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Social Entrepreneurship

This category includes articles about social entrepreneurs, typically about businesses with a for-profit model with a social mission embedded into the fabric of the business.

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If Your Business Looked at Solar 2 Years Ago and Passed, Now May Be the Time

Clean Energy Advisors, one of our sponsors, has invested in Solar Site Design.

If your business evaluated solar power as a way to reduce costs more than a year ago and rejected it, it is time to look again, says Jason Loyet, CEO of Solar Site Design.

Solar Site Design has a national network of independent contractors who work as solar originators. The company also has a network of client contractors who pay for the opportunity to bid on the projects the originators find. This competitive marketplace is helping to accelerate projects and reduce the cost of solar installations.

Scott Hill, President of Clean Energy Advisors, explains the motivation for their investment. “We invested in Solar Site Design because we believe in Jason and in his business model. Commercial and Industrial companies need a place they can go to quickly understand if installing a solar array can be a smart business decision. He is also creating a platform where companies providing solar products and services compete for each project. These factors are bringing down costs and allowing Solar to complete against other forms of energy, which is something we’re very passionate about.”

The result of the acceleration in solar and the falling costs, Jason says, is installed costs of solar power that are years ahead of recent expectations at under $2.00 per watt. That means that in most parts of the country, a business can install solar and save enough to on utility bills to justify the expense.

While the industry has long relied on innovative financing to make projects pencil, with the current 30 percent tax credit, companies can now afford to buy the solar panels outright with traditional financing sources. Banks, Jason says, are now experienced in financing solar projects.

Typically, projects today are built “behind the meter” in that the plan is not to sell power back to the utility, but only to produce enough power at peak production to meet the business’s own need for that power at that time. The solar power becomes the primary power source and the utility is the secondary power source.

In most states, commercial businesses can’t sell power back to utilities at the same rate they buy power. By eliminating any low-priced sale of solar generated power to the utility and using 100 percent of the power produced to reduce high priced power purchased from the utility, the financial returns are improved.

Jason notes, too, that the next step the market is preparing for is the addition of storage so that companies can go ahead and produce extra power at peak production times and use it later, rather than relying on the utility. In such a scenario, the utility becomes a backup provider of power rather than a secondary power source. This near-future scenario is intriguing to environmentalists and CFOs alike.

Looking longer term, Jason sees a bright future for solar. The cost of extracting fossil fuels is unlikely to go down, meaning that the cost of generating power from fossil fuels will likely rise. He predicts an average rate of inflation of 3 percent for fossil fuel energy. Given that solar is already cheaper than fossil fuel generated power today, the spread is likely to grow dramatically in relatively few years.

The bottom line is that the economics of solar power make better sense than ever before today. The 30 percent Federal tax credit creates an incentive for companies to look at solar projects in 2017. Fossil fuel inflation combined with declining costs in solar will quickly reshape our global energy mix.

Jason Loyet, courtesy of Solar Site Design

Jason Loyet, courtesy of Solar Site Design

More about Solar Site Design:

Twitter: @solarsitedesign Since winning the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Catalyst Award in 2015, Solar Site Design has focused on solving the next chapter of driving down customer acquisition costs for Commercial and Industrial solar energy projects. After a year of software development, we are proud to announce the newest enhancement to our platform: Solar Site Design Commercial Marketplace. For three years, Solar Site Design has become a leading recruiter and trainer of Nationwide Commercial Originators. Our Originators have deep relationships in their local market and are able to open doors wide open on highly qualified C&I projects. In addition, our Originators are trained on collecting extensive data at the site through our innovative platform available on Android and IOS. SSD aggregates the project data entered by service professionals (referral agent), connects the projects to networks of contracted fulfillment partners, thereby reducing customer acquisition costs by up to 50%

Jason’s bio:

Twitter: @jasonloyet Jason Loyet is an accomplished solar industry entrepreneur, having founded and built three solar companies since 2005. His first company solved bottlenecks in importing solar equipment and streamlined mainline distribution to solar installers. In 2009, he founded and built a $3 million company that provided wholesale solar supply, sales and marketing services to electrical and roofing contractors throughout the United States. In 2013, Mr. Loyet leveraged the powerful capabilities of mobile phones to build an easy way for traditional contractors to add a revenue source to their bottom line by playing an active role in the solar industry. Hence, Solar Site Design was born. Solar Site Design is a collaborative, cloud-based platform that connects highly-qualified solar project referrals to leading solar companies to drive down customer acquisition costs. Our proprietary business process is designed to reduce the solar industry’s customer acquisition costs by up to 50%. Solar Site Design was chosen as a winner of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Catalyst Program in May of 2015. Prior to entering the solar industry, Mr. Loyet founded, developed and sold two software companies; a video-streaming service and a photo-sharing platform. Jason is a member of the Social Venture Network.

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!

69 Ways to Change the World

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

The other day, a colleague asked me, “Would you rather buy a 400-page book that guaranteed you’d lose 30 pounds in 30 days or a one-page checklist with the same guarantee?”

That got me thinking, what if I could get the best advice that my network of social entrepreneurs and impact investors could offer in short, tweetable chunks? Wouldn’t they have to strip away all of the stuff that doesn’t matter to provide game-changing advice?

Over the past five years, I’ve had over 800 people on my show to talk about changing the world. Sixty-nine of them responded to my request for their best advice for social entrepreneurs in 100 characters or less. These gems, from people who either have been where you are going as a social entrepreneur or are investing in social entrepreneurs like you, may represent the checklist for success and impact that you’ve been looking for.

Aaron Hurst, CEO of Imperative and author of the Purpose Economy:

Don't just seek to serve a need but to fundamentally shift an issue or market. Click To Tweet

Adlai Wertman, USC Professor, Founding Director of Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab:

Don't believe the people who tell you that you need private sector experience first! Click To Tweet

Amit Bouri

Amit Bouri, CEO of the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN):

Build relationships and approach performance thru a lens of impact, risk & return. #impinv… Click To Tweet

Andreas Karelas, Executive Director of RE-volv:

Have fun with it. Do it for the fun of it and don't worry about the rest. Click To Tweet

Andrei Cherny, CEO of Aspiration:

Make bold plans. Make them reality by focusing on tiny details. Bet on trust, decency and goodness. Click To Tweet

Anne Friedman, managing director of Somos, a Hult Prize finalist:

Product < Your ability to communicate its value. Nail the elevator pitch FIRST. Click To Tweet

Arlene Samen, president of One Heart World:

Social entrepreneurs are able to navigate troubled waters without hesitation. Click To Tweet

Ashish Gadnis, co-founder and CEO of BanQu, Inc.:

End extreme poverty by enabling an economic identity for all humanity. Click To Tweet

Ben Block, founder of GozAround, Inc.:

Don't undercut your vision. Watering down your dream drains its power to attract support. Click To Tweet

Billy Starr

Billy Starr, founder of the Pan Mass Challenge:

Credibility through repetition; closer by the mile; commit, you'll figure it out. Click To Tweet

Bobby Turner, CEO of Turner Impact Capital:

Recognize that daunting social challenges create generational investment opportunities. Click To Tweet

Cecile Blilious, managing director and co-founder of Impact First Investments:

Global challenges can be addressed with technology. Think creatively about tech solutions. Click To Tweet

Charles Best, founder of DonorsChoose.org:

The two most important attributes for a social entrepreneur to possess: hustle and humility. Click To Tweet

Dan Buettner, founder of Blue Zones, LLC:

The secret to most success: relentless pressure, gently applied. Click To Tweet

Daniel Jean-Louis, CEO of Bridge Capital:

Foster a trusting relationship between the stakeholders involved in wealth and impact creation. Click To Tweet

Daryl Hatton, CEO of Fundrazr:

Most important words for social CEOs: How can I help? Builds team, connections, community &… Click To Tweet

David D’Angelo, Founder of Jack of All Fares:

Persist not for bottom lines, but because lives depend on it. Then live in a state of urgency. Click To Tweet

David Wilson

David Wilson of Capgemini:

While passion for social impact is key, a sustainable plan is the only path to long-run viability. Click To Tweet

Elizabeth Dearborn Hughes, CEO of Akilah Institute:

It's never too early to create HR policies. Maybe not the most fun but will save headaches later on! Click To Tweet

Jack Rolfe, CEO of the School of Life Foundation:

It is critical to develop solid tools for measuring your impact! Click To Tweet

Jacob Lief, CEO of the Ubuntu Education Fund:

Be ambitious. Be willing to risk failure. But also be honest and think critically about your… Click To Tweet

James Citron, CEO of Pledgeling:

Create like an architect, disrupt like a hacker, execute like a for-profit and lead with heart and… Click To Tweet

Janice Lintz, CEO of Hearing Access and Innovations:

The naysayers will tell you what you can't accomplish and happily take credit for the success. Click To Tweet

Jenny Kassan, of Jenny Kassan Consulting:

Know that it is possible to raise funding from investors on your own terms. Click To Tweet

Joel Solomon

Joel Solomon, co-founder and chair of Renewal Funds:

My life purpose drove my investing, an instinctual process of love for the future. Click To Tweet

Juan Diego Prudot, chief information officer at IMPCT:

Play the floor is lava: jump over obstacles and try not to fall, but if you do, the game just… Click To Tweet

Kara Goldin, CEO of Hint:

Life has so many different chapters. One bad chapter does not mean it’s the end of the book. Click To Tweet

Karim Abouelnaga, CEO of Practice Makes Perfect:

Don't chase people who don't believe in your mission to support your work. It's a bad use of… Click To Tweet

Katherine Fife, founder of Philanthropy Matters:

To be successful, social entrepreneurs must be authentic and express an abundance of gratitude. Click To Tweet

Kathleen Minogue, founder of Crowdfund Better:

Don't be afraid of appearing to stand still; listening, observing & reflecting are actions. Click To Tweet

Kip Kint, success coach at Kint Enterprises:

The secret to success in life lies in making, honoring, and keeping commitments… to yourself. Click To Tweet

Kirsten Henry Fox, courtesy of Uplift Gift

Kirsten Henry Fox, founder and CEO of Uplift Gift:

When facing seemingly impossible leaps, suspend disbelief and let curiosity guide you to the bridge. Click To Tweet

Lance Allred, CEO of Courage and Grit:

The best time hack is learning how to say, No. Click To Tweet

Laura Callanan, founding partner of Upstart Co-Lab:

Remember why you are doing what you are doing and pick your metrics before someone picks them for… Click To Tweet

Laura Lemle, founder and chairperson of the NVLD Project:

When you come up with an idea or you want to give back, do it. Don’t let fear or obstacles stop… Click To Tweet

Laurent Lamothe, former Prime Minister of Haiti:

Honesty and kindness are the keys to success. Click To Tweet

Laurie Lane-Zucker, founder and CEO of Impact Entrepreneur Center:

Your work is most impactful if it transforms both the world and you. Click To Tweet

Lauryn Agnew, CEO of Seal Cove Financial:

Social enterprises should target, measure and disclose their impact, output and outcomes. Click To Tweet

Leslie Calman, CEO of Engineering World Health:

Social change requires thoughtful action. Less tweeting: more doing! Click To Tweet

Lindsay Hadley of Hadley Impact Consulting:

If others doubt, question or criticize you, trust time to tell the true story of your character. Click To Tweet

Lindsey Kneuven, chief impact officer of Cotopaxi:

Design for systems change and maintain focus to prevent the dilution of quality and impact. Click To Tweet

Lindsey Tropf

Lindsey Tropf, CEO of Immersed Games:

No margin, no mission. The business must be sustainable in order to accomplish everything you want! Click To Tweet

Lisa Curtis, CEO of Kuli Kuli:

Start with the story but dive quickly into the data. Click To Tweet

Lisa Tomasi, President of You Give Goods:

Dream big but build your business on small, measurable goals that are focused on your mission. Click To Tweet

Liz Baker, Executive Director of GreaterGood:

Everything starts with impact. Try new things. Stop doing what doesn't work. Do more of what… Click To Tweet

Marc Raco of MouthMedia Network:

Curate content that motivates robust sharing. Important to you doesn't mean important to them. Click To Tweet

Mark Horoszowski, CEO of Moving Worlds:

Keep your mission front and center; never stop testing the best way to achieve it. Click To Tweet

Matthew Davis, founder of RENEW, LLC:

You're an entrepreneur building a profitable business that does something social. Remember profit. Click To Tweet

Matthew Weatherley-White, managing director and co-founder of the Caprock Group:

Mission won't guarantee success. Be relentless on operations and finances and mission can flourish. Click To Tweet

Mellanie True Hills

Mellanie True Hills, CEO and founder of StopAfib.org and American Foundation for Women’s Health:

The more important your vision, the more doors will open for you. Our vision: No more afib strokes. Click To Tweet

Melody Brenna, CEO of Reef Life Nanoscience:

Brains + Biz not synonymous with success, add advanced science + UPlifting Human Condition = ZEN… Click To Tweet

Michael D. Lowe, A Parent Media Co., Inc. (Kidoodle.tv):

Continually search for novel ways to monetize through unlikely sources, collaboration and… Click To Tweet

Morgan Simon, managing director of Pi Investments:

Fight like hell for the things that you really care about. Then forget the rest. Click To Tweet

Nancy Hughes, president and Founder of Stove Team International:

If you are passionate about the mission, it's not work. You enjoy every challenge and every day. Click To Tweet

Nancy Pfund, founder and managing partner of DBL Partners:

Don’t be afraid of the incumbent. If you hold to your mission, society will be on your side. Click To Tweet

Nell Derick Debevoise, founder and CEO of Inspiring Capital:

Make sure there's not an existing org to house your vision. Building costs a lot of time and money! Click To Tweet

Paul Elio, founder and CEO of Elio Motors:

Live your passion, love the process, treat people well, do what you say and never, ever, give up. Click To Tweet

Per Saxegaard, founder of Business for Peace Foundation:

Purpose of business is to improve society (if you’re not here to improve society, why are you… Click To Tweet

Robert Selliah, founder and CEO of American Medchem Nonprofit Corporation:

Firm attitude of inclusiveness is essential to serve the most vulnerable members of our society. Click To Tweet

Ross Baird

Ross Baird, CEO of Village Capital:

Always ask yourself: what is the actual problem I am solving (and for whom)? Click To Tweet

Sam X. Renick of SammyRabbit.com:

Have a deep personal purpose filled mission to quiet grave doubts, difficulties and… Click To Tweet

Samira Harnish, executive director of Women of the World:

Lead by listening. Gain trust by being authentic. Work hard, never taking no for an answer. Click To Tweet

Scot Chisholm, co-founder and CEO of Classy:

Always think like an underdog, or lose to someone who is. Click To Tweet

Scott Hill, president of Clean Energy Advisors (disclosure: Scott Hill is a client):

Love God, love your neighbor, identify a problem, take action, make a difference...in that order. Click To Tweet

Steve Grizzell, managing director, Innoventures Capital:

Build a great team. Rarely is anything big done by one person because big problems are complex. Click To Tweet

Thane Kreiner, executive director of the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship:

Focus on how your core competencies generate impact; partner to yield a complete solution. Click To Tweet

Todd Sylvester, founder of Todd Sylvester Inspires:

The most delightful surprise in life is to suddenly recognize there is nothing wrong with you. Click To Tweet

Wendy Lipton-Dibner

Wendy Lipton-Dibner, president and CEO of Professional Impact, Inc.:

Your business success rests not on revenue but on the measurable impact you make in people's lives. Click To Tweet

Zach Hagopian, co-founder of Accelevents:

Put yourself in the users' shoes to find the common ground between user needs and business goals. Click To Tweet

Which challenge most inspires you? Tweet it, then do it!

Never miss another interview! Join Devin here!

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

How This Social Entrepreneur Learned From Her International Development Experience

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jean Krisle

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

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

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

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

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

10,000 Beds RV

Krisle says the trip is intended to accomplish three goals:

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Full Time Ball Players And Part Time Social Entrepreneurs

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

Young men thrown into the national spotlight for their athletic prowess in the NBA are also taking time to give back.

Sherrie Deans, the Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association Foundation visited with me to share insights about the efforts of extraordinary athletes to make a difference, especially in the communities of their roots.

Deans points to the “current Isaiah Thomas” of the Boston Celtics, clarifying that she’s not talking about the Detroit Pistons legend of the same name, as one who has given back. Of the 5’ 9” Thomas, she says, “He is a tiny guy. He is not supposed to be in the league, by all accounts.”

Thomas renovated the gym of the Boys and Girls Club in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington. The theme of gym, “Pick me last again,” was inspired by Thomas’s unlikely rise to prominence in the league. The gym provides a safe place for kids to come play sports and participate in a range of other programs that help kids thrive in school and life.

Deans also shared that Dikembe Mutombo has a woman’s clinic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the most impoverished countries in the world, that is doing “transformational work.” Mutombo, who’s Twitter feed describes him now as the CEO of the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation, was born in Kinshasha, the capital. For this article, he described his motivation for doing the work he does there. “Because I am the Son of Congo, I want to improve the living conditions of the people.”

Retired Congolese-American basketball player Dikembe Mutombo poses with schoolchildren after

Deans says, “No one that knows Dikembe thinks that he is anything less than a giant of a figure. His impact off the court has been unbelievably amazing.”

Mutombo acknowledges that his work is making a difference. “I am very proud of my work. I was the first to build a premier hospital [in the DRC] in more than 45 years.”

Deans notes that Mutombo’s work there has inspired younger players from Africa to look for ways they can give back to their communities as well.

Deans says, “The NBPA Foundation highlights and accelerates the real and collaborative work that National Basketball players do worldwide to build their communities and create meaningful change.”

#EverydayDads

The NBPA Foundation is running a program called “#EverydayDad.” She explains, “One of the key initiatives of the NBPA Foundation is the recent launch of #Everyday Dad series to celebrate fathers and fatherhood and to provide inspiration for fans to celebrate their own relationships with their dads and their kids.”

Deans says, this is about “telling a different story.” She says the goal was to help fans see them not only as celebrity athletes but also as fathers. She acknowledges that it is also about changing narratives about men, particularly men of color. She says, “There is a prevailing narrative that there is a disconnection between these men and their families.” The message is intended to “inform a new narrative, not just for our players but for to provide a new way for people find themselves or see themselves.”

These NBA players may be full-time athletes, but they are also part-time social entrepreneurs finding ways to serve their communities.

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!

Impact Measurement: Finding Your Way Through The Maze

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

This is the second in a series of articles about impact measurement for social entrepreneurs.

Social entrepreneurs who are serious about having impact or about attracting capital from sophisticated impact investors face an intimidating array of measurement tools, standards and abbreviations. To help social entrepreneurs find their way through this maze I connected with practitioners and experts.

Laura Callanan, founding partner at Upstart Co-Lab, makes the case for using existing standards rather than inventing your own. “I am a fan of building off what already existing in the field — especially B Lab, GIIRS and IRIS. In the work we are doing at Upstart Co-Lab — connecting impact investors to the creative economy — these existing tools work really well. And using familiar tools makes it easier for us to launch a creativity lens for impact investing.”

Laura Callanan

B Lab is the non-profit that certifies Benefit Corporations. GIIRS is the “Global Impact Investing Rating System” and the acronym is pronounced “gears.” GIIRS ratings are used by impact investors to evaluate social impact; the measurements can be applied at both the company and the fund level. B Analytics, the B Lab entity that does measurement and certifies Benefit Corporations, uses GIIRS standards.

Note that I and others often use the terms Benefit Corporation and B Corp interchangeably, B Corp refers most properly to the certification by B Lab where a Benefit Corporation is a legal entity formed under the rules of a state that allows that form of incorporation.

IRIS is a free product of the Global Impact Investor Network, the GIIN (pronounced like the spirit). IRIS provides standards for measurement that are broadly used within the impact investing community.

Laurie Lane-Zucker

Laurie Lane-Zucker, the CEO and founder of the Impact Entrepreneur Center for Social and Environmental Innovation, adds that using the SDGs, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals also makes sense. He adds, “I am a big fan of the new taxonomy framework that Fourth Sector Networks is in the process of developing for the “for-benefit” or “Fourth” sector.”

Impact investment fund manager, Joel Solomon is Chair of the Renewal Funds; he encourages portfolio companies to seek B Corp certification.

Matthew Weatherley-White

Matthew Weatherley-White, a recognizes expert on impact measurement and co-founder and managing director for the Caprock Group, which manages money for impact investors, agrees. He encourages social entrepreneurs not only to measure their impact with B Lab standards but also to become a certified B Corp (or Benefit Corporation), for three reasons:

  • as a statement of commitment
  • as a stamp of transparency and credibility
  • as a way of supporting the emerging community of social enterprises

“They should then establish a tight group of IRIS-compliant metrics that are quantifiable and material, that will be gathered during the day-to-day operations of the business, and that will provide evidence around the mission of the enterprise,” he continues. He also encourages entrepreneurs to report using the taxonomy provided by his firm’s “iPAR” system.

Lisa Curtis

Social entrepreneurs Lisa Curtis, founder and CEO of Kuli Kuli, says, “One of the first things Kuli Kuli did as a company was to get our B Corp certification. It was tremendously helpful in pushing us to further define how we wanted to operate as a business. We’re now a full-fledged Benefit Corporation and we regularly report on those metrics.”

Daniel Jean-Louis, CEO of Bridge Capital, an impact investing firm focused on investments in his native Haiti, notes that while the GIIRS standards are “pretty good,” entrepreneurs “should establish some of their own standards in addition to those rules.” He points out that sometimes it is hard to fit your impact into an existing model.

Nell Derick Debevoise, founder and CEO of Inspiring Capital, says that which standard you use may depend on your stage of development or your industry. “B Lab is good for very early stage companies because it’s focused on setting up the operations of your company and is relatively simple and user friendly. It’s also more of a consumer-facing certification. GIIRS and IRIS are more investor-facing, so startups looking to raise institutional capital should think about mapping their impact to those standards sooner than later.”

Cecile Blilious

Cecile Blilious, an impact investor based in Tel Aviv, is the founder and managing director for Impact First Investments. She also encourages people to use the B Lab standards. She also notes that using a Social Return on Investment or SROI method is important. She uses Sinzer to help her firm with that. The SROI is a means of measuring value created that doesn’t have an easy financial metric, such as environmental and social benefits.

Matthew Davis, an impact investor focused on Ethiopia, is the CEO of Renew. He says his firm uses the IRIS standards.

Similarly, Gary White, the CEO and co-founder—with Matt Damon—of the non-profit Water.org uses the “IRIS framework to ensure that we are delivering social returns as well as financial returns to investors” for its WaterEquity program that allows investors to fund water projects with an economic return.

Lisa Hagerman, director of programs at impact investment fund DBL Partners, says the firm also uses IRIS metrics, but notes that what is appropriate for each social enterprise will vary depending on the asset class and sector.

Amit Bouri

Amit Bouri, CEO of the Global Impact Investing Network, says more entrepreneurs are using the IRIS standards. “While IRIS was developed to be used by investors for the purpose of measuring the social and environmental performance of their investees, we are increasingly seeing enterprises adopting IRIS for their own impact measurement and management practice.”

He notes that using IRIS measures could make social ventures more attractive to impact investors because it could accelerate the impact due diligence phase of an investment.

More importantly, perhaps, Bouri says that impact measurement can actually improve business performance. “Impact measurement is a defining characteristic of impact investing and has been shown to have significant benefits to organizations that utilize it to inform business decisions.”

Cathy Clark, author and professor, is the director of CASE i3 at Duke. She cautions, “Not every social entrepreneur needs to use a standard or produce an impact report. It’s a choice, dictated by the stakeholders of your enterprise and what level of evidence they are demanding.”

She explains, “We define 5 levels of evidence and 3 paths for impact reporting in our CASE Smart Impact Capital online tools. Using standards is just one of the paths.”

Cathy Clark

She sees a range of demands from investors; using standards helps with comparisons. “The advantage of using standards is giving people some level of comparability at the organizational level, and there are stakeholders who care a great deal about this, including some private investors and some federal and state agencies. All of the other paths allow you to customize more, but you lose some comparability with other ventures. Some stakeholders, like some agencies in the US government, have often decided that they will only invest significantly where higher levels of impact evidence can be shared.

Bobby Turner, CEO of Turner Impact Capital, which invests primarily in affordable housing and charter schools, is also cautious about using standards. “We focus less on impact standards and more on actual impact and the correlation between positive (and possibly negative) [social impact] and financial returns. Similar to LEED certification, while the intent of the standards is well meaning, they are often irrelevant to a particular investment.”

It isn’t necessarily which standards you choose but how you use them, says Stephanie Gripne, founder and director of Impact Finance Center & CO Impact Days and Initiative. “Probably any of [the standards work for now for the larger part of the market. There are many out there. Once these standards are selected by a social entrepreneur, I would ask why these indicators and how exactly they will capture and use the data.”

Breaking from the pack, Topher Wilkins, CEO of Opportunity Collaboration and founder of Conveners.org, says Poverty Spotlight is worth considering as a standard because of its focus on feedback from beneficiaries and on their economic well-being.

Morgan Simon

Some worry that impact standards themselves may not go deep enough. Morgan Simon, managing director at Pi Investments, says, “Impact standards are great for addressing short-term outcomes. It’s important to also keep track of what the long-term, systemic impact of an intervention can be–this may require a greater attention to the structural elements of a business. Who owns it? Does it add more value than it extracts from communities?

She adds, “Impact measurement is absolutely useful—what gets measured, gets managed. Impact measurement is often used to count the occurrence of something, e.g., 1,000 jobs created or 200 homes built. Measuring structural change may require a different set of questions.”

Peter Fusaro, Chairman of Global Change Associates, adds the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board or SASB to the list of standards. The SASB is primarily used for socially responsible investing metrics and is working to become to public companies what the FASB accounting rules are for financial metrics. He adds, “I don’t see one as the dominant standard as of yet.”

Lauryn Agnew

Lauryn Agnew, president, Seal Cove Financial and founder, Bay Area Impact Investing Initiative, shares the view that the standard you should use depends on your situation—and on what you are measuring.

“ESG factors can measure the outcomes of CSR. B-labs often are about balancing corporate behavior and shareholder expectations and governance. Measuring GHG reduction from an investment in solar is an example of measurement but the value of that impact in not fully understood. Certain standards like SASB are helping to define what is the ‘material’ impact so that we do not have to track ‘every’ impact, which can be diluting or detracting to the big picture goals.”

This primer on impact measurement should help you understand the key issues in measurement so you can find your way out of the impact measurement maze.

#impmeas

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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!

CEA Targets $800M of Solar Investment With New Partners

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


Clean Energy Advisors announced a major new financing that will take the firm from having invested about $140 million in solar energy projects to about $800 million. CEA President Scott Hill also notes that building on this success, the firm will establish a foundation to fund more charitable initiatives. (Watch or listen to my discussion with Scott using the players above.)Scott explains that the unnamed financing partners, two “multinational families,” have committed about $350 million. Combined with additional debt financing, the firm anticipates reaching $800 million in financed projects, “completing the pipeline of projects in North Carolina.” He anticipates that deploying the capital will take 18 to 24 months.

Scott explains that the unnamed financing partners, two “multinational families,” have committed about $350 million. Combined with additional debt financing, the firm anticipates reaching $800 million in financed projects, “completing the pipeline of projects in North Carolina.” He anticipates that deploying the capital will take 18 to 24 months.

He notes that the cost of installation for small utility scale projects is about $1.50 or $1.60 per watt, yielding a cost of about $1.5 million per megawatt. The new financing should allow CEA to install another 400 MW in North Carolina. He also notes that the scale they are achieving should allow the firm to look beyond their traditional structure where Duke Energy is the primary “off-taker” or buyer of the energy from the projects financed.

The new scale also creates an opportunity for CEO to increase its philanthropic efforts. Scott says the firm has started the process of creating a foundation that will fund charitable work. Last year, the firm backed nonprofits Reverb and Headcount to build support for environmental causes at 25 concerts across the country. Scott says they’ll be doing that again. “People who attend concerts have a natural affinity for nonprofits.”

Scott also hopes that the firm can use the foundation to fund solar projects in the developing world like putting solar panels on schools that don’t have access to the grid. He says the firm will donate its time to manage projects that the foundation funds and hopes donors will help them make a big impact.

The acceleration of the solar industry is creating a bright future for the world, both in the developing world and here in the developed world.

Scott Hill, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

Scott Hill, courtesy of Clean Energy Advisors

More about Clean Energy Advisors:

Twitter: @cleanenergyadv

Clean Energy Advisors (CEA) creates ownership opportunities for investors in utility scale solar energy projects that generate tax-advantaged predictable income, preserve capital, and have positive social and environmental impact.

Scott’s bio:

Twitter: @williamandhill

Scott Hill has over twenty years of entrepreneurial experience including a significant perspective on business start-ups and building successful small businesses. Mr. Hill has been with CEA since April 2014.

His duties include overseeing the firms family office, endowment, foundation, and UHNW client strategies. He has served as a panelist at US based family office conferences and enjoys speaking on impact investing, renewable energy opportunities, and the future of Solar PV worldwide.

Scott is a 1991 graduate of Columbia University and four year member of the football program. He lives near Nashville, TN with his wife and children. He’s also actively involved in his community and church.

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!

RecycleForce: Helping to Reclaim the Value in Electronics and Individual Lives

This is a guest post from Dawn Grimes, Vice President Business & Enterprise Development at RecycleForce

RecycleForce is an Indianapolis based social enterprise – a business with a social mission – offering comprehensive and innovative electronic recycling services while providing life-changing workforce training to formerly incarcerated individuals. Delivering assured destruction and certified recycling, RecycleForce manually de-manufactures, mechanically shreds and separates corporate retiring IT, throw-away consumer electronics, and large scale retail recall and overstock products. Sub-materials are sent to refiners for reclamation and recycling helping RecycleForce to achieve a high – often 100% – recycle rate on e-waste. The metals, plastic and other reusable materials that are sold to refiners help pay for job training programs and employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated men and women, supporting their re-entry back into society.

RecycleForce has experienced tremendous growth not only in recycling and destruction services, but also in job training. In 2006, RecycleForce had two workers who processed 600,000 pounds of material. Today, more than 75 employees process in excess of 11 million pounds of material annually, while getting training and learning skills that transfer to work in environmental services, warehouse operations, logistics and other industries.

Formerly incarcerated individuals face a difficult path upon release. They often leave prison in debt for costs associated with incarceration and/or child support arrearage. Most have no job prospects and few opportunities to earn wages to live, let alone pay user fees for correctional oversight, mandated drug and alcohol testing and counseling/treatment services, or other release mandates. Many also are without family supports and things many of us take for granted, like a place to live, work clothes, and a valid driver’s license. Without these foundational elements, the rate of return to the criminal justice system is incredibly high. Historically, about half of those released to Indianapolis/Marion County from prison return to prison within three years, the majority on a technical rules violation, often involving unpaid fees or restitution.

I have had the incredible opportunity of seeing RecycleForce graduates use what they learned to not only avoid returning to prison, but to thrive and prosper in full-time jobs. RecycleForce graduate, Chris Holt, is one such graduate with a truly remarkable success story.

Coming to RecycleForce in 2013, Chris quickly realized he had an opportunity to develop skills that would enable him to earn a living, and he learned that through building good credit, he could establish himself in a business. He saved for a truck and, in true entrepreneurial fashion, began networking to provide snow removal, lawn care, recycling pick up service and related work around the community. Many of his referrals came from RecycleForce. Today Chris has a 5,000 square foot commercial building which also houses a nonprofit he founded that provides an entrepreneurship program for youth.

RecycleForce serves 300 or more individuals annually, with more than 60% of them being placed in full-time employment, and the longitudinal return to prison rate at RecycleForce is about a third of the national average. Chris is just one example of how RecycleForce’s transitional jobs program changes lives.

Dawn Grimes

About Dawn Grimes:

Dawn Grimes is Vice President Business & Enterprise Development at RecycleForce.

Research Center Works To Prove And Improve Impact Of Social Entrepreneurs

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, commonly referred to as J-PAL, is based at MIT and seeks to reduce poverty by providing academic research on interventions by social entrepreneurs and others working in the space.

Quentin Palfrey, the executive director of J-PAL North America, worked for the Obama Administration before taking on the role at J-PAL. He notes that the center receives its funding from MIT and other philanthropic donors. The center has a staff of more than 30 full-time employees. He says, “J-PAL North America does not charge for services or generate sales revenue.”

J-PAL works on global poverty. J-PAL North America focuses on poverty in the United States.

A lawyer by training, Palfrey thinks about the work in terms of policy implications. The lessons from J-PAL may be more relevant to social entrepreneurs who may be betting more than some public funding on their ventures.

Quentin Palfrey, courtesy of J-PAL

“From low-income, first-time mothers in South Carolina; to teenagers living and attending school in the most dangerous neighborhoods of Chicago; to inmates struggling with substance use disorders in Kentucky, millions of people across the United States live in poverty and face incredible social challenges as a result,” Palfrey says.

The political climate demands evidence-based approaches to social problems, he says. “Increasingly, policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels are turning to rigorous evidence on what works and why to create policies designed to combat poverty, improve schools, promote health, and address other social issues.”

J-PAL’s primary tool is the randomized control trial or RCT, Palfrey says. “We catalyze and support randomized evaluations, communicate evidence to help translate research into action, and help policymakers build capacity to create and use rigorous evidence.”

Melissa Kearney, Professor of Economics at the University of Maryland and co-chair of the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative, says that the goal is to understand how and why certain interventions are effective. “J-PAL is committed to replication, meaning if a research project demonstrates effectiveness of a particular intervention in one setting, that intervention should be implemented either the same way or with potential tweaks in another setting or with another population,” she says.

“This is a critical aspect to building evidence and to developing an understanding of how and under what circumstances a particular intervention delivers impact,” she adds.

Palfrey sees the pace of the work as its greatest challenge. “Policymakers often make crucial policy decisions based only on anecdote, status quo, or political belief. Replacing this process of creating policy with one based on scientific research can be slow. Moreover, policy priorities and approaches to governance can quickly shift with changes in administrations.”

Contentious politics make the J-PAL’s work more relevant than ever, he notes. “in today’s hyper-partisan political climate, evidence-based policymaking has garnered strong bipartisan support, and the movement for more efficient and effective governance continues to gain momentum.”

Palfrey notes that there are limitations to the center’s work as well. “The randomized controlled trial is an incredibly rigorous and powerful tool for evaluating whether social programs really work, but they are not always appropriate for every setting.”

He identified three specific limitations:

  1. In some cases, RCTs may not yield results as quickly as policymakers would like for decisions that require immediate evidence.
  2. It can be difficult to generalize results from one study to other contexts; for example, a summer jobs program that helps youth avoid violence in Chicago may not work in the same way in Philadelphia.
  3. In some cases, it might not be ethical to do a randomized controlled trial, for example when a program has the resources to serve everyone who is interested.

Kearney adds, “Too often the results of an evaluation are interpreted as a ‘verdict’ on an organization or a particular program. Instead, the social entrepreneurship community should recognize that this type of evidence building work is really an iterative process.”

She says sometimes social entrepreneurs just need to try again. “If a research project yields disappointing results about the impact of a particular program, depending on the circumstance, it might make sense to try to make incremental changes to the way that particular program is implemented and evaluate the revised implementation.”

Palfrey believes the work is a part of helping people out of poverty. “By transforming government and building a movement for evidence-based policy, we can help lift millions in the United States out of poverty. Committing to evidence-based policymaking will require innovating at every level of government and challenging the status quo. I’m confident that by doing so we can allocate our resources in a way that maximizes benefits for those who need it most.”

On Thursday, March 2, 2017 at 1:00 Eastern, Palfrey will join me here for a live discussion about J-PAL’s work and how it can be utilized by social entrepreneurs to increase their impact. 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.

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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!

Entrepreneur Leverages Celebrities’ Influence For Charity

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

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

“If you do a gesture for charity, you should always make sure that it’s from not a press spin, but a natural, organic effort,” John Travolta said at the City Summit and Gala organized by social entrepreneur Ryan Long.

The City Gala held around the Grammys raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities, including Travolta’s own Jett Travolta Foundation, named for his son, who passed away in 2009.

Travolta said his interest in philanthropy began with Katrina. “It was organic. It really was. When Haiti happened, when Hurricane Katrina happened, I had a plane. Nobody was helping them. Why wouldn’t you do it?”

John Travolta with Philanthropist Dale Godboldo, courtesy of City Gala

He also made the case for transparency in charitable work, “Make clear where the money is going so no one ever questions it. You have to have an integrity because it is a known area that could be suspect. You have to have a lot of integrity about admitting and exposing how this gets displayed or distributed.”

Halle Berry, who delivered the keynote address at the Summit, said, “I’ve been an advocate of philanthropic efforts as long as I can remember—for most of my life.”

Berry offered advice for humanitarians, “My advice: take the media training that your team provides you! I recall so many times I’ve walked away from an interview and said to myself, ‘Now why did I say that?’ So prepare for your opportunities, but if you do that, the press can be a powerful way to share the programs you are passionate about.”

Halle Berry with Greg Reid on stage at the City Summit and Gala, courtesy of City Gala

Long has come a long way from his roots to be hobnobbing with the rich and famous.

The City Gala was first held in 2015 and this year expanded to include a full-day Summit. The 2017 event was held on February 11 and 12. This year Berry and Travolta delivered speeches. Quincy Jones was presented with an award. John Paul Dejoria, founder of Paul Mitchell and number 214 on the Forbes 400 list, also presented.

Long chose two charities as the primary beneficiaries of the Gala, “We are tremendously honored to present the 2017 program in support of the International Arts & Philanthropy Foundation (IAP), which provides funding in support of arts, education, early childhood development, as well as the Breed Life program which supports and facilitates the gift of life through live organ donation.”

Ryan Long, courtesy of City Gala

Jeff Timmons of the Grammy-nominated pop group 98 Degrees served as the emcee for the Gala.

City Gala is registered with the State of California Attorney General’s Registry of charitable trusts as a Commercial Fundraiser. Long says, “The entire mission and vision of the City Gala program is to bring business and entertainment heroes together united by their passion for overcoming hard obstacles and for supporting startup and not yet well-known philanthropic causes.”

The event included “a red carpet, silent auction, and a day-long set of presentations and panels by business luminaries from organizations such as NASA, Google, Virgin Galactic and many others,” Long says.

Long says the event was a big success, selling out and raising “hundreds of thousands” for charity. This despite the fact that the scheduled headline celebrity canceled in December due to a conflict, requiring Long and his team to scramble.

For 2018, the Grammys will be moving to New York City so the City Gala will move to Oscar weekend.

On Thursday, March 2, 2017 at noon Eastern, Long and Timmons will join me here for a live discussion about the event, its challenges and impact. 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.

Update March 9, 2017: After posting the article and conducting the interview posted above, a reader wrote to Forbes suggesting that Long donates only 5 percent of revenue collected at his events to charity and that he “pays off celebs and the ones that participate have no idea what they are walking in to.” The reader directed us to Rip Off Report where a variety of related accusations were made. In a rebuttal, Long acknowledged that as of February 2015, he was behind on his taxes and had filed for bankruptcy in 2010 as a result of the 2008 recession. He also acknowledged several arrests and criminal convictions. He also defended the legitimacy and success of past events, saying that $350,000 was donated to charity after the 2014 event.

In an email response, Long noted that his accuser is known to him. With respect to the money for charity, he says, “I lost money personally/professionally again this year… but managed to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the charitable organizations. After years of trying/failing/trying failing, I have evolved and know that it’s simply a matter of time before visions/reality becomes true.”

Dale Godboldo, founder of International Arts and Philanthropy, said by email in response to an inquiry, “IAPF/Breed Life did receive funds from the event and according to our agreements.”

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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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