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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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When Free Maternity Care Isn’t Worth The Price

Shalom Mbungua Kang’ethe was born healthy on February 21, 2017 at 5:00 AM at Jacaranda Maternity Hospital in Nairobe. His mother, Lydia Wangui, paid about $100 to deliver her baby there; her first son was born at Mama Lucy Hospital, a public hospital where the delivery was free. Let’s find out why she didn’t want a free delivery for Shalom.

Lydia Wangui and her newborn son Shalom Mbungua Kang'ethe

Lydia Wangui and her newborn son Shalom Mbungua Kang’ethe

At the public hospital, women are expected to bring a birth kit. Of course, you say. Every woman in the world has a kit ready to go to the hospital when it is time to deliver. It isn’t that kind of kit. This kit would include the hospital essentials like rubber gloves for the nurse or midwife that delivers the baby, a string to tie off the umbilical cord, a razor blade to cut the umbilical cord, two sheets–one for the baby and one for the mother, and a maternity pad. If they want the bed sterilized following the preceding delivery, mothers are expected to bring bleach.

Oftentimes, however, the bleach is irrelevant. The hospitals are so overcrowded and understaffed that multiple women may be laboring in the same bed. One nurse described a scene with ten women laboring in one room with three beds.

Jacaranda Health was founded by Nick Pearson, who is from North Carolina. Nick came to Kenya several years ago while working for the Acumen Fund. He fell in love with Kenya and with an obstetrician here. He confessed that part of his motivation for leaving Acumen to start Jacaranda Health was to impress the woman who would become his wife.

Lydia seems to think that Nick and his team are doing a good job. Her first observation about the difference between delivering at Jacaranda compared with the public hospital was the nurses were nice. Seeking to understand more fully, I asked what the worst thing about the public hospital was and she reiterated that the nurses there were “not polite.”

She also liked the hot shower, clean facilities and good food.

Of course, these things don’t just happen in Kenya. It has taken Jacaranda five years to create a model maternity hospital that it hopes to replicate across the continent eventually.

Faith Muigai, Chief Medical Officer

Faith Muigai, Chief Medical Officer

Faith Muigai, the Chief Medical Officer, was trained as a nurse in the U.S. and worked at Johns Hopkins. She provided a guided tour of the facility to the visitors from Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Jacaranda participated in the school’s Global Social Benefit Institute program in 2014.She explained that the

She explained that Jacaranda initially opened a smaller facility that was intended to serve the same purpose. Staffed only with nurses and midwives and without an operating theater for performing C-sections, care could be provided even more affordably but even women who received their pre-natal care there chose not to deliver there. They made it clear that they wanted to deliver in a facility with a doctor and an operating room in case there were complications.

So, the new hospital was built. During the tour, the visitors saw a newborn that had been delivered via C-section only moments earlier. The fifth such delivery of the day.

Midwives use donated, modern ultrasound equipment from GE to spot complications as soon as women arrive.

Most of the women who deliver at the facility live in Nairobi’s slums. Urban poverty is different from rural poverty; people have money and incomes, but not enough. To help the women plan and prepare for the cost of delivering a baby, the prices for the services are posted on the wall on a giant sign. A normal delivery like Lydia’s costs about $100. A C-section costs about $350.

Posted prices at Jacaranda Maternity Hospital

Posted prices at Jacaranda Maternity Hospital

Women living in the slums don’t routinely have access to that much money. They are forced to save for the expense.

It isn’t just poor women that are delivering at Jacaranda. Faith admitted that she didn’t know what to think of it when women started showing up to the hospital in cars, “even a Range Rover.” The quality of care at Jacaranda now matches the most expensive private hospitals in the city, but at a fraction of the price.

Nick says the hospital recovers about 80 percent of its operating costs. Faith adds that they are exploring services they can offer at a premium, to improve profit margins for affluent patients.

As Lydia she was preparing to leave the hospital with Shalom, I asked her if it was worth paying so much. Without hesitating, she said, “Oh, yes.”

This week, I’m traveling in Africa as a guest of Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s Executive Director Thane Kreiner and namesakes Karen and Jeff Miller. Read all my reports.

#17africa

Despite Big Impact, This Nonprofit Faces Challenges

Potential Energy, a clean cookstove manufacturer based in Kampala, Uganda is facing challenges on several fronts. Despite having sold 45,000 high-efficiency cook stoves, the nonprofit venture is facing a host of troubles, including some existential threats.

Potential Energy sells the Berkeley-Darfur stove primarily to NGOs that give or sell them to refugees. The stove was developed with help from refugees in Darfur at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. The wood-burning stove is a highly regarded “tier 4” stove that reduces wood consumption by more than 50 percent and reduces smoke and pollution even more.

The nonprofit notes on its website that the stoves have already impacted 270,000 people, mostly refugees.

But today, Potential Energy faces big challenges. It has paid to produce 5,000 stoves in India that sit there unassembled. According to CEO Jessica De Clerk, originally from Portland, Oregon, the company lacks the resources to bring the stoves to Uganda from India. Between shipping costs and duties, the cost to import them nearly matches the $10 per unit cost to build them in the first place.

Once they arrive, if they do, Potential Energy needs to assemble them and sell them–neither task will be free. While they have a number of small orders, the bulk of the stoves would not have an immediate home. Jessica says she hopes to sell the stoves for $20 each in bulk, meaning that Potential Energy will almost certainly lose money on bulk sales.

The challenges don’t end there. In an effort to broaden its product line and diversify its revenue sources, Potential Energy has begun selling several models of charcoal burning stoves to low-income people in urban Kampala. These stoves range from $6 to $50. The $50 stoves are sold on credit and come with contracts that require the customers to purchase more environmentally friendly charcoal briquettes.

These efforts don’t all sit well with donors, some of whom are focused on moving to the sale only of stoves that are deemed “tier 4” for both efficiency and emissions. Such stoves cost about $100 and require a fan to provide secondary air to enhance burning. Jessica, living and working in Kampala since she came here to support a project for a Portland Rotary Club, says the high prices make selling such stoves impossible. Without them, however, she faces a dearth of funding.

And there’s more. She took us to visit three customers who have purchased the $50 high-efficiency charcoal stoves.

Helen Okidi, Potential Energy customer

Helen Okidi, Potential Energy customer

Helen Okidi lives in a slum in Kampala about 15 minutes’ drive from the Potential Energy office. Helen is obviously proud of her stove and was thrilled to show it off to the international group of visitors from the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University. She wasn’t reluctant to bring out her old stove to show how much nicer the new one is.

Helen Okidi's two stoves

Helen Okidi’s two stoves

Notably, however, the new stove was clearly not being used regularly. The old stove was full of burning charcoal and she had clearly been cooking with it before we arrived. She had lit some charcoal in the new stove but admitted that she usually cooks with the old one, which consumes much more fuel and emits much more smoke.

Helen was getting virtually none of the benefits of the new stove because she continued to use the old one. She was also buying charcoal at the market rather than using and buying the briquettes that burn more efficiently and come from charcoal dust rather than from burning wood to create charcoal–using up 80 percent of the energy in the wood. So she was getting none of the financial, environmental or health benefits of her new stove.

CEO Jessica De Clerk with customer Betty Sabiti

CEO Jessica De Clerk with customer Betty Sabiti

That is not always the case. We visited both Betty Sabit and Elijah Kizza who have the same stove. Both are using theirs exclusively. Betty says she cooks two meals per day for two people and it works great. A 110-pound bag of the briquettes lasts her two months. Elijah shares the stoves with five roommates. They don’t cook as regularly, but also love the stove and the eco-friendly briquettes, which he says saves them money. Both Betty and Elijah seem to be getting all of the health, environmental and financial benefits of the stove.

CEO Jessica De Clerk with customer Elijah Kizza

CEO Jessica De Clerk with customer Elijah Kizza

Jeff Miller, the namesake for the Miller Center, offered Jessica some advice that she received well. He suggested she focus on the Berkeley-Darfur stove and jettison all of the other distractions so she can build that business to a volume where it can be self-sustaining for the organization.

Moving production to Uganda from India could significantly cut costs, eliminating most if not all importation costs, potentially cutting the landed cost of finished products almost in half.

Jessica is an impressive young CEO. She joined Potential Energy just one year ago precisely because she saw the value and the life-saving potential of the Berkeley-Darfur stove. In the year before joining Potential Energy, she developed a tier 4 stove for LivingGoods that can be produced for just $5. She is committed to the work, obviously bright and apparently hard-working, we left believing that she can find a path to greater sustainability and even more impact.

This week, I’m traveling in Africa as a guest of Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s Executive Director Thane Kreiner and namesakes Karen and Jeff Miller. Read all my reports.

#17africa

How This Collaboration Raised Over $1M For Charity

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

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

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

He rattles off early milestones:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victor Cho, courtesy of Evite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Artificial Intelligence Is Now Ready For Social Entrepreneurs

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

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

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

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

Eric Rice, courtesy of USC

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eric Rice, courtesy of USC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wonder Where To Donate In A Humanitarian Crisis? This Entrepreneur Can Tell You

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

How many times have you wanted to give some money to help solve a crisis somewhere in the world but didn’t simply because you didn’t know to whom to give the money? The problem wasn’t likely that you didn’t have some candidates; more likely, you found too many candidates and couldn’t determine which would do the most good with your money.

Enter Iguacu.

Iguacu screens nonprofits working to address crises around the world to identify those that are having the best impact. Iguacu is a social enterprise that is so new it hasn’t yet set up its own 501(c)(3) organization, but that is the plan, according to founder Katherine Davies.

To date, Davies has funded the operations of Iguacu, but she is looking to establish a nonprofit entity so that she can collect donations and corporate sponsorships. Today, the organization has ten employees, including several analysts that Davies describes as “world-class” researchers.

To leverage the small staff and smaller budget, Davies has created a global network of experts that help Iguacu determine which nonprofits to support. She says, “The network gives their time for no fee because they support the Iguacu mission.”

Katherine Davies, courtesy of Iguacu

Davies founded Iguacu when she decided she wanted to find a way to help people suffering from the Syrian civil war in 2014. “I wanted to help, to donate to a good charity helping the Syrian people. But looking online, it was really hard to work out which charity, and to even understand what was going on.”

At that moment, she recognized that should couldn’t be the only one struggling to find the right NGO to support. “Surely, we have the technology and smarts to do better. Surely, we can create a platform where the public can learn how to act effectively where there is great need.”

Deborah DiStefano, an ophthalmologist and owner of the DiStafano Eye Center in Chatanooga, Tennessee, became acquainted with Davies before she launched Iguacu and has watched its progress since. She says, “We are all humans – brothers and sisters globally. So many of us feel we want to help each other within our global family. We lack the correct vehicle to achieve this goal.”

Finding the right organization to support can be frustrating, Davies says. “There is a lot of noise on the internet. Sometimes we look up a crisis and find 300 charities, many making similar claims. Great suffering often occurs in the midst of war, and rapidly changing and complex conditions on the ground, and sometimes in fragile states.”

Davies created the solution. “At weareiguacu.com, the public can find effective charities to support addressing key challenges in the world’s major crises.”

The work isn’t without its challenges, Davies says. “The biggest challenge we face is people hearing about us. We are a small team operating on a lean model of operation. We do not have a marketing department!”

Iguacu can’t address every problem in the world, Davies says. “We focus on the key challenges in severe humanitarian crises in areas of the world where the local capacity or willingness to respond is limited. We currently cover Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Nepal, Haiti, Central African Republic and Myanmar.” That seems like a good start!

DiStefano is optimistic about the organization’s prospects. “It needs to continue growing its base of donors and friends in Europe and the United States to have a continued presence and global impact on human suffering. The organization’s message really resonates; I am confident that Iguacu will galvanize the people they want to reach.”

Davies has a great vision for the impact she hopes to create. “A rapidly growing community loving Iguacu will create a powerful force for good in the world.”

“Iguacu empowers the compassionate response and its success will help to bring large scale effective support to those who are in desperate need and who may think the world has forgotten them,” Davies adds.

Iguacu Fall, at the border of Argentina an Brazil

The name Iguacu hints at Davies’ dream. “The name is a metaphor for this vision. ‘Iguacu’ (pronounced: igwah-soo) means ‘big water’ and is also the name of the great South American river known for its awe-inspiring waterfall. Iguacu evokes the power and beauty of thoughtful mass action, likening one person’s intention to a drop of water, and mass action to the great and beautiful Iguaçu.”

On Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 2:00 Eastern, Davies will join me here for a live discussion about Iguacu and the work it is doing to address some the acutest humanitarian crises in the world. Tune in here (at the top of this article) then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

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

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aria Finger, courtesy of DoSomething.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Healing Tree Project Receives Grant that will Aid Mission to Help Burned Children Across Latin America

This is a guest post from Patti Groh, Director of Marketing Communications for Sappi North America.

Seven million children, mostly under the age of 5, suffer severe burn injuries in Latin America every year. It goes without saying that the physical damage is extensive, but the emotional effects can also be long-lasting. Inspired by the need for a more empathetic healing program, Alvin Oei, Environmental Design student from of the ArtCenter College of Design and the Designmatters department of social innovation has created The Healing Tree project for COANIQUEM BCF, the Burned Children Foundation (BCF).

In collaboration with COANIQUEM, a nonprofit pediatric burn treatment facility in Santiago, Chile, the Designmatters Safe Ninos multidisciplinary studio challenged students to work with stakeholders at the treatment center to reinvigorate the 6-acre campus with innovative, human-centered environments.

Oei’s project, which was recently awarded an Ideas That Matter grant from Sappi North America, is an immersive environmental design project that re-imagines the clinic as a child-friendly world that reduces stress and optimizes conditions for healing. To bring this to life, Alvin created a storybook, patient passport and environmental graphic system to guide children and their families through burn treatment plans. The illustrations will be developed by ArtCenter Illustration student Belle Lee based on Oei’s creative direction.

In the passport, child characters Camilla and Lucas act as guides for the patient as they embark on a journey through a magical world, based on the many ecosystems of Chile, filled with animal friends who support the patient as he or she goes through different treatments and therapies. Each animal represents a different form of therapy and demonstrates the process and skills the patient will need to navigate them.

For example, the bunny depicted throughout physical therapy teaches children to jump and stretch. The hummingbird is used in musical therapy to demonstrate expressing oneself. The Pudú, a native Chilean deer, is the representative of the compression-garment fitting process and emphasizes the importance of being unique and proud.

The storybook is available to patients, families and staff in the waiting rooms, dormitory and school at COANIQUEM’s facility. As children visit each animal character and progress through their treatments, therapists stamp their passport. The passport is also filled with interactive activities, such as drawing projects and scavenger hunts focused on finding animals on the walls of the facilities, as well as information for the families.

“Art is an incredible way to make a difference in the world, and I am proud to be working on this project with COANIQUEM BCF. These children are going through an unimaginable experience, and to help them in their healing journey is an honor. Without the support of Sappi, this and many other important projects like it, wouldn’t be possible,” said Alvin Oei, creator of The Healing Tree project.

The approach is research-based. The movement of healing spaces was sparked in 1984 by Robert Ulrich who found that patients with nice window views healed faster than patients with views of a brick wall. And, according to the Center for Health Design’s Guide to Evidence-Based Art, murals resulted in a significant decrease in reported pain intensity, pain quality and anxiety by burn patients.

With the goal of reducing stress for patients, Oei submitted the inspirational plan to Sappi North America’s 2016 Ideas That Matter competition and was awarded a $49,438 grant to bring The Healing Tree to life.

Since 1999 Sappi’s Ideas that Matter grant program has funded over 500 nonprofit projects and has contributed more than $13 million to a wide range of causes that use design as a positive force in society. Rooted in a passion for helping others, the Ideas that Matter competition shines a bright light on the power of graphic design and printed materials in today’s increasingly web-based world.

The project aims to complete these elements by April 2017. In addition to the 2,000 new patients treated on campus annually, COANIQUEM’s large network of NGOs and clinics allows The Healing Tree project to reach far more children than those within its own facility.

Patti Groh

About Patti Groh:

Patti Groh is Director of Marketing Communications for Sappi North America, a leading producer and global supplier of diversified paper and packaging products. She is responsible for the company’s coated paper and packaging marketing communications programs, including the branding of its products and the development of its award winning printed collateral. Patti manages all of their customer-facing communications, which incorporate a mix of print and digital media along with targeted events. She also oversees the Ideas That Matter charitable giving program, which provides financial support to designers who create and implement print projects for social impact. She has been with Sappi for 24 years and has held various positions in sales and marketing. Patti has a BA in Political Science from San Diego State University and an MBA from the University of San Francisco.

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


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

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

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

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

Andrea Smardon, courtesy of Changing Our Stories

Andrea Smardon, courtesy of Changing Our Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about Encircle:

Instagram: @encircletogether

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

Stephenie’s bio:

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

More about Changing our Stories:

Twitter: @UtahPodcaster

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

Andrea’s bio:

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

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

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tamra Ryan, courtesy of the Women’s Bean Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

Confessions of a Mean Girl

Jessie Funk was a mean girl. Think Lindsey Lohan in the movie. Really.

Jessie wasn’t born a bully, she was first bullied. She developed bulimia as a result.

Today, Jessie cringes when she thinks about the times she was bullied but hurts even worse when she thinks about when she was a bully.

Jessie, who resembles Lindsey Lohan, describes her reaction to being bullied, “My natural reaction was to turn around and become the worst bully you can imagine.” She says she wasn’t just a bully to her peers, but also to her parents, teachers and school administrators.

Over the years since, she has worked to repair relationships with her family and others whom she hurt when she acted out.

As penance or repentance for the harm she did, she has launched Ivy Girl Academy, a nonprofit that works with young women to help them cope with the challenges they face. She travels the country helping girls learn to cope with bullying.

Jessie related the story of a young girl in North Carolina who approached her after a presentation and gave her a hug. Jessie thanked her for the hug and the girl pulled up her sleeves to reveal the cuts on her arms. She told Jessie that she was gay and hadn’t been able to come out to her parents, who had made it clear that they’d disown her if she did.

Jessie has coached the girl, to help her both deal with bullies in her school and to prepare for a healthy dialog with her parents.

Recently, Jessie joined me for a live discussion about her work.

Jessie is a professional speaker and singer with five albums under her belt. Her life’s mission is helping girls overcome the challenges that she herself faced. Ivy Girl Academy is the primary vehicle that she uses for that.

More about Ivy Girl Academy:

Twitter: @ivygirlacademy

We ignite personal & positional leadership skills in teen ladies through world-class workshops, summer camps, and certification programs.

The Ivy Girl Academy was created by Jessie Funk. Jessie has been a passionate advocate for teen girls since she was one herself. She has worked with, served and studied young ladies in many different capacities for the last eight years.

Jessie holds a leadership certification from the University of Notre Dame, she is a certified life coach and she has been a professional motivational youth speaker for a decade. Jessie has released five solo albums and has published five books including, “It’s Your Life…Own It. A Teen’s Guide to Greatness.”

Jessie Funk, courtesy of Ivy Girl Academy

Jessie Funk, courtesy of Ivy Girl Academy

Jessie’s Bio:

Twitter: @jessiefunksing

Jessie Funk holds a leadership certification from the University of Notre Dame along with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology. She has also been a professional youth speaker for twelve years, speaking for high schools and leadership conferences internationally. She is a “7-habits” facilitator for Franklin Covey, the most prestigious leadership training company in the world. She is a published author of two books for teens and she is also the Director of Education for the Utah Anti-Bullying Coalition. Her passion for empowering teenagers led her to start an international non-profit organization called “The Ivy Girl Academy,” a confidence and leadership- training program for teen ladies.

As a professional vocalist she has released five solo albums, has toured 36 states with the Broadway musical “Footloose,” has also been hired for hundreds of recording sessions as a studio vocalist including songs heard on TV’s “America’s Got Talent,” ESPN and “The Biggest Loser.” Jessie has walked away from three record deals unwilling to sell her soul for fame. She chooses to use her voice to lift and inspire in positive ways.

Jessie’s favorite role in life is that of adored wife and mother to two.

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!

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