadriplegic Devotes Life To Serving Children

Interview with Karli Sue VerHoef, the Director of Sunshine Heroes Foundation.

As a child, Karli Sue VerHoef was a quadriplegic. At the time, she was told she always would be. She came to appreciate how she depended on others for help. When she recovered, she considered it such a gift that she has devoted her life to serving children.

On January 15, 2018, VerHoef will be leading a community service project for the Children’s Justice Centers in both Salt Lake County and Utah County. The event includes the Utah Chapter of the Cornell Alumni Association and the All Ivy Plus community as well as the Your Mark on the World Center community (that means you if you’re reading this). Learn more and register here.

The following is the pre-interview with Karlie Sue VerHoef. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?

We partner with rural communities and development experts on the ground to assess local needs. Then evaluate programs that will lead to sustainable impact and positive change. Together we assess each project to improve existing programs and implement promising ideas. We pull together resources from our networks to fund the initial costs of high-impact projects. Communities take the lead and together we work to ensure each project is implemented.

More about Sunshine Heroes Foundation:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sunshineheroesfoundation/
Website: www.spreadsunshine.org

Sunshine Heroes Foundation was established with the mission to improve the lives of children and their families locally and around the world. We believe that, even if we only help one, every child is worth empowering and deserving of a bright future.

www.spreadsunshine.org

501(c)3 Nonprofit

Revenue model: Sunshine Heroes is proud to offer several opportunities for individual and corporate involvement! And the best part about it? 100% of every donation made will directly fund our global projects and improve the lives of children. Sunshine generates revenue by implementing projects and collecting donations (monetary and in-kind), payroll deduction is offered through specific business partners who coordinate with Sunshine Heroes Foundation.

Revenue for 2016 $1,581,887.70 that means $1,581,887.70 acts of service performed in monetary or in-kind donations.

Karli Sue VerHoef

Karli Sue VerHoef’s bio:

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karlisue-ludwig-verhoef-953973139/

Karli Sue VerHoef is the current Director of Impact for Tesani Companies and Director of Sunshine Heroes Foundation. As Director, Karli has assisted in the building and maintaining of ten children centers worldwide; additionally, she had lead the efforts of improving the lives of over 500k children through education, health, and clean water projects. Locally, Karli goes straight to the source to fix and implement strategies to help strengthen children and families. In 2017, Karli volunteered as the music teacher at local elementary schools who had lost funding for these programs.Her passion for making a difference is apparent in her daily activities. Whether at work or at home, Karli and her family can be found trying to make this world a better place.

When Karli joined Sunshine Heroes Foundation in 2017, she took their revenue from $448,793.83 to $1,581,887.70. She did this by taking the Foundation in a different direction, becoming project driven vs. revenue driven.

As a single mother of 5 children, Karli is constantly on the go. Before becoming Director of Sunshine, she put her efforts in starting a local preschool where lower income and refugee children could attend for free. With humble beginnings, her preschool has now grown into a self sustaining business.

Besides doing her best to make a positive impact on the world, Karli can be found: coaching crossfit, dancing in the kitchen with her kids, or reading a good book outdoors.. Passionate about people, traveling, and tacos, Karli is ready to change the world one child, one family at a time.


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!

Changing Minds and Changing Lives: Connecting People with Disabilities with Career Opportunities

This is a guest post from Kris Foss, the Managing Director of Disability Solutions at Ability Beyond.

One in five people in the United States have some type of disability and are facing challenges in getting hired. Some disabilities are visible, such as physical disabilities, and some are hidden; including mental health conditions, medical conditions, learning and cognitive disabilities. We also have a large population “aging into disability” for the first time and veterans with disabilities returning to the civilian workforce.

Ability Beyond is a non-profit pioneer serving people with disabilities throughout Connecticut and New York states for more than 60 years. Over the years, we encountered many companies eager to include jobseekers with disabilities in their overall talent strategies, but cited uncertainty about how to get started and a desire to not “reinvent the wheel” as challenges. Our solution was to create Disability Solutions, an employer-focused consulting service that has been an avenue for Mission impact across the globe!

Our service was founded on the principle that bringing together the most knowledgeable disability inclusion consultants would create a catalyst for true change in the workplace.

Utilizing our proven approach, Disability Solutions (DS) consultants work with companies of all sizes to develop and deploy a personalized strategic approach to filling workforce needs. They then develop talent partnerships and connect companies directly with qualified jobseekers, provide training and support communication to strengthen a diverse work culture, leverage hiring incentives, and help employers respond to a changing regulatory environment.

We set out to reduce the high unemployment rate among jobseekers with disabilities and have seen real results including:

  • Partnering nationally and globally with major corporations committed to disability inclusion such as PepsiCo, Synchrony Financial, American Express, Staples, and most recently launching work with Aon Global, and Aramark;
  • Connected talent and talent partners with our clients to build much needed pipelines, resulting in over 300 employees with disabilities being hired in full and part-time jobs to fill talent needs from entry to leadership level;
  • Our client companies are seeing real business results including key Human Resource metrics:
    • An average 14% higher retention rate in the same roles;
    • 33% decrease in interview to hire ratios, saving talent acquisition professionals valuable time while decreasing time to fill;
    • An average 53 percentage points higher rate of self-disclosure and a range of diversity within disability including 21% veterans with disabilities;
  • Facilitated interview prep and soft skills training courses to prepare hundreds of jobseekers and organizations for success; and
  • launched a national online career center to bring top employers and top talent together and to source talent directly for their corporate clients. More than 400,000 people with disabilities visit the site each month to find the next career opportunity.

We truly work each day with the motivation that we are ‘changing minds and changing lives’ and working with employers across industries and sourcing talent for roles from the mailroom to the Board Room. The companies we are working for are seeing positive business results and are leading that change.

Founded in 2012, Disability Solutions is the national non-profit consulting division of Ability Beyond headquartered in Bethel, Connecticut. To learn more visit: http://www.disabilitytalent.org/ or for more information about the Career Center, please visit www.disabilitysolutionstalent.org


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Let’s Actually FIX Our Air Pollution Problem

This is a guest post from James Westwater, Chair, Utah Valley Earth Forum

At times, Utah cities along the Wasatch Front have the worst air pollution in the entire nation. Yes, we live in a bowl where our air pollution gets trapped by inversions in winter, but inversions are unavoidable and natural, but trapped pollution would not be a problem if there were no pollution to trap.

We can, should and must fix our air pollution problem, both here and world wide. Air pollution is harming our health, killing people, shortening all our lives, blocking our view of the great beauty around us and hurting our state’s tourist-reliant economy. Who wants to visit, or live, in a polluted environment? Air pollution causes changes to the environment which in turn are causing extremely costly, harmful and increasing climate-related problems both here in the US and around the world; including droughts, wildfires, famine, sea level rise, species die-offs, sever weather events and a warming planet. Again, we can, should and must fix the problem. But how? The solution is obvious: stop polluting. The main cause of our air pollution both here in Utah and worldwide is the mining, processing and burning of carbon energy: petroleum products, coal, gas and wood. We burn pollution-producing carbon to power our vehicles, heat, cool and light our homes and power most everything we do. To actually FIX our air pollution problem we can, should and must replace polluting carbon energy and fuels with clean, safe renewable energy.

How can this happen when we are so dependent on carbon energy? In what we call a market economy and representative democracy our leadership can and should take strong, effective steps to make clean, safe renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, sufficiently less expensive than polluting carbon energy. This can be accomplished by (1) imposing an effective fee on carbon energy (think of it as a “sin tax” on harmful, polluting behavior, like the tax on tobacco) and (2) incentivizing the production and consumption of clean, safe renewable energy, such as solar and wind power. (The “sin tax” on carbon energy and fuels can be returned to the public equally in the form of household tax credits or checks.) If clean renewable energy is much cheaper and plentiful, the switch to clean power and clean air will happen relatively quickly.

The key to implement the switch to clean energy and clean air is the will of the public and the will and ability of our leadership to make this switch. That’s were we, the public, come in. We need to get the anti-democratic, anti-common-good influence of big money out of politics and also to elect good, smart, responsible, effective leaders who have the guts, motivation and ability to make happen the switch to clean, safe renewable power. The majority of our current political leaders are lacking in those qualities and, because of the corrupting influence of money in politics, are beholden to those who benefit from the our current dependence on polluting carbon energy and fuels. If we want clean air, we need to clean up our own acts, and to vote for and demand effective leadership to do the same. Call your representatives today and make your voice heard loud and clear! And be sure to vote for clean air, clean energy candidates next November and in all elections. It also would help for religious leadership of all faiths to urge strong effective action to stop polluting and switch to clean energy and clean air.

James Westwater, PhD
Chair, Utah Valley Earth Forum
UtahValleyEarthForum.org


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Global Health Challenges Offer Social Entrepreneurs Opportunity

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

“We have grown far too tolerant of businesses not acting in alignment with the public good,” said Derek Fetzer, director of Johnson and Johnson’s CaringCrowd crowdfunding site for global health. “Shouldn’t all business, all entrepreneurship be for the public good? ”

“The spirit of social entrepreneurs is crucial in solving global health challenges, and has been a driving force in uncovering innovative solutions to tackle the ever-changing global health landscape,” Carol Pandak, PolioPlus director for Rotary International, said. (I am a member of Rotary and once wrote an article for the Rotarian Magazine.)

Pandak noted that global health issues hold a unique space on the plant. “It could be easy to diagnose many global health challenges as problems of individual regions and nations.” After all, it has been decades since anyone in the Americas got polio.

She pointed out that the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number 3 targets healthy lives and well-being for all. “When it comes to global health, there really is no issue from which any group, any nation is immune.” Even with only 15 cases reported so far in 2017, polio is just a plane ride away.

To get a better perspective on global health opportunities for social entrepreneurs, I invited 12 experts and practitioners to join me for a roundtable discussion. You can watch the entire 90-minute discussion in the video player above. Pandak participated only in writing. In a wide-ranging discussion, we covered challenges and opportunities in global health along with specific examples and some key lessons learned.

Leslie Calman, Engineering World Health

Leslie Calman, CEO of Engineering World Health, extended Pandak’s idea. “The answer must be broadly systemic, not singular: a combination of broad public health measures; an educated and paid healthcare workforce including doctors, nurses and technicians; support from governments and NGOs for public hospitals and clinics that serve low-income people; [and] the education of women and girls.”

Entrepreneurs have many roles to play in global health, said Deepak Kapur, the Chairman, India National PolioPlus Committee. He highlights needs assessment, monitoring, cutting red-tape for rapid response to emergent needs, special perspectives of business and industry and piloting new programs.

Challenges in Global Health:

There are no shortages of challenges in global health for social entrepreneurs to pursue as opportunities.

Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, CEO and director of scientific affairs for the Cancer Research Institute, argues that fundamental research is the key to disease eradication. “Ultimately, I believe it comes down to research, and that means funding and time.” She added, “And without that, I feel we don’t get to deliver anything.”

She responded with a hint of irritation to a question about how long will it take to cure cancer, noting she is frequently asked how much money it will take, “Science doesn’t work that way.”

Calman put disease eradication into a broader perspective. “There is much more to health than the eradication of diseases. It is one benefit of a reduction in poverty and war. Health requires good nutrition, education (especially of women and girls), stable governments, public investment, peace. ”

UNICEF’s Stefan Peterson, who has spent most of his career working in or for resource-constrained countries, did take issue with the idea that scientific research should be the priority. “I think we need systems innovation more than product innovation. When two out of three kids and mothers die on necessarily because we have the technology and the knowledge and it doesn’t reach them. We need market research. We need delivery science and systems innovation.”

Contemplating that disagreement, I couldn’t help but wonder if they weren’t just looking at opposite sides of the same $20 bill. Without research, there would be nothing to implement in the field; without distribution, the research has no value.

Social entrepreneur Dean Ornish, the founder and president of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute and Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, has focused his career on lifestyle’s contribution to health. He concludes that good global health requires attention to both lifestyle and cell biology.

Bruce Aylward, Senior Advisor to the Director-General, of the World Health Organization or WHO, noted that Ornish’s work is important because of what is coming. “The escalating rates of non-communicable diseases are the great epidemic in front of us and not just in industrialized but in middle-income countries and low-income countries as well.”

Agreeing, Ornish noted, “More people are dying today in most countries in the world including much of Africa from heart disease and type 2 diabetes than AIDS, TB [tuberculosis] and malaria combined.”

Highlighting the challenges of dealing with the coming epidemic, Calman noted, “We work in hospitals that don’t have blood pressure cuffs.” Her organization works to train local technicians to service and repair hospital equipment. There are people around the world who have no way of knowing they have high blood pressure.

“The question is what’s available within the first mile the first-mile health system from your house,” she continued. “And chances are that it won’t be a hospital.” These frontline health workers may be at the nearby pharmacy.

Women and Children:

In the global health sphere, there is little that is more important than helping women and children. Peterson cleverly explained, “The best advice to an unborn child is to pick your mother well and make sure that she’s healthy and has a good pregnancy.”

More soberly, he said, “If we are serious about achieving the SDG goals, we need to focus on building strong health systems that deliver quality of care for every woman and every child, everywhere.”

When thinking about women’s health, it is important not to limit the discussion too narrowly. Discouraging girls from becoming parents or getting married as teenagers and staying in school are also public health issues but they don’t happen in hospitals, Calman noted. Organizations and entrepreneurs need to pay special attention to keeping girls in school during menstruation by ensuring they have access to feminine hygiene products and education along with adequate facilities. “Women do in fact hold up half the sky.”

Examples of Social Entrepreneurship in Global Health

Mellanie True Hills, the founder and CEO of StopAfib.org, who participated in the discussion is a great example of a global health social entrepreneur. “We’ve educated people not only in the US but around the globe around this whole issue of atrial fibrillation which for those who are not familiar with that is an irregular heartbeat that leads to strokes.”

Mellanie True Hills

Founded in 2001 by two University of Memphis professors, Bob Malkin and Mohammad Kiani, Engineering World Health set out to train technicians to service medical equipment. Calman notes that if you show up to a hospital with a broken x-ray machine it isn’t any different for the patient than showing up and finding the hospital doesn’t have one.

Calman added, “We encounter over and over again folks who are willing to train or retrain doctors and nurses and as vital as that is if they’re 21st-century doctors and they’re working with 18th-century equipment it’s a waste of resources.” Training technicians should be just as high a priority.

There are opportunities in cancer research as well. O’Donnell-Tormey notes that a revolution in immunology began about five years ago. “I think the medical community believes now that the immune system can be used to treat and control cancer.”

Innovation in cancer treatment doesn’t end there. Acknowledging that some cancers are caused by lifestyle choices, others are caused by viruses, meaning that they can be prevented with vaccines.

Ornish, a consummate social entrepreneur, has spent 40 years working on treating public health with lifestyle changes, focusing on helping people move to a whole foods, plant-based diet.

WHO’s Aylward, noted, “And this is what makes the kind of work that Dean’s doing and others are looking at so exciting when you look at those and say lifestyle choices and changes may actually not only reduce risk but reverse disease that gets really exciting and that starts to eliminate some of the excuses we frequently find when we’re trying to look at how do you tackle this big epidemic in front of us.”

Ornish remarkably reported, “We found that in just three months over 500 genes were changed turning on the good genes turning off the bad genes and particularly the what are called the oncogene to promote prostate, breast, and colon cancer just turned off within just a few months.”

“We found that we could actually lengthen telomeres, in a sense reverse aging at a cellular level,” he added. The length telomeres at the end of each strand of DNA have been shown to correlate with a person’s remaining lifespan; the longer the telomeres, the longer the remaining lifespan.

Dr. Dean Ornish, Preventive Medicine Research Institute

In the context of the discussion on global health, Ornish noted the irony that the diet he advocates is the traditional diet of many low-income countries. As countries become richer, they get KFC and McDonalds, changing the traditional healthier diet.

“You know the natural foods and organic foods and healthy foods market is exploding whereas the soft drink sales are down 50% the last few years,” he added, emphasizing the entrepreneurial opportunities in this arena.

Curt LaBelle, president of Global Health Investment Fund, is a venture capitalist whose limited partners are committed to balancing impact and financial returns. He shared some of his strategy.

“Every investment that we make we have to evaluate not only is it an innovative product that can serve a need in the developing world but is there a way to actually get it to the people who need it,” he said.

The range of possible investments is wide. “But our goal is to take innovative products–and these can be vaccines; these can be pharmaceutical products; these can be medical devices or medical diagnostics–and get them to the people who can benefit the most while generating positive returns for investors.” The firm does exclude medical devices that require substantial capital investments as they are not a fit for resource-constrained markets.

One example of the investments the firm has made is in a cataract treatment company called IanTech that make an affordable, handheld device that doctors can use to treat cataracts with results comparable to the current standard of care. He notes that doctors can learn to use it in just a few days so when the trainers leave, they leave the skill set in country with the device.

Another portfolio company, Path, produces a drug to treat hookworms and roundworms. This is a huge market; LaBelle notes that in terms of people impacted by their products, this has the potential to help the most people.

What happens if a disease is successfully eradicated by one of the portfolio companies? “We want to get rid of the disease and we want to make some money along the way but if we get rid of it and no longer make any money that’s actually fantastic. All of our investors would be thrilled.”

Derek Fetzer, CaringCrowd

Big pharma is sometimes accused of serving the market to treat a disease rather than the business of curing it. Johnson and Johnson’s Fetzer responded:

There is a powerful financial incentive to find and produce a cure, particularly if you think (which is the case) that other companies are also trying to find the cure anyway (and quite possibly not participating in the treatment market). So better you find the cure than someone else.

A great example of this is the hepatitis C market, which commanded huge premiums. The prior standard of care was expensive and had a low cure rate, less than 50%. Gilead with no prior hepatitis C treatment business came in with shorter treatment and a high cure rate, in the neighborhood of 80%, and produced record breaking profits for a single drug.

Fetzer’s argument suggests opportunities for entrepreneurs and researchers.

Opportunities in Global Health:

UNICEF’s Peterson suggests that one overriding reason for business to pursue global health initiatives is that all the people they save are potential customers.

Jack Andraka, who invented a new diagnostic tool for pancreatic cancer as a teenager and now studies at Stanford, says the big data movement presents an especially interesting opportunity. “I think one of the most important things are happening right now is this kind of big data movement that’s going on in cancer with machine learning as well as all these interesting biomarker discovery processes”

“And if you can’t prevent the cancer you can detect it early when treatment is, first, less expensive but also way more effective,” he continued. “And we could really see that with pancreatic cancer where if you’re diagnosed early enough you have a 100 percent chance of survival and you don’t have to do things like the Whipple resection which have huge mortality rates”

Similarly, he thinks the opportunity in the gut is interesting. “Looking at your microbiome inside your gut and looking at these unconventional ways are beginning of treating cancer.”

The Cancer Research Institute, under O’Donnell-Tormey’s leadership, raised a venture philanthropy fund to de-risk promising research and make it more appealing to investors. Of course, this means that some of the projects the Institute funds don’t succeed, but knowing another path that didn’t work is almost as important as knowing what does work.

“So, if we can as, a not-for-profit, create a mechanism where we help to de-risk early, do hard core correlative and translational science to understand mechanistically even when things fail why they fail.” This helps prevent research projects proceeding to phase three clinical trials they would likely have failed, allowing more funds to go to projects with greater promise.

Deepak Kapur, India National PolioPlus

In another vein of opportunity, Kapur noted that “In India, we have already begun leveraging the infrastructure and the experience of polio to routine immunizations against all diseases for which vaccines are available.” The lessons and infrastructure are significant. The Journal of Infectious Diseases recently published an article by John L. Sever and others about the lessons and legacy of polio eradication.

Aylward noted one example. “You can’t eradicate a disease if you can’t see it if you can’t find it. And the polio program has got incredible experience putting in place a disease surveillance infrastructure globally where we often do very little else.”

Innovation in polio eradication did not end with Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin and their respective polio vaccines, Aylward said. “Contrary to conventional wisdom, many of the greatest innovations in the eradication of the poliovirus were not those that took place to get us to the starting line of the global eradication initiative, but those that were conceived and taken to scale as we got closer to the finish line.”

The opportunities in global health for social entrepreneurs are as rich today as ever.

Lessons from Global Health:

Global health efforts over the past decades, especially polio eradication, provide lessons for social entrepreneurs hoping to operate in the field.

Long-term opportunity: Despite all the energy we put into disease eradication and lifestyle improvements, the need for health care is not going away. “People may think when somebody arrives at a hospital that public health ventures have already failed. But, you know, people do have motorcycle accidents; they do have pregnancies; they do need maternal care; they do need neonatal care,” Calman said.

Measurement and improvement: “We must build in, from the start, mechanisms to track progress and impact, and to make course adjustments when needed,” Peterson said. “Contexts change, often unexpectedly, and programming needs to adjust accordingly, and rapidly, if impact is to be sustained.” This approach is called “implementation research” and it dovetails nicely with lean startup models that emphasize execution, feedback and improvement cycles.

Quick returns: Ornish asked rhetorically, “Why should I spend my money today for some future benefit that some other company whether it’s another corporation or another insurance company is going to get?” The answer is that with his lifestyle changes, the benefits begin to accrue almost immediately. “We did a demonstration project with Mutual of Omaha and they found that over that they saved almost $30,000 per patient in the first year because under their doctor’s care most of these patients were able to avoid having the bypass surgery angioplasty or stent that they were told that they otherwise would have needed.”

Social transformation: Not all social entrepreneurs begin as social entrepreneurs. LaBelle said, “One of the things that has been really rewarding to me is to really open the eyes of entrepreneurs who otherwise wouldn’t think about these developing markets around the world.” He notes that products like IanTech’s cataract surgical device that has broad application in low-resource countries around the world is just as appealing in developed countries where it can deliver comparable results at a fraction of the price of the standard of care. He calls these “dual market opportunities.”

Global health is ripe for social entrepreneurs to improve the lives of people around the world at the same time they create profit opportunities.

#30ytp

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‘A Life Has Meaning And Purpose, No Matter The Age’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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Meghan Waldron is 15 years old, runs track for her high school, plays in the school orchestra and is working on a novel. She is remarkable in many ways. One way is that she has progeria, a condition so rare only about 300 kids in the world have it; few are expected to live past their 20th birthday–unless promising new treatments are found.

Waldron recently completed her first book, a children’s book called Running on the Wind about a bird born under a rock that doesn’t learn to fly but instead to run.

The book was published by The Red Fred Project, a nonprofit publishing company that helps “children who live in extraordinary circumstances” like Waldron’s to create a children’s book that will both serve as an adult-like achievement to bring a sense of fulfillment to their lives and as a lasting legacy, evidence that their short lives mattered. The company has now published ten books, is working on an 11th and on a plan to publish many more in the future.

Dallas Graham

“A life has meaning and purpose, no matter the age,” says Red Fred Project founder Dallas Graham, 41.

The nonprofit is funded almost entirely by donations. The books are professional quality and they are sold to help fund the costs, but producing books at that quality costs about $20,000, a cost that isn’t covered by book sales.

Some of the funding comes from the Doctorow Family Foundation. Executive Director Suzanne Larson says of the experience of seeing the young authors work published, “I see the look of astonishment, wonder and joy on the kid’s faces holding, touching, grasping palpable, tangible evidence of their accomplishment. I know their loved ones are experiencing all the same emotions from initial contact to book in hand. in addition, the effect ripples out to everyone who has contact with durable legacy produced. this is a gift of enormous magnitude.”

She also sees Graham as something of a kindred spirit, whom she describes as a “magician orchestrating the masterpiece.”

Graham finds a deep sense of purpose working with the creative kids. “I see them as wonderful creators only lacking certain skill-sets their adult counterparts have.”

Because many of the young people he works to help are limited in their physical ability, energy and capability, he enjoys finding a way to help them use their creativity, something that is unconstrained by their circumstances.

“I’m interested in creating something stemming from their imagination and collected and lived life experiences. A book is a wonderful model for this kind of expression and it’s been around for centuries,” Graham explains.

His goal is to help young people who may never reach adulthood–something he is reluctant to even acknowledge out of respect for their hopes and dreams–to leave their mark on the world. “Their lives have just as much value as yours or mine, but because of age or experience, perhaps those are not as equally measured as their adult counterparts.”

“As humans, much of our validation of who we are comes through what we produce or how we show up in the world with relation to others. The ripples caused by the creative act help us understand our placement among people and ideas,” he explains further.

The vehicle for helping the authors to leave a permanent legacy holds appeal to Graham as well. “Children’s books also seem to retain a certain understandability by their readers, that of trying to distill the essence of life into a simple, relatable story.”

Waldron’s book about the bird, Cassidy, that learned to run rather than fly ends with her learning to fly in her own unique way, running and flapping her wings at once. A perfect metaphor confirming Graham’s vision that each and every life has meaning and purpose.

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CEO Comes Full Circle Beginning And Ending In Poverty

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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The fleeting memories of her childhood didn’t make sense until her mother told her the story of the poverty they’d experienced when Sheryle Gillihan was just a toddler. Now a CEO serving people experiencing poverty, she says she’s “come full circle.”

As the head of Causelabs, a public benefit corporation that provides strategy, design, prototyping and software development services, she is focusing the social enterprise on reaching profitability while staying true to the mission and values of the business.

The company finished 2016 with $1.7 million in revenue, an office in Denver and 16 employees. She says the company has pared expenses, including the office in Denver to give the firm a fighting chance at 2017 profitability.

At the same time, she says the firm has doubled down on preserving its values. “Our mission is to create positive social impact. We do so through our partnerships and with our expertise in technology.”

Recently, the firm completed a project that demonstrates the vision of using technology as a force for good. The tool the team created supports municipal governments with a visually appealing, easy-to-use budgeting tool that members of the community can use to get a better feel for fiscal issues. It helps people see the tradeoffs that small governments face in choosing between lowering taxes and providing essential services.

Money is a key issue for Causelabs, too. The firm works with lots of nonprofit customers. The funds for their projects often come from grants that the company has become adept at winning. Gillihan likes the relationship that creates with nonprofit customers, making it more of a partnership.

Sheryle Gillihan in India

She joined Causelabs in 2010 as a project manager. One of her first assignments took her to India where she saw poverty that was unlike she’d ever recalled.

She discovered a passion for addressing poverty that she’d not fully recognized before. She quickly became fully committed to the success of Causelabs as a result.

“Technology is changing the world. and I want to be a part of using that technology for good.” She says.

Gillihan didn’t always appreciate her own connection to poverty. She has flashes of memory from her childhood, including being bathed in a tub in the front yard, eating only fish and rice and her mother selling bananas just to make ends meet.

She didn’t learn until her 30s that she was sponsored by the Pearl S. Buck Foundation when she was 18 months old and received life-saving medical care.

“It’s it’s through the philanthropy of others that I’m even here today. And so I’m glad to be to be a part of that for somebody else,” she says.

That experience helps Gillihan put the clients’ social impact objectives first in priority.

One of those clients is Civicus; Cecily Rawlinson, a change lead says she was looking for a firm to help develop a secure online space where activists and organizations could seek support.

“CauseLabs’ development approach put our community at the center of the design process, beginning with interviewing our regional teams to understand what they needed and how our platform could best serve them.”

“We ended up with a solution that our community owns, uses and one that responds to their needs,” she concludes.

That focus on the key issues and outcomes has Gillihan thinking about a new hire. She’d like to add a scientist to the team to help explain the fundamental issues that underly the problems the firm helps to solve. She points out that poverty is complex; she’d like to have a scientist help the firm better understand the neuroscience behind it.

However she does it, she is excited to be a part of the solution to poverty. “This just deeply rooted in me that I’ve come full circle and I’m finally where I belong and I’m giving back in the way that I need to be giving back.”

Over 1 million people have read my books; have you? Check out my free webinar exposing the three myths that impair and two keys for crowdfunding success.


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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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